Biographical Memorials of James Oglethorpe
Thaddeus Mason Harris

Part 6 out of 6

silk was a thing very practicable in Virginia, and even asserted that
as a staple, it might be made superior to tobacco, in which opinion he
was confirmed by the judgment of several others. That they made some
advances in this culture, is evident from the fact that the Coronation
robe of Charles II., in 1660, was made of silk reeled in that colony,
and even so late as 1730, three hundred pounds of the raw material
were exported from Virginia. Tobacco, however, soon assumed and
maintained the ascendancy, to the exclusion of this more useful and
beautiful produce.

In 1703, Sir Nathaniel Johnson introduced the silk culture into South
Carolina, but the astonishing success which rewarded the casual
introduction of rice into the plantation about eight years before,
precluded a just interest in the undertaking, and as a public and
recognized commodity it soon came to naught, though several persons,
more for amusement than profit, still gave their attention to it; and
as late as 1755, Mrs. Pinckney, the same lady to whom the province was
indebted for the first cultivation of indigo ten years before, reeled
sufficient silk in the vicinity of Charleston to make three dresses,
one of which was presented to the Princess Dowager of Wales, another
to Lord Chesterfield, and the third, says Ramsay, who narrates the
circumstance, "is now (1809) in Charleston in the possession of her
daughter, Mrs. Horrey, and is remarkable for its beauty, firmness and

But notwithstanding these failures and the known difficulty of
introducing a new branch of agriculture into a country, as was
evidenced by the compulsion which was necessary by Henry IV.
to introduce it into France, against the united voices of the
merchants-traders, and even in opposition to the Duke of Sully, and
also the indifference manifested in England, notwithstanding the able
proclamation of King James on the subject, commanding its cultivation;
the Trustees for the settlement of Georgia determined to make one more
effort, which, if successful, would enrich both the province and the
mother country. The views which they entertained, however, of making
Georgia supplant every silk-growing country, were extravagant and
erroneous; they expected, in fact, to supply all Europe, and to
produce an article of equal strength, beauty and value, with any made
on the Continent. The Piedmontese, thought they, who pay half of their
silk for the rent of the mulberry trees and the eggs of the worm, or
the peasants of France, burdened with political difficulty and stinted
for conveniences, could not cope with the settlers of Georgia, where
the mulberry (morus alba) trees would grow in the greatest luxuriance,
where timber for their fabrics was no expense, where room was abundant
and the reward sure. By this transfer, in addition to a direct saving
to England of over 500,000_l_. which she paid for this article to
foreign countries, twenty thousand people were to find employment in
rearing it in Georgia, and as many more at home in preparing it for

Among the first emigrants who sailed with Oglethorpe from England in
November 1732, was Mr. Amatis, from Piedmont, who was engaged by the
Trustees to introduce the art of silk-winding into the colony, and who
for that purpose brought with him several Italians and some adequate
machinery. White mulberry trees were planted in a portion of land on
the eastern border of the city, called the Trustees' garden; eggs were
hatched, and silk spun "as fine as any from France or Italy." They
soon, however, came to a mutual rupture, and the whole process was for
a time suspended by the treachery of those employed, who broke the
machinery, spoiled the seed, destroyed the trees, and then escaped to
Carolina. Sufficient, however, had been wrought to test its value,
and they were not discouraged by this inauspicious commencement. The
Trustees still adhered to their design, and the more effectually to
advance it, required of every settler that there should be on his
grant, ten mulberry trees to each acre.

Mr. Camuse and his wife, both Italians, were now entrusted with this
business, in which they were continued six years; the two first at a
salary of 60_l_. per annum, and the four last at 100_l_. besides the
rent of a dwelling house and garden.

In June 1734, General Oglethorpe carried eight pounds of raw silk, the
first produced in Georgia, to England, which was followed by a small
trunk full of the same article, on the 2d of April, 1735, and after
being made into orgazine, by the engine of Sir Thomas Lombe, at Derby,
who said that it "proved exceedingly good through all the operations,"
was sent up to London on the 13th of August, 1735, when the Trustees,
together with Sir Thomas Lombe, waited on her majesty Queen Caroline
and exhibited to her the elegant specimen of Georgia silk. The queen
selected a portion of this parcel to be wove into a pattern, and being
again waited on by these gentlemen and Mr. Booth, the silk weaver, on
the 21st of September, she expressed "a great satisfaction for the
beauty and fineness of the silk, the richness of the pattern, and
at seeing so early a product from that colony;" and to express her
pleasure at such a favorable result, a complete court-dress was made
from it, and on His Majesty's next birth-day, she appeared at the
levee in a full robe of Georgia silk.

