Georgia in the Early Republic

From the ratification of the Constitution to the war of 1812, scroll down to learn about Georgia during the early years of the United States of America.

U.S. Constitution

The Constitution of the United States was completed on September 17, 1787 and adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It was later ratified by special conventions in each of the thirteen states. It created a more unified government in place of what was then a group of semi-independent states operating under the Articles of Confederation. The new Constitution took effect in 1789 and has since served as a model for the constitutions of numerous other nations. It is the oldest national constitution still in use.

Abraham Baldwin was born in 1754 in Connecticut and educated at Yale. After spending time as a chaplain in the Continental Army, Baldwin moved to Georgia in 1783. In the years that followed, Abraham Baldwin served as a trustee of the endowment for the University of Georgia. He wrote the charter for the University that was adopted in 1783. In 1787, Baldwin, as a Georgia delegate to the Confederation Congress, was appointed as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He sat on the committee charged with working out the details of the transfer of government under the Articles of Confederation to a new government under the Constitution. Baldwin’s working copy of the Constitution, with his handwritten notes visible in the text and along the margins, is in the collections of the Georgia Historical Society. The content of this edition varies slightly from the final version adopted in 1787 and ratified by the states.

United States Constitution draft annotated by Abraham Baldwin, 1787. MS 1703.

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War of 1812

The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain between 1812 and 1815. The United States hoped to remove the British presence in North America which threatened them on the frontier and coastline, while also moving in on Britain’s hold on Canada. However, the United States was unprepared for war and had almost no regular army on which to draw. After the U.S. looted and burned public buildings in the capitol of Upper Canada, British forces seized and burned numerous buildings in Washington including the president’s house.

In the end, the Americans were unable to conquer Canada and the British were unable to invade and threaten any vital part of the United States. Two and a half years of hostilities ended in a stalemate, neither side able to claim true victory, and the basic relationship between the two nations remained unchanged. The Treaty of Ghent officially ended the war and restored status quo. The boundary between British Canada and the United States remained unchanged, however the major side effect from the war was a new feeling of nationalism among the Canadians and less cooperation with their American neighbors to the south.

During the War of 1812, William Jones was a Captain in the 8th Regiment, United States Infantry, with the duty of recruiting troops. Jones received orders and correspondence from prominent Georgians of the period regarding state and national politics, military supplies and movements, and relations with England. In early January 1812, Bolling Hall wrote Jones from Washington D. C., that Congress had passed a bill to raise additional troops in defense of the country against the threat of England.

Letter from Bolling Hall to William Jones, 11 January 1812, Washington, D. C. From the William Jones Papers, MS 448.

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Letter from Mossman Houstoun to William Jones, 1 July 1812, Savannah, Georgia. From the William Jones Papers, MS 448.

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On July 1, 1812, Mossman Houstoun sent orders to Jones to march his recruits to Augusta where they would report to Captain D. E. Twiggs. Three years after Congress voted to raise troops, in February of 1815, David M. Laffitte wrote William Mills from Savannah declaring that the defenses at Savannah were strong and “Peace is almost certain.”

Letter from David M. Laffitte to William Mills, 17 February 1815, Savannah, Georgia. From the
William Mills Papers, MS 563.

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Early Georgia History

William Bacon Stevens' History of Georgia, published 1847 Georgia Historical Society Rare Book Collection, F286.S84 Rare

William Bacon Stevens’ History of Georgia, published 1847. From the Georgia Historical Society Rare Book Collection.

In 1847, Reverend William Bacon Stevens, M.D. published the first volume of History of Georgia, from its First Discovery by Europeans to the Adoption of the Present Constitution. An excerpt of which is seen here with an image of General James Edward Oglethorpe. By the time of its publication, more than a century had passed since Oglethorpe’s arrival in 1733 without a comprehensive account of Georgia’s history. By 1839, in an effort to collect materials reflecting the story of Georgia since the American Revolution, a small group of men organized the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, GA. It was the state’s first historical organization. As officers were elected for the new Society, William Stevens became its first corresponding secretary and later librarian. With the support of the Society, Stevens worked for years collecting and studying the records of Georgia’s past. The result of Stevens’ efforts was the first volume, seen here, published in 1847, and a second volume published in 1859.

William Bacon Stevens’ History of Georgia, published 1847
Georgia Historical Society Rare Book Collection.
Title page and pages 114-115 and 116-117 describing the condition of the Georgia colony in 1734.

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