MOST people of America who have met Peter Gordon have run across him as the author or artist of a Plan or View or Design of Savannah; but recently a manuscript of his, which he calls a journal, has come to light and has been acquired by the University of Georgia Library.1 It is here published for the first time.
Gordon must have been a man of some standing in England; his work as an upholsterer and his need for employment in 1732 recommended him to the favorable attention of the committee which had been appointed to select settlers for the Colony of Georgia, about to be founded south and west of the Savannah River. The Trustees in charge of the Colony made him an important official in the government to be set up there, and James Edward Oglethorpe, who was to be in immediate control of the Colony, seems at this time to have held Gordon in high esteem.
The ship Ann (also spelled Anne) sailed from England about the middle of November, 1732 (Old Style), with the first embarkation, which included Gordon, Oglethorpe, and 112 others—men, women, and children. On the voyage across the Atlantic, Oglethorpe informed Gordon that he had been appointed by the Trustees to be the first of four Tythingmen (Tithingmen), each of which was to be the head of ten families to see that they were properly provisioned and attended to on board the ship and afterward similarly looked after and protected in the Colony.
Less than a month out of Gravesend, whence they had sailed from England, Gordon became ill and continued so for the next dozen days, according to his account. Another on the voyage wrote that “Mr. Gordon was desparately ill of the Cholick.” 2 He was at this time 34 (or 35) years old, and he was accompanied by his wife Catherine (also spelled Katherine), who was 28.3
When the ship reached Charles Town, South Carolina, according to Gordon, Oglethorpe asked him to put on his best dress and go on shore, there to convey to the Governor and Council Oglethorpe’s compliments and to secure a pilot. Upon Gordon’s suggesting that firing a gun was the customary way of securing a pilot, a gun was fired, but without effect, whereupon Oglethorpe was rowed ashore. The ship, with Oglethorpe back aboard, continued its trip on down the coast to Port Royal, where the colonists were to remain until Oglethorpe, assisted by some South Carolinians, should continue on to the Savannah River for the purpose of picking out a spot where the first settlement should be made.
Gordon states that on the voyage from Charles Town to Port Royal, a suspicious-looking vessel was spied, which had all the appearance of being a piratical craft, and that preparations were made to beat it off with gun fire; but the craft, on seeing these preparations, veered away. Gordon pays a special compliment to the women on board, who were anxious not only to hand up guns and ammunition but also to man the guns on top deck if needed. It is rather remarkable that no one else who has been found to have made this voyage and written about it, mentions any such an event.4 However, the incident should not be considered a fabrication of Gordon’s. It may be that he was a little overwrought by a return of his “Cholick,” though he makes no mention of it.
The colonists arrived at Yamacraw Bluff on February i, 1732 (Old Style), or February 12, 1733 (New Style), and it should be noted here that all dates in the Gordon manuscript, as indeed in all English correspondence before 1752, are in Old Style. It was not until 1752 that, according to an enactment of the British Parliament, the New Style calendar was adopted, which provided that the next day following September 2nd should be September 14th; thus eleven days were dropped, and the new year began on January 1st instead of March 25th, as had been the custom theretofore.
This New Style calendar now made February 1st the 12th, and all Old Style dates were similarly affected. February 1st was now to be celebrated by these new arrivals as “Georgia Day,” but after the change in the calendar, Georgia’s birthday became the 12th, and was thereafter celebrated on that day. All dates between January 1st and March 25th prior to 1752 were advanced a year, and no longer hereafter during this period were the English people to write the year in the double notation, as February 1, 1732/33, in recognition of the change for the beginning date of the year, which had been in existence for centuries in some other parts of the world. Thus, Georgia was founded February 1, 1732, Old Style; but in the New Style it was February 12, 1733.
