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In Their Own Words

April 10, 1738

Readiness for War and Rum Problems Noted in Journal

William Stephens wrote in his journal of two problems which constantly faced colonial Georgia - having enough men at arms to deal with an invasion, and the presence of rum in the colony:

“…The two Constables Jones and Fallowfield (which was all we had) came early to Town on the pres- ent Occasion, from their distant Plantations, and took Breakfast with me, conferring on the Affair they came about; which was more immediately to look into the Condition of the Arms. It was resolved (for Experiment Sake) to order the Drum to beat immediately to Arms, that thereby we might see how alert the People were, and what Number would get together on a sudden, without previous Notice. It was so done, and in less than an Hour’s Time we saw eighty odd Men in the Centre of the Town, with their proper Arms, well appointed, and all able Men, Freeholders; such as were ab- sent, were almost every Man Abroad, busy in planting: And great Pity would it be, should any unlucky Occasion break their good Purposes now, and cut short a Number of Acres in a promising Way to be planted; which probably might otherwise amount to double at least, if not treble^ the Quantity of any Year past. Those who now appeared, after firing off their Pieces singly (which was done with scarce any Baulk) were dis- charged, and allowed to exercise their Weapons of Husbandry on their Land, if they inclined to it: And those who were at too far Distance to appear on Beat of Drum, the Officers undertook to visit, and inspect their Arms on their Return Home. Mr. Causton being returned to Town, I caused my two disorderly Servants to appear before him, and the other Magistrates, that Examination might be stridlly made into Saturday Night’s Debauchery: And it appeared, that in the Space of so short a Time, they had visited no less than four Houses, and bought and drank Rum in them all; which was the less to be wondered at, when it was so notoriously known, that those private Rum-Shops were become as common among the People, in Proportion, as Gin-Shops formerly at London. After some sharp Admonitions and Threats of Whipping-Post, in case of the like Offence hereafter, they were dismissed, upon Promises of better Behaviour. What Course to take for suppressing this Evil (daily increasing) of Rum selling, was worthy a due Consideration.”

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, pp. 121-122.