Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Part 3: Victims of Philanthropy: The Settlers of Georgia

Chapter 12.  The altruism of an unheroic age
  • what cosmopolitanism and self-purity did to Pennsylvania, paternalism and philanthropy did to Georgia
  • mid-18th century
    • distinctly unheroic
    • more concerned about living with spiritual and intellectual means than with seeking unfamiliar horizons
    • philanthropy
      • directed toward the removal of poverty and vice
      • attempt to eliminate eyesores to gentlemen walking the streets of London
  • proposal in 1730 to establish colony in Georgia
    • made a welcome impression on the English mind
    • such a thoroughly altruistic enterprise became the subject of much poetry and self-congratulation
    • leaders free or sordid moties
    • planned to the most detailed (petty) specifications
  • General James Oglethorpe
    •  man of action
    • clear and specific in his purpose
    • arbitrary and impatient
    • unbending with the doctrinaire rigidity of the completely practical  man
  • Lord John Percival
    • co-leader of project
    • wealthy aristocrat
  • crucial mistake was making specific plans too far in advance and too far from the scene of the experiement
    • new colonists chosen from needy applicants
    • background and moral character investigated
    • those who showed promise of becoming sturdy colonists
 Chapter 13: London Blueprint for Georgia Utopia
  •  Sir Robert Montgomery proposed a geometric scheme of settlement
    • the mapping of the geography of a pipedream
    • basic errors
      • rigidity of rules for ownership, use, sale and inheritance of land
      • by preventing free accumulation, exchange, and exploration of the land, the planners stultified the life of the colony
    • acted as if they knew the facts
    • imposed their ignorance on the settlers
  • Negro was perceived as a menace to the scheme
    • settlers were to do their own labor
    • prohibition of slavery was integral to plan
  • grandiose plans for Georgia's place in England's economy
    • an envisioned silk trade
  • ad the plan succeeded, Georgia would have been a tidy, antiseptic, efficient, and thoroughly dull place
  • major flaw was that this scheme had to be carried out by real people in a real world

Chapter 14.  A Charity Colony
  • London philanthropists
    • trying to make Georgia a European dream
    • less interested in what was possible in America than in what had been impossible in Europe
  • 18th century English society
    • nothing more valued than security and independence
    • acceptance of his own place by each party (e.g., squire and peasant)
    • America provided a man caught in the lower class a chance to escape, to accept a new life
    • Georgia settlers were at a disadvantage being in the hand of their benefactors
  • Trustees of the colony
    • held a destructively paternalistic attitude
    • their arrogance and condescension bred dependence and discontent
    • settlers made their complaints and looked for aid to their benefactors in distant London
  • Sponsors found themselves becoming increasingly involved in the affairs of the settlement
  • plight of colonists
    • their new home allowed them to become neither prosperous nor hopeful
    • lack of special skills as backwoodsmen
Chapter 15:  Death of a Welfare Project
  •  colonists cursed by universal ills of bureaucracy
    • pettiness
    • arbitrariness
    • corruption
  • most disastrous of trustees' plans concerned the land
    • rigid provisions removed incentive to increased productivity
    • trustees discovered they had assumed a responsibility they could neither fulfill nor abandon
    • disgruntled colonists found themselves shackled to unfertile plots of land
      • laws prevented adding to, seeling, or exchanging parcels of land
      • alternative was flight
  • attempt at prohibition, an unenforceable act
  • silk industry
    • last project to bite the dust
    • story of futile bickerings and unfulfilled hopes
    • sponsors became victims of their own propaganda
    • in 1742, when half the silkworms in Savannah died, the fact that Georgia's climate was not suited to raising silkworms was brutally confirmed
  • trustees gave up their charter in 1752
    • had burdened themselves with powers no one could wisely execute from London
    • less than half the original population remained
    • at the time of the Revolution, Georgia was least prosperous and least populous of colonies

Chapter 16:  Perils of Altruism
  • tried to incorporate too much of a plan
  • frame of mind which stifled the spontaneity and experimental spirit which were real spiritual wealth of America

The book has received mostly positive reviews at Amazon.

I chuckled over this comment from a 2-star review.
This is not a coherent history, but a series of disjointed stories, all related to the original settlements in the US. There is virtually no analysis, only poorly documented anecdotes. 
The book includes a 47-page section of Bibliographic Notes, which I used to bulk up my reading list in 1976.  The content is thoroughly documented.

The author does not present his research in a straightforward, chronological manner; he's not writing a textbook.  And the book is full of thoughtful analysis, which the reader may not always agree with.

Related posts:
The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel Boorstin,  Part 1.  A City Upon a Hill:  The Puritans of Massachusetts.  (12/8/2014)
The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Part 2. The Inward Plantation: The Quakers of Pennsylvania.  (12/10/2014)

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