The colonists began immediately to clear the land by cutting the great wealth of pine trees, sawing and splitting them into clapboards, and constructing houses. Either because Oglethorpe liked to exercise authority or because he considered the people too busy developing their town and fields to be bothered by the erection of civil government, he made no move in this direction until July 7th, when the first court was held. Gordon occupied the place of honor as the First Bailiff5 or Magistrate; there were three in all. The Bailiffs were the supreme authority in the local government, with the Recorder to keep the records, and with Constables, Tythingmen, and Conservators of the Peace to assist in preserving order and punishing evil-doers. In addition to being First Bailiff, Gordon was a Tythingman, and also a Conservator of the Peace. When not holding court he could act in these other capacities, but in fact he seemed to have worked in none appreciably. In the court held on July 28th he was absent,6 and it is doubtful that he attended many sessions.
The first year in Georgia was a deadly one. No fewer than twenty-six of the settlers died that year, July being especially a devastating time. The first person to die was Dr. William Cox, the surgeon. His death was a bad loss, but Noble Jones stepped in to help when not busied with official duties. Gordon became ill, “for having by the hardshipps we underwent and living in a manner quite different from what I hade ever been accustomed to, contracted an illness which afterwards appear’d to be a fistula.” Finding no one who could perform the necessary operation, he went to Charles Town and remained there three months, during which time he “was cutt three times and underwent incredible torture.”
Thinking himself cured he returned to Savannah, but, alas, within a week his old ailment returned, and fearing that he could never find relief in Georgia or in South Carolina, he received permission from Oglethorpe to return to England for further treatment. And as Oglethorpe was very busy erecting his colony and was not good at writing to the Trustees to keep them posted on developments in Georgia, Gordon could now give them a firsthand report. He, thus, became the first of the Georgia colonists to make a visit back to England.
In early November he went to Charles Town on his way, where he was royally entertained by Governor Robert Johnson and the Council and others, and on the 25th he sailed for England, arriving in London on the 6th of January. There he received medical attention by the celebrated surgeon Dr. Chisledon (Chisleden), and was received by the Trustees, who eagerly listened to his report on Georgia.
He informed the Trustees that there were about 500 souls in Georgia, who afforded a hundred “fighting men.” He praised Oglethorpe for his “indefatigable zeal in carrying on our affairs, conducting the building of the town, keeping peace, laying out of lands, supplying the stores with provisions, encouraging the fainthearted, etc.,” and reported that forty houses had already been built “of timber and clapboard with shingle roofs, but Mr. Oglethorp still lay in the tent set up before the houses were built.” Also, the town, standing on a bluff forty feet above high water on the river, had been fortified with twelve guns on the river front, and two blockhouses bristling with four guns each.
The “kitchen roots and herbs” which the Trustees had sent over did not do very well, and the colonists had not done a great deal of work in clearing their lands and planting crops because they busied themselves building their houses. The situation led Gordon to fear that they would not be able to maintain themselves after their year of free maintenance was out. He put great hopes in grape culture, which would give the people much employment in setting out vines, cultivating them, and harvesting the grapes for wine-making. Also he expected the silk business to thrive.
There were forty Indians living in their nearby town and they “live in great friendship with us, as we do with them.” Gordon avoided telling the Trustees of the grim summer of deaths, mentioning only that “several of our people had fallen sick by drinking, as we supposed, the river water,” and adding that Oglethorpe had sunk a well “in the middle of the town that produced good water, and suffitient quantity.” The river was teeming with all sorts of fish, “and particularly sturgeon,” and when he left Georgia “the people were healthy and orderly.” 7
To re-enforce his account of conditions in Georgia and to give the Trustees a better understanding of the new town of Savannah, Gordon produced before them at this meeting a rough sketch, showing “its situation, and manner it was laid out in, as likewise the forme and elevation of all the houses and other publick buildings.” The Trustees were much pleased and ordered Gordon “to gett a compleat drawing made of it.” Oglethorpe arrived in England some months later and gave Gordon additional information on that part of Savannah which had not been developed when Gordon had left, and Gordon had this information included. Oglethorpe suggested that he have the sketch printed and that it be dedicated to the Trustees. It was engraved probably in this year 1734, though the original copies show no date.
The Trustees ordered that Gordon be given sixteen guineas for his draft, which sum he called “a small present,” and they further ordered that the draft be engraved. Gordon said that he had been “assisted by a subscription of many of the Honable. Trustees and other noblemen and ladies.” News of this undertaking was soon back in Georgia, with some exaggeration which did not stand to Gordon’s credit. Noble Jones wrote to the Trustees on July 6, 1735, “I understand Mr. Gordon Made a large Sum by his prospect of Savannah. I always thought him a Man of more Honour than to Enfringe So much on any Mans Right.” Jones was inferring that Gordon had been looking over the plats which as surveyor Jones had been including in the public records in Savannah, and that Gordon before his trip to England had been copying them. Jones said that he understood that Gordon had got 100 pounds for his drawing, and this fact led Jones to be wary where he recorded his plats, so as to keep men like Gordon from plagiarizing them.8 Thus, it might well be inferred that Gordon had been working on his rough draft before he left Savannah for England.
It is interesting to speculate on whether or not Gordon drew the finished product. He does not specifically say that he did, for, as noted above, he said that the Trustees ordered him “to gett a compleat drawing made of it.” Gordon’s skill as an upholsterer probably would not have fitted him to make the exquisitely drawn sketch which was engraved. It bears the title: “A View of Savannah as it stood the 29th of March, 1734. P. Gordon Inv. P. Fourdrinier Sculp. To the Honble the Trustees for establishing the Colony of Georgia in America This View of the Town of Savannah is humbly dedicated by their Honours Obliged and most Obedient Servant, Peter Gordon.” Also inserted is the French title: “Vue de Savannah dans la Georgie.” Objects in the View are numbered up through 15, and explanations are given at the bottom.9
In 1741 a print was published in London, which was a close copy of Gordon’s View and frequently reproduced and often referred to as Gordon’s. Evidently to keep from being labelled a plagiarism and possibly to avoid legal action, this print differed from Gordon’s in that letters were used instead of numbers (and one more object was identified than in Gordon’s) and the explanations were longer drawn out. Also, the number of river craft differed and were not located in the same spots, and the trees in the foreground were not in the same location. Too, there were five trees, instead of four as in Gordon’s, under which Oglethorpe’s tent was pitched. But the most diverting device to escape the charge of plagiarism was this entirely different wording of the title: “A View of the Town of Savanah [sic], in the Colony of Georgia in South-Carolina. Humbly Inscribed to his Excellency Genl. Oglethorpe.” A cursory look at it makes it appear as Gordon’s View, but on closer inspection the differences mentioned above are evident.10 And what is quite interesting, this View is inscribed to Oglethorpe instead of to the Trustees, and equally interesting is the placing of Georgia “in South-Carolina.” A partisan of South Carolina must have been responsible for this print, for by now friction had arisen between the two colonies, which later developed into attempts of South Carolina to re-incorporate Georgia as part of her territory, since at one time the territory composing Georgia had been a part of Carolina.
