The Failure of Georgia's Small Farmer's Utopia

The attraction of being given free travel, fifty acres of land and one year's worth of supplies must have been too much to resist for some who had been destitute in Europe. Yet this was the offer given by the trustees to the area of land that was south of Carolina and north of Spanish Florida. Georgia was this lands given name-named after King George II. The King named General James Oglethorpe and associates of Oglethorpe the trustees of Georgia. The trustees of Georgia had a noble vision of creating a colony which would champion the idea of a small farmers' utopia. On the surface the concept must have seemed idealistic and promising. For poor people who escaped the poverty and oppression of Europe, this should have been an irresistible arrangement. Yet the plan failed. Why? An examination of this utopian endeavor will help display the uncommonness of successfully creating such a society.

James Oglethorpe, along with a twenty-one-member Board of Trustees, founded the colony of Georgia in
James Oglethorpe, along with a twenty-one-member Board of Trustees, founded the colony of Georgia in

Before we can examine why a utopia failed, we should examine the factors that should be in place to make a utopia succeed. A utopia is successful if the goals set forth upon creation of it are accomplished. Another definition of a successful utopia is that it is an ideally perfect state; especially in its social, political and moral aspects. An example of a utopian success can be found in the Amish communities. Therefore, we will briefly examine what makes the Amish community a utopian success. The Amish are, as a group, socially introverted in so far there is an effort to limit contact and influence of the modern world and modern conveniences. Rarely does anyone ever leave an Amish community. In the Amish community cooperation abounds. The Amish also achieved their goals for a simple and austere life (Nguyen,1999). In contrast, the people who migrated to early Georgia were not seeking to contribute to a utopian society. They were motivated by self interest. Self serving motives were probably a major factor behind Britain's decision to allow plans to create a utopia in Georgia. The English sought a way to produce cheap commodities from Georgia which could only be imported otherwise. One of the coveted commodities was wine. Another was silk. Silk worms were brought from Europe in hopes that Georgia's mulberry trees were conducive for producing silk. England also wanted to create a military buffer zone between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. King George II made James Oglethorpe and his associate's trustees of Georgia in 1732 for a twenty-one year charter. Oglethorpe sought to create a utopia by providing the "worthy poor" land and supplies to produce commodities. Part of the plan for Georgia's utopia was to promote a protestant colony, in fact, Catholicism was not allowed. (Elson,1904). Despite the commitment to Protestantism there was an influx of European Jews. The trustees believed that if given a chance, England's "worthy poor," including some incarcerated in debtors prison, could be transformed into productive farmers, merchants, and artisans (DEBTORS IN GEORGIA,2011). As it turns out the plan to release many from debtors' prison quickly faded and those who were chosen to go were farmers artisans and those with building skills. Only a few were ever released from debtors' prison.
Savannah, 1734
Savannah, 1734

The city of Savannah, once a part of Oglethorpe's utopian design, makes its beginnings in 1734.

Despite the best intentions, the utopian dream failed. A considerable lack of enthusiasm to create a utopia on the part of the citizens was probably the biggest reason it failed. For a utopia to be successful cooperation is necessary. Many other things also impeded its success. Slavery was outlawed. And even though we in modern times abhor the idea of slavery, at the time it was needed to be competitive with those in neighboring states which allowed slavery like Carolina. Alcohol was outlawed yet flouted openly.(DEBTORS IN GEORGIA,2011) Early Georgia residents also didn't like the fact that the land that they were given to farm could not be sold. Some complained that they were given land that was unproductive. The plan to cultivate silk failed because the trees in Georgia were not the precise type. Georgia's proximity to Spanish Florida made it a military buffer for the Carolinas and the other southern colonies. The new Georgia encyclopedia tells us the threat of invasion by the Spanish was always a concern and much of the attention and resources of the trustees were spent on the defense of Georgia. It wasn't long before Georgia residents started to migrate to the Carolinas and the vision of a utopia quickly faded (Jackson, 2003).
James Oglethorpe's dream of a utopia was over; however he continued to be a supporter of Georgia and its purpose to defend the colonies from invasion. History has shown us that creating a successful utopia is rare and difficult, yet for General James Oglethorpe we can say it was a valiant effort and a noble cause.

Works Cited
Nguyen, Natasha (1999). The Amish: A Research On Their Utopian Lifestyle and How It Succeeded. Retrieved from www.

Jackson, Edwin L.(2003) The New Georgia Encyclopedia: James Edward Oglethorpe(1696-1785). Retrieved from

Elson, Henry William(1904). History of the United States of America: Georgia. Chapter IV(pp. 93-97). New York, NY: Macmillan. Retrieved from U.S. History Online Textbook: Debtors in Georgia. Retrieved from

Pictures (The City of Savannah) (General James Oglethorpe)

Mark Ramsak