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
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
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
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.
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