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Letter from James Davis to the North Carolina Council of Safety
Davis, James, 1721-1785
October 1776
Volume 10, Pages 834-837

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]
Letter from James Davis to the Provincial Council about the Privateer Pennsylvania Farmer.


Mr Stanly having Occasion to wait on you with a memorial relative to the Conduct of the Commissioners of the Provincial armed Vessell the Pennsylvania Farmer permit me by the same Opportunity to lay before your Honours something on the same subject. To this duty I am impelled by the strongest of Ties, a sacred and venerable Regard for constitutional liberty and the Honour and Interest of my Country. When these are invaded it would be criminal to be silent. And here Gentlemen it would be necessary to pause a while and endeavour to investigate the secret springs of this patriotism. If it is expected Honors, lucrative Appointments, or any sinister Expectations whatever that whets my Zeal I may be justly suspected of deviating from the modern Patriots, and little Credit paid to my Narrative. But if none of these views appear, and that they do not I appeal to the Gentlemen of the Council themselves, to the chief of whom I have the Honour to be personally known to, then I hope you will believe the Facts I shall here endeavour to state to be true.

The Provincial armed Vessel the Pennsylvania Farmer sailed from this Town a few days since after lying here with 110 men on board at the Expence of near Forty Pounds per day, upwards of six months, in the most inglorious, inactive, and dissolute state that perhaps was

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ever suffered in any Country. By the Inexperience, Inactivity and neglect of the Officers of this Vessell who early began their Irregularities by inlisting the regular soldiers into their service, a continued scene of Riot Outrage and Robbery has been carried on by the people of her, the most daring Insults on the Inhabitants of the Town suffered to pass with Impunity. One hundred and ten pints of Rum poured out to them every morning kept them continually drunk and ready for any mischief, especially as they consist of men of all nations and conditions, English, Irish, Scotch, Indians, Men of Wars Men and the most abandoned sett of wretches ever collected together. Two of the Officers broke open the Gun Room, and with a number of the men went off with the Boat with Intent to join Lord Dunmore's Fleet, and actually reached Currituck County. They were apprehended and are still at large on board. They have wasted near 100 pounds of powder in wantonly firing at and bringing too all Boats, Canoes and Vessels of every sort, even Passengers in the Ferry Boat have been insulted. Capt Thos Shine of the Militia, with his Company on board coming up to the General Muster, was fired on and a ball passed within a few inches of his Arm. Of this Insult he complained to me. I remonstrated to the officers but met with nothing but abuse. With Regard to myself Gentlemen, I have been exceedingly obnoxious to this Crew of Banditti, for I can call them by no other name. As I had the Honour to be one of the Commissioners for that Vessell I very early opposed the iniquitous measures I saw pursuing and objected to the injudicious Choice as I thought, of the Officers of the Vessel, men utter Strangers, without Abilities, without Interest, Connections, or any tie whatever to the Country, the Captain never having sailed in, much less more commanded a Square rigged Vessel in his Life, Capt. Oliver of the marines being the only officer on board known to the Country. The Chief mate, one Barton, a Person intrusted by Mr Durant of St. Croix with a vessel and Quantity of Powder for the use of this Province, the whole of which Vessel and Cargo he attempted to underrate. I say Gentlemen, by the means above I became obnoxious to these men and have suffered every insult from them and sustained considerable Damage. They came to my Landing and destroyed a Bay Boat that cost me Thirty pounds, cut her up for Fire Wood and took out every Bolt and spike Nail they could come at. Of this I complain'd to the Officers and Commissioners but could get no Redress. As the Vessel lay opposite my Plantation at
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Green Spring the men came repeatedly into my Corn field and carried off Quantities of green Corn and grew so daring that I was forced to repell them by Force and lay on my Arms for many nights. Of this I complained to the Commissioners but could get no Redress.

I have been told the Reason for lessening the number of Commissioners for this Vessel was the Impossibility of doing Business effectually with such a number. I heartily agree with the Gentleman who made this complaint, and am fully convinced Business could not be effectually done while I opposed Contracts for Beef for the Vessel at 5d a Pound when I was buying for my own use at 3d and while I opposed some glaring accounts that freely passed after my Expulsion from the Commission. While I was on the Commission I spent much Time and some Money and was willing to do every act in my power to further the good Intentions of the Council in ordering this Vessel to be fitted out, but am not concerned at being left out of a Commission wherein I could do no good to my Country nor Honor to myself.

I must beg your Honours further Indulgence while I say a few words in Justification of a most infamous Slander cast on me by Capt. Hamstead and the Officers of this Vessel. They have propagated in all Companies a Story of my being disaffected to the present measures pursuing against British Tyranny, which I make no doubt has reached your Honours Ears, giving for a Reason that I would not let my son go in the Vessel. My attachment to the glorious Cause of Liberty in which we are at present embarked, and the very early and active Part I have taken in it, stands, I hope, too well recorded in this Province to be shaken by the insidious and base arts of disappointed Faction, and as to my Son as he is yet too young to be known to the World it is necessary I should set the matter right with regard to his Conduct. He was brought up to the sea, and great Part of his Apprenticeship Sailed out of Cadiz in Spain to many Parts of Europe, since his Return home he has been in the Employ of Mr Cornell and has been master of a Vessel out of this Port. He was the first Officer shipped on board the Vessel to Superintend the Rigging and continued on board upwards of two months. When the Commissioners went into the Choice of Officers he was appointed Second Lieutenant, in a short Time after by the Caprice of the Commissioners he was appointed Master, with this he was contented, and would have now been on board, had not I

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ordered him to resign an Employ he was not likely to gain any Credit by.

Upon the whole Gentlemen I have the fullest Conviction within my own Mind that this Vessel in her present Dress will utterly defeat the good Intentions of the Council, and as far as my poor Opinion goes would heartily recommend a Revision of her.

I hope your Honours will pardon my Presumption in troubling you with this long Epistle, But when Arbitrary Power runs triumphant among us and the Sacred Barriers of Private Property are destroyed the inestimable Blessings for which we are now contending and pouring out our best Blood in Streams, I could no longer be silent.

I have the Honour to be Gentlemen
your most obed. humble Servt