Page images

of which, I beg you will thank them; I heartily wish all imaginable success to this good work, and am, Sir, your most humble servant,


P. S. Since the above, I have had the pleasure of hearing from Mr. Oglethorpe, who gives me an account, that his undertaking goes on very successfully.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]


JAMES OGLETHORPE was born in London in December, 1698. His family had been an old and respectable one, established for centuries in the county of Surrey. He was the youngest son of Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe, who was an officer in the Duke of York's own regiment, before the Duke ascended the throne as James II., and whose family had been during the civil war, and at all times, devoted to the House of Stuart.

William III. was too politic a Prince, and too much afraid of the army, to persecute Sir Theophilus or his family for such opinions. But he could do worse - he could neglect them. By a high-minded .man persecution can be borne. He steels himself to resistance - he stands erect to receive it — and he may break before the storm, but he will not bend to it. Neglect, whether it comes from the one or the many in power, descends upon a generous mind like the cold autumnal dew, withering all hope and blighting every energy of intellect. Such was the position of General Oglethorpe's family with the government at his birth — such was his own condition to his grave. But he availed himself to every opportunity, however transient, to strive after fame, and to labor for a name of renown among men.

In 1711, when Oxford and St. John were the ministers of Queen Anne, although but thirteen years of age, he entered the army, as an Ensign, and was afterwards promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Guards of Queen Anne, who, as is well known, was laboring at the close of her life to collect around her person and her throne the friends of her unhappy brother.

The Queen died in August, 1714, hurried to her grave by the idle disputes between her ministers Oxford and Bolingbroke; and George I. ascended the throne of England, against the wishes of the British Empire, at the call of a faction, that controlled the army and navy at that eventful period.

From this faction young Oglethorpe had nothing to hope, and he therefore soon afterwards withdrew from the British army, passed over to the continent, when he was between seventeen and eighteen years of age, and took service with Prince Eugene, in his war against the Turks, and elsewhere.

He was with Prince Eugene when he crossed the Danube, and defeated the Grand Vizier Ali, at Peterwaradin in the year 1716, and also the year following, (1717, when Eugene besieged and took Belgrade, again defeating the Turks with great slaughter, storming their camp, and completely routing their army.. .

In this gigantic war, where two great empires were struggling for life, for law, and for religion, every power, and passion, of the human mind, was called forth, and the young soldier, by his gallantry, enterprise, and capacity, won the favor of Prince Eugene, who received him into his family, attached him to his staff, and in this school and under this great captain he learned the art of war. • The spring of 1719 brought peace to all Europe. Weak kings or corrupt ministers so entangled affairs at home that it required the whole attention of the ruling powers to keep the rickety machine of government in motion. Law, with his Mississippi scheme in France, and Sir John Blount, with his South Sea scheme in England, made the year 1720 one of the most memorably miserable that either country had ever known.

Young Oglethorpe, however, then twenty-one years of age, had returned to England; and in the calm of Oxford was schooling himself for other duties. His early education had been interrupted by his military pursuits, and it was necessary that some portion of his manhood should be given to the acquirement of that knowledge, which, if acquired at all, is generally mastered at an earlier period.

In 1727 died George I., who was succeeded by George II. Let us hear what a distinguished whig historian (Russell) says on this occasion. “The administration was wisely continued in the hands of the whigs, the only true friends of the Protestant succession, on the principle of the revolution. If the heads of opposition cannot be taught silence or induced to change sides, the king must either resign his minister, or that minister must secure a majority by some other means. No minister. ever understood those means better than Sir Robert Walpole.

“Possessed of extraordinary abilities, and utterly destitute of principle, he made no scruple of employing the money voted by parliament, in order to corrupt its members. He discovered that almost every man had his price. He bought many, and to gain more, he let loose the wealth of the treasury at elections.” And yet Mr. Russell says, that it was wisely done, to continue this man in power.

The high reputation Mr. Oglethorpe had acquired abroad, as a soldier, and the scarcely less high reputation he had acquired at Oxford, as a scholar, drew upon him the attention of that party, who had for years been resisting the violence and waste, which the faction in power, under the wild cry of Popery and the Pretender, had been indulging in — and in 1722, at the early age of twenty-four, he was brought into parliament, from Haslemere in Surrey.

Mr. Oglethorpe knew when he went into parliament, that the eyes of the public were upon him, and that his every step should be marked with caution and judgment; for his mother had been at one time the medium through which Oxford and Bolingbroke, and Queen Anne herself, communicated with the exiled family. And his sister was domesticated with them.

He soon became an active member, usefully directing his views to ameliorating the condition of the unhappy, in every form within his power.

In the session of 1728, says Smollet,* Mr. Oglethorpe, having been informed of shocking cruelty and oppression, exercised by jailors upon their prisoners, moved for an examination into these practices, and was chosen chairman of a committee, appointed to inquire into the state of the jails of the kingdom.

They began with the Fleet Prison, which they visited in a body; there they found Sir William Rich, baronet, loaded with irons, by order of Bainbridge, the warden, to whom he had given some slight cause of offence. Bainbridge and others were punished by act of parliament, and disqualified from holding place, &c. and the law regulating jails amended.

It is known to reading men, that no short-hand writer was ever admitted to the gallery of the house of commons, be

* Vol. ii. p. 440

« PreviousContinue »