Asylum Company land certificate, 1794.
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Azilum Company land certificate.

Credit: Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, Sequestered John Nicholson Papers

In 1794, land speculators Robert Morris and John Nicholson, then controller general of the state of Pennsylvania, created The Asilum Colony to attract royalist refugees fleeing the French Revolution. The partners sold 200,000 acres in distant Bradford County to French partners who hoped to establish a refuge for French royalists. In 1796, Morris, Nicholson, and James Greenleaf formed the North American Land Company and soon amassed 6 million acres, which made them the nation's largest land owners. Unable to attract immigrant purchasers, the partners, however, soon went bust. By 1799 both Morris and Nicholson had been imprisoned for debt in Philadelphia's Prune Street.

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