James Oglethorpe
James Edward Oglethorpe (22 December 1696 – 30 June 1785) was a British general, member of Parliament, philanthropist, and founder of the colony of Georgia. As a social reformer, he hoped to resettle Britain's poor, especially those in debtors' prisons, in the New World.

Early life

Oglethorpe was born in Surrey, the son of Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe
Theophilus Oglethorpe
Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe was an English soldier and MP.The son of Sutton Oglethorpe, he came of an old Yorkshire family from Bramham and he had loyally supported King Charles I against the Cromwellian forces, and in consequence suffered severely at the hands of the Puritans with his home and...

 (1650–1702) of Westbrook Place, Godalming and his wife Lady Eleanor Oglethorpe
Eleanor Oglethorpe
Eleanor Oglethorpe was an employee of the royal household during the reigns of Charles II and James II. She followed James II to France, where he was exiled after the Glorious Revolution. Eleanor and her husband Theophilus Oglethorpe returned to their estate outside London, but remained secretly...

 (1662–1732). He entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom...

 in 1714, but in the same year left to join the army of Prince Eugene of Savoy
Prince Eugene of Savoy
Prince Eugene of Savoy , was one of the most successful military commanders in modern European history, rising to the highest offices of state at the Imperial court in Vienna. Born in Paris to aristocratic Italian parents, Eugene grew up around the French court of King Louis XIV...

. Through the recommendation of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Prince of Mindelheim, KG, PC , was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs through the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

 he became aide-de-camp to the prince, and during the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18 he served with distinction in the campaign against the Turks.

After his return to England, he was elected Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Haslemere
Haslemere is a town in Surrey, England, close to the border with both Hampshire and West Sussex. The major road between London and Portsmouth, the A3, lies to the west, and a branch of the River Wey to the south. Haslemere is approximately south-west of Guildford.Haslemere is surrounded by hills,...

 in 1722. He became a leading humanitarian. In 1728 in Parliament, he advocated reform of the terrible conditions experienced by sailors in the British Royal Navy by publishing an anonymous pamphlet, 'The Sailors Advocate.'

He campaigned for the improvement of the circumstances of debtors in London prisons. For the purpose of providing a refuge for people who had become insolvent, and for oppressed Protestants on the continent, he proposed the settlement of a colony in America between South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 and Spanish-held Florida
Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida refers to the Spanish territory of Florida, which formed part of the Captaincy General of Cuba, the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and the Spanish Empire. Originally extending over what is now the southeastern United States, but with no defined boundaries, la Florida was a component of...


Founding of Georgia

In 1728, two years before conceiving the Georgia colony, Oglethorpe chaired a Parliamentary committee on prison reform. The committee documented horrendous abuses in three debtors’ prisons. As a result of the committee’s actions, many debtors’ were released from prison with no means of support. Oglethorpe viewed this as part of the larger problem of urbanization, which was depleting the countryside of productively employed people and depositing them in cities, particularly London, where they often became impoverished or resorted to criminal activity. In order to address this problem, Oglethorpe and a group of associates, many of whom served on the prison committee, petitioned in 1730 to form the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America
Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America
The Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America, or simply the Georgia Trustees, was organized by James Edward Oglethorpe and associates following Parliamentary investigations into prison conditions in Britain. The organization petitioned for a royal charter in July, 1731,...

. The petition was finally approved in 1732, and the first group of colonists, led by Oglethorpe, departed for the New World in November.

Oglethorpe and the Trustees formulated an elaborate, multi-tiered plan for the settlement of Georgia. The plan framed a system of “agrarian equality” designed to support and perpetuate an economy based on family farming and prevent social disintegration associated with unregulated urbanization. Land ownership was limited to fifty acres, a grant that included a town lot, a garden plot near town, and a forty-five acre farm. Self-supporting colonists were able to obtain larger grants, but such grants were structured in fifty acre increments tied to the number of indentured servants supported by the grantee. Servants would receive a land grant of their own upon completing their term of service. No person was permitted to acquire additional land through purchase or inheritance.

Oglethorpe and the first colonists arrived at South Carolina on the ship Ann in late 1732, and settled near the present site of Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

 on February 12, 1733. He negotiated with the Yamacraw
The Yamacraw were a Native American tribe which settled parts of Georgia, specifically around the future site of the city of Savannah.- History :...

 tribe for land and established (Oglethorpe became great friends with Chief Tomochichi
Tomochichi was a seventeenth century Creek leader and the head chief of a Yamacraw town on the site of present day Savannah, Georgia. He remains a prominent character of early Georgia history...

