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Dec December

In Their Own Words

December 27, 1740

Proposal to Divide Georgia into Two Provinces

According to Georgia’s charter, no Trustee could hold civil office in the colony. Yet, in many ways, James Oglethorpe functioned as an acting governor. Eventually, many of the Trustees back in London felt that he had assumed too much civil authority and was responsible for many of their policies not being implemented in the colony. Finally, on this day, James Vernon made a proposal to fellow Trustees to dramatically alter the form and location of civil power in Georgia, as noted by the Earl of Egmont in his diary:

“He [James Vernon] therefore recommended to the gentlemen to consider seriously, whether it were not necessary to vest some person with a superior authority to act in the Province than any now there is possessed of (Col. Oglethorpe excepted) and to make such person wholly independent of Col. Oglethorpe, whose time is so much taken up in the military concerns of the colony, that ‘tis impossible for him to conduct the civil affairs of it. That in his own opinion it will be necessary to create a President and Council for the North division of the Province, and a President and Council for the Southern division. That by making two Presidents we should avoid the constituting one person to govern the whole province, and so preserve the colony to ourselves; otherwise the appointing of a single person for the whole, would be in a manner surrendering our charter: for when once we had established a Governor whose choice must be approved of by the King, we could not remove him again at pleasure, and by our charter such Governor would be obliged to obey not only the Trustees’ order but the orders also of any persons under His Majesty, whereby the Board of Trade (our enemies) would become our masters, and not regarding or acquainting the Trustees, would send over such orders as they pleased which might on a multitude of occasions clash or interfere with the orders sent by the Trustees: so that no gentleman would continue in the Trust to be rivalled, disputed with, and become subservient to the Board of Trade, who know as little of the colony as they do of trade. That he thought Col. [William] Stephens would in every gentleman’s judgment be the fittest person for President of the North, with some handsome salary to support the dignity of it, and for the southern division, we might compliment Col. Oglethorpe with being President, he being resident there. He would not indeed act as such with any salary, the Charter not allowing any of the Trust to hold a place of profit, but probably he would execute the Office for nothing.

“He [Vernon] concluded that he made no motion at this time concerning this charge [change?] of the constitution, but desired the gentlemen would turn it in their thoughts.

“All persons came readily into his scheme, and he was directed to sketch out a plan, which he promised… .”

Source: U.K. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Diary of the First Earl of Egmont (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1923), Vol. III, pp. 171-172.