I embrace the only opportunity you ever gave me of thanking you for pulling off the masque in your repeated attempts to injure me and for submitting your accusation fairly to the tribunal of the impartial public. Had your conduct been equally open on a late occasion I have reason to believe the Convention of North Carolina, would not have been led by the warmth of their zeal for the glorious cause of liberty to have imputed to me, Intentions foreign to my heart and destructive to my interest and much less to have censured me for these with a severity due only to actual guilt But as this letter is intended for the public suffer me here to do justice to many respectable members of the Convention who were willing to acceptnota bene.
I am now to answer your strictures bearing date the 15th of May and published in the Norfolk Gazette of the 15th of June; where it is evident that either your confession of your last words cannot be truth: nor do I believe it possible for you to reconcile them in your dying speech. In the first you say, “that you heard me offer to subscribe the association;” in the last “that some of the members proposed that I might sign,” and that I only “seemed to agree to it.” Here is an evident contradiction: evasions will not do before the bar of the public; and your acknowledgement “that you did tell the Committee something to that effect” hath drawn the rope harder round your own neck; you have kicked the stool from under you, and rendered it impossible for your friends to cut you down from the ignominous situation, in which you are exposed; for were your veracity unimpeached amongst your neighbours yet the weight of evidence which is against you must lead the public what to think of your regard to truth and to recollect the proverb that a certain kind of men “had need of good memories.”
You insinuate that I withdrew immediately after having refused to sign “the journal of the Continental Congress” which you say some of the Members proposed. Here you contradict yourself again as a Member of the Convention, for in the state previous to the resolve wherein you censure me you have declared that it was the association approved of by the Continental Congress which I refused to sign and thereupon withdrew. But in justice to the Convention I must declare that I did not believe a Member thereof, yourself excepted, was capable of proposing that I, who was not a delegate to the Continental Congress should sign the “journal” of that respectable body. The circumstances and motives of my withdrawing are published and supported by testimony which hath not been contradicted as to your objections the Press is open—try whether they will be treated with less contempt by the imperial world than they met with from the Committee of Pasquotank when stated by you to them on the 19th of April. You say that from the “common stream of my behaviour you believe I never intended to sign at any event and that you are of the same opinion still.” Your opinion can make but little weight with the public. The impartial will expects facts whereon to found their judgment of me and those who are acquainted with you will not be very ready to adopt your opinion of the man to whom your hatred is so notorious. But surely it ill becomes you who have been accused before the Committee of observation for an actual violation of the 9th article of the association in selling gunpowder at a most extravagant price which accusation is supported by undoubted testimony—it ill becomes you I say who have violated the association notwithstanding you highly approve of it, to find fault with me that have strictly conformed to it though I did not highly approve of it. Read the resolution of the present Congress bearing date the 27th of May, observe that no more is required than conformity to the association, compare the prudence of the Congress in this and the humanity of the other parts of that resolve with your own temper which has in the cool hours of reflection endeavored to execute a punishment the condemnation to which was scarce excusable on the score of sudden passion reverberated from bosom to bosom in a popular Assembly.
You seem to exult at having discovered my behaviour to be equivocal and disingenuous about the 28th of April as if that would vindicate you for concurring to censure me on account of a similar
Let me now examine my behaviour about the 28th of April which you alledge was equivocal and disingenuous, you have descended to particulars and thereby put it in my power to expose the falsehood of your charge. It is true that five Members of the Convention have declared to the world “that they heard me offer to subscribe a promise that I would conform to the Continental association, but many Members insisting that I should subscribe a declaration that I highly approved of it and threatening to withdraw if I was indulged with leave to sign any other declaration than this, occasioned my withdrawing from the Convention on which the vote of censure passed against me.” The Freeholders of Currituck in their publication of the 28th of April are evidently speaking of this declaration of highly approving &c: when they declare it consistent with their ideas of freedom for representative bodies to endeavourth paragraph of your strictures. They have said that you confessed to them on the 19th of April that you heard me in the convention offer “to sign the association” and you have given it under your hand to the public on the 15th of May that you “did tell them something to that effect.” If your confession then is the truth how much more are you to blame than such Members of the Convention as were unacquainted with this offer but if it is a lie you are the author of it to the Committee. As it was a circumstance in my favour not mentioned by the five Members as it came from you a declared enemy of mine the Committee believed that the force of truth only extorted it from your lips and published it to the world as a corroboration of their opinion that the Convention was too severe upon me. You feel the effects of your confession, you would gladly retract it, you have endeavoured to swallow it up and to give us something else in its room. Your attempts however are in vain but the tortures you now feel are on account of your detection, contrition for the offence is a sentiment your breast admits not of. Were your genius and abilities equal to the enmity of your disposition you would avoid such palpable contradictions but how came they to escape the correction and prefacer of your last words? Let him be more attentive to your dying speech else your character will be branded past a possibility of redemption if that is not already the case.
Have you read the declarations of the Freeholders of Currituck? In what part of it do they say that the whole proceedings of the Convention are tyrannical and ought to be rejected on account of that body's attempting to force me to sign the journal of the Continental Congress? These assertions of yours must be owing to ignorance, procure some friend if such you have to read and explain the matters contained in that publication that you may get some idea of them before you make any more strictures for the public perusal.
On the whole then this equivocal and disingenuous behaviour which you exult in having detected appears to be your own now exposed to public view, for after having concurred in declaring on the 6th of April that I refused to sign the association with the other Members of the Convention and thereupon withdrew, you next confessed before the Committee of Pasquotank on the 19th of April that you heard me offer to subscribe the association in the Convention. On the 15th of May you unsay all this and tell quite a different story by saying that some of the Members proposed I might sign the journal of the Continental Congress, but that I only seemed to agree to it: went with a seeming intention to sign but all on a sudden declined and withdrew, and to complete the matter you very modestly request the public to think with you that this proves me equivocal and disingenuous. Should “ministerial vengeance” stand in need of “a tool” to say and unsay whatever suits its purposes you have shewed by this specimen where it may be supplied, but you have discovered the weakness of your head so exceedingly plainly that you can never expect to be employed except in the lowest department and on the dirtiest occasions; you have a talent for abuse but it is vulgar abuse and some of your expressions are difficult to be understood, “but I will not usurp all good” from you.
If I dared however to soar after you in the regions of simile I would remark that yours of the fly and the web might be rendered more just by comparing yourself to the spider, and the fate of your web (in which you have endeavoured to entangle me) of strictures resembles the fate of those webs which are sometimes spun by that malevolent and venomous reptile and to his great mortification are torn to pieces by the innocent fly which he had destined for his prey. On such an occasion the good natured spectator is pleased with the little flys escape from the lurking villainous spider who then retires from public view into his dark and dirty receptacle to brood over his base designs, and the humane public will not be sorry that your san benito of tar and feathers, your intended Auto Da Fe and your strictures designed to injure me have failed of this intended effect.
Notwithstanding your unremitting endeavours to hurt me I would not willingly injure you in the smallest degree. Nothing but the grossest misrepresentations of my conduct in a matter of general concern could have forced me to this method of self defence which in proportion as I am exculpated from the odium you have endeavoured
1 The Virginia Gazette of July 5th, 1775.