The history of Georgia’s colonial records has been a varied one. Her customs records were destroyed in early 1776 when the vessel upon which they had been stored for safekeeping was burned during the “Battle of the Rice Boats” at Savannah. During the Revolutionary War, Georgia sent many of her records as far north as Maryland to protect them, and some of these never found their way back to Georgia. Many old records were left at Milledgeville when the state’s capital was moved to Atlanta in 1868. As late as the twentieth century colonial records were destroyed in Savannah to make room for current records. Normal loss and destruction through improper use and storage over the years have taken their toll as well.
With all this loss and destruction, it is not surprising that most of the colonial records which survived are the letters, reports, and other documents sent to London by colonial officials and now deposited in the Public Record Office. Georgia first had these records copied in the 1830s and 1840s and they were used by several historians before being burned accidentally in the late nineteenth century. Early in the twentieth century the Georgia volumes (mainly P.R.O., C.O. 5/636-712) were copied a second time by the state.
Between 1904 and 1916 twenty-five volumes of these transcripts were published as The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Volumes 1-19, 21-26). Allen D. Candler began compiling and printing these volumes, and William J. Northen and Lucian Lamar Knight assumed the work after Candler’s death in 1910. Essentially Candler, Northen, and Knight arranged the transcripts and printed the volumes with no further editorial apparatus.
Immediately the published volumes had an influence upon the writing of Georgia’s colonial history. The unpublished transcripts, arranged in fourteen volumes in the state archives, have been used considerably less.
Volume XX was not published in its correct order by Compiler or Records and ex-Governor Allen D. Candler because a fire in the printing establishment destroyed much of the volume. It existed in a mutilated form until State Historian Louise F. Hays worked on the unpublished volumes and had them typed in the 1930s. She sought to get Vol. XX into order, sending to the Public Record Office for some mutilated or missing documents. Through the use of the Egmont Papers at the University of Georgia and of microfilm of C.O. 5/636 and 637 from the Public Record Office, it has been possible to further correct this volume.
In comparing the documents in this volume from the Public Record Office and the Egmont Papers in the University of Georgia Library, it became evident to the editors that they all belonged together. Although many of the documents are in both places, others are filed in only one collection. The editors decided that the actual location of many letters in one or the other collection or both was often a matter of chance rather than any real plan of separation in the eighteenth century. Hence it was decided to add letters only in the Egmont Papers to the PRO material, which made up the original manuscript of this volume, to give as full coverage as possible from available documents. The internal arrangement of this volume by Governor Candler, probably following the PRO volumes, seemed strange to the editors. Hence it was decided to put the material in chronological order throughout.