Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Advanced Search Options
Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
April 20, 1775
Volume 09, Pages 1223-1228

-------------------- page 1223 --------------------
[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. No. 222.]
Letter from Governor Martin to the Earl of Dartmouth.

New Bern, 20th April 1775.

My Lord,

By my last dispatch No 30 I had the honor to relate to your Lordship to that date the very extraordinary Proceedings of the Assembly and of a Body of Men stiling themselves a Committee of Delegates that met here at the same time in spite of my utmost endeavoures to prevent, and I now avail myself of the first opportunity to lay before your Lordship the further detail and Sequel of their strange and unwarrantable proceedings. The Assembly's Journals, of which I have the honor to transmit a Copy herewith, contains those of that Branch of the Legislature and the Carolina Gazette also enclosed exhibits the Operations of the Convention, and as the same men governed the two Bodies your Lordship will not think it surprising that they should make them both move and speak correspondingly.

The Blank that I told your Lordship that I had observed left on the Assembly's Journal in the Proceedings of the 6th Instant in order to conceal from me a part of the Transactions of that day, I found agreeable to the Clerk's Report at the time I took notice of it filled up with very remarkable Instructions to a Committee appointed to draw up an address in answer to my Speech, When the Journals were brought to me on the 7th in the evening at which time the Clerk brought me also a Copy of the address of the Assembly. Having read over these very extraordinary Papers I thought it proper to advise with the Council therupon as I had done on the Previous Transactions, and it being summoned immediately I laid the Journals of the Assembly before the Board, expressing my own sense of the indecency of receiving in the Character of the King's representative an address; of which the Matter as well as the expression, was so offensive and insulting and of the unfitness of suffering an Assembly to sit longer which had not only withstood my own solemn exhortations to discourage the meeting of the convention and involved itself almost inseparably in that unlawful Body and shared all the guilt of its Proceedings, but had also given the fullest approbation to the very measures which I had

-------------------- page 1224 --------------------
expressly declared to be highly offensive to the King. The Council having perused and considered the proceedings of the Assembly concurred unanimously in my sentiments and advised me to dissolve the Assembly immediately by Proclamation. According a Porclamation was drawn and it being then late at Night it was published on Saturday Morning before the time to which the Assembly had adjourned.

This Event was no sooner known than some of the Members of the Assembly went with the address your Lordship will find inserted upon the Journals to the Printer here and obliged him to print it in hand Bills with a Preface containing an abominable falsehood—For it appears by it that the Assembly was actually on the way to present their address to me when it was dissolved. Whereas I had received a Copy of it from the Clerk only the preceeding evening as I have mentioned before and no message had been sent to me by the House as usual informing me that they had prepared an Address and desired a time to be appointed when the House might present it. It may be presumed these People were those who framed the address and the very few who approved of it, for I understood that it was carried by Stratagem and Surprise in a very thin House and that it was contrary to the sense of a great Majority; indeed I have heard that it was highly condemned by one of the Members of the Committee appointed to draw it, however this may be every body since exclaims against it and I believe my Lord that the means taken to circulate their intended Address will tend only to their more general disgrace instead of procuring the Triumph and Applause in the expectation of which it was contrived and adopted. I must own to your Lordship after all that If I could have reconciled it to decency to receive such an Address in my publick character I should have been glad of an opportunity to answer it and to expose the Falsehoods Delusions and inaccuracies with which it abounds although many of them are too obvious to escape the most common observer.

The imputations upon myself My Lord I flatter myself it is not not necessary to make any defence against, your Lordship is fully informed of my Reasons for not giving my assent to the Bill for establishing Inferior Courts, by the want of which, charged to my fault by the Assembly's address, lists of Taxables were not obtained for the year 1773. And I have the happiness to know that your Lordship thinks I acted consistently with my duty with regard to

-------------------- page 1225 --------------------
the charge of not holding the Assembly in the Fall (which has been by no means the usual time fixed) nor admitted by the generality of people to be so convenient as the Spring. Your Lordship knows I was at that time absent from the Province at New York for the recovery of my health and if I had been here I certainly should have postponed meeting the Assembly for the reason I have formerly assigned to your Lordship vizt the hopes of some decisive Intelligence from England and the expectation of a prudent example being made by the Assembly of New York, whereof I have not been disappointed although I have unhappily in my estimate of its good effects upon the Assembly here. The suggestion of the deficiency of the Treasury being owing to this circumstance is obviously false, for my Lord if a law had been passed raising a contingent tax in the Autumn, which is not in the least probable, no collection of it could have begun before the month of June next, and therefore no supply of money could have been brought by it into the Treasury at this time or at all sooner than it would have been if the Law had passed at the late meeting that has proved so abortive of every good purpose.

The short Prorogations alluded to in the Assembly's address were made by Mr Prest Hasell in my absence in expectation of my return that was delayed by accidents beyond my intention, and if it happened that the distant Members had not timely notice of one of them it is not to be wondered at in a country of so great extent where expresses are hired with difficulty and are very little to be depended upon for punctuality or dispatch.

On the day before the Dissolution of the Assembly took place I am informed that Mr Caswell who is appointed one of the Delegates to attend the proposed congress at Philadelphia next month was prevailed upon by a number of the Members of the Assembly who plighted their words for his Reimbursement when it became needful to advance to the Congress Delegates the sum of nine hundred pounds of the publick money that had been paid into his hands for sinking the Paper currency and which ought never more to have been circulated. This, my Lord, was a private transaction of a very extraordinary nature of which not one word appears upon the Journals.

