| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
THE FOUNDING OF GEORGIA
 SOUTH CAROLINA extended as far as the River Savannah, and between
that river and the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine there stretched
a great waste of country inhabited only by the Redmen who ever and
anon made raids into Carolina. Southward from this the Spaniards
claimed the land and called it Florida; but they made no effort to
colonise the wilderness which stretched between Florida and the
borders of South Carolina. So at length the idea of founding a
British colony there occurred to an Englishman named James Oglethorpe.
He was a truly great man, and in an age when men were cruel to each
other out of mere thoughtlessness he tried to make people kinder
to their fellows.
In those days in England people could be imprisoned for debt. And
if they could not pay they remained in prison often for years, and
sometimes till they died. They were starved and tortured, loaded
with fetters, locked up in filthy dungeons, herded together with
thieves and murderers, or those suffering from smallpox and other
loathsome diseases. It was horrible, but no one troubled about it.
There had always been misery in the world, there always would be,
men thought, and no one had pity for prisoners.
But now young Oglethorpe had a friend who was imprisoned for debt,
and, being treated in this horrible fashion, he died of smallpox.
Oglethorpe's generous heart was grieved at the death of his
friend, and he began to enquire into the causes of it. The things
he discovered were so
 awful that he stood aghast with horror at
the misery of the imprisoned debtors. And what was more he did not
rest until he had made other people see the horror of it also. Soon
there was an outcry all over England, and some of the worst evils
were done away with.
Then the idea came to Oglethorpe that he would found a colony in
America, where poor debtors who had regained their freedom might
find a refuge and make a new start in life. He decided to found
this colony to the south of South Carolina, so that it might not
only be a refuge for the oppressed, but also form a buffer state
between the Carolinas and Spanish Florida. So from George II
Oglethorpe got a charter for the land lying between the Savannah
and the Altamaha rivers, and in honour of the King the colony was
Many well-to-do people were by this time interested in his scheme.
They gave him money for it, and he also got a large grant from
Parliament. This was the first time that Parliament ever voted
money to found a colony in America. Of all the thirteen colonies
now founded Georgia alone received aid from the State.
Trustees were appointed to frame the laws, and a kind of proprietory
government was created. The colonists were to be granted all the
liberties of Englishmen, but they were not to be allowed to frame
the laws or take any part in the government. After twenty-one years
the rule of the trustees was to come to an end, and Georgia was to
become a Crown Colony.
All these matters being arranged, men were sent round to visit the
jails, and choose from among the prisoners those who were really
good men and who through misfortune, rather than roguery, found
themselves in prison. The Commissioners refused to take lazy or
bad men, or those who, in going to Georgia, would leave wife or
children in want at home.
 Besides poor debtors those who were being
persecuted because of their religion in any European State were
invited to come and find a refuge in Georgia. No slavery was to
be allowed, and the sale of rum was forbidden throughout the whole
colony. For Oglethorpe knew how the Redman loved "fire-water" and
how bad it was for him, and he wanted the settlement of Georgia
to be a blessing and not a curse to the Redman, as well as to the
Soon far more people wanted to go than Oglethorpe could take. So
crowds of poor wretches had to be turned away, bitterly disappointed
that they could not go to this new land which, after their terrible
sufferings, seemed to them a very paradise.
The preparations took some time, and it was about the middle of
November, 1732, when at length the Anne hoisted her sails and turned
her prow towards the west. There were about a hundred and twenty
colonists on board with Oglethorpe as Governor, and it was nearly
the end of January when the colonists landed on the southern shores
of the Savannah and founded the town of the same name.
One of the first things Oglethorpe did was to make a treaty with
the Indians, for he knew how greatly the peace and safety of the
little colony depended on their friendship.
There were eight tribes of Creeks who claimed the land upon which
Oglethorpe had settled. But before he allowed the colonists to land
he himself went ashore and sought out the chieftain whose village
was close to the spot he had chosen for his town. This chieftain
was an old man of over ninety years, and at first he did not seem
at all pleased at the idea of white men settling on his land. But
Oglethorpe was kindly and friendly, he spoke gently to the old
chief, and soon won his consent to the settlement, and a promise
When then the colonists landed, instead of being greeted with
a flight of arrows they were received with solemn
cere-  mony, the
braves coming down to the water's edge to greet them. First came the
Medicine Man carrying in either hand a fan made of white feathers
as signs of peace and friendship. Behind him followed the chieftain
and his squaw, with twenty or thirty braves, who filled the air
with wild yells of welcome.
