History of colonial georgia

History of colonial georgia

Georgia was founded on 9 June 1732 when the charter was received by James Edward Oglethorpe from King George II. (Taylor, 2003). The purpose of formation of Georgia was manifold. The main purpose of was at the request of the people of South Carolina to the British government who sought that a defensive buffer be created between the Spaniards in Florida. (Our Country, nd (No Date)).This provided an opportunity to settle a large number of people in British prison who had been held for debt and who were other wise free of criminal background. On the other hand it also provided a scope for the Protestants of Europe to have a foothold in America. (Georgia, 2006).

Georgia was founded by James Oglethorpe, who was a great soldier and a visionary. (Elson, 1904). He was supported by 21 trustees, who were called “Trustees for Settling and Establishing the Colony of Georgia”. (Our Country, nd (No Date)). Oglethorpe had the good fortune and distinction of living to see the thirteen colonies become an independent nation and thus is famous as the founder of Georgia.

The colony was composed of a board of trustees who were granted a charter of twenty one years by George II. Their jurisdiction extended on the land between River Savannah and Altamaha River. (Elson, 1904)  All laws in the colony initially were made by the Trustees. Land was free of rent for ten years. However the settlers were not permitted to take part in the process of governance. It was envisaged that at the end of the period of trusteeship, the land would pass under the control of the British Crown. This created resentment and due to large number of protests the Trustees handed over the colony to the Crown before the period of Trusteeship had elapsed. In 1752, the Colony became a Royal colony and the people got an elected assembly and the Governor was appointed by the King. (Georgia, 2006).However Catholics were denied voter rights.

Initially the population of Georgia did not grow very rapidly. There were 116 people who were selected by Oglethorpe who came to Georgia on the ship, “Ann”. The limited number of families who came in initially, lack of voting rights and freedom of governance were the main factors for lack of rapid growth of the settlements. There were indigenous settlements of Indians. However once the colony came under the Crown, it grew to almost 50,000 by the time of the Revolution. Of this 25,000 were said to be slaves. (Georgia, 2006).

The colony had the distinction of being the only one provided with financial aid by the British government which was approved by the Parliament and additional grants were given from time to time.   In addition there were donations from a large number of people and assistance was given freely to the initial settlers by the Bank of England.

The colony produced a number of products such as rice, lumber and indigo. (Georgia, 2006). Fur was the most lucrative trading commodity which was mainly carried out by the Indians. While some attempts were made to promote silk by growing mulberry trees, this was later abandoned as it did not prove successful.

Georgia’s socio economic status in the initial stages was quite poor. There were no schools and the postal system was non existent. There were a large number of small farmers who lived in pockets, while towns except Savannah were also undersized. (Georgia, 2006). The colony did not have slavery and thus was unique from other settlements of its times. No liquor could be imported which is said to have been another reason for lack of growth. The colony assimilated Indians and Oglethorpe even included them in his expedition against the Spaniards in 1739 to St Augustine.

There was freedom of religion in the Colony except Catholicism. This was an expected defensive mechanism as it was planned to settle the persecuted Protestants of Europe and hence inclusion of Catholics would not have provided much needed relief to the settlers. The freedom to practice all other religions represented the broad outlook and vision of the founding fathers. The Catholics were also denied franchise when the colony came under the Crown in 1752. (Georgia, 2006). The English Church was nominated as the state church of Georgia. Georgia came to be known for its liberalism in accepting people of all faiths, Puritans, Lutherans, and Quakers. This proved to be the strength of the province. (Taylor, 2003). Oglethorpe also took great initiative to assimilate Native Americans in the province. Thus the Indians as Yamacraws, Yamassess or Savannahs were absorbed with special efforts by Oglethorpe. There was no slavery initially in Georgia, however as the settlers protested that growth had been restricted due to lack of labor, this was introduced later. (Georgia, 2006).

The establishment of the Colony was not without its conflicts and controversies. Defense was a concern initially and hence a perimeter had to be established to include Fort Augusta, Fort Frederica and Fort St Simon. (Taylor, 2003). In 1739, the Governor launched a campaign against Spaniards with an army of 20000 which attempted to capture St Augustine. The attack failed however the conflict continued and was consummated in the Battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742, thereafter relative peace reigned. (Taylor, 2003).

However the main clashes occurred within. The people took up a number of issues such as lack of ownership of land, slavery and prohibition. Slavery was one of the main issues which divided the people. The Saltzburgers were opposed to it while the people around Savannah were in favor of inducting Negroes. (Taylor, 2003).  Gradually the state accepted the demands of the people. They were granted ownership and voting rights, slaves were inducted and prohibition was removed.

Conclusion   The settling of a colony without any formal government as is commonly known is the most interesting facet of Georgia. Entirely controlled by a board of trustees, it was perhaps unique that a province was governed in such a manner. This had its problems as it failed to attract settlers devoid of formal laws and statutes. The non existence of slavery initially was also a very unique feature but the pressures for labor finally renounced the liberal thoughts of the likes of Oglethorpe, who along with the original trustees need commendation for their overall vision in creating a province and sustaining it.


1.      Elson, Henry William. 1904. History of the United States of America. New York Macmillan Company.

2.      Georgia. 2006. http://www.usahistory.info/southern/Georgia.html. (18 September 2006).

3.      Col. Samuel Taylor. 2003. Colonial Georgia. http://ourgeorgiahistory.com/history101/gahistory03.html.  (18 September 2006).

4.      Our Country, ND. http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/Our_Country_Vol_1/historyco_fj.html. (18 September 2006)


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