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Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
June 30, 1775
Volume 10, Pages 41-50

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

North Carolina
Fort Johnston 30th June 1775.

My Lord,

Since I had the honor of representing to your Lordship the State of this Country in my Dispatch No 33 various circumstances have occurred of which I think it my duty to give your Lordship the best account my information enables me to lay before you.

On Tuesday the 23d of May a day when a set of People, calling themselves a Committee met at New Bern a motley mob, without any previous notice of their purpose, appeared coming towards my House. I did not see them until they were near my door, and supposing they were the committee of whose meeting I had heard, I directed my Secretary, if they announced themselves by that name to signify my resolution not to see them, he came to me however with a message from this body, importing that they were the Inhabitants of the Town of New Bern who were come to wait upon me, and requested to be admitted to speak to me, I directed them to be shown into an Apartment below stairs, and immediately went down to them. Mr Abner Nash an Attorney, and the oracle of the Committee appointed in that Town, whom I have before had occasion to mention to your Lordship, as a principal promoter of sedition here, came forward out of the crowd, and presenting himself before me said he had been chosen by the Inhabitants of Newbern then present to signify their purpose in waiting upon me, that it was in consequence of a general alarm, the People of the place had taken that morning at my dismounting some pieces of old cannon which lay behind my house, and which had occasionally been made use of on rejoicing days; that this circumstance had caused alarm, because the Governor of Virginia had lately deprived the People of that Colony of their Ammunition, and that the Inhabitants therefore requested, and hoped I would order the Guns to be remounted, and restored to the same order they had been in until that morning.

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Unprepared as I was My Lord, for such a visit, and filled with indignation at the absurdity and impertinence of the cause of it, assigned by Mr Nash, and satisfied also that it was a mere pretext for insulting me, I replied, that the visit of the inhabitants of Newberne, and the motives of it I thought very extraordinary. That the Guns which I had dismounted belonged to the King, and that I was duly answerable to His Majesty for any disposition I made of them, but being at the same time inclined to quiet the minds of the Inhabitants of Newbern, and to give them every reasonable satisfaction, I then declared to them that I had dismounted the Guns, and laid them on the ground because the carriages were entirely rotten and unserviceable and incapable of bearing the discharge of them on the King's birthday that was at hand, and for the celebration of which I was making the usual preparation of those Guns. Mr Nash said he was persuaded, the Answer I had condescended to give would be very satisfactory to the Inhabitants of New Bern, and bowing retired with his mob. I must confess to your Lordship the reason I assigned for dismounting those guns, was really but one of my motives, and that I had another which I did not think fit to communicate upon that occasion. I had received for some weeks before repeated advices of a design concerting in the Committee of that Town, to seize those guns by force, and my principal object in throwing them off the carriages, at the time I did it (although it was really necessary and intended for the other avowed purpose) was to make the removal of them more difficult in case of such an attempt, and to procure thereby more time to defend them, or at least to parley about them. A day or two after this studied insult a certain old soldier arrived at New Bern from New York, who having been instructed with the Execution of a Commission of importance in this Country, came to me and told me, after communicating his own business, and being assured of my best assistance, that he had learnt on Board the King's Fisher Sloop of War at New York, that she had Arms and Ammunition on Board, intended to be sent to me by the first opportunity that offered, in consequence of an application I had made for such aids to General Gage, and that Lieutenant Governor Colden at New York who had received Dispatches from the General to me, which were supposed to refer to those Stores, and committed them to the Post, was under the greatest anxiety for their safety, having discovered that the Committees had proceeded in some places to the
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extravagance of violating Letters sent by that channel. Upon interrogating his intelligence about the manner in which it was designed to convey the Arms and Ammunition to me, which he mentioned, I found him altogether uncertain, whether they were to be sent by a Man of War, or a Merchant's Vessel, and that he encouraged apprehensions of the latter by observing it might happen from the mistaken opinion the People held in the Northern Provinces of the universal Loyalty and good disposition of the Inhabitants of this Colony. Thus My Lord I had to expect on the one hand, that my correspondence with General Gage, would be at once betrayed, and to fear at the same time, that the expected Stores might come in a Merchant's Vessel to New Bern, where I had not a man to protect them, and that they must of consequence fall into the hands of the mob, which was continually watching every movement about my house, and by which possible accident all my good purposes would be defeated. On the other hand I was to apprehend either of those cases, would furnish reason for insult to me, and my family at least, and might probably become a pretext for seizing my person and detaining me, according to the design avowed in all the Colonies, continually of making themselves eventually Masters of the King's Servants among them, and the more probably too, as a most infamous report had lately been propagated among the People, that I had formed a design of Arming the Negroes, and proclaiming freedom to all such as should resort to the King's Standard. It was therefore immediately necessary to take some measures to prevent if possible the Military Stores falling into the hands of the Mob, and to obviate any ill consequences that might arise from the promulgation of my correspondence with General Gage. Accordingly I determined after revolving the matter a moment in my mind, to relieve myself from all embarrassments that the sufferings of my family might expose me to, by sending them instantly to New York, which would at the same time furnish me with a certain unsuspected opportunity of writing to prevent any hazard of the Arms and Ammunition if they were not already sent away; place Mrs Martin and my children in safety, and leave me at liberty to pursue such measures as occasion might call for. This purpose I executed immediately, writing to General Gage of my situation, and I set out almost at the same time for this place, where one of His Majesty's Sloops of War is stationed, intending as well as the security of my person in all events that I could not yet expose with any possible advantage to His Majesty's
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Service, as to employ the most effectual means with the assistance of Capt. Parry Commander of the Cruizer Sloop of War, to secure the Arms and Ammunition if they should be sent away before my advices, dispatched with my family, should reach New York, and lest my further precaution of posting my Secretary at Ocracock Inlet, the first entrance to the Port of New Bern, to bring any Vessel that should arrive there with those Stores round to the Man of War in this River should prove ineffectual. Accordingly on my arrival here on the 2d instant, I communicated to Capt. Parry the circumstances I have here related to your Lordship, suggesting my wishes at the same time, that he could spare from his Ship a sufficient force to waylay at Ocracock the Vessel I had reason to expect with Military Stores, in order to compel her in case of necessity to bring them round here to be lodged in safety on board His Majesty's Ship under his Command. Captain Parry to whom My Lord, I owe it in justice to say that he embraces with the utmost alacrity every occasion to promote the King's Service, instantly seeing the importance of the object of my concern, assured me of his most willing and effectual assistance and accordingly without loss of time, detached an officer and a party of men well armed, in a little schooner to secure that point. Since my first intelligence I have heard nothing to be depended on relative to the Arms and Ammunition, but I am in hopes, from comparison of dates, that the letters from General Gage, which caused Mr Colden and myself so much anxiety, were what I have since received a few, that contained nothing more than an Account of the Affair of the 20th of April between a Detachment of the King's Troops and the People of the neighborhood of Boston which reached me in little less time than two months after the event, and too late to operate against the infamous and false reports of that transaction which were circulated to this Distance from Boston in the space of 12 or 13 days, and had already like all first impressions taken deep root in the minds of the vulgar here universally and wrought a great change in the face of things, confirming the seditious in their evil purposes, and bringing over vast numbers of the fickle, wavering and unsteady multitude to their party. This was an effect to be apprehended, and it will be the same unquestionably in all future occurrances, unless a regular communication is established, by which the Accounts transmitted by the King's General and Admiral of their operations may anticipate the gross and abominable
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forgeries of the New England People, and I have accordingly represented the expediency of it to General Gage.

My removal from New Bern it appears My Lord, was prudential and well timed, for I received advices from thence yesterday that I should have been insulted at least on Friday last the day of the General Election of Assembly men, when a mob was stimulated by some of the Leaders in sedition, after being inflamed with liquour, to seize and carry off the cannon behind my house, which they likewise made some slight attempt to break into, after repeatedly demanding the Keys of it in vain of my servants, who in consequence of my orders (having notice of the intention of the rabble) had spiked the guns, to the great disappointment and discomfiture of the Assailants.

Soon after my arrival at this place my Lord many of the poor ignorant People in the Neighbourhood came to me in the last state of terror and dismay, making Representations such as I have set forth in the Proclamation enclosed, which I thought it necessary to issue to counteract as far as I was able such vile impositions and menaces as the Committee men were employing to deceive the King's Subjects, and seduce them from their duty. The Newspaper enclosed will show your Lordship that the same spirit of sedition and extravagance that gave cause to that Act of Government, has produced an impudent and formal contradiction of the undeniable truths it contains, under the authority of a Committee proving irrefragably that People embarked in a bad cause, scruple not to avail themselves of the basest falsehoods and calumnies to support it. According to custom, and as the last resort of malice and falsehood, your Lordship will find this Publication prescribes me as an Enemy to this Province in particular, and to America in General, a sentence that I must expect to suffer in common with every Servant of His Majesty, and with every other Subject, whose sense of duty to His Sovereign and the State does not permit him to take part in the most unprovoked, & unnatural Rebellion that has ever been known. Still, my Lord, I hold my former opinion, that if my hands were strengthened with the aids I have required of General Gage, I could not only maintain the Sovereignty of this Province to His Majesty, with the power I could collect immediately among the Emigrants from the Highlands of Scotland, who were settled here, and immoveably attached to His Majesty and His Government, that I am assured by the best authority I may compute at 3000 effective men, but should be able

