Settlement Of Georgia
Author: Stevens, William B.

Settlement Of Georgia

1732

It was not only the beginning of a new commonwealth, destined to become
an important State of the American Union, but also the spirit and purpose
which led to it, that made the English colonization of Georgia a great and
unique event in the history of this country.

Seldom have military and philanthropic achievements been combined in the
career of one man. James Oglethorpe was already a distinguished soldier and a
member of the English Parliament when in 1732 he sailed with one hundred
twenty men and founded Savannah. His express object was the settlement of
Georgia, not only as a home for insolvent debtors, who suffered in English
jails, but also for persecuted Protestants of the Continent. It was not the
least of his services that on his second visit to the future "Empire State of
the South" he took with him John and Charles Wesley, whose influence has been
so marked among the American people.

Prior to the undertaking of Sir Robert Montgomery in 1717, with which
Stevens' narrative begins, few white men had visited the Georgia country,
which was the home of various Indian tribes. De Soto traversed it on his
great westward expedition (1539-1542), but little was known of it when in 1629
it was included in King Charles I's Carolina grant to Sir Robert Heath, or
even at the time of the next Carolina grant (1663), when it passed to Monk,
Clarendon, and others. Under the later proprietors it became known to
Englishmen through such glowing descriptions as naturally aroused an interest
in its settlement.

It was not until 1717 that any effort was made to improve the lands
between the Savannah and the Altamaha. In that year Sir Robert Montgomery,
Bart., whose father was joined with Lord Cardross in his measures for
establishing a Scots colony in Port Royal, published A Discourse Concerning
the Designed Establishment of a new Colony to the South of Carolina, in what
he termed "the most delightful country in the universe." This pamphlet was
accompanied by a beautiful but fanciful plan representing the form of settling
the districts or county divisions in his province, which he styled "the
Margraviate of Azilia." In his description of the country he writes "that
Nature has not blessed the world with any tract which can be preferable to it;
that Paradise, with all her virgin beauties, may be modestly supposed, at
most, but equal to its native excellencies."

Having obtained, from the Lords Proprietors of Carolina a grant of the
lands between Savannah and the Altamaha, he issued his proposals for settling
this "future Eden"; but, though garnished with the most glowing descriptions,
and set forth under the most captivating attractions, they were issued in
vain; and the three years having expired within which he was to make the
settlement or forfeit the land, the territory reverted to Carolina, and his
scheme of colonization came to an end. The Margraviate of Azilia was
magnificent upon the map, but was impracticable in reality.

The Lords Proprietors of Carolina having failed in their scheme of
government, and their authority being crushed by the provincial revolution of
1719, they sold their titles and interest in that province to Parliament in
1729; reserving to Lord John Carteret, one of their number, the remaining
eight shares of the country, as he refused to join the others in disposing of
the colony. After the purchase of the territory of Carolina, which then
extended from the St. John's to Albemarle Sound, it was deemed too large for
one government, and was therefore divided into two provinces, under the
respective titles of North and South Carolina. The territorial boundary of
South Carolina, however, on the south, was the Savannah River; the remaining
portion being then held in reserve by the British Crown.

The same year that the House of Commons resolved on an address to the
King to purchase the rights of the Lords Proprietors to this territory, a
committee was appointed by Parliament "to inquire into the state of the goals
of the kingdom, and to report the same and their opinion thereupon to the
House." This committee, raised on the motion of James Oglethorpe, Esq., in
consequence of the barbarities which had fallen under his own observation
while visiting some debtors in the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons, consisted of
ninety-six persons, and Oglethorpe was made its chairman. A more honorable or
effective committee could scarcely have been appointed. It embraced some of
the first men in England; among them thirty-eight noblemen, the chancellor of
the exchequer, the master of rolls, Admiral Vernon and Field Marshal Wade They
entered upon their labors with zeal and diligence, and not only made
inquiries, through the Fleet prison, but also into the Marshalsea, the prison
of the king's bench, and the jail for the county of Surrey.

