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Letter from James Reed to Daniel Burton
Reed, James, d. 1777
February 15, 1772
Volume 09, Pages 238-244

[N. C. Letter Book. S. P. G.]
Letter from Rev. Mr. Reed to the Secretary.

North Carolina Newbern
February 15th 1772

Revd Sir

My last was on the 2d of July 1771, since which, there has been great Contention about our little Academy. I should have sent you a more early account of it, cou'd I have done it with any satisfaction; but I found it difficult to find out the whole truth & the real causes of Discontent. The most material Intelligence I have been able to receive, even after the most diligent search, has been only from Mr. Tomlinson himself, Mr. Parrot, Mr. Tomlinson's late assistant, & one dissenting Trustee. The rest of the

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Trustees whether from a Consciousness of having acted wrong, or some worse motive entirely declined all conversation with me about it.

When Mr. Tomlinson opened his School, he was apprized of the excessive Indulgence of American Parents, and the great difficulty of keeping up a proper discipline; more especially as his school consisted of numbers of both Sexes. He was therefore very cautious, and used every little artifice to avoid Severity as much as possible. But when the children grew excessive headstrong, stubborn and unruly, & likely to endanger the welfare of his School, he used to correct and turn them out of School, & make some little difficulties about their Readmission. Unfortunately for Mr. Tomlinson, this piece of policy gave very great umbrage to two of the trustees, who ever since their children were corrected and turned out of School, have been his most implacable Enemies. One of them has acquired a very considerable fortune by trade, & has four or five of the trustees entirely at his Devotion. The Circumstances & Influence of the others are inconsiderable.

You may see by the Act of Assembly for establishing the School, which I sent you the 23rd of January 1767, that one penny per Gallon, for a limited time, is laid upon all spiritous Liquors imported into Neuse River, for the Benefit of the School; out of which Twenty pounds per ann: is to be paid to the Schoolmaster, to enable him to keep an assistant & the rest is to be applied to the education of poor children, not exceeding Ten. Mr. Tomlinson presuming that this duty upon Spiritous Liquors wou'd be honestly applied by the Encouragement of the trustees, wrote to his correspondent in London, who procured him an assistant, Mr. Parrot, properly qualified in every respect, & entered into bond with him for a term of years in behalf of Mr. Tomlinson. About twelve months after the arrival of Mr. Parrot, great umbrage was given to the potent trustee, by Mr. Tomlinson correcting and turning one of his children out of school for very disobedient & stubborn Behaviour; and a dissenting Minister, about the same time opened a School at Wilmington, which is near one hundred miles distant, when Six Boys, which Mr. Tomlinson had under his Care from that place, were taken away, for the conveniency of being nearer home, which reduced his scholars to about forty four. The trustees had never sent more than five poor children to School, And as Mr. Tomlinson found his School reduced, he petitioned the trustees

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to send him five more, the better to enable him to continue Mr. Parrot. But behold the consequence! a meeting of the trustees was appointed (not a general one, for I had no notice of it, but such as could be depended upon to answer particular purposes) & an order made, the original inclosed, that he should dismiss the five poor Children which were then at school, under a pretext of want of money to repair the Schoolhouse. I call it a Pretext, because their own Accounts will shew, that they had money enough then due & in their treasurer's hands, not only to have made all necessary repairs, & continued the five poor children, but likewise to have educated five more according to Mr. Tomlinson's Request. And tho' some repairs were really wanting, yet they have not laid out a single shilling in any Repairs from that day to this. And the dissenting trustee, who was at that Meeting, lately informed me, that the five poor children were taken away, not for want of Money, but with a design to distress Mr. Tomlinson.

When Mr. Tomlinson found his School still more reduced by the dismission of the five poor children, he represented to Mr. Parrot the harship of continuing him as assistant, who generously consented to cancel the Bonds & provide for himself. The greatest difficulty seemed then to be removed. Mr. Tomlinson had sufficient Employment for himself in the School, & Mr. Parrot who is a good Mathematician & Penman supported himself by Hackney writing.

