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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Edmund Fanning to William Tryon
Fanning, Edmund, 1739-1818
April 23, 1768
Volume 07, Pages 713-716

[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. I. N. C. No. 216.]
Letter from Col. Fanning to Governor Tryon.

Hillsborough April 23rd 1768.

May it please your Excellency,


I want words to express the concern I feel, while I communicate to your Excellency the wretched and deplorable situation of this County; this my present uneasiness is greatly aggravated from a sense of the concern it must give you, & being informed that the late orderly and well regulated County of Orange, is now (O my favourite County and people how art thou fallen) the very nest and bosom of rioting and rebellion—The People are now in every part and Corner of the County, meeting, conspiring, and confederating by solemn oath and open violence to refuse the payment of Taxes and to prevent the execution of Law, threatening death and immediate destruction to myself and others, requiring settlements of the Public, Parish and County Taxes, to be made before their leaders—Clerks, Sheriffs, Registers, Attornies and all Officers of every degree and station to be arraigned at the Bar of their Shallow Understanding and to be punished and regulated at their Will, and in a word, for them to become the sovereign arbiters of right and wrong. This Contagion and spirit of rebellion (for surely Sir it is rank rebellion) took its rise in the lower part of Anson spread itself into Orange and encouraged by some of the principal men of Cumberland (as I am informed & verily believe) became considerable—On my return from Salisbury Supr Court hearing of the Conspiracy I convened four of the Head men before me and expatiated to them on the folly and madness of their conduct and three out of four readily acknowledged the impropriety of their conduct, confessed a clear conviction of their error and made me a promise to put an end to it as far as in their Power. I dismissed them and expected to hear no more of

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it—But alas I find it was not to be effected—the restless Tools of Faction were and continue still at work in their dark cabals—The contagion (I am sorry to say it) is by indefatigable pains and industry extending itself far and wide through this part of the Province—For your Excellency's information of the manner of its taking its rise here again after I went to Halifax and the several stages of it since and the proceedings had thereon I beg leave to refer your Excellency to the inclosed copies of several Letters—I was unwilling as recommended in Letter from Mr Hart and Mr Nash to trouble your Excellency before I came into the County Anticipating the pain I judged your Excellency would feel, and desirous if by any means practicable to suppress the insurrection without troubling of your Excellency, and I own, Sir, I thought it too inglorious a conduct in me and unworthy of the command that I am honored with by your Excellency for to go immediately to Brunswick without returning to my regiment—I therefore set out from Halifax the 20th and arrived here last night (retarded by heavy rains and great Freshes) and this day got all the information in my power of the state situation and number of the regulators (as they are pleased to call themselves, tho' by Lawyers they must be termed rebels and Traitors) and learn that on this day they have a grand Association and that on the 3rd day of May they are to environ the Town with fifteen hundred men & then to execute their vengeance on me and if not satisfied in every particular to their desire (which is impossible) why then to lay the Town in ashes &c. but I cannot believe them anything like so numerous, neither do I apprehend such inevitable death as the universal Panick and the popular cry seems to suggest and threaten—Colo Gray, Major Lloyd, Captain Hart, Adjutant Nash & Captain Thackston seem to think that not above one hundred men can be raised in this County who will with spirit and courage oppose them, for say they those who are not for them will not fight against them. Unluckily for the cause of Government the County Court is next week to be held in this Town and considering the prevalency of that Party and the impossibility of enforcing any order among the tumultuous throng and rabble which ever attend Courts, I thought it most advisable to be silent until to-morrow week when in the evening I propose to send off a Detachment of the Trusty and loyal few that I can command for to apprehend three or four of the principals under the cover of the night, and to have them brought instantly to town where on the
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Tuesday following I verily expect an attack from the whole united force of the regulators or rebels at which time I intend, as do also the aforementioned Officers, to bravely repulse them or nobly die—If I can rally force to withstand one attack I then shall plume myself as being the commanding Officer in this County & then shall expect to be joined immediately by numbers who now think it desperately dangerous and almost inevitable death to oppose them, so powerful are they thought, and so alarming are the apprehensions of the Populace at this time—and was it not that they will be awed by their guilt and we supported and encouraged by our loyalty and attachment to the Constitution and Government our defeat would be indubitably certain and sure—They say they can command powerful and numerous aids from Anson, Rowan and Mecklenburg and if so it becomes the important concern of Government and undoubtedly my duty early to apply to your Excellency for Orders to raise the Militia and if any will obey (which I think they will some few) to give them Battle immediately, and if any advantage can be once gained the show will be over I am convinced—And to do that, I think (tho' almost singly) that I need nothing but your Excellency's express orders, which I hope to be honored with by three o'clock in the afternoon on Sunday the first of May next—I should, considering the shortness of the time and exigency of affairs, have waited for another visit, if the legality of my raising the Militia on an Insurrection had not been doubted without your Excellency's express Orders and Directions under our present Militia Law—If any dangerous attempts are made at any time I shall immediately dispatch an Express with the particulars, and shall notwithstanding the threats of these traitorous Dogs bound to stand by and assist each other by the most solemn oaths oppose them with resolution & courage and if I have but your Excellency's orders I can't but flatter myself with success from the few recruits that can be raised even among ourselves, tho' it is except by three or four chosen leaders, thought impracticable but if from this Account of the matter it is thought fit by your Excellency, I wish to make the Experiment. I think it shamefull and I hope unnecessary to call in the aid of other forces to subdue the rebels of our own County but I shall wait and obey your Excellency's commands with punctuality and pleasure.

I thank your Excellency for favour by Mr Lattiburn and shall endeavour to make his stay in Orange as safe and agreeable as possible.

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I have not seen that Gentleman as yet, but expect him to dine with me tomorrow. My duty to Her Excellency Mrs Tryon and do me the favour to believe that I am most cordially and sincerely with the highest sense of Gratitude and respect most absolutely at your Excellency's full command