Settlement of Georgia Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Georgia became the last of the original thirteen British colonies when it was settled in 1732 by philanthropists who hoped the new colony would relieve the plight of thousands of destitute debtors and provide a haven for persecuted Protestants from other European countries. The British Empire also saw economic and militaristic benefits from the region: It occupied the area to protect its colonies from not only the encroaching Spaniards established in Florida but also indigenous peoples, who naturally resented European settlers in their homeland.

Summary of Event

The founding of Georgia Thirteen Colonies attracted more attention in England than that of any other colony. Because the project suited both philanthropic and imperial interests, it drew support from all segments of society and government, including philanthropists, such as James Edward Oglethorpe, a member of Parliament, and Thomas Bray, founder of the Society of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The Crown was concerned with the Spaniards who had gradually expanded northward from their Florida settlement, establishing presidios and missions, first on the Sea Islands and then on the mainland of Georgia. In addition to protecting their frontier against the Spanish, the British government had to contend with the Yamasees Yamasee Indians, who were resentful of the encroaching European settlers. [kw]Settlement of Georgia (June 20, 1732) [kw]Georgia, Settlement of (June 20, 1732) Georgia;settlement Colonization;British of Georgia [g]American colonies;June 20, 1732: Settlement of Georgia[0780] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;June 20, 1732: Settlement of Georgia[0780] Bolzius, John Martin Musgrove, Mary Oglethorpe, James Edward Perceval, John Tomochichi Wright, James

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The Crown also perceived economic advantages from a new colony that could contribute raw materials for English manufacturers, provide a market for their goods, and ease the mother country’s unemployment problem. Therefore, when John Perceval (later the earl of Egmont), an associate of the late Dr. Bray, acted upon the suggestion of Oglethorpe and petitioned the Crown for a tract of land south and west of Carolina between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers, the request was approved.

A bird’s eye view of the fledgling settlement of Savannah, Georgia, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies in North America.

(Library of Congress)

On June 20, 1732, the Crown conferred upon the twenty-one members of the board of trustees for Georgia a charter empowering them to found and to manage for twenty-one years the land between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers, stretching as far westward as what had been called the South Sea (the Gulf of Mexico). Although the government took a calculated view of their enterprise, the trustees considered it the greatest philanthropic and social experiment of their age. Numerous churches, organizations, and individuals responded to their promotional campaign with contributions.

Because the settlers were to participate in a social experiment, they were individually selected from among applicants who included imprisoned debtors, the poor, and the downtrodden. Each received free passage to Georgia, tools, seeds, provisions until their first harvest, and fifty acres of land. Slaves, hard liquor, Catholic Church;banned from Georgia colony Catholics, and lawyers were prohibited in early Georgia.

In November, 1732, 114 settlers set sail on the ship Anne, with Oglethorpe leading the expedition to America. Disembarking in the Carolinas at Charleston in January, 1733, Oglethorpe soon chose a settlement site. With Mary Musgrove, an American Indian, serving as interpreter, Oglethorpe reached an agreement with Tomochichi, chief of the Yamacraws Yamacraws, a Creek group who lived in the area. On February 12, 1733 (Georgia’s founder’s day), the colonists arrived. With the aid of Colonel William Bull, Bull, William (1683-1755) a Carolinian, Oglethorpe laid out the city of Savannah, Georgia Savannah, where settlement began. The communal arrangement provided that each family own a town lot with a garden and a piece of farmland nearby. Settlers held their land through “tail male,” meaning that tenure was for life and only eldest sons could inherit land. The prohibition against the sale or rental of property eliminated the possibility of unselected immigrants becoming part of the community. Hoping once again to make silk production a profitable colonial enterprise, the Crown required each settler to clear ten acres and plant one hundred mulberry trees within ten years. Moreover, Georgia’s colonial settlers were to produce wine, grow tropical plants, and provide other raw materials that would benefit the British mercantile system.

In addition to the “charity settlers,” the trustees admitted approved adventurers, persons who paid their own passage to the colony. Persecuted Protestants, such as the Lutheran Salzburgers Lutheranism from Germany, also came. The Salzburgers, under the dynamic leadership of John Martin Bolzius, settled outside Savannah in the town of Ebenezer and quickly became the most prosperous group in early Georgia. Their church, New Jerusalem, New Jerusalem Church, Georgia is the oldest brick structure in the state.

