Georgia, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies, was founded in 1732, 125 years after Jamestown. That it was founded just forty years before the American Revolution meant that Georgia was not as powerful or established as the other colonies. Its late founding was just one of the characteristics that set apart Georgia.
General James Oglethorpe, was a social reformer, who believed that England’s debtor prisons were contributing to the societal ills in England. Debtors who could not pay their debts went to prison, until they could pay off their creditors, which was difficult to do to from prison. Their families often lived in the prisons, but could leave to try to make money. What jobs they could get were menial, and many were forced into crime and prostitution. Oglethorpe believed the system lacked sense, and hoped that giving debtors land in a colony would lead to a decrease in debt, crime and poverty.
In order to sell the idea to the British government, Georgia would not only be a haven for debtors, but would act as a buffer colony. Georgia, located between wealthy South Carolina and Spanish Florida would be the first line of defense, a buffer, in case of attack from the Spanish. Because of the vision of a colony of small landholding farmers that would populate the border with Florida and stand as a wall against invasion, slavery was forbidden in Georgia. Large plantations would be in opposition to the economic vision and meant vast expanses of unsettled land that had no military benefit.
Settlers soon became frustrated by Oglethorpe’s restrictions of land to fifty acres and prohibition of alcohol. In 1749, slavery was allowed to satisfy settlers’ desires, and in1752 the proprietors of Georgia relinquished their control to the crown. The grand experiment was over and Georgia grew in the image of the other colonies.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.