On this day in 1776, Georgia’s royal governor, Sir James Wright, escapes from his residence in Savannah to the safety of a waiting British warship, the HMS Scarborough, anchored at the mouth of the Savannah River, and returns to London. Governor Wright had been taken into custody and placed under house arrest nearly a month earlier on January 18, 1776, by Patriots under the command of Major Joseph Habersham of the Provincial Congress.
Parliament had taken control of Georgia from its corporate charter-holders in 1752. Georgia’s founders had hoped to establish a colony of worthy, poor white men able to defend the wealthy slaveholders of South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida. Their vision of an economically viable Southern colony without slaves failed. The trustees legalized slavery and alcohol in a last-ditch effort to save their colony between 1750 and 1752. Wright, who practiced law and held a large plantation in South Carolina, was serving as that colony’s agent in London when he was appointed lieutenant governor in 1760. Upon moving to Georgia, he sold much of his South Carolina property and invested in Georgia. Wright became Georgia’s third royal governor in April 1761.
Wright was the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774.
Although briefly removed from power, Wright organized a military action and retook Savannah on December 29, 1778. He then resumed office as royal governor on July 22, 1779, remaining in office until July 11, 1782, when the British abandoned Georgia for good. Wright then moved to London, where he died three years later.