Memorandum from John Ross Dunn concerning his imprisonment
Dunn, John Ross, d. 1783
Volume 19, Pages 898-903
LETTER FROM JOHN DUNN.
Pursuant to your request of me I have drawn up the following state of matters and facts as they are, with regard to my person being seized upon in my own Province & sent Prisoner to Charles Town together with Mr. Benjamin Booth, where I now am, and have been for twelve months wanting a few days.
Some time about the last of August or beginning of September, in the year 1774, and previous to the meeting or assembling of any
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Congress or Committee in any of the Southern Provinces, or their having entered into any particular Resolves with regard to the general laws of American liberties, so far as at that time I had any knowledge of, a certain William Temple Coles then Magistrate, came to me at the yard in Salisbury, where I was then looking over some hands who were then at work for me, about making of Bricks; Mr. Booth & others present. Mr. Coles pull’d out of his pocket a northern news paper, where printed I do not recollect, and among other things he read certain Resolves, or protests, entered into by the people of New York and declaring their disapprobation to the measures then carrying on by the people at Boston & in opposition to the British acts of Parliament Touching the Tea Act and other Acts. As soon as he read those Resolves he seem’d to approve of them very much and then said he thought it very necessary and becoming the people of our Province, especially Crown Officers, to enter into such like Resolve or Resolves similar to those, and then prevailed on Mr. Booth to draw up some things of that nature. In a few days after, I being at Mr. Coles’ house in Salisbury, Mr. Booth produced a paper containing a declaration of allegiance, fidelity and obedience to his Majesty and submission to the British acts of Parliament in general, &c. This paper being similar to that published at New York it was approved of by Mr. Coles, Mr. Walter Lindsay (who also was Magistrate) and myself and was then signed by Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Booth and myself & I believe one person more. Mr. Booth then kept the paper and it was then concluded upon by us not to offer it to any other person to be signed, neither have I been privy to its being signed nor no copy thereof by any other person to this hour, nor have I made any inquiry about it since. Shortly afterwards I being at Mecklenburg Court, I had learned that Mr. Avery had by some means procured a copy of Mr. Robinson, a schoolmaster in Salisbury, who had copied it fair from the original rough draft. I was also told that Mr. Avery had read it to the whole Presbyterian Congregation at their meeting at Mecklenburg. I was asked at that Court by some persons who show’d a copy (given I presume by Mr. Avery) whether or no I knew anything of it, to which question I answered in the affirmative. In September or October following, and on a day when a general muster was held in Salisbury, some of the Inhabitants in Salisbury
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& adjacent neighbourhoods formed themselves into a Committee, and amongst other matters then deliberated and considered upon the above paper or copy was considered upon, and after some time it was (as I had been informed) voted seditious, libelous and inflamatory, &c. I heard no more of the matter from that time until the last of July following which was almost a year, during which time many Committees, & Councils of Safety & Committees of Intelligence sat in Salisbury where I lived. I was never examined or brought to any account before them, neither have I to this day been asked to associate with them or join in their deliberations, neither have I ever seen any Sociation paper nor do I believe they had any until I procured one since my confinement in Charles Town which I enclosed to them as a precedent to adopt another by it suitable to the genius of the back inhabitants of N. Carolina. I recollect that at a time when the people were met at the Court House in order to choose new different Committees and a Council of Safety my assistance was asked for by some gentlemen. I attended and told them I could not act in any public capacity from mere principle and matter of conscience and at divers times and on many occasions before then having taken the several oaths of Government as also being then the sworn and acting attorney for the Crown, in Rowan County Court as also a Notary Public in the Province, but that I was ready at any time to assist them in choosing of fit members for Committees and proper persons to attend as Delegates to serve in General Congress & assist them with my advice or opinion upon any special occasion with which they seem’d well satisfied, and accordingly I did which gave great umbrage to a certain person, then present, he having missed being elected himself owing, as he imagined, to my fault and wondered what right I had to interfere in the matter and swore, as I afterwards was told, if I ever came there I should be kicked out of doors. I then desisted from concerning myself further either on the one side or the other.
