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In Their Own Words

December 19, 1740

Trustees Discussed Civil Authority

In London, the Georgia Trustees met to discuss Georgia affairs. After agreeing to petition Parliament for an appropriation of £7,000 for the support of Georgia, the discussion turned to the controversial issue of the exercise of civil authority in Georgia. The Trustees had appointed William Stephens as their secretary in the colony, and they had attempted to administer the colony through orders sent to Stephens. However, as indicated in the Earl of Egmont’s diary, many colonists listened instead to James Oglethorpe (who was now a colonel with his own regiment stationed at Fort Frederica):

“Mr. [James] Vernon hinted to the gentlemen the necessity of appointing some person in Georgia with greater authority than any now are invested with, in order that the Trustees’ commands and instructions may be better executed than hitherto, instancing the misfortune of the light-house being ready to fall by means of a person in the colony who had neglected the repair, and prevented it when it might have been repaired in time. He meant Col. Oglethorpe, who assuming too much authority to himself, expects that whatever orders we send, though ever so peremptory, shall not be complied with till he give his own directions therein.

“The Trustees had before taken out of his hands the fingering the money, and now Mr. Vernon thought fit to take from him also any concern in the civil affairs of the colony… .”

Source: U.K. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Diary of the First Earl of Egmont (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1923), Vol. III, p. 169.