AUGUST   2020


Saturday, March 23, 2019


I suppose you've heard the story of how a group of civic minded men had gathered in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 to create a “more perfect union”. Well, they did, except it would be well to remember that civics is not a science, but an art form, in which each artist expresses a different vision of perfection. And in the case of James Wilson, future justice of the Supreme Court under the new constitution and briber in-chief for the Yazoo land fraud, perfection included the right to steal from the tax payers.
Remember the story of Robert Morris and the Bank of North America? That was the financial institution which Morris had used to finance the American Revolution. Well, the bank had originally been chartered in Pennsylvania, and after the Revolution its charter had been revoked. But in 1786 the state was sued by a share holder in that bank, who claimed the repeal had violated the rights of an innocent party – i.e. him, James Wilson. And a year later Justice Wilson was one of those civic minded men who gathered in Philadelphia to draw up the new Constitution for the United States.
The state of Pennsylvania had backed down from Wilson's lawsuit, and re-charted the bank. But Wilson was determined the new Federal government would not show the same disrespect for business as Pennsylvania had. So, in drawing the new constitution for America, James Wilson added what became Section 10 of the first Article of The Constitution, supposedly dealing with the formation, duties and responsibilities of the Congress. But Section Ten, Article One reads in part; “No State shall enter into any Treaty...coin Money...pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility...”. This was to be a capitalist nation, and respect for contracts was thus written into its constitution.
All of which brings us back to 1795 when the Georgia Yazoo Company bought 11 million acres of swamp land for 1/4 cent an acre.  In August of 1795,  the Georgia Company was bought by James Greenleaf. He paid 1 cent an acre. Then in November of 1795  Greenleaf sold the company to yet another group of speculators, for 8 cents an acre, giving Greenleaf a 650% profit. The new owners renamed the company the New England-Mississippi Company  But why were these speculators paying so much for a dead company? Hadn't the new owners ever heard of Caveat Emptor?
Listed first among the directors of the New England-Mississippi Company was Boston lawyer, Benjamin Hichborn, a  cousin to Paul Revere on his mother's side.   But Benjamin's real talent was as a gossip, knowing which ear would be most receptive to which dirt.  In the late 1790's he aligned himself with the  Democrats, becoming a trusted and rare New England confidant for Thomas Jefferson himself. 
The other company directors were equally well connected. Samuel Brown had made a fortune financing the slave trade, insuring ships which were running the British anti-slave patrols off the African coast. Benjamin Joy was a speculator in Massachusetts real estate, and Thomas Winthrop was the thirty-something son of the iconic Boston family. George Blake was yet another lawyer-speculator . And finally there was John Peck.  Remember him?
He was 75 years old in 1800. He was secretive, “Often argumentative and egotistical, tending to alienate those with whom he interacted”. In other words, the people who knew him best, disliked him the most. Most people knew him for what he considered his hobby – he was “The most scientific and most successful naval architect” in the new nation, having designed small and fast privateers for the colonial navy. But someone else had to build the ships, because John did not work or play well with others.
John Peck saw himself as a merchant, starting with a store and trader's post on Crabtree Neck, where the Skillings River flows into Frenchman's Bay, not far from Bar Harbor, Maine. It is still labeled Peck's Point on the maps. John Peck invested his profits in land, and there are few communities in today's Maine,which do not list him on their early property rolls. So it was a natural that the wealthy landowner would be asked to join in the New England-Mississippi Company. And it was John Peck who on 14 May, 1803, sold to Robert Fletcher of New Hampshire, 15,000 acres of the New England- Mississippi company holdings, at the inflated price of $5 an acre. If the lawyers are to be believed Robert Fletcher felt cheated by Peck, and in 1803, just like Mr. Chandler in 1603 - remember him? - sued to get his money back
Robert Fletcher was a lawyer from Amherst, New Hampshire, He was only 42 years old in 1803, and owned extensive properties in Nashua, Amherst and Dunstable. He was a very successful husband, fathering 13 children, but ultimately, an unsuccessful businessman.  His final investment was in timber lands in Montreal, Canada. And when this venture failed in November 1809, Robert Fletcher shot himself. But even after his suicide, the court case he had launched continued all the way to the Supreme Court – just as it was intended to. Which was amazing because it was a set up, a fake case. And everybody knew it.
