George Mathews (Georgia)
|Seal of Georgia|
|21st Governor of Georgia|
November 7, 1793 – January 15, 1796
|Preceded by||Edward Telfair|
|Succeeded by||Jared Irwin|
|United States House of Representatives|
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1791
|Preceded by||New seat|
|Succeeded by||Francis Willis|
|20th Governor of Georgia|
January 9, 1787 – January 26, 1788
|Preceded by||Edward Telfair|
|Succeeded by||George Handley|
|Georgia General Assembly|
|Virginia House of Burgesses|
|Born||August 30, 1739
Augusta County, Virginia
|Died||August 30, 1812
|Resting place||St. Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery|
|Relations||George Mathews (son);
Sampson Mathews (brother);
Archer Mathews (brother)
|Residence||Goose Pond Plantation, Wilkes County, Georgia|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||Continental Army 1777-1783
United States Army 1810-1812
Brigadier General 1811
George Mathews (August 30, 1739 – August 30, 1812) was an American pioneer, planter, and politician from Augusta County, Virginia and Wilkes County, Georgia. He was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the 20th and 21st Governor of Georgia, and a United States Representative from Georgia. In later life, as a brigadier general, he led a filibuster expedition to capture Spanish Florida for the United States.
Born in Augusta County, Virginia, Mathews spent his early life as a merchant and planter on the Virginia frontier. He was a Captain of Augusta County militia in the Battle of Point Pleasant of Lord Dunmore's War. He was afterward a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses from Augusta County. He attended the First Virginia Convention when the house was dissolved by Royal Governor Lord Dunmore.
On the outbreak of the American Revolution he was commissioned a Colonel in the Continental Army. He was captured in the Battle of Germantown and spent several years as a Prisoner of War on a British prison ship. After the war, he moved to the state of Georgia and was elected to the Georgia General Assembly. After one term he was elected governor of the state. He served two terms as governor, and one intermittent term as a United States Representative, during which he voted to ratify the United States Constitution. During his second administration he quietly allowed the creation of the rogue state of the Trans-Oconee Republic, headed by General Elijah Clarke. He oversaw the removal of the state when public opinion, coupled with pressure from the Federal government, shifted. His administration was later tainted by the Yazoo Land Fraud, which ultimately led to his retiring from politics.
In 1811 Mathews was commissioned a brigadier general by President James Madison and assigned a filibuster operation to incite an insurrection in East Florida and capture the territory for the United States. This initiative has been referred to as the Patriot War and the Other War of 1812 (in a 2003 book title), yet since from a Canadian perspective the "other war of 1812" is the Napoleonic War, the initiative can be specified as the Patriot War of East Florida.
Mathews had launched the insurrection, capturing Fernandina, before the secret mission was recalled and disowned by President Madison. On learning of the recall, Mathews set out to Washington DC to confront President James Madison on the decision. He died in Augusta, Georgia on his way to the capital. He is buried at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Early life 
George was born to John and Ann (Archer) Mathews on August 30, 1739 in Augusta County, Virginia. His father brought his young family to the Virginia frontier during the Scots-Irish immigration, where he established himself as a planter and was elected to the vestry. Young George helped expand the family enterprise, taking over his father's farm at an early age.
He went into business with his older brother, Sampson Mathews, and they acquired property as far west as the Greenbrier district, setting up several outpost along this stretch. Their commercial and mercantile efforts included the selling of specialty goods and grew to include Atlantic trade markets.
He soon became active in civic affairs. He became a vestryman in the church, a Captain in the militia, and the sheriff of Augusta County. He earned a military reputation leading his company in the Battle of Point Pleasant against the Shawnee and Mingo Indian tribes during Lord Dunmore's War in 1774.
Rembert Patrick described the event:
- "Among the motley colonial army of raw recruits and woodsmen, dressed in hunting shirts and wearing moccasins, was George Mathews. It was a typical Indian battle where every man found a tree, and military discipline in the English sense was unknown. In the battle ensuing, Mathews shot nine Indians, and escaped with no more than scratches made by the protecting branches."
After the battle he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses for the 1774 session. When Royal Governor Lord Dunmore dissolved the house in May of 1774, he attended the First Virginia Convention.  His success in the Battle of Point Pleasant led to his recruitment in the Continental Army on the outbreak of the American Revolution.
American Revolution 
He was named the Colonel of the 9th Virginia Regiment in early 1777. Soon after he led them north to join the Continental Army, but met with serious reverses. In the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777 his entire regiment was killed, captured, or scattered; Mathews himself laid wounded on the battlefield and was nearly stabbed by an Englishman with bayonet raised before the soldier was reprimanded by his commander. He became a Prisoner of War, at first held at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the British withdrew from there, he was moved to a prison ship, anchored in New York harbor.
