Letter from Thomas Jones to James Iredell
Johnston, Samuel, 1733-1816
Volume 10, Pages 1033-1035
Letter from Thomas Jones to James Iredell.
Halifax, Saturday Morning, 28th April, 1776.
My Worthy Friend:—
You must pardon me for not giving you a line ere this, but if you really knew the amazing fatigue of business several of us have gone through, you would, I am fully assured, most readily forgive me. In my time I have been used to business, both public and private, but never yet experienced one-fourth part of what I now am necessarily obliged to undertake—we have no rest, either night or day. The first thing done in the morning is to prepare every matter necessary for the day—after breakfast, to Congress—there, generally, from 9 until 3 o'clock—no sitting a minute after dinner, but to different committees; perhaps one person will be obliged to attend four of them between 4 o'clock and 9 at night—then to supper, and this generally brings us to 12 at night. This has been the life I have led since my arrival here—in short, I never was so hurried. I was in great expectation that it would have been in my power to have acquainted you with political affairs of moment, but nothing as yet has been digested, and the most material business secret—can only, therefore, acquaint you that the army affairs
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have taken up a fortnight of our time. The Constitution goes on but slowly. The outlines of it made their appearance in the House for the first time yesterday, and by the last of this week it, probably, may be finished. The plan, as it now stands, will be subject to many alterations; at present it is in the following manner:—1st. A House of the representatives of the people—all free householders of one year standing to vote; and, 2nd. A Legislative Council:—to consist of one Member from each County in the Province—to sit as an Upper House, and these two houses are to be a check on each other as no law can be made without the consent of both, and none but freeholders will have a right to vote for the members of this Council. Next, an Executive Council, to consist of a President and six Councillors; to be always sitting; to do official business of Government—such as managing the army, issuing commissions, military and civil; filling up vacancies; calling the two branches of the Legislature to-gather; receiving foreign ambassadors, &c. &c. The President and council to be elected annually, as also the Assembly and Legislative Council—but have some reason to believe the President will have a right to be chosen yearly for three years successively, and no more, until the expiration of three years thereafter. So much for the outlines of the Constitution. We expect General Lee here every moment, on his way to the southward. He has two regiments in Virginia ready to assist this province, as we have reason to believe, North Carolina is their first object; thinking that we are the weakest of the thirteen—in this perhaps, they may be mistaken. Gen. Lee holds these regiments in readiness at Suffolk ready to assist, as the case may be, either North Carolina or Virginia. Clinton is at Cape Fear waiting for Lord Cornwallis and seven regiments—it's probable they may mean this as a feint to draw off forces from Virginia to Carolina, and then sail immediately and attack Virginia—as circumstances have materially changed since the date of Lord Germaine's letters to Gov. Eden, and Gen. Clinton having discretionary orders it's impossible to say what they will do; however, every necessary preparation is making for their reception both here and in Virginia. A Committee of Inquiry, or, in other words, an examining court, was appointed by the Congress to inquire as to the conduct of the prisoners in the jail, on our arrival here; we have tried 102 of them—this was a troublesome job indeed—and sent off fifty three of them, Gen. McDonald at their head out of the country—the place of their destination I am not
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at liberty to tell you. Gen. Armstrong went through this town the other day, on his way to South Carolina, to head the South Carolina forces. We have a printed copy of the South Carolina constitution, which is now in full force with the inhabitants of that country. A privateer from Philadelphia, of sixteen 4 pounders, actually engaged with and took an armed sloop, fitted out by Capt. Bellew, and commanded by his lieutenant; the engagement lasted one hour and twenty minutes. The armed sloop is torn all to pieces, so that it was with difficulty she was carried up to Philadelphia—the lieutenant and thirty-five prisoners arrived safely at that city. Old Goodrich is here a close prisoner, with one Capt. Geo. Blair and others. Since Goodrich was taken, the pilots and others at the bar have taken another tender by boarding, having on board 1000 pounds of gunpowder and sixteen men—the officers are in New Bern jail, and the men have cheerfully entered into the Continental service. The Province will instantly purchase the vessels of the pilots and send them to the bar as tenders to the King Tammany
and the Pennsylvania Farmer.
I do expect we shall vote 300,000, to be immediately emitted, for Continental purposes; and I have the pleasure to tell you that we have the greatest reason to believe that our last expedition against the insurgents will be paid by the united Colonies, and every other expense we may be at in future, as we are considered an accessory and not a principal in the present disputes; in that case, our paper money will be on a footing with the Continental.
I am, worthy sir, &c.