Facts About the Georgia Colony

James Oglethorpe
James Oglethorpe. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Year Founded

1732

Founded By

James Oglethorpe

Early Exploration of Georgia

While Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to explore Georgia, they never set up a permanent colony in its boundaries. In 1540, Hernando de Soto did travel through Georgia and created notes about the Native American inhabitants he found there. In addition, missions were set up along the Georgia coast. Later, English settlers from South Carolina would travel into Georgia territory to trade with the Native Americans they found there.

 

Motivation for Founding the Colony of Georgia

It was not until 1732 that the colony of Georgia was actually created. This made it the last of the thirteen British colonies to be created, a full fifty years after Pennsylvania came into being. James Oglethorpe was a well known British soldier who thought that one way to deal with debtors who were taking up a lot of room in British prisons was to send them to settle a new colony. However, when King George II Granted Oglethorpe the right to create this colony named after himself, it was to serve a much different purpose. The new colony was to be located between South Carolina and Florida. Its boundaries were much larger than today's state of Georgia, including much of present-day Alabama and Mississippi. Its goal was to protect South Carolina and the other southern colonies from possible Spanish incursions. In fact, no prisoners were amongst the first settlers to the colony in 1733.

Instead, the inhabitants were charged with creating a number of forts along the border to help protect against invasion. They were able to repel the Spanish from these positions a number of times. 

Ruled by a Board of Trustees

Georgia was unique amongst the thirteen British colonies in that no local governor was appointed or elected to oversee its population.

Instead, the colony was ruled by a Board of Trustees that were located back in London. The Board of Trustees ruled that slavery, Catholics, lawyers, and rum were all banned within the colony.

Georgia and the War of Independence

In 1752, Georgia became a royal colony and the British parliament selected royal governors to rule it. They held power until 1776, with the beginning of the American Revolution. Georgia was not a real presence in the fight against Great Britain. In fact, due to its youth and stronger ties to the 'Mother Country', many inhabitants sided with the British. Nonetheless, there were some staunch leaders from Georgia in the fight for independence including three signers of the Declaration of Independence. After the war, Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the US Constitution. 

Significant Events

  • In 1733, a group of settlers joined Oglethorpe to found Savannah, Georgia.
  • Georgia began with the intention to have little landholding and no slavery. However, when it became a royal colony in 1752, the ban on slavery was lifted. Plantations and slavery became a major part of the Georgian economy.
  • Georgia was in the first group of states to ratify the new Constitution after the Revolutionary War ended.

    Important People

    • George II
    • James Oglethorpe