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Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. III. The Growth of the National Spirit: 1710–1775

Patrick Tailfer

PATRICK TAILFER, who appears to deserve the credit, whatever it may be, of being the main author of the remarkable tract soon to be mentioned, seems to have been a physician by profession. The date and place of his birth are uncertain, as is also the exact time of his emigration to Georgia, whence, becoming dissatisfied with the conduct of affairs, he went, in 1740, to Charleston, South Carolina. There he printed in the following year, with the coöperation of Hugh Anderson, David Douglas, and others, A True and Historical Narrative of the Colony of Georgia in America from the First Settlement thereof until the Present Period. This masterpiece of irony was reprinted the same year in London, and can be found by the curious in Force’s Historical Tracts. It is a bitter accusation of selfishness, greed, and despotism brought against General Oglethorpe, whom even Pope had praised, as merciless as it is contemptuously polite and coolly mordant. It is perhaps the most finished product of colonial polemics, though it is certainly malicious, and probably unjust in most particulars.

An Ironical Dedication.
[From “A True and Historical Narrative of the Colony of Georgia,” etc. Charleston, S.C., 1741.]

To His Excellency

General and Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Forces in SOUTH CAROLINA and GEORGIA; and one of the honorable Trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia in America.
May it please your Excellency,
As the few surviving remains of the colony of Georgia find it necessary to present the world (and in particular Great Britain) with a true state of that province, from its first rise to its present period, your Excellency (of all mankind) is best entitled to the dedication, as the principal author of its present strength and affluence, freedom and prosperity: and though incontestible truths will recommend the following NARRATIVE to the patient and attentive reader, yet your name, SIR, will be no little ornament to the frontispiece, and may possibly engage some courteous perusers a little beyond it.

That dedication and flattery are synonymous is the complaint of every dedicator who concludes himself ingenuous and fortunate, if he can discover a less trite and direct method of flattering than is usually practised; but we are happily prevented from the least intention of this kind by the repeated offerings of the Muses and News-Writers to your Excellency in the public papers. ’Twere presumptuous even to dream of equalling or increasing them; we therefore flatter ourselves that nothing we can advance will in the least shock your Excellency’s modesty, not doubting but your goodness will pardon any deficiency of elegance and politeness on account of our sincerity and the serious truth we have the honor to approach you with.

We have seen the ancient custom of sending forth colonies, for the improvement of any distant territory or new acquisition, continued down to ourselves; but to your Excellency alone it is owing that the world is made acquainted with a plan highly refined from all those of former projectors. They fondly imagined it necessary to communicate to such young settlements the fullest rights and properties, all the immunities of their mother countries, and privileges rather more extensive. By such means, indeed, these colonies flourished with early trade and affluence; but your Excellency’s concern for our perpetual welfare could never permit you to propose such transitory advantages for us. You considered riches, like a divine philosopher, as the irritamenta malorum and knew that they were disposed to inflate weak minds with pride, to pamper the body with luxury, and introduce a long variety of evils. Thus have you protected us from ourselves, as Mr. Waller says, by keeping all earthly comforts from us. You have afforded us the opportunity of arriving at the integrity of the primitive times by entailing a more than primitive poverty on us. The toil that is necessary to our bare subsistence most effectually defends us from the anxieties of any further ambition. As we have no properties to feed vain glory and beget contention, so we are not puzzled with any system of laws to ascertain and establish them. The valuable virtue of humility is secured to us by your care to prevent our procuring or so much as seeing any Negroes (the only human creatures proper to improve our soil) lest our simplicity might mistake the poor Africans for greater slaves than ourselves. And that we might fully receive the spiritual benefit of those wholesome austerities, you have wisely denied us the use of such spirituous liquors as might in the least divert our minds from the contemplation of our happy circumstances.