On the return of Oglethorpe, in 1735, he renewed his endeavors to
bring it into active operation. For the purpose of obtaining a
sufficient quantity of seed, he allowed no silk to be reeled that
year, but let the worms deposit their eggs. He required, also, that
the Italian women should teach a number of the colonists, and thus
render general the knowledge they could impart. The Saltzburgers at
Ebenezer were the most forward to adopt his views, and in March 28,
1736, Rev. Mr. Bolzius gave one tree to each inhabitant as a present
from Oglethorpe, and two of his congregation were instructed in the
art of reeling, by Mrs. Camuse. But though Oglethorpe gave Mr. Bolzius
trees, silk worms, and a book of instructions, yet he confesses that
he felt no interest in the business, nor inclination to pursue it.

In July, 1739, Mr. Samuel Augspourger carried over a parcel of raw
silk which he received from Mr. Jones, the Trustees' store-keeper in
Savannah, and which was declared by eminent judges to be "equal to any
Italian silk, and worth full twenty shillings per pound."

On May 11, 1741, Mr. Bolzius in his journal states that twenty girls,
during the last two months, succeeded in making seventeen pounds of
cocoons which were sold on Friday last at Savannah for 3_l_. 8_s_.
During this year, General Oglethorpe advanced to Bolzius 5_l_. for
procuring trees, for which sum he obtained twelve hundred, and
distributed twenty-two to each family in his parish.

On May 1, 1742, fourteen pounds and fourteen ounces were sold, which
brought 2_l_. 19_s_. 6_d_. Nearly half of the silkworms died at
Savannah, owing, as was then supposed, either to poisoned dew or warm

December 4, 1742, General Oglethorpe sent five hundred trees to
Ebenezer, with the promise of more if required. The indifference of
the good Mr. Bolzius had by this time passed away, and he was now a
zealous advocate for its extension. A machine was erected near his
house, and two women succeeded very well, by which the people
were stimulated to renewed exertions, and a public Filature was
contemplated. The enterprise of these Germans, seemed to excite the
envious disposition of Mrs. Camuse, with whom had been placed two
women from Ebenezer; but the conduct of Mrs. C. in withholding
information, rendered their acquirement inadequate, and Mr. Bolzius
withdrew them from her charge. The first parcel of silk made, was sent
to the Trustees, who expressed themselves pleased with its quality. In
1745, the weight of cocoons was two hundred and fifty-three pounds,
and of spun silk sixteen and three-quarters. In 1746, the weight of
cocoons was three hundred and forty-four pounds, and of spun silk
eighteen pounds. Early in this year a machine for winding, and coppers
for baking, together with appropriate treatises on the art, were sent
over by the Trustees, but the people were indifferent and apathetic.

The Germans, however, were as active as formerly, and Mr. Bolzius, in
a letter to Von Munch, dated May 6, 1747, says, that "the people last
winter planted more mulberry trees than for thirteen years before,"
for which he promised them a bounty of one shilling for every tree
which yielded one hundred pounds of leaves. The silk balls raised at
this place this year, were over four hundred pounds, three hundred and
sixty-six pounds of which sold for 36_l_. 12_s_. 10-1/2_d_. The amount
raised in the whole colony, was eight hundred and forty-seven
pounds of cocoons, and sixty-two pounds of spun silk. In 1748, the
Saltzburgers reared four hundred and sixty-four pounds, but their
small trees were destroyed, and some of the larger ones injured,
by the late frost. They this year succeeded admirably in spinning
twenty-four pounds of raw silk, the want of a chimney and proper
basins, which had impeded them before, in their rude building, having
been remedied. The President, writing to Secretary Martyn, December
11, 1746, says, "The fundamental cause of its stagnation, is the
unaccountable backwardness of some of our dames and damsels to employ
themselves in attending to the worms during the time of feeding, which
I have frequently taken notice of, and it cannot be imputed to the
want of leaves."

