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This Day in Georgia History

November 20, 1785

James Wright Died

Former royal governor James Wright died in London, England. Born there in 1716, Wright came to American colonies in 1730 when his father was appointed chief justice of South Carolina. Wright followed in his father’s footsteps, both in practicing law and amassing plantation lands. In 1757 he was chosen as South Carolina’s agent to represent the colony in England. While there, he was appointed lieutenant governor of Georgia in May 1760. Following the resignation of Henry Ellis, Wright was named royal governor of Georgia in April 1761. Wright was the last, and the ablest, of Georgia’s three royal governors. When he took over the reins as Georgia’s royal governor, the colony was entering an era of expansion after almost three decades of slow growth and uncertainty. With the French and Spanish no longer a threat after the French and Indian War, Georgia began a policy of actively encouraging Indian land cessions in order to attract new settlers to the colony. At the same time he worked hard for the interests of those already in Georgia, even moving his own financial and land assets from South Carolina to Georgia. Most Georgians were very pleased with Wright’s leadership until the Stamp Act of 1765. Georgia was the youngest and least populated of the thirteen colonies. Many of its elite had strong ties to England, which meant the movement for independence in Georgia trailed the other colonies. Some of this reluctance can be attributed to Wright, whose helpful and fair leadership was respected in the colony. Georgia was the only colony to allow a shipload of stamps to land and be sold. Even with opposition to England’s policies rising, Wright still was able to get a large land cession for Georgia approved in London in 1773. But as the independence movement grew stronger, Wright was forced into taking arms against the colonists he had ruled so well. After being placed under house arrest, he escaped to a British ship and eventually convinced the British to provide enough troops to recapture Georgia. This was done in December 1778, making Georgia the only colony to have royal government reinstated. But Wright was never again in full control, as the Patriots established their own government in Augusta. When the British finally evacuated Savannah for good in 1782, Wright returned to London, where he was given a five-hundred pound annual pension as compensation for what he had lost in Georgia. After his death in 1785, Wright was buried in Westminster Abbey.