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Letter from Josiah Martin to Wills Hill, Marquis of Downshire
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
April 12, 1772
Volume 09, Pages 277-281

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

N. Carolina New Bern
April 12th 1772.

I had the honour to receive your Lordship's dispatches No 4 and 5, about a week ago acknowledging the receipt of my letters No 1, 2 & 3 and I am made most happy by your Lordship's assurance that my conduct so far as they related it had met with the approbation of my Royal Master a most gracious reward My Lord for which if I am the most humble I flatter myself I am not the least zealous Candidate among his Majesty's servants.

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The reasons upon which I suggested to your Lordship in my first letter my wishes for instruction on the subject of a new paper credit that I foresaw must be the result of this Country to defray the charge of suppressing the late insurrection when the legislature should meet, were that I consider the passing any act for such a purpose however warily framed and not obnoxious to objection with respect to the Act of Parliament, would be nevertheless of such extraordinary nature as to militate against the 20th Article of his Majesty's General Instructions that expressly enjoins the passing no Act of such description without a suspending Clause which in the pressing exigency that it was now to be calculated to serve would render it if not abortive altogether inadequate and unsatisfactory and as I hold most sacred all his Majesty's commands, I could not help feeling that reluctance to dispence in my first Act of legislation with so positive an injunction that will ever embarrass and distress me upon any apprehension of necessity to deviate from the letter of the King's Royal Instructions. It was therefore My Lord that I expressed to your Lordship a desire to receive his Majesty's allowance to do what I thought without it might lay me open to reprehension which urgent necessity and the importance of the injunction afterwards compelled me to risque and upon which I build my hopes of justification to my Royal Master. I conceived that, to your Lordship apprized of this restriction, my dilemma would be obvious and that it was not necessary to enlarge upon it.

I flatter myself from your Lordship's letter that the act of the last Session for raising £60,000 for payment of the Militia forces will be found liable to no exception under the Act of Parliament as I had it constantly in view and firmly resolved never to give in to any measure that should in the least indirectly or remotely offend against it.

As I propose to visit the Frontier Counties of this Province as soon as possible after I have dispatched the public business in the Court of Chancery and Court of Claims appointed to be held here next month, I shall think it right to reserve until that time the display of his Majesty's mercy to the family of Merrill not only as a means of making my first appearance there more welcome but as I do conceive it may be proper and I hope your Lordship will be of that opinion to illustrate such an emanation of his Majesty's Royal goodness by all solemnity that may be conducive to impress a just and grateful sense of this instance of princely magnanimity and

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beneficence upon the minds of that people whose discontents not yet altogether subsided have lately appeared in private injuries I shall endeavour to probe and to heal if possible by all such lenient applications as may best answer that purpose and be most consistent with the sacred honor and dignity of his Majesty's Government.

I omitted by chance in my letter No 11 to mention to your Lordship a circumstance that above all others clearly convinces how little regard, respect or obligation is recognized by the County Court Clerks to Government for the appointments they hold under the Clerk of the Pleas. It is My Lord, that of thirty four of them only eight or nine have to this hour complied with the command of a Proclamation which I issued at the beginning of his Majesty's Royal Instructions requiring all Officers forthwith to make me returns of their Tables of Fees with certificates that they had affixed up in their respective offices. Copies of such Tables of which positive and publick injunction they cannot plead ignorance because copies thereof were carefully dispursed through every part of the province, and it is owing to this their neglect that I am not yet able to make to your Lordship a compleat return of the Fees of office in this Province. The Collectors of the Customs for the Ports of Brunswick and Roanoke having likewise made me no quarterly Returns yet I am not able to report to your Lordship with precision the number of Negroes that have been imported since my arrival here, but I think it will be found about 200.

Upon a formal surrender made by the Inhabitants of the Charter granted by Governor Dobbs to Campbelton in the County of Cumberland of a very extraordinary nature accompanied with a petition for a new one upon a model just and equitable to the Freeholders, I have with the consent and advice of his Majesty's Council Granted such Charter which transaction will appear to your Lordship at large in the Minutes of Council hereafter to be transmitted.