It seems, my Lord, to be put out of doubt that the Leaders of the Assembly met here with fixed design to do no business, not only by all the means they used to provoke a dissolution but from their

-------------------- page 1226 --------------------
Declarations against passing Laws for the establishment of Courts of Justice that was the most important business to be done, openly avowing they would be injurious at this time unless their operation could be suspended, since they would furnish the merchants with opportunity to harrass their Debtors while the people at large, having bound themselves by the Resolves of the Congress, could not convert their commodities into money to pay their Debts. This however the more general and specious reason is not that of greatest force with all the leaders in the Assembly, for it is notorious there are among them some whose desperate circumstances make them dread the long arms of Courts of unlimited jurisdiction which would extend to their own cases and who have availed themselves of every other pretence to postpone their establishment while that has been the true Principle of their Opposition.

I therefore think it is much to be feared My Lord that if this great point of Policy is left longer to depend upon the Will of the Assembly the Province will be very long without any compleat or adequate system for the Administration of Justice. The power of the Crown with regard to the Constitution of Courts being undoubted I should think it for the good of the Country to exercise it forthwith. There is no doubt that necessity would induce the people to resort to such Courts as might be established under its authority and the Assembly would soon be induced to give them all necessary aid by a Law to compell the attendance of Jurors which alone would be wanting to make such Courts perpetually effectual. At New York there are no Courts but which are established under the Powers in the King's Commissions to his Governors by Ordinances made with the advice of the Council, to which the Legislature of that Country hath given perfection by a Jury Law and the people in that Colony where Justice is administered in the best manner have never wished that it should be left to depend upon the Will of the Assembly to continue to them so great a Blessing or to deprive them of it by passing or forbearing to pass Laws for the Erection of Judicatories. In expectation of his Majesty's disallowance of the Laws for the Constitution of ineffectual Courts of Oyer and Terminer and of appeals and of County Courts to which I assented at the last Session so reluctantly chiefly for the sake of bringing conviction of their incompetency to the minds of the people after the failure of all reasoning and argument upon the subject, I have furnished myself with Copies of the Ordinances at

-------------------- page 1227 --------------------
New York for the erection of Courts in that Province intending in that Case to establish them by the same authority here. The Assembly will probably decline to settle any salary upon the Chief Justice and other Judges and I am inclined to think it will not under any circumstances establish permanent Salaries for them unless the Crown should think proper to appoint them during good Behaviour. I hope it will therefore become a matter worthy the consideration of Government to grant them Salaries payable out of some certain Fund. The subject My Lord brings to my mind the present unworthy and deplorable Circumstances of Mr Howard his Majesty's Chief Justice of this Province than whom I will presume to say his Majesty has not a more faithful servant. The Law appointing his Salary from the Province expired in June last and he is now reduced to the pittance of £70 sterling p ann: charged upon the Revenue of Quit Rents of which has not received 1s. these four or five years past—a condition that is really heart breaking to a gentleman in so high and important a station which he is anxious to support with becoming Dignity. I learn from him that he has represented his case to your Lordship in a Letter herewith enclosed and I wish I could add anything more than what I have said to recommend it to your Lordship's favourable attention.

Having advised with His Majesty's Council about calling a new Assembly they advise me to postpone issuing Writs for that purpose until after the month of June, thinking it highly improper after the late Procedure of the Assembly to give the Members opportunity at this Conjuncture of heating the minds of the people as they would find occasion to do at Elections if held before they have had time to cool and reflect, and I concur in their opinion.

The Journals of the upper as well as lower Houses of Assembly will accompany this letter.

The Convention here, your Lordships will find by a Copy of its proceedings inclosed, proceeded to such arbitrary lengths as to provoke one of the Delegates to withdraw himself. And I am happy in finding Mr Macknight the Schismatic who is by much the man of the best understanding and I believe of the best principles in the Assembly or that Body. He is besides a man of spirit of considerable fortune and deservedly much beloved in the part of this Country where he resides, and I trust the ill treatment he has met

-------------------- page 1228 --------------------
with will engage him to imploy his influence to pull down the Tyrannies under the Recommendations of the Congress.

The Convention has not been sparing of its censures on the measures issued to prevent its operations, but these maledictions, My Lord, affect me not while I have reason to hope for the King's approbation of my conduct, founded in the consciousness of having discharged my duty to his Majesty and the State in a most faithfull manner and to the best of my judgment and Power. The extravagance to which this Body has proceeded in laying a Tax upon the people of this Country will open their Eyes beyond everything else and cannot fail, I think, to bring on the downfall of these democratical Usurpations very soon, and I am confident that a firm continuance on the part of Britain and perseverance in measures of vigor and spirit, such as become that great Nation, are only wanting to extinguish utterly the flame raised by false patriotism or democratic zeal in these Colonies, while I am satisfied on the other hand that any concessions of the Parent Country at this time will only invigorate the distemper with which these Members of the British Empire are afflicted.

Ten of the 34 Counties of this Province sent no Delegates to this late Convention, in many others the Committees consisting of 10 or 12 Men took upon themselves to name them and the rest they were not chosen according to the best of my information by one twentieth part of the people, notwithstanding every act of persuasion was employed by the Demagogues upon the occasion.

The Inhabitants of the Western Counties who were for the most part concerned in the late Insurrections remember very properly the correction they received for their offences from Governor Tryon and the solemn Oath of Allegiance they took at that time nor do I think they will be reduced from their duty by any means. I have received the fullest assurances of their devotion to His Majesty and of their readiness to support me in maintaining the constitution and Laws of their Country upon all occasions, and I have no doubt that I might command their best services at a word on any emergency. This, My Lord, affords me the highest satisfaction, for as these Counties are by far the most populous part of the Province, I consider I have the means in my own hands to maintain the sovereignty of this Country to my Royal Master in all Events.

I am My Lord &c,