1794 Yazoo Land Fraud
The State of Georgia originally claimed its western boundary extended to the Mississippi River. In 1789 three companies, the South Carolina Yazoo Company, the Virginia Yazoo Company, and the Tennessee Company formed to buy 25,000,000 acres of land from the Georgia General Assembly. The land sale fell through when the legislature insisted on payment in gold or silver specie rather than depreciated paper currency. In 1794 the General Assembly agreed to consider proposals for sale of the western lands to private companies. Four Yazoo companies, the Georgia Company, the Georgia-Mississippi Company (formerly the South Carolina Yazoo Company), the Upper Mississippi Company (formerly the Virginia Yazoo Company), and the Tennessee Company pushed through a bid of $500,000 for 35,000,000 acres in present-day Alabama and Mississippi. A bid of $800,000 with a $40,000 deposit in hard currency from the Georgia Union Company was ignored. Major stockholders in the company included two United States senators, two congressmen, three judges, a territorial governor, and a United States attorney. It was alleged that U.S. Sen. James Gunn arranged bribes of money and land to legislators, state officials, newspaper editors, and others to secure the bill's passage despite angry and vociferous public opposition. Of the legislators who voted for the bill, all but one was a shareholder in one or more of the companies.
U.S. Senator James Jackson, a Jeffersonian Republican, resigned his seat and returned to Georgia to overturn the sale. The bribery charges were substantiated in public hearings and later in 1795 many of the bill's supporters were voted out of office. The bill was rescinded by a reform legislature on February 18, 1796. When Jackson was elected governor in 1798, he orchestrated a revision of the state constitution which incorporated the substance of the Rescinding Act. Jackson succeeded in blocking the cession of the western territories to the United States until the Republicans were in control of the federal government; after Thomas Jefferson's election to the presidency in 1802 Georgia commissioners, including Jackson, transferred the western territory and Yazoo claims to the federal government for $1.25 million.
On February 21, 1796, three days after passage of the Rescinding Act, all records of the bill and resulting sales were burned in front of the State Capitol in Louisville. The records presented here are connected with the unsuccessful bid of the Georgia Union Company.
The records on the Yazoo Land Fraud are from Record Group 003-01-069, Surveyor General, General Administrative Records, Yazoo Land Fraud Records.
5800 Jonesboro Road