|UFDC Home||myUFDC Home | Help|
This item has the following downloads:
BORDERS AND RUMORS:
THE GEORGIA FRONTIER IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD
SHANE ALAN RUNYON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Shane Alan Runyon
This dissertation is dedicated to Stacy and the gatitos. Thanks for the patience.
When I began working on this project I knew the endeavor would take time,
but I never imagined how much time it would take. Despite the additional hours,
weeks, and months this project would not have been completed without the
assistance of my committee and colleagues.
First, I would like to thank Dr. Jon Sensbach (my supervisory committee
chair) for the hours he spent on this dissertation. His support and calming
reassurance made this process much easier than I ever imagined. I would also
like to thank committee members Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Kathleen Deagan,
Murdo Macleod, and Juliana Barr. Although Dr. Deagan is probably unaware of
this, the inspiration for this dissertation began when I was 18 and took a part-
time job as a site interpreter on one of her many archaeological excavations in St.
Augustine, Florida. The pleasure I experienced in working on the Cubo Line
excavation sparked my interest in Spanish Florida. For this, I will be forever
Dr. Macleod offered extremely useful advice throughout my graduate
career. I am honored to have been his student and I am truly impressed with his
ability to spot the misplaced comma or missing accent mark; and his ability to
point out the latest research on a particular topic. Finally, without Dr. Barr's
assistance the completion of this dissertation would have been difficult. Despite
our brief relationship, her dedication to this project is truly touching. Dr. Wyatt-
Brown's commitment to the development of my scholarly endeavors outside of
the classroom helped immensely. Without his support I never could have
participated in as many conferences as I did, during my time at the University of
The dozens of colleagues I met along the way have inspired major ideas.
Although I cannot name them here, inspiration and assistance have come from
all corners of academia and beyond. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Samuel
Proctor. Conversations with Dr. and Mrs. Proctor (and many nights next to them
at the theater) helped remind me why I wanted this degree in the first place.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............................................................................. iv
A B ST R A CT ............................................................................................................. vii
1 INTRODUCTION ..........................................................................................
2 PROLOGUE TO GEORGIA: THE DECLINE OF THE GUALE................... 24
3 THE FIGHT BEFORE COLONIZATION, 1702-1733...................................48
4 FOUNDING AND FIGHTING FOR GEORGIA, 1732-1737........................... 89
5 PIRACY AND POLITICS: GEORGIA IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD .......... 130
6 THE WARS OF RUMOR, 1737-1739 ..............................................................155
7 FADING OF THE FRONTIER, 1740-1742 .................................................. 201
8 CONCLUSION: ACKNOWLEDGING A BORDER ....................................... 235
LIST OF REFEREN CES ....................................................................................... 245
M anuscript Sources ....................................................................................... 245
Published Primary Sources .......................................................................... 245
Secondary W works ........................................................................................... 247
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ..................................................................... 261
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
BORDERS AND RUMORS:
THE GEORGIA FRONTIER IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD
Shane Alan Runyon
Chair: Jon Sensbach
Major Department: History
"Borders and Rumors" is a study of imperial rivalry, warfare, slavery, and
Native American resistance in the colonial Southeast. By reexamining the
international struggle over the Georgia territory in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, this dissertation situates the conflict over the southern
borderlands in the broader geopolitical disputes of the Atlantic World. My study
combined British, Spanish, and French sources, to argue that the struggle for
Georgia played an important role in determining power structures in North
America while it also tested limits of European diplomacy.
England created Georgia in 1732, to fill a vacant and unprotected frontier
between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. Although no other European
power had previously settled the territory, the English did not enter the area
unopposed. French, Spanish, and Native American claims to portions of the land
brought a modicum of challenge and danger to early Georgia. War and threats of
force characterized the struggle for the territory; but rumors, uncertain
diplomacy, and a variety of unusual domestic policies provided the impetus for
the contest for Georgia.
"Borders and Rumors" is a study of imperial rivalry, warfare, slavery, and
Native American resistance in the colonial Southeast. By reexamining the
international struggle over the Georgia territory in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, this dissertation situates the conflict over the southern
borderlands in the broader geopolitical disputes of the Atlantic World. Using a
combination of British, Spanish, and French sources, my work argues that the
struggle for Georgia played an important role in determining power structures in
In 1565, Spain founded the town of St. Augustine, Florida on the northern
edge of its American empire. The Spaniards built the small outpost in reaction to
a colony founded 3 years earlier by French Huguenots in northern Florida.
Within a short time, they had destroyed the French settlement and seized control
of Florida through colonization. By removing the French, Spain asserted that,
while treaties could stipulate legal rights to land, territorial control required a
physical presence. Spain had hardly expanded beyond St. Augustine 100 years
later, when Britain founded Carolina. Spain considered the Carolina territory a
part of Florida and protested the establishment of the colony despite its lack of
any Spanish presence or possession within the debatable land. Like Spain,
England assumed that occupation of an area meant more than treaties.
Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, England tried to
eliminate any threat from Florida. Acts of piracy, campaigns of harassment, and
even invasion failed to destroy the Spanish outpost in St. Augustine. Whenever
England failed, Spain appeared an even greater threat. Florida's ability to
menace British colonial interests also grew in proportion to the successes of
Charles Town: the more wealth Carolina's capital provided, the more vulnerable
it appeared. The greatest dangers lurked on the open land between the two
colonies. To protect the interests of Carolina planters, the English had to move
onto the open frontier that separated English and Spanish territory. After
several attempts to fill the frontier, England's plan for a colony called Georgia
offered the best opportunity to protect the British Southeast from Spanish
From the outset, Spain complained of England's expansion. Despite
diplomatic efforts to end the controversy, an all-out struggle ensued, and the fight
for Georgia took place on a battlefield that spanned the globe. Royal officials
issued proclamations and agreements, and proposed treaties in hopes of ending
the territorial dispute. However, in the colonies, militias, Indian allies, and
unconventional tactics marked the struggle for the frontier. Georgia's legitimacy
came not from a line on a map or a signed treaty, but through the assertion of
authority and the appearance of strength. Despite previous agreements, a
nation's right to colonize came through its ability to occupy the land. For
Georgia's founders, asserting England's authority on the frontier provided myriad
When the Georgia Trustees received a charter to colonize the land between
the Altamaha and Savannah Rivers in 1732, borders were described, but this did
not prevent the territorial dispute. Indeed, border placement became the
primary controversy regarding the new venture. Land control and colonial
boundaries were unclear. These ambiguities caused trouble from the outset.
Georgia was created to fill the open frontier between Spanish and English
colonies; but instead of providing the buffer zone Carolina desired, it stoked the
ire of the Spaniards who considered Georgia a part of northern Florida.1 With
Spain, England, and later France debating the legitimacy of Georgia's borders,
the young colony had to fight for its survival. To secure Georgia, its founders had
to transform a frontier outpost into a borderland colony. Thus, the fight for
Georgia centered on the need for borders.
My study examines Georgia's fight to transform itself from a frontier
outpost to a borderland colony. Although the terms frontier and borderland can
have similar if not identical meanings, I argue (in the case of Georgia) a clear
difference between the two. The struggle to make Georgia a viable and
internationally-acknowledged colony of the British Empire required its founders
to transform a fluid frontier into a stable borderland colony: one that the
Spanish, French, and Native American communities considered legitimate.
According to its charter, Georgia began with borders. Nonetheless, Spain
disputed Georgia's limits. If England wanted to keep the new colony, it had to
1 Because the English established Georgia; and because this colony, unlike other
ventures, survived as Georgia, its name is used to describe the land between the
Savannah and Altamaha Rivers.
fight the Spaniards; therefore, the borders in Georgia's charter held little
meaning. As far as the Spaniards were concerned, Georgia existed on Florida's
frontier. The distinction between frontier and borderland is more than an
exercise in semantics. A borderland colony is one with recognized and respected
limits that create an international demarcation. Georgia's founding did not end
the debate over where Spain ended and Britain began. Instead, Georgia's
creation brought protests, international intrigue, and ultimately, war.
Although far removed from the English-Spanish dispute, French officials
interested in expanding Louisiana to the Atlantic Ocean found the same area
open to future exploitation and colonization. Before Georgia's founding, France
had considered moving Louisiana's settlements farther east; but as England
explored possibilities for the same land, French authorities pursued their
expansion plans with greater intensity. As would be repeated elsewhere,
European authorities often considered colonial growth a preferred way to defend
mature and established colonies.2 By moving onto the frontier, existing
settlements could enjoy the protection of an established and occupied buffer
zone. Once a nation could defend and settle the frontier, the land became a more
permanent and secure extension. In the Southeast, three nations planted
colonies in close proximity, and sought ways to ensure the survival of their
respective settlements. Although survival strategies varied greatly, each party
attempted to transform its portion of the frontier into a borderland.
2 Spain founded St. Augustine to protect its passing ships. Similarly, England
built its base in Tangiers to protect its interests in the Mediterranean. In both examples,
colonial expansion was designed to protect the interests of the empire.
The term "frontier" is problematic, as its definition tends to be fluid. In his
seminal essay, Frederick Jackson Turner described the European frontier as a
"fortified boundary line running through dense populations." Here, the frontier
creates a "political boundary." When he referred to the American colonies,
Turner imagined the frontier as "the hither edge of free land," the "edge of
settlement." Turner's definition described geographical limits.3 His version of
the American frontier marked "the meeting point between savagery and
civilization." Here, the "wilderness masters the colonists;" command of the
terrain is difficult, and control of power unclear.4 A frontier is something on the
periphery, far from the metropole, and without a defined border. In nearly every
example, early Georgia falls within this definition.
The historiography of the American West is filled with denunciations of
Turner's frontier thesis, but that is not to say all of Turner's ideas are wrong or
should be ignored.5 His thoughts may be short-sighted, insensitive, and simply
incorrect, but his belief that the frontier played an important role in the
formation of American history and culture should not be dismissed. Turner and
the generation that "closed" the frontier believed that borderless lands invited an
element of chaos. Without a border, territorial sovereignty could be debated; a
condition that made a colony's security difficult to maintain, a weakness endemic
3 Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American
History (New York: Dover Publications, 1996), 3, 41.
4 Turner, 3-4.
5 Patricia Nelson Limerick, "Turnerians All: The Dream of a Helpful History in an
Intelligible World," The American Historical Review 100 (June, 1995): 697-716,
considers the usefulness of Turner's thesis and his "antithesis."
to early Georgia. Which side had the right to exploit a particular region could not
be ascertained without the arbitrary, but essential line in the sand.
The words frontier and border have many other meanings and in each case,
the differences can be instructive. The French word frontiere can describe an
amorphous frontier or a border; and in Spanish, frontera can also assume either
meaning. Although England's principle competitors may not have distinguished
between the words, each side understood an important difference. The frontier
represented an open space, and a border represented a closed or separated
territory. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a frontier is the "part of
the country which forms the border," suggesting the limits of a territory, but it
also creates "a barrier against attack."6
My study makes a distinction between frontier and borderland settlements.
In the evolutionary process of colonization, a colony often began on the frontier;
where borders were ascribed by royal charter, but not defined by the limits of
settlement. Gradually, as the colony grows in strength and population, borders
become more visible on maps and the terrain. When cartographers and adjacent
communities respect and recognize territorial lines, settlements along such
borders can then be considered borderlands. The term borderland supposes that
a line has been established to separate nations, counties, states, colonies, or other
territorial distinctions. Neighboring communities must respect this line for a
borderland to exist. A frontier where the border is not acknowledged or
6 Oxford English Dictionary, online version. For more on the etymology of
"frontier," see John T. Juricek, "American Usage of the Word 'Frontier' from Colonial
Times to Fredrick Jackson Turner," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
11o (Feb., 1966): 10-34.
settlements become sparse. Borders and frontiers can be constructed or
Within a colony, one might consider an area where settlement peters out to
be a frontier; but this frontier is not a limit in itself. Its land may give way to
larger, more defined settlements that create a borderland. During the era of
western expansion in the mid-nineteenth century, the Great Plains created an
internal frontier. In the early to mid-nineteenth century, cities on the periphery
like Chicago and St. Louis acted as borderland communities.8 In the colonial era,
the western edge of most colonies created a borderless frontier where Indian
alliances and trade agreements impacted the economy or structures of power
more so than did the distant centers of government.
Georgia's birth as a colony sparked an intense debate over who owned the
land. From Georgia's inception, property lines did not exist, and no map marked
the southern edge of Carolina or northern limits of Florida.9 To use Turner's
descriptors, Georgia's terrain was a "wilderness" or "free land." In many ways,
the Georgia territory also formed a type of European middle ground. Ultimately,
7For an interesting example of frontiers and borders in surprising places see,
Greg Dening, Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land Marquesas, 1774-1880
(Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1980).
8 An excellent example of a community on the internal frontier is found in John
Mack Faragher, Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois Prairie (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1986). Similarly, the transition from frontier to borderland is thoroughly
described in William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New
York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1991).
9 That is, no map produced by a disinterested party. Spain produced many maps
to prove Florida included all of North America and South Carolina claimed its original
charter entailed a southern boundary near present-day Cape Canaveral, much to the
surprise of Spaniards who had settled St. Augustine since 1565.
Indians played a crucial role in determining the victor in the struggle for Georgia.
However, from its start, Georgia was a place "in between cultures, peoples, and in
between empires and the nonstate world of villages."o1 No nation had the power
to prevent others from attempting to settle or conquer the Georgia territory. In
the language of the frontier, Georgia occupied land where "no one [had] an
enduring monopoly on violence."1l To achieve permanence, one side had to
dominate or, at least, create an illusion of strength so that no other party could
challenge the colony's legitimacy.
From the outset, Georgians had to fight for recognition by other European
powers. Until France and Spain accepted Georgia's right to exist alongside their
respective colonies, Georgia's growth was limited, and its future doubtful as a
viable addition to British America. To be truly safe, Georgia first had to create
boundaries that all parties respected. In the colonies, royal fiat did not create
reality; in the colonies, borders had to be earned. The frontier invited
conspiracies and allowed, even required, leaders to institute a variety of unusual
policies to protect or wreak havoc, depending on the objective. In the early
eighteenth century, frontiers represented areas of fear; places where barbarism
reigned, and control required a combination of creativity and despotism.12
10 Richard White. The Middle Ground (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
"Donna J. Guy & Thomas E. Sheridan, "On Frontiers: The Northern and
Southern Edges of the Spanish Empire in the Americas," in Contested Ground, Donna
Guy & Thomas Sheridan, eds., (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998), 10. Silvio R.
D. Baretta and John Markoff, "Civilization and Barbarism: Cattle Frontiers in Latin
America," Comparative Studies in Society and History 20 (4) : 590.
12 Guy & Sheridan, "On Frontiers," 8.
The Trustees acknowledged the precarious nature of their project, and
began with a series of social policies designed to create a colony based on small-
scale industry as opposed to plantation agriculture. Primary components of the
early regulations limited land ownership and prohibited the use and trade of
slaves and rum. Through legislation, the Trustees created an image of the
enlightened colony, but they also sold the idea on the merits of security. By 1732,
Spain had provided refuge to several British runaway slaves in St. Augustine. By
prohibiting slavery, the Trustees attempted to eliminate a potentially disruptive
policy by the Spaniards. Here, Spain used freedom as an offensive tactic, and
Georgia sought to neutralize this advantage by avoiding slavery altogether.
Critics complained that the Trustees' policy promised to harm a young and weak
economy; but in the beginning, the need for security trumped commerce.
Georgia's charter required the colony to protect English interests first and collect
profits later. Since the Trustees wanted to encourage the landless and poor to
settle, certain altruistic policies seemed logical for security. Still, other domestic
policies could provide additional layers of protection.
In the backcountry, Georgia's creation challenged and altered Indian
alliances and trading agreements. Southeastern Indians already enjoyed the
prospect of three European powers to use for protection or trade. Although
additional neighbors brought added vulnerabilities, since Georgia stirred
controversy among other Europeans, Native communities in the region gained
additional powers. Whenever Spain or France sensed an opening to take Georgia
by force, they sent agents to visit the local Native communities in hopes of
building military alliances.13 Communities courted by the Europeans gained
additional strength, but this brought certain unavoidable risks. If one
community became associated with the Spaniards, England could either try to
win over the particular town, or declare it an enemy and open target in the
internecine border warfare. Nevertheless, the potential for Native assistance in
any border conflict frightened those on all sides of the dispute. Often, the mere
mention of a Native alliance caused colonial leaders to rethink their positions.
From Georgia's beginning, each side struggled to sort fact from fiction,
resulting in unique situations. Perceived and actual weaknesses of all parties
added to the confusion in the colonies and abroad. Multiple, concessions were
made based on what one party believed to be true of the other. Thus, in two
decades of European rivalry for Georgia, rumors became powerful weapons.
Usually, reaction to a particular tale weakened one party, giving the other a slight
advantage, real or imagined. Because the conflict over Georgia became an
important component in a global debate over territorial sovereignty, England's
reaction to rumors aimed at Georgia had the potential to spark a world war. How
Europe imagined the struggle for Georgia created the final, and perhaps most
important arena, of frontier debate and contest.
Diplomacy played a significant role in defining the parameters of the battle.
Europe attempted to guide the debate or preside over the conflict, yet often the
lines of communication proved too long. Events in the colonies often unraveled
before official word arrived; and when orders from Europe reached the Americas
13 Ian K. Steele, Warpaths: Invasions of North America (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1994).
in time, strategies that made sense in royal courts did not typically conform to the
nuances of the frontier. As the historian Trevor Reese reminds us, "in
international affairs," particularly in the case of Georgia, "de facto is always more
important than dejure."14 Because of such difficulties, what happened in the
colonies had a tendency to override imperial desires. Disparities between royal
want and colonial need added to Georgia's burdens, including exposure to the
danger of constant piracy across the Atlantic. Ultimately, a single incident at sea,
an event that had nothing to do with Georgia, provided the primary excuse for the
rupture between England and Spain.
