James Edward Oglethorpe

 

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James Edward OglethorpeOglethorpe, JAMES EDWARD, " father " of Georgia; born in London, England, December 21, 1698. Early in 1714 he was commissioned one of Queen Anne's guards, and was one of Prince Eugene's aids in the campaign against the Turks in 1716-17. At the siege and capture of Belgrade he was very active, and he attained the rank of colonel in the British army. In 1722 he was elected to a seat in Parliament, which he held thirty-two years. In that body he made a successful effort to relieve the distresses of prisoners for debt, who crowded the jails of England, and projected the plan of a colony in America to serve as an asylum for the persecuted Protestants in Germany and other Continental countries, and "for those persons at home who had become so desperate in circumstances that they could not rise and hope again without changing the scene and making trial of a different country." Thomson, alluding to this project of transporting and expatriating the prisoners for debt to America, wrote this half-warning line, " O great design! if executed well." It was proposed to found the colony in the country between South Carolina and Florida. King George II. granted a charter for the purpose in June, 1732, which incorporated twenty-one trustees for founding the colony of Georgia.

Oglethorpe accompanied the first company of emigrants thither, and early in 1733 founded the town of Savannah on Yamacraw Bluff. A satisfactory conference with the surrounding Indians, with MARY MUSGRAVE as interpreter, resulted in a treaty which secured sovereignty to the English over a large territory. Oglethorpe went to England in 1734, leaving the colony in care of others, and taking natives with him. He did not return to Georgia until 1736, when he took with him several cannon and about 150 Scotch Highlanders skilled in the military art. This was the first British army in Georgia. With him also came REV. JOHN WESLEY and his brother Charles, for the purpose of giving spiritual instruction to the colonists. The elements of prosperity were now with the colonists, who numbered more than 500 souls; but the unwise restrictions of the trustees were a serious bar to advancement. Many Germans, also, now settled in Georgia, among them a band of Moravians; and the Wesleys were followed by GEORGE WHITEFIELD, a zealous young clergyman burning with zeal for the good of men, and who worked lovingly with the Moravians in Georgia.

With his great guns and his Highlanders, Oglethorpe was prepared to defend his colony from intruders; and they soon proved to be useful, for the Spaniards at St. Augustine, jealous of the growth of the new colony, menaced them. With his martial Scotchmen, Oglethorpe went on an expedition among the islands off the coast of Georgia, and on St. Simon's he founded Frederica and built a fort. At Darien, where a few Scotch people had planted a settlement, he traced out a fortification. Then he went to Cumberland Island, and there marked out a fort that would command the mouth of the St. Mary's River. On a small island at the entrance of the St. John's River he planned a small military work, which he named Fort George. He also founded Augusta, far up the Savannah River, and built a stockade as a defense against hostile Indians.

These hostile preparations caused the Spaniards at St. Augustine to threaten war. Creek tribes offered their aid to Oglethorpe, and the Spaniards made a treaty of peace with the English. It was disapproved in Spain, and Oglethorpe was notified that a commissioner from Cuba would meet him at Frederica. They met. The Spaniard demanded the evacuation of all Georgia and a portion of South Carolina by the English, claiming the territory to the latitude of Port Royal as Spanish possessions. Oglethorpe hastened to England to confer with the trustees and seek military strength. He returned in the autumn of 1738, a brigadier-general, authorized to raise troops in Georgia. He found the colonists languishing and discontented. Idleness prevailed, and they yearned for the privilege of employing slave-labor. Late the next year war broke out between England and Spain. St. Augustine had been strengthened with troops, and Oglethorpe resolved to strike a blow before the Spaniards should be well prepared; so he led an unsuccessful expedition into Florida. Two years later the Spaniards proceeded to retaliate, but were frustrated by a stratagem. Oglethorpe had successfully settled, colonized, and defended Georgia, spending a large amount of his own fortune in the enterprise, not for his own glory, but for a benevolent purpose. He returned to England in 1743, where, after performing good military service as major-general against the " Young Pretender " (1745), and serving a few years longer in Parliament, he retired to his seat in Essex. When General Gage returned from America, in 1775, Oglethorpe was offered the general command of the British troops in, this country, though he was then about seventy-seven years of age. He did not approve the doings of the ministry, and declined. He was among the first to offer congratulations to John Adams, because of American independence, when that gentleman went as minister to England in 1784. He died in Essex, England, January 30, 1785. See FLORIDA ; GEORGIA.

 

 

 

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