History of the United States, Volume 2: 1688-1763

Author: George Bancroft

Chapter 16:
The British Slave-Trade,
Colonization of Georgia

THE moral world is swayed by general laws. They extend not over inanimate nature only, but over man and nations; over the policy of rulers and the opinion of masses. Event succeeds event according to their influence; amid the jar of passions and interests, amid wars and alliances, commerce and conflicts, they form the guides of civilization, which marshals incongruous incidents into their just places, and arranges checkered groups in clear and harmonious order. To discover the tendency of the ages, research must be unwearied, and must be conducted without a bias; as the student of natural history, in examining even the humblest flower, seeks instruments that may unfold its wonderful structure, without color and without distortion. For the historic inquirer to swerve from exact observation would be as absurd as for the astronomer to break his telescopes and compute the path of a planet by conjecture. Of success there is a sure criterion; for, as every false statement contains a contradiction, truth alone possesses harmony. Truth, and truth alone, is permanent. The selfish passions of a party are as evanescent as the material interests involved in the transient conflict: they may deserve to be described; they never can inspire; and the narrative which takes from them its motive will hurry to oblivion as rapidly as the hearts in which they were kindled moulder to ashes. But facts, faithfully ascertained and placed in proper contiguity, become of themselves the firm links of a brightly burnished chain, connecting events with their causes, and marking the line along which the power of truth is conveyed from generation to generation.

Events that are past are beyond change, and, where they merit to be known, can at least in their general aspect be known correctly. The constitution of the human mind varies only in details; its elements are the same always; and the multitude, possessing but a combination of the powers and passions of which each one is conscious, is subject to the same laws which control individuals. Humanity, constantly enriched and cultivated by the truths it develops and the inventions it amasses, has a life of its own, and yet possesses no element that is not common to each of its members. By comparison of document with document; by an analysis of facts, and the reference of each of them to the laws of intelligence which it illustrates; by separating the idea which inspires combined action from the forms it assumes; by comparing results with the principles that govern the movement of nations—historic truth may establish itself as a science.

The trust of our race that there is progress in human affairs is warranted. Universal history does but seek to relate "the sum of all God’s works of providence." In 1739, the first conception of its office, in the mind of Jonathan Edwards, though still cramped and perverted by theological forms not derived from observation, was nobler than the theory of Vico: more grand and general than the method of Bossuet, it embraced in its outline the whole "work of redemption"—the history of the influence of all moral truth in the gradual regeneration of humanity. The New England divine, in his quiet association with the innocence and simplicity of rural life, knew that, in every succession of revolutions, the cause of civilization and moral reform is advanced. "The new creation," such are his words, "is more excellent than the old. So it ever is, that, when one thing is removed by God to make way for another, the new excels the old." "The wheels of Providence," he adds, "are not turned by blind chance, but they are full of eyes round about, and they are guided by the Spirit of God. Where the Spirit goes, they go." Nothing appears more self-determined than the volitions of each individual; and nothing is more certain than that Providence will overrule them for good. The finite will of man, free in its individuality, is in the aggregate subordinate to general laws. This is the reason why evil is self-destructive; why truth, when it is once generated, is sure to live forever; why freedom and justice, though resisted and restrained, renew the contest from age to age, confident that messengers from heaven fight on their side, and that the stars in their courses war against their foes. There would seem to be no harmony and no consistent tendency to one great end in the confused events of the reigns of George II of England and Louis XV of France, where legislation was now surrendered to the mercantile passion for gain, was now swayed by the ambition and avarice of the mistresses of kings; where the venal corruption of public men, the open profligacy of courts, the greedy cupidity of trade, conspired in exercising dominion over the civilized community. The political world was without form and void; yet the Spirit of God was moving over the chaos of human passions and human caprices, bringing forth the firm foundations on which better hopes were to rest, and setting in the firmament the lights that were to guide the nations.

England, France, and Spain occupied all the continent, nearly all the islands, of North America; each established over its colonies an oppressive metropolitan monopoly; but Great Britain, while she vigorously enforced her own acts of navigation, disregarded those of Spain. Strictly maintaining the exclusive commerce with her own colonies, she coveted intercourse with the Spanish islands and main; and was about to give to the world, for the first time in history, the spectacle of a war for trade—a war which hastened the downfall of commercial restrictions and the independence of America.

A part of the holders of the debt of Great Britain had been incorporated into a company, with the exclusive trade to the South Seas. But as Spain occupied much of the American coast in those seas, and claimed a monopoly of its commerce, the grant was worthless, unless that monopoly could be successfully invaded; and to begin this invasion, the commercial advantages conceded by the assiento treaty were assigned to the South Sea company.

Notwithstanding the in success of its attempts to trade in the Pacific, enough of the South Sea company survived to execute the contract for negroes and to conduct an illicit commerce with Spanish America. "Ambition, avarice, distress, disappointment, and the complicated vices that tend to render the mind of man uneasy, filled all places and all hearts in the English nation." Dreams of the acquisition of Florida, with the sole use of the Bahama channel; of the conquest of Mexico and Peru, with their real and their imagined wealth—rose up to dazzle the restless; Jamaica became the centre of an extensive smuggling trade; and slave-ships, deriving their passport from the assiento treaty, were the ready instruments of contraband cupidity.

While the South Sea company satisfied but imperfectly its passion for wealth by a monopoly of the supply of negroes for the Spanish islands and main, the African company and independent traders were still more busy in sending negroes to the colonies of England. This avidity was encouraged by English legislation, fostered by royal favor, and enforced for a century by every successive ministry of England.