, who was the chief of the Yamacraw) a series of defensive forts, most notably Fort Frederica, of which substantial remains can still be visited. He then returned to England and arranged to have slavery banned in Georgia. Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees were granted a royal charter
Royal Charter
A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organizations such as cities or universities. Charters should be distinguished from warrants and...

 for the Province of Georgia between the Savannah
Savannah River
The Savannah River is a major river in the southeastern United States, forming most of the border between the states of South Carolina and Georgia. Two tributaries of the Savannah, the Tugaloo River and the Chattooga River, form the northernmost part of the border...

 and Altamaha
Altamaha River
The Altamaha River is a major river of the American state of Georgia. It flows generally eastward for 137 miles from its origin at the confluence of the Oconee River and Ocmulgee River towards the Atlantic Ocean, where it empties into the ocean near Brunswick, Georgia. There are no dams...

 rivers on June 9, 1732.

Georgia was a key contested area, lying in between the two colonies. It was Oglethorpe's idea that British debtors should be released from prison and sent to Georgia. Although it is often repeated that this would theoretically rid Britain of its so-called undesirable elements, in fact it was Britain's "worthy poor" whom Oglethorpe wanted in Georgia. Ultimately, few debtors ended up in Georgia. The colonists included many Scots whose pioneering skills greatly assisted the colony, and many of Georgia's new settlers consisted of poor English tradesmen and artisans and religious refugees from Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, France and Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, as well as a number of Jewish refugees. The colony's charter provided for acceptance of all religions except Roman Catholicism. The ban on Roman Catholic settlers was based on the colony's proximity to the hostile settlements in Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida refers to the Spanish territory of Florida, which formed part of the Captaincy General of Cuba, the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and the Spanish Empire. Originally extending over what is now the southeastern United States, but with no defined boundaries, la Florida was a component of...


On 21 February 1734, Oglethorpe established the first Masonic Lodge
Masonic Lodge
This article is about the Masonic term for a membership group. For buildings named Masonic Lodge, see Masonic Lodge A Masonic Lodge, often termed a Private Lodge or Constituent Lodge, is the basic organisation of Freemasonry...

 within the British Colony of Georgia. Now known as Solomon's Lodge
Solomon's Lodge
Solomon's Lodge, in Savannah, Georgia is a Masonic Lodge was founded in 1734 by James Oglethorpe and claims to be the oldest continuing operating lodge in America. It wasn't called Solomon's Lodge until 1776, previously being known as "The Lodge at Savannah."...

 No. 1, F. & A. M. it is the "Oldest Continuously Operating English Constituted Lodge of Freemasons in the Western Hemisphere". For a period in 1736, Oglethorpe's secretary was Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

, later well known as a hymnwriter of Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...


Owing to the colony's primary role as a military buffer between English and Spanish-held territories, the original model for the colonisation of Georgia excluded the use of slave labour, fearing that runaway slaves could internally weaken the colony and assist the enemy at St. Augustine. But, instead of slaves defecting southwards to the Spanish, runaways from the Carolinas found refuge in Georgia, thus irritating its northern neighbour. The banning of slavery also reduced the work force, and this was felt to be a constraint on Georgia's early economic growth. Many settlers thus began to oppose Oglethorpe, regarding him as a misguided and "perpetual dictator". Many new settlers soon set their eyes on South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 as a less restrictive and, they hoped, a more profitable place to settle. In 1750, after Oglethorpe had left the colony, the ban on slavery was lifted, and large numbers of slaves were soon imported.

In 1735, Oglethorpe visited Britain taking with him a delegation of Cherokee who met George II and his family at Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century and is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and...

. Oglethorpe was widely acclaimed in London, although his expansionism was not welcomed in all quarters. The Duke of Newcastle
Duke of Newcastle
Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a title which has been created three times in British history while the title of Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne has been created once. The title was created for the first time in the Peerage of England in 1664 when William Cavendish, 1st Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne...

 who directed British foreign policy, had tried to restrain Oglethorpe's efforts in the colony for fear of offending the Spanish, who Newcastle wished unsuccessfully to court as an ally. Newcastle eventually relented, and became a supporter of the colony admitting "it will now be pretty difficult to give up Georgia". The colony was one of three major disputes which worsened Anglo-Spanish relations in the late 1730s.

