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Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
May 05, 1774
Volume 09, Pages 989-994

[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. Vol. 221.]
Letter from Governor Martin to the Earl of Dartmouth.

No Carolina New Bern, May 5th 1774.

My Lord,

I have had the honor to receive in due course, your Lordship's Dispatches numbered 7, 8, & 9, the last accompanying your Lordship's Letter, and the King's Instructions, relating to the future disposal of His Majesty's lands in this Province, to which your Lordship may depend, I will pay the most exact obedience; and to the end, that I may not on any construction of my own, exceed, or fall

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short of His Majesty's Royal instructions in the execution of them, I have sent to take the opinion of His Majesty's Attorney General here, whether entries of lands, made prior to the receipt of the King's Order in Council last year, restraining me from granting more lands, are, or are not to be considered such antecedent steps, as will, in equity, give Titles to Grants of such lands, that I may give notice to the Entrants thereof, to receive back their money paid on their Entries into the Secretary's Office, if they are precluded from perfecting their Titles, or take order for completing them, if they are deemed to come within your Lordship's rule of exception. The entry of land is certainly an antecedent necessary step to obtain a Grant, according to former regulations, and the people who forbore to withdraw their money so paid, after my Public notification, that they might do so, in consequence of His Majesty's Orders restraining the passing any more Warrants of Survey of Grants of Land, in the belief that such previous steps might establish priority of claim to the Lands they had entered, in after time, will be much disappointed if they find it otherwise. My conduct in the case, however, my Lord, will be governed by the most direct construction of the King's designs, whatsoever that shall be, in the opinion of His Majesty's Attorney General, & the Council.

The plan His Majesty has been pleased to ordain for the future disposal of His Lands, I am apprehensive my Lord has been adopted too late in the day, with respect to this Province, where almost all the Lands of any value, in the King's District, are already granted, and where such as remain ungranted, are scattered about in small parcells. I suppose, at this day it will be difficult to find a thousand acres of land lying together, unless it be here and there a dismal or Pocoson, (terms used among the Inhabitants of this Country to signify swampy grounds) that may be objects possibly, at some time or other to moneyed people, but can never be improved by little settlers, as they will require great expense to clear and drain. If I may presume humbly to offer my own opinion of it to your Lordship, I confess, when I consider the purchase money to be paid, and the advanced Quit Rent, together with the novelty of the scheme & the poverty of the People, with whom the Lands ungranted will be in request, I think it will have all the effect of an absolute Interdict to grant the King's Lands here, at least for some years, until the circumstances of things shall undergo great change, but experience only can evince the rectitude or error of this opinion.

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For myself I can only say, my Lord, that at present, by my computation, that part of the revenue of the Governor of this Province, that has arisen from granting the Crown Lands, which has been worth a thousand pounds per annum, is at an end, and that I do not, under these new regulations, expect to derive Five Pounds from it. But I wish not to be understood, my Lord, that I consider this circumstance, as any just ground of objection to the Plan that I am satisfied, has been adopted upon the best principles, for it surely deserves no consideration of Government, in making a general regulation in matters of so great consequence, and I rely with the greatest resignation & confidence, on His Majesty's Grace to grant some other adequate support to His Governor of this Province, if the present mode prescribed for the disposal of the Crown lands should prove profitless. As in that case, I do assure your Lordship, the appointment of the Governor of this Country, will not nearly maintain him with decency, as Governor Tryon, now in England, can inform your Lordship from long experience.

I am extremely glad to hear that the draught of a Quit rent Law, that I have had the honor to submit to your Lordship's consideration, has met with your approbation. On further contemplation of it my Lord, and of the dexterity of the little Lawyers in this Country, in explaining away & perverting the Laws; of the necessity of the greatest precision, in a law whose object is of so great importance to His Majesty's Interest, and the expediency of making in it the most effectual provision for its due execution, and the possible ill consequences of leaving anything appertaining thereto, in doubt, and uncertainty, I have drawn up some additional Clauses, that I think of great utility and importance, Copies of which I now lay before your Lordship, numbered as they appear to me, to come most properly into the Bill before transmitted; and if they shall meet with your Lordship's approbation, I hope you will think it proper to put them in any further train of consideration that may be necessary, that as little time as possible may be lost in procuring a Law of so great moment and consequence.

In the meantime my Lord, I beg leave most earnestly to recommend to your Lordship's consideration, the expediency of His Majesty's ratification of a Law, passed in this Province in the year 1754, with a suspending Clause, entituled “An Act for securing the payment of Quit rents due to His Majesty and Earl Granville for quieting the Freeholders in the possession of their Lands,” that has very lately, and by mere accident fallen under my observation, not having

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been printed at large in any compilation of the Laws of this Country that I have seen. It appears, by a note in the late edition that I transmitted to your Lordship, opposite to its Title, at the bottom of page 167, that the King's pleasure was never signified upon this Act, and it is certain there is not any trace of its disallowance to be found here. I have also by chance my Lord, met with a representation of Sir Matthew Lamb upon this Act, to the Board of Trade, with animadversions thereon by Mr Jones, late his Majesty's Attorney General of this Province, a copy of which, and of the Act to which they refer, I have now the honor to transmit to your Lordship, and I flatter myself Mr Jones's reasons will give great support to the measure I presume humbly to recommend.