In 1740, England and Spain went to war over Georgia. Disputes regarding
slavery, piracy, and various treaties contributed to the struggle. After a couple of
significant battles, neither side succeeded. Nonetheless, the stalemate
transformed Georgia. For Georgia, permanence came through the avoidance of
defeat. Although the French threat remained after the fighting, Georgia's
primary opponent implicitly accepted the colony's limits; and a borderland
Unlike other studies of early Georgia, mine places a strong emphasis on the
cross-cultural elements of the fight for the colony, and considers the struggle for
the frontier in the larger context of the Atlantic World. Georgia's establishment
did more than rankle Spaniards in Florida. England's attempt to close the
Southeastern frontier threatened French settlements in Louisiana, and promised
to disrupt existing Indian alliances. When London created Georgia, Indian
14Trevor Reese, Colonial Georgia: A Study in British Imperial Policy in the
Eighteenth Century (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1963).
agreements with Spain, France, and even South Carolina were exposed to the
actions and desires of the new colonists. The struggle for Georgia occupied two
fronts: one in Europe's royal courts, where treaties and secretive agreements
pushed the debate in one direction; and the other in the colonies, a theater with
dramatically different needs, results, and realities. Within this setting, the
conflict for Georgia emerged.
My study highlights the constant tension between the authority and
expressed desires of the metropole and what actually happened on the periphery.
The differences between the two delayed, but also facilitated war. When the final
battles for the frontier began, England, France, and Spain fought over numerous
problems; Georgia was a single issue in the larger, more ambitious fight for global
supremacy. It did not take long for officials in Europe to acknowledge that
Georgia held the potential for much more than territorial expansion. Whoever
controlled the disputed territory had direct access to the Atlantic, numerous
Native trading routes and more. Still, Georgia's influence on global events is only
part of its history.
In the colonies, the fight for Georgia altered power structures, and
challenged the conventional wisdom of colonial strength. Many studies have
looked at the diplomatic struggle. In particular, John Tate Lanning provides an
expansive account that considers the diplomacy for Georgia in terms of a larger
global contest. 15 Few, however, have expanded Lanning's thesis to consider
Georgia's role in other conflicts with France, other English colonies, and Native
15 Lanning, Diplomatic History of Georgia: A Study in the Epoch ofJenkins'Ear
(Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1936).
American communities.16 To understand the larger struggle for the North
American frontier, it is necessary to consider all parties involved in the Georgia
Because Georgia occupied a frontier, battles for the colony crossed
international boundaries, creating a geopolitical powder keg that had the
potential to upset any North American colony. The physical geography helped
determine how competing parties could execute their plans for aggression. The
fight for Georgia assumed many unusual qualities, some so different that many
eighteenth-century observers found Georgia and its leadership bizarre.
Eccentricities from the Trustees and other leaders helped provide security for the
young colony, but Georgia's opponents used similar tactics with excellent results.
Militias composed of former British slaves incited racial unrest in South Carolina,
Indian armies from Canada threatened the security of southern British colonies,
and numerous secret plots to overthrow European governments and divide the
respective colonies, were only a few of the peculiarities in the struggle for
Most plans to take Georgia assumed that the land was available to whoever
could conquer the colony. Although Britain staked its claim, Spain and France
considered the colony weak and easy to remove. The side that victorious would
have tremendous access to power in North America. When Georgia was created,
Florida was weak, and France's southern presence seemed nothing more than a
16 Recent work has started to concentrate on the relationship between Georgia
and local Native American communities. Julie Ann Sweet, "Negotiating a Southeastern
Middle Ground: English-Creek Relations in Trustee Georgia, 1733-1752," (Ph.D. diss.,
University of Kentucky, 2002).
distant and fledgling outpost. Despite the obvious weaknesses of Britain's
competitors, all parties saw an opportunity for the land. Before Georgia's
founding in 1732, any side could have built on its territory, but neither took the
initiative. When Britain filled the empty land, Spain and France felt the colony
could threaten their interests. All three countries considered Georgia a weak
outpost on the limits of the empire. English officials in London and the colonies
feared that the new addition could be removed with ease. France or Spain could
simply launch a single large-scale attack, and the barrier to protect Charleston
would fall. In communications from South Carolina to London, authorities
considered the new colony a cornerstone. If Georgia failed, colonies throughout
North America would be vulnerable.
The idea of Georgia as ultimate protector of the British South did not escape
the attention of Spanish and French officials. As early as 1719, France declared
the Georgia territory a perfect location for "incroachments upon the British
settlements."17 Therefore, the struggle over Georgia telescopes the contest for
the entire colonial southeastern frontier. The struggle for Atlantic and global
power that played out in this large corner of North America promised to
determine the fate of empires and of thousands of European, Indian, and African
people in the region.
The colony's fight for survival and legitimacy is the subject of numerous
monographs. One of the earliest texts to place the struggle for Georgia in an
17 State Papers, Public Records Office, Kew, England/78/166/f.8 Instructions to
Martin Bladen, July 3, 1719. Hereafter, documents from this collection are abbreviated as
international spotlight came from one of Turner's students, Herbert Bolton.
Bolton took Turner's lead and projected the problems of the frontier onto Spain's
North American colonies. In the 1929 text, The Debatable Land: A Sketch of the
Anglo-Spanish Contestfor the Georgia Country, Bolton discusses the conflict for
Georgia. Originally, Bolton's text simply introduced a treatise by Spanish official
Antonio de Arredondo; but Bolton's preface covered Georgia's early history so
well that it was published separately and remains a foundational work.18
A more comprehensive examination of Georgia's impact on European
diplomacy is found in John Tate Lanning's Diplomatic History of Georgia.
Lanning's 1936 text places Georgia into the larger history of Anglo-Spanish
rivalry in the eighteenth century.19 From arguments over illegal logwood
harvesting in Mexico by the British to incidents in Europe's courts, Lanning
offers a thorough, reliable, and lasting history. Bolton and Lanning viewed the
Georgia struggle as an Anglo-Spanish rivalry. French desires for the land are
rarely considered. Among the early historians to examine Georgia, Verner Crane
(another of Turner's students) was the only one to give Spain, France, England,
and various Indian communities equal footing in the larger struggle for control of
the Southern frontier.
It is Crane's expansive view that I have tried to maintain and expand.
Crane's 1929 The Southern Frontier, 1670-1732 does not consider Georgia's
founding and the ensuing controversy, but offers a thorough portrait of the
18 Arredondo's text was entitled Historical Proof of Spain's Title to Georgia.
19 Lanning, A Diplomatic History of Georgia.
difficulties that led to the colony's creation.20 In other publications, Crane tied
imperial rivalries to events in Georgia, and each time he carefully considers the
impact on all sides of the fight.21 Although others included the struggle for
Georgia in studies of early America, Bolton, Crane, and Lanning create a
historiographical foundation that continues to guide Georgia scholarship.22 More
recently, David Weber in The Spanish Frontier in North America has generously
considered the Georgia frontier a part of Spanish North America, a perspective
essentially ignored since Bolton first introduced the idea.23 In my study, I
avoided using a particular perspective as the dominant lens to examine early
Georgia, focusing instead on the desires and strategies of each side in the larger
fight for the frontier. By looking at the objectives of each European power, the
overarching desire to transform a frontier into a borderland becomes a more
clear and urgent objective.
Military intervention over Georgia is the primary subject of several
monographs.24 Larry Ivers's British Drums on the Southern Frontier remains an
20 Verner Crane, Southern Frontier, 1670-1732 (Ann Arbor: The University of
Michigan Press, 1929).
21 Verner Crane, "The Philanthropists and the Genesis of Georgia," The American
Historical Review 27 (October, 1925): 63-69 and Crane, "The Southern Frontier in
Queen Anne's War," The American Historical Review 24 (April, 1919): 379-395.
22 For a Spanish perspective of the Georgia controversy, John TePaske, The
Governorship of Spanish Florida 1700-1763 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1964)
is the best candidate to add to this selective list of early historians.
23 David Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1992).
24 Many recent works look at Georgia from the backcountry and its relationship to
Indian communities. See, Julie Ann Sweet, "Negotiating a Southeastern Middle
Ground;" Claudio Saunt, A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the
Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733-1816 (Cambridge: Cambridge University
authoritative text on the organized battles for Georgia. Although Ivers does not
delve into the external fights for the frontier, his accounts of the primary combat
to end the struggle for Georgia remain an outstanding source.25 Others have
focused on Georgia's social aspects. From its Moravian and Salzburger
communities to its unique treatment of local Indian communities, Georgia's
enlightened social policies continue to interest historians.26 For this study,
Georgia's prohibition on slavery is considered the most crucial of the colony's
Georgia's origin as an antislavery colony has a surprisingly limited
historiography. To date, no single study considers the ban on slavery a protective
measure. Typically, the prohibition is described as misguided idealism forced on
the colony by Trustees ignorant of colonial realities. Because the policy lasted for
only 20 years, Georgia's lack of slaves in the early years is considered an
aberration. Recently, Betty Wood all but dismissed the security concerns
expressed by the Trustees.27 The scholarship of Latin American scholars, most
notably Jane Landers and her investigations on Florida's Fort Mose, provides a
Press, 1999); Kathryn Holland Braund, Deerskins and Duffels Creek-Indian Trade with
Anglo-Americana, 1685-1815 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993).
25 Larry E. Ivers, British Drums on the Southern Frontier: The Military
Colonization of Georgia, 1733-1749 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press,
26 Sweet, "Negotiating a Southeastern Middle Ground," William Withuhn,
"Salzburgers and Slavery: A Problem of Mentaliti," Georgia Historical Quarterly
(Summer, 1984): 173-192; Aaron Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration,
Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775, Paul S. Taylor, Georgia
Plan (Berkeley: Institute of Business and Economic Research, 1972).
27 Betty Wood, Slavery in Colonial Georgia (Athens: The University of Georgia
Press, 1984), 8-9.
forceful argument for another look at this unusual policy.28 If Spain did not offer
British runaways freedom, the Trustees probably could not have maintained a
slave-free society for as long as they did. In the contest for Georgia, slavery
played a crucial role for both sides. Georgia's impact on Indian alliances
continues to interest historians of colonial America.
The importance of backcountry diplomacy has a large historiography of its
own. Regarding the larger struggle for Georgia, Patricia Dillon Woods, Claudio
Saunt, Daniel K. Richter, John Hann, and Charles Hudson provide some of the
better insights into the ways Indian communities exerted their power by entering
alliances with European traders or colonial officials.29 More recently, Alan Gallay
placed Indian slavery squarely in the larger equations of colonial growth and the
expansion of empire.3o Others have examined the role piracy played in colonial
power relationships. In particular, Richard White's middle ground thesis has
many applications for an early history of Georgia. Although no single volume is
devoted to piracy and its impact on the Georgia frontier, the gap will likely be
28 Jane Landers, "Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose: A Free Black Town in
Spanish Colonial Florida," American Historical Review 95 (February, 1990): 9-24;
Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999).
See also, Patrick Riordan, "Finding Freedom in Florida: Native Peoples, African
Americans and colonists, 1670-1816," Florida Historical Quarterly 75 (Summer, 1996):
29 Patricia Dillon Woods, French Indian Relations on the Southern Frontier (Ann
Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1980); Saunt, A New Order of Things; Daniel K. Richter,
Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 2001), John H. Hann, Apalachee: The Land Between the
Rivers (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1988), Charles Hudson, The
Southeastern Indians (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1976); Braund,
Deerskins and Duffels; Alan Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2002).
30 Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade.
filled, for violence on the sea played a constant role in the numerous struggles for
control in the Atlantic World.31
Thus, my study examined the struggle for the Georgia frontier from
different perspectives. On the diplomatic front, Spain and France often worked
in concert to protest Georgia's placement on the frontier. Unfortunately, French
designs for the land are often ignored in the histories of Georgia. Likewise, the
unusual aspects of Georgia's domestic policies are presented as serious efforts to
maintain security, and not as eccentric policies forced on Georgia's early settlers
by absentee landlords. My study does not consider Georgia a natural addition to
the British Empire. In the following pages, I argue that Georgia's formation
challenged authority structures throughout the Southeast; and that maintaining
or destroying the new colony had the potential to alter the power structures in
eighteenth-century North America.
Chapter 1 explores the human history and imperial transformations of the
land that became Georgia. Decades before the English settled Jamestown, Spain
attempted to expand its settlements north of St. Augustine. In the area that
became coastal Georgia, Jesuit missionaries attempted to establish an outpost in
the Guale region by the late sixteenth century. The Spaniards wanted to expand
their influence into the Guale communities, but the Guale rejected the offer of a
31 Linda Colley, Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850 (New York:
Anchor Books, 2002); Peter Lindebaugh & Marcus Rediker, Many Headed Hydra:
Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the R evolutionary Atlantic
(Boston: Beacon Press, 2000); and Marcus Rediker, Villains ofAll Nations: Atlantic
Pirates in the Golden Age (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004). Each explains the importance
of piracy in the Atlantic World. When the fight over Georgia began, piracy remained an
active threat in the Atlantic World. The days of Francis Drake and other influential
privateers had passed, but it is no accident that Parliament used a single act of piracy as
an excuse to declare war against Spain in 1740.
new religion and lifestyle, and eventually forced the Catholics out of their
Florida's attempts to convert and subjugate the Guale provides a cautionary
example of the difficulties in creating a colony. To succeed in Guale, Spaniards
had to alter an entire society, and to impose a set of cultural boundaries. Spain
failed, but the Spaniards' interaction with the coastal communities left the taint
of its dominion and Catholicism. When the English entered the region, they
considered the Guale associated with Spain and an enemy of the English. Thus,
the Guale ceased to exist partly because the English ascribed a cultural taint.
Chapter 2 considers England's desire to build a settlement south of Charles
Town. Georgia was one of numerous plans to settle the frontier between Spain
and England. After the nearly ruinous Yamassee War in 1715, officials in South
Carolina looked in earnest for a colony to act as a buffer zone between the two
nations. Earlier versions of the southern colony failed for various reasons, but
every plan to expand South Carolina or add a new colony, focused on the need to
secure South Carolina. As England sought an effective plan for the frontier,
France spotted an opportunity to expand Louisiana. Spain complained of English
activities, but spent most of its energy trying to survive. Since the settlement of
Charles Town, the English had directly challenged the Spaniards on issues of
territorial sovereignty nearly eliminating most of Florida's Indian alliances and
trade agreements. The creation of a new colony south of Carolina promised
additional security for the British colony, and it provided an offensive position for
England's larger plans to remove the Spaniards and dominate the continent.
Chapter 3 describes Georgia's formation, first settlements, and how its
mission to secure the frontier determined the nature of the new venture. Because
Britain built Georgia to act as a buffer zone between South Carolina and the
Spanish and French, the Trustees instituted a series of unusual policies. From
prohibitions on rum and slaves to limiting land ownership, the Trustees wanted
to build a colony unlike any other in the Southeast. Georgia's founders frequently
used the danger of the frontier as justification for the colony's odd regulations.
From the outset, however, the Trustees faced competition from French and
Spanish interests. Typically such challenges came in the form of equally unusual
The French leadership in Louisiana thought it could easily remove the new
colony and build in its place. Repeatedly, French agents suggested the use of
Native militias and other destabilizing tactics to remove the newcomers. Spain
also followed France's belief that the young colony did not have the structure to
defend itself from the unusual. On the frontier, as elsewhere, internal threats
created by outside forces had the potential to cause considerable damage to the
colony. In Florida, the Spaniards viewed race as a potential weapon in the battle
for the frontier. Many people feared Florida's use of British slavery. If Florida
could instigate racial unrest in the British South, Britain's hold on many of its
colonies could be challenged. Furthermore, if Florida could directly harm
English interests elsewhere in North America, then the Spanish outpost could
prove its worth and might flourish as a vital settlement.
Chapter 4 considers the diplomatic efforts at securing the frontier. In
Europe, the English had to answer Spain's charges that Georgia breached the
limits of Florida as outlined in past treaties. England found legitimacy for
Georgia's boundaries in the 1670 Treaty of Madrid. The only problem for the
diplomats who used this document were members of the Spanish royal court who
also employed it as evidence of Georgia's illegality. Diplomats attempted to carve
a peaceful border, but gradually saw this as a futile exercise.
Chapter 5 explores how rumors shaped the debate. At one point, Georgians
believed an Indian force from New York, supported by French soldiers in
Louisiana, was prepared to march on the colony. The widespread belief that
Georgia would fall in the face of any organized military aggression only
exacerbated fears of imminent doom. Efforts to find a peaceful solution
continued, but actions in the colonies prevented any hopes of a bloodless
solution. Florida increased its attempts at instigating racial unrest in South
Carolina by creating a militia composed entirely of former British slaves. Caught
in the middle, Georgia tried to defend its northern neighbor from Florida's
overtures, but frequently failed to exert enough influence or strength. Through
1739, Georgia remained a frontier.
Chapter 6 examines the war that erupted between England and Spain over
Georgia. In South Carolina, fears of a slave uprising became reality in the Stono
Revolt. Immediately after the suppression of violence, the British blamed St.
Augustine by providing refuge to runaway British slaves for inciting the rebellion.
