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Reading 2
Reading 3



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Determining the Facts

Reading 1: Establishing Savannah

In 1732, most of what we know today as southern Georgia and northern Florida was considered a "no man's land" because this land area was claimed by both England and Spain and was home to many tribes of Indians. When the Trustees of Georgia applied in 1732 for a charter from King George II to settle this contested area, the monarch readily granted it to them. He believed the settlement would provide an important buffer between the Spanish stronghold of St. Augustine and the main English town of the Carolinas, Charleston.

With the blessings of the Trustees, Oglethorpe led a sea voyage from England to America aboard the ship Anne which landed in Charleston, South Carolina, in early February 1733. That voyage included 114 men, women, and children who hoped for a better opportunity to carve out an agricultural livelihood in Georgia. Although Oglethorpe had hoped to draw his colonists from those released from debtor's prison or struggling with dire poverty, the descriptions of Georgia as a "promised land" attracted a very different group. They included laborers, adventurers, and merchants, a group drawn from the middle class rather than former debtors.

Oglethorpe explored further down the coast for a viable site, eventually deciding to establish his new settlement on a high bluff on the western bank of the Savannah River, approximately 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Pleased with the geographical advantages of the site, Oglethorpe set about befriending the local Indian population. Oglethorpe and Tomachichi, the Yamacraw Indian chief (or Mico), became friends and a mutual respect developed between these two men. This friendship led to stable relations between Savannah's settlers and Tomachichi's Yamacraw tribe. Several years later, Oglethorpe took Mico Tomachichi and several of his tribesmen to England to visit London and the King and Queen. With security and friendship firmly established between settlers and local Indians, Oglthorpe felt comfortable sending this account to the Trustees:

I chose this Situation for the Town upon an high Ground, forty feet perpindicular above High Water Mark; The Soil dry and Sandy, the Water of the River Fresh, Springs comming out from the Sides of the Hills. I pitched upon this Place not only from the Pleasantness of the Situation, but because from the above mentioned and other Signs, I thought it healthy; For it is sheltered from the Western and southern Winds (the worst in this Country) by vast Woods of Pine Trees, many of which are an hundred, and few under seventy feet high. The last and fullest consideration of the Healthfulness of the place was that an Indian nation, who knew the Nature of this Country, chose it for their Habitation.¹

It was the Trustees' intention to develop an egalitarian settlement, that is a town divided in a way where all residents had equal amounts of land and, consequently, opportunity. They expected the settlers to be industrious, become self-sufficient food producers, and eventually to produce surplus goods that could be sent back to England. However, they also realized that developing a town in a land filled with danger needed defensive protection from possible attacks either by Indians or the Spanish.

The Trustees placed limits on the settlers to maintain equality and order, defensive readiness, and to prevent bad behavior:

1) Settlers were each allocated one town lot, a five acre garden plot for food production and a 45-acre farm outside the town limits. The equal land allotment promoted equality and limited land speculation. It was hoped it would inspire an industrious attitude among the settlers.
2) No slavery or negroes were permitted in the colony to ensure that the settlers led industrious lives and worked their own land.
3) Settlers had to trade fairly and equally with their Indian neighbors, to prevent Indian opposition to Georgia's growth and possible devastating attacks.
4) Rums, brandies, or distilled spirits were strictly prohibited in the colony, to ensure good behavior and industrious lives.
5) No paid lawyers were allowed to practice in the colony. All persons accused of a crime pled their own cases before the grand and petty juries; the Trustees believed this would maintain equality in civil and criminal matters.

The Trustees hoped these rules would insure the survival of the fledgling colony of Georgia by preventing from the outset the ills which had doomed other colonizers' efforts.

Questions for Reading 1

1. James Oglethorpe is believed to have given the city of Savannah its name based on the geographic features he found near the bluff where he landed. Look up the definition for savanna in a dictionary? Are there such natural landscapes in your area?

2. What are two reasons why the English wanted to develop the colony of Savannah?

3. Define and then discuss the similarities and differences between the terms "egalitarian" and "utopian." Decide which term best fits the type of development James Oglethorpe had in mind for Savannah. Explain.

4. Examine your textbook or a general U.S. history reference book about early relationships between English colonists and the Indians on whose land they were settling. Which of these relationships were pleasant and friendly? Which were not. If not, why? On the whole, was Oglethorpe's relationship with the Yamacraw typical of English-Indian relationships?

5. Why did the Trustees place restrictions on the settlers? What were they? Do you think the restrictions were reasonable or unreasonable? Explain.

Reading 1 was compiled from James E. Oglethorpe's correspondence in the Earl of Egmont Papers at the University of Georgia; Preston Russell and Barbara Hines, Savannah: A History of Her People Since 1733 (Savannah: Frederic C. Beil, 1993); and Phinizy Spalding and Edwin Jackson, James Edward Oglethorpe: A New Look at Georgia's Founder (Athens, Ga.: The University of Georgia Press, 1998).

¹James Oglethorpe to the Trustees, February 10 and 20, 1733, in John Percival, the Earl of Egmont Papers, Phillips collection, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries, 14200: 34-35.


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