Episode 014: Get to Know James Edward Oglethorpe Part 2, 1717-1732
After the Turks were defeated, Oglethorpe returned to England. In 1722 he was elected to the House of Commons. The House of Commons was and still is a legislative body in the British Government. Members of the House of Commons are elected to represent the people living in a certain geographic area.
Oglethorpe was a very active member of parliament. He joined a lot of committees. Committees investigate particular issues important to England and suggest legislation to address those issues. Oglethorpe became very passionate about several issues. One of them was bad conditions for sailors in the British Navy and the practice of impressment or forcing men to serve in the navy against their will.
He was also passionate about making conditions better for people put in prison because they were in debt – meaning they owed money and couldn’t pay it back. Oglethorpe’s friend Robert Castell died in debtors’ prison. Robert Castell was an architect and a writer- some historians even think Oglethorpe used Castell’s research and writings to help him select the best location for the new colony of Georgia’s first city on the Savannah River.
Oglethorpe worked hard to investigate England’s prisons and change the way debtors were treated. He had help from other committee members like Lord John Percival, the Earl of Egmont.
The Earl of Egmont was a part of a group known as Dr. Bray’s Associates. This group was also interested in making life better for debtors, and they were involved in missionary work in England’s colonies. Oglethorpe and Dr. Bray’s Associates decided the best way to make life better for England’s poor was by making a new colony in North America where they could start over.
In 1732, they got the King’s approval to found a new colony between Spanish Florida and English South Carolina. The purpose of the colony would be to help relieve the poor, bring wealth to England, and defend against the Spanish in the south. The king called on these men to manage the Colony of Georgia for him. They were called the Georgia Trustees.
The Georgia Trustees’ dream was that Georgia would be full of hard working colonists who were farmers and when necessary soldiers. The Trustees made it illegal to own slaves and drink rum. They also made strict rules about owning land to try and keep everyone in the colony equal.
The Trustees had rules too. They were not allowed to make money from the colony. James Oglethorpe played a major role in creating these rules and deciding what life in the colony would be like.
colony: A colony is a group of people who settle in a new place but keep ties to their homeland. The people who founded the United States first came to America to live as part of a British colony.
committee: A committee is a group of people who come together to work on a project. Members of a committee commit their efforts to accomplishing a particular task, which can be anything from throwing a party to ending a war.
Georgia Trustees: a group of men appointed by the King to administer the Georgia Colony from 1732 to 1752.
House of Commons: the lower house of the British parliament
impressment: the act of coercing someone into government service
legislation: The noun legislation refers to the actual law enacted by a legislative body at the national, state, or local level.
Parliament: The most common meaning of parliament refers to a country’s legislative (law-making) body. England’s parliament is very famous.
Turks: natives or inhabitants of Turkey
The definitions on this list were taken from Vocabulary.com. Read a review of vocabulary.com on Sophia’s Schoolhouse.
Question 1: True or False? James Edward Oglethorpe was elected to the House of Commons. _________
Question 2: Which of the following was not a reason for establishing the Georgia colony? _________
a. relieve the poor
b. bring wealth to England
c. make money for the Georgia Trustees
d. defend against the Spanish in the south
Question 3: Which of these issues was James Oglethorpe passionate about? _________
a. the conditions in debtor’s prisons
b. bad conditions for sailors in the British Navy
c. All of the above
d. None of the above
Question 4: True or False? Colonists in Georgia were not allowed to have slaves or drink rum. _________
Question 5: True or False? The Earl of Egmont played an important role in Georgia’s founding? _________
*Scroll to bottom for answers.
Suggested Links and Readings:
Inscoe, John, ed. James Edward Oglethorpe: New Perspectives on His Life and Legacy. Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1997.
Jackson, Harvey H., and Phinizy Spalding, ed. Forty Years of Diversity: Essays on Colonial Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984.
*Video Quiz Answers
Question 1. True; Question 2. D; Question 3. C; Question 4. True; Question 5. True