The last of the thirteen colonies, and named after King George II, Colonial Georgia served as a safe haven and as a means to protect South Carolina. Colonial Georgia was established in 1733, fifty years after the original twelve by General James Oglethorpe. He and a trusted group of colonists intended to create the colony as a safe haven for persecuted Protestant sects, less wealthy Europeans and debtors wanting to reesablish themselves. Georgia’s economy was deeply imbedded in agriculture, almost all of Georgia’s exports were food and products that must be grown on a farm.
Georgia’s climate provided the perfect environment for such growing needs, with hot-humid summers, and short mildly cold winters. The majority of the population was made up of small farmers and plantation owners, who grew a range of different types of crops. Colonial Georgia’s main purpose, intended by the British government, was to be able to defend South Carolina from invaders coming from Florida. Although, settlers faced many hardships in early colonial Georgia it was imperative to the British that the colony succeeded. The journey bound for Georgia was just the beginning of the colonists long road of suffering.
Not only was food scarce, but death was rampant and only a few children survived the trip. The colony nearly failed in its first year. Oglethorpe chose Savannah as his first settlement to establish, but nearby swamps brought upon insects that carried illnesses such as malaria. Out of the original hundred and forty-four settlers, one in three died in the first year. Providing as a blockade between Florida and South Carolina, settlers were often attacked by invading Spanish and Indian tribes that were angered by the increasing number of white settlers in their lands.
Considering most settlers lived in cities in England, they did not know how to survive by farming. The colonists received advice from the local Yamacraw Indians, and aid from the neighboring South Carolinians. Many colonists were agitated by the restrictions placed on them by Oglethorpe, and they new Georgia could only succeed if they were disbanded. Oglethorpe prohibited slavery in 1735 and the importation of alcohol after he was named governor, he did not believe in slavery and large landholdings. Oglethorpe served as governor for a period of 12 years.
They had no government and it was entirely run by the trustees. During the sixteen years that Georgia entrusted the trustees, they utterly failed the colony and were not prosperous at all. Discontent among the colonists and the trustees grew increasingly over the years. Colonists were not happy with their lack of control and the restrictions Oglethorpe implemented. Since the plan was to benefit the poor, landowners could not own more than fifty acres of land for their farm and a sixty foot by ninety foot plot in town, and additional land could not be bought or sold.
Colonists wanted to be able to have alcohol and slaves, be able to have a say in their government, and have land reform. After his 12th year, Oglethorpe traveled to England and with a list of demands from the colonists in Georgia that ultimately contradicted his vision for the new colony. The demands were met, the ban on alcohol was lifted and slavery was allowed in 1749, although there was a strong opposition to slavery by the religious immigrants. In 1752 Georgia became a royal colony, free men were able to vote, and a new governor was chosen by the king.
Following the lift of the ban on slavery, Georgia became one of the most prosperous colonies of the South, exporting many different types of crops and raw materials. Before the ban on slavery was lifted, Georgia ‘s only contribution for the British government, was to be a defense mechanism for South Carolina to keep out invading Spaniards from Florida and the French from Louisiana. The lift in 1749 provided a way for Carolina planters to expand their slave based crop growing empire into Georgia Lowcountry.
Within five years Georgia’s enslaved population grew from 500 to roughly 18,000 people, slaves had no legal rights and most were forced to work in the physically demanding rice fields. Plantation owners grew a variety of crops, including cotton, tobacco, sugar, and other crops, but rice and indigo dominated as their highest export. Slavery was just the same as it was in all the other Southern states, brutal and inhumane. With many failures the slaves tried to recreate the traditions and patterns of family life they had known in Africa, this foreshadowed the possibility of an organized rebellion, but that would be much later in the future.
Relatively every white person in colonial Georgia in the mid 1750s would believe that slavery was essential for their colonies economic prosperity, and they were unfortunately probably right. Georgia provided as a military buffer for the British Empire by protecting the southeastern frontier of its American colonies. The militia formed in Georgia included every man in the colony ages sixteen to sixty, and the Rangers were trained paid fulltime soldiers selected from the Militia.
Between 1735 to 1754 a small militia force of only a few hundred men led by James Oglethorpe protected Georgia against the many enemies of the British Government including southeastern Indians (Choctaws, Creeks, and Cherokees), settlers in Spanish Florida, and French colonists in New France. Farmers were not paid for their service and most of the time the militia spent on slave-patrol, but in 1742 the militia, the Rangers, and the Forty-second Regiment of Foot of the regular army successfully defended Georgia from a Spanish invasion at the Battle of Bloody Marsh.
Ultimately colonial Georgia served as an important blockade between the British and their properties and their forthcoming enemies. The last of the thirteen colonies and perhaps one of the most important, Georgia served as a military buffer and because of its perfect hot-humid weather, served as an incredible place for plantation owners and farmers to grow a surplus of crops.
The colony was also meant to provide as a refuge for the persecuted Protestant sects and the less wealthy Europeans and debtors wishing to establish themselves in the colonies. The colony after a few years of failure was able to succeed following the legalization of slavery, did slavery play the key determining factor of Colonial Georgia? It’s quite possible and a number of historians believe so, Colonial Georgia served as an important part in the formation of the 13 colonies and played a key role in the American Revolution.