Military command

In 1739, during the War of Jenkins Ear, fought between British Georgia and Spanish Florida as part of a larger conflict, the War of Austrian Succession, Oglethorpe was responsible for a number of successful raids on Spanish forts, as well as the unsuccessful Siege of St. Augustine
Siege of St. Augustine
The Siege of St. Augustine took place in July 1740 during the War of Jenkins' Ear, in which Britain and her colonies attacked Spanish colonies in the Americas.-Background:...

 in 1740. Oglethorpe showed poor military leadership but he received little help from South Carolina or from his Indian allies, from the Ordnance Board, or from the Royal Navy, despite his best efforts to gain their support.

Among Oglethorpe's most valuable Indian allies in this siege were the Creeks, influenced by Mary Musgrove
Mary Musgrove
Mary Musgrove facilitated in the development of Colonial Georgia and became an important intermediary between Creek Indians and the English colonists. She bridged the gap between two distinctly different societies and became a cultural mediator, who not only translated but counseled those who...

. Her Indian name was Coosaponakeesa (lovely fawn), and she was married to John Musgrove, a trader. Following the failed attempt to strike against Florida, Oglethorpe commanded British forces during the Spanish invasion of Georgia, defeating them at the Battle of Bloody Marsh
Battle of Bloody Marsh
The Battle of Bloody Marsh took place on July 18, 1742 between Spanish and British forces, and the latter were victorious. Part of the War of Jenkin's Ear, the battle was for control of the road between the British forts of Frederica and St. Simons, to control St. Simons Island and the forts'...

 and forcing them to withdraw.

Return to Britain

After his exploits in Georgia, Oglethorpe returned to London in 1743 and rose steadily through the ranks of the British Army. There is some evidence that he returned to Europe under a pseudonym, with the assistance of Field Marshal Keith (a distant relative who is said to have died in battle in Oglethorpe's arms). His private means at this time included an estate at Putney, and emoluments gained through his marriage to Elizabeth Wright, Lady of the manor of Cranham Hall (Cranham, Essex, England), although not before a pre-nuptial agreement protecting her property rights.

Jacobite Rebellion

These were the days of the "Young Pretender"
Charles Edward Stuart
Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender was the second Jacobite pretender to the thrones of Great Britain , and Ireland...

 and incursions by the Jacobite
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 troops from Scotland into the North of England. Oglethorpe had been busy forming a unit of Rangers which were to be shipped out to defend Georgia from future Spanish attacks. He immediately put his troops at the disposal of the government forces, under the command of the Duke of Cumberland, who were attempting to suppress the rebellion. Oglethorpe and his troops joined with Cumberland at Preston and attempted to harry the retreating Jacobite army as they tried to escape back to Scotland. He fought a skirmish at Shap Fell in Cumbria
Cumbria , is a non-metropolitan county in North West England. The county and Cumbria County Council, its local authority, came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. Cumbria's largest settlement and county town is Carlisle. It consists of six districts, and in...

, but he was forced to break off the engagement by the intense weather and take shelter for the night. Overnight the Jacobites managed to withdraw and escape over the fell. Because of this Oglethorpe was court-martialled on the accusation of not pursuing the invaders more aggressively. He was acquitted, attained the rank of General, but never again given a command.

Although a strong supporter of the British war effort in the Seven Years War
Great Britain in the Seven Years War
The Kingdom of Great Britain was one of the major participants in the Seven Years' War which lasted between 1756 and 1763. Britain emerged from the war as the world's leading colonial power having gained a number of new territories at the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and established itself as the...

, Oglethorpe took no active role in the conflict.


In 1785, Oglethorpe visited John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 (the first US minister plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James's
Court of St. James's
The Court of St James's is the royal court of the United Kingdom. It previously had the same function in the Kingdom of England and in the Kingdom of Great Britain .-Overview:...

, i.e., the first US ambassador to Britain) shortly after the latter arrived in London. The meeting included an expression by Oglethorpe of his sadness of the ill-will that had existed between the countries, and it is suspected that his time in Georgia dealing with a recalcitrant British Government could have led to Oglethorpe's empathy with the revolutionaries.

