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This Day in Georgia History

January 17, 1733

Trustees Banned Jewish Settlers

In London, the Georgia Trustees voted to ban Jews from settling in Georgia and further to instruct Jewish leaders in London to stop collecting money to send Jewish settlers to Georgia. This issue had arisen at the Dec. 7, 1732 meeting of the Trustees, but without resolution. In his journal, the Earl of Egmont noted that the Trustees were divided on the issue, but the majority voted against allowing Jews to settle in Georgia “because they generally are not cultivators of land, but Small hedge Shopkeepers, and might keep private correspondence with the Spaniards.” At least one Trustee – Thomas Coram – feared Jews immigrants would cause Christian colonists in Georgia “to fall off and desert it, as leaves from a tree in autumn.” Whatever the reason for the ban, it came too late for 43 Jews who had sailed for Georgia earlier that month. After they arrived in July 1733, James Oglethorpe allowed them to settle in Savannah – and some were given land grants. Although there was as yet no official policy on Jews [Georgia’s charter guaranteed religious liberty to all but Catholics], Oglethorpe contacted attorneys in Charleston about allowing the Jews to remain after the Trustees’ Jan. 17 ban. The lawyers advised Oglethorpe that he could not remove the Jews (which must have delighted him, since the colony’s only physician was one of the Jews that arrived in July).