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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Politics and Racing in Colonial Georgia

By William Stephens (1671–1753)

[Born on the Isle of Wight, 1671. President of the Georgia Colony. Died in Georgia, 1753. A Journal of the Proceedings in Georgia. 1742.]

AN ODD humor being lately sprung up among some of our people for horse-racing, several days successively, it gave me a jealousy of some farther latent design, when I observed it was promoted by that desperate crew, whose whole study and employment was to disturb the quiet of the place, and keep the spirits of the well-meaning in a continual flutter.

The horses were ordinarily mean and low-priced, such as are mostly adapted to common uses, for hire, etc.; the riders also ready, for payment in drink, to contribute to the diversion. The race a little more than a quarter of a mile, from the gate of the public garden, to the midst of Johnson’s Square. This answered the purpose of the betters (Dr. Tailfer and his associates) very well, and occasioned a gathering together of a number of people, idling; among whom, a great number of children, in the way of danger (as I thought).

After the race was over, it was very remarkable that, instead of going to Jenkins’s, Tailfer directed the bets to be spent at another public house: for this reason only, as I could find; because he could there find more people to talk to, than at their club; several not scrupling to go here, who would have thought it a scandal on themselves to be seen in their company at the usual place of their meeting.

Seeing matters thus carried on, I had the curiosity to try if we could not penetrate farther into what they were doing. Wherefore, Mr. Jones and I went in the evening to the same house (Mr. Parker being out of town at his plantation) and, taking a little room adjoining to this assembly, we called for a glass of wine, sitting to observe what passed; where we soon discovered what I guessed to be their business, and could hear distinctly their prolocutor displaying his parts most vehemently to his audience, in a long harangue, to show how grievously ill-used this poor colony had been, for a great while past, through the arbitrary proceedings of those who had the government of it: and now at last, after all, they could imagine, that people were to be sweetened by some trifling amendments which they thought fit to make, in relation to the inheritance of their lands. But he would make it appear it was the basest tenure in Christendom; and that it was not in the power of any man living to be safe in what he held, it being liable to such a multitude of forfeitures, which the grantors would, at their pleasure, take advantage of. But he hoped in a few months to see a new leaf turned over, and that justice would be done by a superior power; and as for those tools who worked under them here (meaning, without doubt, such as had the execution of the Trust’s commands) it was in vain for them to conceal their instructions; for all must now very soon come to light, etc., with abundance more such like ribaldry, too long to dwell upon here; all tending to inflame his hearers, and excite disturbances.

I could not find, however, with all this connivance, that any person of good character had joined their company; only two or three loose, idle fellows were got among them, who had more regard for their share of drink in the wagers lost, than to the doctor’s eloquence. But the staunch members of the club stuck together, as at other times. After about an hour’s stay, my companion having no longer patience to bear such roasting among others, we walked off, and left them to make what they pleased of it.