But tho' Mr. Tomlinson was now perfectly easy, yet resentment could not sleep. The Correcting and turning the children of two of the trustees out of the School, was, like the Sin against the Holy Ghost, never to be forgiven. Mr. Tomlinson's Destruction was determined upon, but how to accomplish it was the difficulty. Mr. Parrot was therefore tampered with to open a School in opposition to him. But Mr. Parrot saw thro' their design to making a tool of him; and tho' he detested their proposal yet he gave soft answers, implying, that if the School should be at any time vacant, he would accept it, provided he had no better employment. Mr. Tomlinson was therefore to be turned out to make room for him; but Governor Tryon was in the way, who had been an Eye Witness of Mr. Tomlinson's conduct, and had a particular value and esteem for him. But at length Governor Tryon was removed to New York, and a new Governor succeeded him, who was a Stranger to Mr. Tomlinson, and then was the time to strike the fatal Blow. Accordingly on the 14th of last September, there was a meeting of the trustees (not

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a general one, for tho' a Trustee, I had no notice of it, not being a proper person for such business as they were then about) when they did their utmost to turn Mr. Tomlinson out of the School. A copy of their proceedings on that day, you have enclosed, & upon which I would beg leave to remark; That when they took the poor children away, there was no Complaint of neglect, but only of want of money. But now Mr. Tomlinson is accused of neglecting his School by the Trustees, & what is very surprising by no body else. They were the only accusers & the only Judges.

Mr. Tomlinson has taught School here upwards of Eight years, and I never heard him accused of neglecting his School till after the 14th of September 1771, & since that time, only by one Person, who is greatly in his Debt, besides the trustees that endeavoured to displace him. And I verily believe, they might with as much Justice have accused him of Robbery or Wilful Murder.

Two or three days after, Mr. Tomlinson informed me, how the trustees had used him, & was very desirous of a public hearing before the Governor. And tho' I was at that time very sick, yet I waited upon the Governor along with him, who received us very graciously. But his Excellency being a Stranger, & not knowing how far he was legally authorized to interfere, prudently declined granting him a public Hearing, till he had the Attorney General's opinion, a copy of which I have sent you inclosed, & by which you will perceive, that he could not legally interfere at all. Mr. Tomlinson's Case therefore seemed to be desperate, & nothing was to be done but turn out immediately.

The full number of Trustees is Eleven. At that time there were two vacancies, & I had no notice of their meeting. Eight met, and one dissented; therefore Mr Tomlinson was dismissed by the voice of Seven. But to give this Dismission the appearance of a more general voice, they proceeded immediately to fill up the vacancies, & elected two new Trustees, sent for them & swore them in, & then signed a nomination for Mr. Parrot. I have sent you coppies both of the Dismission & nomination, which you will find of the same date, & the nomination signed by Ten, to induce the Governor to believe that Mr. Tomlinson was dismissed by the voice of Ten, tho' he was dismissed by the voice of Seven only, for they got the two new elected Trustees, as well as the trustee that dissented to sign the nomination for Mr. Parrot.

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But here the Trustees met with a difficulty, they were not aware of. They knew Mr. Parrot's distressed circumstances, & never doubted but he would readily accept the School. But when the time of trial came, he let them see, that he had too much sense to be made a Tool of, and too much honor to supplant a worthy honest man.

In short, he refused to accept the School when offered in such a base and dishonourable manner; which redounded so much to his Credit, that he has lately got into decent Employment in the Secretary's office; which I hope will give him a comfortable subsistance at present, & be a step towards his future advancement. And now for the last Effort of disappointed Resentment.

After the trustees had sent for Mr. Tomlinson with an Intention to dismiss him (tho' he had not the least notice or suspicion of it, having never heard of any Accusation) they settled accounts with him, & gave him an order upon their treasurer for his money, & then the president, in the name of the Society, in a very abrupt manner, dismissed him. But a few days after, finding Mr. Tomlinson not very willing to turn out, & Mr. Parrot unwilling to accept the School, the potent trustee went to the Treasurer & by his own authority, forbade the payment of Mr Tomlinson's order. The treasurer accordingly refused payment & Mr. Tomlinson is obliged to sue for his money, tho' the Treasurer has due and in his hands about two hundred pounds.

I never despaired of bringing about a Reconciliation, till this last affair happened. It showed such a depravity of mind, that I thought it dangerous to continue any longer a Member of the incorporated Society, & I therefore resigned. And I believe the venerable Society, will never blame me for resigning in such a Situation. I saw I cou'd do no Good, and therefore wou'd not suffer my Name to give a Sanction to others to do mischief. Besides I was obliged to resign for my own preservation, & to keep out of the way of Strife and Contention.

