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James Wilson Yazoo land document

James Wilson Yazoo land document

Descriptive Summary

Title: James Wilson Yazoo land document
Creator: Jones, Seaborn, 1788-1864
Creator: Hampton, Wade, 1752-1835
Creator: Wilson, James, 1742-1798
Creator: McAllister, Matthew
Inclusive Dates: 1794
Language(s): English
Extent: 1 folder(s)
Collection Number: ms1042
Repository: Hargrett Library

Collection Description

Historical Note

James Wilson was born in Scotland in 1742. He was a colonial American lawyer and political theorist, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In the winter of 1796-97 financial ruin brought on by unwise land speculation shattered his health and ended his career. New Georgia Encyclopedia (Retrieved November 18, 2008)

The Yazoo land fraud was one of the most significant events in the post-Revolutionary history of Georgia. Georgia was too weak after the Revolution to defend its vast western land claims, called the "Yazoo lands". Consequently, the legislature listened eagerly to proposals from speculators willing to pay for the right to form settlements there. On January 7, 1795, Georgia governor George Mathews signed the Yazoo Act, which transferred 35 million acres in present-day Alabama and Mississippi to four companies for $500,000. To bring off this speculative coup, the leader of the Yazooists, Georgia's Federalist U.S. Senator James Gunn, had arranged the distribution of money and land to legislators, state officials, newspaper editors, and other influential Georgians. Cries of bribery and corruption accompanied the Yazoo Act as it made its way to final passage. Angry Georgians protested the sale in petitions and street demonstrations. Despite the swelling opposition, the Yazoo companies completed their purchases.

Learning of the circumstances surrounding passage of the Yazoo Act, Georgia's leading Jeffersonian Republican, U.S. Senator James Jackson, resigned his seat and returned home, determined to overturn the sale. Making skillful use of county grand juries and newspapers, Jackson and his allies gained control of the legislature. After holding hearings that substantiated the corruption charges, Jackson dictated the terms of the 1796 Rescinding Act, which was signed by Governor Jared Irwin and nullified the Yazoo sale. Then in 1802, commissioners from Georgia, including Jackson, transferred the land and the Yazoo claims to the federal government: the United States paid Georgia $1.25 million and agreed to extinguish as quickly as possible the remaining claims of Native Americans to areas within the state. As cotton culture spread across Georgia, the national government proved unable to extinguish the claims of the Creeks and Cherokees to lands within the state quickly enough and Georgians prodded the United States to complete the process of Indian removal. In a sense, Yazoo led to the "Trail of Tears" in 1838. New Georgia Encyclopedia (Retrieved January 28, 2009)

Scope and Content

A four-page manuscript memoranda of James Wilson (1742-1798) and others relating to the Yazoo Land sales. The manuscript includes: 1. Power of attorney from James Wilson to Matthew McAllister and Seaborn Jones, authorizing them to act for him in buying land in Georgia - dated November 20, 1794; 2. Receipt of Matthew McAllister and Seaborn Jones to James Wilson for $25,000; 3. Receipt of Seaborn Jones to Matthew McAllister for $25,000 "in bank bill, which the Honourable James Wilson hath placed in his & my hands ..." - dated November 20, 1794; 4. Record of release by Matthew McAllister "as a grantee," to Colonel Wade Hampton of South Carolina, giving answerable bond [transcribed from the Washington (Georgia) Monitor of September 24, 1803]; 5. Page of memoranda referring to "Pamphlet."

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

James Wilson Yazoo land documents, ms1042, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Related Materials and Subjects

Subject Terms

Land speculation -- Georgia.
Powers of attorney.
Real property -- Georgia.
Receipts (financial records)
Releases (permissions)
Yazoo Fraud, 1795.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

11Yazoo land documents, 1794