English residents who were unable to pay their debts usually ended up in prison, with no hope of release. It was the ultimate condemnation for poor people and generally accepted by society. James Edward Oglethorpe (before he colonized Georgia) was an avid supporter of prison reform, especially after an artist friend died in Newgate. The friend was a popular artist who lived large. Oglethorpe struggled to get him released, but the artist was put into a cell with a person having a contageous disease and the artist soon died. However, Oglethorpe made his views known by pushing pamphlets and articles in various London newspapers. Ultimately, prisoners were given the choice of indenturing themselves to American colonists. The Earl of Egmond’s committee interviewed all prospective persons to be shipped to the colony of Georgia. More information concerning individuals interviewed and/or transported to Georgia is available in the Colonial Records of Georgia by Candler. The index in the back of each volume helps to locate notes and comments on individual persons.
Peter Coffey was born in Ireland and was apparently one of the prisoners of debt in Newgate Prison given the choice of the prison cell or the opportunity to indenture himself in the colony of Virginia. He put himself in bondage to come to America in the ship Forward Galley. The voyage was made in October of 1730 and 18 years later after being released from service, he was granted 220 acres of land on Vaughans Creek in Prince George County, Virginia.