powered by google
Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Advanced Search Options
Circular letter to the inhabitants of South Carolina [as printed in the Cape Fear Mercury]
No Author
June 30, 1775
Volume 10, Pages 51-60

-------------------- page 51 --------------------
[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind. Vol. 222.]
A Circular Letter1 to the Committee of South Carolina.

Charles Town, June 30th, 1775.

Fellow-Citizens,

This year will be a grand epoch in the history of Mankind. In this conspicuous and ever memorable year, America has been abased and Britain has disgraced herself in an unexampled manner. All the guilt of all the English Ministers of State from the Reign of the First William to the conclusion of the late War does not equal the guilt that British Ministers have incurred since the latter period. The Measure of their iniquity appears now full. They seem fixed in the pursuit of their plan to enslave America, in order that they might enslave Great Britain; to elevate the Monarch, that has been placed on a throne only to govern under the law into a throne above all law. But divine Providence has inspired the Americans with such virtue, courage and conduct, as has already attracted the attention of the universe and will make them famous to the latest Posterity. The Americans promise to arrest the hand of tyranny, and to save even Britannia from shackles.

In a former letter we declared to you, that there was “but little probability of deciding the present unhappy public disputes by the specific measures we have hitherto pursued.” Our ideas were just, and with the deepest grief, yet firmest resolution, we now announce to you, that the sword of civil war, is not only actually drawn, but stained with blood!! The King's troops have at length commenced hostilities against this continent, and not confining their ungenerous attacks against men in arms defending their properties, they have slaughtered the unarmed, the sick, the helpless; having long indiscriminately oppressed they have now massacred our fellow subjects in Massachusetts Bay. Mark the Event! The enormities were scarcely perpetrated when the divine vengeance pursued the guilty, even from the rising up of the sun, until the going down of the same: the King's troops were discomfited; they fled before our injured friends. The night saved them from total destruction.

But see in what manner the American Civil War commenced; and

-------------------- page 52 --------------------
we lay before you the case, as stated by General Gage, on the one part, and by the Voice of America on the other.

The General sent a detachment of about 800 soldiers into the Country to seize and destroy the property of the people of Massachusetts Bay. This Detachment, on their way to Concord, at Lexington saw “about 200 Men drawn up on a green, and when the Troops came within a 100 yards of them (a situation out of the line of their march) they began to file off.” The soldiers upon “observing this,” ran after them to surround and disarm them. Some of them who had jumped over a wall, then fired four or five shots at the Troops, and “upon this” the soldiers “began a scattered fire, and killed several of the Country People.” Clear as it is even from this state, that the King's troops by running after actually attacked the Provincials peaceably filing off, yet General Gage has the integrity to entitle his narrative of this unfortunate affair “a circumstantial account of an attack on his Majesty's troops by a number of the people of Massachusetts Bay.” But Men will cease to be surprised at this when they are told the General makes no scruple to violate even a solemn engagement. After the General's defeated troops returned to Boston, he declared that if the inhabitants of that devoted City would deliver up their arms, he would permit them to retire from the Town with their effects. They delivered up near 3000 stands of arms, and to this day they are in shameful breach of the capitulation, detained in captivity patiently enduring the calamities of famine.

However the Voice of America thus describes the commencement of this unnatural war: About eight or nine hundred soldiers came in sight just before sun rise, of about 100 men, training themselves to ams as usual; and the troops running within a few rods of them, the commanding officer called out to the militia, “disperse you rebels, damn you, throw down your arms and disperse.” Upon which the troops huzza'd—immediately one or two officers discharged their pistols, and then there seemed to be a general discharge from the whole body. Eight Americans were killed upon the spot, and nine were wounded. The soldiers in a few minutes resumed their march to Concord, and there speedily destroyed a considerable quantity of flour and other stores belonging to the public. Another party of Militia about 150 men alarmed at such violences had assembled near a bridge at Concord. The soldiers fired upon them and killed two men. It was this repeated act of hostility that roused the Americans to repel force by force. They now returned the fire—beat the King's

-------------------- page 53 --------------------
troops out of the Town and compelled them to retreat to Lexington where they met a reinforcement of 1000 fresh men and two pieces of cannon. The Militia being, by this time, increased in their numbers they soon dislodged the Troops from this post: who during the remainder of the day, made a precipitate retreat through the American fire, and gained a place of safety under cover of the night: in this battle of Lexington, the Americans had 39 men killed, and 19 wounded. The King's troops left 266 men, killed, wounded and missing; and by subsequent accounts, it appears that, in consequence of that action, General Gage's army has sustained a diminution of 1000 men by death, wounds, prisoners, desertion, surfeits and other incapabilities of service. For the Troops being four and twenty hours on duty, marched, fought and fled 43 miles in that time without the least refreshment. Let it be remembered that these 1800 British Regulars consisting of the picked Men of the whole army—grenadiers light infantry, and marines carefully prepared for the expedition were defeated and driven by about 1200 American militia brought to repel an unexpected attack and marched in accidental parties upon the spur of the occasion. Let it be delivered down to Posterity that the American Civil War broke out on the 19th day of April 1775. An Epoch that in all probability will mark the declension of the British Empire.