The philanthropy of Oglethorpe, whose feelings were easily enlisted in
the cause of misery, rested not with the discharge of his Parliamentary duty,
nor yet in the further benefit of relaxing the rigorous laws which thrust the
honest debtor into prisons which seemed to garner up disease in its most
loathsome forms - crime in its most fiend-like works - humanity in its most
shameless and degraded aspect; but it prompted still further efforts - efforts
to combine present relief with permanent benefits, by which honest but
unfortunate industry could be protected, and the laboring poor be enabled to
reap some gladdening fruit from toils which now wrung out their lives with
bitter and unrequited labors. To devise and carry out such efforts himself
Lord Percival and a few other noblemen and gentlemen addressed a memorial to
the privy council, stating "that the cities of London, Westminster, and parts
adjacent do abound with great numbers of indigent persons who are reduced to
such necessity as to become burthensome to the public, and who would be
willing to seek a livelihood in any of his majesty's plantations in America if
they were provided with a passage and means of settling there."

The memorialists promised to take upon themselves the entire charge of
this affair, to erect a province into a proprietary government, provided the
crown would grant them a portion of the land bought in 1729 by Parliament from
the Lords Proprietors of South Carolina, lying south of the Savannah River;
together with such powers as shall enable them to receive the charitable
contributions and benefactions of all such persons as are willing to encourage
so good a design.

This petition, referred at first to a committee of the privy council, was
by them submitted to the consideration of the board of trade, who, after a
second commitment, made their report, that the attorney and solicitor-general
should be directed to prepare a draft of the charter. This report, being laid
before his majesty, was by him approved, and he directed the proper officer to
make out the charter. The charter thus prepared was approved by the King, but
in consequence of the formalities of office did not pass under the great seal
until June 9, 1732.

This instrument constituted twenty noblemen and gentlemen a body
corporate, by the name and style of "The Trustees for establishing a Colony of
Georgia, in America"; giving to the projected colony the name of the monarch
who had granted to them such a liberal territory for the development of their
benevolence.

The charter revealed two purposes as the object of this colonization: the
settling of poor but unfortunate people on lands now waste and desolate, and
the interposing of this colony as a barrier between the northern colonies and
the French, Spanish, and Indians on the south and west. These designs the
trustees amplified and illustrated in their printed papers and official
correspondence.

Oglethorpe, in his New and Accurate Account, declares: "These trustees
not only give land to the unhappy who go thither, but are also empowered to
receive the voluntary contributions of charitable persons to enable them to
furnish the poor adventurers with all necessaries for the expense of the
voyage, occupying the land, and supporting them till they find themselves
comfortably settled. So that now the unfortunate will not be obliged to bind
themselves to a long servitude, to pay for their passage, for they may be
carried gratis into a land of liberty and plenty, where they immediately find
themselves in possession of a competent estate in a happier climate than they
knew before; and they are unfortunate, indeed, if here they cannot forget
their sorrows."

This was the main purpose of the settlement; and such noble views were
"worthy to be the source of an American republic." Other colonies had been
planted by individuals and companies for wealth and dominion; but the trustees
of this, at their own desire, were restrained by the charter "from receiving
any grant of lands in the province, or any salary, fee, perquisite, or profit
whatsoever, by or from this undertaking." The proprietors of other colonies
were looking to their own interests; the motto of the trustees of this was
"Non sibi, sed aliis." The proprietors of other colonies were anxious to build
up cities and erect states that should bear their names to a distant
posterity; the trustees of this only busied themselves in erecting an asylum,
whither they invited the indigent of their own and the exiled Protestants of
other lands. It was the first colony ever founded by charity. New England had
been settled by Puritans, who fled thither for conscience' sake; New York by a
company of merchants and adventurers in search of gain; Maryland, by papists
retiring from Protestant intolerance; Virginia, by ambitious cavaliers;
Carolina by the scheming and visionary Shaftesbury, and others, for private
aims and individual aggrandizement; but Georgia was planted by the hand of
benevolence, and reared into being by the nurturings of a disinterested
charity.

