Purdue News

February 24, 2005

Book explores Georgian history from view of the father of 3 Sons of Liberty

Frank Lambert

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University history professor's latest book looks at the Colony of Georgia through the eyes of a successful merchant who sided with England and whose son overshadows him in the history books.

In early American history, the name Habersham is associated with three young men, including one named Joseph, who was appointed the United States' first postmaster by President George Washington. Joseph and his two brothers were patriots known as Sons of Liberty, leading the fight for independence in the late 1770s, says Frank Lambert professor of history.

But their father, James Habersham, who is rarely talked about, is the man responsible for salvaging colonial Georgia when it was floundering. He also unintentionally contributed to the colony's independence from Britain, Lambert says.

"One of the great ironies is that it's the father who helped give Georgians, especially three of the colony's most famous patriots who were his sons, the confidence to take on the English crown," says Lambert, who wrote "James Habersham: Loyalty, Politics and Commerce in Colonial Georgia." The book ($34.95) was released by University of Georgia Press in January.

"This man is fascinating because even though he did not approve of the supporters for independence, he told his sons to think for themselves and that he would not impress upon them his political or religious views. There are so many interesting twists and turns about this family's fight for and against independence."

For example, Joseph Habersham was responsible for arresting the British governor of Georgia, who was one of his father's best friends.

Lambert says most of American colonial research focuses on Colonies in New England and little attention has been focused on the southern Colonies.

Georgia was founded as a colony in 1733. The senior Habersham arrived five years later and died of natural causes in 1775. In 1776, Georgia joined the other American Colonies in forming an independent nation.

The colony was on the brink of failure in 1740 because it had not found an exportable crop and few settlers were choosing to relocate to Savannah. It was Habersham, a rice farmer, merchant, politician and Methodist minister, who developed an economic plan to turn Georgia around. He later served the colony as governor.

"No other colony came as close to folding as Georgia did," Lambert says. "James Habersham is never going to be a great figure in American history, but his adult life does coincide with the life of one of America's youngest colonies. By focusing on him, I am able to give the reader a personal guide through Colonial America. He lived just long enough to chronicle the beginning of the settlement to its break from English rule."

Lambert studies American Colonial and Revolutionary era history and the history of religion in America. His work in American religion also was cited in a Supreme Court opinion in 2004. He also has written "The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America," "Inventing the Great Awakening" and "Pedlar in Divinity: George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, 1737-1770." Habersham traveled to America with Whitefield, a leader in the Methodist religion.

Lambert's next book looks at how eager American merchants struck out after the American Revolution to set up trade routes in the Mediterranean and with other nations in the Atlantic Ocean. His analysis looks at what happens when the naïve merchants find the trade routes are dominated by the Barbary States of North Africa, which are countries on the coast of Northern Africa.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Frank Lambert (765) 494-5811, flambert@cla.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in a review copy of the book should contact John McLeod, publicity manager at the University of Georgia Press, at (706) 369-6160, jmcleod@ugapress.uga.edu.

Related Web site:
Purdue Department of History


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