The colored men who were imported into our colonies, sometimes by way of the West Indies, and sometimes, especially for the South, directly from the Old World, were sought all along the African coast, for thirty degrees together, from Cape Blanco to Loango St. Paul’s; from the Great Desert of Sahara to the kingdom of Angola, or perhaps even to the borders of the land of the Kaffres. It is not possible to relate precisely in what bay they were respectively laden, from what sunny cottages they were kidnapped, from what more direful captivity they were rescued. The traders in men have not been careful to record the lineage of their victims. They were chiefly gathered from gangs that were marched from the far interior; so that the freight of a single ship might be composed of persons of different languages, and of nations altogether strange to each other. Nor was there uniformity of complexion; of those brought to our country, some were from tribes of which the skin was of a tawny yellow.

The purchases in Africa were made, in part, of convicts sentenced to slavery, or to a fine which was discharged by their sale; of debtors sold, though but rarely, into foreign bondage; of children sold by their parents; of kidnapped villagers; of captives taken in war. Hence, the sea-coast and the confines of hostile nations were laid waste. But the chief source of supply alike for the caravans of the Moors and for the ships of Europe was from the swarms of those born in a state of slavery. In the upper country, on the Senegal and the Gambia, three fourths of the inhabitants were not free; and the slave’s master was the absolute lord of the slave’s children. In the healthy and fertile uplands of Western Africa, under the tropical sun, the natural increase of the prolific race, combined with the imperfect development of its moral faculties, gave to human life, in the eye of man himself, an inferior value. Humanity did not respect itself in the individual, in the family, or in the nation. Our systems of ethics will not explain the phenomenon: its cause is not to be sought in the suppression of moral feeling, but rather in the condition of a branch of the human family not yet fully possessed of its moral and rational life. The quick maturity, the facility of obtaining sustenance, an undeveloped intelligence, and the fruitfulness of the negro, explain why, from century to century, the slave-ships could find a freight, and yet the population of the interior be kept full.

Africans of more than thirty years of age were rejected by the traders as too old, and few were received under fourteen. Of the whole number, not more than one third part was composed of women; and a woman past two-and-twenty was hardly deemed worth transportation. The English slave-ships were laden with the youth of Africa.

Slavery and even a change of masters were familiar to the African; but to be conducted to the shores of the Western Ocean, to be doomed to pass its boundless deep and enter on new toils in an untried clime and amid an unknown race, was appalling to the black man. The horrors of the passage corresponded with the infamy of the trade. Small vessels, of little more than two hundred tons’ burden, were prepared for the traffic; for these could most easily penetrate the bays and rivers, and, quickly obtaining a lading, could soonest hurry away from the deadly air of the African coast. In such a bark five hundred negroes and more have been stowed, exciting wonder that men could have lived, within the tropics, cribbed in so few inches of room. The inequality of force between the crew and the cargo led to the use of manacles; the hands of the stronger men were made fast together, and the right leg of one was chained to the left of another. The avarice of the trader was a partial guarantee of the security of life, as far as it depended on him; but death hovered always over the slave-ship. The negroes, as they came from the higher level to the sea-side, poorly fed on the sad pilgrimage, sleeping at night on the damp earth without covering, and often reaching the coast at unfavorable seasons, imbibed the seeds of disease, which confinement on board ship quickened into feverish activity. There have been examples where one half of them—it has been said, even, where two thirds of them—perished on the passage. The total loss of life on the voyage is computed to have been, on the average, fifteen, certainly full twelve and a half, in the hundred; the harbors of the West Indies proved fatal to four and a half more out of every hundred. No scene of wretchedness could surpass a crowded slave-ship during a storm at sea, unless it were that same ship dismasted, or suffering from a protracted voyage and want of food, its miserable inmates tossed helplessly to and fro under the rays of a vertical sun, vainly gasping for a drop of water.

Of a direct voyage from Guinea to the coast of the United States no journal is known to exist, though slave-ships from Africa entered Newport and nearly every considerable harbor south of it.

In the northern provinces of English America, the negroes were lost in the larger number of whites; and only in the lowlands of South Carolina and Virginia did they constitute a great majority of the inhabitants. When they met on our soil they were as strange to one another as to their masters. Taken from places in Africa a thousand miles asunder, the negro emigrants to America brought with them no common language or worship. They were compelled to adopt a new dialect for intercourse with each other; and broken English became their tongue not less among themselves than with their masters. Hence there was no unity among them, and no immediate political danger from their joint action. Once an excitement against them raged in New York, through fear of a pretended plot; but the frenzy grew out of a delusion. Sometimes the extreme harshness of taskmasters may have provoked resistance; or sometimes an African, accustomed from birth to freedom, and reduced to slavery by the chances of war, carried with him across the Atlantic the indomitable spirit of a warrior; but the instances of insurrection were insulated, and without result. Destitute of common traditions, customs, and laws, the black population existed in fragments, having no bonds of union but color and misfortune. Thus, the negro slave in America was dependent on his owner for civilization; he could be initiated into skill in the arts only through him; through him only could he gain a country; and, as a consequence, in the next generation, though dissatisfied with his condition, he had yet learned to love the land of his master as his own.

