Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Few historical works examine the society and politics of both the Trustee and royal periods of Colonial Georgia. This dissertation highlights the central theme that binds the two eras together: the delicate balance between liberty and authority. Colonists believed that the greatest threat to liberty was the potential for the mother country to acquire undue power. To guard against that danger, settlers supported the establishment of strong local sources of authority within the colony that would act as a check against excessive imperial power. The Trustees initially used land, slavery, and trade restrictions to deny political and economic power to Georgia settlers as well as limit the influence of South Carolina elites. The Georgia corporation retained absolute political power in London by deliberately constructing a weak and ineffective colonial government. James Oglethorpe and various other civilian and military leaders took advantage of the situation to assume unofficial authority over the colonists. Protesting that the Trust’s property laws and monopolization of political power violated British liberty, Georgia and South Carolina residents launched a campaign that appealed to the Crown, Parliament, and English public for intervention. These efforts were successful enough to weaken fatally the Trustees’ grasp on Georgia and allow inhabitants to evade oppressive laws with impunity until they were officially repealed. Achieving an acceptable relationship between local and imperial authority was just as difficult under royal rule. In general, authorities in London sought to maintain the supremacy of the Crown and Parliament. Colonists sought to expand local authority through the Lower House of Assembly. From 1757 to 1764, Georgians believed they were making progress toward that elusive balance between liberty and authority. Changes in the imperial system after 1765, however, challenged colonists’ expectations of future progress. England demanded that Americans acknowledge the mother country’s unlimited supremacy. Georgians were equally adamant that strong colonial representative institutions were necessary to oppose excessive and arbitrary imperial authority. As a result of this standoff, large numbers of Georgians concluded by 1776 that local authority and liberty were no longer possible under British rule.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Charles W. Royster



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