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Friday, March 22, 2019


I seemed to have lost track of Patrick Henry in our story, but let me catch you up. After the original 1789 Yazoo Swamp-Land deal fell through, Patrick had sold most of his shares in the now almost worthless Virginia Yazoo Company to Georgia Senator James Gunn and the North American Land Company (Robert Morris, John Nickleson and James Greenleaf). They had renamed it the Northern Mississippi Company, and in 1795 completed the purchase of the same land (and more) from Georgia for 1.4 cents per acre. Patrick seriously considered suing Georgia, claiming he still had a legal claim to the land, but the suit was never filed. In the meantime he had developed stomach troubles, and was popping out children (11 in all) with his second wife, Dorthea Dandridge Henry.
But back to our main story. First of the great speculators to succumb was the young man who had promised so much and delivered so little, James Greenleaf.  Late in 1796, the collapse of his over leveraged lifestyle dropped the silver tongued seducer into Philadelphia's dreaded Prune Street Debtors Prison.
It was part of the larger Walnut Street jail, an imposing structure which housed 300 prisoners, but in the back, in a two story building originally designed as a work house, was the small debtors jail. All the prisoners were expected to pay for their own incarceration. It was a strange system considering the prisoners were in jail because they were broke. Those with wealthy friends willing to pay could receive better food or even a small private apartment. Still, one look at his new dismal surroundings, and a desperate Greenleaf had his lawyers petition for his immediate release. But Robert Morris' instructed his lawyers to intervene. They reminded the court that the young seducer had been granted a divorce in Rhode Island, which meant he was an out-of-state debtor, and the law required they remain in jail for at least six months. In fact James Greenleaf would remain behind bars much longer than that.  But, at least he would not be lonely.
Morris may have preferred that Greenleaf was skinned alive, but actually, the debt left him and Nicholson by Greenleaf was a mere drop in his own rising tide of unpaid promises.  Morris' mansion in Philadelphia was so heavy besieged by creditors, that he retreated to the country estate he called “The Hills”.
He was most repelled by the idea of sharing a cell with his old partner Greenleaf. He wrote Nicholson, “I do not want to be under the same roof with such a scoundrel.” But at last, on 15 February, 1798, one venal vindictive creditor named George Eddy, aided by a local sheriff, managed to lay hands on the great speculator. The amount owed to Eddy was small (by Morris's standards), but even this pittance the largest private land owner in North America could not pay. Morris wrote to a friend, “George Eddy is the most hardened villain God ever made. I believe if I had bank bills to pay him with he would refuse them on the ground of their not being legal tender. He was positively determined to carry me to Prune Street last night, but the sheriff humanely relieved me from his rascally clutches.” It was only an overnight stay of execution. The next day, Robert Morris, signer of the Deceleration of Independence, entered the Prune Street Debtors jail. Now living under the same roof, Morris refused to even acknowledge Greenleaf's presence, studiously avoiding him in all encounters.
John Nicholson held out for another year, until the winter of 1799 when the 43 year old joined his partners behind bars. But Nicholson lost not only his fortune  - creditors squeezed $8 million from his estate, still leaving him $8 million in debt- but his mind as well. He died in the Prune Street Jail, on 5 December, 1800.  Robert Morris survived the humiliation, supported by his wealthy sons, but died four years later, still $12 million in debt and occasionally harassed by creditors. And James Greenleaf, the despised debonair silver tongued seducer of women and money, survived as well.  He  unloaded his shares in the Georgia Mississippi Company for 10 cents an acre to a group of prominent Boston speculators,  headed by Judge William Wetmore. Then, shortly after his release, James Greenleaf married Anne Penn Allen, a lovely and wealthy Washington socialite. However before the wedding Ms Penn Allen put her sizable estate in a trust, where James Greenleaf was never able to reach it.  Not that he didn't continually try, until his death in 1843.  It gave him something to occupy his time.