Events in Europe only compounded the impetus for war and in 1740, Georgia
received permission to retaliate against the Spaniards. The War of Jenkins' Ear
was an opportunity for England and Spain to settle numerous disputes. An
English militia from Georgia and South Carolina began an assault on St.
Augustine that seemed certain to remove the Spaniards from North America. In
a miraculous turn of events, however, the larger, more confident English militia
failed to remove the Spaniards from St. Augustine. In Florida, officials
considered the avoidance of defeat a victory. They prepared to retaliate and
destroy Georgia, but failed also.
Following the primary skirmishes of 1740 and 1742, Georgia emerged as a
colony that could survive. Its ability to withstand Spanish invasion, French and
Indian threats, and other challenges to the colony's legitimacy helped Georgia
make the transition from a frontier to a borderland colony. Although the
controversy over Georgia did not end in 1742, the physical contest for the colony
concluded with the result that the borders, described in its original charter, could
PROLOGUE TO GEORGIA: THE DECLINE OF THE GUALE
In 1702, Spanish officials abandoned an outpost on St. Simons Island. It is
believed that as the Spaniards deserted their position on the island, they provided
an escort for a group of Guale Indians. The refugees were likely the last of the
Guale. Once the group arrived in St. Augustine, the Spaniards joined the
presidio's militia and the Guale likely settled in a nearby Catholic mission.
Others in the Guale community moved northward where they hoped to find
protection by the English in Carolina. Instead of seeking European protection,
others joined neighboring Native communities. If reports of the evacuation are
correct, this retreat marked the Guale's disappearance from their native territory.
Within 40 years of their departure, the Guale ceased to exist.1
Although not directly engaged by English troops, the Spaniards fled partly
because hostilities related to the War of Spanish Succession had arrived on North
America's shores. Shortly after the evacuation of St. Simons, Carolina Governor
James Moore led a failed attack on St. Augustine. Had the Guale and Spaniards
1 The facts of this removal are not clear and this alleged incident is used to
illustrate a larger point on Spain's abandonment of settlements north of St. Augustine.
Beginning in the 168os, the Spanish started removing the Guale. In 1722 Carballido
Barcia, one of the earliest chroniclers of Florida's history, claimed that St. Augustine
began Guale removal in response to England's settlement of Carolina in 1670. Spain
wished to move the Guale onto nearby coastal islands a decade later and, according to
Barcia, the Guale rebelled. Many historians doubt the supposed final removal in 1702.
John R. Swanton, Early History of the Creek Indians and their Neighbors (Washington
D. C. : Bureau of American Ethnology, 1922), 91, 93-94. John H. Hann, "Twilight of the
Mocamo and Guale Aborigines as Portrayed in the 1695 Spanish Visitation," Florida
Historical Quarterly 66 (July, 1987): 1-24.
stayed on St. Simons, Moore's advancing army would have likely defeated
Florida's weak outpost.2 For the Spaniards, leaving St. Simons did not represent
a significant loss. The station had provided little, if any, support to the
government in St. Augustine and the island did not host significant farmsteads or
provide a useful defensive position to protect Florida's other settlements on the
east coast. Indeed, had Moore attacked the island, the English would have gained
little because Spain's position on St. Simons hardly posed a threat to the young
government in Charles Town. For the Guale, however, leaving the island marked
the beginning of the end for their culture.
While never the largest Native American community in Georgia, the Guale
earned a reputation as an independent people who managed, for a brief period, to
drive the Spaniards off their land and maintain their culture despite the desires of
the Catholic missionaries.3 Although the Guale resisted the Spaniards, their
independence cost them dearly. In many ways, when the Guale left St. Simons in
1702, the entire region witnessed a fundamental transformation in the territory
between Florida and Carolina.
The relationship between the Guale and the Spaniards did not represent the
genesis of Native-European contact in Georgia, but the Guale experience offers a
unique glimpse into the transformations that facilitated and occasionally
2 The decision to flee proved wise. During Moore's march to St. Augustine,
English forces managed to destroy thirteen of the fourteen remaining missions in
present-day Georgia. Herbert E. Bolton, ed., Arredondo's Historical ProofofSpain's
Title to Georgia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1925), 39.
3 While our story begins decades before English settlement in the area, the term
Georgia is used in recognition of what the frontier between Charleston and Florida
determined the outcome of future battles in the contest for Europe's colonization
of Georgia. In 1702, the Spanish appeared weak and the Guale even weaker. Yet,
the British, who later controlled the traditional Guale territory, were not
militarily dominant. In the early eighteenth century, England's ambition to settle
the Atlantic Southeast greatly overshadowed its ability to accomplish such goals.
The fate of the Guale suggests how notions of power, control, order, and even
settlement-had different meanings on the frontiers and borderlands of the
The Guale's disappearance did not have a profound impact on the region's
politics or balance of power or significantly alter existing trade networks.
Instead, the history of the Spanish-Guale interaction illustrates how subtle
changes brought by Europeans frequently exacted significant transformations on
the people of the Southern frontier centuries before the English created Georgia.
The retreat in 1702 not only marked the end of the Spanish and Guale
settlements north of Florida's present border, but events later that year forced
more profound changes to the political and cultural landscape of the Atlantic
4 England and Spain were not the only participants in the War of Spanish
Succession. France used the war as an opportunity to expand its North American
holdings. In 1701, Louis XIV declared that the expansion of English colonies in North
America must be eliminated. It appeared to the French and Spanish that the English
planned plans to expand their growing colonial empire all the way to Mexico. Once
Louis XIV's grandson took the Spanish throne, the French had to defend Spanish
interests throughout the world. In North America, this led to the creation of Louisiana.
Although the French played an integral role in the politics of Southeastern colonization,
they had no effect on the Guale and Spain's retreat from St. Simons. W. J. Eccles, "The
Fur Trade and Eighteenth-Century Imperialism," William and Mary Quarterly 40 (July,
The Spanish crown had devised mechanisms to maintain the peace and
establish constructive relationships between the colonizer and Natives, but they
rarely used these systems. Technically, each colony had an office of Protector of
the Indians. This official acted as an ombudsman to the Natives and tried to
ensure that Spaniards did not exact illegal labor tributes, enslave, or otherwise
harass the Indian communities. As was often the case, the government in Florida
placed little importance on this position and staffed the office sporadically after
1695.5 Perhaps, had this office been accorded a proper place in the colonial
government, Florida would not have evacuated the northern periphery in 1702.
Nevertheless, Spain's departure from the Guale territory opened the door for
future settlement by the English.
Long before any English official considered expanding settlements south of
Carolina, Europeans realized that strong alliances and mutual respect between
their respective governments and the Native communities were necessary to
maintain the peace.6 Shortly after the Spanish settled St. Augustine in 1565,
Catholic missionaries traveled across the surrounding wilderness to convert
Native communities. It is said that Spain's conquistadors came for gold, God,
and glory. Since Florida and the lower southeast lacked gold and the poor
economic prospects in St. Augustine hindered the attainment of glory, religion,
more specifically religious conversion, became one of the few measurements for
5 Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven, Yale University
Press, 1992), 128.
6 Although De Soto and others who came prior to St. Augustine's settlement
learned this lesson, this chapter intends to look only at the interactions that occurred
after Spain colonized Florida and the British began considering similar activities in the
success on Spain's northern frontier. Thus, Spain based its early relationships
with Florida's Native communities on religious and cultural transformation, not
Beginning in 1566, Jesuit missionaries visited Guale communities that lived
along Georgia's coastline.8 Spanish missionaries may have thought they
"discovered" this culture, but it is highly unlikely that in 1566, the Guale did not
know of the Spaniards. To the Guale, the missionaries who arrived in the 156os
resembled the same explorers and would-be colonizers who came decades earlier.
Whether their information emanated from Ponce de Le6n's exploration in 1513,
Ayll6n's failed colony in the 1520s, De Soto's 1540 journey, or even French
activities just years before the Spaniard's entrance, the Guale knew of these
people when the first missionaries arrived.9 By 1566, the Guale had heard about
7 For recent studies on Spain's early interaction with local Native communities
see, John Hann, Apalachee: The Land Between the Rivers (Gainesville: University
Presses of Florida, 1988); John E. Worth, "The Timucuan Missions of Spanish Florida
and the Rebellion of 1656," (PhD diss., University of Florida, 1992); Jerald T. Milanich,
Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe (Gainesville: University Press of Florida,
8 The Guale's first encounter with the Spanish likely occurred in 1526 when the
failed Ayll6n colony was planted near their principle communities. While the nature of
this first interaction between European and Native American is not clear in the historical
record, the residents of the shortly lived Ayll6n colony likely did not exert significant
change on the Guale. If anything, the Guale's first encounter with Europeans may have
left the Natives with a sense of European weakness. The Spaniards who arrived in the
late sixteenth century looked and acted like the same people who failed miserably
decades earlier. However, the Guale also knew the Spaniards who failed at Ayll6n were
the same people who defeated the French at Fort Caroline in 1565. For more
information see, David Hurst Thomas, St. Catherines: An Island in Time (Atlanta:
Georgia Humanities Council, 1988), 22. Lyon, The Enterprise of Florida: Pedro
Menendez deAviles and the Spanish Conquest of 1565-1568 (Gainesville: University of
Florida Press, 1975), 155.
9 For a good overview of Spain's early explorations of Florida see, Hale G. Smith
and Mark Gottlob, "Spanish-Indian Relationships: Synoptic History and Archaeological
Evidence, 1500-1763," in Tacachale: Essays on the Invasions of Florida and
their horses, weapons, and mannerisms. The local indigenous communities
understood the visitors might come for precious metals. They knew that angering
the Spaniards could result in horrible consequences for the community. The
Guale knew what to expect, but despite past experiences, the Guale were not
prepared to meet the demands of the new arrivals. More importantly, the Guale
provided a significant challenge to the first missionaries. In the end, the
Spaniards were not prepared to meet the needs of the Guale.
Despite the advantages of advanced technology, draft animals, and
particularly effective pathogens, the Spaniards found it difficult to subdue the
people and land north of Florida. The missionaries dispatched to Florida were
not amateurs. With decades of experience and success throughout the New
World, the Jesuits had no reason to believe the Guale would be any different.
However, the northern frontier communities provided unusual challenges for the
first missionaries. The Jesuits quickly realized that to change the Guale's
religion, the Jesuits had to first alter their culture.1o
Unlike the Timucuan, Apalachee, and other Indian communities in
northern Florida, the Guale did not subsist on agriculture." Hunting and
gathering did not allow for a sedentary lifestyle and this proved problematic for
Southeastern Georgia during the Historic Period, Jerald T. Milanich and Samuel
Proctor, eds. (Gainesville: The University Presses of Florida, 1978), 1-18. The French
also interacted with Natives in present Georgia prior to permanent settlement. John T.
McGrath, The French in Early Florida: In The Eye of the Hurricane (Gainesville:
University Press of Florida, 2000).
10 Eugene Lyon, The Enterprise of Florida, 154-155.
11 John R. Swanton, The Indians of the Southeastern United States (Washington
D. C.: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1946), 135-136.
the Spaniards. The Guale's mobility made it difficult for the first missionaries to
maintain their schedule of catechisms, masses, and other ceremonies. The
Jesuits believed that before they could spread their faith they first had to sow the
seeds of agriculture in hopes of fostering a community capable of participating in
the rituals of their religion. In all likelihood, these first Spaniards introduced the
Guale to the cultivation of wheat, with which the missionaries could teach the
Guale to make sacramental bread. Although wheat was a necessity for religious
ceremonies, few Guale actually consumed or benefited from the new crop. Early
on, the Guale proved reluctant to accept these suggested changes.12 The
missionaries believed that by getting the Guale to adopt agriculture, the Natives
would become healthier, enjoy more free time, and generally become a stronger
society. Additionally, the adoption of agriculture promised to tie the Guale to the
land. Experience had taught the Europeans that constant mobility not only made
it difficult to convert Natives but also created a social independence that
countered the Spaniards' ancillary goals of imposing a morality that frowned
upon cultural oddities like polygamy and matrilineal lines of descent. Natives on
the move provided numerous challenges for the proselytizers.
Initially, the Guale refused a more sedentary life, and in part, this led to
Spain's early failure on the northern frontier. Many Spanish officials saw the
coastal region as a potential site for future settlement. As early as 1566, St.
Augustine founder Pedro Men6ndez reported to royal officials in Spain his hopes
for expanding onto Guale territory. Men6ndez understood the value of
12 Lewis H. Larson Jr., "Historic Guale Indians of the Georgia Coast and the
Impact on the Spanish Mission Effort," in Tacachale, 122-123.
settlements on the periphery and realized that new ventures required a willing
and helpful native population.13 Just a year old, St. Augustine could not supply
the people and money to build a new outpost when officials first considered
northward expansion. Conversion seemed the best alternative to settlement. If
the Spaniards could convert the Guale, then the government in Florida could
more easily exert its authority northward.14 In theory, this plan seemed logical,
but the Spaniards quickly learned the difficulties in settling by proxy.
In 6 years with the Guale, the Jesuits managed to convert only six
individuals; four children and two on their deathbed as they accepted the
Catholic faith.15 Partly because of their failure in Florida, Spain replaced the
Jesuit missionaries with Franciscans in 1572.16 The astounding failure of the
Jesuits raises many questions. It is often assumed that when Europeans entered
native communities of the Southeast and Caribbean they quickly destroyed a
culture though a mixture of disease, war, enslavement, and other violent acts.
The Guale's experience refutes this basic assumption. That the Jesuits
thoroughly failed in their efforts to convert the Guale suggests that either the
13 Lyon, The Enterprise of Florida, 155.
14 In his 1586 narrative on Florida, Juan Rogel argues that Florida's success
depended on creating and maintaining a large population. According to Rogel, loyal,
Christian Indians seemed the logical and most likely alternative to Spanish immigration.
Lyon, The Enterprise of Florida, 205.
15 James Axtell, The Indians' New South : Cultural Change in the Colonial
Southeast (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997), 26.
16 Although the Jesuits failed to convert many Natives, they succeeded in placing
a Spanish presence on a remarkably large area of the Southeast, settling as far north as
the Chesapeake. Unfortunately for the Spaniards, the Jesuits were the first Europeans
many Natives directly. Thus, their offensive behavior tempered their feelings on the new
arrivals. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America, 71-73.
Guale were stronger and more cunning than the Spaniards, or the Jesuits had a
greater respect for their culture and religion than typically assumed. Either way,
the Franciscan replacements accomplished little more than their predecessors.
The new missionaries entered an area that was fairly familiar to Spanish
officials. Still, the Guale's living habits made proselytizing a difficult task. Unlike
their predecessors, the Franciscans arrived with soldiers in tow. Only a few
soldiers came to protect the missionaries, but their presence caused concern
within the small communities. Immediately after their arrival, Guale residents
complained that the soldiers stole their food and assaulted the town's female
residents.17 With additional guests, it suddenly became the Guale's
responsibility to feed the missionaries and soldiers. Clearly too busy to plant their
own crops, the Franciscans imposed sustainable agriculture on the Guale.
Like the Jesuits before them, the Franciscans believed that by getting the
Guale to adopt agriculture, the Natives would enjoy a healthier life and gradually
become a stronger, more Catholic society. If the Guale began planting foodstuffs,
the missionaries could be assured of a constant food supply for themselves, and a
community tied to the land, within earshot of the church bells or demands of the
friars. In short, the missionaries came to save souls, but to accomplish this goal
they first had to transform Guale culture and society. The Guale were not
receptive to these new suggestions. As the Spanish had found in other areas of
their empire, natives rarely accepted outright the changes demanded by a new
religion or political authority. After attempting to alter their lifestyle by
17 Axtell, The Indians'New South, 26.
instituting a new religion and insisting upon a new morality, the Franciscans
gradually tested the Guale's patience.
Anger at the Spaniards reached a crescendo in 1577 when a revolt forced the
Spaniards from their outpost at Santa Elena. In a familiar scene, Spanish
soldiers entered a local pueblo, demanded the residents provide them with
provisions, and after an argument violence erupted. The details of the
confrontation are not important, but in the end, the Indians captured the Spanish
fort and nearly thirty people were killed. According to one witness, after a volley
of fire between the Spaniards and Indians, Indian women approached the fort
"with great wailing and weeping," and declared the Spaniards must provide them
with assistance for "their husbands had been killed, that he [the Spanish General]
must take them away from there." The general refused to help the women and,
according to the report, "they seized him, took him by force."18 Clearly, Spain's
tactics in the backcountry required significant adaptation to the new
environment. The Spaniards would not be able to simply conquer the northern
frontier and following the conflict at Santa Elena, relations with Indian
communities continued to deteriorate.
In 1597, the Guale violently rejected the Spaniards in a revolt that consumed
the entire region. Spanish officials described an uprising savagely executed that
spared no Spaniard. One eyewitness recalled an incident in which Guale
8 Archivo General de Indias 1-1-1/19, R. 27. Don Crist6bal de Eraso Summon a
Junta on Hearing of the Rebellion of the Florida Indians, January 13, 1577. Hereafter,
documents from this collection will be abbreviated as AGI. Translations of the testimony
are also found in Jeannette Thurber Connor, trans. and ed., Colonial Records of Spanish
Florida: Letters and Reports of Governors and Secular Persons (Deland, FL: The
Florida State Historical Society, 1925), 193-202.
residents "took [Fray Antonio] from his doctrine house and using clubs,
treacherously struck him many times. He was severely stoned and many persons
hit him on the face."19 The uprising lasted several days and when the violence
ended, warriors had killed five of the six missionaries and destroyed a chain of
missions along the Georgia coast.20 Although the Spanish ultimately gained
revenge for the native offensive, their encounter with the Guale marked the first
of many failed attempts to settle the Georgia frontier. For the Guale, this decisive
victory came at a steep price.
