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In Their Own Words

June 12, 1738

Problems with Servants Fleeing to Carolina

This day’s entry in the journal of William Stephens showed the problem many Georgians had with their servants running off to South Carolina and being declared free from service there:

“… In our farther Discourse he touched upon another Affair, which I thought indeed worth No- tice; and that was concerning the Hardships we lie under here in relation to such Servants as run away, and find Shelter in Carolina: A fresh Instance of which he gave in a Wench who run away from her Master some Time since, and being lately discovered in Charles-Town, was pursued and taken in a Man’s Service there; who going with them before a Justice of Peace, and her former Master producing her Indenture duly executed and assigned in Form to him; which Indenture too was printed on Parchment in the Manner directed by the Trustees; the Justice made no Scruple to vacate the Indenture by
his own Authority, declaring her to be free, though she had two Years yet to serve: Which carried with it such Consequence, that any of our Servants, who can escape thither, may reasonably expect the same Freedom, for the like Reason given by the Justice, viz. that such Indenture was never authorized by any Justice of Peace in England. Which if it holds good, it is to be feared few or no Masters have a Right to their Servants for Want of such Allowance. … “

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, p. 155.