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In Their Own Words

May 19, 1740

Oglethorpe Financial Problems Recorded in Journal

Because of the five- to six-week delay in hearing news from Georgia, the Trustees were not aware that James Oglethorpe had launched his campaign to take St. Augustine. On this day, the Earl of Egmont recorded in his diary Oglethorpe’s recent efforts to obtain permission to return to England. He had mortgaged his estate and other personal properties in Surrey in order to pay unfunded expenses in Georgia. Now, apparently, Oglethorpe’s creditors were threatening to foreclose:

“I spent most of the morning at the Georgia Office, and then visited Col. Cecil who is a relation of Col. Oglethorpe, and lives in his house. My visit was to endeavour to persuade him of the dis-service it would be to Col. Oglethorpe to have any application made in his behalf for obtaining a dormant warrant of leave to return home, which he has directed his agent Mr. Furty to obtain for him. I said the very mention of of such a thing at a time when he has orders to attack the Spaniards, would be ill interpreted, and [Prime Minister] Sir Robert Walpole, who loves neither him or the colony, could certainly take the advantage of it against him; besides, that if the colonel should come over to England in time of war, the inhabitants of the colony would fly to other parts as not believing they could be safe.

“Col. Cecil replied that Col. Oglethorpe’s private affairs required his return, and there was no disgrace in desiring a dormant warrant to return when he should judged the service of his Majesty allowed of it, which is the style such warrants run in. That if he stay there [Georgia] he will ruin himself, embarking in great expenses for the colony’s defence which the Trustees cannot pay, and which he is uncertain whether the Government will allow. That it seemed to him as if it was designed to sacrifice him, and the Colonel could not but apprehend it himself… .”

Source: U.K. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Diary of the First Earl of Egmont (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1923), Vol. III, p. 142.