Charter granted by Charles II. to the Trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia—The design of the colony—General Oglethorpe—English settlers arrive at Savannah—“Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge”—Interest on behalf of the Salzburgers—Arrangements to remove the Salzburgers to Georgia—Fifty families engaged for the first transportation—Provision made by the “Society”—Liberality of the “Trustees”—First company of emigrants—Love of country—Departure from their homes—Incidents of their journey—The city of Augsburg—Hospitalities extended to the Salzburgers—Recommence their travels—Rev. S. Urlsperger—Effects of the sojourn of the Salzburgers at Augsburg—Revival of religion—Further incidents—Arrival at the city of Frankfort—Conduct of the Burgers—Procession—Entrance into the city—Hospitality of the inhabitants—Departure from Frankfort—The Maine and Rhine—Arrival at Rotterdam—Rev. Messrs. Bolzius and Gronau—Departure from Rotterdam—Arrival at Dover, in England—Impressions made by the emigrants on their English benefactors—Preparations for leaving England—Departure of the Purisburg, first ship with German emigrants.
WHILE the scenes recorded in the latter part of the previous chapter were transpiring, events were occurring in England, which in the providence of God, were destined to result in lasting benefits to the Salzburgers. In 1732, a charter was granted by Charles II. to twenty-one noblemen and gentlemen in England, constituting them a body corporate, by the name of, “The Trustees for establishing the Colony of Georgia, in America.” The design of this enterprise, as stated by the trustees themselves, was not only to provide a home and the means of subsistence for the indigent inhabitants of Great Britain, but also to furnish “a refuge for the distressed Salzburgers and other Protestants.” This colony was planted by General James Oglethorpe, who arrived in Georgia, with the first company of English settlers, on the 20th of January, 1733, and laid the foundation of the city of Savannah.
No sooner was this corporation organized and its objects made known, than the “Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge” began to interest itself for the removal of some of the Salzburgers to Georgia; and as early as the 12th of October, 1732, they made application to the “Trustees” to aid them in their benevolent designs. The “Trustees” did not feel authorized at this time, to do more for the Salzburgers than to offer them grants of land in their new colony; all the funds which they controlled having been raised for a different purpose. Steps were however immediately taken, to ascertain whether any of the German Protestants were willing to remove to Georgia, and become British subjects; submitting themselves to such rules as the “Trustees” might prescribe. “The Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge” opened a correspondence with several prominent Protestant ministers in different parts of Germany, in order to ascertain if the Salzburgers were disposed to avail themselves of their kind offices, and remove to the asylum which it was proposed to provide for them in America.
From their correspondents the “Society” learned, that there were hundreds of the persecuted Protestants who were not only willing, but anxious to emigrate. This fact was communicated to the “Trustees,” who, warranted by a special fund, recently raised for the purpose, sent in December, 1732, an invitation to fifty families of the Salzburgers to remove to Georgia.
At the same time, the venerable “Society” proposed to pay their expenses from Germany to Rotterdam, and to furnish the means to support among them a pastor and a catechist. Various causes prevented the immediate execution of these plans. In the mean time, a liberal grant of money was made by the British Parliament to aid the colony, which, together with three or four thousand pounds from private benefactions, enabled the “Trustees” to carry out more fully the benevolent intentions of the Society. They consequently wrote again to Germany and requested that a portion of the Salzburgers might be sent over to England, to prepare for their transportation to America; and, in the mean time, money and articles of clothing were forwarded to the continent, to supply their wants and relieve their distresses during the journey.
One cannot but admire the liberality which the trustees displayed, in the terms upon which they proposed to transplant these poor, persecuted Germans to their new colony. To such as were deemed worthy of their patronage, they advanced the funds necessary to pay their passage and furnish sea-stores. On arriving in Georgia, each Salzburger was to receive three lots. “One for a house and yard within the town, and one for a garden near the town, and one for tillage at a short distance from the town, (the whole embracing fifty acres,) said lands to be a free-hold to them and to their heirs forever.” In addition to this, the trustees engaged to furnish them with provisions until their lands could be made available for their own support. In consideration of these very liberal grants, the Salzburgers were to obligate themselves to obey the trustees’ orders, and become citizens of Georgia, with all the rights and privileges of Englishmen.