Our subject swells upon us, and did we allow ourselves to indulge our inclination, without considering our weak abilities, we should be tempted to launch out into many of your Excellency’s extraordinary endowments, which do not so much regard the affair in hand. But, as this would lead us beyond the bounds of a Dedication, so would it engross a subject too extensive for us to the prejudice of other authors and panegyrists. We shall therefore confine ourselves to that remarkable Scene of your Conduct, whereby Great Britain in general, and the Settlers of Georgia in particular, are laid under such inexpressible obligations.

Be pleased then, Great Sir, To accompany our heated imaginations in taking a view of this colony of Georgia! This child of your auspicious politics! arrived at the utmost vigor of its constitution, at a term when most former states have been struggling through the convulsions of their infancy. This early maturity, however, lessens our admiration that your Excellency lives to see (what few founders ever aspire after) the great decline and almost final termination of it. So many have finished their course during the progress of the experiment, and such numbers have retreated from the phantoms of poverty and slavery which their cowardly imaginations pictured to them; that you may justly vaunt with the boldest hero of them all,

  • … Like death you reign,
  • O’er silent Subjects and a desert Plain.
  • Busiris.
  • Yet must your enemies (if you have any) be reduced to confess, that no ordinary statesman could have digested in the like manner, so capacious a scheme, such a copious jumble of power and politics. We shall content ourselves with observing, that all those beauteous models of government which the little states of Germany exercise, and those extensive liberties which the Boors of Poland enjoy, were designed to concenter in your system; and were we to regard the modes of government, we must have been strangely unlucky to have missed of the best, where there was the appearance of so great a variety; for under the influence of our Perpetual Dictator, we have seen something like Aristocracy, Oligarchy, as well as the Triumvirate, Decemvirate and Consular Authority of famous Republics, which have expired many ages before us: What wonder then we share the same fate? Do their towns and villages exist but in story and rubbish? We are all over ruins; our public-works, forts, wells, high-ways, light-houses, store and water-mills, &c, are dignified like theirs, with the same venerable desolation. The log-house indeed, is like to be the last forsaken spot of your empire; yet even this, thro’ the death or desertion of those who should continue to inhabit it, must suddenly decay; the bankrupt jailor himself shall be soon denied the privilege of human conversation; and when this last moment of the spell expires, the whole shall vanish like the illusion of some Eastern Magician.

    But let not this solitary prospect impress your Excellency with any fears of having your services to mankind, and to the Settlers of Georgia in particular, buried in oblivion; for if we, diminutive authors, are allowed to prophesy (as you know poets in those cases formerly did) we may confidently presage, that while the memoirs of America continue to be read in English, Spanish, or the language of the Scotch High Landers, your Excellency’s exploits and epocha will be transmitted to posterity.

    Should your Excellency apprehend the least tincture of flattery in anything already hinted; we may sincerely assure you, we intended nothing that our sentiments did not very strictly attribute to your merit; and in such sentiments, we have the satisfaction of being fortified by all persons of impartiality and discernment.

    But to trespass no longer on those minutes, which your Excellency may suppose more significantly employed on the sequel; let it suffice at present, to assure you, that we are deeply affected with your favors; and tho’ unable of ourselves properly to acknowlege them, we shall embrace every opportunity of recommending you to higher powers, who (we are hopeful) will reward your Excellency according to your merits.

    May it please your Excellency,
    Your Excellency’s
    Most devoted Servants,
    The Land-Holders of Georgia,
    Authors of the Following Narrative.

    The Dictatorship of Mr. Thomas Causton, Bailiff and Store-Keeper.
    [From the Same.]

