September 24, 2012
James Oglethorpe's Compassion for Debtors Leads to Colonization of Georgia
I’m going to start out by telling you about this tradition in my social studies class. When you walk in the room, there is a picture of a wigged guy in armor. My teacher says that if we tap him on the forehead whenever we walk in and out of the room, we’ll be lucky for the rest of the day. Turns out that that guy is our state’s founder (with twenty-one other trustees). (Sorry if you are already learning this in your social studies…. ) His name was James Edward Oglethorpe and he was totally awesome.
Back then, you know, England was really strict on debtors and would send them to debtor’s prison (which doesn’t make any sense because how can they work off their debt if they are in prison?) Anyway, so England wasn’t making much there. Also during this time, the European countries were in a race to see who could explore and colonize the most of the New World.
Although, before Oglethorpe even thought of making a colony, a Scottish nobleman named Sir Robert Montgomery thought of it first, but, sadly, no one wanted to go and he subsided into No-one-remembers-him-ville (until now). Anyhow, while Oglethorpe was a relatively young man, his friend Robert Castell got into a bit of debt and was sent to debtor’s prison. While he was there, the wardens there kept up their practice of making prisoners give them money so the prisoner wouldn’t be forced into a cell with a sick person (again, why ask for money from a debtor? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!!!!) In any case, Robert Castell didn’t have the money he was asked for and he consequently died of small pox passed to him by his ill cellmate. Oglethorpe was outraged and decided to try to remedy the problem. With the idea of Dr. Thomas Brady, he developed the idea of forming a colony for the debtors so they could actually be benefitting Great Britain and not be rotting in the overcrowded debtor’s prison.
When Oglethorpe approached King George with this proposition, he had three main reasons for the colony to be started. The first was that the colony would be a defensive buffer for the British South Carolina from the Spanish Florida and various French settlements. The second was that it would help Great Britain be more self sufficient by trading with the colonies for raw materials and saving money from not importing goods from other countries. The third was for the colony to be populated by the less fortunate (aka the debtors). (Sadly, though, the colony ended up NOT being populated by debtors, just other poor slobs.) Nevertheless, he got the charter for 21 years and they headed over to Georgia.
Oglethorpe spent years and TONS of money on this colony and look how well that turned out! We are now part of a powerful and self reliant nation and we are a pretty stinkin’ awesome state if I do say so myself. We might not be here if James Edward Oglethorpe hadn’t decided to spend his life looking after the welfare of others and started this colony.
Keep pushing on even when it seems impossible; you never know how life will turn out.
Paige Johnson 14