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Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
March 10, 1775
Volume 09, Pages 1155-1159

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[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. No. 222.]
Letter from Governor Martin to the Earl of Dartmouth.

North Carolina, New Bern, March 10th 1775.

My Lord,

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's circular letter of the 10th day of December enclosing copies of his Majesty's most gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament and their addresses thereupon at the opening of the present Session, and I hope with your Lordship that the firm resolution they discover in all the Branches of the Legislature to maintain its just necessary constitutional supreme authority over all part of the British Dominions will have in time all the good effects that your Lordship so reasonably expects, at the same time that I am extremely concerned to inform your Lordship that the seditious leaders of the People have as yet but too effectually prevented its operating to the extent I could wish. They have observed, I am told, upon the King's Speech, and addresses of Parliament, that they afford them no expectations of yielding on their parts but at the same time talk of resorting to violence instead of submission and continue to prompt the people to discontent by all the most false, base and scandalous suggestions, reports and insinuations that unprincipled men can invent, which are readily swallowed by the poor deluded people whose extreme ignorance and credulity exposes them to receive every imposition that the crafty and ill designing men practice upon them with unwearied pains and diligence. I enclose to your Lordship an Advertisement of a Committee in this Town that may serve as a specimen of their atrocious falsehoods which are reported to stimulate the people to revolt. It was published immediately after a proclamation of which your Lordship will receive a Copy herewith that I had issued by the advice of the Council, to obviate a summons to the People to choose delegates to be sent to a convention and seem calculated to counteract my design. It is supposed to be the composition of a Mr Nash, one of the Subscribers, who is an eminent lawyer but a most unprincipled character of this Country

Having by my last letter promised your Lordship to communicate my observations on the temper & disposition of the people of the several Colonies I passed through on my way hither from New York, I

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will now beg leave to discharge myself of that duty in a few words. At the last mentioned place I thought I left among the mercantile and first order of people the best dispositions to Government. One of the counties and some of the Towns too, of that province had withstood and indeed renounced, all the measures of the Congress, and in my opinion there was only wanting a body of Troops there to confirm the good humour of the friends of Government and to restrain its opposers to reasonable bounds.

In Jersey the Sons of Liberty, as they style themselves, I found were more diligent and more prevailing, but still had proceeded no further than to preach sedition from the Pulpits. At Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania the Laws of the Congress seemed to be paramount, very few daring to whisper disapprobation of them except the gentle, peaceable Quakers whose moanings were scarcely to be heard in the general air of factious clamour.

At Annapolis a few of the first class of people adhered firmly to Government on general principles, contending for the most part however strongly against the Parliamentary Right of Taxation but the people in general there and throughout that Province I found wrought up to a high pitch of extravagance. I would willingly if I could reconcile it to my duty to his Majesty and the State pass over the misdeeds of Colo Lee my old acquaintance and brother Officer whom I found at Annapolis but as I think his guilt extreme I cannot partake of it by concealing it. He was actually as I was well assured employed in diciplining or rather drilling a set of people to arms at that place and by the most extravagant discourse exciting contempt of the Troops and power of Great Britain and of every character and act related to Government sparing not the most sacred.

In Virginia I found the heads among the people still more violent and universal and the Committees appointed under the prescription of the Congress had proceeded in some places to the most arbitrary and unwarrantable exertions of power. The ferment there I perceive has in no sort abated as I think the advertisement of Mr Washington and others that your Lordship will find in a News Paper of that Colony enclosed plainly discovers.

I have now my Lord brought my observations home to North Carolina and I most heartily wish I could justly represent the temper of this people to be generally more conformable to their duty to Government and their Country's Welfare than I have found it. I

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have already given your Lordship however the worst samples of the proceedings of Committees that have come to my knowledge (it is rumored that in the counties of Brunswick and New Hanover the people at the instigation of some of their Leaders have met and chosen field Officers for a Regiment and that Mr Robert Howe formerly Captain of Fort Johnston is training some people in the former County to arms, but I am very sure little danger is to be apprehended from him in a military character. On the other hand I have the satisfaction to find the people in the Western parts of this Province withstanding for the most part steadily all the efforts of the factions to seduce them from their duty, as a proof of which I send your Lordship copies of three addresses that have been lately presented to me. They will serve to discover to your Lordship the temper of the people on the present occasion better than any representation of mine and I am hopeful the originality and imperfection of the stile will not extenuate the merit of the sentiments, although I am persuaded the utmost charity cannot forbear a smile at them. I do assure your Lordship they are copied verbatim from the originals the orthography being only altered. I have every reason to flatter myself that the good Spirit they breathe is spreading and diffusing itself fast in the Western Counties which are by far the most populous part of the Province.)