But the colony was not to be confined to the poor and unfortunate. The
trustees granted portions of five hundred acres to such as went over at their
own expense, on condition that they carried over one servant to every fifty
acres, and did military service in time of war or alarm. Thus the materials
of the new colony consisted of three classes: the upper, or large landed
proprietors and officers; the middle, or freeholders, sent over by the
trustees; and the servants indented to that corporation or to private
individuals.

Subsidiary to the great design of philanthropy was the further purpose of
making Georgia a silk, wine, oil, and drug-growing colony. "Lying," as the
trustees remark, "about the same latitude with part of China, Persia,
Palestine, and the Madeiras, it is highly probable that when hereafter it
shall be well peopled and rightly cultivated England may be supplied from
thence with raw silk, wine, oil, dyes, drugs, and many other materials for
manufactures which she is obliged to purchase from southern countries."

Such were the principal purposes of the trustees in settling Georgia.
Extravagance was their common characteristic; for in the excited visions of
its enthusiastic friends, Georgia was not only to rival Virginia and South
Carolina, but to take the first rank in the list of provinces depending on the
British Crown. Neither the El Dorado of Raleigh nor the Utopia of More could
compare with the garden of Georgia; and the poet, the statesman, and the
divine lauded its beauties and prophesied its future greatness. Oglethorpe, in
particular, was quite enthusiastic in his description of the climate, soil,
productions, and beauties of this American Canaan. "Such an air and soil," he
writes, "can only be fitly described by a poetical pen, because there is but
little danger of exceeding the truth."

With such blazoned exaggerations, strengthened by the interested efforts
of a noble and learned body of trustees, and by the personal supervision of
its distinguished originator, it is no matter of wonder that all Europe was
aroused to attention; and that Swiss and German, Scotch and English, alike
pressed forward to this promised land. Appeals were made by the trustees to
the liberal, the philanthropic, the public-spirited, the humane, the
patriotic, the Christian, to aid in this design of mercy, closing their
arguments with the noble thought: "To consult the welfare of mankind,
regardless of any private views, is the perfection of virtue, as the
accomplishing and consciousness of it are the perfection of happiness."

These preliminaries settled, we are brought to the period when the plan,
the charity, the labors of the trustees, were to be put into efficient
operation. Fortunate was it for the corporation that they had among their
number one whose benevolence, whose fortune, and whose patriotism, as well as
his military distinction conspired to make him the fittest leader and pioneer
of so noble an undertaking. That one was James Oglethorpe, the originator,
the chief promotor, the most zealous advocate of the colony; an honor conceded
by his associates, and acknowledged by all.

We are brought now to the dock-yard at Deptford, to behold the first
embarkation of the Georgia pilgrims.

The trustees, having selected from the throng of emigrants thirty-five
families, numbering in all about one hundred twenty-five "sober, industrious,
and moral persons," chartered the Ann, a galley of two hundred tons, Captain
John Thomas, and stationed her at Deptford, four miles below London, to
receive her cargo and passengers. In the mean time the men were drilled to
arms by sergeants of the guards; and all needed stores were gathered to make
them comfortable on the voyage and to establish them on land.

It was not until the early part of November that the embarkation was
ready for sailing.

On the 16th they were visited by the trustees, "to see nothing was
wanting, and to take leave" of Oglethorpe; and having called the families
separately before them in the great cabin they inquired if they liked their
usage and voyage; or if they had rather return, giving them even then the
alternative of remaining in England if they preferred it; and having found but
one man who declined - on account of his wife, left sick in Southwark - they
bid Oglethorpe and the emigrants an affectionate farewell. The ship sailed
the next day, November 17, 1732, from Gravesend, skirted slowly along the
southern coast of England, and, taking its departure from Sicily light, spread
out its white sails to the breezes of the Atlantic.

Day after day and week after week the voyagers seem the centre of the
same watery circle canopied by the same bending sky. No mile-stones tell of
their progress. The way-marks of the mariner are the sun by day and the moon
and stars by night; no kindred ship answers back its red-cross signal; but
there they float, the germ of a future nation, upon the desert waters. Sailing
a circuitous route, they did not reach the coast of America until January 13,
1733, when they cast anchor in Rebellion Roads, and furled their sails at last
in the harbor of Charleston.

