Our Georgia History
 
A State and Union formed
By Randy Golden
Exclusively for Our Georgia History

With the royal government in exile the first order of business for the Whigs was the creation of government, which they did by adopting a set of "Rules and Regulations" on April 15,1776. This document, generally viewed as Georgia's first constitution, was actually created in Augusta, because the Radical government had removed up river after the problems in Savannah. It created a broad outline of state government to be filled in later. On May 1, 1776, Archibald Bulloch became the first leader of the state of Georgia, elected under this document.

Georgia's delegation to the Second Continental Congress also changed. Selected to join Lyman Hall for the proceedings in Philadelphia were Button Gwinnett, George Walton, Archibald Bulloch, and John Houstoun. Unfortunately, Bulloch felt he could better serve the state by staying in Savannah as President of the Council of Safety and Houstoun was dealing with personal affairs.

After the Battle of the Rice Boats, Georgia's Council of Safety understood that it must mobilize the state to prepare for future attacks. Since the middle of February the British fleet had patrolled the sea around Cockspur Island at the entrance to Savannah River, having the effect of dramatically curtailing shipping. With the call to arms, the Council realized that Savannah shipping was not their only problem. They had to prepare for an attack from other areas. The one of greatest concern was East Florida.

The Continental command structure had Major General Charles Lee commanding the forces in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia, with General John Armstrong in charge of Georgia and South Carolina. The Council of Safety and Lee, the eccentric English-born son of an Irishman who may have given the British the idea of a "southern strategy", repeatedly disagreed over military matters.

One of the earliest recommendations of the Continental Congress and General Lee (actually made before the Battle of the Rice Boats) was for Georgia and the Carolinas to launch an expedition to remove the problem of British East Florida. St. Augustine was home to John Stuart, the British Creek Indian agent whom the Council feared would stir up trouble on Georgia's frontiers. It was also home to the East Florida government, headed by able governor Patrick Tonyn, and site of the encampments of the Florida Rangers, whose raids across the border into Georgia had cost coastal South Georgia farmers a good deal of cattle. The Rangers were led by Thomas Brown, who left Augusta after a run-in with the Liberty Boys.

Raids across the St. Mary's were daily news, the Florida Rangers scouring the land for cattle while various Georgia irregular units looked for the Rangers. In May, 1776, Capt. William McIntosh was ordered to take a small group of irregulars to the St. Mary's River and raid settlements to the south, burning any fortifications constructed by the Rangers and destroying other military infrastructure. Gov. Tonyn told the legislature of this plan 4 days after it was approved. The Floridians had an excellent information network deep into revolutionary Georgia. Additional plans were made to mount a major expedition into Tonyn's Florida. The intent would be to drive the British from the area between the St. Mary's River and the St. John's River to St. Augustine, where they would be forced to surrender due to a lack of food.

Meanwhile, on the national front, The Second Continental Congress reconvened on May 10, 1776 and recommended that the individual colonies draft constitutions. Ten days later two of the three Georgia delegates, Button Gwinnett and Lyman Hall, arrived in Philadelphia to join the representatives already seated. Richard Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee made a resolution on June 7 that Congress declare independence. On June 10 the Second Continental Congress created a Committee to draft the document that would formally declare the United States independent of the oppressive British regime. The committee (Roger Sherman, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson) decided to turn the process over to 33 year-old Thomas Jefferson to complete.

At the same time these men were working on the Declaration two other committees were formed, one to draw up the Articles of Confederation, the other to draw up a treaty with France. Georgia delegate Button Gwinnett served on the "committee of thirteen," responsible for the Articles of Confederation. Gwinnett's biggest contribution appears to be his support for the United States to control Indian affairs.

Broadsides were a common method of conferring information during the 18th and 19th century. Of the estimated 200 original broadsides printed on the night of July 4-5, 1776, only 24 remain.
The original Declaration of Independence, signed by John Hancock and Charles Thompson was sent to a manuscript transcriber (Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore), who painstakingly recreated the document 15 times by hand on special parchment treated to make it look older. These manuscripts were then signed by each member of the Second Continental Congress on Aug. 2.

On June 28 Jefferson presented his oft revised work to the committee, who in turn made revisions to the document before presenting it to the Congress on July 1. First debate centered on independence, not really the document itself. On July 2, 1776, the Lee Resolution was adopted. This date is occasionally given as the technical date of independence, although at this point some states still were dissatisfied with the document. For two days the delegates to the Second Continental Congress refined the wording of Jefferson's Declaration. Then, late in the afternoon on the 4th the body approved the document with twelve states voting for it. Only New York did not add its voice, because a new convention was convened and the delegates were awaiting instructions. On the evening of July 4, 1776 the committee set out to fulfill their final duties...to have the Declaration of Independence printed.

July 5, 1776 broke clear and cool in Philadelphia. Jefferson and the other committee members picked up the broadsides from a printshop owned by John Dunlop. They returned the broadsides to Congress where each state's delegation was responsible for sending the Declaration to the appropriate bodies in their home state. Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton, who had only recently arrived from Savannah, decided to send one copy to Archibald Bulloch, head of the Council of Safety.

On August 8, Bulloch received the "broadside", which he immediately read to the Council. Two days later he again read it, this time to the people of Georgia during a celebration in Savannah. About the same time, McIntosh began his raids along the St. Mary's, successfully driving the English plantation owners from their homes. Yet the Council of Safety was not satisfied with the results of McIntosh's raids. They informed General Lee that the plan for the original expedition should move forward.

Next: The First Florida Expedition

Acts Of War
Georgia in 1763
Sugar Act; Stamp Act
Townshend Acts
The House dissolved
Radicals Gain Power
Georgia joins the Continental Congress
A Colony at War
A State and Union Formed
The First Florida Expedition
A Leader Dies
The Second Florida Expedition
The Third Florida Expedition
Britain Attacks Georgia
Georgia Fight Backs
The Siege and Battle of Savannah
There Comes a Reaper
The Liberation of Georgia



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