General James Oglethorpe: Background information when reading The Kingdoms of Savannah

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The Kingdoms of Savannah

A Novel

by George Dawes Green

The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green X
The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2022, 304 pages

    Oct 2023, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Tina Choi
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About this Book

General James Oglethorpe

This article relates to The Kingdoms of Savannah

Print Review

Black-and-white portrait of General James Oglethorpe In The Kingdoms of Savannah, author George Dawes Green describes General James Oglethorpe as a "jewel of a man, a rare nonmonster in Savannah history." Indeed, Oglethorpe was unique in the context of 1700s British imperialism: a champion of the oppressed who fought against the powerful in issues ranging from prison abuse to slavery to the attempts made by the English to ban North American colonies' right to trade.

Oglethorpe was born in Yorkshire, England in 1696 and began his military career in 1717, fighting under Prince Eugene of Savoy in the Austro-Turkish War. He later attempted to participate in the Seven Years' War, but was denied a commission by the British, after which he ended up taking on a different name and fighting with the Prussians during the war.

Oglethorpe became a member of Parliament in 1722. In his early political career, he advocated for prison reforms. He eventually requested a charter proposing a new charity colony in present-day Savannah, Georgia, which was granted in 1732. The original charter for the colony banned slavery and gave freedom of religion to all, leading to the formation of a Jewish community there.

Oglethorpe became one of the first settlers in the new colony of Georgia. He was its unofficial governor and was nicknamed "Father." However, conflict soon thickened due to Oglethorpe's strict rules and his unwavering stance against slavery, which other settlers felt gave them a disadvantage.

Soon, Oglethorpe was truly fighting against the wind as the other trustees of the colony back in England began to complain about its rising expenses. In 1738, Oglethorpe's duties were cut back, his role reduced to leading the combined Georgia and South Carolina British military forces. After failing to take the settlement of St. Augustine from the Spanish, he returned to England permanently.

Oglethorpe remained a staunch supporter of the rights of American colonists. One of the final acts of his life was meeting with John Adams after the American Revolution. Oglethorpe died soon after at the ripe age of 88. No doubt he would have appreciated the heroic efforts of characters fighting to seek justice, centuries later, in The Kingdoms of Savannah.

General James E. Oglethorpe, from The History of Castillo de San Marcos & Fort Matanzas, From Contemporary Narratives and Letters, U.S. National Park Service, 1945

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Tina Choi

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Kingdoms of Savannah. It originally ran in September 2022 and has been updated for the October 2023 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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