Oglethorpe with Natives
James Oglethorpe spent many years working on behalf of the poor in England. Oglethorpe concluded that one way of solving the problems of the poor would be to set up a colony for them in the New World. He originally wanted the colony as a place for British debtors. That did not work out. However, Oglethorpe did succeed in obtaining the charter for a new colony in the name of a non-profit corporation, led by twenty trustees. The corporation had full power to grant land and govern the territory. The parliament also allocated funds to help the settlers settle their new colony. This new settlement was the only colony to receive direct English support. Oglethorpe was determined to insure that a few rich landowners would not dominate the colony. Therefore, the Parliament limited the size of the farms to 500 acres. They also outlawed Rum and slavery. Initially, the Parliament made all of the laws in the colony and gave no power to the residents.
The settlers arrived in 1733 and began the settlement that became Savannah, Georgia. Oglethorpe accompanied the first group of settlers. One of his first acts was to open negotiations with the Native Americans– especially the tribe of the Upper Creeks.
Oglethorpe remained the governor of the Georgia colony for twelve years. Many of the settlers were unhappy with the various laws and restrictions imposed on the colony. Both the prohibition on Rum and the prohibition regarding slave ownership were exceedingly unpopular. The colonists also demanded more political rights. By the time Oglethorpe left there were 1,000 families in Georgia. After Oglethorpe’s return to England the trustees gave up their responsibilities for the colony. The colony became a Royal Colony with a governor appointed by the Crown. The voters elected a royal assembly.
Once the colony became a royal colony it grew rapidly. By the time of the Revolution there were 50,000 people living in Georgia, about half of whom were slaves. Of course by then, a number of very large plantations had been built.
Georgia had a religiously diverse population. There were a variety of Protestant refugees living in the colony. Among the early settlers was John Wesley the founder of Methodism.