EDWARD TELFAIR, one of the signers of the Articles of Confederation, was born in “Town Head,” Scotland, in 1735. He was educated at the Kirkcudbright grammar school and emigrated to the United States in 1758. After settling in Savannah, Georgia, Telfair established a commission house and became a successful merchant. He entered politics in 1774, participating in the pre-Revolutionary faction. He served as a member of the Council of Safety in 1775 and 1776, and was a delegate to the Provincial Congress in 1776. He served as a member of the Continental Congress from 1777 to November 1778; from May 1780 to January 1783; from 1784 to 1785; from 1787 to 1788 and again in 1789. Telfair served at various times during the period from 1778 to 1783, as Burke County’s associate justice and justice. In 1783, he served as an agent to settle a boundary dispute with South Carolina and as a commissioner to hold a Congress with the Creek and Cherokee Indians. He was appointed Governor of Georgia from 1786 to 1787, and served as a delegate to the 1788 state constitutional convention. He represented Burke County in the 1789convention to ratify the federal constitution. Telfair was then elected governor and re-elected twice by the state legislature. During his tenure, he dealt with two different controversies. The first was the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Chisholm vs. Georgia case, in which a person could sue the State of Georgia. The other concerned the federal government and a dispute over a term in the Treaty of New York, regarding an Indian issue. After finishing his 3rd term on November 7, 1793, Telfair retired from public service until taking office as Justice of the Inferior Court for Chatham County on February 14, 1799, in which capacity he served until his death on September 17, 1807. He is buried in the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. Three months after his death, a new county (Telfair County) was named in his honor.
Cook, James F. Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004. 3d ed. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia
Georgia Archives (private papers)
Virtual American Biographies