Oglethorpe died at Cranham
Cranham is a residential suburb in northeast London, England and part of the London Borough of Havering. It is located east-northeast of Charing Cross and comprises an extensive built-up area to the north and a low density conservation area surrounded by open land to the south. It was historically...

 in 1785, and was buried at the centre of All Saints' parish church which immediately adjoins Cranham Hall (rebuilt c. 1790, but sketched prior by John Pridden in 1789). Elizabeth survived him a few years and was subsequently buried at his side. In the 1930s an exploration of their vault was made by the then President of Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, although permission to remove relics to the University's chapel in Oglethorpe's colony was denied by the Archdeacon. While All Saints' was also rebuilt c.1871, the new building reused the foundations of the old one, and it was specifically noted that, amongst others, Oglethorpe's memorial was replaced in its former location, on the south wall of the chancel, where it may be seen today. Oglethorpian anniversaries have since led to the donation of the altar rail in All Saints' by a ladies charity in Georgia, and a visit to All Saints' by the then Georgia Governor Zell Miller
Zell Miller
Zell Bryan Miller is an American politician from the US state of Georgia. A Democrat, Miller served as Lieutenant Governor from 1975 to 1991, 79th Governor of Georgia from 1991 to 1999, and as United States Senator from 2000 to 2005....



  • Oglethorpe University
    Oglethorpe University
    Oglethorpe University is a private liberal arts college in Brookhaven, Georgia, an inner suburb of Atlanta. It was chartered in 1835 and named after James Edward Oglethorpe, the state's founder.-History:...

    , in Atlanta, Georgia, is named after Oglethorpe, as is Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

See also

  • Fort Frederica National Monument
    Fort Frederica National Monument
    Fort Frederica National Monument, on St. Simons Island, Georgia, preserves the archaeological remnants of a fort and town built by James Oglethorpe between 1736 and 1748 to protect the southern boundary of the British colony of Georgia from Spanish raids. About 630 British troops were stationed at...

  • Battle of Bloody Marsh
    Battle of Bloody Marsh
    The Battle of Bloody Marsh took place on July 18, 1742 between Spanish and British forces, and the latter were victorious. Part of the War of Jenkin's Ear, the battle was for control of the road between the British forts of Frederica and St. Simons, to control St. Simons Island and the forts'...

  • Dungeness (Cumberland Island, Georgia)
    Dungeness (Cumberland Island, Georgia)
    Dungeness on Cumberland Island, Georgia, is a ruined mansion that is part of a historic district that was the home of several families significant in American history. James Oglethorpe first built on Cumberland Island in 1736, building a hunting lodge that he named Dungeness...

Further reading

  • Church,St. Leslie F. Oglethorpe: A Study of Philanthropy in England and Georgia (London, 1932)
  • Colman, Kenneth. Colonial Georgia: A History (1976)
  • Ettinger, Amos Aschbach. Oglethorpe: A Brief Biography (Macon, Ga., 1984)
  • Ettinger, Amos Aschbach. James Edward Oglethorpe: Imperial Idealist (1936)
  • Garrison, Webb. Oglethorpe's Folly: The Birth of Georgia (Lakemont, Ga., 1982)
  • Inscoe, John C. ed., James Edward Oglethorpe: New Perspectives on His Life and Legacy (Savannah, Ga., 1997)
  • Lannen, Andrew C. "James Oglethorpe and the Civil-Military Contest for Authority in Colonial Georgia, 1732-1749," Georgia Historical Quarterly, Summer 2011, Vol. 95 Issue 2, p 203-231
  • King, Horace Maybray. James Edward Oglethorpe's Parliamentary Career (Milledgeville, Ga., 1968)
  • Oglethorpe in America (U of Georgia Press, 1977), the standard scholarly biography
  • Spalding, Phinizy, and Harvey H. Jackson, eds. Oglethorpe in Perspective: Georgia's Founder After Two Hundred Years (1989), articles by scholars
  • Sweet, Julie Anne. "Oglethorpe on America: Georgia's Founder's Thoughts on Independence," Georgia Historical Quarterly 95 (Spring 2011) 1-20
  • Taylor, Paul S. The Georgia Plan, 1732-1752 (1972).

Primary sources

  • Mills Lane, ed., General Oglethorpe's Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah, 1975),

External links

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