The Foundations of Georgia

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American Minute from William J. Federer

Educated at Oxford, James Oglethorpe joined the Austrian army at age 17 and helped free Belgrade from Muslim Turks.

Returning to England, he unintentionally killed a man in a brawl and went to prison.

Upon release, he followed his father’s footsteps and served in Parliament. He opposed slavery and, as a result of a friend dying in debtors’ prison, decided to found a colony for debtors and religious refugees to start anew. He secured Georgia’s Charter, named for King George II, and on JANUARY 13, 1733, his ship “Ann” arrived with 115 settlers.

Minister Herbert Henry offered prayer at the ship’s arrival. A year later, Salzburgers Protestant refugees from Austria settled the town of Ebenezer, Huguenot Protestant refugees came from France, and Moravian missionaries arrived from Bohemia.

In 1735, John Wesley became the colony’s Anglican minister, and his brother, Charles Wesley served as James Oglethorpe’s secretary.

Georgia’s original Charter, 1732, stated: “There shall be a liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God…and that all such persons, except papists, shall have a free excerise of their religion.”

Georgia’s first State Constitution, 1777, required: “Representatives…shall be of the Protestant religion.”

In 1789, Georgia’s Constitution broadened to include: “All persons shall have the free exercise of religion,” and in 1877, it stated: “Relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God…All men have the natural and inalienable right to worship God, each according to the dictates of his own conscience.”

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