    AS his power increased, so did his pride, haughtiness and cruelty; insomuch that he caused eight freeholders with an officer, to attend at the door of the court, every day it sat, with their guns and bayonets, and they were commanded, by his orders, to rest their firelocks as soon as he appeared; which made people in some manner afraid to speak their minds, or juries to act as their consciences directed them. He was seldom or never uncovered on the bench, not even when an oath was administered; and being perfectly intoxicated with power and pride, he threatened every person without distinction, rich and poor, strangers and inhabitants, who in the least opposed his arbitrary proceedings, or claimed their just rights and privileges, with the stocks, whipping-post and log-house, and many times put those threatenings in execution; so that the Georgia stocks, whipping-post and log-house, soon were famous in Carolina, and everywhere else in America, where the name of the province was heard of, and the very thoughts of coming to the colony became a terror to people’s minds. And now the Province of Carolina, who had, in private and public donations, given upwards of 1300l. sterling, seeing these things, and how the public money was thrown away, began to despise the colony, and out of a regard to the welfare of their fellow-creatures, persuaded everybody they could from settling in it. That this absolute power might be exercised without the least interruption, the other magistrates were such, that they either were unable or incapable to oppose it. It’s true, in December 1734, Mr. Causton met with a little interruption; for the Trustees then sent over to Savannah one Mr. Gordon, as chief magistrate, who being a person of a very winning behavior, affable and fluent in speech, soon got the good-will of everybody, and a great many of the people laid their grievances and hardships open to him, which seemed a little to eclipse Mr. Causton; but he soon found out an expedient to remove this adversary, viz. by refusing him provisions from the store, which in a little time rendered him incapable to support himself and family, whereby he was obliged, after about six weeks stay, to leave the place, in order, as he said, to represent our grievances to the Trustees, and soon after returned to London; but he did not perform his promise, for what reason we sha’n’t pretend to determine; and some time thereafter he either resigned or was dismissed from his office of first bailiff, and Mr. Causton was appointed in his stead. As to Mr. Henry Parker, who was appointed third bailiff when Mr. Gordon came over, he was, in the first place, a man who had nothing to support himself and large family but his day-labor, which was sawing, and consequently as soon as his time was otherwise employed, he must be entirely dependent on the store for his subsistence: In the second place, he was a man of no education; so that Mr. Causton soon moulded him to his own liking, and infused into him what notions he pleased: Thirdly, he was and is an absolute slave to liquor, and he who plies him most with it (which Causton always took care to do, and whose example has been since followed by his successor Jones) has him, right or wrong, on his side. As to Mr. Christie, the Recorder, he was easily over-ruled by the other two; and the same practice was always continued; for he who was appointed third bailiff after Gordon’s dismission or resignation, was one Darn, nigh seventy years of age, crazed both in body and mind, who died not long after his appointment; and his successor R. Gilbert, could neither read nor write; so that Causton had never after Gordon’s departure, any opposition made by the other magistrates to his arbitrary proceedings. If we should allow ourselves to enter into a detail of the particular instances of such proceedings, we should exceed much our proposed bounds: We shall therefore confine ourselves to two only, which may serve as a specimen of the many others. ONE is, that of Capt. Joseph Watson: This person having incurred Mr. Causton’s displeasure, was indicted for stirring up animosities in the minds of the Indians, &c. tending to the ruin and subversion of the colony. Upon his trial, the jury in their verdict, found him only guilty of some unguarded expressions, (altho’ twice returned and hectored by Mr. Causton, who acted both as witness and judge in the matter) and verbally recommended him by their fore-man to the mercy of the court, imagining or supposing he might be lunatic; (however, as it afterwards appeared, it was represented to the Trustees that the jury found him guilty of lunacy in their verdict) whereupon he was immediately confined by Mr. Causton, (altho’ sufficient bail was offered) and kept prisoner near three years, without any sentence. But, as we are informed this affair now lies before a proper judicature, we shall say no more of it.

    The other instance is that of Mr. Odingsell, who was an inhabitant of Carolina, and had been a great benefactor to the infant colony of Georgia, having given several head of cattle and other valuable contributions, towards the promoting it. This person having come to Savannah to see how the colony succeeded, after he had been there a few days, being abroad sometime after it was night, as he was going to his lodgings was taken up in the street for a stroller, carried to the guard-house, and threatened with the stocks and whipping-post; the terror and fright of which (he being a mild and peaceable man) threw him into a high fever with a strong delirium, crying out to every person who came near him, that they were come to carry him to the whipping-post; and after lying two or three days in this distracted condition, he was carried aboard his boat in order to be sent home, and died in the way somewhere about Dawfuskee Sound.