James Jackson:

It is, again, time to celebrate the greatest Georgian, and perhaps the greatest American: James Jackson.
James Jackson was a hero of the Revolution; a delegate to the First Congress; a U.S. Senator, State Senator, Governor of the State of Georgia, U.S. Senator again, and is buried in a place of honor in the congressional cemetery. His monument in Jackson, Georgia, names him "Prince of Duellists."

In the days after the Revolution, an early corporation called the Yazoo Land Company bought up almost all the land in the state of Georgia. Jackson, who had been elected Governor by a grateful populace, but had declined the office on account of being too young, was serving instead in the (honestly, in those days) less important capacity of U.S. Senator. An advocate of the Jeffersonian "yeoman farmer" tradition, he was outraged.

Because in those days people understood Federalism, he did not attempt to override the Georgia Legislature with a Federal decree. Rather, he resigned his U.S. Senate seat, and ran for a seat in the State Senate. Having won it, he carried the fight against the corporation's right to the land.

Duelling was not only legal in that age, but obligatory when questions of honor arose. The corporation hired four different professional killers to find a pretext on which to challenge Jackson to fight them in duels. All this was to remove him, so that their ownership of most of Georgia would be unchallenged. Jackson accepted all four duels, and slew the killers each and all.

At last he won the revocation of the bill allowing the Yazoo Company to buy the land. He had all the copies of the bill gathered up on the lawn of the State House, where an old man with a prism came forth an focused sunlight on them until they smouldered and caught flame. Thus it is still said today that this unjust law was "consumed by the fires of Heaven."

Instead of corporate ownership, Jackson's party had the land distributed by lottery to the people of Georgia. In that way, he created a whole state of small, independent, yeoman farmers.

In my opinion, he was the greatest American, only perhaps excepting Washington. Certainly his is my model for right politics: an activity of personal courage, in defense of individual liberty.

No comments: