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 Today's popular culture often gives false impressions. For instance, even today northerners look down on southerners for their slavery traditions.

 You would be hard-pressed to know that the first colony in America to legalize slavery was the northern colony of Massachusetts. Quickly followed by Connecticut.

 And the last colony to drop the ban on slavery in America, a century after Massachusetts?
  That would be Georgia.

   If that sounds strange to you, its probably because you are thinking in terms of modern morality. Georgia didn't ban slavery because the people there opposed the idea of slavery.
  What's more, they didn't drop the ban on slavery because their attitudes on the practice changed. No, Georgia dropped the ban on slavery because the Spanish cut off the ear of an English smuggler.


General James Oglethorpe

 Georgia's corporate charter was granted on April 21, 1732, to General James Oglethorpe. A Yamacraw indian village occupied the land where Oglethorpe was to found the city of Savannah, but he simply moved the indians aside. The colony was named after King George II.


Savannah circa 1730

  From the very beginning the colony was dominated by its strategic distinction - it was in a disputed region between Spanish Florida and British South Carolina with both sides claiming the region.
  What made it particularly troubling for the British colonists was the fact that Spain simply didn't have enough colonists to adequately populate and defend its Florida colony. To partially compensate for this, Spain offered freedom and land to anyone willing to emigrate to Florida and serve in the militia - that included runaway slaves.
  Hence you can see Oglethorpe's dilemma and South Carolina's concern.

 With the threat of Spanish invasion hanging over his head, Oglethorpe convinced the Georgia Trustees to oppose slavery in the colony for military reasons. The Georgia Trustees instead turned to indentured servants and debt slaves from England. England had been forceably exporting its social problems to colonies for over a century at this point.
  This did not sit well with many colonists who were convinced that Georgia could not develop economically without negro slaves. However, security trumped enterprise and in 1735 the Georgia Trustees convinced convinced the House of Commons to pass legislation prohibiting slavery in the Georgia Colony.

  Thus Georgia became the only American colony opposing slavery, and one of the few in the world.

Troublesome Irish

 All the colonies suffered from acute labor shortages in their early days. The idea of the Georgia Trustees was to get their labor shipped to them for Britain - mostly from prisons. Oglethorpe was especially keen on having prisoners from debtor prisons sent to Georgia. Since British laws at the time made it a crime to be homeless or deeply in debt, Britain was slowly exporting an entire lower economic class overseas.

  The first example of the flaws of this plan were exposed less than a year after slavery was abolished.
  In March 1736, a group of 40 or 50 Irish felons met in a tippling house in Savannah to trade stolen goods and formed "plots and treasonable Designs against the Colony". They were second-class citizens, sent by force to the edge of a howling wilderness with no real economic prospects.
  Eventually their plan coalesced around killing all the white aristocrats, burn the town to the ground, then meet up with a band of nomadic indians and make their escape. The conspirators would know each other by a "Red String about the right wrist".

 The plot was foiled, and the conspirators suffered. Nevertheless, if the current labor force was a security concern, then how would negro slaves be worse?
  By the late 1730's a strong movement to reverse the ban on slavery was underway. The pro-slavery group was known simply as the Malcontents. The group's leaders were scottish immigrants Patrick Tailfer and Thomas Stephens. The Trustees were bombarded with letters and petitions demanding the ban be reversed, but their efforts failed to make any headway.

The War of Jenkin's Ear

 Robert Jenkins was the captain of the brig Rebecca in 1731.
  By the Treaty of Seville, Britain was barred from trading with Spain's colonies in the new world. However, a smuggler could make a nice profit if they managed to avoid the Spanish coast guard. Jenkins wasn't a good enough captain to avoid them. His ship was boarded and he was punished by having his ear cut off.

  The incident was largely ignored until 1738, when the British government was looking for new ways to expand their military and economic empire. Jenkins was invited to testify before the House of Commons. In dramatic fashion, Jenkins unveiled a jar containing his pickled ear before the astonished legislatures.
  On October 23, 1739, Prime Minister Robert Walpole signed a declaration of war against Spain, and Georgia became the front line, although most of the fighting was to be done thousands of miles away.

 Oglethorpe was first and foremost a military general. So when war started he organized 200 men in January 1740 and raided two Spanish forts in northern Florida.
  The successful mission emboldened him to launch a much larger raid against St. Augustine in May of that year. On June 4, Oglethorpe's forces attacked the town, but Spanish defenses proved too strong. After a month-long siege Oglethorpe was forced to withdraw back to Georgia.