Within a year, the Spanish returned, punished those who revolted, and
continued their attempts to change the Guale. The Spaniards believed altering
Guale society the most direct way to prevent future uprisings. When the
Franciscans investigated the causes of the revolt, they were surprised to learn
that the Guale were not upset at the labor requirements or Spain's attempts at
changing their religious beliefs. According to Don Juanillo, leader of the
uprising, Guale warriors attacked the missionaries because they attempted to
"take away our women, leaving us only the one and perpetual, forbidding us to
exchange her."21 Although the Catholic insistence on monogamy may have been
an irritant to the Guale warriors, it seems unlikely that this policy led to the
devastating uprising. The Catholic prohibition on sexual freedom marked only
19 James W. Covington, ed. Pirates, Indians and Spaniards: Father Escobedo's
"La Florida" (St. Petersburg, FL : Great Outdoors Publishing Co, 1963), 33.
20 Jerald T. Milanich, Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe
(Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995), 172-173.
21 Caraballido Barcia & Andres Gonzales de Zufiiga, Chronological History of the
Continent of Florida (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1951, rpt.), 182.
one aspect of the Spaniards' attempt at cultural transformation. Despite the
missionaries' losses, the Catholics returned to Guale determined to expand
Spanish settlement through Christianization. The government in St. Augustine,
hoping to secure its place among the native communities to the north, had an
interest in assuring the success of the missions.22
When new missionaries returned after the revolt, Spain exerted additional
pressure on the Guale communities. Instead of allowing the Guale their
independence, this third wave of missionaries came with orders, objectives, and
officials from St. Augustine. After the revolt, the Spanish government decided to
take a more assertive role in the region. If Spain could expand the boundaries of
Florida by establishing a successful outpost in Guale, the Spaniards could begin
developing a larger Indian trade, an enterprise that promised substantial
rewards. Following the standard procedure, the Spaniards again turned to
missionaries to launch the new venture.
By 1602, the Franciscans claimed 1,200 Christians lived within the Guale
territory.23 Because accepting the Catholic faith required certain cultural changes
like the acceptance of monogamous relationships, most Guale converted with
reservations. Others, accepted the new faith, but only as an adjunct to their
traditional spiritual beliefs. Despite this resistance, the Spaniards succeeded in
22 The Spanish, like the English and French, frequently claimed ownership or a
controlling sphere of influence wherever allied Native communities lived. This quasi-
control of land, as proposed by Menindez in 1566, ultimately became a central argument
in the struggle for Georgia.
23 Swanton., The Indians of the Southeastern United States, 136.
exacting some cultural transformations, changes that proved significant to the
Archaeological evidence suggests that the Guale eventually turned to
agriculture as the missionaries had hoped. Unfortunately, this change caused a
decline in the health and well being of the community. Before the Spanish
arrived, the Guale managed to escape the pathogens that ravaged so many
cultures throughout the region. When the Guale turned to agriculture they began
living more sedentary lives and this created a new set of challenges. Recent
archaeological excavations have uncovered the nature of these hardships.24 As
the Guale turned to agriculture, their population increased, as their mobility
declined. The more stationary the community, the more likely the Guale had to
deal with infectious diseases. In addition, if the community gradually became
tied to the land, its contact with other nations in the region also declined, further
isolating the Guale.25
St. Augustine also attempted to exert an element of imperial rule over the
Guale. In 1604, Florida governor Ibarra was asked by a Guale mico, or king, to
24 David Hurst Thomas, St. Catherines, An Island In Times (Atlanta: Georgia
Humanities Council, 1988).
25 Skeletal remains that date from the mid-seventeenth century suggest a
decrease in bone and muscle growth as a result in the decline of protein consumption
associated with the dietary changes. Archaeologists believe this is indicative of the diet
change brought by the Spaniards. It is also interesting to note that these studies
examined bodies buried in Christian manner. Lewis H. Larson Jr., "Historic Guale
Indians of the Georgia Coast and the Impact on the Spanish Mission Effort ," in
Tacachale, 120-139 and Thomas, St. Catherines, An Island in Time.
intervene in a matter of local politics.26 The complaint concerned several
individuals who fled the area after committing wrongs against the offended mico.
The fugitives allegedly sought the protection of another mico in the area and the
Guale leader wanted Florida's assistance in returning these men. To this request,
Governor Ibarra wrote, "I order and command the micos, caciques, mandadores,
and remaining principals of all that province to give him all the support and aid
[and] I will order anyone who does the contrary to be punished publically."27
Within his order, Ibarra demonstrated two important aspects of Spain's early
involvement with Georgia's Native communities. Ibarra asserted, or at least
assumed, authority over the land despite Spain's extremely limited presence.
Additionally, the governor's order suggested that the Spanish accept an element
of local control within the native communities. While this power could be
stripped at the request of a Spanish friar, officials in St. Augustine recognized
Guale leadership when convenient.28
Despite the Guale's early history of resistance, Spain's assumption of
authority provided the Guale with certain advantages. In 1661, the neighboring
26 John E. Worth, The Struggle For the Georgia Coast: An Eighteenth-Century
Spanish Retrospective on Guale and Mocoma (New York: American Museum of Natural
History, 1995), 73.
28 Amy Turner Bushnell argues that the Spain based this respect for Indian
power structures on a medieval rationale whereby the proper way to "govern a country
was to obtain the allegiance of its natural lords and through them the loyalty of their
vassals." In addition, Spain legitimized its conquests by recognizing that Native
Americans, though pagan, conformed to "natural law" as understood by Catholic
theology. Therefore, Native independence had to be recognized, if only on a superficial
level. Amy Turner Bushnell, "Ruling 'the Republic of Indians' in Seventeenth-Century
Florida," in Powahatan's Mantle, Peter H. Wood, A. Waselkov, and Thomas Hatley, eds.
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 139.
Chichimeco nation attacked Guale. During the invasion, the Chichimeco sacked
"the churches and convents...killing the Christian Indians."29 The reasons for the
attack are not clear, but chronic warfare between the Native communities in
Georgia, as elsewhere, remained standard throughout the historic era. Whether
the Chichimeco believed the Guale had conspired with the Spaniards and thus
posed a threat to Chichimeco independence is not clear. Regardless of motive,
the attack further weakened the Guale, but this time the Spaniards came to
defend the embattled Guale. Unfortunately, Florida could not provide the
resources needed to repel future invaders and those who survived the attack were
removed to Mission San Joseph de Sapala on what is now Sapelo Island,
Georgia.30 However, the Spaniards expected something in return for the
protection they provided.
By the middle of the seventeenth century, Spain instituted the
repartimiento, a labor-tribute system, for residents in the Guale territories.
Initially, Spain avoided tribute requirements as they seemed unnecessary for
Florida and were difficult to institute. However, as St. Augustine faced continued
threats from British privateers, stronger defenses had to be constructed. By 1665,
officials in St. Augustine requested that missionaries send the most able-bodied
warriors to St. Augustine. When the Guale arrived in St. Augustine, they were
ordered to aid Spanish soldiers in their frequent battles against the Timucuan
and Apalachee of western Florida and to aid in the construction of the new stone
29 The nation known to the Spaniards as the Chichimeco in 1661 were later called
the Westo by the British. Worth, The Strugglefor the Georgia Coast, 15.
30 Ibid., 16.
fort, Castillo San Marcos.31 Drained of their strongest soldiers and hunters, the
Guale fell deeper into economic and spiritual poverty. This depression coincided
with the founding of Charles Town.
When the English first settled near the Guale in 1670, the natives found
themselves with a surprisingly new set of challenges. Although the Guale had
previously expelled the Spaniards from their territory, the British assumed the
Guale were allied with Spain and a potentially hostile nation. Because the Guale
lived in towns with Catholic missions, the English considered all Guale to be
Catholic and thus a threat to their Protestant beliefs. Had a British agent
investigated the Guale's history with the Spaniards, he might have felt differently
about a nation that was forced into poverty by their local and regional
adversaries. Instead, the British found the Guale guilty by their association with
When they settled Charles Town, the British sought the removal of any
Spanish presence or influence over the people and land that was declared a part
of Carolina.32 Thus, when the British expanded their settlements southward, the
Guale became immediate targets for the British and Indian allies who conducted
slave raids. While the English moved closer to the Guale, Spain began a series of
costly disputes with native communities in western Florida. Charles Town's
31 Worth, The Strugglefor the Georgia Coast, 71. See also John E. Worth,
"Prelude to Abandonment: The Interior Provinces of Early Seventeenth Century
Georgia," Early Georgia: Journalfor the Society of Georgia Archaeology 21 (1993): 1-
32 The initial southern boundary of Carolina extended to present-day Cape
Canaveral, Florida. Clearly the Spanish disagreed with this assumption and much of the
fight for Georgia centered on these claims. Discussion of England's assumed boundary
appears in following chapters.
founding did not instantly upset existing alliances and trade networks between
the Spaniards and the Natives. Yet, whenever any third party entered in the
region, a minor disagreement had the potential to upset the already difficult
peace. Between 1675 and 1680, Spaniards alienated many of their Native allies,
especially the Apalachee.33
Like the Guale, the Apalachee hosted Franciscan missionaries, but unlike
the areas north of St. Augustine, many secular Spaniards settled the Apalachee
region, where they operated cattle ranches. By the middle of the 1670s, the
presence of ranchers and other interlopers created significant tensions with the
local native populations.34 Spaniards claiming ownership of land the Apalachee
and others considered theirs led to obvious disagreements. Around the same
time, construction on the Castillo San Marcos began in St. Augustine. As the
local population could not provide the necessary labor to build the stone fort,
authorities required natives to assist in its construction. Guale, Apalachee,
Timucuan, and other natives traveled to the presidio to work on the fort. In
Apalachee Province, many received their orders during a period of civil strife. As
Spain ordered Apalachee warriors to travel to St. Augustine and work on the
city's defenses, the province became more vulnerable to English incursions and
further exploitation by the Spaniards.
33 The Spaniards also harmed any potential trading networks between ST.
Augustine and Charles Town. As early as 1688, English traders complained of dishonest
trading by the Spaniards. See Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial
South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (New York: W. W. Norton and
Company, 1974), 49-50.
34 John H. Hann and Bonnie G. McEwan, The Apalachee Indians and Mission
San Luis (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998): 142.
As early as 1677, Chisca warriors from north of the Guale region,
encouraged by English traders, began a series of slave raids throughout
Apalachee province.35 What happened to the Apalachee proved only the
beginning of English sponsored raids on Native communities associated with the
Spanish crown. For the next century, client indigenous communities attacked
one another at the urging of their respective European ally.36 While Spain used
its Indian allies to help build defenses in St. Augustine, officials in Charles Town
distributed arms and ammunition to be used against those who posed a threat to
Carolina's southern frontier. When the English settled Carolina, it became clear
that Spain had failed to create an Indian alliance that could be used for defensive
purposes as the English found Carolina an area devoid of other European
settlements. Although the Spaniards had more than a century of experience with
the communities of the lower southeast, they seemed unprepared to defend their
territory when the English arrived. North of Apalachee province and closer to
Charles Town, communities like the Guale provided a stark warning of future
Considering their difficult history with the Spaniards, it might be expected
that the Guale would have greeted Spain's neglect with an amount of glee.
35 Ibid, 143.
36 By 1680, Carolina began experimenting with buffer zones constructed of Indian
communities. Savannah Town became one of the first areas the English encouraged
Natives to occupy to in hopes that the human barrier would prevent Spanish movement
northward. Alan Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade (New Haven: Yale University Press,
2002), 73. What happened between the Carolinians and their native partners mirrored
activities in New York where several European nations vied for the same land and the
favor of the Five Nations. Daniel K. Richter, "Cultural Brokers and Intercultural
Politics: NewYork-Iroquois Relations, 1664-1701," The Journal ofAmerican History 75
(June, 1988): 41.
Unfortunately for the Guale, Spain's challenger did not come to offer better trade
agreements or respect for territorial boundaries; the British came to enslave.
Prior to Spain's entrance, the Guale lived apart from other communities. They
traded with others throughout the region, but close association with other
nations appears to have played a minimal role in Guale society. Furthermore,
that they lived in the coastal lowlands meant few would-be enemies ever bothered
to attack the Guale.37 When the missionaries arrived, the Guale found themselves
further isolated from neighboring cultures. Their seclusion may have hindered
trading partnerships, but life on isolated coastal areas had some important
advantages. Between the time of Charles Town's founding and Spain's
abandonment of St. Simons, central Georgia's indigenous populations were
dramatically thinned by an internal slave trade sponsored by the English. The
slavers first went after Spain's allies, but avoided those living on the coastal
Although the colonial government declared Indian enslavement illegal in
1672, an Indian slave trade, sponsored by English entrepreneurs, quickly became
the most important industry in South Carolina's formative years.38 For the Guale
and others in the region, the Westo provided the most formidable adversary in
the Indian slave trade.39 Although in 1670 South Carolina Governor William
37 Worth, "Prelude to Abandonment," 29.
38 Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade, 56. John T. Juricek, "The Westo Indians,"
Ethnohistory 11 (Spring, 1964): 134-173.
39 Here, the term Westo is used to refer to the people the Spaniards called the
Chichimecos. As the British gradually built a working relationship with this nation, the
name they chose for these people became the more widely used. In June, 1672, the
Carolina Proprietors passed a regulation that included the following, "Noe Indian upon
Sayle described the Westo as "reputed to be Man eaters, [who] had ruinated ye
place," Carolinians saw an advantage in having the Westo help achieve their
goals.4o Westo aggressiveness was undoubtedly facilitated by their relationship
with Virginia traders. After meeting members of the Westo nation in 1674,
Carolina's first Indian Agent, Henry Woodward, reported that the Westo traded
deerskins to Virginians for arms and ammunition.41 The partnership between
Carolina and the Westos frequently seemed ill advised and dangerous for the
Carolinians, as the colony was young and weak, but the potential return on a
Westo trading alliance seemed worth the risk. Such plans for future economic
activity threatened the security of the Spaniards and the Guale.
The arrival of an additional hostile European nation proved the breaking
point for most of the Guale. In 1675, Florida Governor Francisco de Salazar
estimated that only 506 Natives lived in the entire Guale region. Many of the
Guale had either left the area and joined other communities or fell victim to the
slave raiders patrolling the region. The few that remained in the area constantly
sought the protection of the Spanish government. Gradually, as the British and
their slave raiders moved closer, the Spanish could only offer removal as
protection from these new threats as even they questioned their own safety.42
any occasion or pretence whatsoever shall be made a Slave, or without his owne consent
carried out of Carolina."
40Juricek, "The Westo Indians," 135.
41 Ibid., 135-137. W. Stitt Robinson, ed. North and South Carolina Treaties,
1654-1756, Vol. 13 of Early American Indian Documents: Treaties and Laws, 1607-1789
(Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 2001), 18-20.
42 Instead of dictating trade policy to the Native communities in Georgia,
members of the Creek nation actually expelled Spanish officials from their territory in
Spanish officials moved some of the Guale to St. Augustine where many of the
nation's warriors had labored for years, while others retreated to Georgia's
coastal islands.43 After resisting the efforts of Spanish missions and revolting
against the demands of the Florida government, the Guale needed Spain's
assistance for survival.
Frustrated at their continued belligerence over trading issues and land
disputes, Carolina declared war against the Westo in 1680. However, by this time
the English and other Native allies had essentially denuded central Georgia of its
Native populations.44 The Guale it seemed, had few options. Some chose to try
their chances with the other communities associated with the English.
The Guale were not the first to encounter the Spaniards of Florida, although
their story provides an excellent introduction to Spanish-Native interactions on
the southeastern frontier. When the Guale forced the Spanish missionaries off
their land in the late sixteenth century, Spain's weaknesses and future difficulties
in expanding settlements and maintaining territory was exposed. As the English
discovered over a century later, success on the frontier required constructive
relationships with the Native populations. Because many Native cultures
considered Georgia home, if Spain wanted to take control of the land it either had
to make peace with the largest communities or subjugate them by force. Florida
1685. When the Spanish left, the Creeks invited the newly settled British merchants of
South Carolina. See, William R. Nester, The Great Frontier War (Westport: Praeger,
2000) 20-21. Robinson, ed., North and South Carolina Treaties, 1654-1756, Vol. 13, 16.
43 Larson, Lewis H., Jr. "Historic Guale Indians of the Georgia Coast," 136. Many
Guale simplyjoined other neighboring nations, particularly in communities of the Lower
44 Worth, The Strugglefor the Georgia Coast, 34-35.
officials either lacked the desire to make peace with the Natives or were unwilling
to dispense the diplomatic favors to foster alliances with the people of Georgia.
If the Spaniards wanted to take Georgia by force, they first had to develop a
much larger and stronger militia. This force had to be utilized before the English
settled Charles Town. Because neither option was considered or allowed to reach
fruition, Spain's tenure in Georgia before the period of contestation, essentially
ended with the abandonment of the missions along coastal Georgia and the
evacuation from their homes. Spain's experience with the Guale illustrates the
problems Europeans dealt with on the frontier.
Thirty years after the Guale left St. Simons Island, James Oglethorpe set
foot on land he intended to settle as Georgia. The Guale may have left the area
just decades earlier, but in 1733, Oglethorpe encountered native communities on
the verge of entering their second century of dealing with Europeans.45
Oglethorpe recognized Native ownership of land and promised to respect existing
borders. Yet, it is unlikely he truly understood or appreciated the tolls exacted by
centuries of European meddling in the affairs of Georgia's Native populations.