During the same period only thirty-four pounds of spun silk were
raised by the Trustees' agent in Savannah. Mr. Bolzius, under date
of February 15th, 1749, thus writes: "the weather being now warm and
pleasant, the mulberry trees have put forth their young leaves, and
our people are now turning their minds towards making of silk," and
then, after expressing his surprise, that so few were disposed to this
culture, adds, "one reason for this reluctance, is ascribed to the
circumstance that, by ordinary labor, about two shillings might be
obtained per day, whereas scarcely a shilling could be earned in the
same time, by the silk concern." Seven hundred and sixty-two pounds of
cocoons were raised, and fifty pounds thirteen ounces spun silk, and
there were two machines erected in Mr. Bolzius's yard which drew off
twenty-four ounces per day. On the 29th September, 1749, the Trustees
promised 2_l_. to every woman, who shall make herself mistress of
the art of winding, in one year. And they also gave Rev. Mr. Bolzius
permission to erect ten sheds, with clay furnaces, at an expense of
not more than 2_l_. each, and ten machines for reeling, at thirty
shillings each, which he says could be made better than those at
Savannah for 3_l_.; they also sent them ten basins, and the good
Germans felt the impulse of this substantial encouragement. In 1750,
though the people in other parts of the colony mostly relinquished
the silk culture, the inhabitants of Ebenezer continued vigorously
employed and interested in it. On the 2d of June they received ten
kettles from the Trustees, one of which, and a reeling machine, were
given to each mistress in the art of spinning, and two of the best
artisans received 5_l_. for giving instruction to fourteen young
women, to each of whom was bestowed 1_l_. for attention and industry.

Over a thousand pounds of cocoons were raised at Ebenezer, and
seventy-four pounds two ounces raw silk made, producing (the price
being then thirty shillings) over 110_l_. sterling. As illustrative of
the luxuriant growth of the mulberry, it may be interesting to state,
that two trees in front of the Parsonage, ten years old, measured
three feet eight inches in circumference. In December of this year,
eight more copper basins were received, and public confidence in the
success of the undertaking seemed revived, notwithstanding Mr. Camuse
and family had left the Province, and settled at Purysburgh, in South

On the 25th December, 1750, Mr. Pickering Robinson, who, together
with Mr. James Habersham, had been appointed the preceding August a
commissioner to promote more effectually the culture of silk, arrived
in Savannah.

Mr. Robinson had been sent to France, at the expense of the Trustees,
to study the management of filatures and the necessary processes for
preparing the article for market, and thus, though no operative,
was qualified to take the directorship of so important a branch of
industry. His salary was 100_l_. per annum; 25_l_. for a clerk, and a
tract of land was also granted him, which, in 1763, sold for 1300_l_.

Mr. Robinson brought with him a large quantity of silkworm seed, but
all failed, save about half an ounce; the commissioners determined at
once to erect a filature, which should be a normal school to the whole
province, and it was their opinion that it would be "a sufficient
nursery to supply, in three or four years, as many reelers as will be
wanted, when we make no doubt of many private filatures being erected,
which can only make their culture a general staple." The dimensions
were thirty-six feet by twenty, rough boarded, with a loft or upper
story, for the spreading out of the green cocoons. It was commenced on
the 4th of March, 1751. On the 1st of April, the basins were put up,
and on the 8th of May the reeling began. To encourage the colonists,
the Trustees proposed to purchase all the balls, and wind them at
their own expense, and paid from 1_s_. 6_d_. to 2_s_. 4_d_. per pound
for green cocoons. The Commissioners separated the cocoons into three
sorts: 1st, perfect cones; 2d, the spongy and fuzzy; and 3d, the
spotted, stained, and dupions. This arrangement, however, gave great
offence to some of the residents in Savannah and Purysburgh, and
Messrs. Robinson and Habersham requested the Vice President and
assistants to determine the respective prices and publicly announce
the same, which they did on the 26th April, by a proclamation, wherein
by way of bounty, they promised to pay for cocoons delivered at their
store in Savannah, the following sums, namely, for cocoons made by
one worm, hard, weighty and good substance, 2_s_. per pound; for the
weaker quality, pointed, spotted, or bruised, 1_s_. 3_d_.; for dupions
(those made by two worms), 6_d_.; for raw silk, from 1st quality
cocoons 14_s_. per pound; for that made from 2d quality, 12_s_.; the
product of the double cones, 6_s_. per pound; and they also offered,
if delivered at the filature, for best cocoons, 3_s_. 6_d_.; for
middling 1_s_. 8_d_.; and for inferior 1_s_. 1_d_., a series of prices
truly astonishing, when we reflect that the real merchantable worth of
a pound of cocoons is scarcely ever 6_d_.

Experiments were made at the filature to ascertain the relative
quantity of each of these qualities, in a given weight of cocoons, and
the results were, that in fifty pounds of green cocoons, there were
twenty-seven pounds of the first sort, ten pounds four ounces of the
second, and twelve pounds twelve ounces of the third. After curing or
baking, these fifty pounds weighed only forty-six pounds five ounces,
showing a loss in ponderosity of nearly eight per cent. Beside the
arrangement above specified, the cocoons were still further divided
for the purpose of reeling into white and yellow, and these again,
subdivided into five each, namely, 1st, hard and weighty; 2d, little
woolly and weaker; 3d, very woolly and soft; 4th, spotted and much
bruised; 5th, double worms.

Mr. Camuse, son, and daughter, who, it appears, gave the commissioners
no little trouble by their perverse conduct, returned to Savannah and
were engaged to labor at the filature, at three shillings per day,
at which Mr. Habersham exclaims, "monstrous wages!" The reelers now
advanced with much proficiency, and five of them, on the 10th of May,
wound off eleven pounds of cocoons each. The proportion of raw silk to
the cocoons, appeared, on a variety of trials, to be nearly in this

10th May, 1751, 55 lbs. cocoons, 1st quality, produced 117-7/8.
11th " " 8 " " " " 6-9 per thread 18-1/2.
13th " " 11 " " " " produced 21-1/2.
15th " " 55 " " 2d " " 109.
18th " " 20 " " " " " 24.
22d " " 15 " " 1st " " 20-3/4.
" " " 10 " " 2d " " 13-1/2.

The whole amount of cocoons raised in the province, was six thousand
three hundred and one pounds, of which two thousand pounds came
from Ebenezer, and four thousand pounds were made at Whitefield's
Orphan-house. Two hundred and sixty-nine pounds and one ounce of raw
silk, and one hundred and sixty-one pounds of filogee, were prepared,
notwithstanding over three hundred and eighty pounds were lost by
vermin, fire and mould. The expense of the culture was large this
year, owing to the erection of the filature, &c., which swelled the
sum to 609_l_. 9_s_. 8-1/2_d_. sterling. The private journals of that
day kept at Savannah and Ebenezer, acquaint us, in some measure, with
the arduous nature of the commissioners' labors, and the difficulties
they encountered from the want of funds, the intractableness of
laborers, the novelty of the attempt, the imperfections of machinery,
and the bitter opposition of those who should have sustained and
encouraged them. The public duties of Mr. Habersham prevented his
constant attention to this business; but the whole time of Mr.
Robinson was devoted to the filature, directing the sorters, aiding
the novices, advising the reelers, and in every way exerting himself
to obtain success. His engagement with the Trustees expired on
the 30th of August, 1751, but finding that his intended departure
depressed the friends of the culture, he was solicited by the local
government to remain another year, and, generously sacrificing private
to public interests, he complied with their request. Mr. Habersham
thus speaks of Mr. Robinson. "I think him the most prudent as well as
the most capable person I ever knew, to undertake such a work, and if
he could be continued here, I doubt not but that he would turn out
a number of well instructed reelers, who would be able to conduct
filatures at Ebenezer, Augusta, and other parts of the province." So
great was the confidence which the Trustees had in him, that he was
appointed an assistant in the government at Savannah; an honor which
he declined, and in the same letter stated, "If due encouragement
be not given to the culture of raw silk, for the term of at least
fourteen years, I positively cannot think of settling in America."
These gentlemen recommended the building of a house, sixty feet by
twenty-six, as a cocoonry, great loss having been experienced for the
want of such a structure.

In 1752, Mr. Robinson returned to England, and his place was partially
supplied by Joseph Ottolenghe, a native of Piedmont, and a proficient
in his art, who came to Georgia on the 18th of July, 1751, and took
charge of the filature in April, 1753. In a letter to Lee Martyn,
dated September 11, 1753, Mr. Ottolenghe says, that "there were fewer
cocoons raised this year, as the worms mostly hatched before the trees
leaved," and that "the people were willing to continue the business."
One hundred and ninety-seven pounds of raw silk were made this year,
and three hundred and seventy-six pounds in 1754, besides twenty-four
pounds of filosele. The people of Augusta became interested in
this manufacture, and entered with considerable spirit into the
undertaking, promising to send hands to Savannah, yearly, to learn the
art of reeling: their enthusiasm, however, soon evaporated.

