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Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
August 28, 1775
Volume 10, Pages 230-237

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

Cruizer Sloop of War in Cape Fear River, No. Carolina, August 28th, 1775.

My Lord,

Since my Dispatch No. 38, giving your Lordship an Account of the outrages committed at Fort Johnston, I received by a tender

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from New York on the 22nd of last month, the Duplicate of your Lordship's Dispatch No. 16, which from its date must have accompanied your letter by the May mail, that were violated by the Committee at Charles Town, as I have formerly represented, and was there with held, as appears evidently I think from the allusion to its contents in the Publication of the Committee at Wilmington in the enclosed Paper of the 28th day of last month. I learn that the June mail is since arrived at Charles Town, and I flatter myself that the Postmaster persuant to my advice has lodged your Lordship's dispatches to me in security on Board His Majesty's Ship stationed there, but I have been deterred from sending for them as yet, by a strange and almost incredible rumour, that there are armed Vessels fitted out by the People of Charles Town, constantly cruizing off that place, of force superior to any Vessel I can get to send for them at present.

The encouragements which your Lordship's Letter above referred to authorizes me to hold out to the King's Loyal Subjects in this Province, I have taken every measure in my power to communicate to proper persons, but unfortunately before it reached my hands the Committee had so effectually possessed themselves of every Avenue into the Country by their Spies and Emissaries, who keep the most strict and Vigilant watch upon every road and communication which leads towards me, that I have found myself defeated in almost every attempt I have made to correspond with the well affected people in the upper Country. All of them who have come down here to consult me about their safety, have been intercepted coming or going, and searched, detained, abused, and stript of any Papers they have had about them except a Messenger from a considerable Body of Germans, settled in the County of Mecklenburg, who brought me a loyal declaration against the Very extraordinary and traiterous resolves of the Committee of that County, of which I had the honor to transmit a copy to your Lordship with my last Dispatches. The same ill fortune has attended my latest attempt to counteract the d sign of a Convention at this time assembled at Hillsborough, by a Proclamation of which your Lordship will receive a Copy herewith, the Messengers employed to circulate it in the Country having been all intercepted, which I the more lament as I think it might have produced good effects upon the minds of the People, and that I have much reason to apprehend the difficulty of communication which becomes daily greater and greater, will

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totally cut me off from all intercourse with the Interior parts of it hereafter until I am able by force to lay it open.

Thus My Lord I am reduced to the deplorable and disgraceful state of being a tame Spectator of Rebellion spreading over this Country, which might have been surely and effectually maintained for the King by the strength I could have collected within itself, if I had been provided but six weeks ago with Arms, Ammunition and money; with these aids My Lord, I am confident I could have entered the Country, and made myself entirely the master of it by this day, but without them I considered the attempt to draw the King's Loyal Subjects together ill armed, or wholly unarmed as they are, destitute of Ammunition, and without both the means of defence and support, to act against an increasing and spreading revolt, that had actually enlisted half the Country on its side, by terror or persuasion, and which according to my information is well supplied with warlike stores, that have been secretly from time to time imported into this Province, would have been only to sacrifice the friends of Government and to disgrace myself without a chance of rendring Service to His Majesty. Every device My Lord has been practiced by the seditious Committees to inflame the minds of the Inhabitants of this Country, and their endeavours have been strenuously abetted by the Delegates sent to the Philadelphia Congress, and your Lordship will see by their letter published in one of the enclosed papers, but most of all by the return of Richard Caswell one of the members of this Province, he has promoted the present Convention with all his might, and remains here to superintend its movements, and no doubt to inflame it with the extravagant spirit of that daring Assembly at Philadelphia. At New Bern I am credibly informed, he had the insolence to reprehend the Committee of that little Town, for suffering me to remove from thence, this man My Lord who at his going to the first Congress and after his return from it, appeared to me to have embarked in the cause with a reluctance that much extenuated his guilt, in my estimation, shows himself now the most active tool of sedition although his professions are according to my information still averse to his ostensible conduct and character, which at this crisis of Affairs serve but to aggravate his guilt and infamy.

