Sola bills of exchange in 1735 — Georgia State Quarter Coin

Today, the Georgia State Quarter Coin remembers when the Trustees for Georgia decided to institute a different current for their colony on July 24, 1735.

From A History of Georgia, From Its First Discovery by Europeans to the Adoption of the Present Constitution in MDCCXCVIII [1798] by William Bacon Stevens, published in 1847:


The very monied circulation of the colony was an obstacle in the way of commercial transactions.

In place of the British currency, the Trustees issued what they called Sola Bills, or bills of exchange, to be issued in Georgia by their agents, and made payable in England, in form following, viz.: —

Georgia Bill of Exchange Payable in England.

A No. 1.Westminster, 24th July, 1735.

Thirty days after sight, we, the Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America, promise to pay this, our Sola Bill of Exchange, to James Oglethorpe, Esq., or his order, the sum of one pound sterling, at our office at Westminster, to answer the like value received by him in Georgia, on the issue hereof, as testified by indorsement herein signed by himself.

£1 0 0.

Sealed by order of the Common Council of the said Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America.

The first issue was of £4000, of which sum £500 was in bills of 20s.; £1000 in bills of 40s.; £500 in bills of £5; £1000 in bills of £10, and £1000 in bills of £20.

These and all others issued by them were sealed with the Trustees’ seal, and signed by the accountant.

While Oglethorpe was in Georgia, they were to be issued only by him; at his departure, by the President and assistants, or any three of them, they keeping a record of every such bill, with the specific purpose for which issued.

More than one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars were thus sent over at different times, in payment of salaries and other corporate expenses.

When redeemed, they were cancelled by a punch through the seal in presence of one common council man and two Trustees.

At the expiration of their charter, the accountant reported bills to the amount of £1149 not yet delivered in for payment, and the common council immediately placed a similar amount into the hands of Mr. Lloyd, a distinguished silk merchant, to redeem them when presented; and by a public notice in the several gazettes of America, they were required to be presented before the first of January, 1756.

The financial affairs of the Trustees were managed with great caution, prudence, and economy.

The various reports of the commissioners on accounts spread upon the records of the common council, evince the scrupulous care and stringent exactness with which they examined each item of expenses, and each draught upon their exchequer.

They were most faithful stewards of the money committed to their trust, husbanding their resources, sustaining their credit, liquidating their dues, and finally closing their accounts with every debt cancelled, and every demand secured.

Yet the substitution of this peculiar currency fettered the commercial transactions of Georgia, by almost restricting the colony to a species of money unknown to the other colonies, and which could not always command a par value in the other provinces or in England.

For the first few years the trade of Harris and Habersham was mostly with Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, where their credit was good, and their mercantile reputation high.

Success prompted an enlargement of their business, and in 1747 they opened a correspondence in London, and began the system of direct importation.

In a letter to Secretary Martyn, in May, 1749, they say: “We have ordered our correspondent, Mr. John Nickleson, in Mansfield street, Goodman’s Fields, London, to charter us a small ship to be loaded here next winter with what may offer.”

This was the first ship ever chartered to a mercantile house in Georgia, with a design to be laden with its produce for England, and by this vessel they remitted nearly $10,000 in exported articles.

The principal exports at this time were pitch, tar, rice, and deer-skins; and they hoped by furnishing an easy and accessible medium of intercommunication, to encourage the growth of indigo, and by adding that to the list of staple products, turn towards America a large portion of the £200,000 which England annually paid France for that article.

The difficulties consequent on the establishment of such commercial relations at that time were neither few nor trivial.

From the produce of the colony but little could be expected. Agriculture was greatly neglected; rice plantations could not be tilled; and the whole produce of the colony was not sufficient for its own consumption, being entirely supplied with several articles of food from South Carolina.

The Indian trade was unsettled and fluctuating; its principal article was skins; and those brought to Savannah had to be shipped to Charleston, at an expense of 7s. 6d. sterling per hundred weight, where they were obliged to be entered at the custom-house, and pay a duty of 1s. per skin, making a total of duty and freight of nearly 30s. sterling per hogshead.

The objects of Harris and Habersham were to open commercial intercourse with other places, in order to induce the inhabitants to give such attention to agriculture, as that the several staple products might be raised in sufficient quantities for exportation; to draw towards Savannah the trade and the produce of the planters in parts of Carolina contiguous to the Savannah river; to prevent the onerous freightage of skins to England, by furnishing a direct outlet from their own port; and by inducing ships to visit the place, to call around it the various artizans requisite for a seaport; thus drawing from the necessary expenses of the shipping a large revenue to the colony.

These enlarged views met, in part, the prosperity they deserved; and the firm had the satisfaction of knowing, that their operations afforded sensible relief to the colony, greatly increased its strength, and added to its wealth.

That it did so, is evident from a letter of one of these merchants, wherein he writes: “My present thoughts are that the colony never had a better appearance of thriving than now. There have been more vessels loaded here within these ten months, than have been since the colony was settled.”

“Our exportations for a year past is an evident proof, that if proper laboring hands could have been had years before, this colony before now would have demonstrated its utility to the mother country and the West India Islands. Two days ago a large ship arrived here, addressed to my partner and I, which is the fifth sea vessel which has been here to load within a year; more, I may affirm, than has ever been loaded in this colony before, since its first settlement, with its real produce.”

Such were the feeble beginnings of the commerce and mercantile operations of Georgia.

Kept down by the ill legislation of the Trustees, it was no sooner relieved of its oppressions, than it asserted its rights, and established its beneficial sway.

In closing this review of the Trustees’ policy, it must be admitted that their plan of colonization was extremely defective, and often contravened the very object of their incorporation.

They legislated on too narrow a platform; and instead of taking broad and generous principles, such as became the originators of so noble a design, took positions which a few short years proved to be untenable; cherished hopes which were soon blasted; and, compelled to abandon all their primary purposes, their policy had no permanence, their institutions no solid basis, and both crumbled away when they surrendered up their charter to the king.


The Georgia State Quarter Coin shows with an artist’s image of General Oglethorpe.

Georgia State Quarter Coin