James Habersham
Loyalty, Politics, and Commerce in Colonial Georgia

Frank Lambert

The first biography of a remarkable figure in early Georgia


"There are many historical figures that have deservedly been neglected by history and historians; James Habersham is not one. He deserves to be rescued and to be put in the center of colonial Georgia, where he was when he lived. Frank Lambert sheds light on the workings of colonial mercantile culture and how a merchant class grew from a decidedly uncommercial colonial experiment. It is a pleasure to see this book and it is my hope that it marks a revival in scholarship of this early period."
—Harvey H. Jackson III, Jacksonville State University

"Lambert adroitly links [it] all together, sketching the details of Habersham's life while using broad strokes to show its connection to larger men and events. . . . No account of early Georgia is complete without a portrayal of James Habersham."
—Chuck Mobley, Savannah Morning News

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James Habersham was an early American success story. After arriving in Savannah in 1738, he failed in his efforts to wrest a living from the Georgia wilderness and lived his first year at public expense. Then, by dint of his own efforts and through the connections he forged, Habersham emerged as one of the colony's most influential and prosperous citizens, making his name as a planter, merchant, evangelist, and political leader. The third wealthiest person in the colony at the time of his death in 1775, Habersham had a public career that included service as the secretary of Georgia, president of the King's council, and acting Governor.

But Habersham's story is more than biography. It also provides a window into colonial Georgia and its transformation from a struggling colony on the brink of collapse in the 1740s to a prosperous province in the 1770s, confident enough to defy the Crown. Ranging over such topics as the rise of Methodist missionary fervor, the development of transatlantic trade, the introduction of slavery, and the escalating debate over American independence, Frank Lambert tells how Habersham's success is inextricably tied to Georgia's fortunes and how he played a major role in helping the colony exploit its abundant resources. Habersham's economic development plan provided a blueprint for attracting new settlers, supplying an abundance of cheap labor, and opening new markets.

Habersham's achievements, however, are obscured by his unpopular stance on American independence. While his three sons distinguished themselves as Patriots, Habersham remained loyal to the Crown, though he had opposed Britain's new imperial policies in the 1760's. Nevertheless, it was Habersham's loyal service to colonial Georgia that enabled the colony to separate successfully from the mother country and assume its place in the new republic as a prosperous, vigorous state.

A Wormsloe Foundation Publication

Page count: 208 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9

Read more about James Habersham at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


List price: $24.95

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Frank Lambert is a professor of history at Purdue University. He is the author of six other books, including The Battle of Ole Miss: Civil Rights v. States’ Rights, Religion in American Politics: A Short History, and The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World.