Speculation Nation: Land Mania in the Revolutionary American Republic
Michael Blaakman, Princeton University
This is a hybrid event. FREE for MHS Members. $10 per person fee (in person). No charge for virtual attendees or Card to Culture participants (EBT, WIC, and ConnectorCare). The in-person reception starts at 5:30 and the program will begin at 6:00.
Patriot leaders staked the success of their revolution on the seizure and public sale of Native American territory. Initially, they hoped that fledgling governments could pay the hefty costs of the War for Independence and extend a republican society of propertied citizens by selling expropriated land directly to white farmers. But those plans quickly ran into a series of obstacles, including an economic depression and the ability of many Native nations to repel US invasion. Wily merchants, lawyers, planters, and financiers rushed into the breach. Scrambling to profit off future expansion, they lobbied governments to convey massive tracts for pennies an acre, hounded revolutionary veterans to sell their land bounties for a pittance, and marketed the rustic ideal of a yeoman’s republic—the early American dream. Through their corrupt machinations, US speculators and statesmen spawned an enduring form of settler colonialism: a financialized frontier that transformed vast swaths of contested land into abstract commodities. Speculation Nation reveals how the era of land mania made Native dispossession a founding premise of the American republic and ultimately rooted the United States’ “empire of liberty” in speculative capitalism.
The in-person reception starts at 5:30 and the program will begin at 6:00.
Masks are optional for this event.
The virtual program begins at 6:00 PM and will be hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.