The Battle of Bloody Marsh

 It took a while, but the Spanish eventually organized an army of about 5,000 men, led by governor Manuel de Montiano, for the invasion of Georgia in June 1742. Oglethorpe got wind of the invasion force and prepared to meet it at St. Simon Island.
  Oglethorpe's forces numbered less than 1,000, and were a motley crew at that, a mixture of local militia, indians, and soldiers. Oglethorpe built two small forts on the island, Ft. Simon and Ft. Frederica. Oglethorpe abandoned Ft. Simon after the Spanish forces had outflanked him. The Spanish then advanced on Fort Frederica.

Early on the morning of Wednesday, July 7, several Spanish scouts advanced northward toward Fort Frederica to assess the landscape and plan their attack. They met a body of English rangers at approximately nine o'clock, and the two units exchanged shots. Oglethorpe learned of the engagement, mounted a horse, and galloped to the scene, followed by reinforcements. He charged directly into the Spanish line, which scattered when the additional forces arrived. Oglethorpe posted a detachment to defend his position and returned to Frederica to prevent another Spanish landing on the northern coast and to recruit more men.

During midafternoon of the same day, the Spanish sent more troops into the region, and the English forces fired upon them from behind the heavy cover of brush in the surrounding marshes. This ambush, coupled with mass confusion within the smoke-filled swamp, resulted in another Spanish defeat despite Oglethorpe's absence. This second engagement earned its name the Battle of Bloody Marsh from its location rather than from the number of casualties, which were minimal, especially on the English side (about fifty men, mostly Spanish, were killed).

The Spanish morale was destroyed by these engagements, and the army withdrew shortly afterwards. Georgia had been saved.

Fallout

  With the Spanish threat no longer an issue the primary justification for the slavery ban vanished. South Carolina slavers began exporting slaves into Georgia despite the ban, as Georgia settlers simply ignored the law.
 The Trustees sensed the changing atmosphere and began negotiating with the House of Commons on how best to repeal the ban.

 These consultations were completed by 1750. The Trustees asked the House of Commons to replace the Act of 1735 with one that would permit slavery in Georgia as of January 1, 1751.

Because the slave owners of South Carolina were significantly more wealthy, they enjoyed an undue amount of influence in Georgia. In 1755 they had the slave code replaced with one that was virtually identical to South Carolina's.
  Between 1750 and 1775, the number of slaves in Georgia grew from 500 to over 18,000.

Originally posted to gjohnsit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 04:57 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've heard of having the Prime Minister's ear (2+ / 0-)

    but not of giving your ear to the Prime Minister.

    You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into. - Jonathan Swift

    by A Mad Mad World on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 05:10:12 PM PST

  •  Interesting but.... (0+ / 0-)

    This is some interesting history. With respect, I think your lead is highly disingenuous. Slavery began in the colonies that were settled first. Slavery was committed in all the colonies by the early 1700s.

    However, it is also true that slavery was peacefully eliminated in all the northern states (beginning in Vermont). This began during the revolution and by the early 1800s most northern states were slave-free. By the 1830s all were.

    The border south also considered the elimination of slavery but did not do so. It was the cotton south where slavery expanded after 1790, found its militant backers, and finally launched the civil war. Those states stopped holding slaves only as a result of the civil war.  

    "A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast" - Groucho Marx

    by Morpheus on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 05:13:04 PM PST

  •  Very interesting, thanks! (0+ / 0-)

    This is why I love this site. One stop shopping for interesting perspectives on history, the occasional science post, community goofiness, and updates on telecom immunity and the Dem debate, as well as myriad other topics.

  •  Interesting piece (0+ / 0-)

    I'm a history buff and even though I'm never really sure what to believe sometimes, I don't think I remember reading about the roots of Georgia.

  •  Looking Down South (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gjohnsit, OHdog

    For instance, even today northerners look down on southerners for their slavery traditions.

    Northerners don't look down on Southerners for merely their slavery history, but their slavery traditions. Not just for fighting a bloody war to keep those slavery traditions, which are much more recent than the early 1700s you're discussing - when this was another country, ruled by a king across the ocean.

    It's not just because Southerners institutionalized those traditions, even after getting massacred in a war they refuse to stop fighting, even a century and a half after their unambiguous defeat. Holding on to Jim Crow for nearly that whole time, in some places still in effect, and forever trying to bring it back nationally.