Gordon’s appearance before the Trustees took place on February 27th, and apparently he was glad to be back in England again. Doubtless he would have been glad to remain in England and never return to Georgia, unless on a short visit, but Oglethorpe had arrived in the summer and was busy collecting additional settlers. He had brought with him the Indian King Tomochichi, with his wife, nephew, and a group of Indian chiefs and retainers. After being shown off and being royally entertained for a few months the Indians were anxious to return to Georgia, and Oglethorpe was “very desirous” that Gordon take charge of them on the ship Prince of Wales, which was to leave in early November (1734). Oglethorpe had been unusually kind and friendly to Gordon; the Trustees had continued him in his office as First Bailiff, and as a further token of their esteem and confidence they had provided him with two servants and were now paying the expenses of his passage and of his wife and the two servants. Captain George Dunbar, the commander, reported that Gordon and his assistant managed affairs “with So much prudence and good Sence that every thing is as orderly as cou’d be expected.” 11
Gordon, on the Prince of Wales, with his Indian charges reached Georgia late in December. According to his account, upon his return he found the people in an uproar, protesting against the tyrannical actions of Thomas Causton, who as keeper of the Trustees’ stores was accused of charging exorbitant prices and actually trying to starve the poor people. As Third Bailiff and actually the only one of the three who took his duties seriously and held court, Causton was accused of acting the despot in his decisions. And according to Gordon, the people before his arrival had entered into a design to send Causton back to England in chains.
As might be expected, a people off the streets of London settled in a new and raw frontier found themselves almost as much out of harmony with their environment and with as little understanding of it as if they had been transported to the moon. Scarcely any of them had ever worked on a farm or even seen one; nor had they any acquaintance with what they would have to do in Georgia. The occupations of most of those who had come out on the first embarkation were not of practical use in a frontier country. The first settlers were potash makers, traders and merchants, peruke makers, calico printers, tailors, clothworkers, turners, upholsterers, basketmakers, flax and hemp workers, mercers, heelmakers, cordwainers, stockingmakers, wheelwrights, and so on. Only one farmer was listed, one gardener, and a few carpenters, all of whom would find things to do in Georgia about which they knew something—but they amounted to about a half dozen, all told. So, it was only normal to expect disappointments, murmurs, and complaints; and anyone who wanted to capitalize on this situation would find a most inviting field. Such leaders were not long in coming to the front, to assume direction of factions which were springing up, to weld together their complaints against the local government officials, and to extend complaints to the Trustees and to their whole scheme for settling Georgia. These people soon came to be called Malcontents.
One of the first factions that arose related to the case of Joseph Watson, whom the Earl of Egmont termed “an insolent vile man … Twice fyn’d for scandal; again fyn’d for assaulting an Indian, and afterwds. capitally convicted of killing one, but brought in lunatick.” 12 To be more specific, Watson had come over to Georgia at his own expense, bringing his wife, and according to Egmont “tis said he has a grant of 500 acres, but I don’t find when [where?], or when taken up.” 13 He was soon in trouble, drinking too much rum and carousing with Indians in his drinking—this no doubt to further his trading with them. An Indian drinking companion of his finally died from too much indulgence, and Watson began bragging that he had drunk the Indian to death. This fact and his other associations with the red men it was feared might arouse the Indians into an uprising against the colony. He was brought before Bailiff Causton, tried in open court, and sentenced to prison as a lunatic.14
Among those who found great satisfaction in complaining about conditions in the Colony, and especially against the governing authorities, there soon developed the feeling that Watson was being persecuted and unjustly treated. Gordon on his return took the side of Watson, and took the lead in harassing Causton. In a letter to the Trustees, Causton said everything was going smoothly until Gordon “unhappily, took part with Watson, and discovered to the People, that he had different Sentiments from me. They soon Concluded That as he was First Bailiff, it was in his Power to Order every thing.” When Causton protested to Gordon how gently he had treated Watson in the light of his crimes, Gordon replied “That he thought it was not very gentle usage to Imprison a Man for the Sake of an Indian.” Causton further informed the Trustees that Gordon had “often changed his mind in this Affair; One day he came to me and told me that Watson was a Very Villain and a Madman.” 15
