Headright System

Headright System
Native Americans once controlled much of present-day Georgia.
Against the wishes of their people, many Native American leaders
sometimes gave up their land in treaties with the British. Much of this
Native American land was later given to colonists.
Such colonists received land grants under the headright system.
The headright system grants between 200 and 1,000 acres of land to the
heads of families. By giving men land, they were able to obtain power.
Farmers soon came looking for fertile farmland. Ranchers also flocked to
Georgia in search of grazing areas for their livestock. These ranchers and
farmers often got their businesses off the ground with land grants
through the headright system. By 1782, most of the land grants were
given to Revolutionary War veterans. This practice, however, quickly led
to corruption. One example was the Yazoo Land Fraud.
Land Lotteries
After the disaster of the Yazoo land fraud, the state of Georgia
implemented a lottery system to determine who could buy land. A
person’s age, war service, marital status, and years of residence in Georgia
were all factors that determined who was eligible for the land lottery. The
land lottery was restricted to white men, orphans, and widows. Georgia
held multiple land lotteries between 1805 and 1833. During this time,
Georgia sold three-fourths of the state to 100,000 families and individuals.
These Georgians paid an average of seven cents per acre.
Ordinary Georgians could gain control of large areas of land
through these lotteries. This led to a shift in power. As a colony, Georgia
had been ruled by wealthy planter aristocrats. Through the land lottery,
almost any man could become a landowner. Power and wealth began to be
distributed more evenly among white men of Georgia.
Much of the land purchased through these land lotteries was used
for tobacco farming. The introduction of cotton and the invention of the
cotton gin would change that, and the history of Georgia. Agriculture
soon shifted from small farms to large plantations. These plantations
required a great deal of labor.