Such an important Event as the actual Commencement of civil war, caused the convention of the Congress, on the first of June, in order that some provision might be made against impending calamities. The Congress rose on the 22nd inst: and it is our duty to inform you, and through you the public at large of the material transactions of this important session.

As a first step for our defence it was thought expedient to unite the inhabitants of the Colony “as a band in her defence against every foe” and to this purpose on the fourth day of June, immediately after the celebration of divine service, in congress an association was signed by all the members present solemnly engaging their lives and fortunes. In the space of four days, the association was voluntarily subscribed by almost every inhabitant in Charles Town and transmitted into the country. For our most effectual defence it was thought a body of regular Troops ought indispensibly to be raised without delay. Accordingly the Congress raised two regiments of foot consisting of 1500 rank and file; and one regiment of horse composed of 450 privates, for this service and contingent

-------------------- page 54 --------------------
expenses for one year the congress voted the sum of one million currency. The levies are now raising and the money is now issuing under the orders of the council of safety in whom the congress have have not only vested the whole power over; and direction of the regulars; the militia who when called into service will be entitled to pay, and the treasury; but have “authorized them to do all such matters and things” relative to the strengthening securing and defending the colony “as shall by them be judged and deemed expedient and necessary.”

The Militia have power to form select companies of horse and foot, and to officer them provided they have the approbation of the Council of Safety.

In order to form magazines of grain, an embargo has been laid upon all rice and corn.

To give proper force and effect to the resolutions the respective district and parochial Committees are impowered to take cognizance of and to question those persons who shall presume to violate or refuse obedience to the authority of the Congress; and to declare such persons “objects of the resentment of the public;” this effectually exposes them to be treated as Enemies to the liberty of America.

The names of those persons who shall refuse to associate are to be laid before the general committee who are to enquire of the parties touching their refusal.

Several resolutions of the present Continental Congress have been recognized; one of them declares “that no bill of exchange, draught or order of any officer in the army or navy, their agents or contractors be received or negotiated or money supplied to them, by any person in America” and that no provisions be furnished for the use of the British army in Massachusetts Bay or for vessels transporting British Troops or warlike stores for such troops to America or from one part of it to another.

For the better defence of our Liberties and Properties, the Absentees holding estates in this Colony are called home; and persons now in the Colony are prohibited from departing without permission of the general committee.

To endeavour to obtain pardon for our past offences and to procure the favor of heaven the 27th day of July is appointed to be observed as a day of solemn fast, prayer and humiliation before Almighty God.

-------------------- page 55 --------------------

Experience having demonstrated that a long continuance of a representation of a free people is dangerous to their Liberties; a new general election of Members of Congress and of district and parochial committees except for Charles Town is ordered to be held on the eighth and ninth days of August next; the Members are to serve during one year after their first meeting in Congress, and the present committees throughout the Colony are to continue to exercise their functions until the meeting of the new Congress.

And, to the end that his Excellency the Governor might not receive any unfavourable impression of the conduct of the congress, and that their proceedings might “stand justified to the world” they presented to his Excellency an address and declaration “that the hands of the King's ministers having long lain heavy, and now pressing us with intolerable weight, solely for the preservation, and in defence of our lives, liberties and properties, we have been impelled to associate and to take up arms.” Your Representatives in Congress, also “conscious of the justice of our cause and the integrity of our views,” readily professed loyal attachment to our sovereign, his crown, and dignity; and sensible of the public rights, the equal compact between King and people, religiously determined to do their duty, and to trust “the event to providence,” they generously and constitutionally declared “they preferred death to Slavery.”

Such have been the most weighty proceedings in the last Session of Congress. They were “the result of dire necessity” and of cool deliberate counsels, of which the public good was the only object.

Your Representatives having taken such important and justifiable steps, to place your lives, liberties and properties in a state of some security against the iron hand of tyrrany, do you second their laudable endeavours and exert every faculty of body and mind to discharge the great duty you owe to yourselves and to posterity? To this end vie with each other in your endeavours to cause the resolves of the congress to be punctually obeyed, and to bring to condign punishment those who like paracides shall dare to attempt to attempt to contravene the measures which are now formed to defend the liberties of your Country.

Having thus endeavoured concisely to represent the commencement of this cruel civil war and the situation of our domestic polity as some barrier against impending calamities allow us to draw your attention to the progress of the war near Boston: and to the late advices from England.

