Richard Howly Escapes with the State Archives
Richard Howly was a Revolutionary Governor of Georgia.
Howly, an unlikely Revolutionary, briefly held the additional position of Chief Justice of the State.
Richard Howly may have sympathized with the Patriots, but he was not anxious to join the American Revolutionary War.
He was a young, small town lawyer in Georgia and wanted to focus on growing his business.
That was, until the war came to him.
When the British invaded Savannah, Howly fled with his family.
He went to Augusta where the State’s Capitol was temporarily stationed. Here he sided with George Walton during a tumultuous time in Georgia’s political changes.
Walton, a part of the radical faction, actually started a competing State Government against the conservatives, which Howly joined.
When the radicals won this match, Howly became a leader in Georgia.
After Walton left for the Continental Congress, Richard Howly was elected as Governor of Georgia.
As the Redcoats began raiding closer and closer to the Capitol, Richard decided to flee. He ran the State from exile.
Perhaps his most important contribution to the Founding Period involved the papers he took with him when he left. Howly carried away all of Georgia’s State Archives. He brought them to North Carolina where they were kept safe and have become an important resource for modern historians.
Instead of returning to Georgia, Howly was elected to the Continental Congress.
Richard spent two years in Philadelphia, working to make sure any peace treaty included Georgia’s independence. (It was not out of the question that Georgia would either be returned to Britain as part of the Floridas or absorbed into the Carolinas.)
After returning home, Howly temporarily filled a vacancy as Chief Justice of Georgia.
Howly, as one of the few Catholic Founders, had a strong desire to receive the sacraments and communion.
After the war ended, he went to Florida (which was British but still had a strong Spanish heritage) where he was able to fulfill his religious needs. After making recommendations on how to bring the Catholic Church to Georgia, Richard set off to return home.
Unfortunately, Howly took in on his journey back to Georgia and passed away almost as soon as he arrived.
Richard Howly had held the highest stations in his State in his short 44 years of life.
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