Description[Yazoo Land Fraud] Perez Morton Autograph Letter Signed. Three and one-half pages, 8" x 9.75", Washington, January 16, 1803, outlining the U.S. Congress' proposals to resolve Georgia's massive Yazoo land fraud scandal.
In 1790, President George Washington signed a treaty with the Creek Nation forbidding any white settlements in the Creek territory, which covered land claimed by Georgia. But members of the Georgia legislature, in a shameless scheme to make money, announced the sale of that land to an association of companies, known collectively as the Yazoo Companies. This real estate scandal - possibly the greatest in American history - undermined Washington's treaty with the Creek and grew to such an extent that it affected three presidential administrations. As the scope of the scandal increased in 1794, four companies (all are listed in Morton's letter partially transcribed below - the Georgia Company, the Georgia-Mississippi Company, the Tennessee Company, and the Upper Mississippi Company) strong-armed a corrupt bill through the legislature in 1794 which favored them in a huge real estate deal. But the public took notice and in the late 1790s a new batch of reformers worked to right the wrong, which eventually included the transfer of Georgia's western land claims to the Federal Government and the Federal Government's acceptance of the fraud claims.
Perez Morton, a Revolutionary War patriot and powerful Boston attorney, is perhaps best known for his scandalous affair, which resulted in a child with his sister-in-law. He writes this detailed letter of Congress' proposals to deal with the Yazoo land fraud to an unnamed recipient. In part: "Have finally rec'd a communication from the Commissioners pointing to principles on which they wish our propositions to be formed. A copy of this communication has been sent to the General Agents but least it may not be communicated to you or the Directors of the NEMC. . . . After a mature deliberation on this paper, by the whole board of agents, a Committee was chosen to form propositions of a definitive nature, which were yesterday reported to the Board . . . the high probability of their not only being acceded to by all the Agents, but by the Commissioners themselves, & of course Congress, I send you the substance tho' not the detail of them. They are:
1st That Congress during the present session shall provide by Law, for the appropriation of Five millions of the most valuable acres of Land ceded by Georgia . . . .
2nd . . . that the proceeds of these 5,000,000 acres should be now estimated at the minimum sum of Ten millions of Dollars, to be divided between the United States, and the Claimants under the 4 grants of Georgia as follows.
3rd The United States to retain the portion of 250,000 Dollars . . . to satisfy other claims. . . .
4th Of the remainder . . . 3,022,500 Dollars to go the holders of the title of the Georgia Mississippi Company. . . .
5th 4,875,000 go to the holders of the Georgia Company. . . .
6th 1,170,000 go to the holders of the Tennessee Company. . . .
7th 682,500 Dollars to go to the holders of the title of the Upper Mississippi Company. . . .
12th The Claimants consent that no Certificates shall issue until all such Deed documents & paper which the Comm. think necessary to the establishment of Claim of title . . . are returned into the Secretary of State's office and there recorded.
This my friend is the precise history of our proceedings thus far tho' in general terms, the detail is much more methodically arranged but you have the substance. I think it would be highly imprudent to make the Contents generally known. . . ." Some minor separation at fold intersections exists. From the Papers of William Vernon.
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