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Georgia at the end of the 18th century


Mansion in Georgia
Mansion in Georgia

On January 2, 1788, a state convention meeting at Augusta voted unanimously to adopt the Constitution of the United States; Georgia was the fourth state and the first Southern state to do so. Most Georgians supported a strong, central federal Union to protect them against the Native Americans and the Spanish, who had repossessed Florida in 1783. Within a few years, however, conflicts arose between the state and federal authorities. Georgia became a leading advocate of states’ rights, the doctrine that federal powers over the states are strictly limited. Nevertheless, the state supported the Union.

In the early years of the Union, thousands of settlers from Virginia, North Carolina, and other nearby states migrated to Georgia. Between 1790 and 1810 the state’s population tripled, from 82,548 to 252,433. Most of the newcomers settled north and west of Savannah. In 1783 Augusta succeeded Savannah as the state capital. As settlement pushed westward, the capital was moved west to Louisville in 1796 and to Milledgeville in 1806.

During the 1790s there was widespread speculation in land in Georgia. Corrupt state and local officials made grants of millions more acres than actually existed in the state. Much of the nonexistent land was then sold to outside speculators and companies. The most infamous land scam was the Yazoo Fraud of 1795. The legislature authorized the sale of a vast tract near the Yazoo River to four land companies in which most of the legislators held shares. There was a public outcry, and a new legislature, elected in 1796, canceled the sale and offered refunds to the land companies. However, much of the land had already been resold, and the new buyers insisted on keeping it. In 1802 Georgia ceded the territory to the federal government, which agreed to settle the claims. After the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Yazoo sale valid, Congress in 1814 authorized payment of $4.3 million to the claimants. Encarta "Georgia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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