The influence of Committees, My Lord, hath been so extended over the Inhabitants of the Lower part of this Country, since my Representations to your Lordship by Mr Schaw, and they are at this

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day to the distance of an hundred miles from the Sea Coast, so generally possessed with the spirit of revolt that I consider it no longer possible to avail myself of the power of the friends of Government in the interior parts of it without the aid of two Battalions to force a communication with them. I regret incessantly the loss of the opportunity which the circumstances of this country so long afforded me to maintain it in peace and good order by its own strength, while I have only the consolation to know that it has proceeded from no neglect or omission or want of exertion on my part, and the well grounded hope that my Royal Master and your Lordship are assured of my best humble endeavours for His Majesty's Service, from the accounts I have had the honor to transmit to your Lordship from time to time.

I made application to General Gage for Arms and Ammunition so long ago as the month of March last, to which I have received no answer, but through a Newspaper, in which I have seen a letter said to be taken from one from the General to me, that was intercepted from Charles Town, that I believe to be genuine, and which justifies me in the conclusion that my fair and long cherished hopes of redeeming and maintaining this Country for His Majesty have been frustrated by the General's want of power to assist me with the necessary means.

It is much to be lamented, My Lord, that effectual steps have not been taken to intercept the supplies of war-like stores that I am informed are frequently brought into this Colony, and I suppose into the other Provinces. The Coast of this, that is of great extent, would employ three or four cruisers to watch it properly, while there is only a sloop of eight guns, in which I am embarked, that is not sufficient to attend to the smugglers in this River alone where she is stationed.

Your Lordship will observe in the advertisement of the committee of Newbern, herewith enclosed, that I am charged with a design of erecting The King's Standard and commencing hostilities against the People of this Province. This charge, my Lord, is founded upon a letter of mine to Mr White, my agent at New York, intercepted and opened by the Congress at Philadelphia, wherein I requested that Gentleman to send me a Royal Standard and some camp equippage, thinking it proper to make such provision, in case the circumstances of this country should render it absolutely necessary, and General Gage should put it in my power, by furnishing me

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with necessary supplies of Arms and Ammunition to take the field to maintain the King's Government. This committee have surely most inadvertently discovered their own disloyalty and the emptiness of their uniform and constant professions of Duty to His Majesty by their inference and apprehensions from my supposed intention of erecting the King's Standard, of a design in me to commence hostilities against the People of this Province, and the Resolves of proscription formed thereupon, for if they were loyal Subjects (as they, like their fellows in the other Colonies in declared rebellion, profess themselves to be) where would be the guilt of erecting the King's Standard among them, or what the grounds for their apprehensions from it, since that Ensign could be raised only for the support and not for the annoyance of the King's friends? But it would seem, my Lord, that the fatal disorders prevailing on this Continent have introduced a total perversion of language; the enigma arising out of a comparison of the terms of this advertisement with the loyal professions of the people of America, Your Lordship will see unriddled in the Cape Fear Mercury of the 11th instant inclosed, where the friends of Government are stiled disaffected persons, which, though not ungrammatical, is certainly in common acceptation a term strictly applicable only to themselves; but this is the work of revolt all over America, where the present contention is affectedly called a strife with the Parliament or Ministry of Great Britain abstracted by the King who is absurdly as falsely represented to be out of the question. Thus the King's Troops, Generals, Governors are stiled, Parliamentary or Ministerial as these Terms happen to be deemed most reproachfull by those who employ them. The reference to my behaviour at Fort Johnston in the New Berne Committees Advertisement I learn is an allusion to the imputations of the Wilmington Committee in the Cape Fear Mercury enclosed of the 28th day of July.

I have received a letter from Lieutenant Coll Allen Maclean in which he informs me that he is detained at Boston by General Gage and has sent the Dispatches for me with which your Lordship charged him by a gentleman who is since arrived in this Province and gone into the Country, and whom I have not seen.

Captain Collet, representing to me shortly after the outrages committed at Fort Johnston by the mob, that he had the utmost reason to apprehend the leaders in that violence were concerting to employ some legal process against him for debts he owed here in order to

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get him into their hands to deliver him over to the enraged people, asked my permission to go to Boston, which I could not under such circumstances refuse him, and he accordingly sailed on the 21st day of July with his little Garrison, carrying with him the carriages Trucks, shot and small stores belonging to Fort Johnston in a transport on Board which he had embarked some days before. This gentleman, I am sorry to find my Lord, had been hurried by his vehemence and impetuosity of temper to many unwarrantable extravagancies, and according to my information he has involved himself in debt so deeply that he will never be able to shew his face again in this Country, to which I therefore wish he may never return, at least until he is able to do justice to his creditors, and to make his peace with the people now to the last degree exasperated against him.

