THE Charter of the Colony of Georgia established a corporate body under the name, “The Trustees for establishing the Colony of Georgia in America,” naming certain members, and providing for its enlargement without limit. It further designated a Common Council to discharge the more important duties of the corporation. This body was to consist of fifteen members, named in the Charter, and after the enlargement of the Trustees, it was to consist of twenty-four. The smaller body was established in order to avoid the difficulty of assembling the larger one as frequently as the business of the colony would require.1
The Common Council thus undertook the more responsible work, and that of the Trustees was of a residual nature. Actually, the attendance of Trustee meetings by Trustees who were not also Common Council members was rare. Therefore almost all work, whether accomplished by the Common Council or the Trustees, was done largely by the same group of men acting in different capacities. A quorum of eight was required for Common Council meetings, and frequently when this number were not present, those attending would hold a Trustee meeting instead.2
Each of the two bodies appointed a secretary who kept minutes of their meetings. Besides these two official journals, there was a third and private record kept by John Percival, who became the first Earl of Egmont in 1733. He was an original member of both bodies, and rarely missed their meetings. Because of its private nature, his journal is less restrained, and frequently is of more interest than the official record.
Egmont’s account of the Common Council meetings, from 1733 to 1744, was originally set down in three folio volumes, closely written in the Earl’s careful hand. All three volumes in time became separated from the Percival family papers, and vanished from sight. In 1881 volumes two and three of the Egmont journal were discovered in London and were purchased by an American dealer, Henry Stevens of Vermont. They were presented to the state of Georgia soon after by J. S. Morgan, an American banker in England, and are now housed in the vault of the Secretary of State in Atlanta.
The first publication of the latter two-thirds of the Egmont journal came in 1886 with the appearance of a limited edition of forty-nine copies, privately published by Mrs. Mary De Renne, widow of George Wymberley-Jones De Renne. This part of the journal became generally available to the public, however, only in 1908. In that year, Allen D. Candler, in his compilation of the Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, published these latter two volumes of the Egmont journal, as well as the official journals of the Trustees and the Common Council.
Egmont’s first manuscript volume, from 1732 to 1738, remained missing. Until the present publication, it was known to scholars only by implication, and through its index. For want of room, Egmont happened to place this index at the beginning of his second manuscript volume, and therefore it was published by Candler. The possibility of the existence of the missing volume long tantalized historians.
The lost journal at length reappeared in England in the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (Phillipps MS. 13081), and was offered for sale by the firm of Lionel & Philip Robinson, Ltd., of London, in 1946. It was purchased by the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is published here with the kind permission and cooperation of the Institute’s Board of Directors.
Egmont was a friend and close associate of James Edward Oglethorpe. He had worked with him on the select committee to inquire into the condition of the gaols, which was appointed, at Oglethorpe’s instigation, by the House of Commons on February 25, 1728.3 It was in working together on the committee that they discovered their mutual interest in philanthropic endeavor.
Percival was among the first to whom Oglethorpe revealed his plan for a new Carolina plantation. Because of Percival’s connections at court, he was instrumental in securing the charter and in obtaining money for the project. From the time of its inception Egmont was among its most enthusiastic supporters. He faithfully attended meetings of the Trustees, of which the Charter named him first president, and of the Common Council, of which he often served as chairman. Because of his rank and political associations, Egmont was very useful in retaining the aid of the Ministry, without which the colony could not have survived. He was consistent in his attendance at the meetings between 1732 and 1742, in which latter year he resigned from the Common Council, largely because of ill-health. Although Egmont never visited Georgia, no man other than Oglethorpe himself had greater interest in the colony, or worked harder for its establishment and promotion.
Among historians, the most immediate association with the name Egmont is undoubtedly the first Earl’s famous diary, which was published between 1920 and 1923 in three volumes by the British Historical Manuscripts Commission. It covers the years 1730–1747, and is justly considered a mine of social and political information. It throws much light upon the Georgia movement, which dominated Egmont’s life for many years.
