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Letter from James Iredell to Joseph Hewes
Iredell, James, 1751-1799
April 29, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 1035-1037

Letter from James Iredell to Joseph Hewes.

Edenton, April 29th, 1776.

Dear Sir:—It gives me great concern to hear of your ill state of health. I wish it was possible for you to avoid such incessant application, as I am sure you have not strength enough of constitution to bear it well. I am persuaded your situation admits not of much relaxation, but I hope you will pay as particular attention to your health as is consistent with it. By sedulously laying hold of every opportunity for this purpose, great things might be affected.

I am under great obligations to you and General Washington for the great kindness you both did me about my letter. My receiving no answer to it as it happens, is no dissappointment to me. I have now no thought or wish of going home. My mind is raised above

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the sordid idea of providing for myself. I am impatient to be attached to my friends in the noblest of all causes—a struggle for freedom. It is a cause I have long honored and which, since things are come to extremity, I deem it my duty to engage in. I have no merit from so doing. My soul follows its natural inclination, and gratifies its most favorite passion. In a cause I believe so just, and with friends I so highly honor, I could face danger with intrepidity, and embrace any fate with pleasure. I should not wish to survive the ruin of my country, and should think myself disgraced in pusillanimously deserting the support of her fallen fortunes. The pride and arrogance of our oppressors is insufferable, and the fury of their conduct can rationally have no other effect than to kindle our resentment into a fiercer flame. When I wrote you my last letter, we had accounts of a favorable disposition towards us, and I warmly wished an occasion might be offered to restore peace and harmony once more to this distracted empire. I felt for the dangers of my native country, and was miserable in the fear of its being sacrificed to the pride and insolence of a set of tyrants. This made me hope that if the great point could be secured, slight circumstances of ill appearance might be passed over. But things now wear quite a different face. The Ministry do not appear the only bloodthirsty men in the nation. They are stimilated by some of the meanest wretches in the creation;—men who regard liberty only for themselves, and would tyrrannize over others. It is difficult at this distance to judge properly. But I really fear a majority of the nation are against us. The contemptible principles of self interest (however mistakenly pursued), the hopes of plundering us, the desire of unlimited taxation to ease themselves appear to me to carry away multitudes. Unhappy it is that the virtuous and noble minority, who prefer principles of equity and honor to the savage desire of plunder and devastation, must follow the fortunes of the rest. But so it is; and the country of Berks must be among the number.

The tyranny and infatuation of the Ministry have driven us to the brink of a precipice. Scarcely any hope of reconciliation can now be entertained. I see things in the most melancholy aspect. But it is necessary to be firm, and to prepare for all events with fortitude. My first attachment is to the liberty and welfare of America; my next to the happiness of Great Britain. If these can yet be found compatible most happy should I be in seeing the blessed union; if they cannot, notwithstanding the extreme bitterness of the struggle,

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it would be our duty to support the former against the latter. “Ye gods, what havock does ambition make among your work.”

You will undoubtedly have regular accounts from Halifax. Little has yet been done but the passing an order to raise four new regiments, and three companies of light-horse. A fifth regiment I hear is in contemplation. They are very busy now in framing a constitution for us, and they proceed with great delicacy in it. A variety of plans is offered, and night and day wise and unwise heads are ruminating upon them. I need give no particulars, because it is impossible that you should not have regular and frequent intelligence thence.

But I forgot to tell you of a smart action lately performed at our bar. There were two tenders there going out with some prizes they had taken; two of the vessels were too late for the tide and obliged to wait, and one tender remained with them, in the night a number of the pilots and others boarded the tender in boats, and carried her and the prizes immediately up to New Bern. Old G—— had command of the tender, and having been thinned of men to put on board the prizes, had only with him three or four negroes; hearing the noise of the oars just as they approached near the vessel, he ordered the negroes to fire, but upon a gun being presented at him (which snapped in the pan) he immediately delivered the vessel up. J. Buchanan and A. Campbell owned one of the vessels that were thus re-taken and were going out to Madeira.

Adieu my dear sir. May Heaven bless you! I am at all times, with the greatest sincerity and high respect,

Your most affect. and obt. servant,
JAS. IREDELL.