« PreviousContinue »
They saw the cultivated plantations of Carolina descending for the general benefit of families, or capable of being devised, and they revolted at the idea that the fruits of their labor and improvements should revert, while their widows and daughters were left unprovided for.
While such were the effects upon the settlers, the influence of these restrictions upon the colony was yet more extensive, by deterring the wealthy from settling in Georgia and directing their emigration principally to South Carolina, where the inducements were so much stronger. The influence of these combined causes greatly retarded the progress and growth of the colony and defeated the sanguine anticipations of the trustees and mother country. Silk, the favorite pursuit of the Trustees, so long neglected in Georgia, after the lapse of more than a century is now beginning to attract general attention, and whether we undertake to become manufacturers, or be considered as merely the growers and producers of the raw material, is doubtless destined to bring again into utility our exhausted soils, to furnish suitable employment for weak and infirm laborers and greatly to increase the wealth and capital of our state. Abundant cause, it is true, may be found in the inaptitude and hostility of entails to the genius and character of our republican institutions, to have produced the constitutional provision in Georgia prohibiting them; but as the most important measures are frequently traced to remote and faint causes, it is not improbable, that the early prejudices created here on this subject may have had considerable agency in producing that inhibition.
The retirement of General Oglethorpe was succeeded by the appointment of a President and Council. The colony still continued to languish, and no material alteration occurred in its condition for a series of years. Even this period of its history is however not without its interest; and many thrilling events are recorded, illustrative of the difficulties and dangers by which the colonists were surrounded, and the firmness and character by which they were encountered. One event in particular transpired, which is worthy of notice, because it severely tested the President and Council, threatened the destruction of the colony, and brought it to the
* William Stephens was then President.
brink of ruin. In the treaties which had been ratified with the Indians, the islands of St. Catherines, Ossabaw and Sapelo were reserved as hunting grounds to the Indians. A man named Thomas Bosomworth who came to Georgia as chaplain to Oglethorpe's regiment, married an Indian woman named Mary, formerly an interpreter for Oglethorpe. This man, stimulated by his cupidity, was induced to claim the reserved islands in right of his wife.
He tampered with the Indians by artful misrepresentations of the intentions of the English, and succeeded in prevailing with them to acknowledge his wife as queen of the upper and lower Creeks. She marched upon Savannah with a host of Indians, chiefs and warriors, and demanded the immediate surrender of all the lands south of Savannah, under the threat, in case of refusal, of the extirpation of the colony. The whole force of the town, amounting to only one hundred and seventy men capable of bearing arms, were called out. The inhabitants were in the greatest consternation and alarm -the inflamed savages roamed through the streets menacing hostility. The utmost firmness and prudence were now necessary to manage this delicate affair, and prevent extremities; fortunately, these were not wanting. Bosomworth and Mary being privately seized were put into close confinement: while the Indians were collected and addressed by the President, and every mode of conciliation tried. The President undertook to distribute presents among them, and the flattering hope of an amicable termination began to be indulged, when suddenly Mary, released from confinement, rushed in among the Indians and again inflamed them to hostility. Malatche, an Indian chief, started from his seat, seized his arms and called upon the rest to follow his example. Instantly hundreds of uplifted tomahawks threatened the President and Council with immediate death — universal tumult and confusion pervaded the whole house. At this critical moment a bold and gallant officer,* commander of the guards, followed by his men well armed, threw himself into the door and ordered the Indians immediately to surrender their arms. This display of courage, sustained by ready preparation for immediate action, procured a reluctant submission from the Indians. Mary was
confined under a guard and all access to her denied. The Indians were finally prevailed on peaceably to retire, and the colony was thus relieved by its firmness and intrepidity, from this appalling danger.
In the year 1750 the restrictions respecting the titles to land were removed, and a colonial assembly was authorized. In 1752 the trustees resigned their charter and the province became a royal government, admitted to all the privileges and liberties enjoyed by the neighboring provinces. Its progress was still retarded by the weakness and insufficiency of several administrators; and it was not until the appointment of Sir James Wright as Governor of Georgia that she emerged from the long state of depression into which she had sunk, became sensible of her vast resources, and of the means of bringing them into activity and usefulness. The rich and fertile low lands and river swamps were now reclaimed and brought into cultivation - her agriculture assumed a new aspect, and her commerce advanced progressively with it upon a broader and more expanded scale. The planter, animated with his prospects, gave new vigor to his industry and exertions, while the capital of England was freely brought to his aid through an extensive credit system, as confidence was established in the rapidly advancing prospects and ultimate success of the colony.