British observers correctly identified the Georgia territory as a frontier, but few, if
any, understood or remembered how the area became a frontier. When
Oglethorpe planted his kingdom's colors on the shore of the Savannah River, he
encountered a human population in a state of flux. In the 1730s, long standing
alliances between Natives and the French, English or Spanish already existed, but
45 Indeed, Oglethorpe's first encounter with an Indian came in 1733 when the
colony's founder met with Tomochichi on Yamacraw Bluff. Prior to their meeting,
Oglethorpe only had a superficial knowledge of the local native communities. Sweet,
"Negotiating a Southeastern Middle Ground," 18-21.
when Georgia assumed its position on the landscape, the strength of many of
these alliances had to endure serious, and sometimes fatal tensions. Arguably, if
Spain cultivated better relationships with the Native communities in Georgia and
displayed a greater interest in establishing trading partnerships, Oglethorpe
might never have set foot on the Georgia coast in 1732.
As it happened, Florida remained an unimportant outpost of the Spanish
empire. St. Augustine's large stone fort suggested grand plans for the presidio,
but such ambitions were not realized. The land north of St. Augustine created a
periphery and when the English founded Georgia its designated land entailed the
periphery of Carolina. Thus, the apparent emptiness and distance between
settlements assured Georgia's beginnings would be difficult.
England's success in Georgia required constructive relationships with the
colony's Native populations. When the Guale disappeared, other Native
communities took their place. Once the English removed much of the area's
human population through slave raids, other Native communities re-settled the
region.46 Wars between Natives and Europeans also reshaped Georgia's human
geography. In many ways, the frontier the English hoped to settle in 1733 had
recently become a secondary frontier. When Oglethorpe arrived, he laid claim to
a land that had already witnessed nearly two hundred years of European and
Native American interaction. During these two centuries, each side learned a
considerable amount about the other. The conflicts between the Spanish,
English, and Indians prior to Oglethorpe's arrival changed the land, the power of
46 Among those to take advantage of the Guale removal were the Yamacraw, the
nation England recognized as the original inhabitants of coastal Georgia.
its people, and the nature of this particular frontier. When Oglethorpe
acknowledged the authority or rights of a particular Indian community, that
community became powerful at the expense of people like the Guale. The story of
the Guale does not explain what happened to all Native communities before
Georgia's founding, but it provides some insight into the radical changes that
occurred prior to the English venture.
Oglethorpe may have had plans for building a colony on new land. In
reality, his colony was situated within an old world. In the 1730s, Georgia's
history included people already influenced by outsiders and nations shattered by
alliances and wars. The people Oglethorpe encountered were seasoned veterans
in the machinations of European colonialism. Oglethorpe arrived with little
practical experience in dealing with the controversies of the frontier. The unique
problems Georgia's founders encountered on the ground simply mirrored and
complicated the tense diplomatic activities regarding the new colony. When
Spain left the Guale region in 1702 and war followed, historical memory became
an instant casualty. With Spain's departure, the land that became Georgia was
ready for a new wave of European and Native settlement.
THE FIGHT BEFORE COLONIZATION, 1702-1733
Europe did not base all of its American ventures on the hopes of instant
reward through the discovery of precious metals nor did it build colonies as a
valve to release various societal pressures. Sometimes, Europe created colonies
to act as a defensive mechanism, founded to reduce anxiety over real or perceived
threats to other interests. These colonies might have been established to protect
a settlement of greater value or to prevent a nation from taking land that another
might claim; Georgia was such an outpost. England hoped the new colony could
provide security for South Carolina while anchoring British imperial claims to a
contested region. The 1732 charter that created Georgia was not the first attempt
to fill the space between Carolina and Florida.
Since the sixteenth century, England, Spain, and France considered ways to
occupy the open frontier between Florida and Carolina. Between the beginning
of Queen Anne's War in 1702 and Georgia's founding each nation made various
attempts to claim the land. England expressed an interest in Georgia prior to
Queen Anne's War, but did not devote significant resources to that initiative.
How Europeans planned to occupy the land before the English created Georgia is
an important aspect to the larger contest for the southeastern frontier.1 The
1 Numerous historians have acknowledged Georgia was built to create a buffer
between two nations. Lanning, A Diplomatic History of Georgia; Crane, Southern
Frontier; Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America are just a few of the major
works to consider the challenges of the colony as a buffer zone. This work expands the
ravages of Carolina's Indian slave trade coupled with Spain's withdrawal from its
missions north of St. Augustine eliminated much of the human population that
lived on the contested land near the coast.2 In many ways, events of the late
seventeenth century created a frontier between the two nations. Few outposts,
settlements, or other improvements existed between Florida and the settled
regions of Carolina well into the late seventeenth century. When the Spaniards
left the Guale region in 1702, a European presence between St. Augustine and
Charleston nearly disappeared.
The history of conflict, exploration, and intentions to settle the area helped
determine where and how each nation drew its battle lines over the controversial
tract of land between Carolina and Florida. When France and Spain complained
about Georgia's presence or plotted its destruction, excuses for aggression
frequently rested on historical claims to the land within Georgia's borders. If one
nation could not control the territory at the end of a particular battle, its
historical fingerprints or previous connection to the land could be used in future
disputes for the contested ground.
The early struggles for Georgia ultimately marked the nature of imperial
conflict for the land and outlined the arguments for gaining access to that
frontier. After Georgia's founding, France and Spain claimed partial right to
England's new venture. At various times, all three powers sought control of the
idea of the buffer zone to show how the struggle for Georgia happened to be only one
part of a larger international struggle of imperial rivalry.
2 In the absence or deterioration of earlier Indian nations, new communities
emerged on the Southern frontier in the early eighteenth century like the Westo and
Yamacraw. The "birth" of the Westo is described in Steele, Warpaths, 51-52.
territory between the Altamaha and Savannah Rivers. Sometimes, plots to
expand one's colonial holdings failed to leave Europe. Other designs enjoyed
funding, settlers, and the support of existing colonies, but prior to Georgia's
founding, no plan became a reality.3 In part, these early plans faced stiff
opposition from Europe's existing North American colonies. Still, other events
prevented settlement expansion in the Southeast.
International conflict coupled with local wars and a competitive Indian
trade prevented the realization of many planned settlements. At the close of the
seventeenth century, Spain left its last coastal outposts in the area that became
Georgia. The retreating Spaniards were literally pursued by events that occurred
half a world away. The founding of Louisiana in 1699, the War of Spanish
Succession two years later, and the Yamasee War in 1715 became seminal events
in the race to fill the Southeastern frontier.4 Indian alliances, missionary
outposts, and a variety of schemes highlighted European activity during the three
decades prior to Georgia's founding. Spain based its claim to Georgia's land on
the accomplishments of the earliest explorers who traversed the area. Despite its
historical connection to the land, Spain assumed a defensive role during much of
Spain dated its historical links to the land that became Georgia more than a
century before the settlement of Charleston in 1670. When Spanish soldiers
escorted the remaining Guale to St. Augustine in 1684, they abandoned their
3 That is, no significant or permanent colony or outpost came before Georgia.
4 In the American colonies, the War of the Spanish Succession was known as
Queen Anne's War. Each term is used interchangeably throughout this work.
position on the barrier island, but did not renounce ownership of the land.5
Within 20 years, Spain evacuated many outposts so that the government in
Florida could consolidate its forces in St. Augustine. Since Carolina's founding,
Spain's influence among the northern Native communities gradually waned and
the need to support its vast system of missions increasingly became a burden on
St. Augustine's coffers.6 Still, Spain based its right to return and resume
colonization of this land on its history of earlier settlement and discovery of the
As the British gradually entered southern North America, Spain did not
make immediate plans to expand its holdings in Florida. Throughout the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Florida remained a tiny concern on Spain's
northern frontier. St. Augustine's primary goal focused on the protection of
passing ships that carried Spanish treasure. In a sense, the Spaniards built St.
Augustine to guard a different kind of frontier, but before they could protect its
shipping lines, the Spaniards first had to deal with Florida's earliest European
settlers, the French.
Under the leadership of Jean Ribault, a group of French Huguenots built a
colony near present day Jacksonville in 1562.7 The Spaniards saw the French
5 Hudson, The Southeastern Indians, 435-436.
6 Erratic and divisive policies by Florida's governors also caused a deterioration of
Indian relations. In particular, difficulties between Governor Joseph de Ziiiga and the
Apalachee in 1701 led to a tense situation that threatened regional peace while at the
same time, Vitchuco communities began accepting gifts and diplomatic overtures of the
English. See TePaske, The Governorship of Spanish Florida, 194-196.
7 Lyon, The Enterprise of Florida, 22. For an overview of French activities in
sixteenth century Florida, see: McGrath, The French in Early Florida: In the Eye of the
Hurricane (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000).
settlement as an illegal incursion on lands they already claimed. Spain based its
ownership of Florida on expeditions mounted in the early sixteenth century, yet
when the French settled in North Florida, the doctrine of first discovery seemed
of little importance to the prospective newcomers.8 Arguments over which side
saw what land first played a role in European diplomacy, but meant little in
North America. When the Spanish returned to Florida in 1565, they did not come
to debate the rights of discovery, but to evict the interlopers. After the Spaniards
destroyed the French and their outpost known as Fort Caroline, they built St.
Augustine and planned to stay despite the obvious difficulties in maintaining a
presence on the peninsula.
Florida did not have precious metals and when the Spaniards arrived the
local Indians, the Timucua, did not immediately accept the newcomers. Nor, as
Ponce De Leon discovered decades earlier, did Florida contain the mythical
Fountain of Youth. St. Augustine did however, have poor soil, a difficult climate,
and an endless supply of hungry insects. To many, its location on the Atlantic
coast seemed the only useful feature of the new settlement. After loading its
vessels with gold mined from South and Central America, ships of the Spanish
Main began a perilous journey back to Spain. Along the way, the passing ships
8 Initially, Spain based its North American claim on the papal donations of 1493
that were outlined in the Treaty of Tordesillas, but later Spain used the legal basis of first
discovery as used by Protestant nations. For a thorough investigation on the basis of
European land claims see, John Juricek, "English Claims in North America to 1660: A
Study in Legal and Constitutional History," (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1970), 8.
Often, notions of discovery and possession were used interchangeably. See, John T.
Juricek, "English Territorial Claims in North America Under Elizabeth and the Early
Stuarts," Terra Incognitae 7 (1976): 7-22. Patricia Seed, "Taking Possession and
Reading Texts: Establishing the Authority of Overseas Empires," William and Mary
Quarterly 49 (April, 1992): 183-209.
frequently encountered privateers. Situated near the Gulf Stream, a presence in
St. Augustine had the potential to protect the passing ships. As such, the Florida
town acted more as an outpost than a settlement.
From the outset, Florida's governors intended to expand their settlements.
Between St. Augustine's founding in 1565 and the events of 1702, Spain's
preferred method of expansion centered on the construction of Catholic
missions.9 When Spanish settlers moved beyond St. Augustine, they typically
chose areas already "softened" by the work of Catholic missionaries. As the
mission system began to shrink, hopes for future growth also faded.10 A wretched
economy, poor management, and corruption also weakened the colony.
Spain briefly occupied Georgia's coastal islands with small military outposts
and Catholic missions, but none of these ventures came close to achieving
permanence. After founding St. Augustine, Spain had to contend with
dissatisfied Indian communities, occasional attacks by sea, and an inability to
draw any measurable profit from the land. St. Augustine nearly collapsed
following a 1586 attack by the famed English privateer Sir Francis Drake. When
Drake landed, the citizens and soldiers of the Spanish presidio retreated into the
9 Missions first converted the Natives. Through conversion the Spaniards
attempted to "civilize" the Indians and, as Herbert Bolton and others have made clear
once civilized, the Indian could be easily exploited for the benefit of the Spanish
government. Herbet E. Bolton, "The Mission as a Frontier Institution in the Spanish-
American Colonies," The American Historical Review 23 (October, 1917): 43-44.
Michael Gannon, The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida, 1513-
1870 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1965).
10 This only generally describes hopes for external expansion and does not begin
to consider the enormous internal problems in St. Augustine in the late sixteenth and
early seventeenth centuries. Amy Bushnell, The King's Coffer: Proprietors of the
Spanish Florida Treasury, 1565-1702 (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1981).
wilderness while the invaders burned and looted the city. According to official
reports, Drake took with him all the slaves, ships, and gold that belonged to the
colony.11 After Drake's visit, the Spaniards lacked any resources or desire to
expand beyond St. Augustine.
Despite the dawning realization that the Florida settlement would not bring
wealth and fame, colonial officials imagined an expansive Florida through much
of the seventeenth century. In 16oo, authorities considered reviving earlier plans
to expand northward and build a colony on the Chesapeake. Other plans
envisioned the construction of a road to link Florida and Mexico.12 To many,
expansion meant increased security. If Spain could build several cities in the
Southeast then the vulnerability of its northern American frontier would shrink.
Although the ideas of the seventeenth century failed to materialize, Spain's plans
for points beyond St. Augustine later played an important role in legal arguments
against British colonization in the Southeast. Before Spain could complain of
British actions, however, it had to face the possibility of the colony's destruction.
Shortly after the Spaniards and remaining Guale left St. Simons Island in 1702,
British soldiers pursued them to St. Augustine.
When Carolina governor James Moore attacked St. Augustine in November
1702, inter-colonial rivalries exploded into global politics and war. As Spaniards
mourned the passing of Charles II in March, Europe erupted into a conflict
known as the War of Spanish Succession. As battle began in Europe in the
11 AGI 54-1-34/15 (July 4, 1586) St. Augustine to Council of Indies. See also, John
Sugden, Sir Francis Drake (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1990), 198.
12 Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America, 82.
spring, authorities in Carolina began fortifying the colony's defenses and
preparing to move on Florida. In Europe, England went to war in hopes of
preventing a Franco-Spanish alliance that had the potential to marginalize
English power.13 At the time of Moore's attack, concerns in Europe assumed a
regional importance. Two months earlier, Moore warned that if England did not
allow an invasion of St. Augustine, the French would send troops and ships to
fortify the Spanish outpost and possibly launch a counter-offensive against the
In October, the English marched towards St. Augustine. Along the way,
Moore destroyed Spanish outposts on Amelia Island and at the mouth of the St.
Johns River. By November, Moore's army arrived in St. Augustine and began its
attack on the city. The Spanish did not have an adequate military to defend the
population so the citizens retreated to the recently constructed stone fort, a scene
reminiscent of Drake's invasion a century earlier. As the English burned the city
and shelled its defenses, approximately 1,800 men, women, and children found
safety behind the fort's massive coquina walls.15 For nearly two months, the bulk
of St. Augustine's population huddled inside the fort while the English did
everything they could to force a surrender.
13 A similar fear existed on the Western New York frontier. There, French,
English, and Indian conflicts had the potential to disrupt a large portion of northern
British North America. These concerns are addressed in chapter five.
14 Jean Parker Waterbury, "The Castillo Years, 1668-1763," in The Oldest City St.
Augustine, Saga of Survival, Jean Parker Waterbury, ed. (St. Augustine: The St.
Augustine Historical Society, 1983): 63-64.
15 Charles W. Arnade, "Raids, Sieges, and International Wars," in The New
History of Florida, Michael Gannon, ed (Gainesville: University Press of Florida 1996),
On December 26, four ships from Havana came to the aid of the battered
city. By "means of Divine mercy," the reinforcements surprised the English ships
anchored in St. Augustine's harbor. Moore realized his tired troops could not
overpower the Cuban ships and ordered his men to retreat.16 As St. Augustine
smoldered from the fires set by the British, Governor Joseph de Zufiiga declared
victory despite losing the battle.
St. Augustine survived the War of Spanish Succession, but barely. Governor
Moore did not remove the Spanish, but his siege of the city rendered the outpost
nearly impotent. Furthermore, the events of 1702 threatened to change the
balance of power throughout the South.17 Two years later, in an attempt to even
the score, Moore raised a private army and led a series of destructive attacks on
the Apalachee Province. Spain did not have the ability to defend the western
missions and, within a year, Moore had destroyed Florida's largest remaining
Indian mission province.18 Later, Moore claimed he had "killed and taken as
slaves 325 men, and have taken slaves 4,000 women and children."19 Not only
did Moore boast of his conquest, he proudly declared his gains came at "the loss
of four whites and...without one penny charge to the Publick."20 If Moore's 1702
16 Ibid., 108. Waterbury, "The Castillo Years," 66-67.
17 Following the English invasion of 1702, the French became convinced that they
could either attack the English at Charleston or wait to be attacked by Moore and
company. Gallay, Indian Slave Trade, 151.
18 Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America, 142.
19 Ibid. 143. Mark F. Boyd, Hale G. Smith, & John W. Griffin. Here They Once
Stood: The Tragic End of the Apalachee Missions (Gainesville, University of Florida
Press, 1951), 94.
siege of St. Augustine reflected the geopolitical struggles for empire, the fate of
the Apalachee highlighted the many ways power was used and created on the
Moore sought revenge for his failure to take St. Augustine and the
Apalachee proved an open target. After destroying the province's missions and
defeating the Apalachee warriors, Moore offered freedom to the survivors if they
agreed to leave western Florida with his army.21 It is estimated that over 1300
Apalachee accepted his terms. Some remained in the territory and sought
Spain's protection; others fled eastward to the nearby Timucua territory, and
some traveled west and settled in Pensacola or the French outpost at Mobile.22
Moore essentially destroyed the Apalachee, further weakening Spain's position in
Florida. For the Apalachee, like the Guale before them, guilt by association with
a particular European power held tremendous risk for a culture's survival and
safety. The Apalachee paid for Spain's so-called victory in St. Augustine and they
quickly discovered that political events in Europe could have violent
ramifications on the North American frontier.
