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Letter from James Iredell to Joseph Hewes
Iredell, James, 1751-1799
June 09, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 1038-1040

Letter from James Iredell to Joseph Hewes.

Edenton, June 9th, 1776.

Dear Sir:

I begin to be troublesome, I fear. I wrote you only last week and now am about it again. I have not, however, much to say, and certainly should not have wrote at all if you had any postage to pay, but as this is not the case, I hazard a few lines. We have a report, by credible people from NewBern, that the King's troops have all left Cape Fear. Gen. Lee, about 10 minutes before he set off from New Bern to go there, received a letter which gave him reason to apprehend they intended it; and since, it is said, undoubted information had arrived that they were actually gone. The place of their destination is uncertain; it seems most probable that they are gone

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either to South Carolina or Virginia, or perhaps in separate bodies to both; it is conjectured by some, that they may perhaps attempt landing between Cape Fear and Charles Town, and that way penetrating into the back country. There are about 300 lighthorse established between Cross Creek and the only place where it is imagined they could attempt landing (the name of which I have forgotten, but it seems there is very shallow water at a great distance from the shore). These lighthorse will be able to discover and give intelligence. Gen. Lee staid only one day at New Bern, and his Virginia Regiment marched directly from Halifax to Cape Fear by the upper road. I have always been cauticus in mentioning any report I hear at these times, when so many idle and false ones are continually propagated; but I thought I had extremely good authority for mentioning that Gen. Lee intended to rendezvous his troops for the present at New Bern. I believe, however, I had the caution to tell it only as a report, a word for which great allowance must be made now-a-days. I enclose you copies of an address from the people of New Bern to the General, and his answer for the sake of the latter, wherein he does an honor to this Province I am not a little proud of. Comparative compliments must always have some better grounds than absolute ones.

I wish much to know the truth about the people of Maryland. We are told they refused to alter their form of Government, and this is construed by many as a proof of great disaffection. I only consider it in the light of unwillingness to come into this measure, and independency which may be the consequence, until the very last necessity, which they choose to make themselves judges of. I can never believe they will be guilty of such abandoned infamy as to desert a cause which they were so forward to engage in. At the same time, I do really think there is an evident indecency and incongruity (and have long so) in conducting business in the name of the King, when we are in arms against him; and the direction of the Congress on this subject I conceive ought to be obeyed. For there is as I conceive, this material difference between such a conduct and an express declaration of independence; that in the former case a reconciliation is practicable; in the other, any hopes or intention of it absolutely renounced. With respect to the latter I do clearly think that a majority of voices alone ought not (indeed they cannot) carry it, but it must be individually consented to by each Province. But the former being a mere incident of the original purpose of the Confederacy,

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calculated for conducting it with more dignity, and still having in view a reunion as possible, I think it was a proper object of the Congress' attention, and ought universally to be obeyed. Our situation is so unhappy that a declaration of absolute independence may become necessary, before a distant body can be collected, and therefore I think the members of the Congress ought to have full powers to declare it, when the melancholy exigence shall arrive.

I do not view the subject as a matter of ambition; in my opinion it is criminal and impolitic to consider it in that light; but as a matter of necessity; and in that case, in spite of every consequence (and very bad ones may be dreaded) I should not hesitate an instant in acceding to it.

May God grant you better health and every felicity, is the constant and anxious wish of, dear sir,

Your most obliged and faithful servant,
JAS. IREDELL.