Egmont was a careful record keeper and a copious writer. He left an extensive collection of papers concerning his private and public affairs, which reveal an admirable character and an active life. Although his lands lay largely in Ireland, and his titles in the Irish peerage, Egmont was a Protestant and an Englishman. The frequency of his visits to Ireland decreased as time went by, though he always maintained a full correspondence with his estate agents and took an active part in the management of his Irish interests. Nevertheless, he came to settle into a routine of life in England which can only be described as that of an absentee landlord, though he strove mightily to avoid the pitfalls customarily associated with absentee landlordism in Ireland.
His ancestry, of which he was inordinately proud, was Norman French, of the Conqueror’s time. The Irish association began early in the seventeenth century, though the English roots never became dislodged. The genesis of the family’s fortunes, aside from certain medieval antecedents, lay in the Percivals’ service of the early Stuarts and of Cromwell in Ireland, and particularly in the career of Sir Philip Percival, Egmont’s great-grandfather. In those days of the seventeenth century an acquisitive Englishman could amass great wealth in Ireland. The Percival lands at the height of their Irish fortunes, before the rising of 1641, reached an aggregate of well over 100,000 acres. This had been greatly depleted by Egmont’s time—his rent roll in 1704 lists some 22,000 acres in County Cork and County Tipperary, where most of his lands lay—but it was sufficient to provide him an income in 1747–1748 well in excess of £6,000.4
At the time of the Restoration, Sir Philip’s son John was made a Privy Counsellor and a baronet, his welcome at court having been assured by his persuasion of Henry Cromwell, Lord Deputy of Ireland, to agree to a royal restoration.5 But the family now became plagued by a series of premature deaths. The first baronet enjoyed his new distinction only four years, at his death the title passing to his eldest son Philip in 1665. Sir Philip held the title for fifteen years, and upon his death in 1680 it passed to Egmont’s father, who lived only six years more. Then it went to Egmont’s elder brother Edward, at whose death in 1691 at the age of nine the future Earl received the title himself. Longevity reappeared with him, for he lived until 1748, and his son, the second Earl of Egmont, until 1770.
John Percival, the future first Earl, was born at the family seat in County Cork, a manor called Burton, on July 12, 1683. His father died three years later at the age of twenty-nine, entrusting his widow and children to the hands of his uncle, Sir Robert Southwell, of Kings Weston, in England. Here the family took refuge, while their estates in Ireland were plundered by the Irish in the rebellion of 1690, and Burton House was burned.6 The mother remarried in 1690, and died in childbirth within two years. The youthful Sir Edward Percival had died the year before, two sisters were dead, and so of the family of seven, only Sir John and his younger brother Philip survived by 1692.
The two brothers were reared in the care of their great-uncle, who took his duties seriously. Upon Southwell’s death in 1702, his son, Sir Edward Southwell, assumed the boys’ wardship. John was tutored by his own father’s chaplain, Dr. Henry Roby, until in 1696 he was sent to Mr. Demoeure’s Academy, located in Greek Street, Westminster, in the district now known as Soho. He was joined in time by his brother Philip, and the two duly reported their progress to their uncle. The Academy was described in 1702 as “a Place famous for Education at that Time, where French, Latin, Geography, Musick, Dancing, Fencing, Vaulting, Quarter-Staff, and other hardy Exercises, were regularly taught….”7 Percival’s French became fluent, and many of his letters were later written in that language.
In 1698 he entered Westminster School, which was associated with the Abbey, and there he studied under one of the prebends, Dr. Breval. The next year, at the age of sixteen, he entered Magdalen College, Oxford. Here he was tutored by Richard Smallbrook, who later became successively Bishop of Hereford, of Litchfield, and of Coventry. The classical curriculum of the college held Percival’s attention, and his correspondence with his uncle, and also Smallbrook’s letters, indicate that he was less addicted to the idleness usual in that day than most of his fellows. After a year and a half, when he was eighteen, he left the university without taking a degree. This omission, however, did not stand in his way when in 1702 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, which had been founded some forty years previously. His great-uncle, Sir Robert Southwell, happened to be President of the Society.8
Before settling down to the task of administering his estates, Percival undertook a tour of England. In preparation for this he received extensive letters of instruction from acquaintances, pointing out to him the places of interest, particularly in southern and eastern England, which he must visit.9 The trip was extensive, and Percival’s careful journal of his travels indicates his propensity for record-keeping, which became a lifelong habit.
