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James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785), was an English general, philanthropist, and founder of the American colony of Georgia. He had some military experience before being elected (1722) to the House of Commons, a position he held for 32 years. As chairman of a parliamentary committee investigating penal conditions, Oglethorpe became interested in the plight of people who were sent to prison for not paying their bills. The need for a buffer colony between South Carolina and the Spanish in Florida helped to justify his proposal to establish an asylum for debtors in the New World. He and 19 associates were granted (June, 1732) a charter, to expire in 21 years, making them trustees of the colony of Georgia (named in honor of King George II).

Oglethorpe arrived February 12, 1733 with a group of 114 colonists, only some of whom were debtors. Others brought the special talents and skills needed for the task at hand. They immediately began the work clearing and building the new town, which Oglethorpe had planned. It was designed with wards, squares, trust lots, tything (residential) lots, streets, and avenues. It's original design is still visible in the historic district of Savannah today.

General Oglethorpe negotiated a deal with Tomochichi, the chief of the Yamacraw Indians, which permitted the colonists to establish their new town in peace. The town was named for the Savannah River, which took its name from an band of Shawnee Indians known as the Savana. Oglethorpe hoped to build a utopian community. One where there was no slavery, no hard alcohol, no unlicensed trading with the indians, and no lawyers.

Over the next 10 years, thousands of colonists from many different countries and faiths came to Georgia to start a new life, including Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal, Moravians and Salzburgers from Germany, Scottish Highlanders, French Huguenots, Irish Catholics, Italians, Greeks, and Swiss. They all played a role in helping Oglethorpe establish forts and settlements on the Georgia coast as well as defeat the Spanish at the Battle of Bloody Marsh, near Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island, thus securing Georgia for England. After 10 years of work in the colony, Oglethorpe sailed home to England.

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