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In Their Own Words

October 07, 1738

Oglethorpe Wrote of Georgians in Need

Georgia was supposed to be a land of milk and honey, where colonists not only provided for themselves but sent silk, wine, and other goods back to England. However, the Trustees quickly found that Georgia colonists were continually in need of money and provisions, as indicated by this letter from James Oglethorpe to the Trustees about the critical situation at Frederica on St. Simons Island:

“1st… . In the enclosed is an account of the condition I found the Southern part of the colony in on my arrival, as also a petition from the people for support. The allegations of it are very true. The Storehouse at Savannah has supported this division of the province so ill that the people must have starved or abandoned the place had not Mr. [William] Horton [on Jekyll Island] give them his own cattle and corn to eat.

“2nd… . Our poor people lost their harvest by reason of their being called by the Spanish alarms from their hoeing… .

“3rd. We want beer here extremely. I brought over twenty tons of beer, which I issued to the soldiers and inhabitants at prime cost, which I believe will be gone before I can receive a supply. There are six barrels a day drawn and paid for in ready money. It would be very proper, therefore, if the Trustees’ affairs would allow it, to send over a cargo of at least 50 or 60 tons strong beer and that of the same as I had from Mr. Hucks in Southwark. It will be a better remittance than even bills, since beer’s being cheap is the only means to keep rum out of the colony…

“4th. Upon the necessity I have granted the petition so far as to continue to furnish the people upon credit with six pounds of breadkind and 2 pounds of meat per week, and 1 pint of molasses, viz. 2 pounds flour, 1/2 peck Indian corn. They had 4 pounds meat, but I have now reduced them to 2 pounds.

“5th. I shall when I come to Savannah strive to reduce all the Trustees’ expenses as much as I can… . I have great difficulties to struggle with, as you may conceive, a great number of mouths to feed, empty magazines and no money… .

“Among other disappointments, the great droughts and the Spanish alarms last year hath rendered the best and most zealous part of the people incapable of supporting themselves this year.

“The Spaniards have tempted the Creek Indians with great presents to join against us, which they have refused… . I shall see them in a few days at Savannah. This will be a new expense, for there must be presents given to them.

“If we do not supply these expenses, the people cannot keep together here. I desire therefore an answer as soon as possible what I should do … .”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), General Oglethorpe’s Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), pp. 353-354.