Saturday, July 21, 2007

Jonathan Dayton, forgotten land speculator

I was born in Dayton, Ohio, so I am pleased to see that Progressive Historians is featuring Jonathan Dayton, after whom it was named, as a "Forgotten Founding Father." My limited research into the life of Dayton left me with the impression that he was mainly notable as a land speculator and sure enough, the PH biography doesn't disagree -- though it mentions him leading a nighttime bayonet charge at Yorktown (!).

I have thought for years that land speculators, and land speculation itself, should not be ignored in the history of the Revolutionary War and its results. There's a book to be written on the US Northwest Ordinance as the model for a republican society. By me? Probably not. But claiming land and the terms under which it would be (re)settled was as important an issue as "taxation without representation," the Navigation Acts, and other aspects of European domination, in the rest of the New World as much as in the United States.

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