John Reynolds

Little is known about the early life of Georgia’s first royal governor, John Reynolds (ca. 1713-1788).  Reynolds was born in England, where he rose in the ranks of the Royal Navy.  As was common at the time, Reynolds received his next appointment from his patron.  Phillip Yorke, first earl of Hardwicke and lord chancellor of England, persuaded the president of the Board of Trade Lord George Halifax to appoint Reynolds as the colony’s first royal governor in 1754.

Reynolds’ time as governor was marked by controversy and disappointment.  He openly stated that he would gladly leave the colony as a soon as a more profitable venture presented itself, and he executed the duties of his office more like a naval commander than a civic servant.  The governor’s council became increasingly agitated by Reynolds’ leadership style, which often left them in the dark.

Eventually, the council focused its ire on William Little, a friend of Reynolds who served in many capacities.  The council accused Little of dishonesty and interference with governmental affairs.  The firestorm of Reynolds’ tenure endured until the Board of Trade recalled him back to England to stand trial for his actions, giving the colony to Governor Henry Ellis in his stead.  Reynolds defended himself adequately and received no punishment except an order to resign as royal governor.  Reynolds did so, and resumed his naval career until his death, by the time of which he had reached the rank of full admiral.

Adapted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia article on John Reynolds

Suggested Reading

W. W. Abbot, The Royal Governors of Georgia, 1754-1775 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, [1959]).

Kenneth Coleman, Colonial Georgia: A History (New York: Scribner, 1976).

James F. Cook, The Governors of Georgia, 1754-2005, 3d. ed. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005).

Frank Lambert, James Habersham: Loyalty, Politics, and Commerce in Colonial Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005).

From the GHS Collection:

Main Collection: Colonial records of the State of Georgia edited by Kenneth Coleman and Milton Ready ; sponsored by the Georgia Commission for the National Bicentennial Celebration, F281 .C712;

Manuscript: John Reynolds commissions, 1754, MS 657