Meanwhile, in 1797, Judge Wetmore's group re-sold the Georgia Yazoo company to yet another group,  headed by a Boston speculator named John Peck, who renamed it the New England Mississippi Company. They also hired a Boston Law firm which offered the legal opinion that the “Rescinding Act” by the Georgia legislature had been unconstitutional. That made it legal to sell shares in their Yazoo lands for 33 cents an acre.  By 1798 the New England Mississippi Company had attracted $2 million, mostly from small investors, all gambling that somehow the courts would re-approve the Yazoo Swamp-Land sale.
Senator James Jackson was determined that would never happen. As Governor of Georgia he oversaw, in 1802,  the sale of all of the Georgia's claims to the Yazoo lands, everything beyond the Apalachicola River to the Mississippi, to the federal government for $1.3 million. He remained determined that the deal was D-E-A-D, dead, even refusing to pay a printer who published a codification of Georgia laws under the old constitution, because the volume mentioned the Yazoo swamp land sale.
It wasn't as simple as that, of course. The publisher of the codification was Robert Watkins, son of a state Representative in the excommunicated 1795 legislature. Robert had even received land in the heinous deal, so his inclusion of the interdicted laws was no accident. Still, Governor Jackson stubbornly refused to pay him.
One afternoon in 1802, in the new Georgia capital of Augusta, the ex-Governor and newly elected U.S. Senator James Jackson was confronted on the street by the infuriated printer. Robert Watkins denounced Jackson as a “pygmy general” and a member of a “damned venal faction which has disgraced Georgia.”  Where upon Jackson whacked Watkins in the face with his cane. Watkins returned the favor by using his waking stick to hit Jackson on the head, drawing blood. Jackson pulled a pistol, but somebody knocked it out of his hand. Watkins leapt upon Jackson, and tried to gouge his eyes out.  Jackson bit Watkins finger, causing Watkins to roll away, screaming in pain. And while everybody was trying to catch their breath, Watkins pulled a pistol with a spring loaded bayonet, and stabbed Jackson in the chest. The blade missed his heart by an inch. Friends were finally able to pull the two hot heads apart.
It seemed that even five years after the Yazoo Swamp-Land Deal had been “rescinded”, it was still trying to rise from the dead, like any good movie monster would.
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Thursday, March 21, 2019


I do not doubt state Representative and ex-U.S. Senator James Jackson',when he let it be known that he was prepared to shoot down every man who had voted for the Yazoo Land sale. Jackson was known as a duelist. But after the new state legislature convened in Louisville on 11 January, 1796, several of the members were threatened and challenged to duels unless they stopped trying to overturn the sale. Amazingly, they all forged ahead. These people were ticked off.
First things first; the assembly elected the logical Jared Irwin as the new Governor, a good balance to the emotional Representative Jackson. Then a special committee was created – chaired by Jackson – to take testimony on the great Yazoo Yard Sale, er, land sale.
And it was here, under oath, that the whole sordid tale came out. Jackson's final report seethed with indignation. “The public good was placed entirely out of view, and private interest alone consulted;...the rights of the present generation were violated, and the rights of posterity bartered... and the principles of aristocracy established in their stead.”  Now that is what a class war warrior really sounds like.
The Legislature offered up what became the “Rescinding Act”, which spent a thousand words justifying itself.  And then it declared the Yazoo land sales null and void. The buyers could have their money back (initial payments had been made). But Jackson insisted on going a step further. The act ordered that the government had 3 days to expunge any reference to the sale in public records. Any county officer or court clerk found with a reference to the Yazoo sale on the books, even in an index, was to be fined $1,000 a day until the offending passage was removed. It was made illegal for courts to accept any lawsuits mentioning the Yazoo Land sale. Georgia would not even respond to any future Federal lawsuits involving the sale. The Rescinding Act was Orwellian two centuries before George Orwell. The entire Georgia legislature of 1795 had all become “un-persons”.