On Monday, being the last day of July or the first day of August, 1775, being just recovering out of a fit of sickness and at my own house in Salisbury it being the day before the sitting of the Court as also the meeting of the Committee for the County, I being busy preparing my papers relative to the Crown as well as civil business, a number of armed persons entered into my house & after having
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seized upon my person I was forced away to Lewis Coffer’s house in Salisbury and in a few minutes I saw Mr. Booth conducted in the same manner to the same house. Shortly afterwards William Kennon Attorney at Law, and Adlai Osbourn entered the room, & they being asked by several Gentlemen, Merchants and other the chief of whom were members of the Town Committee & Council of Safety, why we were restrained from our liberty, for what reason or by what authority or whose order we were taken into Custody, Kennon & Osborne seem’d to signify it was the desire of some gentlemen from the Southward and who were then waiting at Mr. Lock’s about five miles from town, in order to examine us with regard to our political sentiments with regard to American Laws of Liberty, &c., and that we would be detained but a few minutes before we should be set at large in order to return home. Those Gentlemen reply’d and told them that they looked upon it that they were the only proper judges of our Conduct on those occasions and they only had the best right to examine into these affairs, as nothing could be transacted by us to the prejudice of the Common laws but they of course must have their notice thereof, reflected very much on the arbitrary conduct of those busy and intermeddling men and it was looked upon an insult offered to them and prohibition of that liberty which Americans in general were then contending for with Great Britain.
Notwithstanding every Argument which could be offered from reason & common justice by Messrs. Troy, Chambers, Nesbest, Beard, Little, (Members of the Council of Safety) and Doctor Anthony we were sent off under a guard of men whom a few minutes before then those two conspirators had had out in the woods. They caused them to be first sworn to secrecy & fidelity (as the men themselves told us afterwards) and then ordered them to take us into safe custody; thus were we exposed and drove to Mr. Lock’s that evening as felons. When we arrived there I saw no Gentlemen from the Southward or elsewhere, but there we were kept under a strong guard until about 11 o’clock at night at which time those gentlemen above mentioned who went with us to learn the event of such treatment grew impatient & proposed entering themselves security in any sum of money whatever so far as their respective estates were worth for our appearance before our own Committee the next day.
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who were then to meet at Salisbury according to appointment, and if any such matter as they could lay to our charge would be fairly & impartially inquired into; but all to no purpose. In the meantime Mr. Avery, Mr. Willis (who was Kennon’s brother-in-law) and a negro fellow were sent off above the road leading to Mecklenburg & in some time returned with near thirty or forty armed men from Mecklenburg & Tryon Counties who were engaged in the same manner pursuant to an unjust scheme & plan adopted by the said Kennon, Osbourn, Polk, & others a few days before. About two o’clock in the morning we were forced away from Mr. Lock’s escorted by this guard to Mecklenburgh Court House where we arrived in the evening of the next day. The said Kennon & Osbourn having signified that the Mecklenburg Committee would examine into those affairs we made application to Mr. Polk to call upon the members of that Committee, many of whom were then in Town, and that we were ready to answer to any charge that anyone could accuse us with and would give them any reasonable satisfaction with regard to our conduct which they in reason could expect or desire, to which request he seem’d to have some thoughts of complying but instead thereof the next morning he, at the head of about sixty horsemen all armed, signified to us that we were to be sent to Camden Jail in South Carolina & according we were forced to comply; from Camden we were sent to the Congress & from thence to Charles Town without a shift of any kind of apparel nor a shilling in our pockets to buy us the least necessary of life and previous to any examination, tryal or Convention or any legal or just charge but such as those cruel and unjust persecutors pleased to suggest in order to justify their conduct, having violated every principle of honour, Justice & humanity, & even one of the established Maxims & rules of the General Congress before that time made out and directed to be observed throughout the whole Continent; and now here we still remain prisoners in exile from the enjoyment & society of our wives, children and families, who have suffered great distress and hardships on many occasions contrary to every principal of humanity and christian virtue & without any just cause whatever unless it be to gratify the malice & envy of wicked, artful & designing persons who, in order to gratify their own ambition and carry their pernicious and wicked designs into execution, would sacrifice their own
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honour & the repose of their innocent neighbours & happiness of their families to answer their pernicious views. It has been proposed to us several months ago by the gentlemen of this place that if we would release those men & indemnify them from all actions or causes of actions arising to us on account of our suffering we should be released & permitted to go home to our families; as to myself I answered & told them that I was ready & willing to release & indemnify every person belonging to any Congress, Committee, or Council of Safety, or any person who had been invested to act in any wise by any authority of the people; but those who had treated me with cruelty & barbarity in an arbitrary & unjustifiable manner I could not, in justice to myself, family & fellow subjects forgive, having suffered near twelve months false imprisonment and was also indebted near one hundred pounds procl. money to physicians who attended my son who was sent hither with a certificate by the Gentlemen of Salisbury in order to show the falsity of the charge laid against me, he being sick of a violent fever for some weeks, exclusive of his board & attendance and keeping his horse. As also another debt owing from myself to the Doctor who attended myself when taken with the yellow Jaunders & a fever and now cannot command a shilling to pay off those just debts.