Than paying too much for land. A fair case can be made our country was invented not so much by religious hard-liners (despite what the TP imagines) as men who knew where wealth really, really comes from. Like Ethan Allen (from a new biography review):
Randall works hard to make this a story about salt-of-the-earth, democratic New England settlers fighting off New York's aristocratic land barons—so hard, in fact, that you have to admire the effort. Alas, the evidence won't conform. The Green Mountain Boys were driven less by ideology than by a desire to keep their land and, at least in Allen's case, to legalize deeds bought on the cheap to sell for a hefty profit. Both sides were gambling wildly, and as the imperial conflict heated up, the stakes rose.There are times I think this insatiable desire for land, even over cash, is hard-wired into my genes. If so, maybe I can trace my ancestry back to some illustrious figures of our past, albeit illegitimately, no doubt.
Back in London, groups of well-connected investors were eying quantities of land so vast as to make the Vermont speculation seem like child's play. The greatest of these ventures was the proposed colony of Vandalia, covering 20 million acres in what now comprises West Virginia and Kentucky. Parties to the enterprise at various times included Benjamin Franklin and two of George Washington's brothers. Unfortunately, Virginia claimed the land in question, as did Connecticut and Pennsylvania—each state having sold the land to settlers and investors—although by 1774 it was all, according to the British government, under the jurisdiction of Québec. Vermont, in short, was a very big story writ small.
Indeed, who wasn't a land speculator in this freewheeling age? George Washington, a former surveyor, had amassed thousands of acres in the Ohio valley and spent 10 years lobbying the governor of Virginia to legalize his titles. Gen. Thomas Gage, who would lead British forces against Washington, held 18,000 acres, and had married into one of the greatest landowning families on the continent. When fighting broke out in 1775, these contested speculations loomed in the background.
Just how these contests over land play into the Revolution is one of the most debated questions in American history. In 1909, historian Carl Becker argued that the American Revolution was not so much about home rule as "who should rule at home." The struggle for independence, in other words, centered less on exalted principles than on the quest for political and economic power by provincial elites. Popular among muckraking classes during the age of Robber Barons, this interpretation was hard to reconcile with a patriotic account of the nation's founding and eventually fell out of favor. [More]