On February 12, 1733, the colony of Georgia was founded. Today, we usually celebrate Georgia Day on the 12th, but occasionally, it can be observed the weekend before. Whether on the 12th or around the 12th, this is a time when those of us in archives and special collections enjoy highlighting some of our Georgia history collections.
One cannot tell the story of the State of Georgia without including the City of Milledgeville. It became the state capital in 1807 when the legislature met for the first time in the incomplete and under construction Capital Building. Now part of Georgia Military College, it was once the center of political life for the state.
Jared Irwin was the first to serve as governor in the new state capital. Starting in 1806, he served until 1809 with three of his four-year term taking place in Milledgeville. Following Irwin was David Brydie Mitchell. Mitchell would serve the first of his terms from 1809 to 1813. His second term would come only a few years later after defeating Peter Early, Governor of Georgia from 1813- 1815, in his re-election bid. Mitchell served from 1815 to 1817. From this decade, one of the artifacts here in Special Collections is the book, Laws of the State of Georgia, cataloging everything passed by the legislature during this time. Some the issues they dealt with consisted of appointing trustees to the private academies that existed in towns and counties around the state, passing laws to help alleviate debt issues that faced many Georgians, laws that either raised taxes or relieved citizens from having to pay certain taxes, and even addressed the penal code.
Following Mitchell, the state capital remained in Milledgeville until 1868. One of the most important events in the Antebellum Era for many people at the time in Georgia and in the South took place in Milledgeville.
On January 19, 1861, three days after the State legislature convened, the assembly voted for the secession of Georgia from the Union of the United States. The future of Georgia was irretrievably changed. On February 4th, each state in what would become the Confederacy sent members to the “Congress of the Sovereign and Independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana” in Montgomery, Alabama. Georgia elected two men, Alexander Stephens and Eugenius Nesbit, to represent them. At this gathering, they wrote the Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, which was officially adopted on February 8th.
This document was the precursor to what became the Confederate States Constitution. It would only be in place for year before the official Constitution was adopted. A copy of this provisional constitution resides in here in Special Collections.
The First Confederate States Congress took place from February 18, 1862 through to February 18, 1864. It was a bicameral legislature that lasted during the first two years of Jefferson Davis’ presidency and was seated in Richmond, Virginia. In Special Collections, we have a book of the statutes passed by the First Congress at their third session in 1863. These are the laws, acts, and resolutions that were passed in an effort to both establish and run their government. They set up tax laws, government departments, and resolutions of thanks to officers and government officials. This congress was disbanded in 1864 and then re-seated in a second congress that lasted until 1865 when the Confederacy was falling apart and the Civil War was coming to a close.
A few years after the end of the Confederacy, the capital would leave Milledgeville and head to the growing city of Atlanta. Charles Johnson Jenkins was the last governor to take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville. When he was elected, Rufus Bullock became the first governor to take up residence in a large Victorian home in Atlanta, the same one where Governor Nathan Deal resides today. Milledgeville would no longer be at the center the political events and life in Georgia. However, this city played a pivotal role in events that forever changed the future of the state and continue to haunt us.
Happy belated Georgia Day, y’all!