February 12, 1733 — James Edward Oglethorpe (December 1696-June 1785) founded the colony of Georgia today.
The British general, member of Parliament, and philanthropist, was also a social reformer who hoped to resettle Britain’s poor in the New World — especially those in debtors’ prisons.
Prior to conceiving the Georgia colony, Oglethorpe chaired a Parliamentary committee on prison reform, which documented horrendous abuses in three debtors’ prisons. He viewed this as part of the larger problem of urbanisation, which was depleting the countryside of productively employed people and depositing them in cities, particularly London.
As a possible solution, he and a group of associates petitioned in 1730 to form the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America. On November 1732, the first ship, led by Oglethorpe, departed for the New World on the ship Anne.
They arrived in South Carolina in late 1732, and settled near the present site of Savannah. Oglethorpe negotiated with the Yamacraw tribe for land (and became great friends with Chief Tomochichi of the Yamacraw), and built a series of defensive forts.
Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees were granted a royal charter for the Province of Georgia between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers on June 9.
While Oglethorpe was widely acclaimed in London, his expansionism was not welcomed in all quarters. The Duke of Newcastle, who directed British foreign policy, had tried to restrain Oglethorpe’s efforts in the colony for fear of offending the Spanish, whom Newcastle wished unsuccessfully to court as an ally. Newcastle eventually relented, and became a supporter of the colony admitting “it will now be pretty difficult to give up Georgia.”
Words of Wisdom
No Slaves. No Liquor. No Lawyers! There were the only three formal laws enacted in the new colony of Georgia by its founder, James Edward Oglethorpe.
1. No importation or use of rum and brandies. Oglethorpe tried to curb strong spirits, but permitted ale, beer and wine.
2. No importation or use of black slaves. Oglethorpe believed slavery would create an idle upper class, destroy all industry among the White inhabitants and would create a potential for violent uprisings. Many of the colonists believe that slaves were necessary for the cultivation of Georgia and the work too difficult. Still the ban was upheld until 1750.
3. Compliance with the law for maintaining peace with native Americans.