INDEPENDENCE A REALITY 1782 - 1785
THE STATE government was waiting at the gates and moved into Savannah with the American army immediately after the British evacuation. The assembly convened in Savannah on July 13, two days after the British left; and the council had its first session in the old capital the next day. With the appointment of county officials for Chatham County, July 18, the governmental organization for the recently-evacuated area was completed.1 Physically, Savannah was hardly ready to receive the state government. The governor and council took steps to secure goods from the merchants for use by the army, governmental officials, and inhabitants; and the assembly appointed a committee to secure food and lodging for its members.2
Six of the state’s eight counties were represented when the assembly convened in Savannah, and Glynn County sent a representative two days later. This assembly first met in the church but soon moved to the long room of Mrs. Tondee’s tavern for the rest of its session.3 A committee which recommended matters for the consideration of the assembly listed defense, finances, and Continental matters in that order of importance. General Greene should be requested to supply sufficient Continental troops to protect the state, which should furnish the necessary military supplies. Amounts due the state should be ordered paid, and state accounts for the war years were to be audited and prepared for settlement. After these matters of pressing importance, Continental matters should be considered.4
This session lasted three weeks (July 13-August 5) and was concerned almost entirely with immediate relief and the organization of government upon a regular and constitutional basis. Only three bills are known to have been passed. One reopened the courts of the state with the same jurisdiction they had possessed before the British invasion. Delays of up to two years were allowed in settling civil judgments in favor of the plaintiffs, and umpires were directed to determine the value of depreciated paper currency used in settlement. The period July 1, 1775, through July 12, 1782, was not to count in reckoning elapsed time under the statute of limitations. The second act amerced certain people who had been amenable to British control in Georgia but who were not named in the 1782 confiscation and banishment act. The third act set up certain categories of undesirable people who were not to be allowed to settle in Georgia.5
Because General Greene had ordered General Wayne and his Continental troops to report to Charleston as soon as possible, the state had to take over its own defense, except for the small battalion of Continentals being raised from ex-British sympathizers who wanted to reinstate their loyalty to Georgia and thus save their property. The assembly ordered all British arms collected and additional arms purchased for the state troops. Greene was requested to return the troops he had ordered to Charleston because Thomas Brown and the Florida Rangers were still near Savannah, but no Continentals were returned until after the Rangers left. The assembly suggested that two troops of horsemen be drawn from the new Continental battalion, with Congress defraying the necessary expenses for mounted troops and two galleys to guard the coast.6 There is no indication that any of the Continental troops were ever mounted (something that Greene disapproved) or that the galleys were ever built. Early in 1783 the assembly authorized the purchase of one galley to be paid for and controlled by the state.7 Despite continual urgings from Greene, Georgia never provided the necessary provisions for the Continental troops. Governor Hall brought up the necessity of provisions in February, 1783, so that the troops would not have to pilfer from honest citizens; but the assembly directed the governor to draw supplies “in such manner as may prove least burdensome to the inhabitants,” until a better mode of supply could be devised. Later there were complaints that the courts would not allow the troops to impress provisions and that the troops were in actual need.8
Peace negotiations between Britain and the United States, begun in the spring of 1782, resulted in a preliminary treaty in November, 1782. Congress, in April, 1783, decreed the suspension of hostilities, and the demobilization of the army. Greene, in June, 1783, ordered Wayne to march north at once the Continental troops which had just been sent to Georgia to oppose a feared attack from East Florida. Georgia’s Continental battalion of ex-British sympathizers, its ranks depleted by desertions, was of little value to the defense of the state, and it was furloughed as no longer necessary and was discharged in December.9 Georgia’s defense was now entirely up to the state.