When the Medicine Man reached Oglethorpe he paused, and dancing
round him he swept him on every side with the white feather fans,
chanting the while a tale of brave deeds. This done the chieftain
next drew near, and in flowery words bade the White Chief and his
followers welcome. Thus peacefully the settlement was begun.
But Oglethorpe wanted to be friends with the other tribes round,
so he asked Tomo-chi-chi, the old chieftain, to invite them
to a conference. And a few months later they all came. Oglethorpe
received them in one of the new houses built by the settlers, and
when they were all solemnly seated an old and very tall man stood
up and made a long speech. He claimed for the Creeks all the land
south of the Savannah.
"We are poor and ignorant," he said, "but the Great Spirit who gave
the Pale-faces breath gave the Redmen breath also. But the Great
Spirit who made us both has given more wisdom to the Pale-faces."
Then he spread his arms abroad and lengthened the sound of his words.
"So we feel sure," he cried, "that the Great Spirit who lives in
heaven and all around has sent you to teach us and our wives and
children. Therefore we give you freely the land we do not use. That
is my thought and not mine alone but the thought of all the eight
nations of the Creeks. And in token thereof we bring you gifts of
skins which is our wealth."
Then one by one the chief men of each nation rose up and laid a
bundle of buck skins at Oglethorpe's feet.
In return Oglethorpe gave each of the chiefs a coat and
 hat trimmed
with gold lace. Each of the braves likewise received some present.
So a treaty of peace was signed, the Redmen promising to keep the
good talk in their hearts as long as the sun shone, or water ran in
the rivers. And so just and wise was Oglethorpe in all his dealings
with the natives that in the early days of the settlement there
were no wars with the natives.
Oglethorpe worked unceasingly for the good of the colony. He kept
no state, but slept in a tent and ate the plainest of food, his
every thought being given to the happiness of his people. And in
return they loved him and called him father. If any one were sick
he visited him, and when they quarrelled they came to him to settle
their disputes. Yet he kept strict discipline and allowed neither
drinking nor swearing.
The work of the colony went on apace. About six weeks after the
settlers landed some of the settlers from Charleston came to visit
Oglethorpe, and they were astonished to find how quickly things
had got on.
"It is surprising," one wrote, "to see how cheerfully the men work,
considering they have not been bred to it. There are no idlers
there. Even the boys and girls do their parts. There are four houses
already up, but none finished. . . . He has ploughed up some land,
part of which he has sowed with wheat. . . . He has two or three
gardens, which he has sowed with divers sort of seeds. . . . He was
palisading the town round. . . . In short he has done a vast deal
of work for the time, and I think his name justly deserves to be
But if Georgia had peace with the Indians it was far otherwise with
the Spaniards. For the Spaniards were very angry with the British
for daring to settle south of the Savannah. They vowed to root them
out of America, and they set out to attack the little colony.
But Oglethorpe was a daring soldier as well as a wise
and he succeeded in beating the Spaniards. It was at Frederica
where the greatest battle took place. This town had been founded
after Savannah and named Frederica, in honour of Frederick, Prince
of Wales. It was built on an island off the coast called St. Simon,
and, being near the Spanish border, it was well fortified. At
the little village of St. Simon which was at the south end of the
island, there were barricades and a high watch-tower where a constant
watch was kept for ships. As soon as they were sighted a gun was
fired, and a horseman sped off to the barracks with the news.
Here one day in July, 1742, a
great fleet of Spanish vessels came sailing. They made a brave show
with their high painted prows and shining sails, and they brought
five thousand men who vowed to give no quarter.
Oglethorpe had but eight hundred men. Some were regular soldiers,
some were fierce Highlanders glad to have a chance of a shot at the
Spaniards, and not a few were friendly Indians. But small though
his force was Oglethorpe did not despair. He had sent to Carolina
for help which he was sure would come if he could but hold out for
a few days. He thought, however, that the position at St. Simon
was too dangerous. So he spiked his guns, destroyed all stores,
and retreated to Frederica.
The Spaniards soon landed and, taking possession of St. Simon, set
out to attack Frederica. But they found it no easy matter, for the
town was surrounded by dense and pathless woods. And struggling
through them the Spaniards stumbled into marshes, or got entangled
in the dense undergrowth until in their weariness they declared
that not the Evil One himself could force a passage through. Added
to their other difficulties they were constantly harassed by scouting
parties of wild Indians, and almost as wild Highlanders, sent out
from Frederica by Oglethorpe.
But meanwhile no help appeared, and at length
Ogle-  thorpe, having
discovered that the Spanish force was divided, decided to make a
sortie and surprise one part of it. So with three hundred chosen
men he marched out one dark night, and stole silently through the
woods until he had almost reached the enemy's camp.
