Joshua Forman (d.1848 )

Relationship to the Speculation Lands:
Joshua Forman was sent by James Thompson, Gould Hoyt, James B. Murray and Arthur Bronson, in 1829 to survey the Speculation Lands purchased by the capitalists in 1825. On October 21, 1829, Forman created the "Memorandum of Record," which provides a rough history of the Speculation Lands up to 1829. In 1834, the Forman Friendship Church was established by the residents along the Howard's Gap road in Rutherford County in his honor. Forman was associated with the Bronson family as early as Dec. 3, 1802 when Isaac Bronson wrote to him. [Bronson Papers, Box 1, NYPL]. Another letter in the New York Public Library Bronson Papers [Box 5], and dated July 1, 1829 contains an agreement  between Bronson, Goold Hoyt, and Forman which assigns Forman to the North Carolina agency of the Speculation Lands. 
Joshua Forman, a banker and entrepreneur from upstate New York (Syracuse), was a close friend of Isaac Bronson and for a time engaged in the debate regarding banking laws in New York. It was Forman's idea which gave birth to the Safety Fund, an idea that required all banks in New York to put three percent of their capital into a state fund to be used to pay the debts of any insolvent bank who participated in the system. It also protected participants against the overuse of banknotes and thus prevented note holders from the potential devastating losses of worthless notes. The Forman plan also included the establishment of a banking commission comprised of three commissioners who were charged with the examination and the hearing of grievances related to banking affairs. It was said that Forman was inspired by a Chinese plan he had read about that required similar oversight. There appears to be some debate as to the messenger who took the reform plan to President Van Buren, but it is known that Forman was the party responsible for the draft of the plan and for taking it to the legislature. In a letter to Bronson from Forman dated January 26, 1829, held in the Bronson Papers in the private possession of Bronson W. Griscom and noted in Grant Morrison's Isaac Bronson and the Search for System in American Capitalism, 11789-1838, Forman reveals his ambivalence regarding his expertise in the field of banking. [Morrison 273] He says, "I think I am now master of the subject ... I have really got into [this] business without any means of determining when I shall get out or where it will lead me." The Safety Fund Act was passed in New York in April of 1829. It was, however, an imperfect system and was replace a decade later by the Free Banking Act and a century later became what is known as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Forman, it is evident, abandoned the plan even earlier when he departed for North Carolina, never to pursue banking reform again. 

Forman was also active in the push to build a trade and transportation infrastructure for the new nation and he advocated along with Benjamin Wright of Oneida County, NY to build what later became known as the Erie Canal. The canal survey and exploration were encouraged by Thomas Jefferson in a message to Congress that celebrated the final payment of the national debt, in which he proposed that the surplus from the debt payment be used to begin internal improvement and to develop a national infrastructure. [See claims of Joshua Forman in Memoir of De Witt Clinton (external link)]. Forman met with Jefferson to propose the canal plan, but Jefferson did not endorse his initial efforts. It was left to the New York legislature to pick up the idea and to finally carry through with the plan.

The canal plan was integral to the economic development of western New York and as the economy prospered,  the banks and the financial community of western New York became a leading financial community. A rivalry soon developed between New York's Wall Street and the bankers of Albany. It was the 'despotic control' of the Albany bankers that prompted the development of Forman's and Bronson's  Safety Fund plan. Bronson, according to Morrison in Isaac Bronson and the Search for System in American Capitalism, 1789-1838, was most likely trying to heal the growing rift between "country" bankers and those of the city. When Forman's plan and not Bronson's was accepted by the state legislature, Bronson began a campaign to discredit the Safety Fund plan. This rivalry may have been part of the impetus for Forman to go to North Carolina and may have contributed to his decision to remain there, finally dying in Rutherfordton, NC in 1848.

On-Site Links:

0123 - Deed of transfer of land to Joshua Forman. Forman was instructed by the investors in the Speculation Lands to purchase land from individuals for a good price.  

0128 - Indenture and Conveyance to Joshua Forman concerning 50 acres purchased for the sum of $40.00. Includes a survey by Samuel L. Gidney. Document dated November 2, 1838, Rutherford County. 

0136 - Memorandum of Record, by Joshua Foreman.  It roughly traces the history of the Speculation Lands and records questions that Foreman asked to combat the problem of fraud and loss of property.  

0161 - Document of Declaration of Joshua Forman, Rutherford County, April 3, 1841, registered by the Court May 9, 1841. In this document Joshua Forman declares that he acts as the agent for Bronson, Hoyt and others. This matter concern a law suit against Augustus Sacket for non payment of the mortgages assigned to Bronson et al as decreed in their favor by the Court of Equity.

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. 


Patton, Sadie Smathers. Buncombe to Mecklenburg Speculation Lands. The Western North Carolina Historical Association, Forest City, North Carolina. 1955.

Patton, Sadie Smathers . Sketches of Polk County History. 1976.

Hosack, David. Memoir of De Witt Clinton.