Sir Robert Southwell prepared Percival well for the assumption of his inheritance, carefully instructing him in the processes of good management and in points to be observed in dealing with the Irish. In 1 704 Percival went to Ireland, in company with a family friend, the Duke of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In the general election for a new Irish Parliament, necessitated by the accession of Queen Anne, Percival was elected to the Commons for County Cork, even though he was not yet quite of age. In October he was appointed to the Privy Council, and he remained a member for the next forty-four years, “notwithstanding the frequent Changes and Virulence of Parties.”10 His appointment to the Privy Council was largely an honorary distinction arising from his position as a large Irish landholder. Anne’s Council came to number some eighty persons, though only twenty-odd attended its meetings even on important occasions. Membership in the Council had become by now something of a formality rather than a working office in the constitutional framework. The Council was involved in certain official business, but there were no longer serious debates in it, and policy was no longer made there. The Cabinet was coming into being to take its place. Nevertheless, membership in the Privy Council gave Percival a further degree of prestige.
In August of 1705, Percival set out on the grand tour of Europe, which was usual for persons of his station. The tour lasted two years, and his letters indicate that, as intended, it broadened his intellectual horizons. He visited “most of the Courts of Italy and Germany, and Republicks of Genoa, Venice, and Holland,” and returned to England in October, 1707.11 He lost a large collection of objects of art, which fell into the hands of the French, his tour being made during the time of the War of the Spanish Succession.
On his return to England, Percival took up residence at Charlton, his country seat a few miles southeast of London. This, with his town house in Pall Mall, remained his principal residence for the remainder of his life. On his next visit to Ireland, in 1708, he met George Berkeley, then a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. Their friendship proved to be lifelong, involving the exchange of many letters.12 Percival was interested in Berkeley’s project to create a college in Bermuda for the purpose of training ministers for the Anglican church in America. Percival was instrumental in obtaining the charter for the college, and became a trustee for raising and expending subscriptions for the enterprise. When it was deemed impractical to establish the college in Bermuda, Percival urged the transfer of the undertaking to the mainland, and developed an interest in American affairs which carried over into the Georgia project in the 1730’s.
At the age of twenty-seven Percival married Katherine Parker, eldest daughter of Sir Philip Parker a Morley, baronet, of Ewarton, Suffolk. The marriage was eminently happy, as attested by recurrent references in Percival’s correspondence. Of the seven children Katherine Percival bore her husband, only three survived to maturity. These were John, who became the second Earl of Egmont, and his two sisters, Katherine and Helena.
Most of Percival’s time was spent in England, though he sat in the Irish Parliament in 1711 and 1713, keeping a careful journal of proceedings there and participating actively in the transaction of business. He was all his life closely concerned with Irish economic interests, since they were his own interests too. He was also closely interested in Court life, although his Whig inclinations so alienated him from the Tory regime of the latter portion of Queen Anne’s reign that he refused the Tory offer of an English barony.13
From August, 1711, until March, 1714, he and his family lived in Ireland, returning to England during the last months of Anne’s reign. He followed closely the dramatic events of the change of dynasties, keeping a journal, according to his habit, of the tense developments.14 King George I landed in England in September, and Percival, as a Privy Counsellor, attended him in the procession from Greenwich to St. James’s Palace. The King retained Percival as Privy Counsellor in the new commission issued on October g. Percival’s political leanings and those of the new regime were sufficiently compatible to assure his close connection with the court thereafter for many years.