Oglethorpe immediately landed, and was received by the Governor and
Council of South Carolina with every mark of civility and attention. The
King's pilot was directed by them to carry the ship into Port Royal, and small
vessels were furnished to take the emigrants to the river Savannah. Thus
assisted, in about ten hours they resumed their voyage and shortly dropped
anchor within Port Royal bar.

The colony landed at Beaufort on January 20th, and had quarters given
them in the new barracks. Here they received every attention from the
officers of His Majesty's Independent Company and the gentlemen of the
neighborhood, and refreshed themselves after the fatigues and discomforts of
their long voyage and cramped accommodations.

Leaving his people here, Oglethorpe, accompanied by Colonel William Bull,
of South Carolina, went forward to the Savannah River to select a site for the
projected settlement. Winding among the inlets, which break into numerous
islands the low flat sea-board, their canoe at last shot into the broad stream
of the Savannah; and bending their course upward they soon reached a bold,
pine-crowned bluff, at the foot of which they landed to inspect its
localities.

Reaching its top, a beautiful prospect met their eyes. At their feet,
some fourteen yards below, flowed the quiet waters of the Savannah, visible
for some distance above and traceable through its green landscape till it
emptied itself into the ocean. Before them lay a beautiful island of richest
pasturage, beyond which was seen the north branch of the Savannah bordered by
the slopes of Carolina, with a dark girdle of trees resting against the
horizon. Behind them was the unbroken forest of tall green pines, with an
occasional oak draperied with festoons of gray moss or the druidical
mistletoe. A wide expanse of varied beauty was before them; an ample and
lofty plain around them; and, though spring had not yet garnished the scene
with her vernal glories, sprinkling the woods with gay wild-flowers and
charming creepers, and making the atmosphere balmy with the bay, the
jessamine, and the magnolia, yet, even in winter, were there sufficient charms
in the spot to fix on it the heart of Oglethorpe, and cause him to select it
as the home of his waiting colony. "The landscape," he writes, "is very
agreeable, the stream being wide and bordered with high woods on both sides."
On the northern end of this bluff they found a trading-house and an Indian
village called Yamacraw. The chief of this little tribe was Tomochichi; and
the trader's name was Musgrove, married to a half-breed, named Mary. By an
ancient treaty of the Creeks with the Governor of South Carolina, no white
settlement was allowed to be made south of the Savannah River without their
consent.

Satisfied with the eligibility of this situation, Oglethorpe applied to
Mary Musgrove, who could speak both Indian and English, to obtain from the
tribe their agreement to his settlement. They at first appeared uneasy and
threatened to take up arms, but were pacified by her representations of the
benefits which would accrue to them; and she gained from them a provisional
treaty, until the consent of the whole nation could be obtained. The Indians,
once made sensible of the advantages they would derive from the erection of a
town within their limits, hailed their coming with joy and busied themselves
in many offices of service and regard. The land selected, the consent of the
tribe obtained, and the services of Mary secured as an interpreter in their
subsequent intercourse with the red men, Oglethorpe returned to Beaufort on
January 24th; and the Sunday after was made a day of praise and thanksgiving
for their safe arrival in America, and the happy auspices which clustered
round the opening prospects of Georgia. During the stay of the colonists in
South Carolina they were treated with genuine hospitality, and when they
departed they were laden with most substantial and valuable tokens of interest
and benevolence.

Leaving the ship at Port Royal, Oglethorpe engaged a sloop of seventy
tons, and five plantation-boats, and embarked the colonists on Tuesday, the
30th, but, detained by a storm, they did not reach their destination until the
afternoon of Thursday, February 12 (new style), 1733. The people immediately
pitched four large tents, being one for each tithing, into which municipal
divisions they had already been divided; and, landing their bedding and other
necessaries, spent their first night in Georgia.