On the 29th of March, 1755, a certificate, signed by thirty-nine
eminent silk-throwsters and weavers, was given to the "Commissioners
for Trade and Plantations," stating that after examining three hundred
pounds of raw silk, imported from Georgia, "we do sincerely declare
that the nature and texture is truly good, the color beautiful, the
thread as even and as clear as the best Piedmont (called wire silk) of
the size, and much clearer and even than the usual Italian silks;" and
furthermore, "it could be worked with less waste than China silk, and
has all the properties of good silk well adapted to the weaver's art
in most branches."

In 1755, five thousand four hundred and eighty-eight pounds of cocoons
were raised, and four hundred and thirty-eight pounds of raw silk
spun. The good effects of the filature were now happily evident in the
increased interest of the planters in the subject, who sent both their
daughters and young negroes to acquire the art of reeling. In 1756,
three thousand seven hundred and eighty-three pounds and one ounce of
cocoons were received at the filature, and two hundred and sixty-eight
pounds of raw silk reeled.

The liberal policy of the commissioners, who had no private ends to
answer, caused them to recommend the establishment of additional
filatures, and in their letter to the Trustees, June 12th, 1751, they
advise the erection of one at Ebenezer, and another contiguous to
Savannah, but Mr. Ottolenghe opposed this course and arrogated to the
one in Savannah the entire monopoly of the culture. Jealousy appears
to have been very conspicuous in Mr. Ottolenghe's character, and his
opposition to the Saltzburgers and depreciation of their efforts,
arose from this suspicious trait. He aimed to render himself solely
necessary, and aspersed everything which seemed to militate with his
fancied superiority. This appears not only from letters of Governors
Reynold and Ellis, but from his own correspondence, where this caution
and fear of rivalry is plainly discernible. His course gave offence
to the Ebenezer people, who had already erected a filature in their
village; who had been at great sacrifice to send their wives and
daughters to learn the art of reeling in Savannah, and who had hoped
to carry on the manufacture under their own supervision and for their
own benefit. Mr. Ottolenghe, however, overruled their views and
required all cocoons to be delivered at Savannah and to be reeled
there. Each basin at the filature had two apprentices, besides
others who were employed in sorting the balls, &c., and the various
operations connected with the trade, employed nearly forty persons.

In 1757, over five thousand pounds of cocoons were received at
Savannah, and three hundred and sixty pounds of raw silk spun, which,
says Governor Ellis, would have been more, if the eggs had not failed;
and in a letter, dated 11th of March, 1757, he says "the raising of
silk seems to be no longer a matter of curiosity, it employs many poor
people, and is approaching towards a staple."

Seven thousand and forty pounds of cocoons were deposited in the
filature in 1758, but while the friends of this business were
rejoicing in the assured success of their experiment they were
saddened by the destruction of the filature, which took fire on the
4th of July, and was totally consumed. The wound silk, which had not
yet been shipped, amounting to three hundred and fifty pounds, was
saved, but several thousand weight of silk balls, together with much
of the reeling apparatus, were destroyed. Another and more capacious
building was immediately erected and was ready for use the ensuing

In 1759, ten thousand one hundred and thirty-six pounds of cocoons
were raised in Georgia, four thousand pounds of which were from
Ebenezer, and the proceeds of their culture alone, for the season,
reached 700_l_. sterling. The opinion of those engaged in the culture,
as expressed to Dr. Jared Elliot, was, "that it was more profitable
than any other ordinary business."

The cocoons delivered at the filature in 1760, weighed seven thousand
nine hundred and eighty-three pounds, and there were spun eight
hundred and thirty-nine pounds. Mr. Ottolenghe was now honored with
the full appointment of "superintendant of the silk culture in
Georgia," with a salary appropriate to his station.

Five thousand three hundred and seven pounds of cocoons, and three
hundred and thirty-two pounds of raw silk were produced in 1761.
Governor Wright, under date 13th of July, says, "The greatest
appearance that ever they had here was destroyed in two nights' time,
by excessive hard and unseasonable frosts, and there is likewise a
degeneracy in the seed, as Mr. Ottolenghe tells me." These frosts
occurred on the 5th and 6th of April. Parliament, this year, made
a grant of 1000_l_. towards defraying the expenditure for the silk
culture, and it was annually renewed until about 1766. By means of
this gratuity, Mr. Ottolenghe was enabled to give a high price to the
rearers of cocoons, and thus sustain the encouragement so judiciously

In 1762, fifteen thousand one hundred and one pounds of cocoons were
delivered at the filature, and one thousand and forty-eight pounds of
raw silk reeled, which Mr. O. declared to be the finest and best silk
ever produced in Georgia.

