The Colony of Georgia

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The last american colony was Georgia,  founded 50 years after the other twelve. It was founded by James Oglethorpe, a prison reformer. Oglethorpe was a member of Parliament who was concerned about the atrocious and crowded conditions of the debtor's prisons, when he resolved to ship the inmates to America where there was plenty of room.

King George II granted a Charter for twenty-one years to a board of trustees for the land between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers and westward to the "South Sea". There were originally twenty one trustees named in the 1732 charter "The Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia". Over the period of the trusteeship (1732-1755), fifty more were added. The new country was named Georgia, from George II who had granted the charter. The liberties of Englishmen were guaranteed to the colonies, and freedom in religion to all except Catholics.

The purpose of the colony was not just an opportunity for the inmates to begin a new life. It's purpose was also to provide a refuge for persecuted protestants and a military presence between the other colonies and Spanish Florida.

Oglethorpe was chosen governor. He traveled to America with thirty-five families, arriving in the spring of 1733. The land was inhabited by Native Americans, primarily the Creek and Cherokee. On a bluff overlooking the Savannah River and the sea he founded the first city and named it after the river.

Georgia was a haven for those protestants fleeing religious persecution in Europe. In 1734 the first religious immigrants arrived in Savannah. The Salzburgers, a devout protestant people, were led by Oglethorpe up the mouth of the Savannah, where they founded the town of Ebenezer. Others came soon after: John Wesley, the founder of methodism came as a missionary, and a large group of Scottish highlanders.

Georgia was different from the other twelve colonies. It received money from Parliament to get it started, and alone of the 12 colonies, prohibited slavery and the import of alcohol. It is generally believed that lawyers were not allowed in the colony, but no legislation has been found to prove it. The settlers had no control of their own government - it was entirely ruled by the trustees.

The colony fought the Spanish. Georgia was the southernmost colony and bordered Spanish Florida. Savannah was fortified to defend from attacks by the Spanish and Native Americans. In 1739, when England and Spain were at war (King George's War or The War of the Austrian Succession), Oglethorpe led an expedition against St. Augustine. Although they failed to capture the city, they were successful in beating back a Spanish retaliation attack on the colony.

The colonists were not happy with the restrictions placed on the colony. After 12 years as governor, Oglethorpe returned to England bearing their demands. They wanted to be able to have alcohol and slaves, to participate in their own government, and demanded land reform. They were successful. Alcohol was allowed into the colony because it was thought that the importation of alcohol would improve trade. There was strong opposition to slavery, particularly from the religious immigrants, they were in the minority and in 1749 Georgia became a slave colony.

Georgia became a royal colony in 1752. The trustees were unable to establish self-government and gave up before the 21 year charter had expired. Freemen were given the right to vote (unless they were Roman Catholics) and the people elected an assembly. The governor was appointed by the king.

Georgia grew to be more like the other colonies. It had grown quickly after the release of restrictions, though by the time of the American Revolution it was still the least populated. Georgia was still mostly wilderness, but Savannah, though still a small town of wood, was important. Slaves constituted half of the 40,000-50,000 population, and there were a few rich planters. Most of the people, however were small farmers. The English church was the state church after Georgia became a royal colony, but religious freedom was granted to all protestants. At first colonists believed that silk would be an important product of Georgia, since the mulberry tree, which furnishes the natural food of the silkworm, grew wild in Georgia. However, no one was able to succeed at the business. The chief products were rice, indigo, lumber, and Fur Trade with the Native Americans.

Primary Source

The Royal Charter of 1732 (Georgia Archives)

"Oglethorpe and the Indians" from the Frieze of American History, Rotunda Capitol Building


Part of These United Colonies: The American War of Independence exhibit