On 13 February, 1796 both houses of the Georgia state legislature approved the Rescinding Act, by 43 to 3 in the house and in the Senate by 14 to 4. That same day Governor Irwin signed it. Immediately the state house swarmed with men wielding scissors, slicing out all references to the  Yazoo sale. The Act also ordered what that three days hence. “A fire shall be made in front of the State House door, and a line to be formed by the members of both branches around the same. The Secretary of State... shall....then produce the ... usurped act... and deliver the same to... the... Messenger of the House, who shall then pronounce “God save the state! And long preserve her rights! And may every attempt to injure them perish as these corrupt acts do now!” And at about four on the afternoon of 15 February, 1796, that is exactly what happened. They actually burned the bill.
The local papers published romanticized accounts of the bonfire.  In the Chronicle it was noted that a magnifying lens had been used to start the fire. Thus, wrote the reporter, “God Almighty is at last brought into the scrape.”  But a Charleston, South Carolina newspaper also observed that the blaze was of  “very little to the satisfaction of the bystanders.” It wasn't that they didn't approve of the conflagration, but they had a new worry - the entire world's economy had just dropped into the toilet. And the man who had dropped it there was the Philadelphia speculator, James Greenleaf.
Okay, maybe it wasn't entirely his fault. But this silver tonged liar does seem to have been at the center of a lot of the distress in America. Mr. Greenleaf was the partner with Robert Morris, John Nicholson and James Gunn in the North America Land Bank. They were buying up as much land as possible to satisfy the anticipated demand from Dutch bankers, with whom young Greenleaf insisted he had intimate connections, He had originally proven this a decade earlier, when in 1788, within  two weeks of his arrival in Holland, the then  22 year old American con man had met the Baroness Cornelia Elbertine Scholton van Ascht et Oud-Haarlem, and impregnated her.  Shortly there after, he not only left town, he fled the continent.
When she turned up pregnant, the reluctant Greenleaf was  convinced, probably with money, to return to Holland, where he wed the Baroness. It was Greenleaf's skill at seduction which convinced Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to appoint Greenleaf as American envoy to Holland. But eventually the Baroness realized her new husband was an amoral sleaze ball, and she attempted suicide. When Jefferson recalled Greenleaf, and he returned to the United States, the Baroness remained in Holland, with their son. The now 25 year old Greenleaf convinced a judge in Rhode Island he had been “tricked” into the marriage, and was granted a divorce. James Greenleaf was once again free, still handsome and young enough to be a seducer of women, and it turns out speculators like Morris, Nicholson and Gunn.
Within minutes of the Yazoo land sale being approved by the Georgia assembly, James Greenleaf was bound back for Holland, to offer the wealthy Europeans a “safe” place to invest their money.  He arrived to find everybody in Europe investing their money in cannon and gun powder.  His old Dutch banking contacts gave him the cold shoulder. The only two banks that were willing to offer his shares in the American Land Bank, Elsevier and Beelde-maker, did so halfheartedly, and attracted no buyers. There was no money coming from Holland to profit from the Yazoo land scheme. Defeated, James Greenleaf returned home, and the conspirators had to find their suckers some place else. So they sent  Greenleaf out to buy and sell housing lots in the new Federal City of Washington, D.C.
The government was not supposed to move-in until 1800, but construction of the capital and the President's mansion had already begun. And of course there had to be buildings for a Post Office,  a State Department and a War Department. And somebody would have to build housing for workers, and places for them to buy groceries, restaurants to eat in, buy clothing, and 'entertainment' – everything from books to ladies of the evening. A city had to be established where there was no reason for it being, except politics insisted it be there.  And Morris and Nicholson and Gunn leveraged their almost worthless Yazoo shares into property in the new Washington, District of Columbia..
At some point Robert Morris gave young James Greenleaf $7,000 in cash to pay for a section of city lots. But the money never made it to the seller. That drove Morris to take a closer look at the company books, where he discovered Greenleaf had signed all of his personal debts over to the  North American Land Company, making Morris and Nicholson and Gunn responsible for repaying them. The young seducer, had seduced 3 more victims. 
