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James Habersham

Loyalty, Politics, and Commerce in Colonial Georgia

Frank Lambert

Publication Year: 2005

James Habersham was an early American success story. After arriving in Savannah in 1738, he failed in his efforts to wrest a living from the Georgia wilderness and lived his first year at public expense. Then, by dint of his own efforts and through the connections he forged, Habersham emerged as one of the colony's most influential and prosperous citizens, making his name as a planter, merchant, evangelist, and political leader. The third wealthiest person in the colony at the time of his death in 1775, Habersham had a public career that included service as the secretary of Georgia, president of the King's council, and acting Governor.

But Habersham's story is more than biography. It also provides a window into colonial Georgia and its transformation from a struggling colony on the brink of collapse in the 1740s to a prosperous province in the 1770s, confident enough to defy the Crown. Ranging over such topics as the rise of Methodist missionary fervor, the development of transatlantic trade, the introduction of slavery, and the escalating debate over American independence, Frank Lambert tells how Habersham's success is inextricably tied to Georgia's fortunes and how he played a major role in helping the colony exploit its abundant resources. Habersham's economic development plan provided a blueprint for attracting new settlers, supplying an abundance of cheap labor, and opening new markets.

Habersham's achievements, however, are obscured by his unpopular stance on American independence. While his three sons distinguished themselves as Patriots, Habersham remained loyal to the Crown, though he had opposed Britain's new imperial policies in the 1760's. Nevertheless, it was Habersham's loyal service to colonial Georgia that enabled the colony to separate successfully from the mother country and assume its place in the new republic as a prosperous, vigorous state.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

James Habersham acknowledged his debt as a pioneering merchant in Savannah to his many “connections”: the suppliers, customers, creditors, and magistrates who made his success possible. Writers also rely on connections to turn their ideas into books, including those who provide inspiration...

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pp. 1-5

By all accounts, James Habersham was an early American success. Arriving in Savannah in 1738, he lived his first year in Georgia at public expense, but at his death in 1775, he had become one of the colony’s most influential and prosperous citizens.1 At the age of twenty-two, he left a promising future as a London merchant and came to Savannah as an inexperienced schoolmaster...

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One. London: Merchant Apprentice

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pp. 6-32

At first glance, James Habersham’s success in Georgia as a pioneering merchant, devout churchman, and loyal officeholder belies his early years in Beverley, a Yorkshire market town in the East Riding. Without question, he had come a long way from his birthplace, which he had been forced to leave because of the lack of opportunity, to make his mark in the distant and strange New World. Yet at a deep level the imprint of his childhood and the...

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Two. Bethesda: Orphan House Superintendent

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pp. 33-58

On Friday, December 30, 1737, James Habersham boarded the Whitaker, bound for Georgia, and embarked on more than an ocean voyage; the course of his life was about to take a radical turn. At twenty-two, he was turning his back on a promising mercantile career, launching instead into the unknown, sailing for a remote colony bordering lands contested by Spanish...

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Three. Harris & Habersham: Pioneering Merchant

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pp. 59-80

After five years in Georgia, James Habersham had little to show for his struggles. He had failed to make Bethesda a self-sustaining plantation, and he had alienated the magistrates over his religious zeal. But his fortunes underwent a dramatic transformation in the five years from 1743 to 1748, as he rose to become one of Georgia’s wealthiest residents as managing partner...

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Four. Council House: Assistant and Secretary

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pp. 81-108

James Habersham’s political trajectory matched his swift ascent to commercial success. In just seven years he underwent a dramatic metamorphosis from pariah to statesman. On May 10, 1743, Benjamin Martyn, secretary for the Georgia trustees, rebuked Habersham for insulting Christopher Orton, the Anglican priest at Savannah. Writing for the trustees, Martyn told...

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Five. Silk Hope: Planter and Slaveholder

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pp. 109-126

In the early 1750s, James Habersham left Savannah and his mercantile business for Silk Hope, his plantation on the Little Ogeechee, where his success as a planter rested in large part on policies he helped shape as a councilor. As an insider on the land-granting Council, he obtained prime acreage, and as a successful lobbyist for slave labor, he secured an abundance...

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Six. Savannah: Georgia Gentleman

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pp. 127-154

When James Habersham left Silk Hope and moved to Savannah in the early 1760s, he returned to the town where he had resided on arriving in 1738 and where he had established his mercantile business in 1743. The move was also symbolic, moving from an alien world of plantation agriculture back home to the commercial universe he knew so well. Though he was a successful...

Seven. Machenry’s Tavern: Loyalist

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pp. 155-178


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pp. 179-192


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pp. 193-197

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343983
E-ISBN-10: 0820325392
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820325392
Print-ISBN-10: 0820325392

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 794443077
MUSE Marc Record: Download for James Habersham

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Subject Headings

  • Habersham, James, 1715-1775.
  • Politicians -- Georgia -- Biography.
  • Merchants -- Georgia -- Biography.
  • Slaveholders -- Georgia -- Biography.
  • Georgia -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
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