Between 1702 and 1704, Spain's remaining hopes for expansion were
dashed by the activities of Moore and the ambitions of the Carolina's
government. Florida survived and St. Augustine's militia remained, but its
position in the larger struggle to control the remaining frontier in the Southeast
20 Public Record Office General Collection 30/47/14/f/. 29, Moore to the Lords
Proprietor. Documents in this collection are hereafter abbreviated as PRO.
21 Hann and McEwan, The Apalachee Indians and Mission San Luis, 168.
22 Ibid., 170-171.
seemed marginalized. Before Spain could again threaten the peace and stability
of the British empire in the South, St. Augustine resumed its role in defending the
Spanish main. St. Augustine's ambitions for the frontier had to be put on hold as
the government rebuilt.
After failing to take St. Augustine in 1702, the English realized Spain would
not disappear without a fight. Despite the blow Moore and his men dealt to the
city, the Spaniards remained a potential threat to the security of Carolina. If
England could not remove the Spaniards by force, it had to construct defenses
along the southern frontier of Carolina. Since its founding in 1670, Charleston
seemed open to attack and, as it fortified local positions, the English believed
expanding into areas south of Carolina might justify their ownership of the land
and provide an additional layer of security.
Ironically, to get further from the Spaniards, defensive bulwarks and thus
British settlements had to built closer to Spain's limits. While building closer to
Florida meant more direct contact, establishing settlements between Charleston
and St. Augustine promised to create a buffer between the primary settlements
and build a buffer zone between the two colonies. When Spain abandoned its
posts on St. Simons Island, the British saw an opportunity to enact the risky
According to its charter, Carolina's southern border extended south of St.
Augustine to a point near present-day Cape Canaveral.23 The Spaniards who had
23 This refers to the grants made in 1663. In 1629, Sir Robert Heath received a
land grant for lands south of Virginia, but these plans ultimately failed to reach fruition.
Peter H. Wood, Black Majority (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1974): 13-14.
Arnade, "Raids, Sieges, and International Wars," 101.
lived in St. Augustine for over a century before the English set these borders,
disagreed. Anticipating future conflict over border placement, officials in
Carolina urged increased settlement south of Charleston shortly after its
founding. Because South Carolina's Proprietors envisioned a colony based on
commercial ventures near Charleston, small settlements south of the capital
seemed an inexpensive strategy to prevent, or at least slow, an invasion from
Florida. Others feared that the growth of French settlements and their popularity
with western Indian communities might threaten Carolina and suggested a
similar approach in the western backcountry.
One of the earlier requests to expand Carolina's borders in order to protect
its central settlements concerned French growth on the Mississippi. In 1713
Hughes Pryce, a Welshman, traveled and explored the area between Carolina and
the Mississippi. After spending some time on the Mississippi, Pryce suggested to
Carolina's Proprietors that a colony be founded along the river. Pryce envisioned
a colony settled by poor residents of Wales. 24 A settlement on the Mississippi
would extend Carolina's boundaries and secure additional trading alliances with
the local Indians, then allied with the French. Before Pryce could build support
for his plan, however, Indian raiders killed him in 1715. France's Indian allies, it
seems, preferred the status quo. Other plans to expand settlements into the
frontier fared better.
24 Kenneth Coleman, "The Southern Frontier: Georgia's Founding and the
Expansion of South Carolina," Georgia Historical Quarterly 56 (Summer, 1972): 164-
165. See also, Hughes Pryce Papers at South Caroliniana Library.
Between 1670 and 1732 the Proprietors of Carolina entertained numerous
suggestions for expanding their settlements. In the 168os, the English attempted
to expand their territory south of Charleston by allowing the establishment of a
Scottish settlement known as Stuart Town. Its founder, Lord Cardross,
envisioned a settlement for Covenanters on Carolina's periphery.25 Located on
Port Royal, Spain considered Stuart Town an illegal incursion into Florida and in
1686 destroyed the community.26 Undeterred, the English continued planning
Carolina's southern growth, especially as Carolinians increasingly feared for their
The Yamasee War not only threatened the stability of South Carolina but
also challenged the entire political power structure throughout the Southeast.
Clearly a seminal event in Carolina's early history, the war had ramifications for
all European and Native American interests in the region. When the fighting
began in 1715, residents of Charleston were literally surrounded by Indians they
had considered allies.27 When the Yamasee launched their first attacks in the
spring, few in Carolina realized the magnitude of the invasion, but many believed
they understood the reason for the attacks.
Since the late seventeenth century, the British viewed the local Indian
populations as potential partners in matters of trade, backcountry politics, and
25 Verner W. Crane, "Projects for Colonization in the South, 1684-1732," The
Mississippi Valley Historical Review 12 (June, 1925) : 24.
26 Coleman, "The Southern Frontier," 163.
27 A census compiled by Thomas Nairne in 1715 claimed approximately 28,000
friendly Indians lived within a 640-mile radius of the Carolina capital. Roy Merrens, ed.,
The Colonial South Carolina Scene: Contemporary Views, 1697-1774 (Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 1977), 60-61.
mutual protection. As the deerskin trade became more lucrative in the early
1700oos competition and demand for access to the trade led to abuses by
Europeans. After the war, English investigators blamed the hostilities on the
unscrupulous practices of Indian traders and South Carolina's Proprietors who
allowed these activities to continue. According to William Byrd II of Virginia, the
war began because of "the Carolinians themselves, for their traders have so
abused and imposed upon the Indians... that they have been thereby very much
disgusted."28 The Yamasee accused the Carolinians of enslaving, raping, and
disregarding their territorial claims. South Carolina may have considered the
attack part of a Franco-Spanish conspiracy, but according to many observers, war
stemmed from local abuses.29
When the Yamasee began fighting the British, they sought the assistance of
other Native communities. With assistance from the Choctaw, Tallapoosas,
Alabamas, and other Upper Creek communities, the Yamasee staged what
appeared to be a well planned and executed attack on Carolina in the spring of
1715.30 The sudden invasion caught many settlers off guard and considerable
28Steven James Oatis, "A Colonial Complex: South Carolina's Changing Frontier
in the Era of the Yamasee War, 1680-1730," (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1999), 161.
Historians have echoed Byrd's accusations. See Crane, The Southern Frontier.
29 Some claimed the Yamasee reacted to a poverty created by the Indian slave
trade. The poverty that led to conflict, however, began when the Yamasee started to
capture the available Indian population. By 1708, most of the Indians allied with Spain
had been captured and sold by the Yamasee and British traders. Richard L. Haan, "The
'Trade Do's Not Flourish as Formerly': The Ecological Origins of the Yamasee War of
1715," Ethnohistory 28 (Autumn, 1981) : 347. William Ramsey, "'Something Cloudy in
their Looks': The Origins of the Yamasee War Reconsidered," Journal ofAmerican
History 90 (June, 2003) : 44-75.
30 Oatis, "A Colonial Complex," 174-175. Ramsey, 'Something Cloudy in their
damage occurred in the first weeks of the war, but after the initial Yamasee
advance, Carolina fended off subsequent attacks. When the Carolina government
formed an alliance with the Cherokee in 1716 and extended diplomatic relations
with many Creek communities a year later, the war seemed over.31 Carolina
survived the war, yet the conflict only magnified the colony's weaknesses.
Naturally, many in Carolina and London accused France and Spain of creating a
climate that allowed for the invasion. Neither nation probably sparked the event;
but both supported resistance to English authority.
The English correctly believed their European adversaries wanted control of
their land. Furthermore, Carolinians realized that their greatest vulnerability
came from Indian allies. By 1715, Carolina depended on the Indian trade and
alliances that brought protection to the area's settlers. When the Yamasee and
their allies attacked, Carolina feared for its own survival. Following the Yamasee
War, plans to expand the colony's boundaries gained a new urgency. If France
and Spain had a hand in causing the aggression, Carolina had to proceed with
caution. Indian alliances remained valuable and necessary for the colony's
survival, but after the events of 1715, the English could not depend on Indian
allies to provide security on the periphery. It was no accident that officials
considered the first substantial plans to settle the land south of the Savannah
River after the Yamasee invasion.
31 Ibid., 198. Oatis suggests that despite the end of overt hostilities, effects and
dangers associated with the war lingered until 1720. Still, this treaty marked a turning
point in English-Indian relations. The English signed this treaty while the Spanish
eagerly courted Creek officials in Mexico. David H. Corkran, The Creek Frontier, 1540-
1783 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967), 62-64.
In 1717 Scottish baronet Robert Montgomery proposed a plan to expand the
limits of Carolina. Montgomery planned to build a new type of settlement in the
English colonies. Imagined as the Margravate of Azilia, Montgomery promised a
secure and capable buffer between Carolina and Florida in the form of a unique
colony. The Carolina Proprietors had entertained similar suggestions previously,
but Montgomery offered what Carolina needed at the time, frontier security. If
Carolina could convince another party to build south of Charleston, Spain's
complaints and Indian attacks would become problems for the newcomer.
Carolina liked the proposal and agreed, provided Montgomery accepted
their terms. The Proprietors offered Montgomery an initial grant of 50,000 acres
on land between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers. The new settlement could
remain independent of Carolina, for a "quitrent of a penny an acre for all land
occupied" and a quarter of all gold and silver that might be mined.32 In addition,
the Proprietors stressed that Montgomery could not "tax or hinder the trade of
Carolinians with Indians" either within or beyond Azilia's boundaries.33 When he
proposed his project in 1717, Montgomery claimed he had between five and six
hundred laborers willing to settle the area.34 Montgomery's designs called for the
establishment of a margravate, an obscure and anachronistic type of settlement
based on a feudal labor system led by a military governor.35
32 J. Max Patrick, ed., Azillia: A Discourse by Sir Robert Montgomery (Atlanta:
The Emory University Library, 1948), 6.
34 John Barnwell, The Most Delightful Golden Isles (London, 1720).
35 This unusual style of settlement likely came from a clause in the Fundamental
Constitutions of Carolina that allowed for a portion of the colony to be set aside for
Azilia represented an unusual plan. Nonetheless, Montgomery stressed its
value in bolstering Carolina's security. This helped the Proprietors to accept his
vision. Carolina had just emerged from the long and difficult Yamasee War and
needed the additional security.36 When Montgomery published his first
pamphlet that explained the colony's value to England's other settlements, he
noted the growth of French outposts on the Mississippi and the Spaniards in
Florida.37 Not only could Azilia discourage further expansion by France and
Spain, but England's presence on the southern frontier had the potential to
secure additional Indian trade routes. Montgomery declared Azilia would bring
"much to the advantage of his Majesty, and his dominions, and to the welfare of..
. Carolina."38 After the Proprietors accepted his plan, it seemed Azilia might
From his home in Scotland, Montgomery petitioned the King for permission
to launch a lottery to help raise funds for Azilia. In his petition, Montgomery
claimed "that when Virginia was first planted by the English.... Your Majesty's
predecessor King...grant[ed] license for a lottery in aid of the said settlement, to
"titled colonists." Sketches of the plan show a large walled town that looked more like a
military fortification than a colonial venture. Patrick, Azillia: A Discourse by Sir Robert
36 After the events of the Yamasee War, the Proprietors of Carolina could no
longer depend on using Indian alliances to protect the colony's borders. Although
Carolina emerged from the war intact, the causes: unchecked slave raids sponsored by
whites, massive debts and other problems created by the growing Indian trade only
increased Carolina's vulnerability. After the war, Indians harmed by Carolina's traders
could find solace and the possibility for revenge in St. Augustine. For an explanation of
the causes of the war see: Haan, "The 'Trade Do's Not Flourish as Formerly': The
Ecological Origins of the Yamasee War of 1715," 341-358.
37 Barnwell, The Most Delightful Golden Islands, 53.
38 Ibid., 59.
be publicly drawn in the City of London."39 Montgomery wanted to sell 100,ooo
tickets for forty shillings a piece in Edinburgh or any borough of North Britain.
Montgomery planned to use the proceeds from the lottery to build Azilia which,
he reminded the king, "might defend the Plantations on [Carolina]...against the
Incursions of the Indians" and Spaniards.40 Despite his convincing argument,
the baron did not receive permission to launch the sweepstakes. In time, Europe
recognized the need for a defensive position against the Spaniards; but when
Montgomery sought funding, London refused assistance. Although Montgomery
presented a sound plan to expand English North America, he needed funding to
realize his goal.
One year after he proposed Azilia, Montgomery had raised nearly 30,ooo
for the venture despite the King's refusal to allow a lottery. In all likelihood,
Montgomery could have used these funds to send a vanguard to start the colony;
but events in North America prevented the first ships from sailing.41 As
Montgomery prepared to enact his plans, Carolina's Proprietors faced challenges
to their authority. Colonists accused the leaders of poor management and an
inability to prevent attacks from Indians, Spaniards, and French.42 In turn, the
Proprietors sought assistance from London. They received help from the crown,
but in return, the leaders of Carolina lost their independence and control of the
39 State Papers, Public Records Office, Kew, England, 54/13/f.53, October 31,
1718. Documents in this collection are hereafter abbreviated as SP.
41 Patrick, Azilia, 10.
42 Ibid. See also, Crane, The Southern Frontier, 185-187.
colony. Unfortunately for Montgomery, the plan for Azilia was linked to the fate
of the Proprietors.
As Azilia's implementation stalled in various royal channels through the end
of 1719, Montgomery finally withdrew his plan. In 1720, a former partner of
Montgomery purchased the original land grant and resubmitted the blueprints
for Azilia. To help achieve their goals, John Barnwell published a pamphlet
entitled A Description of the Golden Islands. Azilia's design had changed, but its
function remained the same. The colony's new design looked more like a
contemporary New World venture. The 1720 version did not imagine a
margravate. Instead of being controlled by a feudal lord, the second version of
Azilia called for gentlemen planters to oversee indentured laborers and slaves.43
According to Barnwell's Description, investors in the new colony could expect
substantial returns for the selected territory promised a sufficient port to
complement Azilia's unrivaled natural bounty. In addition, Barnwell, like
Montgomery, stressed the defensive advantages to the new settlement.
Perhaps to make the venture more appealing to royal officials, Barnwell
highlighted the threats Carolina faced on the frontier and how the settlement
could lessen this burden. In particular, Barnwell focused on the possibility of
French expansion. As Barnwell and others understood the situation in North
America, France had dramatically increased its presence among the Southern
Indian communities. If the French continued to develop their trading
relationships with these nations, then they would likely seek an additional, more
43 Barnwell, The Most Delightful Golden Islands, 55.
convenient port to facilitate the trade. Barnwell described Azilia's proposed
location as a hole that needed to be plugged.44 He pointed out that his colony
would provide a perfect spot to prey on passing French and Spanish ships.
Azilia's port, Barnwell wrote, "would make it difficult for the Plate-Fleet or the
trading vessels...to avoid being taken."45 If the British settled between the
Altamaha and Savannah Rivers, then French expansion could be checked and
Spanish trade disrupted. Without an Atlantic port, the French had to move their
goods down the Mississippi, and travel a dangerous route through the Caribbean
to get their goods to Europe. If the English could not eliminate all French
settlements, they could at least build to obstruct the French traders.
The revised plan that circulated in 1720 provided investors and government
officials with many reasons to ensure Azilia's success. Despite its support in the
colonies and its advantages to the security of the southern borderlands, the plans
for the settlement ultimately fell through. In Carolina, local officials understood
the need for something to be placed between them, the Spaniards, and the
French, but the royal officials who had the final say on colonial operations, did
not understand the urgency of this request.46 Partly because they failed to fortify
Carolina's southern frontier, residents of Carolina successfully challenged the
authority, even the legitimacy of the Proprietors. If this happened again, would
44 Ibid., 50, 55.
45 Ibid., 56.
46 That the Proprietors seemed willing to give Montgomery complete legislative
authority over the land ifAzilia materialized, underscores this point. Kenneth Coleman,
"The Southern Frontier: Georgia's Founding and the Expansion of South Carolina,"
Georgia Historical Quarterly 56 (Summer, 1972): 166.
the king become the object of protest and scorn? Officials in Europe may not
have understood the immediate need to create a protected border somewhere
south of Charleston, but the colonists did. Despite the concerns of the colonists,
London failed to provide support for Azilia.47 Although plans for the colony
never left Europe, the idea that Carolina needed something to check Spanish or
French expansion became clear to most colonial authorities by 1720. A year later,
Carolina began constructing defenses on St. Simons Island.48
Following the Yamasee War, local officials and residents called for the
fortification of Carolina's southern boundaries.49 In 1720, John Barnwell
suggested that Carolina quickly do something to discourage a Spanish or French
attack. Referred to as the Barnwell Plan, the South Carolina government passed
a Tax Act in 1721 that included an allocation of 3,290 for the maintenance of a
garrison based on the Altamaha River.50 Initially, the Carolina Commons House
refused to spend public funds on building frontier defenses, but in light of the
47 Undoubtedly, a major difficulty for the Azilia plan had to do with South
Carolina's revolt against the Proprietors. Between 1719 and 1721, the leadership of South
Carolina came under question while the crown decided if it would assume control of the
colony. George Edward Frakes, Laboratoryfor Liberty: The South Carolina Legislative
Committee System, 1719-1776 (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1970), 11-
48 Coleman, "The Southern Frontier," 168.
49 See Barnwell, The Most Delightful Golden Islands. These thoughts also
appeared prior to the hostilities with the Yamasee with the publication of Thomas
Nairne's Muskhogean Journals published after his 1708 expedition to the Mississippi
50 David Rogers Chestnutt, "South Carolina's Expansion into Colonial Georgia,"
(Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1973), 8-9.
failures of Stuart Town and Azilia, there were few other viable options.51 Still, the
Carolina government considered population growth and settlement expansion as
the most attractive strategies to create and defend an English border.