The year 1763 showed an increase of cocoons but a decrease of silk,
there being fifteen thousand four hundred and eighty-six pounds of the
former, and only nine hundred and fifty-three pounds of the latter.
The occasion of this disparity was a season of cold, rainy weather,
towards the close of April, by which the later cocoons were injured
and rendered almost useless.

There were delivered at the filature, in 1764, fifteen thousand two
hundred and twelve pounds of cocoons, notwithstanding the season was
so unfavorable, that Governor Wright mentions the case of one man who
expected to make from five to seven hundred pounds, who only succeeded
in raising one hundred pounds of cocoons. Eight thousand six hundred
and ninety-five pounds were sent by the Saltzburgers, and the whole
amount yielded eight hundred and ninety-eight pounds of raw silk.

In addition to the grant of Parliament, a Society, instituted in
London, for the encouragement of arts, manufactures and commerce,
offered certain premiums for the advantage of the British American
dominions, among which were:

"For every pound of cocoons produced in the province of Georgia
and South Carolina, in the year 1764, of a hardy, weighty and good
substance, wherein only one worm has spun, 3_d_.; for every pound of
cocoons produced in the same year, of a weaker, lighter, spotted or
bruised quality, 2_d_.; for dupions, 1_d_." These premiums were to be
paid under the direction of Mr. O., with proper vouchers that the same
were raised in either of the provinces specified.

It was agitated in 1765, to reduce the price of cocoons from 3_s_. to
1_s_. 6_d_. per pound, a measure which produced much dissatisfaction
and as a consequence there was a considerable falling off in the
amount of balls and silk, only twelve thousand five hundred and
fourteen pounds of the former, and seven hundred and twelve pounds of
the latter, together with seven hundred and twenty pounds of filosele
being produced. To prevent the depression consequent on this
reduction, Governor Wright suggested, that instead of so much per
pound, as formerly, that the ten largest quantities should receive the
highest, 50_l_., the next greatest parcel 45_l_., and so on, gradually
decreasing with the decrease in weight, until you reached the lowest
quantity, to which 10_l_. would be awarded; thus, while the expense
would be greatly lessened to the Trustees, the stimulus of reward
would be sufficiently sustained. This advice was not adopted, though
owing to the urgent remonstrances of those best acquainted with the
business, the reduction in the bounty was only 9_d_. instead of 1_s_.
6_d_. On the 25th April, 1765, the following order was published in
the "Georgia Gazette:"

"Notice is hereby given to all whom it may concern, that, by
direction of the Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners of Trade and
Plantations, the price usually paid for cocoons is now reduced, and
that no more than 2_s_. 3_d_. per pound will be paid for cocoons
raised in this province, and delivered at the public filature this

"By order of His Excellency the Governor.

"GEO. BAILLIE, _Commissary_"

This bounty was still further reduced in 1766, when by order of the
Board of Trade, only 1_s_. 1_d_. was paid per pound. The dependence of
this culture on the weather, was signally instanced this year, from
the fact that though many who had hitherto raised cocoons, abandoned
it at the reduction of the bounty, yet such a large crop had never
been produced before; over twenty thousand three hundred and eighty
pounds of cocoons being delivered at the filature, which, however,
only produced one thousand eighty-nine pounds of raw silk, and eight
hundred and fifty pounds of filosele. This amount of reeled silk was
not at all proportionate to the weight of the cones, resulting, as Mr.
Ottolenghe said in a letter to Governor Wright, October 2, 1766, "to
the badness of the seed, and consequent inferiority of the worms."
In 1760, the cocoons weighed only seven thousand nine hundred and
eighty-three pounds, and yet eight hundred and thirty-nine pounds of
raw silk were spun; at which rate, the product this year should have
been about two thousand pounds.

On the 26th of June, Henry Kennan made proposals to the Board of
Trade, for carrying on the filature; but they were of a nature not at
all advantageous to the culture, and Governor Wright, in his reply, on
the 21st of October, disapproved of the plan, and exposed the fallacy
of his scheme, which was in consequence abandoned.