After waiting two months having received no answer from Lord Charles Montague to my request that he would appoint the time and point of Rendezvous for the Commissioners who are to run the Boundary Line between this Province and that of So Carolina as the hot season is now fast approaching, I have given notice to his Lordship that the Commissioners of this Province will meet those of his appointment at the Catawba Town on the 20th day of this month and immediately proceed with them to carry into execution His

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Majesty's commands which I am of opinion will be greatly beneficial to both Colonies.

I think it my duty to propose to your Lordship's consideration the expediency of constituting the Governor sole chancellor in this Colony. The Court of Chancery is composed here of the Governor and five Members of the Council for which there is no authority that I can discern nor can I guess how or when it became so intituled unless by Instruction to a proprietary Governor. I see by a Law of the year 1715, when this Province was a Proprietary the authority of a Court of Chancery is recognized but there is no vestage of its constitution to be found at present. The Governor's sole power extends no further than to granting writs of Injunction &c., by which the course of Law is suspended a twelvemonth, that is until a meeting of the Council, which scattered in this rural Colony cannot without great inconvenience to the Members be convened oftener as they have no allowance for such attendance and thus My Lord a Court of Equity designed for the remedy of defects and grievances in law becomes a new source of embarrassment and delay. No disadvantage that I can conceive will arise to the subject from the arrangement I humbly propose. The business of the Court of Chancery might then be carried on regularly and constantly, no longer subject to the suspense to which it is now incident and its decrees I do apprehend will be more likely to be just equitable and impartial when depending on the King's Governor solely than when he is combined with five Members of the Council, people of the Country and closely and generally connected with its Inhabitants who are the suiters. And when His Majesty's Revenue of Quit Rents shall admit of further charge I am of opinion the appointment of two or three Masters in Chancery will be of great advantage. There is none at present nor any other officer proper to that Court except a Register.

The Writs for calling a new Assembly being returnable the 11th of next month and the Public affairs not requiring its meeting so early I have by and with the advice and consent of Mis Majesty's Council issued a Proclamation Proroguing it to the 10th day of December following at which time all the business of the Courts will be over and the Members more at leisure to attend.

I herewith transmit to your Lordship the Estimate of the expence of the Lower House of the General Assembly at the last Session which is indeed very considerable, that of the Upper House I hav not to this time been able to obtain.

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I can assure your Lordship with great satisfaction that I see this little Town or rather village of New Bern growing very fast into significance in spite of the great natural difficulties of the navigation leading to it and its importance will I hope become greater as the spirit of improvement that begins to dawn among the neighboring planters some of whom are going upon the culture of Rice and Indigo shall diffuse itself. The bad navigation however of the River Neuse and the Bar of Ocracock, will much retard its growth and can never be effectually improved until this Province shall be in circumstances to employ £100,000 Sterling under the auspices of some such Genius as Mr Brindley to whom I am persuaded it would not be a very difficult task and I do think it would then soon become a City not unworthy notice in the great and flourishing Empire of my Royal Master.

An Act having been passed here in the year 1766 Intituled “An Act for establishing a school house in the Town of New Bern” by which absolute Power of dismissing Masters of the School is given to the Trustees without the consent or participation of his Majesty's Governor whose licence by the same act is made indispensible to the Masters appointments he thus becomes the mere Instrument of their power which they have lately exercised most capriciously and discharged a Master of unexceptionable character and qualifications under whose auspices, until the Trustees withdrew his authority this Institution promised to grow into a seminary of great utility and expectation. As this Act appears to me to be nugatory and repugnant to the first principles of Law which require the same power to annull as to create, I most humbly submit it to your Lordship's consideration whether it may not be proper to recommend it to the supreme Court power of his Majesty for his Royal disallowance. While the present Act exists no man of character will be found to take the conduct of the school from which he is subject to be removed at the caprice of a few ignorant men who are Trustees.

I beg leave my Lord to assure your Lordship of my best acknowledgments for the honour conferred upon me by your Lordships good wishes of which I shall study to be as deserving as I am sensible; the late serene keen and agreeable Winter has quite restored my health and I am I thank God at this day as well as ever I was in my life.

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