Description[Yazoo Land Fraud] Thomas Mifflin Land Deed Signed as Governor of Pennsylvania. One page, 20" x 29", Philadelphia, February 2, 1795. The Yazoo Land Fraud was a massive swindle perpetrated by several Georgia governors and the state legislature from 1795 to 1803 by selling large tracts of land to insiders at absurdly low prices.
Georgia was too weak after the Revolution to defend its vast western land claims, known as the "Yazoo lands." The state legislature listened eagerly to proposals from speculators willing to pay for the right to form settlements there. Pressure continued to build until, on January 7, 1795, Georgia governor George Mathews signed the Yazoo Act, which transferred 40 million acres in present-day Alabama and Mississippi to several speculative land companies for the tiny sum of $500,000. To bring off this 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.
We offer here a very large deed for Yazoo lands totaling 225,000 acres, sold by James Shorter to Dr. Thomas Ruston of Philadelphia, who later went bankrupt through questionable land speculation. Affixed to the document is the statement of notary Peter Lohra, as well as a second partly printed document appointing Lohra as a notary. This appointment is dated November 7, 1895 and bears the large signature of Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Mifflin.
Many Georgia officials and legislators were stockholders in these companies, and there was widespread public outrage when the details were revealed, reaching all the way to Washington. United States Senator James Jackson and Georgia Congressman Jared Irwin led the reform efforts: Irwin was quickly elected Governor and less than two months after taking office signed a bill nullifying the Yazoo Act on February 13, 1796. The state refunded money to those who had purchased land, but some preferred to keep their land and the matter was to languish in the courts for the next decade. In 1803, the state ceded all claim to lands west of its present border to the federal government. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1810 as Fletcher v. Peck. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Rescinding Act had been an unconstitutional violation of the right of contract, and finally, in 1814, Congress resolved the issue, providing $5 million from the proceeds of land sales in the Mississippi Territory to be shared by the claimants. This incredible item is lightly age toned, and bears several areas of fold damage and separation. Very good condition.
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