The Land Companies of Colonial Virginia
Throughout the colonial era, Virginia's leaders sought to increase population. Slaves were brought involuntarily to increase the labor force, but Europeans were offered cheap land as the primary inducement to settle on the frontier. In addition to the "headright" system established in 1618, the colonial government also offered grants to those willing to serve in the militia and fortify the frontier from 1630 to the Revolutionary War.1
When the colonial government granted 50 acres per individual immigrant, it acted as a retailer. The colony's administrative costs were reduced when the colony acted as a wholesaler and provided land in large grants to individuals. In the mid-1700's, the colonial leaders issued large grants to land companies. These were groups of individuals who joined together to gain the opportunity to speculate on western lands. If they could buy low, meet the terms of the grants, and then sell high, then the land companies could turn a good profit and enrich the members.
NOTE: In 1768, Benjamin Franklin and others proposed a 14th colony in the region, but approval was never granted before the American Revolution shifted the focus for westyern land speculation from London to Philadelphia, the home of the Continental Congress.
1. Library of Virginia, "Colonial Wars Bounty Lands ," VA-NOTES, www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/mil/va16_colonial.htm (last checked January 24, 2006)
Exploring Land, Settling Frontiers
Virginia Borderlands and Democracy