Evidence of this understanding was soon forthcoming. In 1715 Percival was offered an Irish barony. He refused it on this occasion, saying that it was inferior to the English barony offered him in Anne’s reign. He suggested that either an English barony or an Irish earldom would be more acceptable. The government’s spokesman in the affair was Joseph Addison, who later became Secretary of State for the Southern Department. He assured Percival of the King’s interest, and indicated the impropriety of spurning the Royal will, which was that Percival should accept the Irish barony as it was then offered. Addison gave him the King’s assurance that within a few months he would be advanced further in the Irish peerage, and that “he might certainly depend upon that English Honour he desired, as soon as the Convenience of his [the King’s] Affairs should admit, which would not be very long.”15
Accordingly Percival accepted and became Baron Percival of Burton. He formally took his seat in the Irish House of Lords on November 12, 1715. The preamble of his patent included, after a eulogy of his and his family’s service to the Crown, the statement, “We find ourselves obliged to bestow, even greater Honours upon him than those, which by these Presents, we now confer.”16 This promise was never strictly fulfilled because of the breach which occurred between King George and his son, George, Prince of Wales, late in 1717. At that time, all peers and Privy Counsellors were ordered to choose between the two courts, and in future they were not to attend both. Faced by the dilemma of choosing between the King who had made him a peer, and had promised him further advancement, and the Prince who would likely soon succeed his father, and who might then prove to have a long memory, Percival temporized. For the moment he evaded the order and attended both courts. But soon the King observed his presence, and wrote to him inviting his continued presence, but indicating that he could make no exceptions from his rule that those who attended the princely court must not come to his own. Percival then decided to cast his lot with the Prince of Wales, “conscientiously thinking, that the Justice of the Dispute was on that Side, where he continued ever after.”17 It no doubt also occurred to him that the King’s age was fifty-seven, and that of the Prince, thirty-four.
Percival now abandoned hope that the King would ever fulfill his promise, but in 1722 he was elevated again in the Irish peerage to become Viscount Percival of Kanturk. Thus his Majesty, “to his great Honour, kept his Word inviolate, tho’ the Title conferred was not of that Degree which answered the Condition of his Lordship, in his first Demand.”18 As for the “English Honour,” Percival continued to reflect upon it, but as a member of the Prince of Wales’ court he could scarcely remind the King of his promise. This state of affairs continued until King George’s death in 1727. Percival’s connections with the Prince are amply evidenced in his correspondence. His Highness even stood as godfather to Percival’s son, who was tactfully named George. In the course of time, in 1733, his support was rewarded with the Irish Earldom of Egmont.
Percival’s intellectual interests and pursuits were catholic. He managed his estates with close attention to detail and was very sensitive to any waste of his resources. He was not, however, immune to the financial hysteria arising from the South Sea Company’s promotion, and he lost heavily in the ensuing crash.19 He avidly followed Irish and English politics, leaving copious political memoranda among his papers. He composed a number of religious treatises, which reveal his religious devotion. Allusions in his diary show that he enjoyed literature, art, and music. Neither he nor his wife was particularly robust, and the pursuit of good health seems to have preoccupied his mind much of the time.
Percival’s adherence to the Prince insured his continuance in the Privy Council when the latter succeeded his father as King George II. Percival then secured his election, in August, 1727, to the English House of Commons for the borough of Harwich, in Essex. This was a rotten borough, and his seat cost him “near £1000.”20 He became a close associate of Sir Robert Walpole and his brother Horace, who was a member of Parliament and an active figure in the Whig party. Although his views were largely Whig, Percival considered himself an independent. Nevertheless his support was consistently thrown behind the Ministry. He developed many friendships which were later of service to him in relation to the Georgia project. His brother-in-law, Sir Philip Parker, was also a member of the Commons, as were many of the promoters of the colony. Percival’s notes of Parliamentary proceedings are particularly valuable, since public reporting of Parliamentary debates was as yet illegal.
Percival was very sensitive to real or suspected injury or slight, and in 1733 became the willing spokesman of Irish peers who sought to secure their precedence by gaining the King’s assent for their integration next after English peers of the same rank. After much negotiation the Irish peers were successful.
