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Letter from Alexander Elmsley to Samuel Johnston
Elmsley, Alexander, 1730-1797
April 07, 1775
Volume 09, Pages 1207-1210

[Reprinted from American Archives, Vol. 2, Page 296.]

London, April 7th, 1775.

Letter from Alexander Elmsly, Agent of the House of Assembly of North Carolina, to Samuel Johnston.

Dear Sir:

Yours by Captain Scott came to hand in due season, as did the money for Mr Barker, which is at his credit. Your bill £100, order Mr. Ferrear, was this day paid.

Your politics are past my expectations and out of my reach. I thought incorporating you would not only have remedied the disorder, but have given additional vigour to the Constitution; but, excepting our friend Mr Barker, nobody either here or there is of the same opinion; therefore, I shall suppose, for the present, that he and I are mistaken, and wait with resignation the event of the measures adopted on both sides of the water.

On our side they are as follows: The House of Commons have voted by resolve, that if you will tax yourselves for the purpose of

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supporting your own establishments, and also contribute a certain sum for the general safety, the amount of which to be satisfactory to the King and Parliament, and to be at their disposal, then the Parliament will desist from laying any further taxes for the present. This, they say, is holding out to you the olive branch; I say it is a dirty, disgracing, degrading expedient, compared to mine; but it is so much akin to a similar one proposed in the House of Lords by Lord Chatham, and approved of by Franklin and the other Americans here, that I must suppose myself again mistaken.

A bill has received the Royal assent for preventing the four New England Colonies from fishing, after the 25th of June next; and another has been read three times in the House of Commons, for restraining the trade of all the associated Colonies to Great Britain and the British West Indies; out of this restraint, however, New York and North Carolina are excepted; the former because their Assembly did not recognize the new laws, the latter for reasons not generally known; they are, however, one or all of the following; 1st Mr Barker and myself, instead of the Petition you sent us (which contained, besides strange inaccuracies, indirect reflections on the Parliament, or the Ministry at least), drew up a Memorial in more decent terms, which we left a rough draught of with Mr Pownall, the Secretary, for his inspection, previous to its being presented to the Board. This was about the 10th of February; in two or three days we called to know his sentiments on it; he told us he had perused it, approved of it and pressed us much and repeatedly to have it lodged as soon as possible, which was done the next day. Two or three days after, Lord North moved for the restraining Bill in the House of Commons, and North Carolina was and still is left out. The next reason is, we have as yet received no account of your Assembly, or rather the Members of it, having ratified the new laws, nor have you been charged with any excesses in the execution of them. The last, and perhaps the best reason is Governor Tryon (who returns to New York immediately) is much your friend, and I doubt not has exerted himself in your behalf accordingly. Whether you will thank us for this distinction, or not; whether it will not be considered opprobrious instead of honourable; whether Mr Barker and myself will be censured or not, as having been, in all probability, instrumental in bringing it about, I do not pretend to say. But in our defence, or rather in mine, for it was with much reluctance he consented to suppress the

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Petition, you will take notice, that when your Memorial was presented, we had no idea that such restraining bill was intended; on the other hand should this exemption be received favourably, give us no credit for it; for, had it not been for a tenderness we had for the reputation of your Assembly, as having been long members of it, your Petition, exceptionable as it is, should have been presented. I do not know whether you ever perused it, but my objections to it were, first, that a memorial from us was as good as it; and next, that you generally address the King as the people of New England do each other, in the third person; for instance, you say in more places than one, “your Majesty in his great goodness, in his great wisdom,” &c. instead of “your goodness,” &c.; this might have passed from a poor ignorant criminal, begging his life, but surely better things would have been expected from your Assembly. Besides this objection, there was another; You say you have been taught to expect redress from the Throne alone, i. e., You expect none from the Ministry or the Parliament. How far you are well grounded, I do not know; but as I well know that none of these petitions ever reach the Throne but through the hands of the Ministry, to whom they are left as an ordinary piece of business, I thought, and still think, it would have been preposterous to have presented a petition, which, amongst other things, sets forth that the petitioner, from past experience, did not doubt of having his petition rejected. This objection, however, alone, would not have had much weight, at least not enough to have prevented our presenting the Petition; but on account of both together, it was agreed to suppress it, and to substitute a Memorial in its room, and keep the whole a secret; and I am not sure whether Mr Barker would not be dissatisfied if he knew that this matter had been communicated even to you; therefore pray say nothing about it. With respect to the success of your Memorial we can at present form no judgment of it, but are told that by next packet the matter will be settled; and if no bad news arrives from Carolina in the mean time, we hope it will be in part settled to your satisfaction.

You ask Mr Barker to let you know who it was that first moved, here, against your Court laws. Neither he nor I know certainly; but when old Mr McCulloh, as your agent, first received an account of your Court Bill miscarrying, on account of an instruction to your Governor against attachments, he hinted that Lord Hillsborough,

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then Secretary of State for America, and Lord Hertford, then and now Lord Chamberlain, and both members of the Privy Council, and North-of-Ireland men, and friends and neighbors of your Dobbs's, might probably, at their solicitation, have been the means of sending out the instruction. You know Nash had an attachment depending against their estate; this is only conjecture, but I think it probable, because had the measure originated amongst the merchants, we certainly should have heard of it long ago; as you say, however, it is not of much consequence now, as the new laws have taken place, whether old ones are restored or not.

Old Franklin is gone to Philadelphia, some people say to second Lord North's plan of your taxing yourselves; but I know nothing of the matter.

There is an account received that the Transports are sailed from Cork, and next week, the Generals Howe, Burgoyne and Clinton, follow them from hence in a Man-of-War; some of these troops are destined for New York, and two Companies, with a Sloop, are to be sent to Georgia.

Should your Assemblies refuse to adopt Lord North's plan, and our Parliament persevere, you will have another new set of laws soon established.

They say your Seaports are to be turned into garrison Towns, and the people of the Country left at liberty to form any establishment they think proper. Should this regulation take place, I hope you will have no occasion to turn Soldier. Your Governour I suppose will take up his residence amongst the musquetoes, at Breacock, and you will be a Congress or Committee-man, instead of a military man. I like neither Character, but hope you will never have occasion to take upon you the latter especially.

Mrs. Elmsley joins me in compliments and best wishes to you and yours.

I am dear Sir, your affectionate friend and humble servant,
ALEXANDER ELMSLY.