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In Their Own Words

February 12, 1743

Oglethorpe Responded to Complaints

From Frederica, James Oglethorpe wrote the Trustees in response to the public criticisms of Georgia that former colonist Thomas Stephens was making in London. Among Oglethorpe’s solutions to Georgia’s problems were eliminating rum and promoting more marriages:

“… It was not ‘till after the war obliged me to be upon the frontier that the laws for the welfare of the colony and the Trustees’ orders were disobeyed at Savannah. There has been since my coming away nothing but continual complaints between the Magistrates and inhabitants and between each other… . since this spirit has been stirring, the town and district of Savannah has decreased daily in men. I find they say at the bar they drank rum publicly. I believe it may at Savannah have been drank plentifully by the great sickness and mortality there, but here there has been no such thing and the people have been healthy.

“The mortality in America is chiefly owing to distilled liquors. The mixing with water makes them less hurtful, but is very far from making them wholesome.

” … I can assure you if rum is allowed in any shape here the soldiers will be unfit for action and the inhabitants for labour, and sickness will be as fatal as at Jamaica which will then be imputed to the climate.

“The first measures for us at Trustees to take is after supporting religion to encourage marriage and the rearing up of children.

“… The sending over single women without families that could protect them might be attended with indecencies, but the giving passage to the wives, sisters and daughters of recruits and a small maintenance ‘till they go on board would be a remedy to this and much the cheapest way of peopling the country, since after their arrival they are no further expense, for their husbands can maintain them.

“We have found also that the married soldiers live easiest, many of them having turned out very industrious planters… .”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), General Oglethorpe’s Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), Vol. II, pp. 658-661.