Percival had free access to the court, and frequently mentions special attention paid to himself by the royal family. Queen Caroline frequently conversed with him, and shared his literary interests. She worked with him to induce a French protégé, Dr. Peter Francis Couraye, to translate into French the Latin Historia sui Temporis (1620) of Jacques Auguste de Thou (Thuanus). In 1733, Prince Frederick and his wife visited Percival at Charleton. His position at court in this year seemed so secure that he advanced the proposal that he be made an earl—in order, he said, that his children might marry better. He enlisted the aid of Lord Grantham and Sir Robert Walpole, and on August 5, 1733, received his wish, becoming Earl of Egmont, another Irish designation.21
By this time Percival had for some years been interested in the Georgia undertaking, and his promotion increased his value to the project. Among his personal papers is a description of the origin of the Georgia venture. Here he recounts Oglethorpe’s presentation of the undertaking to him, on February 13, 1730:
That worthy Gentleman Mr. Oglethorpe … open’d to me a scheme he had form’d, to which I was before a perfect Stranger, but which I very much approved, … to settle a hundred miserable wretches, lately relieved out of jayl, on the Continent of America, and for that end to petition his Majesty for a grant of a suitable quantity of acres, whereon to place these persons, who now they are at liberty starve about the streets, or lye an incumbrance on their friends.22
These initial settlers, Oglethorpe continued, would in time increase in number and become a security to their neighbors against bordering Indians and the encroachments of the French. He proposed that they should be employed in raising hemp, “and flax, which being permitted to make up into Yarn, might be returned to England and Ireland, and so promote our manufactures at the same time as be a subsistence to themselves.”23
Percival was immediately interested in the plan, and thereafter devoted much of his energies to the undertaking. Most of the negotiations between the promoters and the Board of Trade were carried on through Percival or under his name, although Oglethorpe remained the principal guiding force.24 Percival and Oglethorpe soon interested many of their friends in the House of Commons, many of whom had also served on the gaols commission, and thereby the nucleus of the Board of Trustees was formed. Because of his prominence in the enterprise, Percival was named in the charter, issued on June 9, 1732, as the first president of the Georgia Corporation, an office which was rotated among the members attending each meeting. He took the oath of office on July 7, 1732, and subsequently swore in the other Trustees.
The solicitation of gifts of money from private sources to finance the enterprise was the first concern of the Trustees, and here again the association with a figure of Percival’s standing was a great asset. He was personally responsible for many bequests. When the charitable purposes of the plantation were explained to prospective benefactors, the Trustees were rarely refused. Often clergymen volunteered to collect monies for them in their parishes. Sometimes collections were made even without the Trustees’ knowledge or consent. Sometimes fraudulent collections were made in their name. Besides the financial cares of the Trustees, there was the duty of screening prospective settlers in order to assure the selection of persons likely to succeed as colonists. Oglethorpe at length departed aboard the Anne with over a hundred selected settlers on December 16, 1732.
Work went on as usual for the Trustees in London, for without their constant efforts the colony could not have been sustained. Frequent board meetings were held, generally one each week, the proceedings of which Egmont carefully recorded in his journal. New settlers were examined from time to time, and the constant search for money continued. It was obvious that Parliamentary assistance would be essential for the support of the colony, and to this end the Trustees sought and received a grant of £10,000 in 1733. This source of supply proved much more lucrative than private benefactions, and by far the greater part of Georgia’s support was official rather than charitable. Besides funds for general maintenance, there was the cost of the military aspect of the colony, which the Trustees insisted the government bear. They repeatedly stated the impossibility of their undertaking financial responsibility for the protection of the colony.
In the years that followed, the tasks of the Trustees multiplied, and each succeeding yearly section of Egmont’s journal becomes longer. As the business of corresponding with settlers, prospective colonists, government officials, and others increased, a Committee of Correspondence was established, with the power to open letters and prepare drafts of answers to be laid before the next meeting of the Trustees. Egmont faithfully indicated the nature of these incoming and outgoing letters, and sometimes reproduced their text as well.
Routine business such as the approval of correspondence and the issuance of grants of land to settlers took up much of the Trustees’ time. The encouragement of German religious emigrants was one of their interests, and the regulation of trade with the Indians was a necessity. Arrangements were made with Piedmontese silk producers to go over to stimulate the silk industry in which such great hopes were planted. One of their frequent worries was the over-expenditure of funds on the part of Oglethorpe and other officials in Georgia, concerning which the Trustees could rarely get a satisfactory accounting. They always suffered from a dearth of news from Georgia, and they constantly remonstrated with their agents over the lack of information. Not until William Stephens became their secretary in Savannah did they receive regular reports.