As it appears to me My Lord that the Council and Assembly will never agree about the exceptions to be made in the Act of Grace to the late Insurgents here that by His Majesty's commands I have so often recommended to the Legislature, I wish to submit to his Majesty's Royal consideration the expediency of doing the intended Grace by his own Royal Power and authority. It does not appear to me necessary or expedient, I confess, to except any of them but Harman Husband, and as they have now for some years lived under the most fearful apprehensions, shewing uniformly the truest contrition for their past crimes and now actually stand foremost to declare their loyalty to his Majesty and attachment to his Government, compassion and charity strongly recommend them to Mercy, and good Policy in my humble opinion countenances if it does not dictate. Such a measure I am confident will be attended with the best effects at this season.

The Representatives in the Assembly for the County of Beaufort and the Magistrates thereof have been guilty of an enormity that is highly proper I should lay before your Lordship, as I think it

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will be ground for a measure of very great consequence to Government here. The former have advised the people that they will indemnify them in forbearing to pay a Tax which the late Assembly monstrously resolved should be discontinued in the face of an express and positive Law as I have before represented to your Lordship. The Magistrates also conspiring to the same evil and lawless purpose admonished the Sheriff who is the Collector of Taxes here to forbear receiving or demanding the Tax alluded to and threatening him in case of his disobedience of their mandate never more to recommend him for the Sheriff's Office, which is held entirely by favour of the Magistrates as Members of the County Courts, they being impowered by a Law passed in the year 1768 to nominate three persons, of whom the Governor is obliged to appoint one, under which regulation by their juggles and corruption the Governor is compelled to appoint the candidate they favour so that in fact the absolute nomination of the Sheriffs is in those little prostitute judicatures and the power of the King's Governor in the case is perfectly nugatory to remedy this defection in policy. The Lords of Trade by their letter to Governor Tryon of the 12th of December, 1770, direct that it be recommended to the Assembly to amend that Law by a provision vesting the appointment of the Sheriff in the Governor, and declaring they should otherwise think it necessary to recommend it to His Majesty for his Royal disallowance. This Act, my Lord, is so great a favorite with the Assembly, which is composed of Justices of the Peace, that there is no hope of its ever consenting to the proposed alteration, and embarrassed as the deliberations of that body have ever been by faction since I came to this Country I have had no opportunity to propose it. If the Assembly, my Lord, at its meeting on the 27th of this month should not agree to establish an admissible plan of Courts for the administration of Justice, the present inadequate Courts by the limitation of the Laws that constitute them will be at an end and no Sheriff can be appointed for want of County Courts under the Law alluded to which it will be therefore expedient I conceive to propose for his Majesty's Royal disallowance, in which case Sheriffs may be appointed by the Governor to serve the process of Courts, which after another ineffectual experiment of the Assembly's disposition I apprehend it will become absolutely necessary to establish Courts by Virtue of the power vested in me by the Crown that can in my opinion be no longer withheld consistently with the Justice and dignity of Government.

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Many applications having been made to me for Grants of Land by persons who served as Officers and Soldiers in the Provincial Troops during the last war [against the Regulators] under the belief that they were entitled thereto by his Majesty's Proclamation of the year 1763 and that the Council was doubtful as I am whether the Royal Proclamation extends to them or whether it applies only to Officers and Soldiers in his Majesty's regular forces, I am humbly to request that your Lordship will be pleased to favour me with the proper construction of it.

A certain Mr Henderson an Attorney of some eminence in this Province has lately executed a most extraordinary project for the particulars of which that I have heard I beg leave to refer your Lordship to the Copy of the Proclamation herewith enclosed. It is an enterprise that threatens the worst consequences in my opinion and the more as Henderson is industriously persuading the people that purchases from the Indians are good in law against the Crown as well as any other Claimant and I shall be glad to receive his Majesty's commands upon this point.

Your Lordship will receive herewith the letters of the King's Receiver and Surveyor General of this Province to me, on considering his Majesty's late Instructions relating to the disposal of the Crown Lands here that I communicated to them.

Not less than 700 Scotch People have been imported here within a few months, and not being able to obtain Lands as usual at a small expence by Grant from the Crown they will seat themselves upon the King's vacant Lands in spite of every effort to prevent them. Surely my Lord the Scotch Landlords are much wanting to their own interest if not humanity in expelling so many wretched people from their Country who were useful there and who will perish many of them here before they can learn to live.

Mr Simpson whose case with respect to a vessel detained at La Vera Cruz by the Spaniards: I long ago had the honor to state to your Lordship presses me continually for an answer to his complaints and I shall be happy if your Lordship will be pleased to furnish me with means to satisfy him.

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