Then suddenly a Frenchman who was with the little British force
discharged his musket, and fled towards the Spanish camp.
All hope of a surprise was at an end, and Oglethorpe returned
hastily to the fort. But that the surprise had failed was not the
worst. It was certain that the deserter would tell the Spaniards
how weak the British were, and that thus heartened they would soon
attack in force. Something, Oglethorpe decided, must be done to
So he wrote a letter in French addressing it to the French deserter.
This letter was written as if coming from a friend. It begged the
Frenchman to tell the Spaniards that Frederica was in an utterly
defenseless state, and to bring them on to an attack. Or if he
could not persuade them to attack at least he must persuade them
to remain three days longer at Fort Simon. For within that time
two thousand men would arrive from Carolina and six British ships
of war "which he doubted not would be able to give a good account
of themselves to the Spanish invaders." Above all things the writer
bade the Frenchman beware of saying anything about Admiral Vernon,
the British admiral who was coming against St. Augustine. He ended
by assuring him that the British King would not forget such good
services, and that he should be richly rewarded.
This letter Oglethorpe gave to one of the Spanish prisoners they
had taken, who for a small sum of money and his liberty, promised
to deliver it to the French deserter. But instead of doing that
he gave it, as Oglethorpe had expected he would, to the leader of
the Spanish army.
 The French deserter at once denied all knowledge of the letter or
its writer, but all the same he was fettered and kept a prisoner
while the Spanish leaders held a council of war. They knew not what
to do. Some thought that the letter was a ruse (as indeed it was)
merely meant to deceive them. But others thought that the British
really had them in a trap. And while they were thus debating by
good luck some British vessels appeared off the coast. And thinking
them to be the men-of-war mentioned in the letter the Spaniards
fled in such haste that although they had time to set fire to the
barracks at St. Simon they left behind them a great cannon and
large stores of food and ammunition.
Thus was the little colony saved from destruction.
By his brave stand and clever ruse Oglethorpe had saved not only
Georgia but Carolina too. Yet South Carolina had cause for shame,
for her Governor had paid no heed to Oglethorpe's call for help,
and so far as he was concerned Georgia might have been wiped out.
He indeed cared so little about it that when the governors of the
other more northerly colonies wrote to Oglethorpe thanking and
praising him he did not join with them. But much to his disgust,
seeing their Governor so lax, some of the people of South Carolina
themselves wrote to Oglethorpe to thank him.
"It was very certain," they wrote, "had the Spaniards succeeded in
those attempts against your Excellency they would also have entirely
destroyed us, laid our province waste and desolate, and filled our
habitation with waste and slaughter. We are very sensible of the
great protection and safety we have long enjoyed, by your Excellency
being to the southwards of us, and keeping your armed sloops cruising
on the coasts, which has secured our trade and fortunes more than
all the ships of war ever stationed at Charleston. But more by
your late resolution against
 the Spaniards when nothing could have
saved us from utter ruin, next to the Providence of Almighty God,
but your Excellency's singular conduct, and the bravery of the
troops under your command. We think it our duty to pray God to
protect your Excellency and send you success in all your undertakings."
But, although Oglethorpe had many friends, he had also enemies,
some even within the colony he had done so much to serve. There
were those within the colony who wanted rum and wanted slavery and
said that it would never prosper until they were allowed. Oglethorpe,
with all his might, opposed them, so they hated him. Others were
discontented for far better reasons: because they had no share in
the government, and because the land laws were bad.
Oglethorpe, too, had his own troubles, for he had spent so much on
the colony that he was deeply in debt. So, having ruled for twelve
years, he went home, and although he lived to a great old age, he
never returned again to Georgia. At the age of fifty-five he married;
then he settled down to the quiet life of an English gentleman.
Learned men and fine ladies called him friend, poets sang of his
deeds, and the great Samuel Johnson wanted to write his life.
"Heroic, romantic, and full of the old gallantry" to the end,
he lived out his last days in the great manor house of an English
village, and was laid to rest in the peaceful village church.
"But the Savannah repeats to the Altamaha the story of his virtues
and of his valor, and the Atlantic publishes to the mountains the
greatness of his fame, for all Georgia is his living, speaking
Oglethorpe was the only one of all the founders of British colonies
in America who lived to see their separation from the mother-country.
But long ere that he had to see many changes in the settlement.
For the colonists would not
 be contented without rum and slaves,
and in 1749 both were allowed. A few years later the trustees gave
up their claims and Georgia became a Crown Colony, and the people
were given the right to vote and help to frame the laws under which
they had to live.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics