Isaac Bronson (1760-1838)

Relationship to the Speculation Lands: 
Peter Stephen DuPonceau,  as an appointed trustee for the estate of Tench Coxe, assigned the Augustus Sacket mortgage, known as the 'Speculation Lands,' to a group of investors on July 12, 1825. Included among the investors were Isaac Bronson, a wealthy banker and land speculator from New York, Gould Hoyt, another banker, James Thompson, and James B. Murray. The investors remained in New York, and sent Jacob Hyatt and Joshua Forman to western North Carolina in 1825 and 1829 to manage and oversee the lands. 

Born in 1760 in Middlebury, Connecticut, Isaac was the son of a farmer who was also a member of the state legislature of Connecticut. Being self-educated, he apprenticed himself to Waterburg physician Dr. Lemuel Hopkins. Hopkins is best remembered for his satirical poem "The Anarchaid," which lampooned the new Articles of Confederation. It is perhaps Hopkins who shaped Bronson's sharply critical mind and who may have contributed to his strong political conscience. During the Revolutionary War, Isaac rose to the rank of senior surgeon in the 2nd Regiment of Light Dragoons under the command of General George Washington. Following the War, Isaac abandoned medicine and traveled abroad to Europe and India. In 1792, Bronson returned to Philadelphia where he speculated in national and state securities. The following year, Isaac moved to New York City and continued his trade in securities. In 1796, Bronson purchased a summer home in Fairfield, Connecticut where he married Anna Olcott and had ten children. Isaac Bronson is credited with co-founding both the New York and Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Companies. Isaac was also the director and president of the Bridgeport Bank in Connecticut from the years 1807 to1832.

One of the wealthiest men in New York City, Isaac Bronson's assets were over $250,000 in 1828, just ten years before his death. His wealth was gathered largely in the remarkable decades that followed the Constitutional Convention. Part of the northeastern mercantile class, Bronson exemplified the enormous rush to move the country toward industrialization and away from its agrarian base that characterized the pre-Revolutionary years. Bronson was a futurist, a planner, a speculator, but most of all a systematic analyzer. He imagined the early Republic as a grand opportunity for capitalist activity. As an early capitalist, his activity was banking, yet unlike many other contemporary bankers, he aggressively sought to reform the field of banking and to systematize its practice.

Banks had enormous capital and like textile manufacturing, produced most of the capital that was used to propel the new Republic forward. Banks also exercised enormous power and the potential for abuse of power was equally large. The banks of the early Republic were political agents and they used their capital to shape political agendas and to mold geographic boundaries. The early banks and land speculation had many common agendas, and many common vices; the most common of all was lack of restraint. What Bronson brought to land speculation and banking were some of the first efforts at restraint and discipline. He was, in fact, the ideal candidate to reign in the feeding frenzy of Coxe and similar speculators. Under the guidance of Bronson, the Speculation Lands became an environment of measured and disciplined transactions that aimed for growth that could be sustained and secured.  

It must be noted however that while Bronson was active in reforming American banking he was also engaged in one of the largest land purchases of his day. Isaac Bronson, his sons Arthur and Frederick, along with Charles Butler, brother of the U.S. attorney general, used funds of the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company and several other banks to purchase nearly a third of a million acres of land across multiple states. They engaged in this "speculation" while denouncing the speculator. The practice of making land purchases with credit from banks owned by the purchasers was all too common in this era of land speculation, colonial America's "most popular game."

On-Site Links:
0163 - This document lists the heirs of Gould Hoyt and Isaac Bronson

0192 - True and Perfect Copy of the Proceedings of the Superior Courts in Rutherford and Lincoln Counties, signed by John Michael, Clerk of the Court, dated April 12, 1841. The case began in April 1828 in Rutherford County and was transferred to Lincoln County in 1832 as in the judge's opinion a fair and impartial trial could not be held in Rutherford County due to the number of interested parties. The case was not concluded until 1835, in part due to the number of continuances. The case began as a Breach of Contract against Richard Roe brought by John Doe over use of land for a contract period of ten years, beginning January 1, 1828. The land in question was located on the waters of the Broad River and Buffalo Creek, 1. John Doe was physically removed from his farm and the land and sued for $1,200 for "mental anguish". 2. It evolved into a case of who actually owned the land - Richard Roe or Bronson et al. 3. Affidavits filed by Arthur Bronson, Joshua Forman, Agent, and Samuel L. Gidney stated that Bronson, Hoyt, et al owned the land. 4. Two surveys of the land are included in the Court records. 5. A jury trial was held with twelve jurors seated. 6. The jury awarded $6.00 to the defendant and ordered Peter Stephen Du Ponceau (One of two trustees of Tench Coxe's land holdings) to pay court costs of $83.50. (It is unclear if Du Ponceau or his agent was in fact Richard Roe.) Also see Item 77/294 in this Section. 

0579 - Law Suit and letter: 1. Suit in Ejectment by Hoyt, Bronson, and Murray on Patent 1040, or vacating of Patents. References various individuals, dated 1828. 2. Letter from James Stevens to the Bronsons asking permission to communicate with Isaac Bronson concerning the state of their business affairs here, undated. 

0776 - Chronology of events of Patents 1050 and 1045: 1. August 12, 1819, Augustus Sacket conveyed a Deed of Mortgage to the Trustees of Tench Coxe. 2. August 17, 1819, the Trustees conveyed lands to Augustus Sacket. 3. March 15, 1822, Abraham Kintzing released his Trusteeship to Peter S. Du Ponceau. 4. February 12, 1825, Peter S. Du Ponceau assigned the Mortgage of Augustus Sacket to Thompson, Hoyt, Bronson et al. 5. 1826, Thompson et al file suit against Augustus Sacket. 6. October 20, 1826, Report and sales are given to James Stevens. 7. May 1827, ___ assigns to James Stevens. 8. May 6, 1827, Stevens assigns his rights to Hoyt, Murray, and Arthur Bronson. 9. March 24, 1828, James Murray assigns his rights to Isaac Bronson. 10. March 6, 1830, Arthur Bronson assigns his rights to Isaac Bronson and Gould Hoyt. 

New York Historical Society Quarterly, LIV, (April 1970), 145-172.

Morrison, Grant. Isaac Bronson and the Search for System in American Capitalism, 1789-1838. New York: Arno Press, 1978.

Schweikart, Larry. Encyclopedia of American Business and Biography: Banking and Finance to 1913. Bruccoli Clark  Layman Book, New York. 

The Bronson Family papers from 1820 to 1890 can be found at the Fairfield Historical Society Library  in Fairfield, Connecticut. Bronson Family papers from 1831 to 1833 are held at the Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Center, Massachusetts. Bronson Family papers can also be found at the New York Public Library.