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In Their Own Words

February 17, 1739

Unhappy Savannah Colonists

From New Ebenezer, Salzburger minister Johann Martin Boltzius recorded in his journal about unhappy Savannah colonists:

“An Englishman told me the contents of the petition which the citizens of Savannah, from the highest to the lowest, have addressed to the Lord Trustees and of which a copy was sent to Mr. Oglethorpe in Frederica. They ask: (1) For full power to dispose of their land as they wish, i.e. to sell it or give it away to whomever they wish. (2) For free and full commerce with the West Indies, so that they may import from there not only a few restricted goods but all that can be bought, including rum, for their own trade here. For, unless they also buy rum from the merchants there, they are refused sugar, molasses or syrup, and other goods. If, however, such free trade were permitted, they hope that many ships will come from the West Indies to Savannah to deliver their cargo and load up with cut and sawed wood, boards, etc., of which there is said to be a great shortage down there, to the benefit of the inhabitants here, for otherwise no one can subsist in Savannah. (3) For a limited number of Negroes or Moorish slaves, without whom no Englishman here can exist. They cannot get anywhere with the whites, whom they cannot treat as they would the Negroes, the fault for which condition, however, is to be blamed more on the masters than on the servants.

“It is said that many copies of this petition, which is a special document that is most obnoxious to Mr. Oglethorpe, have reached friends of high rank and members of Parliament in England and Scotland. It was drafted and sent, it is said, because the people in Savannah had learned that the citizens of Frederica had likewise drafted and sent a petition to the Trustees in London, wherein they requested the very opposite of the previous three articles, viz, to refuse permission for free disposition over the land, free commerce with the West Indies, and the introduction of Negro slaves. The original of the Savannah petition will be presented to the Lord Trustees themselves by a gentleman merchant from Savannah, a Captain [Robert] Williams, who may well be the author of this document. He is intending to travel to England shortly on his vessel via St. Christopher. If he should not succeed with the Trustees, he is empowered to present it to the King’s Privy Council and to Parliament.”

Source: George Fenwick Jones and Renate Wilson (trans. and ed.), Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America … Edited by Samuel Urlsperger, Vol. VI, 1739 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981), pp. 24-25.