Beyond NGE

Trusting the Trustees

 This oil painting by William Verelst shows the founders of Georgia, the Georgia Trustees, and a delegation of Georgia Indians in July 1734. One year later the Trustees persuaded the British government to support a ban on slavery in Georgia.

Ever hear of a “trust fall”? This is a trust-building exercise for groups in which you allow yourself to fall backward, relying on your teammates to catch you. Trust can be a scary thing, and this was certainly the case for the fledgling colony of Georgia. For its first two decades, 1732–52, Georgia was governed by a Board of Trustees created by the British Parliament. The Trustees established Georgia as a buffer colony from the Spanish threat in Florida, and they enacted legislation that abolished slavery and rum, limited land ownership, and required licenses for trading west of the Savannah River. Some colonial groups, like the Protestant Salzburgers, favored such strict guidelines. Others, like the Scottish Malcontents, felt that the Trustees were preventing them from realizing their economic potential. Eventually, all of these policies were modified or overturned, and the Board of Trustees began to lose power. Parliament also failed to renew the Board's sponsorship in 1751, and the following year governorship of the colony passed from the Trustees to the earl of Halifax. Although the Trustees’ trust-fall experience didn’t work out exactly as they had planned, it did lay the foundation for a successful colony and state!

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Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries