[NOTE: With this “historical problem” winding down, let’s see what information we’ve found that might help identify the author of the letters and the pamphlet signed by “A Citizen” between 1783 and 1785. “A Citizen’s” identity was still a matter of contention as late as the spring of 1788, when William McIntosh, Jr., son of Georgia Revolutionary War hero General Lachlan McIntosh, seemed to point the finger of suspicion at Seth John Cuthbert. Moreover, perhaps unwittingly, a newspaper scribbler eulogizing Cuthbert following his death in November 1788 perhaps added credence to the younger McIntosh’s charge.
It is also important to remember in this connection that neither every defender of “A Citizen,” nor every critic, knew “A Citizen’s” identity. In other words, said defender or critic might have thought he knew which Georgian he was defending or attacking, but that does not mean that his identification was any more than an educated guess. Moreover, even if the writer did know who “A Citizen” was, that did not mean that he had a firm grasp of the factual details of “A Citizen’s” career during the Revolution. I realize this is not reassuring information for those who have been following this historical problem, but, unfortunately, lack of certainty is sometimes reality for the historian trying to use contemporary newspapers as primary sources!]
- From his letter to the Georgia Gazette, February 6, 1783 we learn that “A Citizen” clearly was a foe of George Walton in the very fluid atmosphere of post-Revolution factional alignments in Georgia.
- From that same letter, we also learn that “A Citizen” favored economy in government, including cutting salaries of public officers and reducing the size of the state legislature.
- Letters to the Georgia Gazette attacking him, however, described “A Citizen” himself as “a humble hanger on [the] publick for a large salary,” so it seems likely that he was then serving as a state official.
- Towards the end of his pamphlet, “A Citizen” offered praise for the current Auditor of Georgia, John Wereat: ““There are, I believe, many and great demands still remaining against these [confiscated] estates; what channel they will next be thrown into for liquidation and settlement I am unapprised of; in my judgment there can be none so proper, or conducive to the publick [sic] good, as that of the Auditor. Could the gentleman who has nearly gone through the Herculean task of auditing and arranging the other accounts of the state be prevailed upon to undertake this, I am persuaded it would diffuse general pleasure. To the honour of this Officer let me bear testimony, as far as I have had an opportunity of observing, that, even under the disadvantage of an infirm state of health, the effects of his zeal, fidelity, and abilities, have been conspicuous: Whilst, on the one hand, he had done ample justice, under the article of savings, to his country, on the other, he has had the singular fortune to render satisfaction to the individuals concerned. For him it was reserved to bring forth order from confusion, and to reduce the chaos of claims into a system of accounts.” (29-30)
- Assailants claimed that “A Citizen” had been drawing rations for his family despite the fact he had a plantation and slaves “to procure him a comfortable support in the neighbourhood where he hung as a dead weight on the then drooping state of Georgia.”
- “A Citizen” was described as “an herald, with a face like a rising sun.”
- Allegedly, during the Revolution, “A Citizen” had leaped into a hole at Augusta when that place was threatened with attack by the British.
- Again according to his foes, “A Citizen” had been whipped by “Col. M_r__n and H__ry W__d—and had borne it “with truly Christian Patience.”
- The author of “A Citizen,” according to critics, had taken parole from the Tory leader Colonel Thomas Brown and on the back of the written parole had obtained protection for his property from Captain Smith.
- According to his opponents, the author of “A Citizen’s” pamphlet had pretended to join Georgia Whig militia leader Elijah Clarke, but then had “’skulked at home’ when time came—he had had protection from the British, had even showed it to M___r C______, but destroyed it ‘at the Red House in Carolina‘” and remained in Augusta after Elijah Clarke’s retreat. When Colonel Thomas Brown discovered this “perfidious double dealing,” he sent “A Citizen” to Charles Town as a prisoner.
- “A Citizen” also supposedly speculated in public money, purchasing goods in Charles Town to sell in Augusta “at an enormous advance.”
From letters to the Georgia Gazette defending “A Citizen”:
- His “knowledge, integrity, and impartiality, in the office he now [in 1783] fills, is universally acknowledged. . . .”
- While not in a “fighting department” during the Revolution, “A Citizen” was “necessarily employed in the publick service since the beginning of the Revolution. . . .”
- At the time of Weatherford’s attack on Augusta, “A Citizen” was disabled, with his right hand in a sling—also at the time he was whipped by Martin and Wood (see #7 under “1783,” above). And Colonel John Martin had acknowledged this and claimed to be sorry for his assault on “A Citizen.”
- In the aftermath of the appearance of “A Citizen’s” pamphlet, Cursory Remarks, in late December 1784, Levi Sheftall sent a letter to editor James Johnston of the Georgia Gazette, signed “A Real Citizen.” A revised version of this missive was published in the Georgia Gazette on January 13, 1785 (we can not be certain which member[s] of the Sheftall family actually did the revising, though the smart money seems to ride on Mordecai Sheftall).
2. Following the fall of Charles Town to the British, the author of Cursory Remarks had his movable property and slaves, which were far removed from the enemy, brought back within enemy lines.
3. “A Citizen” also allegedly sought a pardon from Sir Henry Clinton.
4. “A Citizen” had also been the partner with a half-breed, Johnny Carnard, in selling stolen slaves back to the state.
[NOTE: In the next installment, I shall offer a suggestion as to the identity of “A Citizen of Georgia,” the author of Cursory Remarks on Men and Measures in Georgia (1784). I must emphasize that the solution will only be a suggestion, so please feel free to offer your own solution to the puzzle.]
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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)