SOCIETY AND POLITICS
BY THE TIME James Edward Oglethorpe died in 1785, the colony he had founded was firmly established. Already, however, Georgia was becoming very different from its founder's vision. Established as a refuge where poor Englishmen might become independent farmers and where slavery was prohibited, it had become a home to slaves and planters. Formed as a part of the British Empire, it had just gained independence from England in the American Revolution. However, it had not yet outgrown its origins as a military outpost against hostile Indians and England's imperial rival, Spain. As a colony under Oglethorpe -- even as a new state at the time he died -- Georgia was small in territory, population, wealth, and power.1 Georgia's rapid growth in the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War was matched, and facilitated, by the growing powers of its state government.
Georgia's population in the 1830s differed radically from that of a century earlier. Europeans planted their first permanent settlement in Georgia at Savannah in 1733. At that time Indians, with their hunting grounds and scattered villages, occupied the entire area. In the 1750s, African slaves became a significant part of the new colony's social and economic system. As late as 1787, when Georgia ratified the U.S. Constitution, the state controlled only a small portion of the area it eventually encompassed. In fact, the state's need for assistance against the Creek Indians provided a major reason for ratifying the Constitution. White Georgians and their slaves had settled little more than a narrow strip of territory along the Atlantic coast and up the Savannah River. The first federal census in 1790 enumerated only 52,886 whites and 29,264 slaves. But by 1840, white Georgians numbered 407,695, their slaves 280,944, and together they had extended their settlements to Georgia's modern boundaries. The Creeks and Cherokees, having ceded the last of their tribal lands, had almost entirely disappeared from Georgia.2
Meanwhile a comparable revolution occurred in Georgia's agriculture. Where the characteristic farm in the 1740s was small, largely self-sufficient, and worked by free or indentured labor, a new pattern developed in the