A History of Georgia: From Its First Discovery by Europeans to the Adoption ...‎ - Page 164

by William Bacon Stevens - 1847




While Oglethorpe was thus engaged in Florida, a plot was discovered among the Indians, which threatened serious consequences to all the southern colonies. This was occasioned by the artful intrigues of a German Jesuit named Christian Priber, who was employed by the French to spy out the condition of the English provinces, and to seduce the Cherokees from their allegiance to the English.

He went up into the nation in 1736, and conforming at once to all their manners and customs, made himself master of their language, and gradually insinuated into their minds a distrust of their allies, a love for the French, and such notions of independence and importance as made them fit to assert rights never before claimed, and which he knew would not be conceded; and upon this anticipated refusal, he based his scheme of bringing them to an open rupture with the English.

Acting upon their vanity, he got up what in the eyes of the savages was a splendid coronation scene, in which he crowned the chief as king of the confederated towns, and bestowed upon the other head-men and warriors such pompous titles as flattered their pride and stimulated their ambition.

Priber was appointed royal secretary to the King of the Cherokees, and under this official title corresponded with the English Indian agents and the colonial governments. An attempt was made by South Carolina to secure him, and Colonel Fox was sent up as a commissioner to demand him of the Indian authorities; but he had so ingratiated himself with them that they refused, and with such a spirit and resentment that the commissioner was compelled to return without securing his prey.

His ascendency over the nation was great. He used the Indians as the tools of his machinations, and they looked upon him with feelings of profound veneration, and professed subservience to his scheme of linking their interest to that of the French on the Mississippi and- the Gulf of Mexico. His plans, however, were defeated by his capture at the Tallipoose town, when within a day's journey of the French garrison, to which he was hastening.

Thus secured by the traders, he was sent down with all his papers under a strong Indian guard to Frederica, to be judged and punished as Oglethorpe should direct. On the return of the general from Florida, he ordered his strange prisoner to be examined, and was not a little surprised to find under his coarse dress of deerskins and Indian moccasins, a man of polished address, great abilities, and extensive learning. He was versed not ouly in the Indian language, of which he had composed a dictionary, but also spoke the Latin, French, and Spanish fluently, and English perfectly.

Upon being interrogated as to his design, he acknowledged that it was " to bring about a confederation of all the southern Indians, to inspire them with industry, to instruct them in the arts necessary to the commodities of life, and, in short, to engage them to throw off the yoke of their European allies of all nations." He proposed to make a settlement in that part of Georgia which is within the limits of the Cherokee lands at Cusseta, and to settle a town there of fugitive English, French, and Germans; and they were to take under their particular care the runaway negroes of the English. All criminals were to be sheltered, as he proposed to make his place an asylum for all fugitives, and the cattle and effects they might bring with them.

He expected a great resort of debtors, transported felons, servants, and negro slaves from the two Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia, offering as his scheme did toleration to all crimes and licentiousness, except murder and idleness. Upon his person was found his private journal, revealing, in part his designs, with various memoranda relating to his project. In it he speaks not only of individual Indians and negroes, whose assistance had been promised, and of a private treasurer in Charleston for keeping the funds collected ; but also that he expected many things from the French, and from another nation whose name he left blank. There were also found upon him letters for the Florida and Spanish governors, demanding their protection of him, and countenance of his scheme.

Among his papers was one containing articles of government for his new town, regularly and elaborately drawn out and digested. In this volume he enumerates many rights and privileges, as he calls them, to which the citizens of this colony are to be entitled, particularly dissolving marriages, allowing a community of women, and all kinds of licentiousness. It was drawn up with much art, method, and learning; and was designed to be privately printed and circulated.

When it was hinted to him that such a plan was attended with many dangers and difficulties, and must necessarily require many years to establish his government, he replied: " Proceeding properly, many of these evils may be avoided ; and as to length of time, we have a succession of agents to take up the work as fast as others leave it. We never lose sight of a favourite point; nor are we bound by the strict rules of morality in the means, when the end we pursue is laudable. If we err, our general is to blame; and we have a merciful God to pardon us." " But, believe me," he continued, " before this century is passed, the Europeans will have a very small footing on this continent."

Indeed, he often hinted that there were others of his brethren labouring among the Indians for the same purpose. Being confined in the barracks at Frederica, he exhibited a stoical indifference to his fate, conversed with freedom, conducted with politeness, and attracted the notice and favourable attentions of many of the gentlemen there. His death in prison put an end to all further proceedings, and his plans died with him.
Such was the strange being, whose Jesuitical intrigues well nigh eventuated in the destruction of Georgia. A thorough Jesuit, an accomplished linguist, a deep tactitian, far-sighted in his plans, and far-reaching in his expedients, he possessed every qualification for his design, and only failed of bringing down great evil upon the English, because he was apprehended before his scheme had been matured.


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