The majority of the Trustees are wealthy men, but I cannot learn that any of them ever passed thro' a reputable School, or have the least knowledge of any of the Learned Languages, or liberal Sciences, or of the difficulty of governing a School. And I shall leave you to judge of the honor & Integrity of some of them, by the list of Debts inclosed, which Mr. Tomlinson gave me last Christmas. The want of such considerable sums must greatly distress

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any man in his station. He therefore grew urgent in his Demands, which united his Debtors more firmly in their opposition, and caused them to speak very disrespectfully of him before their Children. For such as will not pay their honest debts, seldom fail to abuse their injured Creditors.

You see it was not either for want of inclination or power, that they did not turn Mr. Tomlinson out of the School, but only for want of a proper Person to succeed him. He is therefore determined to resign the School next April, & follow some other employment.

I have been the more particular in the above Relation, from the duty I owe to the venerable Society & the great regard I have for Mr. Tomlinson, who, I believe, is a sincere Xtian, and has been very basely treated. He is certainly one of the most peaceable & inoffensive men living, enters into No Parties, meddles with nobodys business, but his own, & is not addicted to any one visible vice. And if the Trustees did really think him guilty, either of too much severity, or negligence, or any other Indiscretion or Misdemeanor, why did not they admonish or reprimand him? But that wou'd neither have paid their Debts, nor sufficiently gratified their Malice & Resentment.

I sincerely wish the Act for establishing the School was repealed. I am sure it will never answer any good intention, while such an unlimited power is intrusted in the hands of the Trustees. They shou'd be obliged to lay their accounts annually before the Commander in Chief for his inspection, who should have a Check upon them both in the admission & dismission of the Master. Tis true, the Governor has a power of licensing the Master, which I thought would have been a sufficient restraint, but you may see by the Honorable Marmaduke Jones's opinion inclosed, which is fuller than the Attorney General's, the Governors License is a mere trifling, if any restraint at all. And if the Bishop of London would point out the Defects of the present Act & get it repealed, I believe it would not be difficult to get a much better passed at the next Session of the Assembly. Or if that cou'd not be done, the Schoolhouse had better revert to the Subscribers in general than remain the property of a few, who so shamefully abuse their trust.

After having said so much relative to the School, tis time to say some thing with regard to myself, and tho' I cannot complain of ill usage, yet I never had so much reason to lament the want of Health. About the last of August I was seized with the bilious fever, which baffled every human effort for Relief, & the effects of which I feel

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too sensibly to this day. Sometimes I was confined to my Bed, at other times I could walk about a little or ride a little, but never enjoyed one Days health till after Christmas, when indulgent providence gradually relieved me by the variation of the Seasons. In this lingering sickly condition I was obliged to attend remote chapels; and in the month of November was so weak, that I cou'd not travel on Horseback, but was obliged to get a Chair; and when I had not strength to go thro' the whole Duty, I got the Clerk or Reader to do such parts of it, as I thought most proper. With great difficulty & bodily pain, I attended all the Chapels as usual, except one, the road to which is hardly passable for a wheel carriage.

After being clogged & surfeited with medicine & finding no Relief, I wrote to an eminent Physician who had lately removed from Newbern, for his advice; which I have sent you enclosed, & which, tho' probably very salutary, is not agreeable either to my circumstances or inclination. Removing is very expensive, & a new parish must be attended with a new Sett of acquaintances, which I wou'd avoid, if possible in the Decline of life. Besides I do not know of any parish in this province, in which a Clergyman cou'd be exempted either from long Journies or indifferent Lodgings. I am therefore determined to continue where I am, I wait the Effects of the returning Spring, which are generally very salutary. But if I should meet with a Return of my old Disorder, I humbly beg, the venerable Society will give me Leave, either to remove according to the Doctor's Advice, or to go to some of the Northern Colonies for a few months, or to return home for the Recovery of my Health.

I have baptized about ninety white & five black Children in my own Parish between last Midsummer & Christmas, and likewise visited St John's Parish & baptized Twenty five White Children. As part of this Parish lies along the Sea Coast, I expected some Benefit from the Sea air, but finding the people sickly, & poor accommodations, I soon returned. As the hot weather is advancing very fast, I humbly beg, Revd Sir, as you value my health you will condescend to give an answer as soon as possible, which, by the blessing of heaven, may be the means of prolonging my life, and will not fail to confer an additional obligation upon your already

Very much obliged & most obedient servant
JAMES REED,
Missry in Craven County.