In 1767, ten thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight pounds of balls
were raised, and six hundred and seventy-one pounds nine ounces of raw
silk spun; the decrease of cocoons being caused, first, by withdrawing
of the Purysburgh cocoons, which last year amounted to five thousand
five hundred and fifty-one pounds; and second, by the reduction of
bounty, so that while last year the cocoons were delivered in by two
hundred and sixty-four different persons, only one hundred and sixty
individuals were this year devoted to the culture. The silk, however,
was of a better quality, and sustained its high reputation in the
London market.

In 1768, another plan was proposed, by Mr. Delamar, "in order the
more effectually to establish the growth of raw silk in America." His
proposal was, to pay a bounty of 20_s_. per pound on every pound of
good, clear raw silk imported from any of his Majesty's dominions in
America, to be paid on the price such silk might sell for at public
sale in London; at the expiration of ten years, ten per cent. bounty
was to be allowed; the ensuing five years at five per cent., after
which time the bounty was to cease. This was the general feature of
his plan; it was not, however, adopted, though in many respects its
provisions were highly judicious and appropriate.

But this branch of industry and commerce was fast waning before the
increasing culture of more sure and lucrative products, and only one
hundred and thirty-seven different persons brought cocoons to the
filature this year. Governor Wright, in his official letter to the
Earl of Hillsborough, July 1, 1768, says, "I am persuaded that few, or
none but the very poorer sort of people, will continue to go upon
that article. Several substantial persons, who did mean to make it
an object when the price was higher, have, to my knowledge, given
it over. The reason, my Lord, is evident; for people who have their
fortune to raise or make, will always turn themselves in such a way,
and to the raising and making of such commodities, as they think will
answer best; and it is very clear to me, that those who have negroes,
may employ themselves and negroes to better advantage, &c., than by
raising cocoons at 1_s_. 6_d_. per pound, although that is, as I have
said, 7, 8, or 9_d_. more than they are intrinsically worth."

Cluny, in his "American Traveller," printed in London, 1769, says,
"The climate of Georgia has been found to agree in every respect with
the silk worm." Experience, however, proved that the climate was
not sufficiently equable to secure permanent and continued success.
Governor Wright, in the letter quoted above, says, "the variable and
uncertain weather in spring, makes it precarious," and facts amply
confirm this statement. Only five hundred and forty-one pounds of raw
silk were made this year, a smaller amount, with one exception, than
had been produced for ten years. In 1769, the quantity was still more
decreased, both from the reluctance of the people to raise worms, and
the unfavorable weather in spring. Governor Wright, on the 20th of
June, 1769, says, "We had a most extraordinary prospect, till the
middle of April, when I thought every thing safe, yet we had very cold
rains on the 17th and 18th, which were succeeded by hard black frost
on the 19th and 20th, and destroyed a great part of the worms, and
will reduce the silk very much."

The silk business was now on the irretrievable decline, though it
still maintained a nominal existence, and received the encouragement
of Parliament. The special bounty which had hitherto been paid on
cocoons, over and above their merchantable value, was suspended, and
by a statute of 9 Geo. III., c. 38, a premium of twenty-five per cent.
from the 1st of January, 1770, to the 1st of January, 1777,--of twenty
per cent, from the 1st of January, 1777, to the 1st of January,
1784,--and of fifteen per cent. from the 1st of January, 1784, to the
1st of January 1791, on the ad valorem value of all silk produced in
America and imported into Great Britain in vessels regularly navigated
by law, was substituted in its place.

The inhabitants of Ebenezer resumed the culture, which with them had
long been dormant, and its revival at that time was principally owing
to the influence of a very worthy man and magistrate, Mr. Wertsch,
who, sanguine himself of ultimate success, had imparted to the Germans
a portion of his own enthusiasm.

In 1770, they shipped two hundred and ninety-one pounds of raw silk,
the result of their own industry, and as the filature at Savannah
was discontinued in 1771, the Earl of Hillsborough, ever anxious to
advance the produce, warmly commended the zeal of the Saltzburgers,
and directed President Habersham to distribute "the basins and reels
that were left in the public filature, to such persons as Mr. Wertsch
shall recommend to be proper objects of that bounty;" and in the same
letter he promised that he would endeavor to procure for them, this
year, "a small sum from Parliament, to be laid out in purchase of
utensils for the assistance of the poor sort of people in your
province." This promise he redeemed.