Shortly after Charleston called for a military presence on St. Simons, the
government offered additional incentives to lure white settlers onto the southern
frontier. Beginning in 1721, Carolina offered tax exemptions to any white male
who moved onto the southern barrier islands or land south of the Altamaha
River. In addition to the tax incentives, settlers on the frontier could not be sued
for nonpayment of debts. 52 After several failed attempts at colonizing the
southern periphery, Carolinians now willingly offered public funds and legal
privileges for those brave or foolish enough to settle the land Spain considered a
part of Florida.
In 1724, South Carolina again agreed to allow a semi-independent addition
within the colony's established borders. Developed by Jean Pierre Purry of
Switzerland, the new plan called for a small outpost of 6oo Swiss settlers to be
located south of Charleston.53 Like Azilia, the plan failed to materialize; but this
time, land grants earned approval in London as South Carolina had become a
royal colony. Charleston normally determined whether to approve colonization
plans and South Carolina had the authority to grant land, but this never assured
success. Typically, plans approved in London seemed more stable and likely to
51 At one point, the Commons House suggested border Indians be used to protect
the frontier instead of a domestic militia, but this idea did not get far. Ibid., 8.
52 Chestnutt, "South Carolina's Expansion into Colonial Georgia," 9.
53 Coleman, "The Southern Frontier," 166.
succeed than others. Yet, royal officials had to act fast, for the English were not
the only nation to consider the possibilities of planting a colony between
Charleston and St. Augustine. Decades before Britain moved to fill this void with
Georgia, the French considered their options for the same area as a way to
economic gain and possible dominance of the continent.
While England and Carolina developed plans for the area that became
Georgia, French officials in Europe and North America also considered the
possibilities of establishing an outpost in the contested region. By the early
eighteenth century, the French controlled North America's western backcountry.
Still, the prospect for a community on the Atlantic coast seemed a worthy risk.
France gained a southern port when it founded Louisiana in 1699 and this
promised to provide Indian traders with an excellent opportunity to export their
commodities. As in most colonies, the early years in Louisiana were marked with
To ensure their safety and maintain peace, the French entered an alliance
with the local Choctaw communities shortly after their arrival in Louisiana.
Unfortunately, after making the alliance, the French discovered that the Choctaw
were at war with England's ally, the Chickasaw. If the French wanted to maintain
their alliance, they had to fight the common enemy. In 1700, Louisiana governor
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville decided to assist the Choctaw in their fight.54 After a
brief visit to France, Iberville returned to Louisiana and began assisting the
54 Patricia Dillon Woods, French-Indian Relations on the Southern Frontier,
1699-1762 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1980), 2-7.
Choctaw in 1702. The War of Spanish Succession began later that year and
gradually worked its way into colonial politics.
In Louisiana, the French quickly learned of the difficulties in settling the
Southeastern frontier. To ensure their safety, the French needed an Indian ally
and the Choctaw seemed a capable choice. Besides, their war with the Chickasaw
created additional problems. The Choctaw outnumbered the Chickasaw, but
England's support of the smaller nation helped balance, if not reverse, these
numbers. 55 If France assisted the Choctaw in their contest for supremacy, then
they would also enter into conflict with the English.
Decades later, the French dealt with an identical situation, except
considered a different approach. In the 1720s, Louisiana governor Jean-Baptiste
Le Moyne Bienville saw an advantage in having the two nations fight one another.
"This war was in keeping with our interests and our security in that it kept apart
these two nations."56 Either way, France quickly learned that maintaining an
imperial presence on the frontier required difficult decisions, but the French
presence on the southern frontier changed the calculus of regional power
France's activities and designs on the eighteenth-century Southeast
reflected the unique nature of frontier expansion in the colonial Atlantic World.
55 Jay K. Johnson, "The Chickasaw," in Indians of the Greater Southeast:
HistoricalArchaeology and Ethnohistory, Bonnie G. McEwan, ed. (Gainesville:
University Press of Florida, 2000), 95. It is estimated that in 1700 there were 7,000
Chickasaw on a territory that spanned 37,060 square miles and 28,000 Choctaw who
lived on a territory of 40,920 square miles.
56 Ibid., 97. Dunbar Rowland and A.G. Sanders, Mississippi ProvincialArchives,
French Dominion (Vol. 3 (Jackson, MS: Mississippi Department of Archives and History,
Often what happened in distant territories and outposts caused controversy and
fear in Europe's highest courts. In late 1703, the British Lords for Trade
cautioned colonial governments in North America against a French threat. These
warnings followed French and Spanish actions in the Caribbean in which the two
nations had sacked and burned much of Providence Island in the Bahamas.
According to reports, the attackers "put to the sword or carried off' all residents
of the island. After word reached London, officials feared "the same attempts will
be made upon Carolina."57
The fears of 1703 nearly became realities. For the next two years, the
French in Louisiana planned an invasion of Carolina. From Louisiana, Governor
Iberville intended to lead a large and diverse force against the British in
Charleston. Iberville's plan for the invasion included the use of Spanish ships
based in Veracruz and Havana, black and mulatto soldiers from Mexico, and
pirates operating out of Martinique and Saint Domingue.58 After assembling his
army, Iberville planned to capture Charleston. From there, Spanish troops would
occupy the city while French forces marched northward towards Virginia and
Maryland. Iberville put his plan into action in 1706 and quickly captured Nevis
and Saint Christopher in the West Indies. Unfortunately for Iberville, victory on
the small Caribbean islands marked the high point in his campaign. When he
stopped to gather troops and supplies in Havana, Iberville became ill and
eventually died. In the absence of their leader, the joint forces failed miserably
57 Proceedings and Debates of the British Parliaments Respecting North
America, Vol. III, 1702-1727. December 21, 1703, 40.
58 Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade, 151.
when they moved on the British in Carolina.59 Iberville's plan seemed audacious
as even the most fearful English bureaucrat doubted its potential, yet this
incident speaks volumes on the possibilities for conquering the frontier.
The Southeastern frontier appeared open to whoever could occupy the land.
In the absence of clearly defined borders or stable settlement, any interested
party could make a move for the open territory. A physical presence, strength,
and resolve could hold the land; declared boundaries, forgotten treaties, and
diplomatic insistence could not. Even though Iberville faced considerable
hardships in Louisiana, the bold governor drew a plan to remove the English
from three colonies. To do so, he envisioned a combined force from separate
nations scattered across half the globe. In the early 1700oos, any nation had the
potential to become the predominant power in North America. Despite their loss
in 1706, the French continued looking for a way to occupy additional land on the
In 1707, authorities in Charleston heard rumors that France had started
assembling an army of Indians who intended to march against the English.
Before these rumors surfaced, France started gaining the confidence of several
Lower Creek communities. Not only did the Creek represent the largest trading
partner in the burgeoning deerskin trade, but the manner in which France
approached the Creek seemed particularly threatening to England. Unlike the
English, France did not treat all Creek communities the same, preferring instead
to deal with each community on an individual basis.60 By viewing the Creek
communities as part of a larger political community and not a homogenous
culture, the French created more useful and elastic alliances.61
While no military aggression immediately came from this alliance, the
French method of diplomacy with the Creeks provided another potential danger
to the English. In 1714, on the eve of the Yamasee War, the French began
construction of Fort Toulouse, an outpost at the junction of the Coosa and
Tallapoosa Rivers. Built next to an English trading post, Fort Toulouse checked
English expansion and provided a stark warning to English traders in the area.62
The Creek did not declare total allegiance to the French, but Carolinians viewed
the base as a symbol of French ownership or allegiance to the Creek
communities. Regardless of how the Creek accepted the French presence, the
English doubled their efforts to gain favor in the backcountry. France seemed a
certain threat and if the French allied with the Creeks and possibly the Spanish,
then Carolina's security seemed questionable at best. Yet again, what seemed
logical and helpful in North America often conflicted with the leadership in
Europe. These conflicts had the potential to split the alliances necessary for
expansion and conquest in the colonies. Politics and territorial desire brought an
6o Ibid, 140.
61 Throughout the colonial era, Europeans often confused or failed to make a
distinction between ethnic identity and political union. In all, there were approximately
60 towns between the Upper and Lower Creek communities. Corkran, The Creek
Frontier, 1540-1783, 4. The confusing process of forming an ethnic identity is described
in Patricia Galloway, Choctaw Genesis, 1500-1700 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska
62 Corkran, The Creek Frontier, 60. Crane, The Southern Frontier, 185.
end to the possibility of an alliance between the French and Spanish in the early
In an effort to expand the limits of Louisiana, the French occupied the
Spanish outpost at Pensacola in 1719. Despite the obvious tensions caused by the
land grab, France and Spain rarely plotted the destruction of one another,
especially when French Bourbons assumed control of the Spanish monarchy in
1700.63 Each had reason to fear England's imperial expansion in North America.
From Spain's perspective, the English constantly ignored their land claims and
after the Siege of 1702, Florida truly feared for its safety. France saw potential
danger in England's activities with the various Native American communities,
particularly the Chickasaw. To counter these threats, the French had to bolster
their defenses, ensure strong alliances with friendly Indian communities, and
consider strategies that might weaken their adversaries.
Some claimed the French planned, or at least stoked the controversies that
led to the Yamasee War in 1715.64 It is unlikely that the French played a role in
the conflict. Nevertheless, France had considered equally inflammatory
measures from its earliest years in the South. France's strategy for maintaining
its possessions in North America required two very different approaches. First,
63 Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America, 166-167. While others have
suggested the French-Spanish rivalry was more pronounced, in terms of the lower
Southeast, England emerged as the greatest threat to French and Spanish interests; thus
the English assumed the role of common enemy. Henri Fomer, Franco-Spanish Rivalry
in North America, 1524-1763 (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1953).
64 Woods, French-Indian Relations on the Southern Frontier, 49. During the war
the French doubled their efforts to maintain an alliance with the Creek, further enforcing
the fear that France intended to play a role in the conflict. Wright, Anglo-Spanish
Rivalry in North America, 69-72.
the French had to ensure their security in the western regions and if possible,
France could settle the seemingly empty territory between South Carolina and St.
Augustine to gain trading advantages and increased security. By settling vast
tracts of the open frontier in order to create a borderland, the French could more
easily protect their settlements in Louisiana.
When the French founded Louisiana, they quickly realized that their
presence triggered a larger contest for control of the southern Appalachians. The
English thought they could easily conquer this territory through their alliances
with the Chickasaw and the Cherokee. When the French arrived and gained the
friendship of the Choctaw, these assumptions faded.
The Europeans identified the Southern Appalachians as a potential linchpin
for control of the South. Before the French arrived, the English assumed that
their strategy of pre-emptive retention would be enough to secure their hold on
the region.65 France had already established trading outposts and missions
across the Ohio River Valley, Canada and elsewhere. If France could assert its
authority over Native communities in the southern Appalachians, then it could
control a vast territory that extended from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. While
the French fought the Chickasaw and tried to coax the Creek to join an alliance,
officials in Paris turned their gaze eastward.
65 The idea of pre-emptive retention deals with Native American communities
that lived near European settlements. The European colony or outpost closest to the
native town assumed a right of protectorate. By providing this "protection" the
European power effectively incorporated the Indian territory into their larger holdings.
For additional elaboration see, Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, II:
Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750 (New
York: Academic Press, 1980) and Wilma A. Dunaway, "The Southern Fur Trade and the
Incorporation of Southern Appalachia in the World-Economy, 1690-1763," Review
(Fernand Braudel Center) 17 (Spring, 1994) : 215-242.
France continued its plans for expanding between South Carolina and
Florida after the events of 1706. England listened closely for additional plots, but
did not recognize a substantial danger until 1719, the same year France declared
war against Spain. After France took Pensacola, the English believed France
might make a move for St. Augustine and this caused concern in Europe. "I
suppose the French will also quickly make themselves masters of the Fort St.
Augustin... which in their hands, one day or other, may be a very troublesome
post in the Neighborhood of Carolina, and our Plantations on that side," warned
an English emissary in Paris.66 English officials were inspired by the possibility
of a French attack on eastern Florida commenting, "I don't see why we should not
lay hold of the opportunity of the Spanish War to make ourselves Master of that
Post, which will cost us only the sending of six or seven hundred Men there, to
demand it; For the Spaniards don't seem either inclined or disposed to make any
sort of Defense."67
Florida always appeared weak, but Spain would not simply allow the
English to make themselves "master of that post." If invaded, ships and soldiers
in Cuba were ready to return, as they had in their 1702 triumph over Moore's
invading army. Although some English thought they could take Florida, others
preferred to keep a careful eye on the French. Florida just barely survived the
1702 invasion and did not present an immediate concern for those in Carolina.
The French, however, were relative newcomers to the region and appeared
66 SP 78/165 f. 231-241, October 4, 1719.
aggressive and willing to take open territory. In response to these fears, London
warned Paris of potential for conflict over the matter of colonial growth.
In 1719, London instructed Martin Bladen, the principle diplomat in Paris,
to warn the French against their plans for expansion in the Southeast. "You are
to declare to the French," the King instructed, ". .. that His Majesty has reason to
believe the French have made several encroachments upon the British
settlements in those parts."68 London also instructed Bladen to obtain
information regarding French activities near the Mississippi. In a dispatch to
Bladen, Whitehall made it clear that if the French settled in the Southeast, all of
England's colonies could face serious danger. "We cannot but be something
alarmed at a Scheme that seems one Day to threaten the Destruction of all the
British colonies in America."69
London had reason to be concerned, for in the fall word arrived from
Europe that several ships of war left France for the Carolina coast where they
intended to establish a colony on the Altamaha River.70 Instead of watching the
French and Spanish fight for their possessions in North America, the British had
reason to fear French encroachment on their own frontiers. Like many of these
early rumors and designs for further colonization, France's attempts of 1719
gradually disappeared without incident. Although France did not appear on the
Atlantic coast, Carolina took measures to discourage future designs on the
68 SP 78/166 f. 8, July 3, 1719.
69 SP 78/166 f.22, August 26, 1719.
70 SP 78/168 f. 458, September 6, 1720.
Gradually, South Carolina built defenses throughout the border regions.
France and Spain frequently complained that these outposts violated their
declared borders, but without a military to counter these measure, little could be
done to stop England's activities. Still, expanding one's territory, even if it
required the use of thinly populated settlements vulnerable to attack seemed a
convenient way to defend an open frontier. If a nation did not mark its presence
through physical settlements, then it had to rely on Indian alliances and at least a
superficial presence on the open territory. Often the Europeans who represented
their nation's interest on the frontiers, served as Indian traders or agents,
underscoring the value in maintaining relationships with as many Indian
communities as possible.
France, Spain, and England all considered their European counterparts
vulnerable and possible targets for a land grab. The French did not act on the
plans that surfaced in 1719, but word of their preparations certainly caused an
uproar in colonial governments across the South. At the time, France lacked the
resources to expand its southern settlements, and instead focused on developing
positive relationships with Indian nations. If they could not build their own
settlements on land staked by Britain or Spain, then the French sought the
development of Native client-states, for by the 1710s the deerskin trade had
become the most valuable and available resource to exploit in the Southeast.71
France already had the allegiance of the Choctaws and frequently attempted to
71 Hudson, The Southeastern Indians, 436-437. Braund, Deerskins & Duffels.
defeat the Chickasaw. French officials also worked with the Creek communities
in hopes of weakening their long-standing relationships with the English.
The Creek, for their part, adeptly played the Europeans off one another.
Between 1711 and 1718, various Creek communities promised friendship or
considered treaties and trade relationships with the English, Spanish, and
French. The French understood that treaties with the Creek had to be made at
the community level; to their detriment, England and Spain gradually discovered
this requirement. By remaining neutral in the various European conflicts, the
Creek maintained their independence and strength.72 The Creek Confederation
played an important role in the larger conflicts for control of the Southeast, while
other Indian nations assumed a more active role in the fight for the Southern
borderlands despite what Europe thought it understood as reality.
