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The United States of America: A History
Book 1: Chapter X - Georgia


THE thirteen States which composed the original Union were Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

1732 A.D.

Of these the latest born was Georgia. Only fifty years had passed since Penn established the Quaker State on the banks of the Delaware. but changes greater than centuries have sometimes wrought had taken place. The Revolution had vindicated the liberties of the British people. The tyrant house of Stuart had been cast out, and with its fall the era of despotic government had closed. The real governing power was no longer the King, but the Parliament.

Among the members of Parliament during the rule of Sir Robert Walpole was one almost unknown to us now, but deserving of honour beyond most men of his time. His name was James Oglethorpe. He was a soldier, and had fought against the Turks and in the great Marlborough wars against Louis the Fourteenth. In advanced life he became the friend of Samuel Johnson. Dr. Johnson urged him to write some account of his adventures. "I know no one," he said, "whose life would be more interesting: if I were furnished with materials I should be very glad to write it." Edmund Burke considered him "a more extraordinary person than any lie had ever read of." John Wesley "blessed God that ever he was born." Oglethorpe attained the great age of ninety-six, and died in the year 1785. The year before his death he attended the sale of Dr. Johnson's books, and was there met by Samuel Rogers the poet. "Eveii then," says Rogers, ' he was the finest figure of a man you ever saw, but very, very old; the flesh of his face like parchment."

In Oglethorpe's time it was in the power of a creditor to imprison, according to his pleasure, the man who owed him money and was not able to pay it. It was a common circumstance that a man should be imprisoned during a long series of years for a trifling debt. Oglethorpe had a friend upon whom this hard fate had fallen. his attention was thus painfully called to the cruelties which were inflicted upon the unfortunate and helpless. He appealed to Parliament, and after inquiry a partial remedy was obtained. The benevolent exertions of Oglethorpe procured liberty for multitudes who but for him might have ended their lives in captivity.

1732 A. D.

This, however, did not content him. Liberty was an incomplete gift to men who had lost, or perhaps had scarcely ever possessed, the faculty of earning their own maintenance. Oglethorpe devised how lie might carry these unfortunates to a new world, where, under happier auspices, they might open a fresh
career. He obtained from King George II. a charter by which the country between the Savannah and the Alatamaha, and stretching westward to the Pacific, was erected into the province of Georgia. it was to be a refuge for the deserving poor, and next to them for Protestants suffering persecution. Parliament voted 10,000 in aid of the humane enterprise, and many benevolent persons were liberal with their gifts. In November the first exodus of the insolvent took place. Oglethorpe sailed with one hundred and twenty emigrants, mainly selected from the prisons—penniless, but of good repute. He surveyed the coasts of Georgia., and chose a site for the capital of his new State. He pitched his tent where Savannah now stands, and at once proceeded to mark out the line of streets and squares.

Next year the colony was joined by about a hundred German Protestants, who were then under persecution for their beliefs. The colonists received this addition to their numbers with joy. A place of residence had been chosen for them which the devout and thankful strangers named Ebenezer. They were charmed with their new abode. The river and the hills, they said, reminded them of home. They applied themselves with steady industry to the cultivation of indigo and silk; and they prospered.

The fame of Oglethorpe's enterprise spread over Europe. All struggling men against whom the battle of life went hard looked to Georgia as a land of promise. They were the men who most urgently required to emigrate; but they were not always the men best fitted to conquer the difficulties of the immigrant's life. The progress of the colony was slow. The poor persons of whom it was originally composed were honest but ineffective, and could not in Georgia more than in England find out the way to become self-supporting. Encouragements were given which drew from Germany, from Switzerland, and from the Highlands of Scotland, men of firmer nature of mind—better fitted to subdue the wilderness and bring forth its treasures.

1736 A.D.

With Oglethorpe there went out, on his second expedition to Georgia, the two brothers John and Charles Wesley. Charles went as secretary to the Governor. John was even then, although a very young man, a preacher of unusual promise. He burned to spread the gospel among the settlers and their Indian neighbours. He spent two years in Georgia, and these were unsuccessful years. His character was unformed; his zeal out of proportion to his discretion. The people felt that he preached "personal satires" at them. He involved himself in quarrels, and at last had to leave the colony secretly, fearing arrest at the instance of some whom he had offended. He returned to begin his great career in England, with the feeling that his residence in Georgia had been of much value to himself, but of very little to the people whom he sought to benefit.

Just as Wesley reached England, his fellow-labourer George Whitefield sailed for Georgia. There were now little settlements spreading inland, and Whitefield visited these—bearing to them the word of life. He founded an Orphan-house at Savannah, and supported it by contributions—obtained easily from men under the power of his unequalled eloquence. He visited Georgia very frequently, and his love for that colony remained with him to the last.

Slavery was, at the outset, forbidden in Georgia. It was opposed to the gospel, Oglethorpe said, and therefore not to be allowed. He foresaw, besides, what has been so bitterly experienced since, that slavery must degrade the poor white labourer. But soon a desire sprung up among the loss scrupulous of the settlers to have the use of slaves. Within seven years from the first landing, slave-ships were discharging their cargoes at Savannah.


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