Blackburn portrays Oglethorpe much as a novelist would develop a well-rounded character—by showing faults and vulnerability as well as heroic qualities. Oglethorpe, described as “defensive and belligerent” at the age of twenty-five, matures to a responsible decision maker in Parliament and a respected military leader. Blackburn does not omit uncomplimentary facts, such as his dropping out of college or killing a man in a barroom brawl during his early years, or the charges against him of incompetence and the mismanagement of funds in connection with the settlement and defense of Georgia. Instead, she balances these flaws with favorable accounts from his contemporaries and factual information, such as the money that Oglethorpe spent from his own fortune in order to defend Georgia. The reader is left to speculate about Oglethorpe’s actual position regarding the Jacobites; his mother and sister openly supported Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, but Oglethorpe led a regiment to defend England against invasion by Jacobites.
Blackburn uses several events to illuminate the personality of Oglethorpe. As a member of the House of Commons, Oglethorpe instigated an investigation of England’s debtors’ prisons. Blackburn writes vivid descriptions of the deplorable conditions of the prisons and of the bribery and extortion that were common within the prison system. Oglethorpe’s part in the passage of the Debtors Act of 1730, which protected the rights...
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Blackburn conducted research for James Edward Oglethorpe at the Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island, Georgia, and at the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, both significant sites in Oglethorpe’s life. Among the resources used were Manuscripts of the Earl of Egmont (19201923), which provided contemporary accounts by the president of Colonial Georgia’s board of trustees and parliamentary records; the most notable adult biography of Oglethorpe, Amos A. Et-tinger’s James Edward Oglethorpe, Imperial Idealist (1936); and interviews with Dr. Thinizy Spalding, the University of Georgia specialist on Colonial Georgian history and another biographer of Oglethorpe. The information presented in Blackburn’s book is well researched and accurate. The author writes in a style that is appropriate for young adults without compromising the book’s content.
Yet, while the biography contains a considerable amount of information about Colonial Georgia, specific details are difficult to locate because there is no table of contents or index to make the book a useful research tool for young people. While James Edward Oglethorpe is not required reading, it is found in most public-school libraries in Georgia. It would be an extremely useful book to supplement textbooks about Georgia’s history and in courses covering the Colonial period of American history or social conditions in eighteenth century England.