It is not easy to conjecture how many negroes were imported into the English continental colonies. The usual estimates far exceed the truth. Climate came in aid of opinion to oppose their introduction. Owing to the inequality of the sexes, their natural increase was not rapid in the first generation. Previous to the year 1740, there may have been brought into our country nearly one hundred and thirty thousand; before 1776, a few more than three hundred thousand. From the best accounts that have been preserved, there may have been in the United States, in 1714, nearly fifty-nine thousand negroes; in 1727, seventy-eight thousand; in 1754, nearly two hundred and ninety-three thousand; but these numbers are not entitled to be regarded as absolutely accurate.

In the northern and the middle states, the negro was employed for menial offices and in the culture of wheat and maize. In the South, almost all the tobacco exported from Maryland and Virginia, all the indigo and rice of Carolina, were the fruit of his toils. Instead of remaining in a wild and unproductive servitude, his labor contributed to the wealth of nations; his destiny, from its influence on commerce, excited interest throughout the civilized world.

With new powers of production, the negro learned new wants, which were at least partially supplied. At the North, he dwelt under the roof of his master; his physical well-being was provided for, and opinion protected him against cruelty. At the South, his home was a rude cabin of his own, constructed of logs or slabs. The early writers tell us little of his history, except the crops which he raised.

His physical constitution decided his home in the New World; he loved the sun; even the climate of Virginia was too chill for him. His labor, therefore, increased in value as he proceeded south; and hence the relation of master and slave came to be essentially a southern institution.

The testimony of concurrent tradition represents the negroes, at their arrival, to have been gross and stupid, having memory and physical strength, but undisciplined in the exercise of reason. At the end of a generation, all observers affirmed the marked progress of the black American. In the midst of the horrors of slavery and the slave-trade, the masters had, in part at least, civilized the negro.

The thought of emancipation soon presented itself. In 1701, Boston instructed its representatives "to encourage the bringing of white servants, and to put a period to negroes being slaves." In 1712, to a petition for the "enlargement" of negro slaves by law, the legislature of Pennsylvania answered that "it was neither just nor convenient to set them at liberty;" and yet George Keith, the early abolitionist, was followed by the eccentric Benjamin Lay; by Ralph Sandiford, who held slavery to be inconsistent alike with the rights of man and the principles of Christianity; and, at a later day, by the amiable enthusiast, Anthony Benezet.

But did not Christianity enfranchise its converts? The Christian world of that day almost universally revered in Christ the impersonation of the divine wisdom. Could an intelligent being, who, through the Mediator, had participated in the Spirit of God, and by his own inward experience had become conscious of a Supreme Being, and of relations between that Being and humanity, be rightfully held in bondage? From New England to Carolina, the "notion" prevailed that "being baptized is inconsistent with a state of slavery;" and this early apprehension proved an obstacle to the "conversion of these poor people." The sentiment was so deep and so general that South Carolina in 1712, Maryland in 1715, Virginia repeatedly from 1667 to 1748, set forth by special enactments that baptism did not confer freedom. The lawyers declared the fear groundless; add "the opinion of his majesty’s attorney and solicitor general, Yorke and Talbot, signed with their own hands, was accordingly printed in Rhode Island, and dispersed through the plantations." "I heartily wish," adds Berkeley, "it may produce the intended effect;" and at the same time he rebuked "the irrational contempt of the blacks, as creatures of another species, having no right to be instructed." In like manner, Gibson, the bishop of London, asserted that "Christianity and the embracing of the gospel did not make the least alteration in civil property;" while he besought the masters to regard the negroes "not barely as slaves, but as men-slaves and women-slaves, having the same frame and faculties with themselves."

There is not, in all the colonial legislation of America, one law which recognises the rightfulness of slavery in the abstract. Every province favored freedom as such. The real question at issue was, from the first, not one of slavery and freedom generally, but of the relations to each other of the Ethiopian and American races. The Englishman in America tolerated and enforced not the slavery of man, but the slavery of the man who was "guilty of a skin not colored like his own." In the skin lay the unexpiated, and, as it was held, inexpiable, guilt. To the negro, whom the benevolence of his master enfranchised, the path to social equality was not open.

The question of tolerating the slave-trade and the question of abolishing slavery rested on different grounds. The one related to a refusal of a trust; the other, to the manner of its exercise. The English continental colonies, in the aggregate, were always opposed to the African slave-trade. Maryland, Virginia, even Carolina, alarmed at the excessive production and the consequent low price of their staples, at the heavy debts incurred by the purchase of slaves on credit, and at the dangerous increase of the colored population, each showed an anxious preference for the introduction of white men; and laws designed to restrict importations of slaves are scattered copiously along the records of colonial legislation. On the sixth of April 1776, the first continental congress which took to itself powers of legislation gave a legal expression to the well-formed opinion of the country by resolving "that no slaves be imported into any of the thirteen united colonies."

