The first legislature of Georgia that met after the adoption of the national Constitution undertook to sell out to three private companies the preemption right to tracts of wild land beyond the Chattahoochee River
. Five million acres were allotted to the South
Carolina Yazoo Company for $66,964, 7,000,000 acres to the Virginia Yazoo Company for $93,742, and 3,500,000 acres to the Tennessee Yazoo Company for $16,876. This movement was in response to a prevailing spirit of land speculation stimulated by extensive migrations of people from the Atlantic
seaboard to new lands in consequence of pecuniary embarrassments, a result of the Revolutionary War
. In 1790 the national government, by treaty, gave much of the lands south and west of the Oconee River
to the Creek Indians
This offended the Georgians, and the more violent among them proposed open resistance to the government and to settle on those lands in spite of the treaty.
Sales of the lands were made
to a Georgia Yazoo Company formed subsequent to the treaty.
The sales in 1796 had amounted to $500,000, a sum totally inadequate for the amount of land purchased.
There were evidences of great corruption on the part of the Georgia legislature, and in 1796 Congress revoked the sales as unconstitutional and void, and directed the repayment to the several companies of the amount of money which they had paid to the State
, if called for within eight months.
The original act authorizing the sale was burned in front of the State-house, and all records relating to it were expunged.
In 1798 the constitution of Georgia
was revised, and in certain provisions, having reference expressly to the Yazoo
lands, an effectual check was put to these speculations.
In the organization of Territories west of the Chattahoochee
the subject of the Yazoo
lands presented some grave questions, for there were still claimants under the original grants who were importunate.
They claimed in the aggregate about $8,000,000 as an equivalent for a relinquishment of their rights.
In 1804 the New England
Mississippi Company, successor, by purchase, to the Georgia Yazoo Company, appeared as claimant, by its agent, and solicited a settlement.
It appeared that a great share of those original grants had passed into the hands of New England
men. Their claims were violently opposed, partly on political and sectional grounds.
The subject was before Congress several years, many of the Southern
members, led by the implacable John Randolph
, defeating every proposed measure for making an honorable settlement with the New England
The claimants turned from Congress to the courts.
In 1810 the Supreme Court of the United States
decided that the act of the Georgia legislature in repudiating the original grants of the Yazoo
lands was unconstitutional and void, being in violation of a solemn contract.
This decision and other considerations caused Congress to make a tardy settlement with the claimants in the spring of 1814.
Such was the end of a speculation out of which Southern grantees made splendid fortunes, but which proved very unprofitable to Northern speculators.