-------------------- page 56 --------------------

After the action of Lexington the people of the four New England Governments assembled near Boston to the number of 50,000 men; but as they soon found that General Gage was resolved to keep close in his entrenchments and knowing the general congress was about to sit, they sent home almost their whole army; and reserved only about 9000 men, as a corps of observation: which by posting themselves in lines near Boston were sufficient to keep the General so much in awe as to prevent his sending any more detachments into the Country. In these positions, the General waited for his expected Reinforcements from England; and the American army, for directions from the general congress. Neither seemed to have any design of attacking the other. But the Americans did not misspend their time. They sent off two small Detachments, in the most private manner, from two different quarters, and after a march of upwards of 300 miles, they at the same instant on the 10th of May together surprised entered and took Ticonderoga and soon after Crown Point two most important Forts, that command the communication by the Great Lakes between Canada and the Sea Coast Colonies. By this expedition the Americans have gained 200 pieces of large cannon, 5 mortars, sundry Howitzers, 50 swivels and a considerable quantity of ammunition; and to secure these passes they have garrisoned them with 1500 men.

During this time the state of the positions at and near Boston had not undergone any material change; and the people in the Country thought there could be no illegality in considering their Property still as their own; and using it accordingly. But it seems the law in this case had undergone a material alteration since a military Governor, commanding a large army, had taken post in the unfortunate town of Boston. For now, to exercise the right of ownership over property, is to draw upon the party, the fire of the King's troops. On the third day of this instant about thirty men forded and landed upon Hogg and Noddle's islands situated in Boston harbour and about three miles from the town; in order to drive off some live stock, which they had a Right to remove. But they no sooner began to remove their property than they were fired upon by an armed schooner and a sloop dispatched from Boston and forty marines that were stationed upon the islands to guard the stock against the lawfull owners. However the Country people, notwithstanding this opposition, killed and removed part of the stock. By this time they were attacked by a large number of marines, sent from the men of

-------------------- page 57 --------------------
war in the harbour; and during the action, both parties received reinforcements; so that it is said, the regulars had 1000 men, and the Americans 700 engaged. Notwithstanding such disproportion, the Americans beat the Troops off the islands, burnt the schooner and so disabled the sloop that they were obliged to be towed away. Killed 30 of the enemy, wounded 50, took four double fortified four pounders, 12 swivels and drove off the stock without the loss of a man, having only five men wounded.

Flattering as the conduct of the brave men of New England has made the situation of the American cause it would be injustice in us silently to pass by the conduct of New York and Georgia. The first has now taken a decisive step in support of the common cause. They have taken the spare arms from the regular troops that were there stationed, and they have put themselves into a formidable posture to receive about 2000 men daily expected to arrive there from England. The people of Havannah have just signed an association; they have formed a committee and have summoned a congress to meet on the 4th day of July; they have made generous collections for the relief of Boston; in short every appearance in that quarter prognosticates that Georgia will fully atone for her misconduct owing to the little Arts of a few misguided and unprincipled placemen.

If we state the substance of our advices from England we need only say that on one side stand our unfortunate and deceived sovereign his ministers of state the profligate part of the nobility and the corrupt majority of the house of commons: these drag an army to blow up the blaze of a civil war. On our side the favour of the Almighty stands confessed; a prince of the blood royal; the most illustrious, powerful and virtuous among the nobility; the most eloquent and popular men among the commons; the city of London, the body of the English nation are advocates for, and affectionate friends to the people of America and liberty.

In a former letter we acquainted you that notwithstanding Lord North's conciliatory motion, as he termed it, on the 28th of February, by which to screen us from military execution his lordship in effect very friendly demanded that we should engage to tax ourselves in such sums at such times and for such purposes as could be agreeable to Parliament, that is in plain English—the minister: a demand which Governor Martin in a late false and scandalous proclamation bearing date the 16th day of June glosses over by fraudulently stating

