The True story of the Georgia Colony

Marketing and propaganda are not twentieth century inventions; they were tools of the trade in the creation of colonial Georgia. There is a myth that the Georgia colony was based on philanthropy and that the trustees had the good of the colonists at heart. Well, it’s just not so. Georgia was created to protect the Carolinas from the Spanish and the French, while reducing the urban poor in England. In essence, Georgia was created as a sacrificial colony.

The belief that the Georgia colony was populated with debtors is just a myth. There are no records of any debtors becoming colonists. The surprising thing is that the settlers were not farmers, laborers or soldiers, the people you would expect to be selected to populate a colony that would need to feed and defend its self. According to the Mercantilistic thinking of the time, farmers and workers were part of what made England strong and so were needed at home. In fact, the Trustees emphasized that their settlers were not productive at home and so England was not losing valuable people and the Trustees were helping to solve the problem of over population. The Trustees were going to populate Georgia with the “poor and unfortunates” from London and other English cities. In short the ne’er-wells that were specifically inexperienced in the skills they would soon need to survive.

After the settlement of Savannah, the placement of outsettlements was used to form a perimeter around Savannah. This was a defensive designed, and was created to give a warning if the Spanish or Indians attacked. Ten families were to settle at each point. In theory this was enough people to defend themselves, Very Reassuring. Tybee Island at the mouth of the Savannah River was important for protection and so ten families were “ordered” to settle there and build a fort. The land was just deep sand and it was impossible to farm. John Wesley said “that the settlers had drunk themselves to death or had gone away and is now is as before a settlement of opossum, raccoons, and the link inhabitants” (John Wesley 1737). Once again, the settlers needs were disregarded and they were used for military purposes.

In 1736 Oglethorpe set out to explore the coast and claim territory. He claimed land to the mouth of the St. Johns River and built a fort there. He could have used the Creek Indians to support his claim for these new lands, though this was farther south than the charter limits of the Georgia colony. Oglethorpe could not control all this territory. So, why was a claim made? Probably to establish diplomatic pressure on the Spanish.

When the Spanish came to Fredrica to negotiate a treaty, Oglethorpe moved his men and fired cannons in an attempt to convince the Spanish that he had more men than he really did. There is suspicion that Oglethorpe knew of Indian attacks against the Spanish, and that he may have helped to plan them. Both sides signed a treaty in October 1736 in Frederica. The treaty said that both sides would try to control their Indian allies, to refrain from molesting the other, and to refer the question of a permanent boundary to their home governments. The later the Spanish government said that the treaty was not binding.

Oglethorpe had grabbed land outside of the colonial charter, used trickery with his men to deceive the Spanish, and probably had used the Indians to attack the Spanish. These acts are not consistent with someone who is trying to preserve the peace and help a fledgling colony to get started. In the summer of 1736 the Spanish were planning to invade Georgia. There were rumors in London, and fear in Georgia and South Carolina that the Spanish would invade. Oglethorpe used this fear to ask parliament for ₤ 30,000 lbs. to defend Georgia. He argued that if Spain took Georgia the French would take the Carolinas and Virginia. Oglethorpe was offered the governor ship of South Carolina; he refused – having bigger plans. Oglethorpe agreed to take a military command in America. Parliament awarded him ₤ 20.000 and 700 men to defend Georgia. He was the military commander of Georgia and South Carolina. This post had the courtesy title of general.
A mutiny occurred when the troops demanded full back pay, and one of the mutineers shot at Oglethorpe. His chin was slightly burned. The mutineers were court-martialed and shot.

Oglethorpe’s army, supported by the royal navy, tried to attack St. Augustine but could not breach the walls, and the navy could not enter the harbor. His cannons could not shoot far enough and the British ships displaced too much water. There was enough blame for all.

When the Spanish did invade Georgia, Oglethorpe was brilliant. The battles were fought on St. Simons Island. The Spanish made a few attempts to capture Fredrica and were driven back. A French deserter ruined Oglethorpe’s plans for a surprise attack, and he was worried that the Frenchman would tell the Spaniards how weak Oglethorpe’s force was. So what did he do? “He released a prisoner with a letter to the Frenchman instructing him to try to pilot the Spanish boats and galleys up under the woods where he knew the hidden batteries could destroy them. (There were no hidden batteries) If he failed in this maneuver, he should endeavor to keep the Spanish on St. Simons for at least three more days until reinforcements of two thousand men and six men-of-war arrived. (There were no reinforcements arriving) He was not to mention that Admiral Vernon was about to make a decent on St. Augustine.” (There was no surprise attack) The Spanish quickly left. They were in such a hurry that they left a couple of cannon, and military stores. Oglethorpe pursued, and the Spanish fled all the way to St Augustine. After this great victory Oglethorpe would be known, not only as the founder of Georgia, but the savior of Georgia.

After 1738 the Trustees sent few charity colonists, instead they sent indentured servants who were sold to colonists or who worked for the trustees. Indentured servants were easier to control. In the end the Trustees sent about 1,100 indentured servants to Georgia.

In 1748 the Spanish War ended, and by 1750 the Trustees let progress take it own course. People could pick their own land, and slavery was allowed.

Georgia had served it’s purpose, it’s had defended the Carolinas from the Spanish and had siphoned off some of the unemployed in England. The Spanish threat was over and so the Trustees left Georgia to take care of its self. This has been the true story of the colonial Georgia.

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