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David Allison (?-1798)

David Allison, backcountry lawyer, political operative, and land speculator, was an agent for the Blount brothers, especially William Blount, Tennessee's first territorial governor. Allison's date of birth and exact birthplace (he was apparently from North Carolina) are unknown, but he accompanied Andrew Jackson to the Cumberland settlements in 1788, and both men handled minor lawsuits along the way.

In 1790 Blount appointed Allison clerk of the Superior Court of Law and later designated him as militia paymaster. Allison served Blount in a semiofficial and semiprivate capacity as business agent, frequently traveling to Philadelphia on public and personal financial business. In 1796 Allison hand-carried the famous "Blount Journal," the official record of Governor Blount's executive acts, to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.

By 1795 Allison had moved to Philadelphia, the nation's financial capital, where he brokered speculative land deals and merchandise trading ventures into Tennessee. In August 1795 one of these involved Andrew Jackson, who was selling land for himself, John Overton, and others. Upon his return to Nashville, Jackson was financially embarrassed when the notes he had given to Allison were suddenly presented for payment. Jackson struggled for years to settle the matter. In 1798 the debt factored in Jackson's resignation from the United States Senate and acceptance of the salaried post of judge on the Superior Court of Law and Equity.

Overtaken by creditors, Allison was thrown into debtor's prison in Philadelphia and died there on September 28, 1798.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » February 13, 2011