    No, it's because when Northerners go to the South today, we see a legacy of fighting for slavery that never quit, leaving a whole region so far behind where it could be by now. We see people who can't just accept their past, instead of looking into some arbitrary period before the South defined itself in terms of slavery, a definition it still hasn't given up. Because it works harder to deny it than to accept its past and to recover from it.

    Georgia wasn't just the last colony to oppose slavery. It was the first of all Southern states to ratify the Constitution. So Georgians clearly knew the value of freedom. But somewhere between the Revolution and becoming  the last state readmitted to the Union after the Civil War, Georgians, like other Southerners, lost faith in the universality of freedom for everyone, of the union that defines this country. Their early history of recognizing freedom makes their more recent history look worse, not better.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 05:33:20 PM PST

    •  Well said (0+ / 0-)

      Personally I almost wish that the South would still succeed. Many of their attitudes are foreign to me.

      OTOH, that isn't the whole story. Almost the entire confederate army was made up of poor whites who couldn't afford a slave.
        That tells me that the overriding reason for the Confederacy to fight wasn't to preserve slavery. There is always another side to the story.
        We have to get past the black vs. white view of the world if we are to be better than Republicans.

      The 2nd Red String Conspiracy

      by gjohnsit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 06:19:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Easily Led (0+ / 0-)

        The composition of the Confederate Army fighting their own self interest seems the same as the composition of the Republican Party in Dixie doing the same thing.

        With the same slogans, the same pictures of the same heroes.

        I lived down there for a while. It's not the heat, it's the stupidity.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 06:40:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  um, (0+ / 1-)
          Recommended by:
          Hidden by:
          DocGonzo

          stereotype much?

          jackass.

          •  Your Drawl (0+ / 1-)
            Recommended by:
            Hidden by:
            gjohnsit

            Thanks for living down to the stereotype.

            Since you were evidently educated in the South, homeschooled probably, I'll point out that detailed logical explanations backed by statistical facts are not "stereotypes".

            Talking like a retard as if it has any effect, just because you're not used to actually debating anyone - now that's stereotypical.

            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

            by DocGonzo on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 07:42:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  yeah, (0+ / 1-)
              Recommended by:
              Hidden by:
              gjohnsit

              "it's not the heat, it's the stupidity" is literary gold. Please enlighten us with more of your articulate commentary.

              Asshole.

              •  Dixieworld (0+ / 1-)
                Recommended by:
                Hidden by:
                gjohnsit

                I learned that cute expression when I lived in New Orleans, where they oughta know. You demonstrate it with every syllable.

                I let your kin off easy by saying y'all are just easily led to fight against your own self interests for centuries. Or would you rather admit that y'all are just evil?

                Take "stupid". It's easier to get forgiven.

                "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                by DocGonzo on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 08:08:21 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  yes, (0+ / 1-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Hidden by:
                  gjohnsit

                  southerners are stupid, evil, and say "y'all" a lot. I don't know what I would do without gonzo's deep cultural insights.

                  I love my daily fix of blogs, and the interweb tubes have changed our lives and all that... but when I run into anonymous, self-aggrandizing asshats like gonzo, here, I am reminded of the virtues of old fashioned face-to-face conversations.

                  •  C'Mon Up (0+ / 1-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Hidden by:
                    gjohnsit

                    Since weak Southerners like to talk tough, but cover cowardice with fake "politeness", I'll cut through the crap for you. Come on up and meet me here in NYC. We do "face to face" the way your cousins do each other. Where should I meet you, Huck?

                    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                    by DocGonzo on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 09:03:13 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

      •  Think of Slavery as a Culture . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Over the Edge

        . . . and you will understand why it was the key issue in the North/South struggle. By the end of the colonial period, some areas of the south had up to a third of their population in chains. The social caste system was, basically, an upper class of slave owners, a small white middle class, a large underclass of impoverished, illerate, white subsistance farmers, and a huge, conspicuous population of blacks that the whites thought of as little better than wild animals, liable to revolt and slaughter all white men and rape all white women.

        The political structure in the slave states mimicked that of the aristocrat/serf systems of eastern Europe. The wealthy elite ran everything and all other classes deferred to them. The lower class whites had no one to feel superior to other than the black slaves. The legal system organized itself to a quasi-police state prevent slave escapes and slave revolts. Virulent, hate-filled racism was the norm, the kind still seen today when a white rednecks drag a black man behind a truck for a few miles just for the hell of it.

