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In Their Own Words

February 14, 1730

Percival Diary Entry on Oglethorpe’s Work

James Oglethorpe is widely credited as the founder of Georgia. One reason is that he personally led the first English settlers to the new colony in 1733. Yet, there is another reason. Oglethorpe was an important force in the origin of the Georgia movement in Parliament, as noted by Sir John Percival in his diary:

“… I afterwards went to the House [of Commons] … . I met Mr. Oglethorp, who informed me that he had found out a very considerable charity, even fifteen thousand pounds, which lay in trustees’ hands, and was like to have been lost, because the heir of the testator being one of the trustees, refused to concur with the other two, in any methods for disposing the money, in hopes, as they were seventy years old each of them, they would die soon, and he should remain only surviving trustee, and then might apply all to his own use. That the two old men were very honest and desirous to be discharged of their burthen, and had concurred with him to get the money lodged in a Master of Chancery’s hands till new trustees should be appointed to dispose thereof in a way that should be approved of by them in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor. That the heir of the testator had opposed this, and there had been a lawsuit thereupon, which Oglethorp had carried against the heir, who appeled against the decree; but my Lord Chancellor had confirmed it, and it was a pleasure to him to have been able in one year’s time to be able at law to settle this affair. That the trustees had consented to this on condition that the trust should be annexed to some trusteeship already in being, and that being informed that I was a trustee for Mr. Dalone’s legacy, who left about a thousand pounds to convert negroes, he had proposed me and my associates as proper persons to be made trustees of this new affair; that the old gentlemen approved of us, and he hoped I would accept it in conjunction with himself, and several of our Committee of Gaols [Jails] … . I told him it was a pleasure to me to hear his great industry in recovering and securing so great a charity, and to be joined with gentlemen whose worth I knew so well; that I had indeed been thinking to quit the trusteeship of Dalone’s legacy, because we were but four, and two of them were rendered incapable of serving and the third was a person I never saw. That when I accepted the trusteeship it was in order to assist Dean Berkley’s Bermuda scheme, by erecting a Fellowship in his college for instructing negroes … .

“… He [Oglethorpe] then returned to the new trusteeship, and said that though annexed to this of Dalone’s, Dalone’s legacy might be a matter remaining distinct from the scheme he proposed for employing the charity he had acquainted me with … . That he had acquainted the Speaker, and some other considerable persons, with his scheme, who approved it much, and there remained only my Lord Chancellor’s opinion to be known… .[T]hat the scheme is to procure a quantity of acres either from the Government or by gift or purchase in the West Indies and to plant thereon a hundred miserable wretches who being let out of gaol by the last year’s Act, are now starving about the town for want of employment; that they should be settled all together by way of colony, and be subject to subordinate rulers, who should inspect their behaviour and labour under one chief head; that in time they with their families would increase so fast as to become a security and defence of our possessions against the French and Indians of those parts; that they should be employed in cultivating flax and hemp, which being allowed to make into yarn, would be returned to England and Ireland, and greatly promote our manufactures. All which I approved… .”

Source: U.K. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Diary of the First Earl of Egmont (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1923), Vol. I, pp. 44-46.