In this prosperous state we leave the colony for a while, to glance at one or two topics which merit a passing notice. The aborigines of this continent have always constituted a fruitful subject of interest and curious investigation. At the settlement of Georgia, the territory embraced within the charter, was inhabited by hordes of savages, known as the Muscogee or Creeks, the Cherokees, the Chickasaws and the Choctaws. They were all characterized by similar habits, customs and pursuits, although in fact distinguished as nations, (if nations they might be called,) or distinct communities by the foregoing appellations. The Creeks occupied the sea board and neighboring country, and were in the possession of that portion of Georgia first occupied by the settlers.
They have a tradition among them, that they came from the west that, being distressed by wars with other Indian tribes, they crossed the Mississippi, directing their course eastwardly, and settled below the falls of Chattahouchee;
from whence they spread out to Ockmulgee, Oconee, Savannah, and down on the sea coast of Carolina, where they first met with the whites.
As it regards their civil and political condition, there was nothing among any of these tribes which bore the semblance of an established government. They lived gregariously, as wandering hunters, without unity or compact as a people; and with no other ideas of laws than such as were confined to a few immemorial customs. Each distinct community was again divided into tribes or families; many of which families inhabited together the same town. Each tribe being distinguished by some appellative usually derived from the brute creation or vegetable world, as the eagle or bear tribe, &c.
Individuals of the same tribe were not permitted to intermarry. The chief civil office in each town was by hereditary succession in some one tribe; but as that succession was always in the female line, so in process of time it passed through the different tribes. In the centre of the town was the public square, surrounded by the houses of their chief, warriors, and assistant counsellors or beloved men. Within this square their council fires blazed, their solemn business was transacted, and the dance was had.
The civil government was in the hands of their Micco and beloved men, by whom was appointed their great warrior or ruler of military affairs, with the power of declaring war and determining upon its continuance. Their marriages were principally adjusted by the female members of the families of the respective parties; but it was an indispensable requisite on the part of the suitor, that he should have made his hunt, gathered his crop, and built his house. The privilege of punishing for murder was reserved to the tribe or family of the injured party; who sometimes accepted a pecuniary compensation, analogous to the weregild or composition for homicide which obtained among the ancient Francks; or, in case of flight, resorted to the next of kin.
Their notions of religion were exceedingly vague. Yet they were not destitute of an idea of some Supreme Being whom they denominated a master of breath—a God, therefore, in whom they lived and moved and had their being. They fixed his residence in the clear sky, and believed that there were two with him, three in all.
Such was the condition of the aborigines within the chartered limits of Georgia when our ancestors arrived here.*
Where is the posterity of the red man who once inhabited this land, now so changed by the meliorating hand of civilization, industry and art? There is a melancholy sentiment pervading our bosoms in the contemplation of their story and destiny. It is the destiny of the law of nations, an ignorance and savagism must yield to the superior power of light, knowledge and civilization. It is the destiny of an inscrutable providence.
Endowed with a nature, and established in habits immutable as nature, which defy the influence of civilization and the admission of improvement, they stand in the creation of God's intelligent beings, unapproachable for purposes of change and melioration; they present the spectacle of a "moral phenomenon," at which we wonder, and for whom we sympathize, but over whose destiny we have no control. It seems to be fixed by the law of their nature, by the wisdom of an inscrutable providence.
It is honorable to human nature that their fate should have awakened the attention and excited the sympathy of this great Republic.
But by the universal consent of European nations making discovery on this continent, the common principle was adopted, that such discovery conferred title.
The charters conferred by the crown of Great Britain granted the absolute domain and right of jurisdiction. But the application of the principle before stated, however admitted as between the discoverers, has been denied towards the aborigines — and notwithstanding the terms of the charter the Indian right of occupancy has been respected; and Georgia, like most of her sister States, have acquired that right by purchase and cession.
The neglect and failure of the general government to extinguish the admitted right of Indian occupancy under the compact of 1802, and the subsequent extension of her laws by the State over the territory occupied by the Cherokees, has furnished a theme for reproach, not authorized by the conduct of the State under the circumstances in which she
I have collected these facts principally from a copy of Col. Hawkins's manuscript, taken by the late Gen. John Floyd, and presented to our Society by Gen. Charles Floyd. Many of these original writings of Col. Hawkins have now been procured by the Society.