WELCOME TO GEORGIA IN DOWNEAST/NORTHERN MAINE
My family roots extend deeply into the coastline of Maine, extending from Kittery in the south to East Lamoine in Downeast region.
But what if Thomas Coram, an English Sea Captain, had been successful in founding a colony between the Kennebec and St. Croix rivers on one side and the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Coast on the other side, in a philanthropic venture?2 Would we then be visiting the northeast Atlantic coast in Georgia instead of Maine?
Coram, born 1668, operated a ship building business at Taunton, Massachusetts between 1694 to 1705. He then became a successful quier (sic) in London.4
In 1702 Europe entered a dynastic war, the War of the Spanish Succession.
Although the detailed development of the war is very complex, the basic aim is clear. Both France and Austria were attempting to take control of the territories which made up the bequest of Charles II, the king of Spain, who was childless and had no cousins in the immediate Spanish Habsburg line.
The question of the day was: who will inherit the vast Spanish domains.
In the beginning, in 1701, the quarrel was specifically between France and Austria .Each was fighting on behalf of a grandson or son who was not next in line of succession to the French or Austrian throne, and each grandson was identified in the Spanish king’s will, which stated that if his crown was not accepted by one of the younger grandsons of Louis XIV it should go to the younger son of Leopold I (the archduke Charles).
The list of nations involved in the war soon extended beyond France and Austria—perhaps inevitably in view of the importance of the issue, but also because of the aggressive stance taken by Louis XIV.
Alarmed by France’s ambitious demands, England and Holland enter the fray in 1702 in support of the Austrian emperor.5
Eventually, the French general, Subercase, recognized that his garrison was no match for the opposition. He agreed an honorable surrender: all of Arcadia and Nova Scotia from St. Croix River to Cape Gaspe was to become the queens. Thus the war ended in 1713 with the Peace of Utrecht in 1713.2
Once the war ended disbanded soldiers began to make claims for the land they had been promised. Coram was requested to head up the soldier’s petition for land. It was just the opening he was looking for, an opportunity to involve himself proactively with North American affairs. 3
Coram had no family ties. Much of the free and independent spirit of the New Englanders appealed to him—and his wife was a New Englander. He’d once found success in America. Perhaps he hoped to find it again in the unsettled lands of what would later become Maine.2
The land that Coram wanted for disbanded soldiers, from both New England and England, stretched between the Kennebec and St. Croix rivers on the one side, and the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Coast on the other side. It should, according to Coram, be a province by the name and title of the Royal Province of Georgia, granted to thirty or more good men in trust with full power for settling it. He had twelve hundred families ready to do so as soon as the patent was settled.2
However, for unknown reasons, Coram’s idea didn’t materialize.3
By 1733 General James Oglethorp of the British Army, a politician and philanthropist, had obtained permission from King George 2nd to open a colony in Georgia. Coram was appointed a trustee of this colony, called The James Oglethorp Georgia Colony, which opened in 1733. 3 In 1735 Oglethorpe sponsored another colony in Nova Scotia for unemployed artisans….4
Coram became involved with Oglethorpe’s plans to settle Maine and Nova Scotia for numerous possible reasons:
- from a strategic point of view, he considered that settlers loyal to the crown were a defense against any further French and Indian encroachment on the queen’s land. His plans for a settlement of the waste lands between New England and Nov Scotia would complete the settling of a ‘sea coast fifteen hundred miles in length…(it would) be one of the glories of his Majesties reign’…the Crown and nation (would) have an advantage from their being well settled.’2
- he recognized this land’s trading opportunities, and supported the view that a colony’s duty was to supply raw materials to the mother country and to buy the manufactured goods it produced.
- he was also anactive Anglican who believed it was a citizen’s duty to confront and stop the spread of Roman Catholicism, and, insofar as possible, to provide a Protestant alternative.
- he saw the settlement of these lands as an opportunity for him to return to America, which he had left reluctantly ten years earlier.2
Whatever his reasons were, in 1735 he sponsored a colony in Nova Scotia for unemployed.4
The land that Coram wanted to use was so extensive that the Board of Trade and Plantations faced a dilemma—it was reluctant to recommend any more proprietary or charter colonies, which were long recognized as a dangerous tendency in government.2
There was also the fact that the unsettled lands were subject to many conflicting claims, including previous land grants made by Massachusetts.
Furthermore, Coram’s project expensive, and had to involve no expense to the British government. Those who backed him would have been more interested in the benefit to themselves than in what the exploitation of the fisheries and the trade in hemp and other naval stores ‘could bring to the Mother country.2
The Royal Province of Georgia was never to be. The Privy Council, alarmed at the speed of its development, put the brakes on. By this time Coram supported the proposed new colony of Georgia in the south.2
And when we travel to the land of my forefathers we travel to Maine—not to Georgia.