Authority over Georgia’s affairs was officially shared by the board of trustees and the British government, although in practice a smaller body known as the common council did most of the work. Among the most active trustees were Oglethorpe, Perceval, Vernon, James James Vernon, the Shaftesbury, earl of earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley-Cooper), and Martyn, Benjamin Benjamin Martyn, the secretary. Although all laws passed by the trustees had to be reviewed by the king, the trustees neglected the political side of the Georgia colony. While the trustees held the philanthropic and social goals to be of primary importance, the government was concerned chiefly with the economic and defensive advantages that Georgia might contribute to the British Empire. The trustees came to distrust Sir Robert Walpole, the chancellor of the exchequer, and in order to evade the authority of the government, tried, as far as possible, to govern by regulations rather than laws. In the absence of local governmental institutions, Oglethorpe acted as Georgia’s unofficial leader.

Significance

Georgia’s most serious problems in the early years were caused by the conflicting purposes it was expected to fulfill. Times were hard, rewards few. Inevitably, Georgia assumed a military character, and the colonists were distracted from the business of building a stable society. Oglethorpe focused much of his time on negotiating with the American Indians and leading his regiment into a series of skirmishes against the Spanish, for which he was rewarded military rank. When the fighting ended in 1743, General Oglethorpe left Georgia, never to return.

In the absence of a leader, hard times increased for the Georgia settlers; they ignored the liquor and slave prohibitions; and many resettled in other colonies. Furthermore, the trustees abandoned the colony a year before their charter ended. Consequently, Georgia became a royal colony under the auspices of King George II, for whom the colony was named. The royal colony was under the leadership of three governors from 1754 to 1776: Captain Reynolds, John John Reynolds, an unpopular leader who was forced back to England after serving two years; Ellis, Henry Henry Ellis, who was in poor health and did not last; and, finally, Sir James Wright, who was appointed in 1760. Under Governor Wright, colonial Georgia began to stabilize as its population grew. Among the new colonists were more than fifteen thousand Slavery;of Africans[Africans] African slaves African slaves who contributed much to colonial development Georgia;slavery . Wright remained governor of Georgia until the changes wrought by the American Revolution forced him from power. In 1777, under a new constitution, Truetlen, John John Truetlen, a Salzburger, was elected the state’s first governor as colonial Georgia theoretically ended.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cashin, Edward J., ed. Setting Out to Begin a New World: Colonial Georgia. Savannah, Ga.: Beehive Press, 1995. Contains thirty primary documents from colonial Georgia, including firsthand accounts of the founding of Savannah and Frederica, descriptions of Oglethorpe’s battles with mutinous soldiers, treaties with American Indians, documents regarding slavery, and information about the administration of Governor Wright.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ettinger, Amos A. James Edward Oglethorpe, Imperial Idealist. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1968. A definitive biography of Georgia’s founder that carefully analyzes his strengths, his weaknesses, and his life in general.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jackson, Edwin L., Mary E. Stakes, Lawrence R. Hepburn, and Mary A. Hepburn. The Georgia Studies Book. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. A standard textbook in many Georgia public schools. A comprehensive, illustrated work on the history of Georgia.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jones, George Fenwick, ed. The Salzburger Saga: Religious Exiles and Other Germans Along the Savannah. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984. Commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Salzburgers’ arrival in Georgia, this work overviews the Salzburgers’ religious persecution in Germany, their trek to America, and their hardships and triumphs in colonial Georgia.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lane, Mills, ed. General Oglethorpe’s Georgia. 2 vols. Savannah, Ga.: Beehive Press, 1975. Contains colonial letters written by James Oglethorpe, colonial settlers, and others involved with Georgia’s early settlement from 1733 to 1741.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McPherson, Robert G., ed. The Journal of the Earl of Egmont: Abstract of the Trustees Proceedings for Establishing the Colony of Georgia, 1732-1738. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1962. A private record of the meeting of the Georgia trustees kept by Perceval in addition to the official minutes. An indispensable primary source.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Robinson, W. Stitt. The Southern Colonial Frontier, 1607-1763. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979. Places colonial Georgia in the context of other Southern colonies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Spalding, Phinizy, and Harvey H. Jackson, eds. Oglethorpe in Perspective: Georgia’s Founder After Two Hundred Years. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989. A collection that analyzes facets of Oglethorpe’s life, his work in Parliament, and his time in Georgia as a soldier and administrator.

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