-------------------- page 58 --------------------
it that we are “required to tax ourselves by our respective general assemblies, only our contingent proportion (of which he cautiously took care not to inform the public that they are not to judge) towards defraying the charge of the general defence of the British Empire according to our circumstances and abilities (of which his Excellency prudently avoided to mention, that the parliament or rather the minister was to be the only arbiter) and for our civil government,” that is, for such patriotic officers as his Excellency ∗ ∗ ∗ “the generosity and equity of which propositions,” he very modestly adds, “can never be denied,” but which the Americans, with one voice, declare to be cruel, iniquitous and inadmissible. We say that we informed you notwithstanding this conciliatory motion (made without the least serious intention of a proper reconciliation) a bill on the eighth of March, passed the house of Commons and received the royal assent on the thirtieth, by which the New England Governments were cut off from their fishery, the natural claim of mankind to the gifts of Providence on their own coast as especially intituled by their charters which have never been declared forfeited, by which law those Governments are so restrained in their exports and imports that if they persevere in their loyalty to the confederated Colonies they would be as they now really are cut off, in effect from all manner of trade and be totally blockaded. We also told you, that “if the blockade of Boston alone roused the whole continent to their rescue and support, how vigorous ought we to exert ourselves, now that four entire provinces are blockaded.” But if you were filled with just resentment because your distant friends and compatriots were so oppressed with new injuries, how must you feel now when the oppression is brought to your own door, and this colony is cut off from all manner of trade—equally with New England? By an act of Parliament passed the 15th of April New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina are deeply affected; and the British Parliament now attempt to compel the united Colonies to submit to slavery, not only by force of arms, but by a measure, which till now, has never disgraced the history of mankind. When the diabolical Act respecting the New England governments was in the house of lords the illustrious patriots there made a protest against it “because to attempt to coerce by famine the whole body of the inhabitants of great and populous provinces, is without example in the history of this or perhaps any civilized nation; and is one of those unhappy inventions to which parliament is driven by the difficulties
-------------------- page 59 --------------------
which multiply upon us, from an obstinate adherence to an unwise plan of government.” But when this second famine act passed the house of lords, the patriots, now fully convinced of the inefficiency of argument made their Protest, without deigning to assign one reason: a silence more expressive and poignant, than any form of words they could have arranged.

The lord Mayor, aldermen and livery of London on the 10th of April last, presented an address, remonstrance and petition to the King declaring “their abhorence to the measures which have been pursued and are now pursuing to the oppression of our fellow subjects in America: measures big with all the consequences that can alarm a free and commercial people,” and they tell the King “they plainly perceive that the real purpose is to establish arbitrary power over all America.” But the throne being surrounded by evil counsellors, and the Americans being by them traduced to the sovereign, he gave the following unfavourable answer to the city of London:

“It is with the utmost astonishment that I find any of my subjects capable of encouraging the rebellious disposition which unhappily exists in some of my colonies in North America. Having entire confidence in the wisdom of my parliament, the great council of the Nation, I will steadily pursue those measures which they have recommended for the support of the constitutional Rights of Great Britain and the protection of the commercial Interests of my Kingdom.”

But the wicked ministers not content with hardening yet again the King's heart against his American subjects, they persuaded him to outrage the Rights of the City of London because she stood before the throne in favour of America. For the very day after his Majesty caused it to be notified to the Lord Mayor that “he will not receive on the throne any address, remonstrance and petition but from the body corporate of the city,” and thus was it designed to prevent the lord mayor, aldermen and livery of London from speaking to the King upon the subject of American calamities. The Lord Mayor “in extreme astonishment and grief” at this violation of a most important right of the city was indefatigable in his researches into the law and records upon that subject, and in an excellent letter to the lord chamberlain of the King's household, in answer to the above notification by him, the lord mayor thus expresses himself:

“And therefore I presume to lay claim, on behalf of the livery of London, to the ancient privilege of presenting to the King on the throne any address, petition or remonstrance. In this manner have

-------------------- page 60 --------------------
the addresses of the livery constantly been received both by his present Majesty and all his royal predecessors, the Kings of England. On the most exact research I do not find a single instance to the contrary. This immemorial usage, in the opinion of the ablest lawyers, gives an absolute right; and is as little subject to controversy as any fair and just prerogative of the crown: Other rights and privileges of the city have been invaded by despotic monarchs by several of the accursed race of the Stuarts, but this is not part of our history. It has not even been brought into question till the present inauspicious era. I have an entire confidence that a right left uninvaded by every tyrant of the Tarquin race will be sacredly preserved under the government of our present sovereign because his Majesty is perfectly informed that in consequence of their expulsion his family was chosen to protect and defend the rights of a free people whom they endeavored to enslave.

“Important truths my lord were the foundation of the last humble address remonstrance and petition to the King respecting our brave fellow subjects in America. The greatness as well as goodness of the cause and the horrors of an approaching civil war justified our application to the throne. I greatly fear your lordship's letter immediately following his Majesty's unfavourable answer to the remonstrance will be considered as a fresh mark of the King's anger against our unhappy brethren as well as of his displeasure against his faithful citizens of his Capital.”

Thus fellow citizens, it is evident by the clearest demonstration that our Rights are not to be recovered by humble addresses, remonstrances and petitions to the throne. Meditate upon the King's late answer; reflect upon the immediate outrage on the city of London, say does not the one exclude every ray of hope of an equitable accommodation by peaceable applications? Is not the other a lesson in terrorem to such of our friends in England as may be inclined to interceed in favour of America? But difficulties ever animated and invigorated those who had virtue to stand up in defence of public rights and success almost ever attended such a conduct. We are now to act in defence of all that is held dear and valuable. Americans, let us at least approve ourselves worthy of enjoying the rights of mankind.


———

1 The Cape Fear Mercury, 28th July, 1775.