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Letter from William Tryon to Henry Seymour Conway
Tryon, William, 1729-1788
February 25, 1766
Volume 07, Pages 169-174

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[From Tryon's Letter Book.]
ARMED RESISTANCE TO THE STAMP ACT.
Letter from Governor Tryon with enclosures

25th February 1766

Sir [Secretary Conway]

As I wish to give you as particular a relation for his Majesty's information as I possibly can of an illegal Assembly of men in arms, assembled at Brunswick on the 19th Inst. I have collected all the letters and correspondence that has come to my knowledge previous to the 19th Inst. during the time the men remained in arms, as well as after they dispersed.

In this letter I shall chiefly confine myself to the narration of the actions and conduct of the body assembled, desiring leave to refer you to the letters as they occur in point of order, and time.

The seizures Capt Lobb made of the Dobbs and Patience sloops, (as by his letter to the Collector for taking the papers and the Attorney Generals opinion taken thereon) was an affair I did not interfere with; In the first instance I never was applied to, and in the second, I thought it rested with Capt Lobb

On the 16th in the evening Mr Dry, the Collector, waited on me with a letter he received dated from Wilmington the 15th February 1766, and at the same time informed me he had sent the subscribers word he should wait on them the next day. I strongly recommended to him to put the papers belonging to the Patience sloop on board the Viper (those of the Dobbs had some time before been given up to the owner on his delivering security for them) as I apprehended, I said, those very subscribers would compell him to give them up; His answer was “They might take them from him but he would never give them up without Capt Lobbs order.” The weather on the 17th prevented Mr Dry from going to Wilmington till the next day.

The next intelligence I received was in the dusk of the evening of the 19th soon after 6 oClock by letter delivered me by Mr George Moore and Mr Cornelius Harnet bearing date the 19th and signed “John Ashe, Thomas Lloyd, Alexander Lillington.” My letter of the same night directed to the Commanding Officer either of the

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Viper or Diligence Sloops of War will explain the opinion I entertained of the offer made of a guard of gentlemen, and my declaration to the detachment I found surrounding my house. This letter my servant about three in the morning put on board the Diligence who lay moored opposite to my house at the distance of four or five hundred yards, and returned to me again in a short space of time with Capt Phipps letter in answer. Soon after I had put up the lights required Capt Phipps came himself on shore to me, the guards having quitted the posts they had taken round the house and on the beach; With a most generous warmth and zeal Capt Phipps offered me every service his ship or himself could afford. I assured him the services I wished to receive from his Majesty's sloops consisted wholly in the protection of the Fort, That as Capt Dalrymple had but five men in garrison to defend eight eighteen pounders, eight nine pounders, and twenty three swivel guns all mounted and fit for service together with a cousiderable quantity of ammunition. I wrote an order to Capt Dalrymple “to obey all orders he might receive from the Commanding Officers either of the Viper or Diligence sloops of war,” and desired Capt Phipps would send it to the Fort. I made it so general because Capt Phipps told me neither of the Sloops had a pilot there on board, and it was uncertain which ship could first get down to the Fort distant four leagues from where the ship then lay off Brunswick; Capt Phipps after a stay on shore of about ten minutes returned on board the Diligence.

On the 20th about 12 oClock at noon Captain Lobb sent to desire I would meet him on board the Diligence, which request I immediately complied with, and at the same time the Collector Mr Dry came on board. There were then present, the Captains Lobb and Phipps. Mr McGwire Vice Judge of the Admiralty, the Collector and myself, Capt Lobb told me he had had a committee from the inhabitants in arms on board his ship, that they demanded possession of the sloops he had seized and that he was to give them his answer in the afternoon. Mr Dry the Collector informed me that his desk was broke open on the 19th in the evening and the unstampt papers belonging to the Patience and Ruby sloops forcibly taken from him. He said he knew most of the persons that came into his house at that time but he did not see who broke open the desk and took out the papers. Capt Lobb seemed not satisfied with the legality of his seizure of the Ruby sloop (seized subsequent to the papers that were sent to the Attorney General for his opinion, on the Dobbs and Patience) and

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declared he would return her to the master or owner; but that he would insist on the papers belonging to the Patience being returned, which were taken from the Collectors desk, and that he would not give up the Sloop Patience, I approved of these resolutions, and desired that he would not in the conduct of this affair consider my family, myself, or my property, that I was greatly solicitous for the honor of government and his Majesty's interest in the present exigency, and particularly recommended to him the protection of Fort Johnston. I then returned on Shore. In the evening Capt Phipps waited on me from on board the Viper, and acquainted me that all was settled; that Capt Lobb had given his consent for the owners to take possession of the Sloops Ruby and Patience, as the copy of Capt Lobbs orders for that purpose will declare.

The report was not consistent with the determination I concluded Capt Lobb left the Diligence in, when I met him according to his appointment but a few hours before.