Disingenuously, Morris later wrote to Benjamin Harrison, claiming, “Twas he (Greenleaf) that encouraged the very extensive land purchases which were made under a promise that he would procure in Holland the money necessary to support the same...” Suddenly the financial Mozart of the Revolution was claiming the entire Yazoo Swamp-Land Fraud, the wholesale bribery of an entire state legislature, had actually been the dastardly plan of a  28 year old serial Casanova. It was ridiculous, but I suppose such whining is a natural reaction when a “master of the universe” gets the shaft - it must be somebody else's petard, never their own that they are hoisted upon.  Blame it on the government regulators, or the greed of a business partner. It is never their greed that is blame.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019


I think the villain of our story is now Senator James Gunn. He was a big man, and a vulgar bully with a quick temper, who cheated the citizens of George out millions of dollars, when a million was the equivalent of today's 12 billions. And when Gunn complained about “dishonorable interference of some of my associates”, the associate he was referring to was his fellow Senator from Georgia, James Jackson. That makes Jackson the hero of this story. But if the truth be told – and that is my goal, here – the personalities of Senator Jackson and Senator Gunn were not all that different. They were both rich and arrogant white supremacist. And they were both hotheads, known to fight duels over issues of “honor”. In fact the only real difference between Jackson and Gunn, was that Jackson was nominally fighting for the white people of Georgia, and Gunn was fighting for himself. 
Gunn started off by offering Senator Jackson a bribe. The ever dutiful Supreme Court justice James Wilson approached Senator Jackson with the promise of half a million acres of prime Yazoo lands, in exchange for his support, or at least his silence on the Yazoo swamp-land sale. Senator Jackson replied that he had fought the Revolution for the people of Georgia, and “the land was theirs, and the property of future generations” At least that was what Senator Jackson said he said. But Jackson knew what he was facing. 
In February of 1795 President George Washington sent a copy of the Yazoo land sale to Congress, and suggested it violated a treaty his administration had signed with several Indian tribes. Not that Washington was looking to protect native Americans. Washington just wanted the Federal government to be responsible for stealing their land, not private citizens. And he didn't want to start a war until he was ready for it.  And Senator Jackson helpfully authored a bill authorizing Washington to negotiate a treaty to do just that.  Like I said, the good guys and the bad guys in most situations, are not all that different, personality wise. word of the bribery and the low sale price for the Yazoo swamp lands leaked out, the public outrage exploded. On 28 March, 1795,  the Augusta Chronicle newspaper called the sale “a hellish fraud”.  Inspired, an organized mob marched the 30 miles from Augusta  to the capital of Louisville, intent upon lynching the Yazoo Gang - those members of the legislature who had voted for and profited from the sale.  All of the gang still in Louisville ran for the hills, and the 'Augustinians' were reduced to hanging them in effigy.  In fact every member of the Yazoo Gang state wide was forced into hiding. Some had their homes burned. A few who were caught were beaten, a few tared and feathered and run out of town on fence rails. Some were shot at.  One legislator, so the story goes, was even tracked down hiding in Virginia, where he was lynched - and not in effigy.
Jackson thought about resigning his seat in the U.S. Senate to fight the sale, but Gunn's rehearsed process preceded so quickly that it was over before Jackson could move. The depressed Jackson wrote to a friend, “I have really a good mind to...turn speculator...There is a damn sight more to be got by it”  But after being encouraged by the uproar in Georgia, he took heart again, resigned from the Federal Senate, returned home and began writing anonymous letters to the newspapers attacking the sale.
“The enormous gain of the speculator,” wrote Senator Jackson, “and the magical conversion of funds of the state into the funds of the individual” were destroying peoples' faith in their government. He told the citizens of Georgia that “It remains to you to decide whether you will nip this aristocratic influence in the bud, or leave it to be torn up by your children...thus rendering them subservient to the base and servile passions of a few Nabobs…Patience and moderation are no longer virtues, but the most infamous offices, and will be detested, with their owners, as the sycophants of a venal day.”
