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Letter from Josiah Martin to Wills Hill, Marquis of Downshire
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
March 01, 1772
Volume 09, Pages 252-259

[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. Vol. 219.]
Letter from Governor Martin to Secry Hillsborough.


North Carolina New Bern,
March 1st 1772.

I have the honor to transmit to your Lordship herewith a Duplicate of the Journal of the last Session of Assembly A Copy of the Journal of the Council as an upper House of the General Assembly its Minutes as a Privy Council Duplicates of my Dispatches from No 6 to No 9 both inclusive and Copies which I have at length obtained of the Acts of the late Session to which I gave my assent being twenty three in Number.

The first whereof is intituled

1st. An act for imposing a Tax of two shillings proclamation Money per Poll on all taxable persons within this Province and for granting the money arising from such a Tax to his Majesty his Heirs and Successors to be applied as herein after directed.

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My assent to this Act under the exhausted circumstances of the principal Treasury became not only expedient but indispensible to the payment of the Militia Forces employed in support of Government in the late insurrection, for which the public faith stood engaged, it may be justly apprehended that the peace of the province would have been yet more deeply wounded by default of such provision for their recompence and it would have diminished if not alienated the zeal and affection of his Majesty's Subjects who stood forth with so much Loyalty and Spirit in that great emergency.

The second is intituled

2d. An Act to alter the Method of working upon the Roads in the Counties therein mentioned.

Which its obvious utility induced me to pass.

The third is intituled

3rd. An Act to impower the church Wardens and Vestrymen of the Parish of St Gabriels in the County of Duplin to sell the Glebe in the said Parish and County.

To this Act I gave my assent on evidence that the Glebe was bad and inconvenient in point of situation and that it was for the benefit of the Rector and his successors that it should be changed for another situation.

The fourth is intituled

4th. An Act to enable the Freeholders of the Parish of St John in the County of Pasquotank to elect a vestry and provide for their poor.

The number and distress of the poor in this Parish engaged me to give my assent to this temporary act for their relief.

The fifth is intituled

5th. An act for appointing an Agent to solicit the affairs of this Province at the several Boards in England.

To which I assented in Conformity to his Majesty's Royal Instructions.

The sixth is intituled

6th. An Act to amend an Act intituled an Act “what Fences are sufficient” and to amend and continue an act relating to taking up stray horses.

The malicious and wanton injuries daily done to stray horses and cattle in this Province on pretence of trespass evinced to me the expediency of this Act and induced me give my assent thereto, its

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diction has not all the precision and perspicuity I could wish altho' I recommended it to be corrected.

The seventh is intituled

7th. An Act to impower the Freeholders of the several Parishes therein mentioned to elect Vestries for their respective Parishes.

The Machinations of the Presbyterians to defeat the Vestry Laws in these parishes have been so successfull and the inconveniences arising thence so manifold that I conceived this Law to be indispensibly necessary to correcting parochial grievances wherefore I assented to it.

The eighth is intituled

>8th. An Act for the further enabling Francis Locke, Andrew Allison, Griffith Rutherford and William Temple Coles former Sheriffs of Rowan County to Collect the arrearages of Taxes.

The great arrears to the public and the difficulties Sheriffs have met with in the Collection of Taxes in this part of the province in particular evinces the necessity of such power and indulgence as is given by this Act and I therefore could not withhold my consent.

The ninth is intituled

9th. An Act to amend an Act intituled an Act for founding, establishing and endowing of Queen's College in the Town of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County.

The design of this Act being to invest the Trustees and Fellows with the powers of Graduation during the absence of the President, who is now out of the province, without which the Institution would be imperfect I thought it proper to assent thereto.

The tenth is intituled

10th. An Act to indemnify such persons as have acted in defence of Government and for the preservation of the peace of this province during the Insurrection from vexatious suits and prosecutions.