Trouble with British sympathizers had been feared after the British evacuation. The first such trouble came in August, 1782, from a group of people who had slipped out of Savannah just before its evacuation, congregated northwest of Augusta and preyed upon travelers, raided settlements along the Ogeechee in Burke County, and aroused the Creeks against Georgians. Militia sent against this group and its Indian allies apparently ended any immediate danger despite the fear of some that much of Burke County would be broken up.10
The large number of ex-Georgia loyalists in East Florida fanned the old animosities from that area. At the same time that the troubles above Augusta were being settled by the militia, attempts were being made to quiet fears of Georgians and East Floridians. Georgia commissioners were sent to St. Augustine to treat with Governor Tonyn, who insisted that he desired peace and had given positive orders that no raids would be made into Georgia unless Georgians raided East Florida. The commissioners assured Tonyn that Georgia intended to begin no trouble.11 There were repeated complaints of raids from both sides of the Georgia-East Florida boundary, but the raiders seem to have been unlawful banditti rather than units backed by either government.12
Until the British evacuation of East Florida in 1785, there was considerable intercourse between loyalists there and relatives and acquaintances in Georgia. This contact was supposed to be carried on with official approval through flags of truce, but there were numerous flag violations and rumors of an invasion of Georgia in the spring of 1783. General Greene, authorized to take the necessary precautions, sent General Wayne and troops to Georgia from South Carolina.13 However, nothing happened, and Georgia-East Florida relations remained harmonious. Georgians went to East Florida to try to recover stolen or runaway horses, slaves, and other property. Some slaves taken out of Georgia at its evacuation were returned, by purchase or otherwise.14
The final peace treaty, signed at Paris on September 3, 1783, provided that East and West Florida be ceded by Britain to Spain. After news of the treaty was received, Governor Lyman Hall wrote to Governor Tonyn and suggested that, if East Florida was to be evacuated by the British, Georgia might be glad to receive many of its inhabitants. Hall intimated that Tories from Georgia and other states might be allowed to come to Georgia but said that this would have to be determined by the assembly. Hall asked that Georgia property in East Florida, especially slaves, not be evacuated; later he sent a commissioner to claim such property.15 In the spring of 1784, requests from people in East Florida to settle in Georgia were approved by the executive; there also were reports of undesirables coming without official permission.16 The evacuation began in 1783 and lasted through the summer of 1785. Georgians, who congratulated themselves upon the return of the Spanish to the Floridas, were soon to discover that it was as bad to have the Floridas in Spanish hands as in British hands, and probably worse.
Another of the loyalists’ postwar problems that caused as much trouble as relations with Florida was enforcement of the confiscation and banishment acts. In January, 1782, the estates of all people within the British lines whose property had not been confiscated in 1778 or who had not returned to state citizenship under the act of 1781 was confiscated to furnish security for the certificates being issued to pay the current expenses of the state government.17
The May, 1782, assembly banished and confiscated the property of all people named in the original state act of 1778, plus any who had since adhered to the British cause or given aid to the British military in Georgia. The act, which named 279 people, applied to any others who might be convicted in state courts of having aided the British. Such people who returned to Georgia were to be arrested and sent to British territory. Any who returned again were to suffer death without benefit of clergy. Georgia property owned by people who were included in similar acts of other states was also confiscated. All Georgia property of British subjects was confiscated, regardless of the owner’s connection with the fighting in America. Any property title transfers of the affected persons since April 19, 1775, were declared void, to prevent circumvention of confiscation. United States citizens or friends were allowed to present for payment any claims they might have against confiscated property. If the families of banished people remained in Georgia, they could get temporary support from the proceeds of the property confiscated from their family. County boards of commissioners were appointed to receive confiscated estates, and public sales were directed to begin within forty days.18
Almost as soon as the ink was dry on the confiscation and banishment act, the assembly began to mitigate its provisions. Before the passage of the act, General Wayne had urged that loyalists be treated leniently, so that many of them could be reclaimed as state citizens.19 In July, 1782, the assembly considered restoring to Georgia citizenship those loyalists who were not named in the act, and appointed county commitees to draw up lists of such people. Those who had taken protection under the British were allowed no political rights until they had renounced their allegiance to the King and sworn allegiance to Georgia and the United States. Disaffected people from other states were prohibited from coming to Georgia and settling.20
Ninety-three people, forty-eight of whom had been listed in the confiscation and banishment act, were named in an amercement act in August. One group of these people were to pay twelve per cent of their property to the state; another group, eight per cent; and the rest were to serve as soldiers in the Georgia battalion of Continental troops or to find substitutes. All penalties of confiscation and banishment were to be removed upon payment of the amercement, and all political privileges were restored except the right to vote or hold office until three years after the war’s end.21
It is impossible to say exactly how many people left Georgia because of the confiscation and banishment acts of 1778 and 1782. These acts named 342 individuals, and the blanket provisions applied to many other persons. When the British evacuated Savannah, most of the people who left went to East Florida or Jamaica. A few went direct to England. In 1782, the number of white Georgia refugees in East Florida was reported to be 1,042. Of these, 402 were heads of families, and 91 of them were on the Georgia confiscation and banishment act. Of the fifty white men reported in Jamaica, fifteen were named in the Georgia act.22 Thus, it seems that not more than 1,250 to 1,500 white loyalists left Georgia. This number plus approximately 3,500 slaves make a total of 4,500 to 5,000 persons who left Georgia because of their British loyalty.