Gordon thought that Watson ought to be admitted to bail,16 and Watson’s wife bestirred herself in every direction to get him released. She appealed to the Trustees, who refused to interfere with Bailiff Causton’s sentence; and ultimately she appealed the case to the Privy Council in London. To prevent the British Government from interfering in their Georgia affairs, the Trustees had Watson released. Ten years later he was still in the Colony. This, the most celebrated case in Georgia’s Trustee period, seems to have been the only instance when a case was appealed to the Privy Council during that time.17
In the meanwhile Gordon was busying himself acting the part of a man of great importance in the Colony and currying favor with all who had complaints of any sort. One supporter wrote the Trustees that Gordon’s “proceedings seem to please the People. His courteous & good Nature are virtues which often gains the good Esteem 8c respect of all mankind 8c was at Church Sunday Last When another was Absent That for Some Reason might have been there.” 18 And this same one, writing again, said that Gordon had “gained the Approbation of ye People.” 19 The reference to the other person who was absent at Sunday church services was undoubtedly to Causton, who was being hounded by the Malcontents. He wrote the Trustees that he was disappointed in Gordon since his return from England, that he had hoped that Gordon would “save me the Trouble of Acting (on every occasion), in the Office of Magistrate,” but to Causton’s surprise Gordon had “encouraged complaints and Raised Discord,” acting as if he had returned “with some great Commission.” Nothing seemed to please Gordon, and when Causton tried to get him to specify just what it was he did not like, Causton could never pin him down to any particular; but he had “Encouraged Complaints against the Administrators of Justice, helped Vilifye, Ridicule, and oppose all former Management, hearing One Side without the other.” 20
Gordon had apparently come to the conclusion that he was the most important man in Georgia, and as he surveyed the situation he convinced himself that he must return to England to inform the Trustees how shaky their Colony was and how it might collapse at almost any time. Writing letters would not do; he must himself go; but as proof of what he would tell the Trustees he induced the complainants to write him letters setting forth their grievances. In all, seven letters were addressed to Gordon, which he would deliver to the Trustees, and there were other letters setting forth complaints, directed to the Trustees. All of these letters Gordon would take with him. Thus, he had made himself the chief agent of the Malcontents.21
Most of these letters contained bitter indictments against Causton, who was accused of skulduggery in the Indian trade and in his questionable dealings and relations with Mary Musgrove, and also of selling rum at the Trustees’ store and patronizing illegal rum houses.22 In one of the letters “a poor unhappy Widow” appeals to Gordon for justice, which, by inference, she could not get from Causton. Her husband had been a South Carolina trader, who on a trip to Savannah had died there, leaving a cargo of merchandise including a hogshead of rum, a barrel of sugar, “and Sundry other Merchandise,” which she had not been able to recover.23 Another wanted Gordon to tell the Trustees about the bad conditions in Georgia and how tyrannical Causton was; 24 still another wanted Gordon to get permission from the Trustees for him to return to England in order to get some servants to bring back to Georgia.25 And poor old Watson, in jail for lunacy and murdering an Indian, wanted Gordon to intercede for him before the Trustees and to plead that they rescue the people “from the unlimited Teyraney they now Groan under.” 26
Hardly more than two months after he had returned from England in late 1734, Gordon with his bale of complaints and tales of woe was planning to sail for England again; and he was undoubtedly hoping that this would be the last time he would see Georgia, for he had left his house in the care of Patrick Houstoun, a Scotsman of learning and social standing, for him to sell if possible, as well as his herd of cattle, whose cattle brand Houstoun asked Gordon to identify.27
In early March, 1735, Gordon went to Charles Town to dispose of some merchandise which he had brought back from England,28 and that same month, without let of the Trustees or hindrance from anyone, he set sail for England, arriving about the first of May. As Egmont was to comment some years later, Gordon had left Georgia, “contrary to his duty and Covenant being without leave of the Trustees or acquainting them therewith. He was a conceited unstable man, and his purpose in returning, was, as it afterwards appeared, to set up a punch house in London.” Being courted by Causton’s enemies “pleased his vanity, and he undertook to expose their pretended grievances to the Trustees, yet never came near them till sent to,” and then he delivered several complaints against Causton.29
