Prior to the American Revolution, only one colony, Georgia, temporarily sought to prohibit slavery, because the founders did not want a workforce that would compete with the debtors they planned to transport from England. Settlers, however, illegally imported slaves into the colony, forcing the proprietors to abandon the idea of a slave-free colony.
In this selection, James Oglethorpe (1696-1785), Georgia's founder, describes the idealistic objectives behind this venture.
The Trustees intend to relieve such unfortunate persons as cannot subsist here [in England], and establish them in an orderly manner, so as to form a well-regulated town. As far as their fund goes, they will defray the charge of their passage to Georgia; given them necessaries, cattle, land, and subsistence till such time as they can build their houses and clear some of their land....
By such a colony many families who would otherwise starve will be provided for, and made masters of houses and lands. The people in Great Britain, to whom these necessitous families were a burden, will be relieved. Numbers of manufacturers will be here employed for supplying them with clothes, working tools, and other necessities. And by giving refuge to the distressed Salzburgers [Austrians], and other persecuted Protestants, the power of Britain, as a reward for its hospitality, will be increased by the addition of so many religious and industrious subjects.
The colony of Georgia lying about the same latitude with part of China, Persia, Palestine, and the Madeiras, it is highly probable that when hereafter it shall be well peopled and rightly cultivated, England may be supplied from thence with raw silk, wine, oil, dyes, drugs, and many other materials for manufactures which she is obliged to purchase from southern countries. As towns are established and grow populous along the rivers Savannah and Altamaha, they will make such a barrier as will render the southern frontier of the British colonies on the continent of America safe from Indian and other enemies.
Peter Force, Tracts (1836), I, no. 2, 5-7