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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersBecoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763
Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763
Theme: GrowthTheme: PeoplesTheme: EconomiesTheme: IdeasTheme: American
Theme: Growth

Rules for the Georgia colony, 1735
Rules for the Georgia colony, 1735
New Colonies
- Georgia, founded 1733
- Failed colonies, proposals and reports, 1698-1763 (PDF)
- Maps [zoomable]:

Imagine creating a brand-new colony in one of the world's remote areas, say Antarctica, the Amazon jungle, or an uninhabited Pacific island. Or look back at the creation of new and remote settlements in American history, such as the Jamestown Colony, the Indian removals to present-day Oklahoma, and the Mormon settlements in Utah. What initiative is required? Who gets the project going? Where does the money come from, and where does it go? Who signs up to go? If permission is required, who gets it and how? If the colony fails, who does the explaining? In the previous sections we focused on the experience of individual settlers, servants, and slaves as they arrived in America and adapted to their new lives. Here we will study the policies and politics of creating new colonies and evaluating their outcome.

  • Georgia. In 1733 the last of the "thirteen original colonies" was founded on the southern Atlantic coast for two main reasons—one idealistic: to provide a refuge for the "worthy poor" of England; and one strategic: to fortify the southern border of British America against the Spanish (to the south in Florida) and the French and Indians (to the west into the Mississippi River valley). Although the colony's founder, Sir James Oglethorpe, envisioned Georgia as a haven for imprisoned debtors, the colony's first settlers included farmers, merchants, and skilled artisans, reflecting the more pragmatic goals of the other trustees. Still, Oglethorpe led his colony through early hardships to ultimate survival. Here we read selections from five documents, from 1717 to 1741, representing the vision and reality of the Georgia colony. View the two maps of Georgia and southeastern America during your reading, locating the coastal and inland settlements. Why was Georgia the most successful new colony of the period 1690 through 1763?
    • - Sir Robert Montgomery, A Discourse Concerning the Design'd Establishment of a New Colony . . . , 1717, excerpts.
    • - James Oglethorpe, A Brief Account of the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia, 1733, excerpts.
    • - Tailfer, et al., A True and Historical Narrative of the Colony of Georgia, 1741, excerpts.
    • - Trustees of the Colony of Georgia, An Account Showing the Progress of the Colony of Georgia in America, 1741, excerpts.

  • Failed colonies. To explore why colonies succeed, one should also study the failures, near-failures, and the never-founded, of which four are presented here.
    • - New Caledonia was founded by the Scottish government on the isthmus of Panama in 1698 as a last-ditch effort to revive its economy from crippling competition with England. Less than six months after the first settlers arrived, it was abandoned after a season of disease, Indian attacks, and the looming threat of a Spanish attack. Back in England, the colony's founder, William Paterson, presented his assessment of the colony's failure, which some deem a factor in Scotland's long-resisted union with England in 1707 (creating Great Britain). How does the 1735 map of New Caledonia enhance your understanding of the texts?
    • - New Bern, North Carolina, was founded in 1710 as a political and religious refuge for settlers from Switzerland and Germany, and as an economic refuge for its indebted founder, Baron Christoph von Graffenried. The first years brought only hardship to the settlers from crop failures, disease, and Indians wars. Despite his attempts to save the colony, von Graffenried sold out his share and returned to England. In his Relation of My American Project (ca. 1714), von Graffenried outlines the "twelve misfortunes" which doomed his colony. Most of the settlers abandoned the settlement by 1718, which was not resettled until the late 1720s. View von Graffenried's map of the colony while reading his account. How does it match your image from the colony from his Relation?
    • - Swiss colony, Pennsylvania (never founded). Von Graffenried had been encouraged in his venture by a fellow Swiss nobleman, Franz Ludwig (Francis Louis) Michel, whose earlier plan for a Swiss colony in Pennsylvania had failed to secure funding. Here we read Michel's plan for the colony, as well as the specific proposals presented to the mayor of Berne, Switzerland, and to the Queen of England. Why did a new colony require permission from these officials?
    • - New Wales, Ohio River Valley (never founded). Just two months after the Treaty of Paris was signed in February, 1763, ending the French and Indian War, a proposal for a "very Extensive Colony upon the finest Part of the Ohio," to be named New Wales, was advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette, calling for interested persons "to embrace this Opportunity." The colony was never established, its conception faulted by Benjamin Franklin as "made without Authority, and by weak Heads, and is accordingly come to nothing."1 Be sure to compare this proposal with the Trustees' rules for Georgia and with Francis Louis Michel's proposal for a Swiss colony in Pennsylvania. What features of the plans appear well conceived? Which appear to be made "by weak heads"?
    • - William Paterson, Report of Matters Relating to the Colony of Caledonia Colony, 19 Dec. 1699, excerpts.
    • - Christoph von Graffenried, Relation of My American Project (also known as Account of the Founding of New Bern), ca. 1714, excerpts.
    • - Francis Louis Michel: (1) Letter to J. R. Ochs, May 1704, excerpts; (2) Summary of report to George Ritter, Dec. 1708, excerpts.
    • - Advertisement for the proposed colony of New Wales, The Pennsylvania Gazette, 21 April 1763.

