THE FOUNDING OF GEORGIA

It had been more than five decades since the British had established a new colony. James Edward Oglethorpe, a philanthropist and an English general, along with twenty-one other men, created a charter to settle a new colony which they named Georgia in honor of King George II. The grant established land between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers as well as the waters of these rivers.

Georgia’s Trustees, Oglethorpe and the twenty-one other men, established that no man was to make profit off the settlement. Once the charter was finalized the men brought it to the attention of King George II. In 1732, King George II, under the persuasion of Oglethorpe, signed off on the last of the 13 colonies.

At the time of the charter, British prisons were being over-crowded by people in debt. Oglethorpe spent much of his time in England working with the poor and insisted that the formation of a new colony would allow debt-ridden people a fresh start. His idea was to create an asylum for the poor and the persecuted Protestants. The establishment of Georgia would also protect the northern colonies from Spanish and French intrudors.

However, as the Trustees started searching for colonists, the plan changed from building a colony of prisoners to forming a colony of skilled individuals including; tailors, bakers, carpenters, merchants and farmers. As colonists were found, funds were also raised to pay for the long journey across the Atlantic.

In November of 1732, 114 people left from the River Thames to settle Britain’s new colony of Georgia. They arrived at Port Royal, South Carolina. While the colonists rested, Oglethorpe, Peter Gordon, William Bull, and several other South Carolina militia searched for a proper settling area. They came to Yamacraw Bluff, which was about seventeen miles from Savannah’s river’s mouth. The men chose this area for its natural protection from assault.

There they met John Musgrove, son of a South Carolina Governor, and his wife Mary, native Creek Indian. The two lived near Yamacraw Bluff and traded goods with the Creek Indians. With Musgrove’s help, Oglethorpe was able to obtain the land from the local Creek village leader Tomochichi. Upon securing the land, Oglethorpe returned to South Carolina to gather up the settlers.

James Oglethorpe and Creek Indians
Oglethorpe and his Militia with the Creek Indians.


On February 1, 1733, Oglethorpe and the colonists arrived at Yamacraw Bluff. Soon after, the settlers, along with South Carolina slaves, quickly got to work clearing the land and establishing Savannah. The forty families’ first task was to build a wall surrounding the settlement. Every task was done as a group and once one task was over, the colonists would move on to the next one. Oglethorpe and the Trustees desired to create a society where every head of household worked on his own land without slaves, creating a single class.


Oglethorpe spent his time in Georgia helping direct the economy and politics, all while defending it militarily. He also continued to encourage settlers to come in from all over Europe and England. By 1738, Oglethorpe was worried about Georgia and its residents. Georgia had been established as a colony with no slavery and little landholding. In fact, slavery was strictly prohibited and Oglethorpe had declared it immoral and conflicting with British law. Despite his best efforts, by this time, the residents began blaming the downfall and hardships of the colony on the lack of landownership, rum and slaves.

Colonial Georgia
Colonial Georgia, 1733

Oglethorpe’s ideals for Savannah as an asylum against persecution had changed, which led him to quit the colony in 1743.

By the time it became a Royal colony in 1752, petitions began circling around the settlement for the original charter to be revoked. Georgia soon became known for its plantations and slavery.

Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the Constitution after the American Revolution in 1788.