Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

George Galphin and the Transformation of the Georgia-South Carolina Backcountry

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

George Galphin and the Transformation of the Georgia-South Carolina Backcountry

Article excerpt

George Galphin and the Transformation of the Georgia-South Carolina Backcountry. By Michael P. Morris. New Studies in Southern History. (Lanham, Md., and other cities: Lexington Books, 2015. Pp. [viii], 193. $80.00, ISBN 978-1-4985-0173-6.)

Georgia schoolkids should forget James Oglethorpe and instead study George Galphin, who was a "more integral, key player in the long-term development of the region" (p. 1). So begins Michael P. Morris's study of the prominent mid-eighteenth-century fur trader and Indian agent. According to Morris, Galphin's importance lies in his maneuvering Indian diplomacy, primarily among the Muskogee Creeks, toward a path of free-trade capitalism and away from the regulatory efforts of the British superintendent for Indian affairs, John Stuart. Galphin's primacy in that long-term development stems from the victory of decentralized, individual traders trying to maximize profits at the expense of regional peace and stability.

Galphin, born in Ulster in 1709, immigrated to North America in 1737 and soon became a Creek interpreter for South Carolina. By the 1750s he was part of a large business network of Ulster Scots who were prominent in backcountry dealings with Indians and, in the 1760s, served as sponsors of Scots-Irish immigrants into two settlements in western South Carolina and eastern Georgia. Galphin and his trade network were, according to Morris, becoming valuable assets to the governors of both southern colonies on the eve of the imperial crisis with Britain. The establishment of Galphin's slave plantation at Silver Bluff, just south of Augusta, symbolized the success of this type of Indian diplomacy by the 1760s. The Galphin method put the trader's fortunes first; Indian trade was a way to enrich individual agents without consideration of how their dealings might wreak havoc on their neighbors. The British government's creation of an Indian superintendency after the Seven Years' War threatened this method, with Stuart's agenda focusing on regional stability rather than traders' profits. By the 1770s, Morris argues, "fur traders were experiencing their own version of the trade laws that so terrified and frustrated other merchants and taxpayers" (p. …

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