In Their Own Words
December 09, 1738
Unhappy Colonists Petitioned Trustees
Unhappy Georgia colonists regularly complained to the Trustees over policies prohibiting slaves, female inheritance, and free title to their land grants. Typical was this petition signed by 121 Savannah colonists on this day:
“… None of all those who have planted their land have been able to raise sufficient produce to maintain their families in bread-kind only … . So that by the accumulated expenses every year of provisions, clothing and medicines &c. for themselves, families and servants, several have expended all their money, nay even run considerably in debt, and so been obliged to give off planting and making further improvements. And those who continue are daily exhausting more and more of their money and some daily increasing their debts without a possibility of being reimbursed according to the present constitution [charter].
“…[T]imber is the only thing we have here which we might export, and, notwithstanding we are obliged to fell it in planting our land, yet we cannot manufacture it fit for a foreign market but at double the expense of other colonies. As for instance, [the people at] the River of May, which is but twenty miles from us, with allowance of Negroes, load vessels with that commodity at one-half the price that we can do… . It is very well known that Carolina can raise everything that this colony can and they, having their labour so much cheaper, will always ruin our market unless we are in some measure on a footing with them… . We do from a sincere and true regard to the welfare and in duty both to you and ourselves, beg leave to lay before your immediate consideration the two following chief causes of these our present misfortunes … .
“1st. The want of a true title or fee simple to our lands, which if granted would both occasion great number of new settlers to come amongst us and likewise encourage those who remain here cheerfully to proceed in making further improvements, as well to retrieve their sunk fortunes as to make provision for their posterity.
“2d. The want of the use of Negroes with proper limitations, which if granted would both induce great numbers of white people to come here and also render us capable to subsist ourselves by raising provisions upon our lands, until we could make some produce fit for export and in some measure to balance our importation. We are very sensible to the inconveniences and mischiefs that have already and do daily arise from an unlimited use of Negroes, but we are as sensible that these may be prevented by a due limitation, such as so many to each white man or so many to such a quantity of land … . By granting us, Gentlemen, these two particulars and such other privileges as His Majesty’s most dutiful subjects in America enjoy, you will not only prevent our impending ruin … . But if by denying us these privileges, we ourselves and families are not only ruined, but even our posterity likewise, you will always be mentioned as the cause and authors of all their misfortunes and calamities which we hope will never happen… .”
Source: Mills Lane (ed.), General Oglethorpe’s Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), Vol. 2, pp. 373-375.