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Letter from Samuel Johnston to Alexander Elmsley
Johnston, Samuel, 1733-1816
September 23, 1774
Volume 09, Pages 1070-1072

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]
Letter from Samuel Johnston to Alexander Elmsly.

Edenton 23d Septr 1774.

Dear Sir,

I acknowledge the favor of your Letter of the 17th of May a few days ago from Pasquotank, the bearer, Mr Pettigrew, who comes over for a Commission from the Bishop to prepare the Americans for death and a world where they will no longer be liable to be taxed by a British Parliament, gives me an opportunity of writing again, and as his stay will probably be short I shall hope to hear from you by him on his return.

Inclosed is a Peremptory order on Bridgen & Waller for their balance, and as I have been put to some trouble between them and their friend Strudwick, (a very trifling fellow) I expect they will pay you the Interest from the time of stating the Amount, but this I leave you to settle as you think reasonable. The Lace came safe to hand and I dare believe will please wonderfully, as Ladies seldom complain of things of that kind being too good, tho' by the bye, it was not for Peggy.

I am very thankful to you for being so full in your remarks on our attachments. You know as well or better than any one how the Clause on which Nash's Attachment was founded got into our Laws, tho' you may be assured there was no particular hardship in that case against the Dobbs's. Edward Dobbs had an attorney on the Spot who was served with the process of the Court and obtained a sufficient delay for obtaining Mr Dobbs's answer. Governor Dobbs devised his Lands in Carolina to Mr Ed. Dobbs, chargeable with Mrs Nash's Legacy and Nash [had] no other method of obtaining a Sale. Conway Dobbs was joined as being the Governor's Heir at Law and lest Ed. should refuse the Legacy.

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With regard to the other cases you mention, I never could reconcile my opinion to the determinations of our Judges who condemned property, which appeared to me actually vested in the Assignees, to the payment of the Bankrupt's Debts. But it seems they were right.

I have always thought it equitable that contracts should be enforced under the Laws of the Country where they were entered into, and if the Deft withdraws his person from that Country, that the Creditor should have it in his Option either to follow the person of his Debtor or have recourse against the property he left behind him. I agree that there may be some cases of hardship and Injustice which cannot be easily provided against, but on the whole, think it is a regulation favorable to Trade, especially in this Country where people are continually rambling.

What our agent wrote concerning the increasing the jurisdiction of the Inferior Court has had a very bad effect. People began to be pretty well satisfied about the Jurisdiction of those Courts but they now again entertain hope of having it increased. I never, as you know, approved of him, and at last joined in crying down the necessity of an agent unless on particular occasions and for special purposes; when the House resolved on remonstrating against the Instruction regarding attachments, Mr Barker and you were named by the Southern Gentlemen and I have no doubt but that should it ever be thought necessary to have a standing agent it may be easily procured for one or both of you, tho' the Cape Fear people can hardly find in their hearts to forgive you for fixing the Governor's House at New Bern.

The Acts of Parliament you mention are like to produce very serious consequences. The Congress of the Colonies met at Philadelphia the 5th and have chosen Peyton Randolph their Chairman, which is all we have yet heard of them. I lately sent Mr Barker a Copy of our proceedings, but for fear it should miscarry I now send you another.

You will not wonder at my being more warmly affected with affairs of America than you seem to be. I came over so early and am now so rivited to it by my connections that I cannot help feeling for it as if it were my Natale Solum. The Ministry from the time of passing the Declaratory Act, on the repeal of the Stamp Act, seem to have used every opportunity of teizing and fretting the people here as if on purpose to draw them into Rebellion or some violent opposition to Government; at a time when the Inhabitants of Boston

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were every man quietly employed about their own private affairs, The wise Members of your House of Commons on the authority of Ministerial Scribbles, declare they are in a state of open Rebellion. On the strength of this they pass a set of Laws which from their severity and injustice cannot be carried into execution but by a military force, which they have very wisely provided, being conscious that no people who had once tasted the Sweets of freedom would ever submit to them except in the last extremity. They have now brought things to a crisis and God only knows where it will end. It is useless, in disputes between different Countries, to talk about the right which one has to give Laws to the other, as that generally attends the power, tho' where that power is wantonly or cruelly exercised, there are Instances where the weaker state has resisted with Success; for when once the Sword is drawn all nice distinctions fall to the Ground; the difference between internal and external taxation will be little attended to, and it will hereafter be considered of no consequence whether the Act be to regulate Trade or raise a fund to support a majority in the House of Commons. By this desperate push the Ministry will either confirm their power of making Laws to bind the Colonies in all cases whatsoever or give up the right of making Laws to bind them in any Case—a Right which they might have exercised in most cases to the mutual advantage of Great Britain and the Colonies for ages to come, had they exercised it with discretion. I think your own observation and knowledge of the People and Constitution of Britain would suggest to you a number of substantial reasons against our thinking of being represented in the British Parliament, it would therefore be impertinent in one to say any

[The concluding part of this letter is unfortunately lost.—Editor.]