General James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of the Colony of Georgia, was among the few really good and great men that history tells us of. We need to keep a close eye on the antics of history. She places the laurels of fame in the hands of butchers, plunderers, and adventurers, and even assassins share her favors; so that, if we are going to enjoy the feast that history offers us, we must not inquire too closely into the characters of the men whom she makes heroes of. We find, when we come to look into the matter, that but few of those who figured as the great men of the world have been entirely unselfish; and unselfishness is the test of a man who is really good and great. Judged by this test, General Oglethorpe stands among the greatest men known to history. . . .
Born in 1689, Oglethorpe entered the English army when twenty-one years of age. In 1714 he became captain-lieutenant of the first troop of the Queen's life guards. He shortly afterward joined Eugene on the continent, and remained with that soldier until the peace of 1718. On the death of his brother he succeeded to the family estate in England. In 1722 he was elected to Parliament from Haslemere, County of Surrey, and this borough he represented continuously for thirty-two years. His parliamentary career was marked by wise prudence and consistency; and his sympathies were warmly enlisted for the relief of unfortunate soldiers, and in securing reform in the conduct of prisons. In this way Oglethorpe became a philanthropist, and, without intending it, attracted the attention of all England. Pope, the poet, eulogizes his "strong benevolence of soul."
In that day and time men were imprisoned for debt in England. The law was brutal, and those who executed it were cruel. There was no discrimination between fraud and misfortune. The man who was unable to pay his debts was judged to be as criminal as the man who, though able, refused to pay. . . .
This condition of affairs Oglethorpe set himself to reform; and while thus engaged he became imprest with the idea that many of the unfortunates, guilty of no crime, and of respectable connections, might benefit themselves, relieve England of the shame of their imprisonment, and confirm and extend the dominion of the mother country in the New World, by being freed from the claims of those to whom they owed money, on condition that they would consent to become colonists in America. To this class were to be added recruits from those who, through lack of work and of means, were likely to be imprisoned on account of their misfortunes. Oglethorpe was also of the opinion that men of means, enterprise, and ambition could be enlisted in the cause; and in this he was not mistaken.
He had no hope whatever of personal gain or private benefit. The plan that he had conceived was entirely for the benefit of the unfortunate, based on broad and high ideas of benevolence; and so thoroughly was this understood that Oglethorpe had no difficulty whatever in securing the aid of men of wealth and influence. A charter or grant from the government was applied for, in order that the scheme might have the sanction and anthority of the government. Accordingly a charter was granted, and the men most prominent in the scheme of benevolence were incorporated under the name of "The Trustees for establishing the Colony of Georgia in America." Georgia in America was, under the terms of the charter, a pretty large slice of America. It embraced all that part of the continent lying between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers, and extending westly from the heads of these rivers in direct lines to the South Seas; so that the original territory of Georgia extended from ocean to ocean.
In aid of this enterprise, Oglethorpe not only contributed largely from his private means, and solicited contributions from his wealthy friends, but wrote a tract in which he used arguments that were practical as well as ingenious.
On the 17th of November, 1732, all arrangements having been completed, the Anne set sail for the Colony of Georgia, accompanied by Oglethorpe, who furnished his own cabin, and laid in provisions not only for himself, but for his fellow-passengers. On the 13th of January, 1733, the Anne anchored in Charleston harbor. From Charleston the vessel sailed to Port Royal; and the colonists were soon quartered in the barracks of Beaufort-town, which had been prepared for their reception. Oglethorpe left the colonists at Beaufort and, in company with Colonel William Bull, proceeded to the Savannah River. He went up this stream as far as Yamacraw Bluff, which he selected as the site of the settlement he was about to make. He marked out the town, and named it Savannah. The site was a beautiful one in Oglethorpe's day, and it is still more beautiful now. The little settlement that the founder of the colony marked out has grown into a flourishing city, and art has added its advantages to those of nature to make Savannah one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. . . .
On the 30th of January, 1733, the immigrants set sail from Beaufort, and on the afternoon of the next day they arrived at Yamacraw Bluff. On the site of the town that had already been marked off they pitched four tents large enough to accommodate all the people. Oglethorpe, after posting his sentinels, slept on the ground under the shelter of the tall pines, near the central watch fire. As a soldier should, he slept soundly. He had planted the new colony, and thus far all had gone well with him and with those whose interests he had charge of.
To bring these colonists across the ocean and place them in a position where they might begin life anew was not a very difficult undertaking; but to plant a colony amongst savages already suspicious of the whites, and to succeed in obtaining their respect, friendship, and aid, was something that required wisdom, courage, prudence, and large experience. This Oglethorpe did; and it is to his credit that, during the time he had charge of the colony, he never, in any shape or form, took advantage of the ignorance of the Indians. His method of dealing with them was very simple. He conciliated them by showing them that the whites could be just, fair, and honorable in their dealings; and thus, in the very beginning, he won the friendship of those whose enmity to the little colony would have proved ruinous.
Providence favored Oglethorpe in this matter. He had to deal with an Indian chief full of years, wisdom, and experience. This was Tomochichi, who was at the head of the Yamacraws. From this kindly Indian the Georgia Colony received untold benefits. He remained the steadfast friend of the settlers, and used his influence in their behalf in every possible way, and on all occasions. Altho he was a very old man, he was strong and active, and of commanding presence. He possessed remarkable intelligence; and this, added to his experience, made him one of the most remarkable of the Indians whose names have been preserved in history. . . . Thus, with Oglethorpe to direct it, and with Tomochichi as its friend, the little Georgia Colony was founded, thrived and flourished.
END OF VOL. II
1From Mr. Harris's "Georgia from the Invasion of De Soto to Recent Times." By permission of, and by arrangement with, the publishers, D. Appleton & Co. Copyright, 1899.