Several men approached the Trustees with financial promotional schemes, which, if accepted, would guarantee a certain percentage of the proceeds to the plan’s originator. Others proposed to establish sawmills in Georgia to provide oak timber for the Royal Navy. But most of the plans were visionary, and the Trustees were justly skeptical.
The problem of keeping Georgia “dry” was constantly before the Trustees, and together with trade disputes involved them in bitter quarrels with the South Carolinians, who used the Savannah River to transport rum into their own back country.
The expansion of the original settlement and the establishment of new towns, and their defense, were also concerns of the Trustees, and ones which constituted a heavy financial drain. As they began to press the government for the inclusion of money for the maintenance of the colony in the Annual Estimates, they ran afoul of substantial ill-will in Parliament and in court circles. This hostility had the effect of disenchanting some of the Trustees and Common Councilors, who began to resign their offices under pleas of ill health, protracted absences from town, and the like. Egmont was unsparing in his criticism of individuals who resigned.
He himself threatened to resign on occasion, but refrained from doing so. Only when his health began to fail, especially in the spring and summer of 1742, did he at last resign from the Common Council, rarely being sufficiently well to attend the meetings. His diary reveals his struggle for health. He did remain a Trustee after 1742, and attended in this capacity a score of meetings, as his health permitted, until the last months of his life. The last meeting he attended was on February 13, 1748. He died on May 1 of the same year.
The year following the establishment of the colony, Percival became involved in a difficult situation with the ministry, which ended in his withdrawal from the House of Commons under circumstances that he had not anticipated. Percival’s borough of Harwich was one in which the influence of the government was particularly strong, and in which any candidate for office not supported by the government could scarcely be elected. Percival’s first indication of the deterioration of his power in the borough occurred in 1733, when his candidate for the office of mayor of Harwich was defeated.
He had already indicated his intention to Walpole of substituting his son for himself in the next Parliamentary election. It was opposition to the son rather than to Percival himself which appears to have activated the ministry, for Walpole repeatedly assured Percival of his high regard. The ministry did not actively oppose the son, but its endorsement of him came too late, and was in insufficient strength to secure the election for him. The younger Percival was defeated by a vote of 19 to 13, and his father considered himself a much wronged man. Now neither father nor son sat in Parliament, and Egmont never forgave Walpole.
In 1740 the son again sounded out the borough of Harwich, but found it still too hostile to consider standing for election without the strong support of the ministry, which he did not have. Instead, he stood for a seat from the Borough of Haslemere, in Surrey. Here he had the backing of the electorate, having been invited by a majority of the sixty electors to stand. He was opposed by General Oglethorpe, who had represented Haslemere in the last two parliaments, and by Peter Burrell, an official of the reorganized South Sea Company. His success seemed assured until a representative of the government bluntly warned Egmont that all the resources of the Exchequer would be opened against his son unless he withdrew, and that the government would go to any length necessary to prevent his taking his seat even if he should be elected.
Undeterred, Percival continued his campaign. But before the election, circumstances combined against him, and he decided to withdraw. He fell ill, and then observed his supporters giving way to the opposition’s solicitations; the government’s resources appearing inexhaustible, even his colleague in the campaign confessed himself unwilling to lose more money in an apparently fruitless venture.25
The next year Percival became involved in a complicated political intrigue in which the independent voters of the large and important borough of Westminster sought to defy the traditional control to which Westminster had hitherto been subjected. After a tumultuous campaign and election, Percival at last won his seat, and from a borough which in the past had been considered so secure for the government that it was referred to as the “King’s borough.” These events gave great satisfaction to Egmont, who bore to his grave his grudge against Walpole, justified or not.26
After his withdrawal from Parliament, until his death on May 1, 1748, Egmont devoted more attention than ever to the administration of the colony, and to his literary activities. His personal records, in particular his diary and his personal journal of the Trustees’ meetings, show the effects of much careful work. It was during this period, in the early 1740’s, that Egmont composed his replies to the calumnies against Oglethorpe and the Trustees published by Patrick Tailfer. The latter’s pamphlet, interspersed with Egmont’s rejoinders, is now to be seen as the fourth publication of the Wormsloe Foundation.27
The information provided in the first volume of the Egmont journal is generally more informally presented than that in the official journals, and often it is more instructive. The range of its coverage is as wide as the duties of the Trustees. The earlier part of the record tells of the transportation of the colonists to America, the founding of Savannah, and the progress made in creating a permanent settlement in the wilderness. It speaks of the financial help and encouragement received from Carolina, and the signing of a treaty with the Lower Creek Indians.