Grand juries were convened throughout Georgia to investigate the bribery and attempted bribery of their local representatives. Most towns held public meetings to denounce the sale. The general population was up in arms because since 1780 Georgia had followed the “head rights rule”, under which each head of a family had the right to 200 acres of unclaimed state land, plus fifty acres per family member. With land ownership came the right to vote, and a rise in social status. Now a huge chunk of western lands were no longer "unclaimed". 
The citizens of Georgia had already decided they needed a new Constitution, to match the new Federal one, but the delegates to their constitutional convention -  which began on 3 May, 1795 - were apoplectic over the Yazoo sale. The delegates could do little more than move the state capital to Augusta before demanding an investigation into the Yazoo sale, and then exhausted, adjourned. Senator Jackson won election to the Georgia Assembly in the fall of 1795.  In fact, in that election, all but two of the Yazoo Gang were voted out of office. The voters had spoken. In fact, the Yazoo Gang greatly strengthened the argument for universal suffrage. It turned out property owners were just as venal and greedy and stupid as as people who did not own property.
It was a spirit loose in the air, even in the heart of English minister and poet like Christopher Anstey. Ten years earlier this gentle man had been moved to write a long poem he called “Speculation”. “Whatever wild fantastic Dreams, Give Birth to Man's outrageous Schemes, Pursu'd without the least Pretence, To Virtue, Honesty, or Sense, Whate'er the wretched basely dare, From Pride, Ambition, or Despair, Fraud, Luxury, or Dissipation, Assumes the Name of—Speculation.” There was very little in Dr. Anstey's poem, written a decade before the French revolution, which does not apply to today's Top 1% ers and their flunkies. 
Once in office, the new “Reform” Georgia Assembly would waste little time in dealing with the Yazoo gang. And that would open a whole new box of trouble, greed and lawyers.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019


I hope that on election day, Tuesday, 10 November, 1794, the members of the Georgia legislature did not realize the evil they were unleashing when they voted to return James Gunn to a second six year term in the U.S. Senate. The distinguished members of the Georgia legislature were supposed to be the best of the best, brightest of the brightest, far more qualified to pick a Senator than the "hoi polli" – a word from the ancient Greek democracies, defining the general populace. So the majority of the Georgia legislature must have been naive idiots, otherwise their willingness to return this amoral selfish bully to power was a conscious decision to sell their reputations to him. And I would hate to think they were that greedy and stupid. But I think they were..
In the flunkies defense, it must be pointed out that Senator Gunn and his co-conspirators had been preparing for this immoral yard sale for at least three years. Having bought up the Virginia Yazoo Company in late 1791, Gunn and his “Yankee” partners - Pennsylvanians Robert Morris, John Nicholson and James Greenleaf - had renamed it the "Upper Mississippi Company", to avoid the impression they were “foreign invaders”. Wade Hampton and his South Carolina Yazoo Company had gone even further, renaming their land grab "The Georgia-Mississippi Company". The Tennessee Company felt no such compunction to verbally pander for approval. But members of all three companies agreed to act as one, and cross traded in each others stocks. And as a joint committee of the Georgia legislature began to consider their bids, it was seen as politically expedient to form a fourth company, to be called "The Georgia Yazoo Company", from which land bribes might be more palatable to the locals. But the bylaws for this new bidder were written by Georgia judge Nathaniel Pendleton, who was a shareholder in the new "Upper Mississippi Company" with Senator Gunn.
The partners even put it down on paper, agreeing in writing that it was “expedient to dispose of a considerable quantity” of the land they were offering to buy “to diverse effect the purchase”. In other words, the men behind all four Yazoo companies were willing bribe the Georgia legislature, and said so in writing.  And at the very center of this web of graft loomed the hulking frame of James Gunn.
