David Hoffman and the Science of Jurisprudence

Emigration to the United States, 1849

1849 - By mid-century Hoffman was seeking any position or opportunity that would allow him to remain in Europe. Initially he sought a foreign mission post but was unable to secure a position despite what he claimed were assurances from the President that he would be considered for one. Eventually Hoffman turned his hand to land speculation, like all his efforts this one was very detailed and was designed to appeal to gentlemen not to the bulk of immigrants who were then making their way to the United States. One aspect of this pamphlet that is particularly revealing about Hoffman is his insistence that "free labour" would eventually displace slavery in the south and that gentlemen inclined to emigrate would help to hasten slavery's demise. In quoting a correspondent who had lived in the area Hoffman wrote that Kentucky was a "flourishing state" with a "very subdued slavery that must soon pass away." (p.5)

It is also interesting that Hoffman, while directing his appeal to "gentleman," warned potential emigrants against bringing familiar class distinctions with them:

It is especially observed that no one should think of settling in the United States who is attached to English social distinctions and who is disinclined toward democratic institutions and their natural consequences. Everyone before making up his mind to join this company should take the trouble to become acquainted with the character of the climate, the condition of the country and the state of the society. (pp. 16-17)

During this period Hoffman also worked as the British agent representing John Fremont in his efforts to sell California land. A position that he held for only a few months before becoming involved in a public dispute with a number of competitors. The dispute became so heated and so embarrassing to Fremont that Hoffman was eventually removed from his position. Hoffman's brief, unsuccessful career as land agent and developer represented his last career change prior to his death in 1854.

Recommended Resources:

*Wilbur S. Shepperson, Thomas Rawlings and David Hoffman: Promoters of Western Virginia Immigration, 15 West Va. Hist. 311 (1954).

*Hoffman, David.California, Fremont Estates and gold mines: non-sale to T.D. Sargent. [London: C. Richards, 1852].19th Century Legal Treatises. Woodbridge, CN: Research Publications, 1991. #61973. Examined at the University of Virginia School of Law Library.

Permanently Resident in England,
Addressed to
and also
Practical Suggestions as to Perfectly Safe and Very Profitable
Investment of a Portion of Their Capital.
Barrister in the Supreme Court of the United States,
Honorary J.U.D. of the University of Gottingen,
Author of Several Legal and Literary Works,
Corresponding Member of Various Societies,
Etc. Etc.

John Miller, Henrietta Street,
Covent Garden.

and to
(pp. 1- 5 of original)

A year has nearly elapsed since the Author of this little pamphlet addressed to the British Public his "Views on the formation of a British and American Land and Emigration Company"-- a somewhat elaborate pamphlet, written by him at that time for agreeable occupation, and with the hope of effecting some good. That address was never published, but distributed by me gratuitously to those who felt interested in such matters; but as it has been much called for, and gratifyingly noticed by the press, and as the times now seem to demand some further and more practical action on the general subject, and as the matter has been very deliberately considered by me since that time, and has a vast mass of important facts and information has flooded in upon me, I have digested six distinct plans, each of which I feel assured is worthy of special examination by capitalists, no less than by emigrants.

But what I propose to unfold in the present Letter, in only one of the six plans alluded to--reserving the other five for the careful inquiry of such persons as shall meet me, at some appointed time and place, when the result of my careful examination of the whole six plans will be gradually disclosed, and also with the hope of establishing, not only entire confidence in the plans themselves, but in the author who suggests and recommends them. It is quite certain that, unless the capitalist and emigrant shall have reason for the repose of perfect confidence in the promoter, both as to "head-capital" and integrity, no effectual adoption of his plans ought to take place.

My object, then, divides itself into two distinct, though not at all opposing subjects--which may be properly united, or, they may be distinctly and substantively executed. And should the other five plans, or any of them, be also adopted, the proposed Association will find it largely to their advantage--resulting in great good, large profit, and absolute safety.

The British capitalist and emigrant are not asked to deposit even one shilling--nor to part, at any time, with the absolute control of any capital whatever: all will be entirely optional with them, and with their own selected British agents: the promoter looks for no present compensation--none that shall be certain, but entirely contingent, and upon such approved and executed acts of investment as the capitalists themselves, or by their agents, shall adopt from the plans, advice and suggestions of the promoter now, and during the progress of the Association--all of such suggestions and plans of the promoter being, however, kept honourably by the Association for their own exclusive use, and not for that of the general public, nor of such individuals as may compose the first meeting, or the Association that shall result from it.

With these Introductory remarks, I now submit one out of the six plans alluded to: after which the others will gradually follow in the progress of the Association, and as it shall increase in confidence, in knowledge of the subjects, in pecuniary strength--and especially "head-capital," so essential for the thorough completion of the system I shall ultimately disclose.

*Provided through the courtesy of the John Work Garrett Library of the Johns Hopkins University.

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