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In his youth, he had striven to carve out a high destiny for himself with his sword; but the condition of his country and of Europe forbade it; for the days of Eugene and Marlborough had passed away, while he was yet too young to gather the fruits of his valor. He had to seek another road to fame, for the unhappy condition of Europe brought clouds and darkness and disappointment across his course.
Mr. Oglethorpe had gone into parliament at twenty-four years of age, and he had been laboring for ten years with zeal and ability. But England, from the death of Queen Anne, had so entangled herself with Germany, that her wealth and her fame had been wasted by ignoble means for ignoble ends. The king only looked to the security of Hanover, and his ministers only looked to the preservation of their places. Did the wise or good attempt to arrest their course, they had only to cry "Popery," and they obtained support; for if philosophers "teach" that "matter in motion" is "power," experience tells that "mind" under excitement, is like the "scorpion fire," turned upon itself to destroy.
Mr. Oglethorpe became wearied with this profitless labor, and determined to seek in another clime, and in a new world, for objects upon which to employ his time, and spread his affections.
He planned, in the year 1732, a colony, differing from every other undertaking that had originated among men in modern times. A paper entitled, "A true Account of a New Colony, about to be established in America, by several Noblemen, Gentlemen and Merchants," will best explain the design of himself and associates.
"They petitioned the King in Council for a grant of lands in South Carolina, and liberty to lay out such charities as they themselves should give, or receive from others, — in conveying over and establishing, unfortunate families in America, and that the charities collected may not terminate in the persons first relieved, but extend itself to the latest ages. They proposed to reserve certain portions of land in every township, and a certain small portion of labor, from every man within that township, and to apply the product of the reserved land and labor, in supporting the colony, in sending over, and relieving more poor families.
"The petitioners undertake without any benefit to themselves, either in land or otherwise, all the toil of soliciting charities of clothing, supplying, arming, and supporting a colony of such persons, as they judge to be the most proper subjects of this charity."
The King received graciously their petition, and granted a charter of incorporation to Lord Percival, James Oglethorpe, Edmund Digby, and others. The patent was dated the 9th of June, 1732, and the new colony was called Georgia. The Trustees contributed largely towards the scheme; and to prevent fraud, determined to deposite the money in the Bank of England, and to keep a book in which the names of the contributors, as well as the sums paid by each should be entered, and to lay an account annually before the Chancellor, and other judges.
Many were the papers, published in England and elsewhere, expressive of approbation and warm admiration of the benevolent intentions of the Trustees in their new scheme of colonization.
Some of these papers are before the writer at this time, but he finds all so condensed and well said, in Dr. Hewatt's History of South Carolina and Georgia, that he prefers extracting from Vol. II, pages 17 to 22, what follows : *
"When this scheme of the Trustees with respect to the settlement of Georgia was made public, the well wishers of mankind, in every part of Britain, highly approved of an undertaking so humane and disinterested. To consult the public happiness, regardless of private interest, and to stretch forth a bountiful hand for the relief of distressed fellow creatures, were considered as examples of uncommon benevolence and virtue, and therefore worthy of general imitation. The ancient Romans, famous for their courage and magnanimity, ranked the planting of colonies among their noblest works, and such as added greater lustre to their empire, than their most glorious wars and victories. By the latter, old cities were plundered and destroyed; by the former new ones were founded and established: the latter ravaged the dominions of enemies and depopulated the world — the former improved new territories, provided for unfortunate friends, and added strength to the state. The benevolent founders of the colony of Georgia perhaps may challenge the annals of any nation to produce a design more generous and praiseworthy than that they had undertaken. They voluntarily offered their money, their labor and time for promoting what appeared to them the good of others — having themselves nothing for reward, but the inexpressible satisfaction arising from virtuous actions. Among other great ends they had also in view the conversion and civilization of Indian savages. If their public regulations were afterwards found improper and impracticable, — if their plan of settlement proved too narrow and circumscribed, praise nevertheless is due to them. Human policies at best are imperfect, but when the design appears so evidently good, and disinterested, the candid and impartial part of the world will make many allowances for them. Considering their ignorance of the country, and the many defects that cleave to all codes of laws, even when framed by the wisest legislators.
* Dr. Hewatt was the Presbyterian minister in Charleston before the Revolution. He was a Scotchman, and as most of his congregation were natives of Scotland and retired when the tempest of war began to gather around them, he too returned to England and employed his leisure in compiling this work, from materials he had collected before he left America. He had the advantage of being personally acquainted with General Oglethorpe, and entertained for him, and for his memory, a very high admiration. He published his book in 1779, and had no doubt submitted it to the perusal of the General, who was then enjoying a green old age. Dr. Hewatt was a relation of Mr. Hume and Mr. Mein, formerly of Georgia. He was a man of very mild and gentle temper and manners; and as his book shews of great ability. The friends named in this note made me acquainted with him, and it was from him I heard the warm feelings General Oglethorpe entertained for Georgia. He had no children, and he looked to Georgia as the Theban chief looked to the fields of Leuctra and Mantinea.