To these readings you could add the texts in #4: New Settlers, which focus on settlers' personal experiences in new colonies. Also, to compare the fate of colonies in the 1700s and the 1600s, see related texts in the toolbox American Beginnings, especially Instructions for Leaders, Q&As, Go Ahead?, and Failed Colonies. (19 pages.)

Discussion questions
  1. What overall impressions from these texts and maps do you get about creating new colonies?
  2. When founding new colonies, what initiative is required? Who gets the project going? Where does the money come from, and where does it go? Who signs up to go? If permission is required, who gets it and how? If the colony fails, who does the explaining?
  3. What imperial policies are apparent or implied in these documents?
  4. In what ways do they complement or obstruct the settlers' goals?
  5. In what ways are the settlement maps political documents? Compare maps drawn by the colony leaders (the New Bern map, and the Ebenezer map in #4: New Settlers) with maps drawn by cartographers uninvolved with the colony (New Caledonia).
  6. Why was Georgia the most successful of the British colonies founded between 1690 and 1775?
  7. Create a chart of the colonies, based on the texts in this section and in #4: New Settlers.
    • - To the vertical list, you could add other features that affect colonies' outcomes.
    • - To the horizontal list, you could add
    1. English colonies founded in the 1600s, including the coastal Atlantic colonies, British Honduras in Spanish territory (1638), and the Hudson Bay territory (1670)
    2. colonies that Britain acquired from Spain and France in the 1700s such as Nova Scotia (including Acadia, 1713), Florida (1763, lost to Spain in 1783), and Grenada and Dominica in the West Indies (1763)
    3. colonies proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1754 (See Theme V: AMERICAN, #1, Empire.)
    Note: If you add New Caledonia, remember that it was a Scottish colony before Scotland became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain.

NEW BRITISH COLONIES & SETTLEMENTS, 1700sColony of GEORGIASettlement of NEW BERN, NCSettlement of EBENEZER, GASettlement of NEW WALES, Ohio River Valley
Date of founding or proposal      
Coastal or inland      
Founders' goals      
Settlers' goals      
Major political & economic factors      
Major geographical factors      
Relations with other American colonists      
Relations with Native Americans      
Relations with Spanish and French      
Factor #1 for outcome      
Factor #2 for outcome      

  1. Here we will repeat one of the framing questions for this theme, as one can find examples of each power relationship, and more, in these readings. List the power relationships that influenced the colonies in this period, e.g.,
      -the colonies and England
      -the colonies and the French and Spanish on their borders
      -the settlers and the Native Americans
      -the clergy and their congregants
      -the southern planters and their servants and slaves
    How did the totality of these power relationships affect the colonies' growth and self-perception?

Framing Questions
  •  What factors fostered or hindered the growth of the British Atlantic colonies (that later became the United States of America) from 1690 to 1763?
  •  How did the European colonists respond to the growing diversity among them—by religion, ethnicity, economic status, and country of origin?
  •  How did the colonies’ growth affect Native Americans and enslaved Africans?
  •  How were the inhabitants’ concepts of liberty and rights affected by the colonies’ growth?
  •  List the power relationships that influenced the colonies in this period, e.g., between the colonies and England, the colonies and the French and Spanish on their borders, the settlers and the Native Americans, the clergy and their congregants, the southern planters and their servants and slaves, etc. How did the totality of these power relationships affect the colonies’ growth and self-perception?

Georgia: 11
Failed colonies:  8
View maps online.    
TOTAL 19 pages
Supplemental Sites

Establishing the Georgia Colony, 1732-1750, overview preceding primary documents, from the Library of Congress

James Oglethorpe and the founding of Georgia, overview in The New Georgia Encyclopedia

1 Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, Letter to Peter Collinson, London, 19 December 1763. Courtesy of the Benjamin Franklin Papers, Yale University Library.

Images: "Rules for the Year 1735," Appendix 3 in Trustees of the Colony of Georgia, An Account Showing the Progress of the Colony of Georgia in America, 1741, details; as published in Peter Force, ed., Tracts and Other Papers Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in North America from the Discovery of the Country to the Year 1776, Vol. I, 1836. Digital images courtesy of the Library of Congress (American Memory).

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

1. The Colonies: 1690-1715   2. Cities & Towns   3. Coming to America
4. New Settlers   5. Servants & Slaves   6. New Colonies
7. Indian Lands   8. The Land   9. The Colonies: 1720-1763

TOOLBOX: Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763
Growth | Peoples | Economies | Ideas | American

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