In 1733, James Oglethorpe founded the new colony of Georgia as a haven for debtors, who would otherwise go to prison, and as a buffer zone to protect the other colonies from Spanish and French encroachment. Ironically, few debtors came to Georgia, and the poorly-run colony did not do well until it was turned over to the Crown in 1752. From that point forward, Georgia did well, though most of its original charter and purpose was discarded.
Home for Debtors
Oglethorpe's original plan for Georgia was to provide a home for debtors, who at the time were thrown in a special prison, often with their entire families. He wanted to create a haven for them in the New World, where they might pay off their debts and create a new life for themselves. More than 100 emigrants came over in the first wave with Oglethorpe, along with supplies and belongings enough to start a colony.
Helping debtors was not enough to gain the king of England's support for a new colony, so Oglethorpe pointed out that a buffer zone of "stout farmers" protecting their homes would help protect the other valuable American colonies from French and Spanish encroachment from the Mississippi River and Florida, respectively. This argument gained the king's attention, and on April 21, 1733, his privy council granted the colony's charter. The king also supported the colony of Georgia financially for the two decades it struggled before becoming a colony of the crown.
The settling of Georgia gave England the first foothold on a contested -- but uncolonized -- region. The first settlers brought silk and wine grapes, hoping that the climate would be amenable to the farming of both. And because Oglethorpe's vision was of a land of stout, serious British farmers, both slavery and alcohol were prohibited once settlement had begun in earnest.
Georgia proved to be an excellent buffer zone for England. The French and Spanish were unwilling to contest Britain's claim, especially when they found that the colonists had befriended the natives. However, few debtors were able to settle in Georgia due to a not-surprising lack of funds. Instead, Moravians and Lutherans came, as well as seasoned Highland soldiers from Scotland, who were a welcome addition to the Georgia defenses. The silk business failed, the proscription on alcohol ended as the colony grew, and when cotton and other large crops were settled on as ideal moneymakers for Georgia, slavery followed.
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