Theft by deception generally means the use of deception to obtain control over the property or services of another. This term came to mind while watching the results and associated mayhem of the 2020 presidential race. Listening to all of the rhetoric about red versus blue, states being flipped, electoral college vote counts, lawsuits being filed, and voter fraud, it got me to thinking about the dynamic list of federal political scandals that exist in the United States of America since its inception. I also thought about just how little is taught in United States history courses, particularly as it relates to wrongs that have been perpetrated by government institutions. I’m talking significant wrongs that have carried over for centuries, unbeknownst to most.

While most people might know snippets about the history of deception in the United States, many have probably not thought about how such history continues to impact lives today. There is what happened to Native and Indigenous American people, enslaved African and Black American people, and the Japanese. Some know a bit about what happened during the Jim Crow era and War on Drugs era. But what the average United States citizen knows, does not even begin to scratch the surface of “what had really happened.”  Some will say to let the past be the past and to get over it. But the fact is, keeping the past a secret can be extremely dangerous.  Why?  The past continues to impact and shape what happens today, and in some instances, what happens in the future. Especially when it comes to policy decisions and precedent.  What people don’t know – it can actually hurt.  Ignorance comes at a cost!

So, as I sat there watching the election results, Georgia and Mississippi’s early results popped up.  And these two states made me think about the Yazoo. I know, you’re probably scratching your head saying Yazoo… No, I’m not talking about the Yazoo River, though the Yazoo River relates to the Yazoo that I am talking about. I’m talking about the Yazoo Scandal, otherwise known as the Yazoo Land Scandal, or Yazoo Fraud.

The Yazoo Land Scandal of 1794

The Yazoo land fraud controversy was a massive real-estate fraud perpetrated at the hands of and under the leadership of then Georgia governor George Mathews and the Georgia General Assembly. The scandal was that Georgia politicians sold large tracts of territory in the Yazoo lands (in what are now portions of the present-day states Alabama and Mississippi) to political insiders at very low prices in 1794.  Long story short, a group of men that were part of the “Combined Society” which included Georgia politicians such as James Gunn and United States Supreme Court Associate Justice James Wilson formed four new companies: the Georgia Company, the Georgia-Mississippi Company, the Upper Mississippi Company, and the new Tennessee Company. These companies persuaded the Georgia state assembly to sell more than 40 million acres of land for $500,000 (significantly below market value). Many Georgia officials and legislators were offered shares in these companies (in essence creating a new financial market) or bribes to secure their agreement to the sale. On January 7, 1795, Governor Mathews signed into law the Yazoo Act, which was a bill authorizing the sale of the 40 million acres. The sale yielded an enormous and almost instantaneous profit to the four companies.

Although the sale was annulled sometime in 1796, recovery of the land proved problematic. A significant portion of the land was sold to out-of-state businessman at astonishing profits. The Mississippi Co. was said to have sold 11 million acres for eight times the purchase price. For much of the next decade following the sale, state officials moved to undo the damage that was brought on by the massive legislative fraud, however unsuccessfully.

Deception, bribery, and secret societies have continued in the United States. Deception, bribery, and secret societies have since inception of the United States built wealth and power – for some. President Donald Trump’s presidency was built on this, the current election turmoil was built on this – deception, bribery, and secret societies. I bring up the Yazoo story for the purposes for what?  For starters, I think that it is important for the average person to understand that secret societies really do exist, and that deception and bribery is much more common in political practices than most may think. It just occurs under a different name and out of the public realm – for the most part.  Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how the masses may feel about this.  It is what it is.  It is important to understand just how little that common people rhetoric affects those that are empowered to create policies that affect and impact day to day lives. It is important to be become familiar with your history. Not only your familial history, but the history of the state that you live in, the community that you live in, the people that you support, and vote for.  How have the secret societies (communities) that you are part of helped to propel you, helped you to build wealth, helped you to build a power base, helped you to change the trajectory of your family legacy?  If you’ve been more vocal about the presidential election than you have been about the plight of your own family and legacy, perhaps today is the day that you shift your perspective and begin to invest in your own secret society, without the bribery and deception at least. Because whether you like it or not, deception, bribery, and secret societies will ALWAYS impact you in one way or another.

Because years pass, does that mean that men change?  You be the judge of that.

Veronica Smith

Author of When Communities Disappear