[NOTE: Last month, I introduced an “historical problem” about the writings of an angry Georgian after the American Revolution who called himself “A Citizen.” Although “A Citizen’s” pamphlet, Cursory Remarks on Men and Measures in Georgia (1784), is the focus of this exercise, the author actually made his debut on the public stage in Georgia even before his pamphlet was scattered about the streets of Savannah.
“A Citizen” lashed out at the appointment of George Walton as Chief Justice of Georgia early in 1783, and this attack set off a bitter exchange in the Savannah Georgia Gazette that lasted into November. Thus, “A Citizen’s” 1784 pamphlet would be the culmination of a public debate that had begun almost a year earlier. I also gave a “homework assignment” last time, a review of a post on the bitter division among Georgia’s patriots during the Revolution that played a major role in determining political alliances after the war ended, and especially George Walton’s role.]
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“A Citizen,” GG, 6 Feb. 1783, attacking George Walton’s appointment as Chief Justice:
“How a man could be thought eligible by the Legislature to fill an office of the first consequence in the state, while a charge of the most heinous nature lay against him before that body, is an inexplicable paradox, a solecism in politicks [sic], which the world will never be able to comprehend, unless publick [sic] infamy shall be considered as the only recommendation to publick trust.”
The author also calls attention to “the heavy load of debt already contracted, and which is daily accumulating. . . ,” so sales of confiscated estates will not meet obligations. His solution: “[A]dopt a different mode of conduct for the time to come, for every man to bear a part of the burthen, to contract your expenses, lower the salaries of your publick officers, lessen the number of your Representatives, strike off the pay of your Council and assembly, and pursue every other oeconomical [sic] plan that can be devised. . . .” [Note the patronizing tone, in keeping with the notion of “deferential society” later articulated in the 1784 pamphlet. Referring to “hangers on upon government” who “like beasts of prey, fatten upon the carcass of their country as they devour it,” “A Citizen” seems to imply that he was not active in politics—BUT, see “Scourge,” 27 Feb., below.]
“A Citizen of Georgia,” GG, 20 Feb. 1783—extract of committee report approved by vote of 22-19 in state house’s committee of the whole, 27 Jan. 1783:
That all lands and other estates, real and personal, which have been sold under the Confiscation Act passed at Augusta the 4th of May, 1782, ought by law to have been payable[note verb tense] as follows, that is to say: the said real estates in seven years, and the said personal estates in four years; nor is any power lodged with any person or persons independent of the House of Assembly, or any discretionary power whatever to accept or receive payment of the same, or any part thereof, (except the interest from year to year as the same shall grow due,) within that time, either in specie or otherwise howsoever; it being expressly declared by law, that the commissioners should take bond and mortgage from the purchasers, and that the purchase money should remain as a fixed fund, productive of a yearly interest for said respective terms of seven and four years.”
Writer claims report “was the cause of much commotion at the time it was passed, and has since given rise to many injurious reports to individuals. . . .”
“Scourge,” GG, 27 Feb. 1783—takes “A Citizen” to task for “the several calumnious assertions he makes use of to stigmatize the character of” patriotic Chief Justice George Walton. Furthermore: “The frightful picture of finance which he depicted could not be intended to promote oeconomy [sic], as he himself is an humble hanger on [the?] publick for a large salary, and has been for several years besides drawing rations for his whole family, when he had a plantation and negroes [sic] to procure him a comfortable support in the neighbourhood [sic] where he hung as a dead weight on the then drooping state of Georgia.”
“Hercules Wormwood,” GG, 6 Mar. 1783—jumps on “Scourge,” referring him to “the opposite column to his piece in your last paper for an explanation of his card,” referring to decision of legislative committee to label as a “forgery” the letter that had led to General Lachlan McIntosh’s suspension from his Continental Army command in Georgia.
“A Whip,” GG, 6 Mar. 1783–also attacks “Scourge,” informing him that “throwing dirt at others, whether true or false, will never cleanse himself, no more than the management of his friends to get him into office.” Also advises him “not to boast in future of his patriotick [sic] zeal as much as he has done, lest it should be made to appear, by investigating his conduct since it deserved any notice, that his zeal was always for himself, and not the publick.”
“Scourge,” GG, 13 Mar. 1783—returns to the attack, sneering at “A Citizen” as “an herald, with a face like a rising sun” who escaped, via his letter, “from the hole cowardice thrust him into at Augusta when threatened by an attack from one Weatherford and from his being doubly protected by the British, both in person and property. . . .” Claims that “A Citizen” also wrote letters signed “Wormwood” and “A Whip,” “for which he deserves to be made to drink his own bitters, and feel his own whip, as he formerly did those of Col. M__r__n, H__ry W__d, &c. &c. &c. &c. whose WHIPS he bore with truly Christian patience.” “Scourge”denies that “Wormwood” and “A Whip” were correct in their assumption as to his identity.
Presentments of Grand Jury of Chatham for 4 Mar. [GG, 13 Mar. 1783] contain a vigorous denunciation of Chief Justice Walton and a defense of their refusal to act under him. [Walton was suspended.]
