William Stephens (Georgia)

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William Stephens (January 28, 1671 - 1753) was the governor of the Province of Georgia between 1743 and 1751.

Early life[edit]

History has shamefully forgotten the significance and achievements of William Stephens, one of the leaders of early Georgia.[1] William Stephens was born on the Isle of Wight, England, to Elizabeth and Sir William Stephens, where his father was lieutenant governor. He was educated at the Winchester School, and at King's College, Cambridge. He then studied law at the Middle Temple, but did not pass the bar. In 1696, he married Mary Newdigate, and the couple had nine children. The following year was elected to Parliament representing Newport. In 1736, he went to the Province of Carolina at the request of Samuel Horsey.[2]

Political life[edit]

The first settlers embarked for Georgia in November 1732 and arrived on 1 February 1733 led by James Oglethorpe. The initial optimism of a new colony did not last. Oglethorpe may have been pleased with the colony’s progress so far, but the Trustees disagreed.[3] Growing frustration with Oglethorpe's brief and infrequent reports led to the appointment of Stephens as secretary to the Board of Trustees of the Province of Georgia. Stephens landed in Savannah November 1, 1737, and began to settle disputes among the colonists. He stayed several years in this capacity.[4] Serving the state and the Trustees faithfully for years, through it all—- good, bad, and ordinary—- William Stephens remained president of Georgia. He attended almost every meeting of the president and assistants from when he was first appointed in October 1741 until his removal in September 1750, and he took a genuine interest in their proceedings.[5]

Death and Legacy[edit]

At almost 80 years old, Stephens was forced to retire in 1750 by his age, his colleagues and his health. The Trustees turned Georgia affairs over to Henry Parker, although Stephens technically continued to hold the post of president until April 1751. To satisfy the role of secretary, the Trustees chose James Habersham. With his son, Newdigate, Stephens moved out to his plantation at Beaulieu (or Bewlie, as Stephens referred to it, after Beaulieu in Hampshire)[6] in mid-1750 and disappeared from public life. Less than three years later, he died of the illnesses associated with old age, apparently in 1753, although the details of death recorded by his son (including the date and descriptions of Stephens' condition) are, according to his biographer Julie Anne Sweet, somewhat fanciful.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sweet, Julie Anne (2010). William Stephens : Georgia's Forgotten Founder. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780807135587. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Men of Mark in Georgia
  3. ^ Sweet, Julie Anne (2010). William Stephens : Georgia's Forgotten Founder. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780807135587. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Stevens, William. A Journal of the Proceedings in Georgia, Beginning October 20, 1737. London: W. Meadows, 1742, pp. 1- 215.
  5. ^ Sweet, Julie Anne (2010). William Stephens : Georgia's Forgotten Founder. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 78. ISBN 9780807135587. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  6. ^ Jones, Charles C. (1883). The history of Georgia. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Co. p. 417. Retrieved 19 May 2016.