The Yazoo Land Fraud of 1795, one of the most significant events in the post-Revolutionary history of Georgia and the United States, was overturned by Georgia’s first political “boss,” James Jackson, in 1796. Six years later, Jackson and his allies transferred the Yazoo lands (roughly, present-day Alabama and Mississippi) to the national government for $1.25 million. To Georgians, though, the key provision of this Compact of 1802 was the national government’s promise to extinguish as quickly as possible all remaining land claims of Native American peoples (Creeks and Cherokees) within the boundaries of Georgia, when that could be done “peaceably” and “on reasonable terms.”
Like the proverbial pebble thrown into still water, the consequences of the Great Land Fraud rippled out over more than a generation, helping to divide the nation’s dominant political party; pave the way for Indian removal in the 1820s and 1830s; create an agricultural “Black Belt” from Georgia through the new states of Alabama and Mississippi; and establish a theory of “state rights” as a supposedly “legitimate” response to the overweening power of the national government, which underlay many of the incidents on the long “road to the Civil War” between 1848 and 1861.
The First Sunday Lecture Series is sponsored by the Friends of Smyrna Library.