Considering this Act calculated, to give that protection which I considered to be due from Government to the loyal Inhabitants of this Province who by their well directed vigour and spirit had delivered it from a state of Civil War and that it might be presumed in default thereof that these principles would be discouraged if their loyalty and zeal were not quite extinguished by the persecution to which they would have been left exposed in this Country where there prevails a proneness to contention without example: or that on a future emergency they would have been found inactive and impotent from the dread of consequences. I could not hesitate to

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give my assent thereto, and I humbly rely my Lord upon the Force of these reasons to justify me to my Royal Master for departing from the letter of his Majesty's Instructions in passing this Act of extraordinary nature without a suspending Clause that would have defeated its design by giving time for the operations of malice and disloyalty which were already concerting to embarrass those champions of the public tranquility.

The eleventh is intituled

11th. An Act to amend an Act intituled an Act for regulating the pilotage of Cape Fear River and other purposes.

The manifest expediency of this Act to preserve and facilitate the navigation of this best port in the province induces my ready assent to it.

The twelfth is intituled

12th. An Act to amend an Act intituled an Act for regulating the several Officers Fees within this province and ascertaining the method of paying the same.

Finding great and unjust clamours raised against Governor Tryon for taking exhorbitant Fees for services not provided for by former Laws, in order to obviate every possible ground of complaint upon this of all subjects the most invidious I desired the Assembly by message on the sixth day of December, which will appear on their Journal, to ascertain by Law all the Fees of my Office. This Act was accordingly framed for that purpose and I have the satisfaction to see and to assure your Lordship that the House hath adopted the very moderate and reasonable rules of that Gentleman, making them the standard by which they have now regulated the Governor's Fees, with exception of a very few cases where they have raised instead of finding room to lessen them. This is irrefragably proof of the equity of Mr Tryons conduct, highly honorable to him and to which I bear Testimony with the truest pleasure. By this Act to which I trust my principle will justify my assent, The fees of the County Registers are settled also upon a very moderate footing.

The thirteenth is intituled

13th. An Act to continue an Act intituled an Act to encourage the destroying of Vermin in the several Counties therein mentioned.

The utility of which is so obvious that I trust it will warrant my assent given thereto.

The fourteenth is intituled

14th. An Act to impower the Officers therein mentioned in certain cases to take the Poll at the Election of Members to serve in the

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General Assembly. The design whereof is to give power to the Crown in default of a Sheriff in any County to take the Poll at Elections, a regulation that I conceive to be expedient in this wide extensive Colony where an election in the case of a Sheriffs death or absence must be long postponed. I therefore assented to it as it does not appear in my Judgment repugnant to the 14th Article of his Majesty's Instructions and provides against any possible contingencies and inconveniences.

The fifteenth is intituled

15th. An Act to enlarge the time for several Sheriffs to settle their Accounts with the Justices of the Superior Courts of Pleas and Quarter Sessions of the Counties therein mentioned.

The Public Commotions and the lawless opposition heretofore made to Sheriffs in these Counties have made it expedient to extend the time allowed them by former law referred to in the preamble of this Act to collect the arrears of Taxes and to settle their accounts, and are the grounds of my assent.

The sixteenth is intituled

16th. An Act for amending an Act intituled an Act for erecting in the Town of Salisbury a Public Gaol Pillory and Stocks for the district of Salisbury in this Province.

The provisions to be made by this Act so essental to the complete administration of Justice not having been made under the former Act by reason of the Tumult and violence that reigned during the late insurrection in that part of the Country and this Town being one of the Seats of the Superior Court of Judicature my assent to it became a matter of course.

The seventeenth is intituled

17th. An Act for the better regulation of the Town of New Bern and for securing the Titles of persons who hold Lots in the said Town.

This Act seems well calculated to preserve regularity and order in building the Town and altho' it may appear to affect private property I am assured it is a plan that meets with universal concurrence and I therefore assented to it.

The eighteenth is intituled

18th. An Act for laying out a Town on the Lands of Richard Evans in Pitt County by the name of Martinborough.

This Place is considered to be convenient for Trade and a Town being in request among the people of the County I was induced to

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pass this Act for its erection and to accept the compliment designed to me by its name.

The nineteenth is intituled

19th.An Act for building a Court House in the Town of Salisbury for the district of Salisbury.

The Court House in this place that is a Seat of the Superior Court is in a ruinous state; the design of this Act commanded therefore my assent.

