James Jackson was a pugnacious politician with a fiery temper.
Born in England in 1756, he came to Savannah as a teen and fought in the American Revolution. Jackson served in the first Congress under the new U.S. Constitution, and supported Thomas Jefferson’s fledgling Democratic-Republicans against Alexander Hamilton’s Federalists.
Jackson was in the U.S. Senate in 1795 when the Georgia Legislature voted to sell 35 million acres of western territory to land speculation companies for $500,000. Many of Georgia’s Federalist state legislators were shareholders in those land companies and had voted for the deal amid charges of bribery and corruption. The Yazoo Land Fraud, as it was known, galvanized Jackson. He resigned his Senate seat to return to Georgia and led the successful effort to overturn the land grab, ensuring the Jeffersonian party’s domination of Georgia politics for the next generation.
Jackson rode his opposition to the Yazoo fraud into the state’s highest office when he was elected governor on January 12, 1798, Today in Georgia History.