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to draw together under that protection, out of the interior Counties of this Province, where the People are in General well affected, and much attached to me, at least two thirds of the fighting men in the whole Country, which may be computed according to my best information to exceed Thirty Thousand and with which I could effectually restore order here and in South Carolina, and hold Virginia in such awe as to prevent that Province sending any succour to the Northward, added to which such a head made here against rebellion, would draw over to it such multitudes of well affected Subjects of His Majesty from other Colonies who only want countenance to induce them to take an open part in favour of Government as would put it in my power to reduce to order and obedience every Colony to the Southward of Pennsylvania for although Virginia and Maryland are both very populous, the whites are greatly outnumbered by the Negroes, at least in the former and in the latter they are a very great proportion of the whole number of Inhabitants, a circumstance that would facilitate exceedingly the reduction of those Colonies, who are very sensible of their weakness, arising from it. Here the proportion of Blacks to Whites throughout the Province is very small, for the greater number of them are to be found in two or three Counties in this Southern part of it. I do not apprehend that the gross amount of Negroes in this Colony will be found to exceed ten Thousand.

As I fear the busy scene in which General Gage is at this time employed, may not afford him leisure to attend minutely to objects at this distance, I should ardently wish, that the importance of my proposition above mentioned, may be taken into consideration by your Lordship, and submitted to the King, and in case of its meeting with His Majesty's Royal Approbation, that the supplies of arms and ammunition I have requested of General Gage should be sent in a fourfold proportion to me from England immediately. Ten Thousand Stand of Arms at least with proper Accoutrements may be disposed in hands that would make a good use of them, and I should wish them to be accompanied with six light brass field pieces, six Pounders with all their atterail, and good store of Ammunition, some pairs of Colours, Drums, etc, and such a supply of money as might be necessary for the support of such a force.

I beg leave again My Lord most heartily to offer my humble Service to His Majesty to raise a Battalion of a Thousand Highlanders here, for the restoration of the Rank of Lieutenant Colonel

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I had the honor to hold in the Army in the year 1769, when the total loss of my health obliged me to quit the Service, and I am the more encouraged to hope for His Majesty's gracious acceptance of my Service in a Military Character at this time, when it becomes essentially necessary to exercise Military Power in support of the high Civil office in which His Majesty has been pleased to place me in this Country. If I am so happy to meet with His Majesty's approbation of this proposal, I would most humbly beg leave to recommend Mr Allen McDonald of Kingsborough to be Major, and Captain Alexd McLeod of the Marines now on half pay to be first Captain, who besides being men of great worth, and good character, have most extensive influence over the Highlanders here, great part of which are of their own names and familys, and I should flatter myself that His Majesty would be graciously pleased to permit me to nominate some of the Subalterns of such a Battalion, not for pecuniary consideration but for encouragement to some active and deserving young Highland Gentlemen who might be usefully employed in the speedy raising the proposed Battalion. Indeed I cannot help observing My Lord, that there are three or four Gentlemen of consideration here, of the name of McDonald, and a Lieutenant Alexd McLean late of the Regiment now on half pay, whom I should be happy to see appointed Captains in such a Battalion, being persuaded they would heartily promote and do credit to His Majesty's Service.

The Minutes of Council held at this place the other day, will make the impotence of Government here as apparent to your Lordship, as anything I can set before you. The Board have been afraid to take a becoming part, I firmly believe from apprehensions of personal injury and insult, and accordingly have taken as little notice as possible of the matters I submitted to their consideration. The situation in which I find myself at present is indeed My Lord most despicable and mortifying to any man of greater feelings than a Stoic. I daily see indignantly, the Sacred Majesty of my Royal Master insulted, the Rights of His Crown denied and violated, His Government set at naught, and trampled upon, his servants of highest dignity reviled, traduced, abused, the Rights of His Subjects destroyed by the most arbitrary usurpations, and the whole Constitution unhinged and prostrate, and I live alas ingloriously only to deplore it.

