To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina.
The Memorial of the Merchants, Traders, and others, residing at Cape Fear, whose names are hereto subscribed,
That the Confiscation Act, and the Act passed last Session of the General Assembly for carrying the same into Execution, will, in the opinion of your Memorialists, occasion the justice of the Legislature to be called into question, and in their tendency greatly endanger the credit of this State as a commercial Country.
Your Memorialists humbly conceive that, in case of a war, it is contrary to the usage and custom of civilized nations to confiscate the property of private persons who may be subject to the Enemy. The most that is ever done in such cases is to secure such property, untill it shall be known how the enemy behave in the like case.
For a proof of this your Memorialists appeal to the Declarations and Manifestoes published by France and Spain on the one side, and Great Britain on the other, at the commencement of the late and present war.
Many of the Traders in this country carried on very extensive business without any funds of their own, but altogether upon the credit which they had abroad. As men of fair characters, they were liberally supplied with Goods, and their honor, as well as their principles, make them willing, and even desirous, of discharging the debts they have contracted. It is true they cannot do this until Hostilities cease between the United States and Great Britain, and perhaps for some time afterwards; but if these debts are called out of their hands, what foreign merchant will hereafter give credit to an Inhabitant of North Carolina? If a State seizes upon private property, what man will hereafter be mad enough to trust his property in that State? There are few, if any, of the United States except this that have laid their hands upon British property, as such; none, that we know of, that have meddled with British debts. We are sensible that it had been urged that payingcertain loss to the honest citizen, who cannot conceive that his creditor is paid because an Act of Assembly has taken the Money which should have been applied to that purpose. He will, at all Events, pay his just debts, and the Act will give an opportunity to the dishonest man to defraud his creditors and make his own fortune. But were all this out of the question, your Memorialists beg leave to contend that the measure adopted by the Legislature will have the most pernicious consequences on the public as well as the private credit of the Country. It will be said that, there being more British property in America than the Americans have in Britain, we meanly take advantage of that circumstance and, because it is in our power, apply what belongs to others to our own use. This, and much more, will probably be urged against our public Conduct, to say nothing of the necessity we may lie under of making restitution before peace can be established; for the property taken in this way will be treated of in a very different manner from that which has been taken and destroyed in the usual course of War; Besides, what Merchant, who may pay his debts agreeable to the Act, can with safety or modesty show himself in the British Dominions? What Citizens of North Carolina can appear abroad without being reproached with the evil policy, perhaps with the injustice, of his Country?
That your Honorable Body may take the premises into consideration, your Memorialists have, as they conceive they are in duty bound, presumed to lay their sentiments before you, and flatter themselves that you will think the subject matter of their Memorial merits some degree of attention; That upon mature deliberation you will be of opinion that the Acts referred to require amendment; That the innocent should be relieved, the commercial credit of the Country supported, and, above all, the Justice of the State preserved inviolate. Confiding in the wisdom and justice of the Legislature, your Memorialists, as in Duty bound, shall ever pray, &c., &c.,