September 20, 2005
The Walking Purchase and bad faith
Today marks the anniversary of one of history’s more unusual cases of contract performance. On this date in 1737, Edward Marshall, the fastest man in the Pennsylvania colony, completed a 65-mile run/walk from the junction of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers to near what is now Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, in what came to be known as The Walking Purchase. The walk netted the Penn family, the colony’s owners, 1.2 million acres of new territory, a piece of land as big as Rhode Island.
Marshall’s marathon march came about because of a treaty between the Penns and the Lenni Lenape tribe. Under the agreement -- the legitimacy of which has been questioned -- the tribe ceded the land “as far west” from the river junction “as a man could walk in a day and a half.” The tribe had estimated that this would be about 40 miles. The Penns, however, found the three fastest runners in the colony, and had them set out, going nearly around the clock. It was Marshall who made it the furthest.
The tribe was not happy with the deal, feeling that the British had behaved with bad faith, and spent 19 years trying to get the treaty annulled, but to no avail.
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