“Who D’ye Think,” GG, 20 Mar. 1783—tells “Scourge” to refute assertions of “A Citizen,” if he can.
“Scourge,” GG, 27 Mar. 1783—”Scourge” returns (although Gazette editor James Johnston has refused to print part of his letter). Asserts that “Who D’ye Think” is merely “A Citizen” with a new pseudonym. Gets down to specifics as to charges leveled against “A Citizen”:
“Is it not true that cowardice thrust you (as it is well known you hid yourself) into a trench or hole at Augusta [ca. Sept. 1780], when Weatherford alarmed that post? Is it not true that you took a parole from [Georgia Loyalist] Col. [Thomas] Brown, and was so much in favour [sic] with a British Capt. Smith as to obtain his protection for your property on the back of that parole? Is it not true that you put a white feather in your hat, as if you would join [Georgia militia] Col. [Elijah] Clarke? Did you join him? Did not you and three others skulk at home at that critical time? Had you not then a protection from the British, which you shewed to M—r C——, and which you afterwards destroyed at the Red House in Carolina, as did also one of your fellow prisoners who also had taken British protection? Is it not true that, when Col. Clarke retreated, (at Cruger’s approach) you remained behind? Did not Col. Brown, when he discovered your perfidious double dealing, make you a close prisoner, and send you to Charlestown, and so from a DESERTER of your country’s cause made you a PATRIOT?!!! Is it not true that Col. M—r—n and H—y W—d whipped you for your insolence, and did not you bear it with truly Christian patience? Is it not true that you speculated with large sums of PUBLICK MONEY, by purchasing goods in Charlestown to sell at Augusta at an enormous advance? Do you think I don’t know your partners in INIQUITY, and the manner you at last accounted for part of the sums? Is it not true that you meanly skulked from the defence [sic] of your country, and had the meanness to draw rations for your family. . .?
“A Subscriber,” GG, 3 Apr. 1783—writes to deplore exchange between “A Citizen” and his assailants, then proceeds to defend “A Citizen” against charges leveled by “Scourge.” Claims that “A Citizen’s” “knowledge, integrity, and impartiality, in the office he now fills, is universally acknowledged, and the choice does honour [sic] to his country; if he has not been in the fighting department, his spirit is not the less doubted, he was equally useful otherwise, and necessarily employed in the publick [sic] service since the beginning of the Revolution without reflection. When a party of the enemy in the night surprised the scattered and defenceless [sic] town of Augusta, it was surely more prudent, and indeed commendable in him, to keep out of their way, than suffer himself to be made a prisoner, as he was then disabled and could make no resistance, which was his situation also, with his right hand in a sling, when he was insulted by H—-y W—d and Col. M—–, and was disgraceful only to the assailants, which I am told the last has often acknowledged and was sorry for.” [NOTE: John Wereat and Samuel Stirk were among Georgians made prisoner by the British in Augusta.]
“Mentor,” GG, 27 Nov. 1783—writes on the eve of the election to offer advice to voters. Says Georgia lacks a number of elements necessary for “national importance,” e.g., European ships in port; well-assorted stores; police; money in the treasury. Blames lack of funds in treasury on an unfortunate fact:
“that the largest purchasers [of confiscated estates] had such powerful influence in your Assembly—the House decreed this property to the state; their friends became the greatest purchasers; they have been at the trouble of occupying, cultivating, and reaping the benefits of it for twelve or fifteen months, and, by an exertion of the same influence, have annihilated the agreement in every instance where the purchaser chooses—“ [emphases in original]
These proceedings have made the state government “a subject of abuse and contempt.” “Mentor” agrees that purchasers’ ruin would have been inevitable if they had complied with the original agreement, but he “cannot admit they have any claim to publick commiseration.” Argues that, if the Assembly had to be compassionate to a group of people, “the payment of that virtuous suffering soldiery who made you independent, would be a better field for the appropriation of publick property than the salvation of speculators, or the aggrandizement of a board of commissioners [of confiscated property], however respectable.”
To begin reforming this situation, voters must make wise choices during forthcoming legislative elections. “Mentor” offers advice: “Elect no publick defaulter: Elect no man of infamous publick or private report; . . . Do not adopt adventurers or renegades merely because your Constitution allows it. . . . Elect no man merely because he is called a Divine or a Lawyer, for a professional name in no proof of common sense or common honesty. . . . Elect no man because he is noisy, nor reject every man who may have taken protection or have sought refuge in another country, unless you can find him particularly violent and active against others in the same predicament; . . . If any man, even a former Governor, Treasurer, Delegate, an Indian Superintendent, or Purchaser of publick property, has not accounted with the state, though you cannot immediately bring him to trial, be aware notwithstanding how you confer appointments on him. . . .”
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[NOTE: For next time, I have another “homework assignment” for those interested in playing along with this Historical Problem: read the first part of my post on factions and parties in Georgia between 1783 and 1806.]
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For those interested in reading more about Georgia History, here are links to my books on the subject:
Rancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities: Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)
In Pursuit of Dead Georgians: One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)
Politics on the Periphery: Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)