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The Resolves of the Committee of Mecklenburgh, which your Lordship will find in the enclosed Newspaper, surpass all the horrid and treasonable publications that the inflammatory spirits of this Continent have yet produced, and your Lordship may depend its Authors and Abettors will not escape my due notice, whenever my hands are sufficiently strengthened to attempt the recovery of the lost authority of Government. A copy of these Resolves I am informed were sent off by express to the Congress at Philadelphia as soon as they were passed in the Committee. At Wilmington, the principal Trading Town in this Province, and where there are many British merchants settled particularly Scotch, there is a noble and honest dormant spirit nurtured among them, that has as yet given them weight and consequence, and preserved them from injury, of which I shall be able I make no doubt greatly to avail myself on a proper occasion.

A Mr John Ashe, heretofore Colonel of the Militia of the county of New Hanover, but who had lately formally declined that appointment by letter to me on pretence of age and Business and requested me to appoint another person, appeared at Wilmington a fortnight after such resignation at the head of a body of between four and five hundred men, menacing the People above mentioned with military execution, if they did not immediately subscribe an Association dictated by the Committee, which they had refused until that time, and being interrogated for his Authority for such arbitrary proceedings, he pointed to the men he had assembled. His cowardly intimidations of these individuals so far answered his purpose that they were obliged to sign what their consciences revolted at and abhorred, but it produced the good effect at the same time of uniting them more firmly in opposition to such dangerous extravagancies, and they have since formed themselves into a Company for the purpose of mutual protection and defence.

The South Carolina Congress hath sent recruiting parties into this Province to raise Men, but I hope they will be disappointed in their expectation of great succour from hence, and I shall leave no means untried to defeat their purposes. The lenity of Government hath been such to that people that they forget entirely their own weakness and are blustering treason, while Charles Town, that is the head and heart of their boasted Province, might be destroyed by a single Frigate, and the Country thereby reduced to the last distress. I lament to say it, my Lord, and most sincerely grieve to see occasion

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for it, but I must avow to your Lordship it is to me at this time evident, and out of all doubt, that reason and argument can never restore the just power and authority of Government in America. The People now freely talk of Hostility toward Britain in the language of Aliens and avowed Enemies and I fear the means that British spirit at last resorts to for the chastisement of her more natural foes can only now reclaim her most unnatural children in these Colonies to a proper sense of their duty; and I must add too, my Lord, that in charity to them and in duty to my King and country I think myself bound to give it as my sincere opinion that the rod of correction cannot consistently with the good and interest of either be longer spared. If it is an object to reclaim the Colonies of America to obedience to the just authority of His Majesty, and the Parliament of Great Britain, humanity as well as policy, in my mind, my Lord, urges that the work be set about with the vigour becoming the glorious and invincible spirit of the British nation, and without a moment's delay. Altho' by my separate Dispatch of the 18th of May, I had given my humble opinion to your Lordship, that the meeting of the Assembly of this Province in order to bring under its consideration the Resolution of the House of Commons of the 27th day of February last (while the Philadelphia Congress was sitting, and which was not enjoined by your Lordship's dispatches referring to that Resolution) would be to no sort of purpose, yet seeing soon afterwards that His Majesty's Governors in other Provinces had called the respective Assemblies, expressly with that Design, I issued the Writs for calling an Assembly which had been postponed by the advice of the Council on account of the heat prevailing in the Province at the time of the Dissolution of the late Assembly, and the General Election was accordingly made on the 23d of last month, since which, as your Lordship will see on the Minutes of the Council, that Board has upon the principles of my first opinion stated to your Lordship in my separate Dispatch above referred to, advised me to prorogue the new elected Assembly which I have therefore prorogued to the 12th day of September next, before which I have no doubt I shall have good reason to prorogue it further.

I am bound to return your Lordship my best acknowledgements for the attention you have been pleased to give to my representations of the misconduct of the members of the Council here, at the same time I must freely own to your Lordships that I fear it will be difficult to reform that Body effectually at this time, some of whose delinquency

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I have heretofore had the greatest reason to complain, have by their loyal adherence to Government in this time of disaffection, restored themselves to my regard, and I believe it may be difficult to find fitter people to supercede the others. I must indeed except Mr Dry, Collector of the Customs at this Port, whose imprudence and absurdity is such as I fear will compel me in spite of all allowance that I can make for his simplicity, and weakness, to disgrace him, his extravagances as they are continually reported to me by credible authorities being of a nature that it will be impossible for me longer to overlook consistently with the Duty I owe to the King and to His Majesty's Service.

I have the honor &c
JO. MARTIN.