10 Facts That May Surprise You:
By Dani Ray
1. Oglethorpe’s Creds:
General James Oglethorpe was a graduate of Eton College and Oxford, a Member of Parliament, a British soldier, an agriculturalist, reformer and philanthropist, and governed the Colony of Georgia from 1732 until 1743.
2. What Merry Old England had in mind for Georgia:
Per the crown, Georgia’s main purpose would be to act as a buffer against Spanish Florida and French Louisiana. Located right between the English Carolinas and the Spanish, Georgia was a key piece of the British foothold in the New World.
3. Oglethorpe has something else in mind:
For Oglethorpe, Georgia would be an opportunity to put some of his ideas into action. Having served as Chair on a Parliamentary committee on prison reform, Oglethorpe was well aware of the horrific conditions in Britain’s debtors’ prison. But debtors released back into society often had little to no means of rebuilding their lives, a problem which Oglethorpe felt had its roots in Britain’s rampant urbanization. Wouldn’t Britain’s “worthy poor”—especially those wasting away in debtors’ prisons—be better off with a clean slate, working and creating a new life for themselves?
4. The General lays it out:
General Oglethorpe was dreaming big about what Georgia could be, and he had plans within plans. To create a sustainable agrarian economy, he was going to need to integrate policy and design—thinking through the spacing and layout of the towns, how land could be fairly allocated and reliably farmed over time, maintaining the separation of church and state, and rejecting the evils of slavery, which he successfully petitioned to have banned from Georgia.
5. Georgia is lucky number 13:
Though Georgia was the last of the 13 Colonies, the ideas behind its founding made it the first colony to exemplify the ideals of the Enlightenment. These same principles would be embraced, decades later, by America’s Founding Fathers.
6. King George II gives the okay:
On June 9th 1732, George II granted a royal charter for the Province of Georgia. In November of that same year, Oglethorpe set sail for the New World on the ship Anne. Interestingly, it wasn’t debtors that would make up the majority of his companions, but rather poor artisans and tradesman from England, religious minorities from Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland fleeing persecution, and Jewish refugees.
7. The Negotiator-in-Chief negotiates with the Chief:
Upon arrival, Oglethorpe negotiated with the Mico (Chief) Tomochichi, leader of the Yamacraw Tribe, for the land he would need. Though they spoke through an interpreter, the two men would eventually share a bond and come to rely on each other as friends, and when Tomochichi died of illness, he received military honors at his funeral. The granite boulder that replaced the original pyramid of stones marking his grave now rests in Wright Square.
8. Things get too hot to handle:
In February of 1733, Oglethorpe and his colonists finally settled near present-day Savannah on Yamacraw Bluff. But establishing a colony in these hot, subtropical marshes would not be easy work for anyone. And settlers soon began to rail against Oglethorpe’s refusal to allow slavery, feeling that their work force was too small, and that the decision would inhibit the colony’s growth. Oglethorpe became unpopular, and in 1743, he returned home to England, never again to set foot in the colony he created. That same year, his ban on slavery was lifted.
9. The General sews the seeds:
Despite his best efforts, there is an irony in Oglethorpe’s philanthropic works. Crossing the ocean with him on his voyage to Georgia were seeds given to him by the Chelsea Medicinal Garden in London. His success in planting and cultivating these seeds would become a linchpin in the establishment of southern industry, and the plants themselves would become the major engine driving the trade of enslaved Africans in the American South. They were cotton seeds.
10. See Oglethorpe in bronze:
You can find General James Oglethorpe in Chippewa Square. He faces south, sword-drawn, as though daring the approach of settlers from Spanish Florida. The bronze statue, unveiled in 1910, was created by celebrated American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850 – 1931). French is best-known for his 1920 statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.