It started as a swindle and ended up as a landmark Supreme Court case.
In 1795, Georgia passed the Yazoo Land Act, selling 35 million acres of western land—most of present-day Alabama and Mississippi—to four land companies for $500,000, about 1.5 cents an acre, far below its value. Opponents cried foul: many legislators owned shares in those land companies, and critics charged corruption. The loudest critic was Georgia’s U.S. Senator, James Jackson. He resigned his Senate seat to return to Georgia and led the successful effort to repeal the sale.
Landowners stuck with worthless titles sued in federal court. The Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for Georgia to rescind the sale. The federal court overruling state law only served to galvanize states’ righters, who dominated Georgia politics for the next generation.
James Jackson, the man who set it all in motion by his fierce opposition to the Yazoo Land Act, died on March 19, 1806, Today in Georgia History.