By 1779 he was granted a limited parole and permitted to live in New York City. He wrote to Governor Thomas Jefferson and to the Continental Congress urging a prisoner exchange, but exchanges were limited and he was overlooked. Jefferson wrote to Mathews to explain his decision to leave him in New York City to instead exchange for others still on the prison ships:
- "Your situation indeed seems to have been better since you were sent to New York [City], but reflect on what you suffered before that and know others of your countrymen to suffer and what you know is now suffered by that more unhappy part of them who are still confined on board the prison ships of the enemy."
He was finally exchanged in 1781, at which point he went south with General Nathaniel Greene, campaigning in South Carolina and Georgia. He was named commander of the 12th Virginia Regiment, but this was only a nominal command, since his new regiment had been prisoners since the fall of Charleston in May 1780.
Life in Georgia 
Mathews was impressed with the opportunities he saw on the Georgia frontier during the war. When he was released from service in 1783, he bought land in Wilkes County, augmenting that with land grants given for Revolutionary War service. He liquidated his Virginia property, and moved his family to a log cabin there. He and his wife, Polly, would raise their children there and in their later, larger house. In all, they had eight: John, Charles Lewis, George, William, Ann, Jane, Margaret, and Rebecca.
Political career 
Mathews became a judge in Wilkes County, and a town commissioner for Washington, Georgia. Then in 1787 he was a successful candidate for the Georgia Assembly. His bearing and military experience gained the respect of the other members, and they named him 20th Governor of Georgia that same year. Following his term in the Governor's office he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1789 for one term, during which he attended the state convention to ratify the United States Constitution. His identification as a Federalist and his involvement in land speculation caused him to lose the election for the U.S. Senate in 1792. But, by 1793 he had regained enough support to again be chosen Governor.
Trans-Oconee Republic 
His second administration was more tumultuous than his first. In February 1794, General Elijah Clarke, a popular veteran of the American Revolutionary War, lead an expedition to establish an independent state west of the Oconee River—on hunting grounds reserved by the federal Treaty of New York (1790) exclusively for the Creek Indians. Georgia had not been consulted on the original treaty and many Georgians viewed it unfavorably because they saw it as limiting the possibilities for the future expansion of their state.
Clarke's frontiersmen made settlements on lands in present-day Greene, Morgan, Putnam, and Baldwin counties of Georgia. The settlers built several towns and forts over the next few months. They also wrote and ratified their own constitution, indicating the permanent intention of their endeavor. With little overt opposition from the Creek, they were taking control of the lands before the state or federal governments could react.
The United States government viewed Clarke's actions as a violation of the Treaty of New York, which provided recognition of Creek lands in an effort to maintain peace and guarantee their neutrality. President George Washington pressured Governor Mathews to remove the illegal settlers from the Creek lands. Mathews initially ignored the "unauthorized military expedition," because he shared the state's resentment of the treaty and was aware of Clarke's popularity as a hero of the Revolution. He took only token measures to stop Clarke and his party, such as issuing a proclamation in July 1794 that went unenforced. It is unlikely that Mathews had enough public support to move against Clarke at that juncture, but the tide of public opinion eventually changed and he took actions to remove the rogue general from power.
In September, 1200 Georgia militiamen, acting in conjunction with federal troops stationed on the Oconee, surrounded and isolated General Clarke's fortifications. After some negotiation, Clarke agreed to surrender, provided that he and his men would not face prosecution for their actions. Clarke and his followers departed, and the militia burned down the new settlements and fortifications.
Yazoo Land Fraud 
As he had done earlier, in 1794 Mathews again turned to dealing with land speculators in an effort to maintain his popularity. He, along with other high-ranking Georgia officials, issued several grants of land for the same parcels, at times granting up to three times more land than existed.
Four new companies: the Georgia Company, the Georgia-Mississippi Company, the Upper Mississippi Company, and the new Tennessee Company, persuaded the Georgia state assembly to sell more than 40,000,000 acres (160,000 km2) of land for $500,000. Many Georgia officials and legislators were to be stockholders in these companies. On January 7, 1795, Governor Mathews signed into law a bill authorizing the sale of the 40,000,000 acres (160,000 km2), known as the Yazoo Act.
When the details were revealed, public outrage was widespread, and people protested to federal officials and Congressmen. Jared Irwin and U.S. Senator James Jackson led the reform efforts: Irwin was elected Governor of Georgia and, less than two months after taking office, signed a bill on February 13, 1796 nullifying the Yazoo Act. The state burned all copies of the bill except for one that had been sent to President George Washington. Jackson resigned as Senator to run for office as next Governor of Georgia. He was elected and took office two years later.