After he was safely re-elected, Gunn warned Supreme Court Justice James Wilson, who owned 25,000 shares of the Upper Mississippi Company, “We have taken measures which will ensure Success. But...they are to be executed by men whose want of talents may ruin every thing.” And by talents he meant a willingness to be bought, and by a want of talent he meant a shred of integrity. Senator Gunn had already been handing out options worth 1,000 British pounds - called 'money shares' -  to merchants in Savannah, including Mayor Thomas Gibbons, who was already supposed to be the richest man in Georgia. The printer of the Augusta Southern Centennial newspaper, Alexander McMillan, was given 28,000 acres of land in the Georgia Company grant, to ensure at least one newspaper favorable to the land grab. The Treasurer for the state of Georgia, Philip Clayton, was given 112,000 acres, and two of Governor George Mathews' personal secretaries got options on even more land. Even Governor Mathew's son-in-law received a land donation, although he kept suffering integrity relapses. In fact, Gunn warned every politician in Georgia they would not share in the bounty if they “did not vote for the bill.”
Gunn offered the Columbia County representative, James Simm, 50,000 acres for every fellow legislator he could convince to vote for the sale. He offered state Representative Robert Flournoy and state Senator Henry Mitchell 75,000 acres each in the Georgia Company's grant. Once the joint committee recommended accepting the primary bids on Friday 28 November, 1794, and the matter went before the entire state Assembly and Senate, legislators were treated to the image of United States Supreme Court Justice James Wilson, standing in the lobby of the Georgia State Capital with “$25,000 in his hands as a ready cash payment.”  Also known as bribes.
Richmond County Representative Robert Watkins received no shares for his support. But his younger brother Thomas got shares in the Upper Mississippi Company, and his other brother Anderson got shares in the Tennessee Company.  Representative Peter Van Allen opposed the sale, and Treasurer Clayton offered him 75 British pounds to just go home until the vote was over. That offer, Clayton told Van Allen, came from “General Gunn”.  A similar offer was made to Georgia state Senators John Sheppered and Henry Mitchell.  Another state Senator was offered $2,000 cash for his vote. And when he had the temerity to ask where the cash was coming from, Treasurer Clayton told him, “It is nothing to you.” Yet another state Senator was offered ten slaves for his vote. Representative Thomas Raburn was offered a measly $600 for his - and he took it – and state Senator Robert Thomas received shares in the Georgia Company, which he later sold for $5,000 cash.
After a lot of behind the scenes pushing and shoving, the bill, nobly titled "An Act for appropriating a part of the un-allocated territory of this state for the payment of the late state troops, and...for the protection and support of the frontiers of this State, and for other purposes, " passed the Georgia Assembly by 19 to 9 on 2 January, 1795, and the Senate on 3 January by a vote of 18 to 10. Governor Mathews signed it into law on 7 January, 1795.   Senator James Gunn and his conspirators had just bought 35 million acres of land, an area far larger then the original Yazoo Land grants. And where the old grants had offered Georgia 24 cents an acre, these new grants promised to pay just 1 ½ cents an acre. It was a steal.  In every way you looked at it.
And there was more. Among other "goodies" hidden in the bill was the clause that “the lands....shall be free from taxation, until the inhabitants thereof are represented in the legislature...”  Translation; the speculators were not responsible for property taxes,  and thus they produced no income to the state until they were sold to the suckers,, farmers. That made the grants easier to resell, which had been the goal from day one. And who was going to farm a swamp? Three months after the bill was signed,  Wade Hampton sold the Upper Mississippi Company to three Boston speculators for $120,000 ($1.5 million today). However Senator Gunn was not so fortunate. The day after the sale became law, Senator Gunn was on his way back to Washington, D.C., Within two weeks Senator Gunn  resold his lands for a measly $25,000 profit ($300,000 today) .  The buyer was his own partner, James Greenleaf.
What drove Senator Gunn to hurry back to Washington was that he was already being hanged and burned in effigy in several parts of Georgia. It was the already humbled David Ross who had warned him of this. The open bribery used in the Georgia legislature, Ross counseled, “will not a little embarrass the members, and, I fear, increase your difficulties.”
Ah, how true that would prove to be. If this had been a monster movie, the villagers were about to show up with their pitchforks and flaming torches.
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