To the Honourable James Iredell, Esq.; one of the Judges of the Superior Court held at Edenton, for the District of Edenton, on the first Day of May 1778.
We, the Grand Jury for the district of Edenton, return you our thanks for the Charge which you was pleased to deliver to us at the opening of this Court.
This Charge vindicates the conduct of the American States, in the establishment of Independency by arguments drawn from unreliable rights, and from real necessity, and grounded on incontestible facts. Every man who is not lost to the powers of reason and conviction, must feel their force, and must bear a very active testimony in support of them. It breathes a spirit of pure disinterested patriotism, and holds forth the most powerful incentives to persist in the opposition in which America has so successfully begun. It points out persuasively the importance of a faithful observation of the various political and relative duties of security, upon which the happiness of individuals, and of the whole, depends, and which will tend to give stability to our present constitution.
For these reasons, and as it may tend to invigorate the timid, rouse the indifferent, reclaim the disaffected, and call the united strength of the whole into exercise for the public good: We beg that your Honour would favour us with a copy of it, that it may be transmitted to the press and published for the information of those who did not hear it delivered. As we ask this not only for ourselves, but in behalf of the inhabitants of the district of Edenton, whom we represent, we flatter ourselves that you will give it to our solicitations, although you intended it merely as an exercise of official duty, and thought it not designed for a more extensive communication than to us the Grand Jury.
Gentlemen of the Grand Jury:
In compliance with a custom which has long obtained, and is probably founded on very good reasons, it becomes our duty to
Such powers have been established under circumstances which should induce to them peculiar reverence and regard. They have not been the effect of usurpation; they have not proceeded from a wanton desire of change; they have not been imposed upon you by the successful arms of a tyrant; they have been peaceably established by the public at large, for the general happiness of the people, when they were reduced to the cruel necessity (a necessity they abhorred, and did all in their power to avoid) of renouncing a government which ceased to protect, and endeavored to enslave them, for one which enabled them with a proper share of courage and virtue to protect and defend themselves. You had not only for years been injured, and insulted in the grossest manner; you had not only felt innovations in your government, which were as repugnant to justice as they were unwarranted by precedent; your petitions for redress, couched in the most humble and expressive (though not in the most servile) terms, had not only been rejected and spurned at, but when the crisis at last arrived for more vigorous exertions, or a mean and dastardly submission, and every hope of relaxation of the tyrannical system was fled, war was brought into your territories, and carried on with unusual circumstances of cruelty and vigour; the British nation imposes upon by the vilest lies to exert every nerve in their power; foreign troops were hired to slaughter a people who had never offended them, the Indian scalping knife was employed; and even the diabolical purpose, of arming our domesticks to involve us in one indiscriminate massacre was
But every thing that could be urged in our favour was disregarded. Our enemies proceeded from one extreme to another, until they brought about an event which fatally, and I trust has finally severed this country from the Dominion of Great Britain. Immense advantages have been lost in pursuit of a chimera, for such must ever the government of this country be, without the hearty support of the people. The profits of our trade, an inexhaustible and increasing source of wealth, we freely bestowed. Our allegiance to our sovereign was perfect, on the conditions of our charter. He had a negative on our laws, and the whole executive department of the state. This was a power sufficient for every useful purpose; we had no disposition to compliment him with any that was dangerous. We desired only the privileges of a free people, such as our ancestors had been, such as they expected we should be. We knew it was absurd to pretend we could be free, when laws might at pleasure be imposed on us by another people; a people who in many respects considered themselves our rivals, over whom we had no control, who were remarkably ig orant
We may be thankful to divine providence, that we were called into this contest, at a time when the principles of liberty were generally and thoroughly understood. The divine right of Kings was exploded with indignation, in the last century. Men came at length to be persuaded that they were created for a nobler purpose than to be the slaves of a single tyrant. They did not confine this idea to speculation; they put to death one king, and expelled another. This was done in England, the seat of our haughty enemies, who seem to think the right of resistance is confined alone to their kingdom. It is under this expulsion (for such it is fact was) that the present sovereign of that country holds his title to the throne. Whatever doubt there might have been entertained before, there could be none afterwards, and the family, who were seated upon the vacant throne by the voice of the people, held it liable to the same resistance which had provided the vacancy for them. Accordingly, ever since this glorious revolution, it has been considered by the generality of the kingdom, and is now almost a settled axiom in their government, that all government was instituted for the good of the people, and that when it no longer answers that end, and they are in danger of slavery, of great oppression, they have a right to change it. I lay it down thus generally, because the principle extends so far, and no man of reason and candor would attempt to narrow it. It is a principle founded in the clearest reason. It is applicable to all conditions and circumstances. It is not calculated for any party, or
I confess, Gentlemen, when I speak on this subject, I cannot avoid expressing myself with warmth; that such great, such real advantages should be lost, in pursuit of no essential object, is a consideration extremely affecting. We can not help comparing, with a degree of regret and indignation, the former honourable and political conduct of the crown of Great Britain to the American Colonies, with that which has since been pursued. Happy in the enjoyment of liberty, in the formation of our own laws, in the grant of our own money, (subject only to a restriction we submitted to with pleasure, the negative of our sovereign) we felt a felicity that could only be equaled by the hardships with which it was originally obtained, and the mixture of filial and social gratitude with which it was enjoyed. Great Britain was the constant centre of our thoughts; her prosperity, the most ardent desire of our affections. We contemplated with a pleasure which no scene of human life perhaps ever gave occasion for before, the entire and cordial union of many distant people, descended from the same ancestors, possessed of nearly the same rights, endued with noble and generous minds, warm in their affection, and zealous in their attachment to each other, under the influence of one common sovereign, and by the participation of a common interest, mutually contributing to the prosperity of the whole; the authority of the sovereign, sufficient to preserve the whole in due order, but not to invade the liberties of any; all the branches of the great stock willingly resigning to the parent kingdom the absolute management of the only concern that could probably interfere with the general happiness, unless the minds of the people should grow irritated and discontented; which their exemplary loyalty seemed a sufficient guard against, except in the case of a just and severe provocation. And though we viewed such a scene at a distance, and indeed as almost a thing impossible (at least to happen in our day, never dreaming of men sacrificing real advantages to vain and visionary expectations) yet we had been too well instructed
You will I hope excuse, Gentlemen, the particular, perhaps the too great particularity, with which I have gone into this subject. Yet I thought it my duty to point out to you some of the principles upon which the revolution in our government has taken place, and which, in my opinion, prove not only the propriety of its being effected, but the indispensable obligation we are under to maintain and support it. This can only be done by great public virtue, and very spirited exertions. We have a great and exasperated people to contend against; a people who, tho' they have wantonly thrown away many of their resources, have many still left, and are, no doubt, capable of powerful efforts. These must be withstood by great efforts on our part. Let us not flatter ourselves, that the war is nearly over, and that we are on the eve of enjoying the blessings of peace. Such ideas are pleasing,
Remainder in our next.