In the contest to settle the open territory between Florida and Carolina,
Europeans did not view Indian nations as potential settlers. The Spanish,
French, and English all imagined Indian communities as potential allies or
military partners in the European struggle to colonize. From the perspective of
European diplomats in the eighteenth century, not unlike contemporary
historians, Indians were typically denied the ability to colonize. Either we
assume Native communities had historical rights to the land they desired, or they
72 This independence, however, rested in the shadows of the forts constructed by
England, Spain, and France. The French completed Fort Toulouse by 1715. In hopes of
checking English and French expansion, Spain and its Creek allies began building Fort
Coweta the following year. When England secured an alliance with a larger Creek
faction in 1717, the English started building outposts on the western frontier and the
Spanish project ended. Although the Creek remained fairly neutral overall, they
gradually favored the English. See Corkran, The Creek Frontier, 60, 62, 64-67.
are seen as pawns in Europe's conflicts for control of North America.73 Despite
these assumptions, Europeans who sought control of the Southern frontier in the
early eighteenth century often treated Native communities as essential partners
for peace, prosperity, and security. They provided Europeans with the most
essential needs. If a Creek town decided not to sell its deerskins to an English
trader, but sold its goods to a French agent instead, then certain English subjects
73 Recent scholarship has changed the image of the repressed Indian to the
empowered. Within the last twenty years, scholarship has acknowledged the role Native
Americans played in the construction of North America, but the idea that Indians acted
on their own desires to control land, and thus assume the characteristics of colonizer is
rare. Although there are numerous volumes that consider Indian power on the colonial
frontiers some the following provide a brief overview of the historical problem, Richard
White, The Middle Ground: Indians, empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region,
1650-1815 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991), Colin G. Calloway, New
Worldsfor All: Indians, Europeans and the Remaking of Early America Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins Press, 1997); Saunt, A New Order of Things. Certainly, historians have
considered the effects of internal warfare and territorial grabs based on the politics
within the larger Native American community, but Native settlement is rarely viewed as
a colonizing activity. Prior to the establishment of Georgia, certain actions in the
Southeast might be considered attempts at colonizing the open frontier. Recent work
concerning the rise of Southeastern tribes in the wake of the devastating Indian Slave
trade considers these possibilities, but this type of activity in not considered a
colonization effort. If we are to assume that Native Americans could not be colonizers
because colonization is the provenance of European ideals and desires than we deny
many cultures a right to power and control. The Guale were decimated by the policies of
Spaniards and the slave raids sponsored by the British, but the communities that
followed in their place essentially re-colonized the land. As mentioned earlier, Patricia
Galloway provides an excellent description on the formation of ethnic identity among
Native groups. The Choctaw, she explains "did not exist as an ethnic group...until they
decided they existed as an ethnic group." Galloway, Choctaw Genesis, 265. Other
groups seen as nations by Europeans actually look more like political alliances than a
separate culture. For example, the Yamasee as a distinct culture did not appear on the
Southern frontier until their political union occurred. See, Bradley Scott Schrager,
"Yamasee Indians and the Challenge of Spanish and English Colonialism in the North
American Southeast, 1660-1715," (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 2001), 32-34. If
there are legitimate questions regarding the nature of Indian ethnic independence versus
political alliances it seems fair that we might also question an Indian's ability to colonize.
James Merrell has warned against relying on ethnohistory for ethnohistoric saturation
can separate Native American history from the rest of colonial history. James H.
Merrell, "Some Thoughts on Colonial Historians and American Indians," William and
Mary Quarterly 46, (January, 1989): 94-119.
faced serious financial burdens. In the contest for the Southeastern frontier,
many Native communities acted like colonizers instead of the colonized.
When James Oglethorpe first met Tomochichi, the leader of the Yamacraw,
in 1733, he sought permission to settle on their land.74 Despite Carolina's original
land grant or territorial claims, Oglethorpe accepted Indian ownership of the
territory along the Savannah River and his actions marked a radical departure
from the typical entrance of European colonizers. In many ways, the Yamacraw
colonized the land that became Georgia. Although their "colonization" of the
land did not last long and power quickly reverted back to the European
newcomers, their independence is indicative of their unique place on the land.
Upon his arrival in Georgia, Oglethorpe had to negotiate his presence on the
land and legitimacy as a leader of a new European colony. At the time, neither
the Europeans nor Indians could claim complete control of the land. The
Yamacraw occupied the space Oglethorpe wanted, but they could not deny his
entrance. At the same time, however, Oglethorpe did not have the power to
simply remove or subjugate the existing population. Together, the two parties
formed an alliance. Without this partnership neither party could survive. The
Yamacraw came to the Savannah River after previous populations had
disappeared or been destroyed and they intended to occupy the land between
Spain and England. Unfortunately, the Yamacraw chose a site coveted by the
74 Again, blurring the division between ethnicity and political confederacy, the
Yamacraw were a small community of Muskogee and Yamasee Indians. In short, the
Yamacraw were the offspring of external conflict. One scholar has even declared that the
Yamacraw Indians were "created in 1728." It is unlikely that ethnicities can have such an
accurate date of birth. Sweet, "Negotiating a Southeastern Middle Ground," 21.
By the mid-1720s, it became clear to the most myopic official in London
that something had to fill the open area between Charleston and St. Augustine.
England had traditionally ignored much of Spain's land claims in eastern North
America. Although England occasionally argued land ownership on rights of first
discovery, it typically operated under the assumption that the first to successfully
settle the land became, through default or decree, the land's rightful owner.75 If
England intended to maintain this position, many believed, colonization had to
begin soon. That the first attempts to expand beyond the core towns focused on
the land between the Altamaha and Savannah Rivers was not an accident.
Carolina's acceptance of the Azilia plan highlighted the need to fill the
frontier, but when funds and support in London failed to materialize few
protested inaction on the colony's southern extremities. A few years after Azilia's
collapse, and shortly after Carolina became a royal colony, the British approached
the weakness of the southern frontier with a new urgency. In the 1720s,
Carolina's government raised funds specifically for the defense and settlement
growth south of the Altamaha River.
Defending the southern frontier required two distinctly different
approaches. First, the English had to visibly defend the land which required the
construction of a defensive network that not only addressed southern
vulnerabilities, but also areas in the West that the French might attempt to
exploit. Secondly, settlements had to be built on these frontiers in order to
75 Christian rulers had claimed the right of eminent domain since the reign of
Queen Elizabeth. Seed, "Taking Possession and Reading Texts," 188.
maintain a physical presence on the land, provide support for the military
outposts, and to better mark one's territorial limits.
Events in the early eighteenth century led to a change in previous attitudes
about the need to secure the frontier. After the Yamasee War ended in 1717,
English authorities no longer insisted that Indian allies be used to police
Carolina's boundaries. Access to the Indian trade continued to be a point of
contention between Europeans for the rest of the decade, but Carolina, like
Florida before, realized the difficulties in relying on Native Americans to provide
security. From 1717 on, the English understood that they alone had to protect
their boundaries. After the crown assumed control of South Carolina in 1721,
construction began on various defensive outposts. Most of these fortifications
faced Florida, but western Carolina also received attention.
Despite a larger military presence, the border between Florida and South
Carolina remained porous. After several failed starts and ill-advised plans, South
Carolina's best hope for a protected border rested on plans for a large and
successful colony south of Charleston. By the late seventeenth century, Florida
began threatening the English in a variety of unique ways.
In 1687, St. Augustine began welcoming fugitive slaves from Carolina when
a group of ten runaways entered the Spanish city in search of protection and
baptism in "the true faith."76 Florida governor Diego de Quiroga claimed he
invited the slaves to remain in Florida when they requested a Catholic baptism.
76 AGI-54-5-12 (Council of Indies to Quiroga, February 24, 1688). Apparently,
Yamasee Indians who helped guide the slaves to St. Augustine told the fugitives that if
they converted to Catholicism, the Spaniards might provide protection.
In response to South Carolina's complaints about harboring the slaves,
authorities in Madrid informed Governor Quiroga that "not appearing to be the
proper thing to return them after becoming Christians, it was agreed upon... to
buy them with the money from the Royal exchequer for the sum of sixteen
hundred dollars. "77 With these instructions, Spain officially sanctioned its most
powerful campaign to destabilize South Carolina.
Despite Spain's restitution for the fugitive slaves, South Carolina saw this
policy as an entirely new challenge to the security of the colony. As the
proportion of South Carolina's enslaved population grew, Spain's policy toward
runaway slaves seemed particularly threatening.78 In 1719, a speaker to the South
Carolina Assembly described the military in St. Augustine as "a Garrison
containing roughly 300 sorry Soldiers being mostly Bandeitti and
undisciplined."79 Regardless of their military weakness, the policy to invite and
protect fugitive slaves made Florida a formidable adversary.
As Florida became a beacon to runaway slaves and with St. Augustine
arming these fugitives, reasons to expand Carolina's borders and the urgency to
complete this expansion became even clearer than before. At times, Carolina
invited colonization plans because settlement growth seemed an easy way to
77 AGI-54-5-12. See also, Verne Chatelain, The Defenses of Spanish Florida, 1565
to 1763 (Washington D. C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1941), 161. Jane
Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999),
78 In 1708 South Carolina had a slim black majority (4,100 African Americans to
4,080 white settlers). These numbers became significant by 1715 when the populations
reached 10,500 and 6,250 respectively. Wood, Black Majority, 144.
79 Ibid., 113.
settle future border disputes. When Florida began forming a militia of former
slaves, such plans assumed a new urgency. Florida's unusual policy also reflected
the nature of the frontier. If England intended to expand its territory, Spain
promised a fight. Because the Spanish outpost lacked the resources to maintain
traditional defenses, St. Augustine sought and used unconventional tactics in
what became, for the Spaniards at least, a war for survival.
By the time the Georgia Trustees received their charter to establish a colony,
the rules for frontier settlement and security became increasingly clear and
uniform irrespective of national origin. Maintaining one's security on the frontier
required an ability to adapt to myriad problems and surprises. Native American
alliances had to be maintained for purposes of economic health and security, but
could not be depended upon for complete protection. In the event of war, Indian
allies could greatly increase an army's size and bolster its intelligence of the
terrain and opposing force. By 1730, it also became clear that events in Europe
would play an important role in determining the success in the borderlands.
Gradually, two fronts emerged in the contest for the Georgia frontier.
In Europe, diplomats based colonial policy on ideas they thought provided
the best security. At the same time, European officials fought over legal rights to
the land. Treaties signed in cities far removed from the colonies addressed
border placement and conflict in North America, but rarely did these activities
acknowledge or understand the realities of frontier politics. This is not to say
that Europe did not play a significant role in determining the nature of the
contest for the Southeastern frontier. Often the distance between the royal courts
and their colonies allowed for an emotional detachment from the activities across
Visitors to the Southeastern frontier understood the importance in
protecting and securing Britain's borders. In his 1727 pamphlet The Trade and
Navigation of Great Britain Considered, Joshua Gee warned of the dangers on
the frontier. North America had enormous economic potential, but in areas like
South Carolina where French and Spanish interests came together near English
borders, profits came with risks. Gee thought these risks unnecessary. North
America, wrote Gee, "is capable of raising within... its colonies, materials for
employing all our Poor." In order to accomplish these goals, British officials had
to "secure the Frontiers of Carolina against the Incroachments [sic.] of the
Spaniards from St. Augustine, as well as those of the French."80 South Carolina
understood what Gee wrote and had attempted to fill this void. Five years after
the publication of The Trade and Navigation of Great Britain, the British crown
made its best and final attempt to fill the space between Florida and South
The French, Spanish, and English governments directed their imperial
ambitions on the land between Carolina and Florida. The open frontier
represented a dangerous area where future conflict over the land held the
potential to control events throughout the Atlantic World. By 1730, the need to
80 Joshua Gee, The Trade and Navigation of Great Britain Considered (London,
1727), preface. Later, the Georgia Trustees distributed copies of Gee's pamphlet with the
promotional literature that described Georgia.
transform the southern frontier into a stable borderland colony became
FOUNDING AND FIGHTING FOR GEORGIA, 1732-1737
Whether the idea for Georgia began when a Parliamentary committee
considered rehabilitating prisoners in North America, or as religious dissidents
from other parts of Europe sought English protection, events on the frontier
required a new colony by 173o.1 Despite previous attempts to fill the empty land
south of Charleston, colonial and royal authorities gradually believed Britain
needed a colony between Carolina and Florida in order to create a legitimate
southern border. By 1730, preservation through expansion seemed a simple
formula for success on the frontier. Officials in South Carolina believed forts
constructed in the 1720s provided a warning to would-be interlopers; but
England required something more permanent than lightly manned outposts. The
English needed a new colony, one to protect those already established, but in a
constant state of danger. If the new venture failed, Britain's other colonies would
only weaken. Then, Georgia would assume the role of colonial keystone.
1 James Oglethorpe led an investigative committee in Parliament which examined
the state of England's prisons. While leading this committee, he met Dr. Thomas Bray,
founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Together, Oglethorpe and Bray
led efforts to gain Parliamentary support for the establishment of a buffer colony. Others
pushed the idea for a colony built by religious figures. Johann Martin Bolzius, leader of
the Salzburger community promised the colony would become "a defensive Protestant
bulwark against Papist Spain." For a general overview of Georgia's early European roots
see; Kenneth Colemen, "The Southern Frontier: Georgia's Founding and the Expansion
of South Carolina," Georgia Historical Quarterly 56 (Summer, 1972): 163-174 and
Crane, "The Philanthropists and the Genesis of Georgia," 63-69.
When Spain and Britain debated Georgia's legitimacy, the English
occasionally claimed a right to the contested territory because Sebastian Cabot
spied the land from his passing ship in the sixteenth century. More frequently,
the British claimed a right to the land because of stipulations found in the 1670
Treaty of Madrid and the original land grant that created the Carolinas. When
asked why England sought a colony south of Carolina, the answers might have
focused on its value as a defensive bulwark against the Spaniards, as an outpost
for dissident Protestant sects expelled from their native lands, or as a logical
progression of English colonization in North America. Whatever the answer, the
controversy over Georgia's founding included numerous myths and partial
histories. When other nations challenged the colony's right to exist or the
placement of its boundaries, half-truths and imagined pasts frequently framed
the argument for Georgia's legitimacy.
In reaction to the renewed calls for the extension of colonial boundaries in
southern North America, James Oglethorpe and Dr. Thomas Bray petitioned the
Privy Council in early 1730 for a charter to colonize the land between the
Altamaha and Savannah Rivers.2 Although Robert Montgomery held title to the
same land for his proposed settlement Azilia, Montgomery's agreement required
settlers and cultivated lands within three years of receiving his grant.3 Because
Montgomery failed to meet these requirements, rights to the land reverted back
2 Bray died before the creation of the Georgia Trust and its official request to
settle Georgia, but his activities and association with the Anglican Church played a vital
role in the formation of the colony.
3 Robert G. McPherson, ed. The Journal of the Earl ofEgmont (Athens:
University of Georgia Press, 1962), 29.
to South Carolina and returned to the king's domain. After several meetings and
consultations between the would-be colonists, Privy Council, and the Board of
Trade, the king signed Georgia's charter in April 1732.4 The order that passed
described a "New Colony in His Majesty's Province of South Carolina."5 The
charter may have suggested the colony lay within the boundaries of South
Carolina, but Georgia would operate independently from its neighbor.
Carolina wanted a colony south of Charleston, but Oglethorpe's relationship
to the British government helped ensure the plan's approval. When King George
II agreed to the charter, the monarch allowed the establishment of a semi-
independent buffer zone to protect English interests in other colonies from the
advances of the Spanish and French. The Trustees received near absolute control
of their colony. In turn, the governing body empowered Oglethorpe to enact and
enforce official policies. As the assumed defender of Carolina's plantations,
Georgia faced immediate and considerable danger. The Trustees believed they
alone could guide the colony to safety.6 Despite Georgia's perceived weaknesses,
4 It is interesting to note that Georgia approved in 1732 was not the first Georgia
proposed as a colony. In 1717, Thomas Coram suggested to the Council of Trade and
Plantations that the crown create a colony called "Georgeia." Like the colony approved
in 1732, Georgeia was proposed as a barrier between established English colonies and an
open frontier, but Coram planned his colony "between Nova Scotia and Maine." Like the
southern colony that was approved, Coram's plan included a prohibition on rum,
limitations of land ownership, and other limits that would ensure a socially enlightened
settlement. That social restrictions were included in this similar plan cannot be
overlooked. Both Georgias were intended to defend more established British colonies.
To be successful, the founders of each plan thought social activity had to be carefully
controlled. See Taylor, Georgia Plan, 8.
5 Colonial Office 326/17, September, 1732. Hereafter, documents from this
collection will be cited as CO.
6 Although Oglethorpe assumed control of Georgia, the Trustees did not appoint a
governor, as they feared a governor would answer to the crown, not the Trustees. The
Trustees believed operating as a group and maintaining colonial power in London made
its independence from South Carolina and Parliamentary support created what
seemed to many a viable alternative to the internecine warfare previously used to
maintain order on the frontier.7 From the perspective of the government in
South Carolina, Florida now became Georgia's problem, leading many
Carolinians to assume the policies and plots from Florida could only minimally
affect their lives. For many in Carolina, Georgia meant an end to the constant
Increased acts of Spanish piracy off the Carolina coast and Florida's
periodic offers of refuge to runaway slaves had, by the time of Georgia's charter,
started to take a psychological and physical toll on South Carolina's residents. In
response to the activities of the Spaniards, the British launched a series of raids
in Northern Florida in 1728. Led by Colonel John Palmer of South Carolina, the
border skirmishes prompted Florida Governor, Antonio de Benavides, to arm and
free the slaves sought by Palmer. After the runaways fought against their former
masters, the Spanish governor suggested they be sent north to lead a series of
retaliatory raids on English plantations while the regular army staged a more
concentrated attack against British interests. Although Spain did not retaliate in
this manner, the knowledge that St. Augustine seemed willing to send armed
them more independent than a locally based governor or assembly house as in Virginia
and South Carolina. Reese, Colonial Georgia, 19-20. See also, Paul S. Taylor, The
Georgia Plan: 1732-1752, 16-17.
7 Independence from South Carolina proved a crucial aspect to Georgia's success
in the initial stages. Previously, colonial ventures south of the Savannah River had to go
through the Proprietors and later the Commons House of South Carolina. Although
South Carolina assumed control of the Georgia militia, the Trustees' independence
helped the colony survive its early struggles. Kenneth Coleman, "The Founding of
Georgia," in Forty Years of Diversity: Essays on Colonial Georgia, eds. Harvey H.
Jackson and Phinizy Spalding (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1984), 9.