Although this Act my Lord, is certainly not all I could wish for, nor free from objections, yet as it makes all the Arrears of Quit rents recoverable, the confirmation of it, if it can be had, will put it absolutely in His Majesty's power, by holding forth the remission of a considerable part of that debt, to induce the Assembly to pass the more effectual Law, now under consideration, by which that may be repealed, if thought proper. Mr Rutherford His Majesty's Reeeiver General informed me, that the Act of 1754 above mentioned, never passed from the Treasury Board, where it lay for consideration in the year 1759, when he was in England, and joined Mr Jones in solliciting its acceptance there.

It is my duty to observe to yr Lordship that the Provincial appointment made for the support of His Majesty's Chief Justice, continues only to the next month, when he will be reduced to the pittance of seventy pounds sterling per annum, charged upon the revenue of quit rents, that is now in arrears no less than five years; and as it seems a fixed principle with the Assembly to allot to that officer only a temporary salary, subject to alteration from time to time, until His Majesty shall be pleased to make his appointment during good behaviour, which will place him in a state of utter dependance upon the caprice of that Branch of the Legislature, and is a plan no less impolitic than it is inconsistent with the dignity of that character; I beg leave, my Lord, to recommend his case in the warmest manner to your Lordship's attention, and to express my hopes that you will see it expedient to move His Majesty to grant him a salary adequate to the dignity and importance of his station, out of some certain fund. The duty of the Chief Justice here, my Lord, is attended with infinitely greater toil and expense than in any other

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of the Colonies. His circuits all round this Province are of far greater extent, and he is exposed in them to numberless difficulties, inconveniences and charges, unknown elsewhere. I do not appreendh, my Lord, that a less appointment than seven or eight hundred pounds sterling per annum will enable him to support the dignity of his Office with decency; and I can assure your Lordship His Majesty has not a more faithful servant than Mr Howard, who now fills that important Post; and that I have the fullest persuasion, he will deserve every mark of his Royal favour that shall be conferred on him.

The late Assembly, my Lord, resolved to continue the Establishment of Fort Johnston only to the next Session, which I fear is partly owing to the command of that place being held at present by an Officer of His Majesty's nomination instead of Mr Howe, a native of this Country, who enjoyed the emoluments of it, under favor of Captain Collet ever since his appointment to that command, which he obtained through the interest of the Earl of Shelburne, who had been taught to consider it a thing of consequence, as well in point of honor, as profit. Captain Collet on his arrival here, however, unfortunately found Lord Shelburne had been deceived in his information, and that it was a little pitiful establishment depending on the humor of the Assembly, and in all respects utterly unworthy of his attention, which his delicacy I believe prevented his ever making known to his noble Patron. After a stay of two years in this Province he returned to England in hopes of something turning up more to his advantage. He arrived from thence only last year, since which he has displayed in this little command every talent of an active and good officer that could be exhibited in so small a sphere; his zeal for his Majesty's service, and public spirit indeed has carried him beyond the bounds of prudence, for he has laid out upwards of fifteen hundred pounds on repairs of the Fort, the greater part of which the Assembly has refused to reimburse him, as will appear to your Lordship from the Journals of the last Session of the Assembly. I cannot help grieving exceedingly, my Lord, at the fate-of this amiable and deserving young Gentleman, and as the maintenance of that Fort is of great importance to the security of Cape Fear River, the great channel of the commerce of this Country, I think it proper to submit to your Ldps consideration the expediency of supporting His Majesty's Governor of it out of the revenue of Quit Rents when that fund shall become sufficient.

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Five hundred pounds sterling per annum I should think competent for that purpose; and in such case I imagine the Assembly might be engaged to pay a little garrison, the very appearance of which would have many good effects.

I shall not fail, my Lord, to take the proper steps in consequence of His Majesty's Grace to Ronald McDugal, and I will take the greatest care to exercise with the utmost delicacy the power of respiting Criminals in cases of murder conformable to your Lordship's Instructions.

I have lately at the request of His Majesty's Commissioners of the Customs for America, suspended Mr Pierce, the Collector of Port Currituck, from his Office, for which indeed I believe the man was even less qualified, and his monstrously absurd conduct, repeated misdemeanors, and total neglect and disobedience of all the Commissioners and my orders for more than a year past, would have induced me to take this measure long ago, if your Lordship had not admonished me not to interfere with Officers of the Customs until your Lordship should determine the extent of my powers with regard to them, in answer to my report of the suspension of Mr Malcolm, Comptroller of the Customs at the same Port, since which time I have not been honored with your Lordships commands in relation to this point, that it would seem necessary should be settled in some way or other to prevent the inconveniences that may arise to His Majesty's service.

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