The necessary arrangements having all been completed, the first company of emigrants began to prepare for their journey. These were from the town of Berchtolsgaden and its vicinity. One may readily imagine the varied sensations of these devoted Christians, as the time drew near which was to witness their departure from their homes and their country. True, they had there endured severe persecutions and trials ; but they were men whose natural affections had been refined by the mild influences of Christianity, and, with all its faults, they loved their country still. There, too, were the scenes of their childhood, endeared by all the fond recollections of early life, and hallowed by those religious associations so peculiarly grateful to the pious heart. Yet, how dear soever were their native hills and vales, and painfully pleasing as were many of the reminiscences of the past, they could not have failed to realize that they were the objects of a cruel hate, and that they held their property and their lives at the disposal of a merciless foe. Beside, their religious principles, which they esteemed more precious than life, had been denounced as heresy, and the right to worship God in accordance with their views and feelings had been denied them. Thus circumstanced, how peculiarly grateful must have been the prospects which unfolded themselves to their vision, as they contemplated their removal from what might, with propriety, be styled the land of their captivity and cruel oppression, to a country where, freed from the restrictions now imposed upon them, and placed beyond the reach of their spiritual enemies, they could worship the God of their fathers without hindrance, and secure to themselves and their posterity a heritage of freedom.
At length the day for their departure arrived. Behold now these pious pilgrims about to leave forever their country and their homes. “They were indeed a noble army of martyrs going forth in the strength of God, and triumphing in the faith of the gospel, under the severest hardships and the most rigorous persecutions. They were marshalled under no banners, save that of the cross, and were preceded by no leaders, save their spiritual teachers and the great Captain of their salvation.”* They carried with them no weapons, save their hymn-books and their Bibles, and as they journeyed they made the air vocal with their praises to Him who, though he had permitted them to be persecuted and even exiled, had not left them without protection and friends, nor given them up into the hands of their oppressors.
Setting out on foot, the direction of their journey required them to pass through Bavaria, and at almost every step they were exposed to insult. Whenever it suited the Catholic authorities, these wanderers were turned aside from their course, and every effort was made to embarrass them and render their situation unpleasant. But no hindrances could check their zeal, no promises or threats could change their determination. Onward they march, through the midst of foes, until at last they pass the territory of Bavaria, and arrive before the gates of the free city of Augsburg, in Swabia. But the gates of that renowned city were closed against them.*
This was indeed a severe trial. In this very place, two hundred years previously, Melancthon and Luther had presented to the Emperor Charles V. and the assembled princes of Germany, that venerable symbol of the reformed faith which from this city received the name of the Augsburg Confession.† It was for embracing this confession, and for their consistent and unwavering maintenance of its doctrines, that they had endured so much persecution, and were now Pandering in exile, seeking for a home in a distant and unknown clime. However, though at first repulsed, the officers of the city, overawed by the Protestant inhabitants, reluctantly admitted the emigrants, and their Lutheran brethren immediately made provision for their entertainment and the supply of their wants. Here for a season they rested, enjoying the kind hospitality of their Christian friends, and gathering from their sympathy and their offices of love, fresh courage and encouragement for the further prosecution of their long and tedious journey.
The news of the arrival of the Salzburgers at Augsburg, soon spread through the neighbouring countries, and now it would seem that the sympathies of evangelical Christians were generally aroused on their behalf. Not only did the Lutheran pastors and their flocks manifest a deep interest in their welfare, but princes, professors, and students in the universities and colleges vied with each other in doing honour to those who, in obeying the dictates of their consciences and yielding to a sense of religious obligation, had preferred banishment, rather than renounce their attachment to the gospel.*
On the 21st day of October, 1733, the Salzburgers recommenced their pilgrimage, after a discourse and prayer, and a benediction. This company of emigrants consisted of forty-two men, with their families, numbering in all seventy-eight persons. The arrangements for their transportation to Georgia had been previously made with the “Trustees,” by the venerable Samuel Urlsperger, then pastor of the Lutheran church of St. Ann in the city of Augsburg, who bestowed special attention upon them during their sojourn, and ever afterward watched over their welfare with the solicitude of an affectionate father. On leaving the city, the Salzburgers, were furnished by their friends, with three rude carts, in one of which they placed their baggage, while the others conveyed their feeble women and helpless children ; the rest travelled on foot. It was under such circumstances that they began their weary march, as pilgrims seeking a better country.
The sojourn of the Salzburgers in Augsburg was not without its practical effects upon the inhabitants of the city. The power of the gospel was so strikingly exemplified in the patience and fortitude which they displayed amid all their sufferings, and they evinced a spirit of such deep and fervent piety in their general deportment, that by their example many were awakened, and the churches were blessed with a very gracious revival of religion. Thus, while they were flying from persecution, God was employing their instrumentality in multiplying the triumphs of evangelical truth.