So popular had the silk business become at Ebenezer, that Mr.
Habersham, in a letter dated the 30th of March, 1772, says, "some
persons in almost every family there, understand its process from the
beginning to the end." In 1771, the Germans sent four hundred and
thirty-eight pounds of raw silk to England, and in 1772, four hundred
and eighty-five pounds, all of their own raising. They made their own
reels, which were so much esteemed that one was sent to England as a
model, and another taken to the East Indies by Pickering Robinson.
The operations at Savannah were now totally discontinued, though Mr.
Ottolenghe still styled himself "Superintendent of the Silk Culture
in Georgia," and in consideration of his long and faithful service in
that office, received an annuity of 100_l_.

In a message of Sir James Wright, to the Commons House of Assembly,
19th of January, 1774, he says, "The filature buildings seem to be
going to decay and ruin; may it not, therefore, be expedient to
consider what other service or use they may be put to?" and the
Assembly answered, "We shall not fail to consider how it may be
expedient to apply the filature to some public use;" and henceforth
it was used as an assembly or ball-room, a place where societies held
their meetings, and where divine service was occasionally conducted:
more recently, it was converted into a dwelling-house, and was thus
appropriated at the time of its destruction by fire, on the afternoon
of March 25, 1839.

Thus ended the grand project for raising silk in the Province of
Georgia; for though some few individuals, together with the people of
Ebenezer, continued to raise small quantities, yet, as a branch of
general culture, it has never been resuscitated. The last parcel
brought to Savannah was in 1790, when over two hundred pounds were
purchased for exportation, at from 8_s_. to 26_s_. per pound.

On reviewing the causes which led to the suspension of this business,
after so many exertions and such vast expense, which, it must be
remembered, the profits of the culture never reimbursed, we find,
first, the unfriendliness of the climate, which, notwithstanding its
boasted excellence, interfered materially with its success. Governor
Wright, frequently speaks of its deleterious influence, and the
fluctuations in the various seasons, evidenced, to demonstration,
that the interior was better adapted to the agricultural part of the
business, than the exposed and variable sea-board. Mr. Habersham, in
a letter to the Earl of Hillsborough, dated "Savannah, 24th of April,
1772," thus expresses himself on this point. "Upwards of twenty years
ago, if my memory does not fail me, Samuel Lloyd, Esq., of London, who
was one of the late trustees for establishing this colony, and was
fourteen years in Italy, and very largely concerned in the silk
business, wrote to me, that the best silk was produced at a distance
from the sea-coast, owing, I suppose, to the richness of the soil,
which made the mulberry leaf more glutinous, nutritive and healthy to
the silk-worm; also, to their not being obnoxious to musquetoes and
sand-flies, and probably, likewise, to the weather being more equal
and less liable to sudden transition from heat to cold: and on a
conversation this day with Mr. Barnard, of Augusta, he assures me,
that from two years experience in raising cocoons there, he lost none
from sickness, which frequently destroys two-thirds of the worms
here;" and he further says, that Mr. Ottolenghe told him that the silk
reeled from the Augusta cocoons "made the strongest and most wiry
thread of any raised in these parts."

Second, the expensiveness of living, and the dearness of labor, which
was as high as 1_s_. 8_d_. to 2_s_. per day, whereas 2_d_. or 3_d_.
was the usual price paid the peasant in silk-growing countries.
Governor Wright, in a letter to the Earl of Hillsborough, frankly
told him that, "till these provinces become more populous, and labor
cheaper, I apprehend, silk will not be a commodity, or an article, of
any considerable amount."

Third, the great reduction of the bounty, which, being the stimulus to
exertion, ceased to operate as an incentive, when from 3_s_. 3_d_.
it fell to 1_s_. 3_d_., and finally to a mere premium on the general
quantity imported. The poor could not subsist on these prices, and
the rich could employ their lands to much better advantage than in
cultivating an article which would not repay the expenses of labor:
and lastly, the increasing attention, bestowed on rice and cotton,
sealed the fate of the silk culture, and the planters soon learned to
consider the latter of no importance in comparison, with the large
and lucrative crops yielded by these more staple commodities. Other
reasons might be mentioned, but these sufficiently account for its
decline there, and its total neglect even to the present day. During
the morus multicaulis epidemic, which spread over our country in 1838,
Savannah, it is true, did not escape, and for a time the fever raged,
with much violence, but the febrile action soon subsided, leaving
no permanent benefit and only a few fields of waving foliage, as a
deciduous memento of this frenzied excitement.

That silk can be produced in Georgia equal to any in the world, does
not admit of a doubt, but whether it will ever be resumed, and when,
is among the unknown events of the future.


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