Later life 
Mathews started afresh in the Mississippi Territory. Polly had died, so he married a widow, Mary (Fairchild) (Lewis) Carpenter (widow of Richard Carpenter, 1729-1788.), who owned property there. He again returned to land speculation, buying stock in a land company the claimant of extensive acreage in the territory. A few years later he would also return to politics
In 1798 he was appointed governor of the newly formed territory of Mississippi by President John Adams. Secretary of War James McHenry objected to the appointment, citing Mathews' financial stake in territory. When Adams withdrew the nomination, Mathews was reported to have responded: "Sir,if you had known me, you wouldn't have taken the nomination back; if you didn't know me, you should not have nominated me to such an important office."
Patriot War of East Florida 
Mathews continued uninterrupted in private affairs until 1810, when he was recommended to President James Madison as a confidential agent to report on conditions in the Spanish Floridas. Madison sent Mathews to meet with Spanish Governor of West Florida, Don Vicente Folch, in November, 1810. Folch indicated to Mathews that he was willing to transfer West Florida to the United States peacefully. Madison, on receiving this information, decided to try to annex both East and West Florida all at once, seeking to take West Florida peacefully and giving Mathews “official instructions to assist a revolutionary movement in East Florida.” Mathews was assigned an Indian agent, John McKee. The president, seeking to keep the United States seemingly removed from the plan, gave them instructions that were "remarkably vague and general."
Mathews, then at 72 years of age, returned to the Spanish state with a commission of Brigadier General and again met with Governor Folch. Folch had gone cold on the trade and told Mathews that he did not intend to negotiate with Madison for the West. Mathews delivered the message to the White House, at which point Secretary of State James Monroe instructed Mathews to focus on East Florida, “if he thought he could accomplish anything there.”
Mathews and McKee proceeded in the subsequent months to create an intelligence network throughout the East, ascertaining the attitude of the Spanish citizens towards the United States. Isaac Cox wrote that Mathews “spent the summer of 1811 alternately fighting malaria and encouraging insurrection."
He organized a force of Georgians and launched his revolution on March 13, 1812 on the island of Ferdinanda. With Mathews and his force the local revolutionaries declared their independence and hoisted a new flag of East Florida, designed by a member of Mathews’ staff. He then turned his focus inland.
As Mathews' insurrection grew, Congress became alarmed at the possibility of being drawn into war with Spain, Mathews' operation having grown large enough that the United States could no longer deny involvement. Madison was forced to recall his commission, and the effort fell apart. He and his cabinet would deny all involvement in the matter. Mathews decided to go to Washington to appeal his case personally. But, on the trip he became ill and was forced to stop in Augusta, Georgia. He died in Augusta on his 73rd birthday, August 30, 1812, and was buried in St. Paul's Churchyard there.
See also 
- Patrick, Rembert W. (2010). Florida Fiasco: Rampant Rebels on the Georgia-Florida Border, 1810-1815. University of Georgia Press, 2010. ISBN 0820335495, 9780820335490
- Handley, Harry E. (1963), "The Mathews Trading Post", published in The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society: Volume 1, Number 1 (Lewisburg, West Virginia: Greenbrier Historical Society, August 1963) http://www.gillilandtrails.org/pages/MathewsTradingPost.asp Retrieved October 28, 2012
- Leonard, Cynthia Miller 1978. The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: a bicentennial register of members. Virginia State Library., pp 105, 109.
- Ford, Paul L. The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. II (in 12 Volumes): Correspondence 1771 - 1779, the Summary View, and the Declaration of Independence. Cosimo classics history Volume 2 of The Works of Thomas Jefferson. p467. http://books.google.com/books?id=Iry86J8v01AC&pg=PA467&dq=%22george+mathews%22+%22governor%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FsKVUNWLOIn30gHPkIDwCg&ved=0CEcQ6AEwCTgK#v=onepage&q=%22george%20mathews%22%20%22governor%22&f=false Retrieved November 3, 2012
- George R. Lamplugh, Politics on the Periphery: Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1986, pp. 64-68, accessed 19 Nov 2010
- Christopher J. Floyd, "Trans-Oconee Republic", New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2004-2010, accessed 19 Nov 2010
- Magrath, C. Peter. (1966)Yazoo: Law and Politics in the New Republic. The Case of 'Fletcher v. Peck'. (1966). Providence, R.I.: Brown University Press
- Terry L. Carpenter: "Richard Carpenter, Pioneer Merchant of British West Florida and the Natchez District of Spanish West Florida", in The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 72, No. 1, March 1984, pp. 51-62.
- Knott, Stephen F. (1996) “Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency.” Oxford University Press, 1996. p 93 http://books.google.com/books?id=DgYxLklV7UwC&dq=%22george+mathews%22+%22governor%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s Retrieved November 3, 2012
|Governor of Georgia
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 3rd congressional district
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1791
|Governor of Georgia