Upon the British evacuation of East Florida, many of its inhabitants came to Georgia. It is impossible to tell how many loyalists returned to Georgia in 1783 and 1784, but it appears that many small farmers not named in the confiscation and banishment act must have done so. Others from East Florida went to the Bahamas, where records of thirty-three people on the Georgia confiscation and banishment act have been located.23 A few went from East Florida to other West Indian colonies, to Nova Scotia, or to England.
The banishment part of the act was never completely enforced. As early as July 31, 1782, there were reports that people named in the act were going at large in the state, and such people were ordered jailed until they could be sent out of Georgia. Yet in August, Dr. Andrew Johnson, named in the act, was allowed the freedom of Savannah because of the need for doctors.24 During the next decade many other people named in the act were ordered arrested, ordered to leave the state, or were allowed to remain. Associations which were organized in Savannah and in several counties in the fall of 1783 to prevent proscribed persons from returning to the state, became inactive after 1783.25
By assembly action throughout the 1780s, 1790s, and early 1800s, twenty-one people were removed from the penalties of the act so far as banishment was concerned; forty-seven were removed entirely, some being restored to full citizenship. The property of at least nineteen deceased people named in the act was vested in their heirs, with the same effect as removal of living people. Probably at least thirty people named in the 1782 act were dead at its passage but were included so that their property might be confiscated. Wives and families of banished people often remained in Georgia. A list prepared in the executive department of the state in 1813 showed 342 people originally subject to confiscation and banishment and some 263 still subject to the penalties of the acts.26 These figures agree approximately with the researches of the present writer. Thus, it seems that at least 250 people named in the acts were forced to leave the state and to lose all their property. Families leaving with these might bring the total number who left permanently to 750 or 1,000, but no definite figures are available.
The Georgia state government was most interested in enforcing the acts against loyalists who had considerable property or who had been especially obnoxious to Whigs during the war. Many Georgia loyalists had taken the oath of allegiance to the King only because the British were in control of Georgia and were perfectly willing to take an oath to the United States after the British left. Those in this category who returned from East Florida in 1784 and 1785 were allowed to settle and become citizens when the bitterness of the war years died down.
The sale of confiscated estates began in the summer of 1782 and continued at least through 1785.27 Payment specified by law was one half in specie and the other half in state certificates or accounts against the state, with up to seven years to pay the full purchase price. Accounts of officers and soldiers of the Continental line were received as specie plus a discount of 12½ per cent for prompt payment, because such accounts entitled the state to a discount on its Continental quota.28 When the personal bonds given in payment for confiscated estates became due, many of them were defaulted. By the summer of 1787 bonds valued at £281,716. 7.0 had been received in the treasury for payment of confiscated estates, and £93,783. 1.1½ worth of them had been paid. Bonds worth £22,607. 1.1 fell due in 1786, but only £1,818.19. 1¾ principal and interest was paid.29 It is impossible to tell the proportion of the bonds defaulted, but there is no reason to suppose that 1786 was an unusual year. Besides defaulted bonds, the amount received from confiscated estates was further reduced by claims of Whigs against these estates, which were still being received in 1786.30 While the state received some income from the sale of confiscated estates, the amount was far below the figure envisioned by early advocates of confiscation.