The problem of Indian relations occupies a large place in the journal, both with respect to the maintenance of peace and with respect to trade. In the latter connection, grave difficulties soon developed with South Carolina, as Georgia claimed the right to control trade with all Indians within her borders, though Carolina had been accustomed to trading with them in the past. Georgia also petitioned the King not to allow South Carolina grants of land south of the Altamaha River. These and other matters gave rise to bitter quarrels between the partisans of the two colonies in London as well as in America.
Early in 1736 the Trustees began to have trouble with Sir Robert Walpole. The difficulty assumed greater proportions in Egmont’s eyes than it would have otherwise, owing to his controversy with Walpole concerning the borough of Harwich, and the elections at Haslemere and Westminster. The proposal to obtain regular funds for the colony through the Annual Estimates created schism, as other factions showed jealousy of the Trustees’ plan. Walpole, accordingly, ever alert to the temper of the Commons, became reluctant to proceed with the plan. The Trustee Board itself was affected deeply by disagreement arising from the proposed plan. In June, 1736, Egmont reported that T. Frederick, a Trustee, intended to resign because he was a friend of Walpole’s wife, “who is a great Enemy to our Colony.”
Upon his return to England in 1737 Oglethorpe had many interviews with Walpole. Egmont, as a close friend of Oglethorpe, records much of this behind-the-scenes negotiation. Oglethorpe was chiefly concerned at this time with the threat provided by French and Spanish forces in America, and the constant warnings from various quarters that an attack upon Georgia and Carolina was imminent. Walpole agreed at length to send Oglethorpe to America as chief of the military forces of Georgia and Carolina. Later, however, he became frightened at Spanish threats and proposed to drop the scheme. The Trustees then pressed their point with the government, that they were simply unable to defend Georgia with the resources at their disposal, and asked for a protective force. In September, 1737, Walpole at last agreed to allow Oglethorpe to go over with a force of 600 men.
The Trustees had to deal with much discontent in the colony itself. In April, 1735, Egmont notes that the Trustees had received news of an intended insurrection involving wholesale murder and plunder. In July the minister Quincy is said to be in league with the malcontents. William Stephens, in a letter to the Trustees on December 20, 1737, attributed the discontent to the enforcement of land tenure in tail male, and to the prohibition of slavery, two points concerning which the colonists continually complained.
The military danger from the French and Spaniards was constantly a threat. In 1736 Egmont gives an account of an attack by the French Governor Bienville of Louisiana upon the Chickasaw Indians, who were friendly to England. After its repulse, the Chickasaws requested aid from Oglethorpe, who gave them arms and ammunition. Oglethorpe made an inspection of the southernmost reaches of the English dominions in America, the northern side of the St. Johns River, at its mouth. On the basis of the information he acquired, he ordered the construction of several forts. Meantime the Trustees continued to receive report after report of military and naval preparations in Havana and “Moville.”
The Trustees did not remain the harmonious body they were at the outset. They often complained at the independent actions of Oglethorpe, particularly at his alleged excessive expenditure of funds, his secretiveness concerning special instructions he received from the King, and his failure to share information with the rest of the Trustees. In March, 1738, Egmont reported that no less than five Trustees had resigned, because of the Carolina dispute and such factors as “the bad state of the Colony . . . as represented by Mr. John Wesley, the low condition of our Cash . . . the great debts contracted by [Mr. Causton] . . . the unreasoning pique . . . of divers of our Members against Col. Oglethorpe, for having accepted a Regiment … and Sr. Robert Walpole breaking his word’ to include grants in the Annual Estimates. Egmont further records at about this time that Oglethorpe absented himself from meetings “as often as he can without a downright quarrel with us.” He gives what he believes are Oglethorpe’s reasons for acting as he did, one reason being that “he found the Gentlemen resolved to reduce the Colony’s expenses, especially with respect to the military articles.”
