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In Their Own Words

April 17, 1839

Fanny Kemble’s Final Journal Entry from Georgia

In her final letter from Georgia, Fanny Kemble Butler wrote:

“We shall leave this place next Thursday or Friday [April 18 or 19], and there will be an end to this record; meantime I am fulfilling all sorts of last duties, and especially those of taking leave of my neighbors … .”

“On Sunday I rode to a place called Frederica to call on Mrs. A[bbott], who came to see me some time ago. I rode straight through the island by the main road that leads to the little church… .

“This Frederica is a very strange; it was once a town – the town, the metropolis of the island. The English, when they landed on the coast of Georgia in the war, destroyed this tiny place, and it has never been built up again. Mrs. A[bbott]’s, and one other house, are the only dwellings that remain in this curious wilderness of dismantled crumbling gray walls compassionately cloaked with a thousand profuse and graceful creepers. These are the only ruins, properly so called, except those of Fort Putnam, that AI have ever seen in this land of contemptuous youth. In my country [England], ruins are like a minor chord in music; here they are like a discord; they are not the relics of time, but the results of violence; they recall no valuable memories of a remote past, and are mere encumbrances to the busy present. Evidently they are out of place in America except on St. Simons Island, between this savage selvage of civilization and the great Atlantic deep.

“Now E[lizabeth], I have often spoken with you and written to you of the disastrous effect of slavery upon the character of the white men implicated in it … . I know that the Southern men are apt to deny the fact that they do live under an habitual sense of danger; but a slave population, coerced into obedience, though unarmed and half-fed, is a threatening source of constant insecurity, and every Southern woman to whom I have spoken on the subject has admitted to me that they live in terror of their slaves.”

Source: Frances Anne Kemble, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984), pp. 330-342.