To be regular in point of time, I must now speak of some further conduct of the inhabitants in arms, who were continually coming into Brunswick from different counties. This same evening of the 20th Inst Mr Pennington, his Majesty's Comptroller came to let me know there had been a search after him, and as he guessed they wanted him to do some act that would be inconsistent with the duty of his office, he came to acquaint me with this enquiry and search. I told him I had a bed at his service, and desired he would remain with me. The next morning the 21st about eight o'clock I saw Mr Pennington going from my house with Colo James Moore, I called him back, and as Colo Moore returned with him, I desired to know if he had any business with Mr Pennington. He said the gentlemen assembled wanted to speak with him, I desired Colo Moore would inform the gentlemen Mr Pennington, his Majesty's Comptroller, I had occasion to employ on dispatches for his Majesty's service, therefore could not part with him Colo Moore then went away and in five minutes afterwards I found the avenues to my house again shut up by different parties of armed men. Soon after the following note was sent and the answer annexed returned

“Sir,

The Gentlemen assembled for the redress of grievances desirous of seeing Mr Pennington to speak with him sent Colo Moore to desire his attendance, and understand that he was stayed by your Excellency,

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they therefore request that your Excellency will be pleased to let him attend, otherwise it will not be in the power of the Directors appointed, to prevent the ill consequences that may attend a refusal. They don't intend the least injury to Mr. Pennington.”


Friday the 21st February 1766
To His Excellency
The Answer

“Mr Pennington being employed by his Excellency on dispatches for his Majesty's service, any gentleman that has business with him may see him at the Governors house.”


21st February 1766.

It was about 10 o'clock when I observed a body of men in arms from four to five hundred move towards the house, A detachment of sixty men came down the avenue, and the main body drew up in front in sight and within three hundred yards of the house. Mr Harnett a representative in the Assembly for Wilmington, came at the head of the detachment and sent a message to speak with Mr Pennington. When he came into the house he told Mr Pennington the gentlemen wanted him. I answered, “Mr Pennington came into my house for refuge, he was a Crown Officer, and as such I would give him all the protection, my roof, and the dignity of the character I held in this Province, could afford him.” Mr Harnett hoped I would let him go, as the people were determined to take him out of the house if he should be longer detained; an insult he said they wished to avoid offering to me: An insult I replyed that would not tend to any great consequence, after they had already offered every insult they could offer, by investing my house, and making me in effect a prisoner before any grievance, or oppression had been first represented to me. Mr Pennington grew very uneasy, said he would choose to go to the gentlemen; I again repeated my offers of protection, if he chose to stay. He declared, and desired I would remember that whatever oaths might be imposed on him, he should consider them as acts of compulsion and not of free will; and further added, that he would rather resign his office, than do any act contrary to his duty. If that was his determination, I told him he had better resign before he left me: Mr Harnett interposed, with saying he hoped he would not do that: I enforced the recommendation for resignation. He consented, paper was brought and his resignation executed and received. I then said, Mr Pennington, now Sir, you may

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go; Mr Harnett went out with him; the detachment retired to the town. Mr Pennington afterwards informed me, they got him in the midst of them when Mr Ward, master of the Patience asked him to enter his sloop. Mr Pennington assured him he could not, as he had resigned his office. He was afterwards obliged to take an oath that he would never issue any stamped paper in this province. The above oath the Collector informed me he was obliged to take, as were all the clerks of the County Courts, and other public officers;

The inhabitants having redressed after the manner described their grievances complained of, left the town of Brunswick about 1 o'clock on the 21st. In the evening I went on board the Viper and acquainted Capt Lobb I apprehended the conditions he had determined to abide by when I left the Diligence, were different to the concessions he had made to the committee appointed for the redress of grievances: That I left the Diligence in the full persuasion he was to demand a restitution of the papers or clearances of the Patience sloop, and not to give up the possession of that vessel; That I found he had given up the sloop Patience, and himself not in possession of the papers, He answered, “As to the papers, he had attested copies of them, and as to the sloop, he had done no more than what he had offered before this disturbance happened at Brunswick.” I could not help owning I thought the detaining the Patience became a point that concerned the honor of government and that I found my situation very unpleasant, as most of the people by going up to Wilmington in the sloops would remain satisfied and report thro' the province, they had obtained every point they came to redress, while at the same time I had the mortification to be informed his Majesty's ordnance at Fort Johnston was spiked: This is the substance of what passed on board the Viper. On the 22d Capt Phipps accompanied me to Fort Johnston, where I found Capt Dalrymple sick in bed, two men only in garrison, and all the cannon that were mounted, spiked with nails I gave orders for the nails to be immediately drilled out which will be executed without prejudice to the pieces. I returned to Brunswick in the evening and the next morning sent my letter bearing date 23d to Capt Lobb to desire his reasons for spiking the cannon &c. He returned me his motives for this conduct by letter the 24th inst.

Capt Lobbs complaint relative to the provisions for his Majesty's sloops being stopt at Wilmington with the contractor's certificate of the manner of this restraint and my letter to the Mayor of Wilmington

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to require his assistance in furnishing the provision demanded, will be fully I hope understood by that correspondence

By the best accounts I have received the number of this insurrection amounted to 580 men in arms, and upwards of 100 unarmed. The Mayor and Corporation of Wilmington and most all of the gentlemen and planters of the counties of Brunswick, Newhanover, Duplin, and Bladen with some masters of vessels composed this corps. I am informed and believe the majority of this association were either compelled into this service, or were ignorant what their grievances were. I except the principals. I have inclosed a copy of the association formed to oppose the Stamp-Act

Thus, Sir, I have endeavoured to lay before you the first springs of this disturbance as well as the particular conduct of the parties concerned in it and I have done this as much as I possibly could, without prejudice or passion, favor or affection

I should be extreamly glad if you, Sir, could honor me with his Majesty's commands in the present exigency of affairs in this colony and in the meantime will study to conduct myself with the assistance of his Majesty's Council in such manner as will best secure the safety and honor of government and the peace of the inhabitants of this province.

I am, Sir, with all possible respect and esteem.