Before America legislated for herself, the interdict of the slave-trade was impossible. England was inexorable in maintaining the system, which gained new and stronger supporters by its excess. The English slave-trade began to attain its great activity after the assiento treaty. From 1680 to 1700, the English took from Africa about three hundred thousand negroes, or about fifteen thousand a year. The number during the continuance of the assiento may have averaged annually not far from thirty thousand. Raynal considers the number of negroes exported by all European nations from Africa before 1776 to have been nine millions; and historians of the slave-trade have deemed his statement too small. A careful analysis of the colored population in America at different periods, and the inferences to be deduced from the few authentic records of the numbers imported, corrected by a comparison with the commercial products of slave labor as appearing in the annals of English commerce, seem to prove, beyond a doubt, that even the estimate of Raynal is larger than the reality. We shall not err very much if, for the century previous to the prohibition of the slave-trade by the American congress, in 1776, we assume the number imported by the English into the Spanish, French, and English West Indies, and the English continental colonies, to have been, collectively, nearly three millions: to which are to be added more than a quarter of a million purchased in Africa, and thrown into the Atlantic on the passage. The gross returns to English merchants, for the traffic in that number of slaves, may have been not far from four hundred millions of dollars. Yet, as at least one half of the negroes exported from Africa to America were carried in English ships, it should be observed that this estimate is by far the lowest ever made by any inquirer into the statistics of human wickedness. After every deduction, the trade retains its gigantic character of crime.

In an age when the interests of commerce guided legislation, this branch of commerce possessed paramount attractions. Not a statesman exposed its enormities; and, if Richard Baxter reminded the slave-holder that the slave "was of as good a kind as himself, born to as much liberty, by nature his equal, a servant and a brother, by right born his own;" if Addison, as a man of letters, held it without excuse, that "this Part of our species was not put upon the common foot of humanity;" if Southern drew tears by the tragic tale of "Oronooko;" if Steele awakened a throb of indignation by the story of "Inkle and Yarico;" if Savage and Shenstone pointed their feeble couplets with the wrongs of "Afric’s sable children;" if the Irish metaphysician Hutcheson, who proposed to rulers for their object "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," justly stigmatized the traffic—yet in England no general indignation rebuked the enormity. The philosophy of that day furnished to the African no protection against oppression; and the interpretation of English common law was equally regardless of human freedom. The colonial negro, who sailed to the metropolis, found no benefit from touching the soil of England, but returned a slave. Such was the approved law of England in the first half of the last century; such was the opinion of Yorke and Talbot, the law officers of the crown, as expressed in 1729, and, after a lapse of twenty years, repeated and confirmed by Yorke as chancellor of England.

The influence of the manufacturers was still worse. They clamored for the protection of a trade which opened to them an African market. A resolve of the commons, in the days of William and Mary, proposed to lay open the trade in negroes "for the better supply of the plantations;" and, in 1695, the statute-book of England declared the opinion of its king and its parliament, that "the trade is highly beneficial and advantageous to the kingdom and the colonies." In 1708, a committee of the house of commons report that "the trade is important, and ought to be free;" in 1711, a committee once more report that "the plantations ought to be supplied with negroes at reasonable rates," and urge an increase of importations. In June 1712, Queen Anne, in her speech to parliament, boasts of her success in securing to Englishmen a new market for slaves in Spanish America. In 1729, George II recommended a provision, at the national expense, for the African forts; and the recommendation was followed. At last, in 1749, to give the highest activity to the traffic, every obstruction to private enterprise was removed, and the ports of Africa were laid open to English competition; for "the slave-trade," such are the words of the statute, "is very advantageous to Great Britain." "The British senate," wrote one of its members, in February 1750," have this fortnight been pondering methods to make more effectual that horrid traffic of selling negroes. It has appeared to us that six-and-forty thousand of these wretches are sold every year to our plantations alone."

But, while the partial monopoly of the African company was broken down, and the commerce in men was opened to the competition of all Englishmen, the monopoly of British subjects was rigidly enforced against foreigners. That Englishmen alone might monopolize all wealth to be derived from the trade, Holt and Pollexfen, and eight other judges, in pursuance of an order in council, had given their opinion "that negroes are merchandise," and that, therefore, the act of navigation was to be extended to English slave-ships to the exclusion of aliens.

The same policy was manifested in the relations between the English crown and the colonies. Land from the public domain was given to emigrants, in one West India colony at least, on condition that the resident owner would "keep four negroes for every hundred acres." The eighteenth century was ushered in by the royal instruction of Queen Anne, in 1702, to the governor of New York and New Jersey, "to give due encouragement to merchants, and in particular to the royal African company of England." That the instruction was general is evident from the apology of Spotswood for the small number of slaves brought into Virginia. In that commonwealth, the planters beheld with dismay the increase of negroes. A tax repressed their importation; and, in May 1726, Hugh Drysdale, the deputy governor, announced to the house that "the interfering interest of the African company had obtained the repeal of that law." Long afterward, a statesman of Virginia, in full view of the course of colonial legislation and English counteracting authority, unbiassed by hostility to England, bore true testimony that "the British government constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to this infernal traffic." On whatever ground Virginia opposed the trade, the censure was just. South Carolina, in 1760, from prudential motives, attempted restrictions, and gained only a rebuke from the English ministry. Great Britain, steadily rejecting every colonial limitation of the slave-trade, instructed the governors, on pain of removal, not to give even a temporary assent to such laws; and, but a year before the prohibition of the slave-trade by the American congress, in 1776, the earl of Dartmouth addressed to a colonial agent these memorable words: "We cannot allow the colonies to check, or discourage in any degree, a traffic so beneficial to the nation."

The assiento treaty, originally extorted by force of arms, remained a source of jealousy between Spain and England. On the American frontier Spain claimed to extend her jurisdiction north of the Savannah river, as far at least as St. Helena sound. The foundation of St. Augustine had preceded that of Charleston by a century; national pride still clung to the traditions of the wide extent of Florida; the settlement of the Scottish emigrants at Port Royal had been dispersed; and it was feebleness alone which tolerated the advancement of the plantations of South Carolina toward the Savannah. Meantime, England resolved to pass that stream.