As soon as the tents had been pitched, the Indians came forward with
their formal salutations. In front advanced, with antic dancings, the
"medicine man," bearing in each hand a spread fan of white feathers fastened
to a rod hung from top to bottom with little bells; marching behind this
jingling symbol of peace and friendship, came the King and Queen, followed by
about twenty others, making the air ring with their uncouth shouts.
Approaching Oglethorpe, who walked out a few steps from his tent to meet them,
the medicine man came forward with his fans, declaiming the while the deeds of
their ancestors, and stroked him on every side with the emblems of amity.
This over, the King and Queen bade him welcome and, after an interchange of
compliments, they were conducted to Oglethorpe's tent and partook of a
pleasant entertainment hastily prepared for the occasion.

And now all was bustle upon the bluff. The unlading of goods, the
felling of trees, the hewing of timber, the clearing of land, the erection of
palisades - all supervised by the watchful eye and directed by the energetic
mind of their leader - gave a brisk and industrious air to the novel scene.

On the 9th Oglethorpe and Colonel Bull marked out the square, the
streets, and forty lots for houses; and the first clapboard-house of the
colony of Georgia was begun that day. On March 12th Oglethorpe writes: "Our
people still lie in tents; there being only two clapboard houses built, and
three sawed houses framed. Our crane, our battery of cannon, and magazine are
finished. This is all we have been able to do by reason of the smallness of
our numbers, of which many have been sick, and others unused to labor, though
I thank God they are now pretty well, and we have not lost one since our
arrival."

The most generous assistance was given them by South Carolina. The
Assembly, which met in Charleston three days after the arrival of the
emigrants, immediately resolved to furnish the colony with large supplies of
cattle and rice; to provide boats for the transportation of the people from
Port Royal to Savannah; and placed under Oglethorpe's command the scout-boats
and a troop of fifteen rangers for his protection. They further appointed
Colonel William Bull one of the Governor's council, and a gentleman esteemed
"most capable of assisting Oglethorpe in settling the colony by reason of his
experience in colonial affairs, the nature of lands and the intercourse with
Indians," to attend him and offer him his advice and assistance. Such was the
readiness of all to assist him that the Governor wrote, "Had not our Assembly
been sitting I would have gone myself."

Nor was private benevolence in any way behind public munificence. It is
pleasant, in looking over the list of individual benefactions, to read such
records as these:

February. - "Colonel Bull came to Savannah with four laborers, and
assisted the colony for a month; he himself measuring the scantling, and
setting out the work for the sawyers, and giving the proportion of the houses.
Mr. Whitaker and his friends sent the colony one hundred head of cattle. Mr.
St. Julian came to Savannah and stayed a month, directing the people in
building their houses and other work. Mr. Hume gave a silver boat and spoon
for the first child born in Georgia, which being born of Mrs. Close, were
given accordingly. Mr. Joseph Bryan himself, with four of his sawyers, gave
two months' work in the colony. The inhabitants of Edisto sent sixteen sheep.
Mr. Hammerton gave a drum. Mrs. Ann Drayton sent two pair of sawyers to work
in the colony. Colonel Bull and Mr. Bryan came to Savannah with twenty
servants, whose labor they gave to the colony. His excellency Robert Johnson
gave seven horses, valued at twenty-five pounds, Carolina currency."

These, with many other like records, evince their spirit in promoting the
settlement of Georgia. And well they might; for the planting of this colony
to the south of the Savannah increased their security from invasion by the
Spaniards, and from the incursions and massacres of the Indian tribes, and
still further operated as a preventive to the enticing lures held out to the
negroes, by which desertion was rendered common and insurrection always
dreaded. They were prepared, therefore, to hail the new colony as a bulwark
against their Floridian and savage enemies, as opening further opportunities
of trade, and as enhancing the value of their frontier possessions, which,
according to the best authorities, were raised to five times their former
value about Port Royal and the Savannah River.

The fostering care of South Carolina was to be repaid by the protecting
service of Georgia. The labors of the colonists were great, but they had much
to cheer them; and the assiduity and attention of Oglethorpe won upon their
hearts so that they styled him "Father," and he exercised his paternal care by
unremitting efforts to advance their welfare. He spared not himself in any
personal efforts, but took his turn regularly in doing night-guard duty, as an
example to the rest, and at times worked at the hardest labor to encourage
their industry.

