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Letter from John Williams to Alexander Martin
Williams, John, 1731-1799
January 27, 1782
Volume 22, Pages 610-612

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JUDGE JOHN WILLIAMS TO GOVERNOR MARTIN.

Hilsborough, 27th January, 1782.

Dear Sir:—

We last night brought to a conclusion a very trouble Term, The Court of sessions of the Peace of Oyer and Terminer and Gen’l Gaol Delivery held here the 17th inst., for the District of Hillsborough, and have pretty well delivered the Gaol, by trying some and binding over to the Superior Court the most exceptionable Characters and by inlisting into the Continental Service (pursuant to your Proclamation of the 25th ultimo) those less obnoxious. During this term seven have been capitally convicted, to-wit, Samuel Poe for Burglary, Thomas Ricketts, Meredith Edwards, Thos. Eastridge, and Thomas Dark, for High Treason; William Duke and Thomas Hunt, for Horse stealing, and as I suppose some applications may be made for Mercy, I have thought proper to represent to your Excellency the true point of view in which the several Persons condemned stood before the Court, the heinousness of their Crimes and their moral characters in Life, so that if any should be spared you may be enabled to judge who are the less Necessary Victims of the Policy of the Law. Thomas Dark, a Captain of Fanning’s and one of his right Hand men, is the principle person convicted. He has been very active and interprising and near as Dangerous a Person as Fanning himself, and from his approved inhumanity and cruelties in cutting, hacking and wounding his prisoners had acquired among those of his own Party the name of young Tarleton. Thomas Ricketts, tho’ indicted of Treason only, it is hard to mention a Crime of which he is not accused, and I have good reason to believe not wrongfully; Murder, House Burning, Robbery, &c., &c., are in the Black list of his Crimes, to which is added a general bad Character. Sam’l Poe is one of eight who sets out on the Plan of Robery and in one Night broke open six Different Dwelling houses of Men of Property and entered, Sword in hand, Guns and other Arms, put in fear all the House and robbed of several hundred pounds of specie worth of Clothes, furniture, &c.; witness attended to prove the several Charges, but being indicted of one, which being so clearly proved, by creditable witnesses, crippled with his own Confession, it was thought needless to indict him on More. He is the only one of the gang taken except a young lad, who appeared as a

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witness. Meredith Edwards and Thomas Eastridge were also indicted for Treason. They are both Men who appeared to be popular among the Tories and very Active, and Men of Consequence in Fanning’s gang, tho’ generally kind and humane to the prisoners while in their Custody, and seemed much to lament the fate of their particular Neighbors, who they had taken with Governor Burke, and Express some uneasiness at seeing them in Captivity. As to the General Moral Character of those Two Men, it seemed to be pretty Good, only Great Tories. Eastridge, from the commencement of the Times. Duke and Hunt were both indicted for stealing one Horse; the circumstances were complicated, and from the whole of the Evidence, I can’t help saying that there might be some Doubt whether it ought not to have been considered rather as a Trespass than a Felony; Yet after a very fair Trial the Jury found the Prisoners Guilty of the Felony, &c., Tho’ a little contrary to the Expectation of the Court, and I really think if any Person convicted this Term have a claim to Mercy, those Two have the first. As to their Moral Characters, Duke is tinged and Hunt’s is bad, and probably might have been one cause of the Jury finding them Guilty. The Court, considering the three first proper Victims of policy and the great difficulty there is of keeping them Safe in Jail, has ordered their Execution on Friday, the First of February; only giving so much time as not to set the door of Mercy against them. The Day of Execution for the four Latter is fixed to Friday, the first Day of March next, and as they have some hopes of obtaining a pardon on condition of their inlisting into the Service, I believe there will not be much Danger of their Escaping.

At this Court the Attorney General did not attend, and the Court got the favour of Col. Alfred Moore to officiate as attorney for the State, and without whose assistance (which the Court Experienced in a very general Manner) they could not have carried on the business of the Court, and as he gave all advantages of a Court which he might have made very beneficial, I make no doubt but that the general Assembly will give it proper consideration. For my own Part, I have no great encouragement to ask favours of the Public, yet, Sir, shall be obliged to you to give a hint to the Assembly that it is necessary to point out some way of ascertaining the Depretiation of the small Pittance granted the Judges, &c., and some way for the Payment of it. The present collection, I believe, is chiefly in certificates,

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and that is a currency which will not pass for Expences.

I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most Humble obed’t Serv’t,
JOHN WILLIAMS.