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Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
April 07, 1775
Volume 09, Pages 1212-1215

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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, April 7th 1775.

My Lord,

I have the honor to inform your Lordship that a majority of the Members of the Assembly (without which they have constantly forbore to make a House) not appearing here until the 4th instant, I was obliged to prorogue it from day to day from the 27th of last month untill that time, when I delivered the Speech of which your Lordship will receive a copy herewith.

On the 3rd instant, the time appointed for the meeting of the Convention, as I have before informed your Lordship, hearing that many Deputies from the Counties were come here I issued the Proclamation of which I now transmit your Lordship a copy numbered 1, notwithstanding which I found this unlawful Body met for a short time and elected Mr Harvey Moderator, by whose advertisement it had been convened. I still hoped the Assembly on what I had to say to it would secede from this Convention, although I well knew that many of the Members had been sent as Deputies to it. And this hope, together with my desire to lay no difficulty in the way of the public business induced me on the next day to admit the election of Mr Harvey who was chosen Speaker of the Assembly and presented by the House for my approbation. Indeed to say the truth, my Lord, it was a measure to which I submitted upon these principles not without repugnance even after I found the Council unanimously of opinion that it would not be expedient to give a new handle of discontent to the Assembly by rejecting its choice if it should fall as was expected upon Mr Harvey, for I considered his guilt of too conspicuous a nature to be passed over with neglect. The manner however of my admitting him I believe sufficiently testified my disapprobation of his conduct while it marked my respect to the election of the House.

On the 5th, the day after I had opened the Session I was informed that the Assembly having admitted the Deputies to join their Body in the House, where they met as a Branch of the Legislature resolved the whole into a Convention upon which I immediately sent the Proclamation No 2 by the hands of the High Sheriff of this County

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to be published among them; he read it accordingly but not a man obeyed it nor have I heard that any animadversion was made upon it except by a worthless fellow named James Coor, a Member of the Assembly for this County, who told the Sheriff that he had read the proclamation and might now carry it back to the Governor. In the evening of this day I laid this extraordinary procedure of the Assembly before his Majesty's Council, repeating my apprehensions of its being inconsistent with my duty to the King to suffer an Assembly to sit longer that had so involved itself in the Body of an illegal convention and in all its guilt as not to give me opportunity any more to consider it a separate Body or acting as a Branch of the Constitutional Legislature, especially too, after it hath withstood and treated with utter neglect my last solemn exhortations to break up that illegal Meeting and to assert its own Rights. As I considered this a matter of great moment and importance I recommended it to the mature consideration of the Council untill yesterday morning, at which time I found a majority of the Board in opinion that as the House of Assembly had not under that Name done anything offensive although the Members of it had partaken of all the guilt of the Convention, it was expedient, considering the necessity of the Province and the proneness of the Assembly to charge their own crimes upon the King's Governor, to let it sitt untill it should offend in its own Name and Character. To this opinion, My Lord, I have submitted not I confess, without doubting its rectitude, and the Assembly still sits transforming itself from time to time into a Convention or an Assembly.

Last night the Clerk of the Assembly according to custom, brought me the Journalls of the House in which observing a large Blank left in the proceedings of the day I desired to know the meaning of his bringing me the Journal in that imperfect state. He replied that the matter which was to be inserted in the blank space I observed in the Journall Book was written upon a detached paper; that it contained Instructions to a Committee to draw an address in answer to my Speech, which he intimated contained some reflections upon me and that it had been taken away by the Committee or some other Members of the House whose general sense he understood was that such part of the day's proceedings should not be entered on the Journalls at that time. I desired him to go to the Speaker from me and to let him know I thought it very extraordinary that the Journalls of the Assembly should be sent to be

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laid before me in a state so incompleat and that I insisted upon seeing the remainder of the day's proceedings omitted in the Journal Book. The Clerk soon returned with a message importing that the Paper containing that part of the Assembly's proceedings which I desired to see was in the hands of some of the Members and not in his Power, but that as soon as he could get it it should be sent to me. I heard no more of it last night and this morning in answer to my secretary's demand of it from the Clerk he was told that it could not be obtained before the House sat, so that I do not now expect to see it untill the Journalls are brought to me this evening.

I am happy, My Lord, in thinking that before the receipt of your Lordship's circular letter of the 4th of January I had taken every measure in my power to execute his Majesty's commands thereby signified to me, and such further measures as I have since employed I should most certainly have taken if I had not previously received my Royal Master's sanction of them as being all the means I could use to resist the growth of a most daring Spirit of Sedition and disorder that is gaining ground here very fast, and which I thought it my duty to oppose as far as I was able. My Speech, such as it is, was drawn before your Lordship's letter above referred to reached my hands by last Thursday's Post, with exception of that sentence in it which refers to my authority for declaring his Majesty's disapprobation of the intended Congress of Delegates at Philadelphia. It seems it is matter for great reproach and censure of me among the Members of the Assembly that I have taken so many steps against the Convention while the Governors of other Provinces have omitted them, but their reflections are of little account to me, my Lord, while I have the approbation of the King and that of my own conscience in the discharge of my duty to his Majesty and the State.

The Spirit of the Convention here I have no doubt has been inflamed by the Communication of the Proceedings of a like monstrous Body lately assembled in Virginia, in which it is confidently reported it has been determined to array a company of 68 men in each County and that means are provided for the support thereof. It has transpired that the same propositions were made in the Convention here yesterday and that they were there overruled.

The Post setting out for Charles Town this day I could not omit to give your Lordship the information contained in this letter, which I consider of great moment and importance, and before I conclude I am bound in conscience and duty to add, My Lord, that Government

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is here as absolutely prostrate as impotent, and that nothing but the shadow of it is left. It is indeed alike the Case in every other Colony that I hear of except New York, where the virtue of the Assembly has as yet supported it. I must further say, too, my Lord, that it is my serious opinion which I communicate with the last degree of concern that unless effectual measures such as British Spirit may dictate are speedily taken there will not long remain a trace of Britain's dominion over these Colonies.

I have the honor to be &c.