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Pay Off Your Debts and Come to Georgia


Have you ever owed someone money, or a favor, and not known how you were going to pay them back? Then you might be able to relate to the feelings of the first settlers in what is now Georgia. Back in 1732,
Steph sits where Oglethorpe pitched his tent on his first night in Georgia
a man named James Oglethorpe founded a new colony, one in which debtors (people who owed money or couldn't pay their way to the New World) could leave their debts, work for a set number of years, and then receive land to live on. Pretty cool, huh?

Now Mr. Oglethorpe had some pretty strict ideas about the rules for his new colony. They were:

1. No rum, brandy or spirits - but wine and beer were allowed.

2. No lawyers allowed.

3. No black slaves or negroes.

4. No Catholics.

In his mind, these rules were essential for Georgia's success. So, on February 12, 1733, the lucky colonists - 114 of them - landed in Georgia, eager to start their new lives.

The colonists landed here
Unfortunately, by the end of the second year there, 50 people had died, probably as a result of malaria. Luckily, a doctor, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in Portugal, fled to Georgia. He was Jewish, and therefore not very welcome in the new land, but his skills in treating the fever ultimately saved the colony.

After that, everything was going pretty well for the colonists in Georgia. The colonists' relations with the Native Americans started out peacefully. The colonists learned religious tolerance, largely from their experience with the Jewish doctor who helped to save the colonists. The early colonists were not allowed to own more than 500 acres of land, so that everyone would remain more or less equal.

However, little by little, things changed. Before long, the laws against slavery and against owning more than 500 acres of land had been overturned. The rich got richer, primarily through their ownership of rice plantations, and slaves to work their land. Meanwhile, the indentured servants watched as their dreams of a new, equal world slipped away.

What started out as an "experiment" in equal and fair living quickly turned into a "get rich quick" scheme that outlasted Oglethorpe and the original colonists. We can only wonder what Savannah may have looked like today, had Oglethorpe's vision been allowed to succeed.


Please email me at: daphne@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Irene - The Quakers: peaceful individuals or radical rebels?