After leaving Augsburg, the incidents connected with their journey varied according to the religious character of the country through which they passed. At one time they are encouraged by the hospitality and sympathy of friends; at other times, exposed to the scoffs and maltreatment of their enemies. To-day they receive every assistance which Christian kindness can suggest; to-morrow they are threatened by their adversaries, and turned aside from their way by their intolerant enemies. But amid the most trying circumstances they were cheerful and happy, always looking up to the throne of God with joyful hope, and sustained by the promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Pursuing their weary pilgrimage, they arrived at length at the Protestant city of Frankfort, in Nassau. The burghers of the city, hearing of their approach, went out to meet and welcome them, and extend to them a hospitable reception. We can easily imagine with what warm enthusiasm these Christian men greeted the toil-worn exiles, and how affecting was the scene, as they embraced each other as the disciples of the same Saviour, and as the professors of a common faith. Their salutations being over, and the first gust of feeling having subsided, a procession was formed, headed by the pious burghers, and they marched into the city two by two. And how solemn and imposing their entrance! No clangour of trumpets, no notes of martial music herald their approach. They pass into the city, not amid the shouts of the noisy multitude, but singing one of those beautiful psalms in which they had been wont, in their native land, to pour forth the pious aspirations of their souls to their Saviour and their God. This little incident speaks volumes in testimony of the truly devotional spirit which characterized these people, and shows, too, that their strength lay in the simplicity of their faith.
At Frankfort, as at Augsburg, the Salzburgers experienced every attention which Christian affection could suggest and an ample charity provide. After remaining here for a few days to refresh themselves, and to partake of the bounty of their brethren, they embarked upon the Maine, and soon found themselves floating upon the waters of the beautiful Rhine. “As they passed between the castled crags, the vineyards, and the white-walled towns that adorn its banks, their conversation, amid hymns and psalms, is of justification and sanctification.”* Thus employed, the hours glided away, not only pleasantly but profitably, and they realize every day more fully the joys and consolations of that religion for the enjoyment of which they had suffered the loss of all things.
On the 27th of November they reached the city of Rotterdam. Here they were joined by their chosen teachers, the Rev. John Martin Bolzius, and Rev. Israel Christian Gronau. The former had been superintendent of the Latin Orphan House at Halle, and the latter a tutor in the same institution. These pious men, in the exercise of a truly missionary spirit, had consented to relinquish the lucrative and honourable positions which they held in the institution at Halle, that they might accompany the Salzburgers to Georgia, and minister to their spiritual wants. Subsequent events showed, that this important trust was confided to those who were in every respect worthy of it. Very little is known of the early history of Messrs. Bolzius and Gronau. All that has been ascertained in reference to Mr. Bolzius is, that he was born on the 15th of December, 1703, and ordained to the gospel ministry on the 11th of November, 1733.
After staying for a week at Rotterdam, the emigrants, in company with their pastors, embarked on board of one of the Trustees’ ships on the 2d of December. Their passage down the English Channel was a long and tedious one, the weather having been boisterous and the winds adverse.
On the 21st day of December they arrived safely at Dover, in England. Here they were visited by the “Trustees,” who bestowed on them every attention which their circumstances seemed to require. Nor did they fail to engage the sympathies of their English friends. Their piety and humility, their exemplary conduct under all circumstances, together with the sufferings and privations which they had endured in the cause of Christian truth, commended them to the confidence and the kind regards of all who were capable of appreciating their virtues or pitying their wrongs.
The arrangements for their voyage to America were made with all reasonable despatch, and the 28th day of December was fixed upon as the time for their departure for their new homes. The Trustees administered to each Salzburger an “oath of strict piety, loyalty, and fidelity,” after which they spent several hours in devotional exercises.* Their pastor preached to them an appropriate sermon from the words, (Isa. xlix. 10,) “He that hath mercy on them will lead them.” In this address he endeavoured, by reviewing the mercies which they had experienced under the most trying circumstances, to inspire them with fresh confidence in the goodness of God. He encouraged them to believe, that He who had hitherto been their protector, and had defended them against all the machinations of their enemies, would watch over them amidst the dangers of the trackless ocean, as well as those to which they might be exposed in the strange land whither they were going. After singing a hymn and uniting in prayer, the Purisburg, (the first ship conveying German emigrants,) unfolded her sails, and the first company of Salzburgers who were to aid in the colonization of Georgia, departed for their distant home.