Page images
PDF
EPUB

NOTE.

The transmission of the former paper, “ A State of the Province of Georgia," &c., gave activity to those opposed to its statements, and resulted in the drawing up of the present account, designed to be sent also to the trustees, and others, as a counter representation. We turn to Stephens for an elucidation of its origin. By the 12th November, 1740, says he, in his journal, “ The whole talk of the town now was, about what was done at the Court on Monday, and the opposition which some were using their utmost efforts to give it. I now learned it was agreed on by their new directors to prepare a counter representation, wherein the state of the colony should be set forth in a different light, and it would be put into proper hands to confront what we had been forming, or forging, probably, as they might term it; for it was most scandalously and industriously given out by them, that all we who had already signed it were perjured, and had set our hands to a pack of lies. All this I resolved with myself to bear as patiently as I could, and by no means whatsoever, to enter into any controversy, or disputation, with such a petty crew, whom I might expect no stronger arguments from, than foul language; wherefore I kept myself as free as I could from company, not appearing in the least solicitous who signed one or the other ; but took what care was proper, to get true information of what passed, that I might make due use of it at a right season; and I saw plainly three classes would arise, viz. : pro, and con, and neuter; but well knowing how long time had been taken up already in coming at those truths now attested, (whereof many had lain undiscovered, and were the occasion of so much anger at present for being made appear,) I must not procrastinate too far the sending what was done to the trustees, to take its fate, whether with few hands or more, not doubting but what is set forth upon the oaths of such a number of volunteers, will have at least as much weight in another place, before competent judges, as anything that may be boldly asserted to the con. trary, by very few men of character, with a set of people at their tails, either misled through weakness, or some worse motive, which may better be taken notice of at some other time. Two or three who were either out of town, or happened unavoidably to miss attending the Court on Monday, came to my house this day, and upon reading what had been done, very readily desired to put their hands to it; which they did, and were sworn before Mr. Jones.” This document appears to have been written, after several abortive efforts, by Thomas Stephens, and Sir Richard Everhard. Thomas Stephens was the son of William Stephens, Esq., late M. P., Secretary of the Colony, &c., and Sir Richard Ever. hard was the son of Sir Richard Everhard, a former Governor of North Carolina. He had travelled extensively through the Indian nations, and reached Savannah in the spring of 1741. He early entered into the local controversies then raging in the town, and hastily attaching himself to the malecontents, lent himself to the advancement of their sinister designs. This pamphlet was answered by Lord Percival, first Earl of Egmont, in some remarks upon a scandalous piece entitled “ A Brief Account of the Causes that have Retarded the Progress of the Colony of Georgia," &c.

A BRIEF ACCOUNT.

The severe grievances and distresses of the inhabitants of Georgia had been so frequently and fruitlessly represented to the honorable body constituted, as they conceived, for the very purposes of preventing and redressing them, that their application to a higher power seemed the only* remaining hope and dependence of the unhappy people. After the proofs produced at the bar of the honorable house of commons, it can be thought no extravagant assertion that their grievances and oppressions were thought to be such, as were before unexampled under any British government. And, if the inexperience of their agent in the conduct of that affair (where the quality, interest and number of his opponents might have discouraged a person much better qualified) terminated, for that time, in some censure upon himself, without the complete relief of his unfortunate constituents; yet his duty and their distresses stimulate him sufficiently, to revive his application in their behalf, as he is satisfied that the justice and compassion of a British parliament will be extended to their present grievances after further information and attention, and prevent, for the future, such oppressions as they have so long and unjustly languished under.

It may well be thought amazing, at the first view, that a colony, which has been erected at such a considerable public expense to Great Britain, and further encouraged by such numbers of private donations, should be in a more indigent condition than any of those which were settled at the expense and risk of private adventurers, to the final satisfaction and happiness of multitudes, and the reciprocal benefit

[blocks in formation]

of their mother realms. And as it is impossible that any settlement could ever be enterprised with greater professions of humanity, compassion and disinterestedness, than were the avowed views of sending a colony to Georgia, it may seem as strange that the complaints they have proved were oppressions of the most essential kind; and such as are really incompatible with the nature or very existence of any British government. But their experience has discovered the difference of professions and performances to be as wide as that of truth and error; and indeed were it possible to suppose affluence, where property is unascertained and insecure, mere abundance would never be deemed an equivalent for the want of those rights and liberties which British subjects consider as an unalienable inheritance and patrimony.