The resolution was not hastily adopted. In 1717, a proposal was brought forward to plant a new colony south of Carolina, in the region that was heralded as the most delightful country of the universe. The land was to be tilled by British and Irish laborers exclusively, without "the dangerous help of blackamoors." Three years afterward, in the excited season of English stock-jobbing and English anticipations, the suggestion was revived. When Carolina, in 1728, became by purchase a royal province, Johnson, its governor, was directed to mark out townships as far south as the Alatamaha; and, in 1731, a site was chosen for a colony of Swiss in the ancient land of the Yamassees, but on the left bank of the Savannah. The country between the two rivers was still a wilderness, when the spirit of benevolence, heedless of the objection that "the colonies would grow too great " for England "and throw off their dependency," resolved to plant the sunny clime with those who in England had neither land nor shelter, and those on the continent to whom, as Protestants, bigotry denied freedom of worship and a home.

In the days when protection of property was avowed to be the end of government, the gallows was set up as the penalty for a petty theft. Each year, in Great Britain, at least four thousand unhappy men were immured in prison for the misfortune of poverty; a small debt exposed to a perpetuity of imprisonment; one indiscreet contract doomed the miserable dupe to lifelong confinement. The subject won the attention of James Oglethorpe, a member of the British parliament; in middle life; educated at Oxford; receiving his first commission in the English army during the ascendency of Bolingbroke; a volunteer in the family of Prince Eugene; present at the siege of Belgrade. To him, in the annals of legislative philanthropy, the honor is due of having first resolved to lighten the lot of debtors. Touched with the sorrows which the walls of a prison could not hide from him, he searched into the gloomy horrors of jails,

Where sickness pines, where thirst and hunger burn,
And poor misfortune feels the lash of vice.

In 1728, he invoked the interference of the English parliament; and, as a commissioner for inquiring into the state of the jails in the kingdom, persevered, till, "from extreme misery, he restored to light and freedom multitudes who, by long confinement for debt, were strangers and helpless in the country of their birth." He did more. For them, and for persecuted Protestants, he planned a new destiny in America.

To further this end, a charter from George II, dated the ninth day of June 1732, erected the country between the Savannah and the Alatamaha, and from the head-springs of those rivers due west to the Pacific, into the province of Georgia, and placed it for twenty-one years under the guardianship of a corporation, "in trust for the poor." The common seal of the corporation, having on one side a group of silk-worms at their toils, with the motto, "Non sibi, sed aliis"—"Not for themselves, but for others "expressed the purpose of the patrons, who by their own request were restrained from receiving any grant of lands, or any emolument whatever. On the other side of the seal, the device represented two figures reposing on urns, emblematic of the boundary rivers, having between them the genius of "Georgia Augusta," with a cap of liberty on her head, a spear in one hand, the horn of plenty in the other. But the cap of liberty was, for a time at least, a false emblem; for all executive and legislative power, and the institution of courts, were for twenty-one years given exclusively to the trustees, or their common council, who were appointed during good behavior. The trustees held these grants to contain but "proper powers for establishing and governing the colony." The land, open to Jews, was closed against "papists." At the head of the council stood Shaftesbury, fourth earl of that name; but its most celebrated member was Oglethorpe. So illustrious were the auspices of the design, that hope painted visions of an Eden that was to spring up to reward such disinterested benevolence. The kindly sun of the new colony was to look down on purple vintages, and the silk-worm yield its thread to British looms. Individual zeal was kindled in its favor; the Society for Propagating the Gospel in foreign parts sought to promote it; and parliament showed its good-will by contributing ten thousand pounds.

But, while others gave to the design their leisure, their prayers, or their wealth, Oglethorpe devoted himself to its fulfilment. In November 1732, he embarked with about one hundred and twenty emigrants for America, and in fifty-seven days arrived off the bar of Charleston. Accepting a short welcome, he sailed directly for Port Royal. While the colony was landing at Beaufort, its patron ascended the boundary river of Georgia, and, before the end of January 1733, chose for the site of his chief town the high bluff on which Savannah now stands. At the distance of a half mile dwelt the Yamacraws, a branch of the Muskohgees, who, with Tomochichi, their chieftain, sought security by an alliance with the English. "Here is a little present," said the red man, as he offered a buffalo skin, painted on the inside with the head and feathers of an eagle. "The feathers of the eagle are soft, and signify love; the buffalo skin is warm, and is the emblem of protection. Therefore love and protect our little families." On the twelfth of February, new style, the colonists arrived at the place intended for the town, and before evening encamped on shore near the edge of the river. Four beautiful pines protected the tent of Oglethorpe, who for near a twelve month sought no other shelter. The streets of Savannah were laid out with the greatest regularity; in each quarter, a public square was reserved; the houses were planned and constructed on one model, each a frame of sawed timber, twenty-four feet by sixteen, floored with rough deals, the sides with feather-edged boards unplaned, and the roof shingled. Such a house Oglethorpe afterward hired as his residence, when in Savannah. Ere long a walk, cut through the native woods, led to the large garden on the river-side, destined as a nursery of European fruit and of the products of America. The humane reformer of prison discipline was the father of the commonwealth of Georgia, "the place of refuge for the distressed people of Britain and the persecuted Protestants of Europe."

