Joel Barlow was an American poet, diplomat and political figure in the early history of the United States.
Born in 1754, Barlow graduated from Yale in 1778 and served as a chaplain in the American Revolution. He became well known in literary circles for his long poem called The Vision of Columbus. After the Revolution, Barlow was an agent of the Scioto Company, which sold lands to French families wishing to emigrate to the Ohio Country beginning in 1789. Barlow and his partner, William Playfair, misrepresented the company's land claims. The land did not actually belong to the company, and it was not nearly as productive as the two men had described. Rather than giving the Scioto Company the collected money to purchase the land from the United States government, Playfair kept the money for himself. The company was unable to make good on its promises to the French immigrants. Once the French arrived in Ohio, they discovered that the company's representatives had cheated them. The land that they had purchased actually belonged to the Ohio Company of Associates rather than to the Scioto Company. Many of the immigrants returned to the East. A majority of those who chose to stay paid the Ohio Company for their land. A smaller number moved to the area set aside for them by the American government known as the French Grant.
Joel Barlow later served as the American consul to Algiers in 1795 and secured the release of American prisoners held there for ransom. He died in 1812 while serving as the American ambassador to France.