James Habersham (c.1712 - 1775)

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About James Habersham


James Habersham (c. 1712 – 1775) was a pioneering merchant and statesman in the British North American colony of Georgia. Habersham is credited with opening the first direct trade between Savannah, Georgia and London, England. He was an influential advocate for slavery in the colonies. He served as King Secretary of the Province and as President of the King's Council. In opposition to his adult sons, Habersham remained a Loyalist during the American Revolution.

Early life

Habersham was born in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, the son of a freeman and burgess, in January 1712/13. He was baptized in the Anglican church of St. Mary's on 26 January 1715/16. In 1722, he moved to London where he worked as a merchant apprentice. In the 1730s, Habersham began following the teachings of George Whitefield and converted to Wesleyan Methodism. At Whitefield's behest, Habersham traveled to the Georgia Colony as a missionary and schoolmaster in 1738.

Business career

Habersham helped run the Bethesda Orphanage near Savannah, Georgia. It was there that he married Mary Bolton. In 1744, he became a merchant and set up a partnership with Francis Harris to make commercial trans-Atlantic trips to England. He and Harris's business was considered the first successful commercial endeavor in Georgia. With resources from this business, Habersham acquired land along rivers for rice planting. After the slavery ban in Georgia was lifted, his rice fields developed into a massive 15,000 acre plantation with 200 slaves.


By the 1750s Habersham had become politically influential. His advocacy for the economic benefits of slavery influenced a repeal on the ban of slavery. He was a senior counselor to the royal government of the colony and in 1754 was appointed King Secretary of the province. Beginning in 1767, Habersham served as president of the Upper House of the General Assembly. As president of the council, he also assumed the position of acting governor of Georgia during the 19-month absence to England of Governor James Wright in 1771/1772. All three of his sons became supporters of the American Revolution, but Habersham pledged his loyalty to the crown. He died August 28, 1775.