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This Day in Georgia History

January 09, 1787

George Mathews Inaugurated

To view a George Mathews historical marker, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

George Mathews was inaugurated for his first term as governor of Georgia. Born Aug. 30, 1739 in Augusta County, Virginia. Mathews served with Virginia troops in the Revolutionary War until he was captured at Germantown in 1777. After spending four years in captivity, he was exchanged in 1781. He then served one year in the southern army of General Nathanael Greene. Soon after the war he moved to Georgia, where as a war veteran, he was granted thousands of acres of land in Wilkes County. He served four terms in the assembly as a delegate from Wilkes County, before being elected governor in 1787. His term saw the settlement of the Georgia-South Carolina boundary dispute, but also witnessed increasing problems with the Creek Indians.

Upon completion of his first term as governor, Mathews was a delegate to the convention that voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution, worked as an Indian commissioner, a judge, and as a delegate to the state constitutional convention. In 1793, Mathews was elected to a second term as governor. During this term Mathews was forced to deal with Elijah Clarke’s attempts to capture East Florida and to set up an independent republic across the Oconee River. More importantly, Mathews signed the infamous Yazoo Land Act, leading to the illegal granting and selling of large tracts of Georgia’s western lands. Naturally this left him unpopular in Georgia, and he moved to the Mississippi territory permanently in 1797. Subsequently Mathews was appointed an agent of the Madison administration, charged to acquire Florida from the Spanish if possible. Mathews’ method of doing this was to attempt to stir up revolt among the Indians in Florida, whereupon Madison repudiated his activities. Upon hearing of this Mathews angrily started for Washington to confront Madison, but died (on his seventy-third birthday) in route at Augusta, Ga. – where he was buried in St. Paul’s churchyard.