In the early 1800's, visitors from the European continent were often aghast at the rough and tumble manner of Georgians. Charles William Janson wrote in his 1807 book “A Stranger in America,” of his experiences traveling around coastal Georgia.
“Often have I, with horror, seen boys...intoxicated, shouting and swearing in the public streets...apeing their fathers, they smoke segars to so immoderate a degree.”
Janson described these Georgian characters as 'Eleveners'.
Dismissing them as “second-rate consumers of distillations from the sugar-cane, the grape, and the juniper-berry,” Janson wrote that these 'Eleveners' earned their moniker by “strolling about the corners of streets, or other public places, at the eleventh hour.”
Janson recorded another frightful, but common, occurrence. When “Passing, in company with other travelers, through the state of Georgia, our attention was arrested by a gouging-match...the combatants...(were)...fast clenched by the band, and their thumbs endeavoring to force a passage into each others eyes.”
The stunned Englishmen watched as the winner of the match “sprung up with his antagonist's eye in his hand.” Janson then compared these Georgians to “dogs and bears, they use their teeth and feet, with the most savage ferocity, upon each other.”
Even the highest and mightiest Georgians still had some roughness around their edges. Janson wrote of the conflict that took place on the streets of Savannah between supporters of Senator James Gunn and Governor James Jackson over the “Yazoo Purchase”.
After Jackson's aides convinced a Savannah newspaper “to...(libel) the character of Gunn,” Gunn's supporters inserted a rebuttal into the paper, besmirching Jackson. Infuriated, Jackson himself visited the editor, demanding to know who had written the response.
The editor, when threatened with a whip by one of Jackson's aides, grabbed it and smacked the aide resoundingly. Jackson's forces then “collected a mob, presented their pistols to (his) breast, threatened to pull down the printing-house, and to throw the types into the river if (he) did not give up the author's name.”
Luckily for the editor, Jackson's forces “were soon opposed by more than an equal number of citizens, which occasioned them to disperse in a terrible rage.” Realizing that“a respectable part of the inhabitants (were) determined to protect (him), they moved off, still swearing vengeance."
Determined to prevent such an insult from occurring again, Jackson pushed for passage of a resolution stating "No printer in the state of Georgia should be allowed to publish any thing against the President of the United States." Freedom of the press was most certainly not on his mind.