"About the middle of July 1732, the Trustees for Georgia held their first general meeting, when Lord Percival was chosen president of the corporation. After all the members had qualified themselves, agreeably to the charter, for the faithful discharge of the trust, a common seal was ordered to be made. The devise was, on one side, two figures resting upon urns, representing the rivers Altamaha and Savannah, the boundaries of the province; between them the Genius of the colony seated with a cap of liberty on his head, a spear in one hand, and a cornucopia in the other, with the inscription "Colonia Georgia, Augt." On the other side was a representation of silk worms, some beginning, and others having finished their web, with the motto "non sibi sed aliis," a very proper emblem, signifying that the nature of the establishment was such, that neither the first Trustees, nor their successors could have any views of interest, it being entirely designed for the benefit and happiness of others.
"InNovember following,one hundred and sixteen settlers embarked at Gravesend for Georgia, having their passages paid, and every thing requisite for building and cultivation furnished them by the corporation. They could not be called adventurers, as they ran no risk but what arose from the change of climate, and as they were to be maintained until by their industry they were able to support themselves.
"James Oglethorpe, one of the Trustees, embarked along with them, and proved a zealous and active promoter of the settlement.
"In the beginning of the year following Oglethorpe arrived in Charleston, where he was received by the Governor and Council in the kindest manner, and treated with every mark of civility and respect.
"Governor Johnstone, sensible of the great advantage that must accrue to Carolina from this new colony, gave all the encouragement and assistance in his power to forward the settlement. Many of the Carolinians sent them provisions, and hogs and cows to begin their stock.
"William Bull, a man of knowledge and experience, agreed to accompany Mr. Oglethorpe — and the rangers and the scout boats were ordered to attend him to Georgia. After their arrival at Yamacraw, Oglethorpe and Bull explored the country, and having found a high and pleasant spot of ground, situated on a navigable river, they fixed on this place as the most convenient and healthy situation for the settlers.
"On this hill they marked out a town, and from the Indian name of the river which ran past it, called it Savannah.
"A small fort was erected on the banks of it, as a place of refuge, and some guns were mounted on it for the defence of the colony. The people were set to work in felling trees, and building huts for themselves, and Oglethorpe animated and encouraged them by exposing himself to all the hardships, which the poor objects of his compassion endured.
"He formed them into a company of militia, appointed officers from among themselves, and furnished them with arms and ammunition.
"To show the Indians how expert they were in the use of arms, he frequently exercised them, and as they had been trained before-hand by the serjeants of the Guards, in London, they performed their various parts, in a manner little inferior to regular troops. Having thus put his colony in as good a situation as possible, the next object of his attention was to treat with the Indians for a share of their possessions.
"The principal tribes that at this time occupied the territory were the upper and the lower Creeks: the former were numerous and strong; the latter, by disease and war were reduced to a smaller number. Both tribes together were computed to amount to about twenty-five thousand, men, women and children. These Indians, according to a treaty formerly made with Governor Nicholson, laid claim to the lands lying south-west of Savannah river, and to procure their friendship for this infant colony, was an object of the highest consequence. But as the tribe of Indians settled at Yamacraw was inconsiderable, Oglethorpe judged it necessary to have the other tribes also, to join with them in the treaty.
"To accomplish this he found an Indian woman named Mary, who had married a trader from Carolina, and who could speak both the English and Creek language, and perceiving that she had great influence among the Indians, and might be made useful as an interpreter in forming treaties of alliance with them, he therefore first purchased her friendship with presents, and afterwards settled a hundred pounds yearly on her as a reward for her services.
"By her assistance he summoned a general meeting of the chiefs, to hold a congress with him at Savannah, in order to procure their consent to the peaceable settlement of his colony.
"At this congress fifty chieftains were present, when Oglethorpe represented to them the great power, wisdom, and wealth of the English nation —and the many advantages that would accrue to the Indians in general from a connection and friendship with them, — and as they had plenty of lands, he hoped they would freely resign a share of them to his people, who were come for their benefit and instruction, to settle among them. After having distributed some presents among them, which must always attend every proposal of friendship and peace, an agreement was made; and then Tomachichi, in the name of the Creek warriors, addressed him in the following manner:
"Here is a little present, and giving him a buffalo skin adorned on the inside with the head and feathers of an eagle, desired him to accept it — because the eagle was an emblem