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James Oglethorpe

by Carey C. Giudici

James Edward Oglethorpe was born December 22, 1696 and died in 1785. By all accounts he was a visionary leader (and for 32 years a member of Parliament), but his only official title was "resident trustee" of the thirteenth American colony. The years he spent establishing Georgia were all at his own expense.

After arriving with forty families in 1733, Oglethorpe and several advisors selected Yamacraw Bluff as the site for what would become Savannah because of its natural protection against an assault from the river. Oglethorpe felt it necessary to ask the 21 Georgia Trustees to formally ban rum and slavery.

Passengers to Georgia on Oglethorpe's return trip included missionary John Wesley (who later established the United Methodist Church) and his brother Charles--a prolific hymn writer who served as Oglethorpe's assistant.

Beginning in 1739, "the General" spent most of his time in military campaigns against the Spanish--most in this area, including the Battle of Bloody Marsh. But his poor performance as an administrator hastened his return to England in 1743.

The second half of Oglethorpe's life amounted to a long and happy retirement. When he died at the age of 88, his beloved Georgia was a free and independent state of the U.S. and his friends included John Adams, ambassador to England from the newly formed United States.

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