The journal notes as a stroke of great good fortune the engagement of William Stephens as Secretary in 1737, and records many letters from Stephens regarding progress in the colony with the Trustees’ replies and directions.
Normally Egmont wrote only on the right-hand page of his journal, but frequently, apparently at a later time, he inserted on the left-hand page additional or explanatory notes, and sometimes inserted the contents of letters which are only mentioned in the regular text. Usually these entries refer by number to a specific entry on the right-hand page. In the present text, these insertions of Egmont’s are interjected immediately after the regular entry to which they refer. If there is no indication of relevance to such an entry, the notation is placed in its proper chronological position. In either case, the entry is preceded by the prefix “[N.B.]”
On occasion Egmont inserted a notation in the text itself, with the prefix “N.B.,” in which case it has been reproduced as it appears in the original form, without brackets.
Egmont methodically prepared careful indices for each year’s entries, with cross references and often informative comment. These have been integrated and collected at the end of the volume, with references to the pages of the printed text. Care has been exercised in this matter, and in the text itself, to preserve the original usage wherever practicable. Changes have been introduced sparingly, and only for the sake of clarity. In keeping with the usage established in the previous volumes of the Wormsloe Foundation Publications, no attempt has been made to identify names and places to which the author refers. It has been deemed sufficient to present the journal as Egmont wrote it, including inconsistencies in spelling and arithmetical errors.
It is with pleasure that acknowledgment is made of the public service rendered by the Directors of the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art in releasing a prized possession, this volume of the Egmont journal, for publication. Appreciation is also expressed to Mr. James T. Forrest, Executive Director of the Institute, for his efforts in this connection. Publication of the manuscript is made possible by the Wormsloe Foundation, of whose volumes of Georgia history the present work forms the fifth.
Especial gratitude is expressed to Professor E. Merton Coulter, for innumerable kindnesses over many years, and for the writer’s introduction to the fascinating subject of the Earl of Egmont.
Robert G. McPherson
1. “Charter of the Colony of Georgia,” in Allen D. Candler, ed., Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, 1904), I, 12–14.
2. Ibid., 23–24.
3. Journal of the House of Commons (London, 1728), XXI, 237–38.
4. British Museum, Additional Manuscripts 47043, 47013.
5. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Manuscripts of the Earl of Egmont (Dublin, 1909), Part II, v.
6. Rpt. on MSS. of Earl of Egmont, Pt. II, 185, 187–88.
7. A Genealogical History of the House of Yvery in its Different Branches of Yvery, Luvel, Perceval, and Gournay (London, 1742), II, 404.
8. Rpt. on MSS. of Earl of Egmont, Pt. II, xi.
9. Ibid., xii.
10. House of Yvery, II, 405.
11. House of Yvery, II, 405.
12. Benjamin Rand, Berkeley and Percival; the Correspondence of George Berkeley, afterwards Bishop of Cloyne, and Sir John Percival, afterwards Earl of Egmont (Cambridge, 1914).
13. House of Yvery, II, 407.
14. Br. Mus., Add. MS. 47087.
15. House of Yvery, II, 410.
17. House of Yvery, II, 410.
19. House of Yvery, II, 430–31.
20. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Diary of John Percival, First Earl of Egmont, I, 293.
21. Ibid., 399.
22. Br. Mus., Add. MS. 47097.
24. Ruth and Albert Saye, “John Percival, First Earl of Egmont,” in Horace Montgomery, ed., Georgians in Profile, Historical Essays in Honor of Ellis Merton Coulter (Athens, Ga., 1958), 10.
25. House of Yvery, II, 458.
26. Ibid., 459–64.
27. Clarence L. Ver Steeg, ed., A True and Historical Narrative of the Colony of Georgia by Pat. Tailfer and Others, with Comments by the Earl of Egmont (Athens, Ga., 1960).