The twentieth is intituled

20th. An Act to amend an Act intituled an act for the regulation of the Town of Wilmington.

The obvious necessity for preventing encroachments by building upon the Streets and preserving regularity in this Town which hath frequently and very recently suffered very great calamities by fire could alone have engaged my assent to this Act whereby so great a power is vested in Commissioners over the property of their fellow Citizens. It may be likewise liable to exception by laying the onus probandi on the defendant in cases of persons trafficking with Negroes, but notwithstanding it seems to be inducive of perjury which it seems to be wished could be obviated, it appears to be the only means of detecting the base practices that are carried on by the low people in the Towns who are pandars to abettors of the Thefts and vilanies committed by the Negroes. There is also in it an obvious inconsistency between the term fixed for the election of Commissioners and the duration of the act that arose from inattention to that preceeding direction when an alteration of six years to two was made with respect to the latter by my prescription as a condition of my assent to such an act as I thought should have a short time of probation before it was made more permanent.

The twenty first is intituled

21st. An Act for erecting in the Town of Hillsborough a public Goal and Goalers House for the district of Hillsboro in this Province.

The establishments intended by this Act in this Seat of the Superior Court are so necessary as to render my assent to it indispensible.

The twenty second is intituled

22d. An Act for laying out a public Road from the Frontiers of this Province through the Counties of Mecklenburg Rowan Anson and Cumberland to Campbelton.

The manifest tendency of such communications to civilization

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and the extention and improvement of commerce readily induced my assent to this Act.

The twenty third is intituled

23rd. An Act for appointing and impowering Francis Mosely of Anson County and James McCoy of Rowan County to collect and receive the Taxes which are due from the Inhabitants of the said Counties for the year 1770.

For want of Sheriffs who were deterred from qualifying for this Office in these Counties by the disorders that prevailed there during that year no taxes were levied, regard to public economy therefore naturally and necessarily engaged my assent to this Act.

I am to inform your Lordship that I rejected at the same time a Bill for erecting part of the Counties of Halifax and Tyrrell into a County and Parish as being inconsistent with the 14th Article of his Majesty's Instructions.

A Bill to discontinue the Poll Tax of 1s. and duty of 4d per gallon on Rum Wine and other spiritous Liquors being contrary to Act of Parliament and inconsistent with the public faith, And a Bill for striking debenture Bills on Bank Paper to the amount of £120,000 proclamation money to be exchanged for all such Debenture and Tender Bills as may be in circulation in this province as self inconsistent and rebelling against the Act of Parliament of the 4th of his present Majesty relating to paper Bills of Credit. I shall be most happy my Lord to find this my first essay in Legislation meets with his Majesty's and your Lordships approbation but sensible as I am of my own frailty and inexperience, I cannot suppose my conduct blameless, at the same time that I can assure your Lordship that if I have committed error it is the fault of my Judgment not of my heart.

I am mortified at finding it out of my power to transmit to your Lordship a list of the Taxables for the past year owing to the remissness of the County Court Clerks of whose conduct I have great reason to complain in this and other instances of which I shall soon write to your Lordship at large. I must also pray your Lordships excuse for not sending an account of the Negroes imported into this province since my arrival the Collectors of the Customs having not yet made Report of them to me. I hope however very soon to furnish your Lordship with these returns and an account of the Inhabitants which I find it extremely difficult to

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obtain, the Sheriffs not caring to perform a service that yields them no profit.

Near a thousand people have arrived in Cape Fear River from the Scottish Isles since the Month of November with a view to settle in this Province whose prosperity and strength will receive great augmentation by the accession of such a number of hardy laborious and thrifty people.

I have the honor to be &c
JO. MARTIN.

P. S. The Lists of Taxables have been heretofore extremely erroneous by which your Lordship, the Governor and the Public have been imposed upon, of this I have lately obtained full proof. It is to be imputed to the negligence or infidelity of the Magistrates or County Court Clerks or both, I shall endeavour with the utmost care and attention to correct this abuse for the future although I am aware of great difficulties in it from the want of a proper order of people out of which to select Magistrates.