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In Their Own Words

April 23, 1732

Diary Entry on Georgia Charter Signing

Sir John Percival, later designated first Earl of Egmont, was a member of the House of Commons who had served on James Oglethorpe’s committee that investigated London’s prisons. Both were key forces in the movement to create a colony from Carolina’s southern lands. After numerous delays, Percival finally received word that King George II had signed the royal charter creating the colony which would bear his name. But, there was one problem - the language of the charter had been drafted with the assumption that the charter would have been approved before February 1732. As Percival noted in his diary, the late signing of the charter caused a problem:

“Sunday, 23 - Went to chapel, then to Court.

“Mr. Sharp, Clerk of the [Privy] Council, told me that our Carolina Charter had been signed by his Majesty Friday last [April 21], but that the Duke of Newcastle desired first to know whether we would not have the time appointed for filling up the number of trustees to 24 altered; for in the charter as it now stands, the time required is on Tuesday the second or third week in February, which time being lapsed by the delay of the charter, we cannot do it till February next year, but if we would have the date altered to some day of this or the next month, his Grace was ready to do it, but then the charter must be new drawn. Mr. Sharp added that Mr. Oglethorp [sic] and others of the trustees having been consulted thereon, replied they were willing to let the charter proceed as it stands, though we cannot fill up our number [of Trustees] till next year. Their reason was that if the charter be altered it must go again to the Council and occasion a further delay which might endanger the loss of the charter, at least for this year. I told him and Mr. Holland, as also Mr. la Roche, who I saw soon after, that it put a great hardship on the 15 trustees [named in the charter], to be obliged to act a twelvemonth almost without filling up their number to 24, as required by the charter, because it was on supposition of that complete number that the charter requires a quorum of eight trustees, which being more than half the body, will be hard to find to meet together, because of sickness or necessary avocations. They said it was true, but the chief of our business for a twelvemonth will be only to get in subscriptions and settle schemes for our proceeding, which may be left to committee. I granted it will be a great while before we can proceed to anything of good purpose, because without a necessary fund of money we can do nothing, and I said that under £12,000 we could not undertake to send families over lest we should starve them, for the estimate ought to be made in the highest manner, because of many disappointments we should meet with, and a good stock of money remain for contingencies and unforeseen accidents… . “

Source: U.K. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Diary of the First Earl of Egmont (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1923), Vol. I, pp. 260-261.