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Setting the Stage

The impetus for the establishment of the colony of Georgia was twofold. First, both Britain and Spain claimed the land between St. Augustine, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina. Spain frequently threatened to seize the British city of Charleston. By establishing a new colony south of the city, the British hoped to put an end to those threats and secure their claim to the region. Second, during the first decades of the 18th century, Britain was overpopulated and reeling from a depression that left many of its people out of work, destitute, and, in some cases, imprisoned for debt. The new colony, an experiment in idealism, would provide an opportunity for some of those unfortunates to emigrate to America. There they would be granted their own land in exchange for agreeing to live by the rules and regulations developed for the colony of Georgia by its trustees. Hard liquor, slavery, and unlicensed trading with Indians were all prohibited. Furthermore, settlers had to agree to guard against the enemy and employ their assigned crafts.

Parliament chartered the colony in 1732 and King George II granted the trustees, under the leadership of Lord Percival, the Earl of Egmont, all the land between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers. In 1733 Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe, a trustee and member of Parliament, first arrived in Georgia with the intention of both halting Spanish encroachments northward and creating an ideal colony that would offer a new start for some of London’s deserving poor.

The ruins of Frederica, preserved as Fort Frederica National Monument, remind us of the grim struggle for empire between Britain and Spain in the southeast over two centuries ago. Although both nations claimed the land between South Carolina and Florida, Spain was a waning power in that region while Britain was busily building a vast empire stretching from Maine to Carolina.



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