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...
(The entire section is 589 words.)