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The subject of publishing a volume of Collections, early claimed the attention of the Georgia Historical Society, and the first proper opportunity has been improved to present it to the public.
At the regular meeting of the Society, Dec. 9, 1839, a Committee of five was appointed “to ascertain what materials were in its possession for the publication of a volume relating to the History of Georgia, and upon the expediency of publishing the same.” That Committee reported at a meeting of the Board of Managers, on the 24th February, 1840, and their views were, after one amendment, unanimously adopted. The Report urged the immediate issue of a volume, and recommended the articles in the list of Contents to constitute the collection.
The second article, is said by Nichols, in his Literary Anecdotes, vol. xi., p. 19, to have been from the of General Oglethorpe. As the production of the illustrious founder of Georgia it will ever command an attentive perusal, and though the gorgeous, and utopian descriptions he gives of these provinces, have ceased to influence the visionary and the avaricious, yet it is interesting to behold the medium through which he viewed his darling project, and the means by which he prosecuted his designs.
Mr. Moore, who wrote the “ Voyage to Georgia,” which constitutes the third article, came hither as store-keeper to the settlement at Frederica ; and his journal is a plain and faithful narrative of the daily events of the southern portion of the colony, as they passed under his own observation. His description of the settlement, and military defence of Frederica on St. Simons, is very minute and authentic. He lists the curtain upon the opening acts of hostility with the
Spaniards, and tells an unvarnished tale of their crafts, their treachery, and their perfidious designs.
Mr. Moore made a second voyage to Georgia in 1738, when he was appointed Recorder of Frederica, and continued in that capacity until 1743. In a note to the above “ Voyage” he stated that he “had kept a constant journal while in Georgia, in which is an account of the siege of St. Augustine in 1740, and of the Spaniards' invasion of Georgia in 1742.” Copies of these are in one of the volumes obtained from the State Paper office, London.
It is generally presumed that Benj. Martyn, Esq. was the author of the Impartial Inquiry into the State and Utility of the Province of Georgia. A publication like this, was loudly called for at that time, by the peculiar circumstances in which the colony was placed. The tail male feature of their grants, and the prohibition of rum and negroes, together with the usual local troubles and jealousies of delegated power, had excited much clamor and opposition to General Oglethorpe and the Trustees; and complaints, misrepresentations, slanders, and every species of evil report were assiduously circulated by the malecontents, some of which were published in this country and some in England. One of the boldest, and most violent of these publications, was a pamphlet printed in Charleston, S. C., in 1741, styled, “A True and Historical Narrative of the Colony of Georgia, in America, from its first Settlement thereof until this present Period, containing the most Authentic Facts, Matters and Transactions therein, together with his Majesty's Charter, Representations of the People, Letters, &c., and a Dedication to his Excellency General Oglethorpe, by Pat Tailfer, M. D., Hugh Anderson, M. A., Da Douglass and others, Landholders in Georgia, at present in Charleston, S. C.”
An answer to this splenetic effusion was prepared by Benj. Martyn, Esq., and published by order of the Honorable Trustees in 1741, entitled, “ An Account, showing the progress of the Colony of Georgia in America from its first establishment." “The Impartial Inquiry” is a very business like
paper, evinces an intimate acquaintance with the colony, and a full knowledge of the plans and undertakings of the Trustees. It is much more temperate in its style, and less glowing in its eulogies, than most of the writings relating to the colony. It is a plain and direct refutation of some of the
objections to the settlement, and ably defends this political offspring of benevolence from the ruthless attacks of the peevish and the discontented. .
The fifth of these pamphlets was written by Benjamin Martyn, Esq.,. “ Secretary to the Board of Trustees for settling the Colony in Georgia” who was intimately acquainted with their operations and designs, and well qualified therefore, to enforce the claims of this colony and enhance the zeal and benevolence of those, who had liberally bestowed upon it their charity and influence. The copy in the possession of the Society formerly belonged to Jonathan Belcher Esq., Governor of Massachusetts, probably presented by General Oglethorpe himself, with whom he corresponded.*
This is a well written tract; plausible in its arguments, glowing in its descriptions, valuable for its information, and pertinent in its appeals to the philanthropic and benevolent. It is singular to remark in this pamphlet, that the very first objection which the author combats as having been urged against the undertaking, was “our colonies may in time grow too great for us and throw off their dependency,” an objection which time has verified, but against which he argued, with much skill and address.
The Life of General Oglethorpe, which forms the last årticle, is from the pen of a gentleman, venerable with age, but who still pursues the studies of literature with all the enthusiasm of youth, and the assiduity of the scholar. His residence is in the vicinity of the tabby fort, and moss-covered trees of Frederica — they are the familiar scenes of his boyhood, linked in with those early associations which are the last erased by time from the tablet of memory; and with a heart, venerating its great founder, “ the Romulus of Georgia," he has prepared this tribute to his virtues and renown. It was not the intention of the writer to make an elaborate biography; he designed but to sketch the more prominent lines and features, and how well he has succeeded the public have now an opportunity to judge.
It is not the design of the Georgia Historical Society to
*On his leaving Massachusetts for New Jersey, the Governor gave it, with other books to Thaddeus Mason, Esq., who had been his private Secretary ; and from him it descended to his grandson, the Rev. Thaddeus Mason Harris, D. D., and by him was furnished to the shelves of the Library of the Historical Society of Georgia.
write the history of the State. It but garners up the materials, and leaves the historian to arrange and digest them.
A work bearing the title of a “History of Georgia,” has already been given to the public. Of this, it is unnecessary to say much. Burdened as Major McCall was, with physical infirmities, a martyr to the perils and exposures of a service, in which he gained credit as an officer, enduring almost every thing which humanity could endure in the shape of pain and suffering, possessed of few materials, unused to literary efforts, and often writing with his portfolio on his knees, whilst confined a helpless invalid to his bed, he deserves great praise for his persevering zeal, by which much that is interesting and valuable, has been rescued from oblivion. But while we accord to Major McCall every honor which is due, we are constrained to say, that his work is deficient in narrative, and as a whole, materially imperfect in many of its statements.
In one sense, therefore, the history of Georgia is untrodden ground. A few fragments of ancient chronicles have been published, and a few tracts illustrative of colonial affairs circulated; but the great body of events remains almost untouched.
It was in contemplation by a gentleman versed in literature, to write a history of this State, which should correct the errors of McCall, be more ample in its details, and more worthy of the commonwealth. To this end Mr. Bevan had amassed a large number of reports, letters, pamphlets and documents, and the general assembly by a resolution passed December 13, 1824, appropriated four hundred dollars to Mr. Bevan, "for the purpose of collecting, arranging and publishing all papers relating to the original settlement or political history of this State, now in the executive or secretary of state's office. But death laid him low, and none have since been found to prosecute the undertaking.
A period has now arrived peculiarly favorable for an historian. A spirit of inquiry has been excited, the means of information are rapidly augmenting, and through public and private generosity, the library of the Georgia Historical Society, already contains documents of the highest interest and importance.
By virtue of a resolution of the Georgia Legislature passed December 23d, 1837, the Governor appointed the Rev.