In May, the chief men of the eight towns of the lower Muskohgees, accepting his invitation, came down to make an alliance. Long King, the tall and aged civil chief of the Oconas, spoke for them all: "The Great Spirit, who dwells everywhere around, and gives breath to all men, sends the English to instruct us." Claiming the country south of the Savannah, he bade the strangers welcome to the lands which his nation did not use; and, in token of sincerity, he laid eight bundles of buckskins at Oglethorpe’s feet. "Tomo-chichi," he added, "though banished from his nation, has yet been a great warrior; and, for his wisdom and courage, the exiles chose him their king." Tomo-chichi entered timorously, and, bowing very low, gave thanks that he was still permitted "to look for good land among the tombs of his ancestors." The chief of Coweta stood up and said: "We are come twenty-five days’ journey to see you. I was never willing to go down to Charleston, lest I should die on the way; but when I heard you were come, and that you are good men, I came down, that I might bear good things." He then gave leave to the exiles to summon the kindred that loved them out of each of the Creek towns, that they might dwell together. "Recall," he added, "the Yamassees, that they may see the graves of their ancestors before they die, and may be buried in peace among them." On the first of June, a treaty of peace was signed, by which the English claimed sovereignty over the land of the Creeks as far south as the St. John’s; and the chieftains departed laden with presents.

A Cherokee appeared among the English. "Fear nothing," said Oglethorpe, "but speak freely;" and the mountaineer answered: "I always speak freely. Why should I fear? I am now among friends; I never feared even among my enemies." And friendly relations were cherished with the Cherokees. In July of the following year, Red Shoes, a Choctaw chief, proposed commerce. "We came a great way," said he, "and we are a great nation. The French are building forts about us, against our liking. We have long traded with them, lint they are poor in goods; we desire that a trade may lie opened between us and you." The good faith of Oglethorpe in the offers of peace, his noble mien and sweetness of temper, conciliated the confidence of the red men; in his turn, he was pleased with their simplicity, and sought for means to clear the glimmering ray of their minds, to guide their bewildered reason, and teach them to know the God whom they ignorantly adored.

The province of South Carolina displayed "a universal zeal for assisting its new ally and bulwark" on the south.

When the Roman Catholic archbishop, who was the ruler of Salzburg, with merciless bigotry drove out of his dominions the Lutherans whom horrid tortures and relentless persecution could not force to renounce their Protestant faith, Frederic William I of Prussia planted a part of them on freeholds in his kingdom; others, on the invitation of the Society in England for Propagating the Gospel, prepared to emigrate to the Savannah. A free passage; provisions in Georgia for a whole season; land for themselves and their children, free for ten years, then to be held for a small quit-rent; the privileges of native Englishmen; freedom of worship—these were the promises made, accepted, and honorably fulfilled. On the last day of October 1733, "the evangelical community," well supplied with Bibles and hymn-books, catechisms and books of devotion, conveying in one wagon their few chattels, in two other covered ones their feebler companions, and especially their little ones—after a discourse and prayer and benedictions, cheerfully, and in the name of God, began their pilgrimage. History need not stop to tell what charities cheered them on their journey, what towns were closed against them by Roman Catholic magistrates, or how they entered Frankfort on the Main, two by two in solemn procession, singing spiritual songs. As they floated down the Main, and between the castled crags, the vineyards, and the white-walled towns that adorn the banks of the Rhine, their conversation, amid hymns and prayers, was of justification and of sanctification, and of standing fast in the Lord. At Rotterdam, they were joined by two preachers, Bolzius and Gronau, both disciplined in charity at the Orphan House in Halle. A passage of six days carried them from Rotterdam to Dover, where several of the trustees visited them and provided considerately for their wants. In January 1734, they set sail for their new homes. The majesty of the ocean quickened their sense of God’s omnipotence and wisdom; and, as they lost sight of land, they broke out into a hymn to his glory. The setting sun, after a calm, so kindled the sea and the sky that words could not express their rapture, and they cried out: "How lovely the creation! How infinitely lovely the Creator!" When the wind was adverse, they prayed; and, as it changed, one opened his mind to the other on the power of prayer, even the prayer "of a man subject to like passions as we are." A devout listener confessed himself to be an unconverted man; and they reminded him of the promise to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at the word. As they sailed pleasantly with a favoring breeze, at the hour of evening prayer they made a covenant with each other, like Jacob of old, and resolved by the grace of Christ to cast all the strange gods which were in their hearts into the depths of the sea. In February, a storm grew so high that not a sail could be set; and they raised their voices in prayer and song amid the tempest, for to love the Lord Jesus as a brother gave consolation. At Charleston, Oglethorpe, on the eighteenth of March 1734, bade them welcome; and, in five days more, the wayfarers, whose home was beyond the skies, pitched their tents near Savannah.

It remained to select for them a residence. To cheer their principal men as they toiled through the forest and across brooks, Oglethorpe, having provided horses, joined the party. By the aid of blazed trees and Indian guides, he made his way through morasses; a fallen tree served as a bridge over a stream, which the horses swam; at night he encamped with them abroad round a fire, and shared every fatigue, till the spot for their village was chosen, and, like the rivulet which formed its border, was named Ebenezer. There they built their dwellings, and there they resolved to raise a column of stone in token of gratitude to God, whose providence had brought them safely to the ends of the earth.