Having put Savannah in a posture of defence, supplied it with provisions,
and taken hostages of the Indians, Oglethorpe set out for Charleston, attended
by Tomochichi and his two nephews, being desirous of cultivating the
acquaintance and securing the good offices of the Governor, council, and
Assembly of South Carolina. At Charleston he was met at the water-side by his
excellency the Governor and council, who conducted him to Governor Johnson's
house, where the speaker and House of Assembly came to present their official
congratulations on his arrival. His solicitations for assistance were
promptly answered. The Assembly voted two thousand pounds currency for the
assistance of Georgia the first year, and soon after the committee of supply
brought in a bill for granting eight thousand pounds currency for the use of
the new colony the ensuing year. The citizens also subscribed one thousand
pounds currency, five hundred pounds of which were immediately paid down.

Grateful for this munificence Oglethorpe returned to Georgia to meet the
great council of the towns of the Lower Creeks, whom he had desired to meet
him in Savannah to strengthen the provisional treaty already made with
Tomochichi, and secure their abiding amity for the future. In answer to this
desire, eighteen chief men and their attendants, making in all about fifty,
came together from the nine tribes of the nation, and met him in solemn
council on the afternoon of May 18th. Speeches, not lacking in interest, but
full of Indian hyperbole and the inflations of interpreters, were made by the
chiefs, and answered by Oglethorpe through the medium of Messrs. Wiggin and
Musgrove; and on May 21st the treaty was concluded.

The principal stipulations of it were that the trustees' people should
trade in the Indian towns; their goods being sold according to fixed rates
mutually agreed upon: thus, a white blanket was set down at five buckskins, a
gun at ten; a hatchet at three doeskins, a knife at one, and so on.
Restitution and reparation were to be made for injuries committed and losses
sustained by either party; the criminals to be tried by English law. Trade to
be stopped with any town violating any article of the treaty. All lands not
used by the Indians were to be possessed by the English, but, upon the
settling of any new town, certain lands agreed on between the chiefs and the
magistrates were to be reserved for the former. All runaway negroes were to
be restored to Carolina, the Indians receiving for each one thus recovered
four blankets and two guns, or the value thereof in other goods. And lastly,
they agreed, with "straight hearts" and "true love," to allow no other white
people to settle on their lands, but ever to protect the English. The
Indians, having received suitable presents, were dismissed in amity and peace;
while Oglethorpe left the same day for Charleston, satisfied at having
obtained, by such honorable means, the cession of such a fine country to the
crown of England. This treaty was ratified by the trustees the following
October.

The judicious and honorable conduct of Oglethorpe toward the Indians was
of more security to the colony than its military defences. For a long time he
had regarded the Indians with kindly feelings. At his suggestion Bishop
Wilson, one of the bright and shining lights of the English Church, wrote An
Essay Toward an Instruction for the Indians, which he dedicated to Oglethorpe;
and, now that he met them on their native soil, he evinced the same care for
their interests, and through life manifested in all his acts his regard for
their welfare. He was the red man's friend; showing in his intercourse with
him the honorableness of William Penn, without his private interests to
subserve; the generosity of Lord Baltimore, without a patent of immense tracts
to secure to his descendants; the compassion of Roger Williams, without his
mercantile views, to incite him to foster among the Indians kindness and
regard.

Oglethorpe stands superior to all, because he had no private end to
gratify, no lands to secure, no property to invest, no wealth to accumulate
from or among the tribes whose amity he cultivated.

The art of the painter has commemorated the treaty of Penn with the Leni
Lenapes, under the elm-tree of Shakamaxon; but neither this scene on the north
edge of Philadelphia, nor the treaty of Roger Williams with "the old Prince
Caconicas" at Seconke, nor the alliance of Leonard Calvert with the
Susquehannas at Yoacomoco, excels, in any element of philanthropy or in any
trait of nobleness, the treaty of Oglethorpe with the tribes of the Muscogees,
under the "four pine-trees" on the bluff of Yamacraw.
 

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