Arriving in London, Gordon on May 7th addressed a long letter to the Trustees, informing them that he had decided to return to England to inform them of the serious situation that prevailed in Georgia, apparently without attempting to appear before them “til sent to.” The people could not get their lands surveyed and were forced to live in town where prices were higher than they were able to pay. Some had to resort to pawning “their wearing apparell for their Subsistance.” Court was being held too often. The Tythingmen, the jurors, the witnesses, “and many idle Spectators who are drawn there out of curiosity” were losing a third of their time which should have been devoted to labor. All of this interruption, when a case might last four or five days and not amount to twenty shillings! Echoing the attacks on Causton in the letters which he had brought with him, Gordon charged that Causton was a tyrant in his court, and that he promoted the sale of rum, punch, and other liquors and patronized places operating without a license. Also Tybee Light was neglected, the “poor unhappy Widow” Bowling (by name) was being cheated out of 900 pounds worth of merchandise by Causton, and the Colony was ready to collapse. He had letters to prove all these charges against Causton. He wanted the Trustees to understand that he had no “personal peek” against Causton, for he had never had “the least difference” with him. Instead, Causton had offered him the money value of the stores which were due Gordon but which he had not collected, all amounting to 20 or 30 pounds.30
Gordon appeared before the Trustees at their meeting on May 10th, in an atmosphere which could not have been very friendly toward him—he having left Georgia without their permission and not having honored the Trustees with a visit when he reached London until they had sent for him. Also, Oglethorpe, who was now back in England for a time, had the previous month told the Trustees that according to his last news from Savannah, there had been “a great deal of murmuring and uneasiness from the time that Gordon, our first bailiff, arrived there with the Indian chiefs, and he is of opinion that this has proceeded from Gordon, who it is suspected is a Papist.” And Egmont, who was making this report, added, “This we design to enquire into, as a matter of very great consequence.” 31
Ushered in, Gordon presented “a Memorial to the Trustees,” and then produced his letters of protest which he had collected in Georgia. The Trustees ordered all of the letters to be read but took no action at that time.32 Causton, who was the principal object of attack in the letters, and had become the whipping boy for the Malcontents, wrote the Trustees “complaining of Gordon the head bailiff,” and gladly offered to answer the complaints which Gordon and others had made against him.33 Herman Verelst, Accountant and Secretary to the Trustees, wrote Causton a friendly letter in July (1735) saying that the Trustees were “very sensible of the great fatigue you have had in the Administration of Justice; and they hoped that” Gordon’s return to Georgia the previous year “would have eased you in some degree of the burthen; but in that [they] have found themselves dissapointed by his not having assisted you in inforcing the Trustees Orders & quitting their Service without Licence.” 34
At a meeting of the Common Council of the Trustees on August 13th, a petition from Gordon was read “wherein he desired to have leave to sell his lands, town lot and cattle, being determined to remain in England.” The Council “considered how ill he had behaved in leaving the Colony without our permission and countenancing complaints against the other magistrates, whereby the faction there received encouragement.” In the light of these facts, they suspended action “until Mr. Oglethorp is returned to Georgia, and shall have enquired into his behaviour.” 35 Without waiting for a report from Oglethorpe, in view of Gordon’s expressed determination not to return to Georgia, and as a gesture of support for Causton and of confidence in him, the Council in September dismissed Gordon as Bailiff and appointed Causton to the position of First Bailiff.36 At a meeting of the Trustees in October, they called Gordon in and informed him that when they heard from Oglethorpe “how the Affairs of the Colony stand in relation to the Complaints of the said Gordon, they will then consider of his Demands, but cannot before.” 37