Besides punishment for loyalists, Georgia was concerned with rewarding Whigs for their war services. During the war, promises of land bounties had been used to recruit state and Continental troops and to bring new citizens to the state. After the fighting ended, the state fulfilled its bounty promises and made special grants to outstanding officers and soldiers for their combat services. Two hundred fifty acres of land exempt from taxes for ten years were allowed to all who had remained in the state and done militia duty during the British occupation. Those who had left the state but had done army duty elsewhere were allowed the same amount of land.31 Members of the Georgia Continental units were entitled to both Continental and state bounties in Georgia. Often they could qualify for a headright grant as well. One application for Continental bounties from Connecticut troops was granted because it could be charged against what Georgia owed the United States.32 Most state troops were given bounties of land, Negroes, or clothing. Land bounties continued to be authorized for militia and state troops who participated in the Indian troubles of the 1780s; and in 1788 the militia was voted 300 acres for every three-month tour of duty, more as pay than as a bounty.33
Most of the high ranking officers who served in Georgia were given special grants as a reward for their services. Five thousand guineas was voted to General Greene and 4,000 guineas to General Wayne, from which the state purchased two choice confiscated estates. For Greene was purchased Mulberry Grove, just outside Savannah—the former property of Lieutenant Governor John Graham and described as “by far the most pleasant seat on the Savannah with an Ellegant tasty house & Gardens & a large Quantity of highly cultivated rice land.” A plantation formerly the property of Alexander Wright was bought for Wayne.34 One hundred guineas with the thanks of the state was voted for every officer in the Georgia Continental Line. This payment was made in certificates which would be received as specie for the purchase of confiscated estates.35 Colonel Elijah Clarke, Lieutenant Colonel James Jackson, and other officers of the militia and state troops were given confiscated estates as a reward for their war services. Count d’Estaing was granted 20,000 acres of land and made a free citizen of the state in reward for his services at the siege of Savannah.36
Besides gifts to living heroes, grants were made to the children of dead heroes in honor of the services of their fathers. Five hundred acres were granted to the son of the Reverend Moses Allen, the Midway parson and army chaplain who had drowned in attempting to swim ashore from a British prison ship at Savannah. Thomas and John Mitchell Dooly, sons of Colonel John Dooly, who was murdered in his Wilkes County home by Tories, were given 500 acres each. The two daughters of General James Screven, of the Georgia Continental Line, were granted 1,000 acres each. At the motion of George Walton, the Continental Congress requested Georgia to erect a monument to Screven at Sunbury at the expense of the United States, but it was the twentieth century before a monument was erected, at Midway. John and George Galphin, the sons of the Indian trader who had been so helpful to the early Revolutionary government, received 15,000 acres in a new Indian cession of 1784.37
Permanently maimed veterans were granted annual pensions, ranging from £5 for the loss of one eye to £30 to those who lost both hands or both eyes or were otherwise maimed so as to be incapable of self-support. Widows of soldiers killed in the war were granted £10 a year plus four shillings for each child under age fourteen. Provision was made for orphans of both Continental and state troops.38 The state, upon the recommendation of the Continental Congress, granted half pay to totally disabled Continental officers living in Georgia. Disabled noncommissioned officers and soldiers were to receive five dollars a month, and those partially disabled were to receive amounts proportional to their disability.39
Three instances have been found of the emancipation of slaves for war services. David Monday was appraised at 100 guineas, which amount was ordered paid by the state to his owner. Austin, a mulatto, was praised for his actions against the British, “which would have honored a freeman,” was freed, and declared “entitled to all the liberties, privileges and immunities of a free citizen so far as free negroes and mulattoes are allowed.” Austin had been disabled through his war services and was paid the same pension received by other disabled veterans.40