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Letter from Archibald Maclaine to Thomas Burke
Maclaine, Archibald, 1728-1790
March 27, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 246-250

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Wilmington, 27th March, 1782.


In my letter to Colonel Martin, which you were at the trouble of forwarding, I mentioned the case of a Mrs. Wilkings who had some orders sent her on persons here for money which was due to her and her sons. Her letters and orders and the letters of some other persons who are indebted to some of the British Merchants, have been detained by Mr. Walker, whether with propriety or otherwise, I will not pretend to determine, but it appears to me not to be any crime to receive Lawful Debts.

I took the liberty to give Colonel Martin the hint that a proper officer at such a place as this would be necessary to receive flags. It is almost inconceivable what absurd notions are advanced relative to the treatment of them; for unhappily there is not a man in this town and its neighbourhood possessed of any authority that is indued with common sense.

Several Justices from the County have been sent for to give their advice relative to the flag now here; the Civil and Military officers having not only disputed about the treatment of the persons who

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have come from Charlestown, but about their own authority for those who are fond of power are apt to quarrel with each other. I have this moment seen a letter from one of those same Justices, wherein he gives it as his opinion that those persons should be closely guarded and no communication suffered with them but in presence of an officer. How those are to be advised who come to throw themselves upon the Country or how a man in such a situation can remove his family, is never considered—what is worse it is never considered what injury this conduct may do our friends in a like situation. At present, it is certain that they have as much liberty as they could wish.

Though it will be advantageous to my private affairs, I feel some concern that I am not impowered to contribute my mite to the public service this session.

The business before the Assembly is of an intricate and important nature. It will require more time and attention than the members are usually inclined to bestow upon the public. The Tender Law will, I conclude, be repealed, which will necessarily require a repeal of other acts and clauses which depend upon it, and I suppose that something will be done towards calling in the insignificant paper money. It will at last have the appearance of Justice.

The confiscated property appears to me of the utmost importance, where it is considered as a fund for sinking the public debt or as a punishment to individuals.

If the Assembly proceed on their old plan, I may venture to assert, without the gift of prophecy, that the public will never receive any benefit from the Confiscations.

I think the South Carolinians have been impolitic, vindictive and premature. The only good clause that I hear of is that on the Sales. Five years credit is to be given; but I hope the lands among us will be reserved for the soldiers, or as a fund to redeem what money it may be necessary to issue, and however proper it may be to sequester, I confess I am no friend to absolute confiscations in our circumstances. At all events, I would postpone all sales except of perishable articles.

There are, indeed, two things to which I never can be reconciled. One is confiscating the Landed Estates of those who live in the British dominions, and the other, the debt due to British merchants.

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The first our Assembly never will give up, unless they can be reserved for some particular purpose.

The latter, if carried into execution, will effectually destroy our Commercial Credit. But if the Assembly should determine to sell all, another mode than the present ought to be adopted. A parcel of profligate scoundrels chosen, those who are altogether as profligate can not possibly do anything for the benefit of the public. Peculation is all their aim. Would it not be possible to get tolerable men appointed by the Assembly with an enlarged jurisdiction?

One Board of Commissioners would not answer the purpose in a Country so extensive, but might certainly manage a District. If men so appointed were allowed a Secretary who might also be their Treasurer, members of the Assembly might execute the trust without vacating their seats, and by those means men of respectable characters might in some cases be found to accept of the appointment.

The utmost care should be taken to point out the duty of the Commissioners and the greatest precision in the mode of determining contested property and adjusting the claims of Creditors.

There is another circumstance of some weight, but which I believe it would not be very popular to urge.

Several persons have left the State merely from their timidity and their fears of ——— they knew not what.

Mr. Burgwin is one of them, but though he went to a British Garrison, I question whether he was not most afraid of a British Army. He had been an active Magistrate and went off on Lord Cornwallis’s approach through this State.

I have no doubt but that he will attempt to return to answer to what may be objected against him; but is it not a little hard that a person cannot well make use of such an argument with safety, while Rutherford and myrmidons, who pillage the whole Country, should escape with impunity. If that precious scoundrel is not hanged there is not a scruple of virtue in the State.

I know I need not make any apology to you, Sir, for mentioning many circumstances which have long since occurred to you. The evils we feel most sensibly make the deepest impression upon us.

In the flag which is now here, Mr. George Hooper arrived for the Express purpose of taking his family to Charleston, so that I must

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in a few days part with my only surviving child. Mr. Hooper has given me many reasons for this resolution and added other circumstances which have in some measure reconciled me to an event which I so much dreaded. The health of his wife has lately been very indifferent, and the idea of preserving an appearance of consistency in his conduct and avoiding the imputation of change from motives of interest or convenience, are some of his principal inducements for removing his family.

I believe, indeed, that he wishes to settle in Charlestown rather than here upon many accounts, and he thinks he has a better apology for removing now than he may have some time hence.

He appears convinced that that place will soon be in our hands, either by an evacuation or seige, or perhaps by peace, and is fully determined to stay there at least for a time. I am, therefore, very solicitous that General Greene should be acquainted with his situation and intentions. When you have leisure, will you, Sir, oblige me so far as to inform General Greene of Mr. Hooper’s intentions and wishes.

Though I do not flatter myself that anything I have said or can say on this subject will operate in Mr. Hooper’s favor with the people of this Country, yet I am not without hopes that his conduct which has always been inoffensive will entitle him to some degree of future favor.

Mr. Hooper, in order to secure my books from the British officers, had many of them carried to his own house, which was unluckily in the heart of the Town, and many of them were carried off by the Militia. There are also many lost which belong to the Cape Fear Library Society. These were also in my possession. I have indeed lost some valuable and a great many useful articles which were in Mr. Hooper’s house, but I cannot say that I have any Legal proof of the robbery. Mr. Hooper was too much alarmed to give any attention to such matters, but the fact is past dispute. Several books were taken from the Militia while in town, and a small parcel in a bag were ordered to the house of M. Seham, in this neighbourhood, by a Militia officer.

I have taken the liberty to enclose you a list of such as are missing to be given to Messrs. Rutherford and Butler, who I think are bound to make inquiry for them, and I think the latter will readily

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do so, especially if you take the trouble to let him know the injuries that have been done me.

I cannot help acknowledging that I have troubled you with many things which do not come properly before you as Governor. Your mind too at this time must be entirely taken up with the duties of your office, yet I doubt not you will yourself apologize for me better than my time or paper will permit.

I am, with great respect,
Dear Sir,
Your Excellency’s
Obedient Servant,