The wisdom and justice of the regulations they have smarted under, are truly too profound for their comprehension. If the liberties of former colonies had really prevented, or even retarded their own increase and prosperity, or their benefit and advantage to Great Britain, some political reasons, at least, might have been alleged for them; but when the very contrary is self-evident, whatever may have been the designs of the many discouragements they have felt, their ill circumstances are too evidently owing, in a great degree, to the want of that liberty which has enriched and established the neighboring colonies, and extended the British trade and empire in proportion.

To complain has been always deemed the wretched privilege of the miserable: yet even this has been, as much as possible, obstructed; insomuch, that the Georgians are indebted to the justice and liberty of their neighboring province for a seal to many of the annexed depositions, which they could never obtain in Georgia. And indeed any magistrate, who has an inclination to continue one, must be deaf to any public complaint of the discontented; which, it may be truly affirmed, all the inhabitants, who are independent and out of office, with great reason are, while they must be ever industrious to give a sanction to all such misrepresentations of the state of things, as are contrary to fact, and insults on reason itself. And under what influence such misrepresentations have been procured, will best be evinced from some of the following depositions.

Bitterness is too naturally the language of the injured ;

but as their past sufferings are irrevocable, they are more anxious to prevent their continuance than to perpetuate the disagreeable remembrance of them, by an unavailing resentment; and it is with such a view the following papers are tendered to the worthy and unprejudiced. If a fair account of their hardships should inevitably infer any thing disadvantageous to the characters of any other, it has been their misfortune, that it is in their power to do it with justice, and not in their power to omit it without being unjust to themselves. They decline all aggravation, both as difficult and unnecessary; they leave the advantages of art and eloquence to persons and things, which are better qualified to divert than to bear inspection; and rest the validity of their complaints upon the plain, but faithful depositions of men, who have been made to feel what they may be unable to express with the strictest method and propriety.

But before I proceed to these proofs, I shall take the liberty to make a brief and plain inquiry into the principal causes, that have either retarded, or totally prevented the increase and establishment of Georgia, which indeed amounts to a consideration, how far his Majesty's most gracious intentions, in the settlement of Georgia, have been accomplished and fulfilled by those persons appointed for that purpose.

We find from the preamble to his Majesty's charter to the trustees, that the professed designs of establishing the colony of Georgia were for making provision for the industrious poor, for strengthening South Carolina, and increasing trade and navigation. .

To which end, his Majesty was pleased to grant in trust (not as proprietors) to several of the nobility and gentlemen, all the soils, grounds, &c., within the limits of Georgia, together with all the privileges and preëminences, which his Majesty by his letters patent might or could grant.

From which, it seems very natural to apprehend, that nothing short of the rights and liberties of other British subjects or colonies, were intended to be allowed such settlers, who certainly took the same for granted, before their leaving Great Britain, to go to Georgia. But in consequence of such his Majesty's gracious intentions, and from the situation of that frontier they were to defend, rather expected such further immunities and encouragements, as his Majesty,

in his royal bounty and goodness, could and might grant a colony, honored with his name, within the limits of a British constitution and government, the only one they expected to be regulated by, and subject to. It seems to them, that the trustees, thus empowered and enjoined to confer all the king's rights, expressed in the charter, could convey no other rights, nor no less; and that every grant or tenure of theirs, short of such, was contrary to the charter, and an illegal and unconstitutional reserve. And that every other act of theirs, and their magistrates there, contrary to the laws and usages of Great Britain, and to the known rights and liberties of English subjects, were oppressive and arbitrary, and directly destructive of the express intentions of the charter, and the settlement of the province, which has been but too evidently demonstrated by the present condition of it.

The only restraint the charter expresses, is with regard to the quantity of land to be granted to any settler, which is limited to five hundred acres. The wisdom and equity of this limitation is undoubtedly very clear in the main, as it is preventive of those unreasonable, and even impolitic monopolies of land, which have greatly retarded the strength and improvement of other places; and yet perhaps in some particular cases, where a settler might be both able and willing to cultivate and improve more, some further allowance, in proportion to such circumstances, might neither be unreasonable nor impolitic. But notwithstanding this limitation of the quantity, was the only limitation warranted by the charter; one of the first things done was, reserving the very best lands, under a pretence that they were kept for the vagrant Indians,* who were brought over here, and imposed on the public for kings; and so circumscribing and restraining the rights and titles of such others, as were not thought too good or valuable for the people, as to extinguish every incitement to industry and improvement: by which means, almost all the best lands continue unappropriated, to any settler at least, and uncultivated to this day. If this method of establishing colonies has nothing else to recommend it, we must allow it to be new at least, and acknowledge the inhabitants would have been as unreasonable to expect any advantages from it,

* See the Report of the Committee of South Carolina, appointed to exainine into the Proceedings of Georgia.

« PreviousContinue »