In the same year, the town of Augusta was laid out, soon to become the favorite resort of Indian traders. The good success of Oglethorpe made the colony increase rapidly by volunteer emigrants. "His undertaking will succeed," said Johnson, the governor of South Carolina; "for he nobly devotes all his powers to serve the poor, and rescue them from their wretchedness." "He bears a great love to the servants and children of God," wrote the pastor of Ebenezer. "He has taken care of us to the utmost of his ability." "God has so blessed his presence and his regulations in the land, that others would not in many years have accomplished what he has brought about in one."

At length, in April 1734, after a residence in America of about fifteen months, Oglethorpe sailed for England, taking with him Tomo-chichi and others of the Creeks to do homage at court, and to invigorate the confidence of England in the destiny of the new colony, which was shown to possess the friendship of the surrounding Indian nations.

His absence left Georgia to its own development. For its franchises, it had only the system of juries; and, though it could not prosper but by self-reliance, legislation by its own representatives was not begun.

The laws which the trustees had instituted were irksome. To prevent the monopoly of lands, to insure an estate even to the sons of the unthrifty, to strengthen a frontier colony, the trustees, deceived by reasonings from the system of feudal law and by their own prejudices as members of the landed aristocracy of England, had granted lands only in tail male. Here was a grievance that soon occasioned a just discontent.

A regulation which prohibited the sale of rum led only to clandestine traffic.

A third rule forbade the introduction of slaves. The praise of Georgia was uttered in London in 1734: "Let avarice defend it as it will, there is an honest reluctance in humanity against buying and selling, and regarding those of our own species as our wealth and possession. The name of slavery is here unheard, and every inhabitant is free from unchosen masters and oppression." "Slavery," Oglethorpe relates, "is against the gospel, as well as the fundamental law of England. We refused, as trustees, to make a law permitting such a horrid crime." "The purchase of negroes is forbidden," wrote Von Reck, "on account of the vicinity of the Spaniards;" and this was doubtless "the governmental view." The colony was "an asylum to receive the distressed. It was, therefore, necessary not to permit slaves in such a country; for slaves starve the poor laborer." But, after a little more than two years, several of the so-called "better sort of people in Savannah" addressed a petition to the trustees "for the use of negroes."

In England, Oglethorpe won universal favor for his colony, the youngest child of the colonial enterprise of England. Parliament continued its benefactions; the king expressed interest in a province which bore his name. In May 1735, the first colony of Moravians, nine in number, was led to Savannah by the devoted evangelist, Spangenberg. He has left the best digest of the Moravian faith, of which the leading idea is the worship of the Saviour, the triumphant Lamb of God. A company of Gaelic Highlanders established New Inverness, "where wild Altama murmured to their woe."

On the sixth of February 1736, three hundred persons, conducted by Oglethorpe, landed not far from Tybee island, "where they all knelt and returned thanks to God for having safely arrived in Georgia." Among that group was a re-enforcement of Moravians—men who had a faith above fear; "whose wives and children even were not afraid to die;" whose simplicity and solemnity in their conferences and prayers seemed to revive the primitive "assemblies, where form and state were not, but Paul the tent-maker, or Peter the fisherman, presided with the demonstration of the Spirit." There, too, were John and Charles Wesley—the latter selected as the secretary to Oglethorpe, the former eager to become an apostle to the Indians—fervent enthusiasts, who by their own confession were not yet disciplined to a peaceful possession of their souls. The elder of them, by his intercourse with the Moravians, was aided in forming his system of religions organization. "That they were simple of heart, but yet that their ideas were disturbed," was the judgment of Zinzendorf. "Our end in leaving our native country," said they, "is not to gain riches and honor, but singly this—to live wholly to the glory of God." They desired to make Georgia a religious colony, having no theory but devotion, no ambition but to quicken the sentiment of piety. The reformation of Luther and Calvin had included a political revolution; its advocates went abroad on the whirlwind, and overthrew institutions which time had consecrated and selfishness perverted. But the age in which religious and political excitements were united had passed away; with the period of commercial influence, fanaticism had no sympathy. Mystic piety, more intense by its aversion to the theories of the eighteenth century, appeared as the rainbow; and Wesley was as the sower, who comes after the clouds have been lifted up and the floods have subsided, and scatters his seed in the serene hour of peace. The new devotees, content to remain under the guardianship of the established government, sought to enjoy the exquisite delights of religions sensibility, not to overthrow dynasties or to break the bonds of colonial dependence. By John Wesley, who remained in America less than two years, no share in moulding the political institutions of the colony was exerted or desired. As he strolled through natural avenues of palmettoes and evergreen hollies and woods sombre with hanging moss, his heart gushed forth in addresses to God:

Is there a thing beneath the sun,
That strives with Thee my heart to share?
Ah! tear it thence, and reign alone—
The Lord of every motion there.

The austerity of his maxims involved him in controversies with the mixed settlers of Georgia; and his residence in America preceded his influence on the religious culture of its people. His brother was still less suited to shape events; the privations and hardships of the wilderness among rough associates plunged his gentle nature into the depths of melancholy and homesickness; and, at this time, his journal is not a record of events around him, but rather a chronicle of what passed within himself, the groundless jealousies of a pure mind, rendered suspicious by pining disease. When afterward George Whitefield came, his intrepid nature did not lose its cheerfulness in the encounter with the wilderness; incited by the example of the Lutheran Salzburgers and the fame of the Orphan House at Halle, he founded and sustained an orphan house at Savannah by contributions which his eloquence extorted. He visited all the provinces from Florida to the northern frontier, and made his grave in New England; but he swayed no legislatures, and is chiefly remembered for his power of reviving religions convictions in the multitude.

