Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Advanced Search Options
Letter from Archibald Maclaine to George Hooper
Maclaine, Archibald, 1728-1790
December 16, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 990-993


Wilmington, 16th December, 1783.

My Dear Sir:

The court ended last Thursday and this is the first moment I have had to write you.

We have done very little business of any kind. The most of it was on the criminal side: and as usual, where party could possibly be brought in, it protracted the business beyond conception. London and Bill were indicted in form, and though the attorney general had all the witnesses which he can expect against the former, he declared that the State was not prepared for trial. It is remarkable that Landon is only indicted for bearing arms (which he never did) and attaching himself to the British army. The court

-------------------- page 991 --------------------
however were unwilling to go into any trial of the kind, and even the violent whigs wondered that indictments which they knew could never be tried, should be preferred; but as Junius observes of Dr. Blackstone, the Attorney General remembered that he had a place to keep. That remembrance induced him to oppose with all his ingenuity, Mr. Campbell’s recovery against Mr. Gregg. We however got a verdict for the whole sum. A new trial was moved for. After much debate and altercation, we succeeded again. The last resource was a motion in arrest of judgment. After much quibbling to support that motion, we obtained our judgment for between 8 & £9000. Mark what follows. The Bladen rioters were tried. I had given the Attorney General full instructions, and the court were possessed of the facts long since. From motives of delicacy I declined interfering in the trial, and as soon as I had given my testimony, withdrew. The evidence which I heard appeared to be full to prove a riot in the eye of the law; but if anything was wanting, the witnesses who were examined could have disclosed it, had they been properly examined. It was not thought to be too strict. The defendants were acquitted. And though the Judges exclaimed loudly against Raiford’s conduct, neither the court nor the council for the State thought proper to order a prosecution for an assault and wounding, in the face of a court of Justice. So much for judicial proceedings.

The conduct of the executive power has been full as reprehensible. The Governor arrived early in the court, in his new chariot & took up his abode with Major Walker. He had been here but a few days when Major Maclean was ordered to depart in the vessel in which he came, though it was bound to Charleston. Col. Young and a small party of militia executed the order. When the vessel went down, Maclean went on board of Captain Walters’ ship from London, conceiving that a british subject would give him protection. Walters paid court to the ruling powers, & Young sent a message that if Maclean did not immediately leave the vessel, it should be burned about his ears. He came up in the evening and on Addison’s invitation went on board his vessel. On Mrs. Maclean’s application the Governor has so far relaxed, as to permit her husband to stay on board any vessel until he can conveniently depart for Nova Scotia & Walters has given him an invitation to stay

-------------------- page 992 --------------------
in his ship. In order to give a color to this violation of the treaty, Maclean is said to have been an inhabitant, and to have fomented an insurrection, after taking an oath of neutrality before the council of safety. A gross and unfounded falsity. The Governor however judges him to come within his proclamation; and as to the treaty it seems it is not yet final, & if it should be, it will not be a treaty of amity. As a proof of this, his Excellency refers to the British restrictions on their trade with us. Burgwin & his family are expected every day. I feel the most sensible concern for him, as I see no probability of his remaining here; & where he can go, God only knows. No one can rejoice more than I do that you are in a place of safety, & in some measure at ease; but I shall ever regret that I am under any obligations to a man who so wantonly tramples on law and justice. I shall never be so ungrateful as to forget that obligation; but nothing shall induce me to sacrifice my liberty, and the liberty of those with whom I am connected; to personal kindness.

Mr. Johnston has written to me in very unequivocal terms that he will attend next Session. Your brother & Mr. Iredell will I believe be elected. Burke is, I am afraid, by this time no more. What pleases me as much as any thing, Mr. Johnston (who has more than once presented his compliments to you) will accept of the Government; and unless Caswell’s ambition should once more prompt him to make another trial, will easily obtain it, as all his interest will be thrown into Johnston’s scale.

We hear that your countrymen have opened their arms to the refugees, & have even invited Smith of New York among them. Is this true?

I could not understand from your letter the nature of Fallon’s attack upon you and your brother; but Mr. J. S. Walker has explained it. Perhaps the list which Governor Martin sent your Governor of persons confiscated, &c., may be of service to Mr. Burgwin, if he should be driven to the necessity of seeking an asylum elsewhere. If the definitive treaty, which is certainly ratified and exchanged, should arrive while the Governor is here, I should hope to succeed in getting my friend John admitted; but the adjournment of Congress to Annapolis may protract its arrival. I do not wish to have it known that B. is so soon expected; but he is certainly

-------------------- page 993 --------------------
coming with a cargo of goods, and expected to sail about the middle of October; so that we may look for him every day.

It is not a little singular that our Governor should endeavor to procure certain refugees from this State a retreat in S. Carolina which he would refuse them here; though there is no law to prevent it. This is a popular act to answer the purposes of ambition. Is not this poor man to be pitied as well as despised? He that can sacrifice the dignity of his own character and the dignity of the State over which he has the honor to preside, for any purpose whatever, is certainly an object of detestation and contempt; but when it is considered that such a man has not so much brains as a woodcock, he is entitled to some compassion.

I have no time to answer your last letters particularly. Stanley has complied with the proposal made him, and I shall as quickly as possible procure money from Wilkinson’s estate, or something else to pay you for the note, & the money received from Starkey. I have spoke about a horse; but the court and the people about it have taken up the whole time of M. & H. Besides the latter is too much in love to attend to anything when the beloved object was so near. He went as far as Point-repose with Miss Hogg & your niece, & is to return to-morrow. March is fixed for his execution, & he goes into trade with Hogg and Burges, who is lately married to Mrs. Doak.

I will endeavor to send your remaining furniture as soon as I can get a little leisure.

17th December.

Polly is extremely pleased with the cloak, & gives you and Kitty a thousand thanks.

I hope in a little time that we shall be able to establish a good school here; but perhaps you do not much approve of C. Fear for your son’s education. I wish to see the poor things. If they do not come here, I must pay a visit to them. Present my love.