The probability of the Cruizer being compelled to leave her station here for want of provisions, or to cruize for smugglers or Pirates, and the certainty in that case of the Artillery belonging to Fort Johnston falling into the hands of the mob, determined me some weeks ago to spike the Guns, and to burn the carriages that were rotten and utterly unserviceable. The Minutes of a Council held here on the 18th day of July of which I transmit a copy herewith, will show your Lordship how little that Board was acquainted with the temper of the people of the country, who committed the monstrous outrages at Fort Johnston the very next morning after a Majority of the Council had given their judgment that they would see their error, and return to their Duty, and declared themselves against any rigorous measures which indeed they knew I had not power to employ. I have once since summoned the Council to consider of the steps proper to be taken, upon the Representations of John Cotton, Lieutenant Colonel of the Militia in the County of Anson, and Samuel and Jacob Williams (who being compelled to leave their habitations and families there, came down here to advise with me) but circumstances not admitting of the attendance of a sufficient number of Members at the time I had appointed those people resolved to return to their homes, since which I hear they have been intercepted on their way, and brought back by a party of Armed men to the Committee of Wilmington their depositions herewith enclosed will make your Lordship acquainted with their cases.

The result of the Convention now sitting at Hillsborough will show the state of this Country clearly, and I fear will manifest the

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fatality of suffering faction to get to such a head here, which it has been impossible to prevent, without drawing together and arming the friends of Government which I have not had the necessary means to effect. The few people who steal down to me in spite of the Committees interdicts, represent the Inhabitants of the lower parts of this Country so generally disaffected and infatuated to such a degree of madness, the influence of the seditious demagogues, that the loyal Subjects among them are in fear of their lives, if they utter a word against their proceedings or even contrary to their liking.

The Scotch Merchants at Wilmington who so long maintained their loyalty have lately been compelled ostensibly to join in sedition by appearing under Arms at the Musters appointed by the Committees, although they are still at heart as well affected as ever. In short My Lord everything now convinces me that the time for restoring Lawfull Gevernment in this Province, by its own internal strength, is past and gone. I hoped if my Proclamation of the 8th instant had circulated, it might at least have had the effect to suspend for a time the progress of revolt among the Inhabitants of the interior Country, whom I much fear will be seduced and alienated by the influence and artifices of the Convention now held in the heart of their Country, and I know not another Act of Government I can do with the least prospect of advantageing His Majestys Service until I am supported by Troops.

Mr Cornell, a Member of the Council of this Province, who is I believe the most opulent Merchant in it representing to me lately that he had reason to believe he would be compelled if he stayed here to give his credit to the Paper money intended to be emitted by the Continental Congress, as well as the Provincial Convention which will be against his conscience and principles, as well as injurious to his Interest, and having therefore desired my leave to go to England, I have granted it to him and I must do this Gentleman My Lord the justice to say that he has borne his part in the Council with great propriety since the death of his son in Law, Mr Edwards the late Deputy Auditor who certainly influenced him to the delinquent behaviour of which I formerly accused him to your Lordship with others in his private capacity too. Since that time he has manifested the firmest attachment to Government, and a just indignation against the Proceedings of the seditious upon all occasions.

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A Mr Pryce arrived at New Bern since I left that place, invested with deputations as Provincial Secretary and Deputy Auditor, but alarmed with the disorder of that place, and disgusted with the climate, he returned to England immediately without writing to me or giving me opportunity to see him. I confess My Lord I was chagrined to find that my Recommendation of a Deputy to Mr Cholmondely had not been accepted, not so much because it was a disappointment to the party recommended, but as it is a circumstance that lessens my consequence as the King's Governor here, among the People, to see that I have not power or interest enough to make even a Deputy to a sinecure Patent officer.

The sundry depositions of Masters of Ships enclosed will show your Lordship the motives & designs of the Rabble who did the Violence at Fort Johnston, that of Mr Todd refers also to a remarkable extravagance of Mr Dry's which is still better confirmed to me by the Testimony of a Gentleman of consideration who was present at the time.

I have the honor to be &c.,
JO. MARTIN.