Oglethorpe, in February 1736, visited the Salzburgers at Ebenezer, to praise their good husbandry and to select the site of their new settlement; of which the lines were no sooner drawn, and the streets laid out, than huts covered with bark rose up, and the labors of the field were renewed. In a few years, the produce of raw silk by the Germans amounted to ten thousand pounds a year; and indigo became a staple. In earnest memorials, they deprecated the employment of negro slaves, pleading the ability of the white man to toil even under the suns of Georgia. Their religions affections bound them together in the unity of brotherhood; their controversies were decided among themselves; every event of life had its moral; and the fervor of their worship never disturbed their healthy tranquillity of judgment. They were cheerful and at peace.

From the Salzburger towns, Oglethorpe hastened to the southward, passing in a scout boat through the narrow inland channels, which delighted the eye by their sea-green color and stillness, and were sheltered by woods of pines, and evergreen oaks, and cedars, that came close to the water’s side. On the second day, aided by the zeal of his own men and by Indians skilful in using the oar, he arrived at St. Simon’s island. A fire, kindling the long grass on an old Indian field, cleared a space for the streets of Frederica; and, amid the mirthful carols of the rice, the red, and the mocking bird, a fort was constructed on the centre of the bluff, with four bastions commanding the river and protecting the palmetto bowers, which, each twenty feet by fourteen, were set up on forks and poles in regular rows; a tight and convenient shelter.

It was but ten miles from Frederica to the Scottish settlement at Darien. To give heart to them by his presence, Oglethorpe, in the Highland costume, sailed up the Alatamaha; and all the Highlanders, as they perceived his approach, assembled with their plaids, broadswords, targets, and fire-arms, to bid him welcome. The brave men were pleased that a town was to be settled, that ships were to come up so near them, and that they now had a communication by land with Savannah. Trees had been blazed all the way for a "horse-road."

It remained to vindicate the boundaries of Georgia. With the Highlanders as volunteers, he explored the channels south of Frederica; and, on the island which took the name of Cumberland, he marked out a fort to be called St. Andrew’s. Then, claiming the St. John’s river as the boundary of the territory possessed by the Indian subjects of England at the time of the treaty of Utrecht, on the southern extremity of Amelia island, he planted the Fort St. George for the defence of the British frontier.

The rumors of his intended expedition had reached the wilderness; and, in May, the Uchees, all brilliantly painted, came down to form an alliance and to grasp the hatchet. Long speeches and the exchange of presents were followed by the war-dance. Tomo-chichi appeared with his warriors, ever ready to hunt the buffalo along the frontiers of Florida, or to engage in warfare with the few planters on that peninsula.

Oglethorpe knew that the Spaniards had been tampering with his allies, and were willing to cut off the settlements in Georgia at a blow; but, regardless of incessant toil; securing domains not to his family, but to emigrants; not even appropriating to himself permanently a cottage or a single lot of fifty acres—he was determined to assert the claims of England, and preserve his colony as the bulwark of English North America. "To me," said he to Charles Wesley, "death is nothing." "If separate spirits," he added, "regard our little concerns, they do it as men regard the follies of their childhood."

For that season, active hostilities were avoided by negotiation. The Fort St. George was abandoned, but St. Andrew’s, commanding the approach to the St. Mary’s, was maintained. Hence, the St. Mary’s ultimately became the boundary of the colony of Oglethorpe.

The friendship of the red men insured the safety of the English settlements. In July 1736, the Chicasaws, animated by their victory over the Illinois and Artaguette, came down to narrate how unexpectedly they had been attacked, how victoriously they had resisted, with what exultations they had consumed their prisoners by fire. Ever attached to the English, they now deputed thirty warriors, with their civil sachem and war-chief, to make an alliance with Oglethorpe, whose fame had reached the Mississippi. They brought for him an Indian chaplet, made from the spoils of their enemies, glittering with feathers of many hues, and enriched with the horns of buffaloes. The Creeks, Cherokees, and Chicasaws were his unwavering friends, and even the Choctaws covenanted with him to receive English traders. To hasten preparations for the impending contest with Spain, Oglethorpe embarked for England. Arriving in January 1737, he could report to the trustees "that the colony was doing well; that Indians from seven hundred miles’ distance had confederated with him, and acknowledged the authority of his sovereign."


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Chicago: George Bancroft, "Chapter 16: The British Slave-Trade, Colonization of Georgia," History of the United States, Volume 2: 1688-1763 in George Bancroft, History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent, 6 Vols. (New York: Harper & Bros, 1882), Pp.268-291 Original Sources, accessed March 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DASH9LPCHEIYRDB.

MLA: Bancroft, George. "Chapter 16: The British Slave-Trade, Colonization of Georgia." History of the United States, Volume 2: 1688-1763, in George Bancroft, History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent, 6 Vols. (New York: Harper & Bros, 1882), Pp.268-291, Original Sources. 20 Mar. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DASH9LPCHEIYRDB.

Harvard: Bancroft, G, 'Chapter 16: The British Slave-Trade, Colonization of Georgia' in History of the United States, Volume 2: 1688-1763. cited in , George Bancroft, History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent, 6 Vols. (New York: Harper & Bros, 1882), Pp.268-291. Original Sources, retrieved 20 March 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DASH9LPCHEIYRDB.