Gordon was now without friends among the Trustees in London, and the only supporters he had in Georgia were the Malcontents. A few years later (in 1741) these Malcontents published a bitter attack on Causton (and on Oglethorpe, too), in which they misstated several facts in their praise of Gordon, saying that Causton as Bailiff ruled Georgia with an iron hand until the Trustees sent over Gordon in December, 1734, who was “a person of a very winning behaviour, affable and fluent in speech.” According to the Malcontents, Gordon soon displeased Causton and Causton got rid of him “by refusing him provisions from the store, which in a little time rendered him incapable to support himself and family.” 38 Egmont answered these misstatements and the book in general by saying that the authors “lye for lying sake,” and then proceeded to give the facts as have already appeared in this sketch.39
Gordon never again returned to Georgia;40 instead he busied himself in seeking satisfaction and redress from the Trustees. Almost two years after he had petitioned the Trustees for permission to sell his property in Georgia and “for a reward for his services,” in June, 1737, the Committee to whom the petition had been referred came to a decision. They called him in “and showed him that he was so far from meriting anything from us for his services, that he had forfeited his grant by coming over without leave, contrary to his covenant in the grant, and to the neglect of his trust as first bailiff.” But, “in compassion to his circumstances” they gave him leave “to sell his lot, provided it was to a person approved of by the Trustees.” Also they allowed “a year’s subsistence for him and his wife,” which amounted to about 14 pounds; but they showed him that he owed the Trustees about 27 pounds “for so much cash advanced him, which he must account for.” Gordon “pretended to know nothing about it.” 41 In the following October the Common Council of the Trustees agreed to this decision.42
On April 12, 1738, Peter Gordon and his wife surrendered to the Trustees their property in Georgia, and proposed that it should go to Ann and Susannah Cook, daughters of William Cook. The Trustees agreed to this arrangement.43 Cook was a major in Oglethorpe’s Regiment and had lately arrived in Georgia.44 Gordon now had few years of life left; he died in 1740, according to Egmont, writing some years later.45 Dead before he was forty, Gordon’s life had been neither long nor apparently very satisfactory.
This is a curious narrative, a mixture of short accounts in diary form, and extended excursions into criticisms of the Trustees’ policies regarding land holdings and inheritance, white indentured servants and Negro slaves, and the impracticality of both the form of government for the Colony and of its personnel. Gordon begins with a short discussion of the founding of colonies by the Romans. He then gives a description of the plans and purposes of the Trustees for founding the Colony of Georgia. Next comes a diary of his voyage across the Atlantic to Charles Town, on to Port Royal, and ending at Yamacraw Bluff, where the town of Savannah was founded. He has something to say about cutting down trees and building houses, about treating with the Indians, and about conditions in Savannah as the town developed. He comments on setting up civil government there and then launches out on his hostility to the main scheme of the Trustees in developing the Colony. He mentions his first return to England, his trip back to Georgia, and ends his manuscript (as far as it is known) in the midst of a sentence.
The manuscript covers a period of about two years, beginning November 17, 1732, and ending on October 31, 1734; but as he did not arrive in Georgia until February 1, 1733 (the days of the months are in Old Style), the period of the manuscript dealing with Georgia is less than a year and eight months; and Gordon’s actual residence in Georgia was almost exactly one year.
When he composed this manuscript and what his purpose was are not entirely clear. At the beginning of it he wrote what might appear to be an introduction or even its title: “There is now in the press, and will be published in a few days An Account of the first Setling of the Colony of Georgia. With a Journall of the Voyage of the first imbarkation, under the Direction of Mr. Oglethorp. And continued till the constitution of the Court of Record, and establishing the Governmt. of Savannah. With some account of the Magistrates. And some considerations, on the probability of Succeeding in the Said Colony, under the present Constitution, and Plann of Governmt. To which will be added the particular Case of Peter Gordon, Chief-Bailiff of Savannah, with Coppies of his Memorialls Delivered to the Honble: the Trustees and humbly offor’d to their further consideration.’’
His statement that the work he is describing “is now in the press, and will be published in a few days,” may not be taken at face value but rather as his hope, for it seems certain from extensive and intensive research that no publication by him or one with the title he gives ever appeared. And it should be observed that the long descriptive title is an exact analysis of the narrative here under consideration, with the exception of the “Memorialls” which he says “will be added.” In his narrative he makes this same statement.
