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Circular letter from William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and Richard Caswell to the inhabitants of North Carolina
Hooper, William, 1742-1790; Hewes, Joseph, 1730-1779; Caswell, Richard, 1729-1789
June 19, 1775
Volume 10, Pages 20-23

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[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind. No. 222.]
Address of the North Carolina delegates in the Continental Congress to the Committees of the several Towns and Counties of the Province of North Carolina appointed for the purpose of carrying into Execution the Resolves of the Continental Congress.

Gentlemen,

When the liberties of a People are invaded, and Men in authority are laboring to raise a Structure of Arbitrary Power upon the Ruins of a free Constitution; when the first Minister of Britain exerts every Influence that private address or public violence can give him to shake the Barriers of personal Security and private Property it is natural for us Inhabitants of America deeply interested in the event of his Designs to be anxious for our approaching Fate and to look up to the Sources which God and the Constitution furnish to ward off or alleviate the impending Calamity.

Thus circumstanced the Inhabitants of the United American Colonies by their Representatives met in Congress at Philadelphia in September last devised a plan of commerical Opposition as a peaceful Expedient to bring about a Reconciliation with the parent State upon Terms constitutional and honorable to us both. A most humble and dutiful Petition to the Throne accompanied it. The first of these has not had sufficient time to work the Effect proposed by it. The latter however flattered with a gracious reception upon the first Introduction to the Throne was afterwards buried in a Mass of useless Papers upon the Table of the House of Commons and shared the common Fate of American Remonstrances and Petitions—to be rejected and forgot.

To the woeful Catalogue of Oppressions recited in the Proceedings of the late Congress are now superadded Bills passed in Parliament for prohibiting the Fishery of the New England Colonies and restraining the Trade of other Colonies to Great Britain Ireland and the British West Indies. The Minister still continues to pour Troops into the Town of Boston. Some have lately arrived and many more are hourly expected, thus reducing that once flourishing City to a Garrison dealing out from thence his Instruments of Tyranny and oppression to overawe and enslave the other Colonies. His Designs have hitherto proved unsuccessful. Heaven seems to

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have assumed the protection of the injured insulted Colonists and signally to have appeared in their Favour: when in the last Battle at Lexington six hundred raw, undisciplined Provincials defeated eighteen Hundred regular Troops and pursued them into their Camp.

No engagements are sufficiently sacred to secure the performance of them when the Fears or Expectations of the General make it convenient for him to dispense with them. After the most solemn Compacts to the contrary the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston are doomed to suffer the most abject distress from the want of the common necessaries of Life confined within the Walls of the City and not permitted to seek a Refuge amongst their neighbors in the Country. These are the miseries which they suffer for their brave Defence of the common cause of British America. They were destined as a first victim to ministerial Tyranny. But Fellow Subjects think not that his Schemes are to end here. No, if success should strengthen his hands the Inhabitants of the Southern Colonies would soon feel the Weight of his Vengeance.

The Provinces of New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut in Imitation of their Massachusetts Brethren, have enlisted Bodies of Troops preparing for the last Extremity and determined to live free or not at all. New York has to the disgrace of those who would represent her as inimical to the Liberties of America boldly stood forth determined to brave every Extremity rather than submit to the Edicts of a Minister or desert the protection of their constitutional Rights and Privileges; New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Provinces to the Southward have taken an honorable share in the line of Defence armed and equipped to avert the Calamity, dreading a civil War as the most awful scourge of Heaven and to plunge their swords in the breasts of their Fellow Subjects as the greatest of all human Calamities and the most painful Exertions of human Fortitude, but determined at all Events to suffer the Excess of human Misery rather than be brought to the feet of an insulting Minister.

North Carolina alone remains an inactive Spectator of this general defensive Armament. Supine and careless, she seems to forget even the Duty she owes to her own local Circumstances and Situation. Have you not Fellow Citizens a dangerous Enemy in your own Bosom and after Measures which the Minister has condescended to in Order to carry into Execution his darling Schemes do you think

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he would hesitate to raise the hand of the servant against the master? Doctor Johnston a pensioned Tool of the Ministry in a Pamphlet intituled “Taxation no Tyranny,” speaks the Intentions of Administration in a language too plain to leave anything to doubt. The Slaves should be set free, an “Act which the Lovers of Liberty must surely commend, if they are furnished with arms for defence and utensils for Husbandry and settled in some simple form of Government within the Country they may be more honest and grateful than their Masters,” are the words of this prostituted Court Favourite.

Have we not been informed that the Canadians are to be embodied and the Indians bribed to ravage the Frontiers of the Eastern Colonies? Has not General Carlton already given a specimen of his power by forming a Canadian Regiment of Men inimical to our Liberty and Religion? Can you think that your Province is the singular object of ministerial favour and that in the common crush it will stand secure? Be assured it will not. The Bait the Minister has thrown out to you is a delusive one, it leads to Destruction. Have you not by various public Acts declared your resolution not to be bound to ministerial Shackles, but that you will live in a free Constitution or perish in the Ruins of it? Do you imagine that after this you are his Favourites? You are not. Do you ask why then you are exempted from the Penalties of the Bill restraining Trade? The Reason is obvious—Britain cannot keep up its Naval Force without you; you supply the very sinews of her strength. Restrain your Naval Stores and all the Powers of Europe can scarcely supply her; restrain them and you strengthen the hands of America in the glorious contention for her liberty. Through you the Minister wishes to disunite the whole Colonial Link; we know your virtue too well to dread his success; you have the Example of New York to animate you, she spurns the proffered Boon and views the exemption of that Province from the Restraining Bill as the Smiles of a Minister who looks graciously in her face while he stabs her to the heart.

It becomes the duty of us in whom you have deposited the most sacred trusts to warn you of your danger and of the most effectual means to ward it off. It is the Right of every English Subject to be prepared with Weapons for his defence. We conjure you by the Ties of Religion Virtue and Love of your Country to follow the Example of your sister Colonies and to form yourselves into a

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Militia. The Election of the officers and the Arrangement of the men must depend upon yourselves. Study the Art of Military with the utmost attention, view it as the Science upon which your future security depends.

Carefully preserve the small quantity of gunpowder which you have amongst you; it will be the last Resource when every other means of Safety fail you—Great Britain has cut you off from further supplies. We enjoin you as you tender the safety of yourselves and Fellow Colonists as you would wish to live and die free that you would reserve what Ammunition you have as a sacred Deposit. He in part betrays his Country who sports it away, perhaps in every Charge he fires he gives with it the means of preserving the life of a fellow being.

We cannot conclude without urging again to you the Necessity of arming and instructing yourselves to be in readiness to defend yourselves against any violence that may be exerted against your Persons and Properties. In one word fellow subjects the Crisis of America is not at a great distance. If she falls Britain must go Hand in Hand with her to Destruction. Everything depends upon your present Exertion and prudent perseverence, be in a state of Readiness to repell every stroke that though you must wound and endanger her, strengthen the hands of civil Government by resisting every Act of lawless power, stem Tyranny in its commencement, oppose every effort of an Arbitrary Minister and by checking his licentiousness preserve the liberty of the Constitution and the honor of your sovereign, look to the reigning Monarch of Britain as your rightful and lawful sovereign, dare every danger and difficulty in support of his person crown and dignity and consider every man as a Traitor to his King who infringing the Rights of his American Subjects attempts to invade those glorious Revolution principles which placed him on the Throne and must preserve him there.

We are Gentlemen
Your most obedient and very humble servants
WILLIAM HOOPER
JOSEPH HEWES
RICHARD CASWELL.

Philadelphia June 19th 1775.