        Given their paranoid culture and fear of the bestial blacks being set free, most non-slave-owning whites in areas with large black populations were just as fiercely opposed to freeing the slaves as the slave-owners themselves. Moreso, in many cases, because they were motivated by gut hatred and fear rather than economic reasons.

        I would suggest reading James McPherson's excellent history of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom. It is a popular history rather than an academic one, but it offers quotes and samples of political literature from the pre-war South. When gentile southerners wanted to talk their way past northerners in a tasteful way, they spoke of "States Rights" and "Our Peculiar Institutions" and such-like. When they needed to pump up the voters or recruit a mob, they spoke of "black men on top, means white men on the bottom," and hung posters of lusting black males dancing with frightened white women.

        Message control, then and now.

    •  ha ha ha (0+ / 0-)

      Let's you and him fight!

      oh no, aqui viene la rucka!

      "Ok, now let's break it up......"

      whoo, I bought a house in Texas!

      by TexMex on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 09:06:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And now they're all running out of water. (0+ / 0-)
  •  I'm so glad this was rescued (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, jlms qkw

    well worth the read.  Thank you.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 08:41:12 PM PST

  •  American freedom and American slavery are two (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, jlms qkw

    sides of the same coin. I refer, of course, to Edmund Morgan's "American Slavery, American Freedom." Northern colonies, such as Massachusetts might very well have been the first to legalize slavery, but it was Virginia that first developed a slave society along with large-scale tobacco commodity agriculture. The Virginia House of Burgesses, venerated as the cradle of liberty--in perhaps the earliest example of American self-rule--articulated slave codes and white supremacy as African slavery replaced indentured servitude in the mid-seventeenth century. Slavery, of course, became enshrined in the new nation's founding document--the Constitution--as the two-thirds compromise. That was the compromise that allowed two-thirds of a state's slave population to be counted for the purpose of determining that state's number of representatives in Congress. The revolutionary spirit, along with the Enlightenment and the reform impule of Protestant evangelicalism, caused many slave-owners such as George Washington to manumit their slaves (in Washington's case, effective upon the death of his wife Martha). Thomas Jefferson, who recognized that slavery was unwise and perhaps immoral, could not see his way clear to manumit his slaves, believed that the rising generation would find a way to resolve the tension between the impulse toward manumission and the fear of "amalgamation" or "race war." By 1800, however, Eli Whitney's cotton gin, along with the development of short-staple cotton suitable for the soil and climate of the South Carolina and Georgia upcountry, ensured that slavery would enjoy widespread and extended popularity in the South. By that time, the North had developed a diversified economy based on agriculture, manufacturing, etc., along with substantial trade networks in the hinterland that supported large populations and a substantial middle class in the urban areas they ajoined.

    By 1830, the Second Great Awakening gave rise to a renewed reform movement articulated as abolitionism just as the industrial revolution was introducing a new for of labor discipline: factory discipline. The humanitarian impulse, natural rights philosophy, and religious reform--in the presence of these new forms of labor discipline--gave rise to a potent anti-slavery movement in the North and in England while cotton agriculture was sweeping across the South.

    Given that three-fourths of white southerners owned no slaves at all, and large planters (with 25 or more slaves) constituted only about 5 percent of the white southern population, why did white southerners defend slavery so fiercely? First, the terms of public discourse, then as now, were established by that top 5 percent; second, many non-slave-owning white southerners were related to slave-owners through kin, social or political networks. Finally, the "psychological wage" of white freedom as opposed to black slavery relied on maintaining a permanent underclass of African Americans before and after the Civil War.

    The rest, as they say, is history. I offer this in support of two larger points: 1)slavery, like imperialism and torture, are as American as apple pie. At the same time, the tradition of universal rights as expressed in the Declaration of Independence by that slave-owner Thomas Jefferson offers a vision of liberty to which oppressed peoples here and others can appeal in the fight for justice. 2) I believe the above offers a more satisfactory explanation for southern slavery and Jim Crow than the rather simplistic assumption that southerners are stupid and morally corrupt.

    Violence is the last resort of the incompetent--Isaac Asimov

    by lamdat on Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 09:35:36 PM PST

  •  very good writing on this topic (0+ / 0-)

    interesting comments too (some more worthy and meaningful than others )

    thanks so much for writing and sharing your analysis.  and thanks to the reasonable commenters too.  

  •  I added the teaching tag (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexMex

    and will include this diary in my weekly roundup What Have you Got to Learn? there will be a link in my sig when it goes up, in about an hour

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