This last expression would tend to confirm the belief that this manuscript was intended as a further argument and plea (in addition to his petition previously mentioned) that the Trustees do him justice in recompensing him for his services in Georgia. Their award of about 14 pounds with an offset of about 27 pounds left Gordon with much less than nothing for his services in helping to establish the Colony of Georgia. It should be noted here that the Bailiffs received no salary, but only their upkeep from the Trustees’ store, which was estimated at about 14 pounds a year.
It is, of course, evident that Gordon wrote this manuscript in England after his final return in 1735, and he must have written it after the Trustees’ settlement with him in April, 1738. In several places he left blank spaces for dates which he did not remember and for which he apparently at the time had no records, such as the date when the messenger arrived with the news that the Indian chiefs were coming to Savannah, and also the dates on which he embarked at Gravesend on his return to Georgia and when he arrived back there. The narrative gives unmistakable evidence that Gordon kept a diary or journal, but not throughout the whole time.
Since Gordon’s narrative ends in an unfinished sentence, it would be illogical to assume that Gordon did not continue his manuscript; however, the part here under consideration is all that is known to have been found. It fills a vellum-bound book, 7¾ by 8 inches in size, and contains 90 pages. The bottom of the last page is filled with some scribbling of accounts, a fact suggesting that the book had originally been intended as an account book. This point is further emphasized by the fact that there appears on the front outside cover the title “Receipts” and some following words so dim from age as not to be decipherable.
It would seem, therefore, that the narrative was continued in a second book to include the “Memorials” as well as “some other curious letters concerning the affairs of the Colony” which Gordon promised. The complete history of the volume which has come down to the present is not known, but written on the inside front cover, in pencil, is information which carries its source back to 1827: “This Book was given me by Mr [space] Oglethorps Sub Sheriff of the County of Lancaster at Lpool 22 Dec. 1827 who said it was given to him about 6 or 7 years ago by the Keeper of the Records at Chester Castle who found it at the Castle at Chester.’’ This statement is unsigned; but at the top of this same inside cover is written in ink, “Recd from the late Richd Richardson Decr 1834 P. Maxwell.” This would indicate that Richardson had received the book from the Mr. Oglethorpe referred to above.
The late Keith Read of Savannah made an impressive collection of Georgiana over a long span of his years, including especially early manuscript materials. It is not known when or from whom the Peter Gordon volume came into his possession; but when his estate was finally liquidated, that part of his Georgiana which remained was bought by the Wormsloe Foundation of Savannah in 1957 and presented to the University of Georgia. The Gordon manuscript was included in this purchase and presentation. It is now kept in the University of Georgia Library as part of the “Keith Read Manuscript Collection.” 46
In this age of enlightenment it ought not to be necessary to say that the manuscript here published has been faithfully transcribed, checked and rechecked, and edited according to the accepted standards of the day. After the idiosyncrasies of Gordon’s script have been mastered, reading his manuscript is easy. In tune with his times he spelled words as the spirit moved him, sometimes using different spellings for the same word and sometimes never arriving at the modern arrangement of letters—as for instance his attempts on that water craft pettiagua or pettiauger. He liked to add an e to such words as had and person and go, and he often spelled our as owr. Such peculiarities have been left, as these spellings are easily understood. Many raised letters have been brought down. Though his use of capital letters creates no problem of clarity, yet it has been thought best to lower them to small letters except where modern usage would leave them. Gordon’s punctuation has been changed in the interest of clarity, for often his use of commas and colons and semicolons leaves a confusion of words, without any sure signs as to where a sentence ends. The headings in the narrative were supplied by the editor. Identification of places and names of persons and explanations of certain statements and allusions have been kept to a minimum.
E. M. C.