Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




Public History

First Advisor

Daniel C Littlefield


A 1735 law banned slavery in the new English colony of Georgia. The colony's Trustees considered slavery to be incompatible with their aims of using the colony to provide a subsistence living for England's poor and to provide a buffer between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. In the ensuing years, various parties linked the colony's failure to thrive (and their own failure to succeed within Georgia) to the lack of an enslaved labor force. By 1750, the Board of Trustees relented to pressure and enacted what they considered to be a humane slave code. Evangelist George Whitefield and teacher and merchant James Habersham were both proponents of legalizing slavery in order to support the Bethesda orphan home, which they established near Savannah in 1740. Scholarship about Whitefield, Habersham, and Bethesda have minimized or ignored their significance in Georgia's transition to a slave colony. The previous literature on legalizing slavery in Georgia likewise neglects their role in the Trustees' decision. Most scholarship on the subject focuses on the Malcontents, a faction of colonists who pushed for a change in legislation, particularly regarding slavery, and the Salzburgers, German Protestant refugees who supported the Trustees' decisions regarding slavery both before and after legalization. Evidence shows, however, that Whitefield and Habersham exerted influence within the colony and with the Trustees in England. Like the Malcontents, these two men should be part of the story of the Trustees' move to legalize slavery in colonial Georgia.


© 2013, Tara Leigh Babb

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