In Their Own Words
December 12, 1737
Stephens Met with a Malcontent
William Stephens, in his position of leadership in colonial Georgia, strove to reconcile with some of the Malcontents - the group opposed to the Trustees’ regulations in Georgia. In his journal on this day he recorded a meeting with one of them - and actually used the word “malecontent” to describe the group”
“…Upon some Conver- sation, with Mr. Robert Williams, I was glad to find him discourse with much better Temper than I had observed formerly, relating to the Tenure of Lands, and the great Discouragements complained of by him, and some others, mostly Scotchmen, who (as I have before noted) intend to represent their Case to the Trustees. These may truly enough on this Head only be deemed Malecontents, be- ing continually infusing into Peoples Heads bad Notions of the Precariousness of their Tenure, and going so far as to term it a Slavery under the Trustees, who probably would take Possession in Time of the Fruits of their Labour, in case they were ever able to bring their Lands to any Perfection, after throwing away the best of their Substance in the Way they now went. As I never heard such Speeches without Indignation, so I always took upon me to rebuke them freely. Otherwise (to do them Justice) they expressed an Abhorrence of the civil Dis cord in the Town, and openly, on all Occasions, took Part with the Magistrates, in Opposition to any Sedition. At this Conference Mr. Williams told me very frankly, that notwithstanding what his Brother and othher Friends had wrote, which greatly shock’d him, and had almost made him resolve to leave all, and quit the Province; yet he had fully considered of it now, and was determined with himself to try one Year more, and run all Hazards, still hoping the Trustees would take it into Considera- tion, and relieve them by some Means or other, before they had lost all. Then he talk’d warmly of the great Desire he had to see the colony flourish, and that no Man should go greater Lengths, or run greater Risks in promoting it, provided he could have any rational View of Success; with Abundance more to the same Purpose; and a few Negroes was always at the End of it. I said as much as was proper for me, assuring him in general Terms, that the Trustees had it undoubtedly much at Heart, to encourage all such especially as went on in good Earnest with Improvements; and I did not doubt but a little Time would show it in some Shape or other, as they thought best. So he left me in good Humour.”
Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, pp. 48-49.