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James Edward Oglethorpe

James Edward Oglethorpe (22 December 1696 - 30 June 1785) was an English general, a philanthropist, and a founder of the state of Georgia.

He was born in London, the son of Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe (1650-1702) of Westbrook Place, Godalming.

He entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1714, but in the same year joined the army of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Through the recommendation of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, he became aide-de-camp to the prince, and he served with distinction in the campaign against the Turks, 1716-17, more especially at the siege and capture of Belgrade. After his return to England, he was elected as member of parliament for Haslemere in 1722. He campaigned for the improvement of the circumstances of poor debtors in London prisons. For the purpose of providing a refuge for persons who had become insolvent and for oppressed Protestants on the continent, he proposed the settlement of a colony in America between Carolina and Florida. He laid the groundwork for the colonization of the state, proposing that it be colonized with debtors released from the abominable conditions of England's debtor's prisons.

Oglethorpe sailed for Charleston, South Carolina on the ship Anne, arriving in 1732, and settled near the present site of Savannah, Georgia. He negotiated with the Creek tribe for land and established a series of defensive forts. He then returned to England and arranged to have slavery banned in Georgia. Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees were granted a royal charter for the Province of Georgia between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers on June 9, 1732. [1]

At that time, tension between Spain and England was high, and there was a fear among the English that the Spanish colony of Florida was threatening the British Province of South Carolina. 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. This would theoretically rid England of its undesirable elements, while providing her with a base from which to attack Florida. Ultimately, few debtors ended up in Georgia. Instead, many of Georgia's new settlers consisted of poor English tradesmen and artisans and religious refugees from Switzerland and Germany.

Owing to the colony's primary role as a military buffer between English and Spanish-held territories, the original model for the colonization of Georgia excluded the use of slave labor, fearing that slaves could internally weaken the colony and perhaps defect to the Spanish. The banning of slavery inadvertently resulted in a deficit in the work force that limited Georgia's early economic growth. Many settlers began to oppose Oglethorpe and regarded him as "[their] perpetual dictator." Many new settlers soon set their eyes on South Carolina as a less restrictive and, they hoped, a more profitable place to settle. In 1750, after a series of political and military defeats, Oglethorpe lost his will to oppose slavery and the ban was lifted.

In 1739, during the War of Jenkins' Ear, fought between English 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. Among his most valuable Indian allies in this siege was Ahaya the Cowkeeper, leader of the Alachua band of the Seminole tribe.

In 1745, Oglethorpe was promoted to the rank of major-general. His conduct in connection with the Jacobite Rising of that year resulted in his court-martial, but he was acquitted. In 1765, he was raised to the rank of general. He died at Cranham Hall, Essex.

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