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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from William Tryon to Wills Hill, Marquis of Downshire
Tryon, William, 1729-1788
April 12, 1771
Volume 08, Pages 546-549

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[From Tryon's Letter Book.]
Letter from Governor Tryon to Earl Hillsborough.

Newbern the 12th April 1771.

In my dispatch of the 31st of January No 60, I informed your Lordship an attempt to rescue Herman Husband was expected; accordingly on the sixth of February I received intelligence by express that the insurgents were making preparations to come down to Newbern to release Husband and to lay the town in ashes, if opposed in their design, and that they were to begin their march from Sandy Creek (within their settlements) on the 11th of the same month. I immediately dispatched orders to several regiments of militia to hold themselves in readiness to march to the protection of Newbern. The Craven regiment was imbodied and kept three days in town. The next day the 7th the court of Oyer & Terminer opened agreeable to commission issued the 22d January for the purpose of receiving indictments against, and hearing the tryals of the regulators. On this occasion I took the opinion of Mr Chief Justice Howard whether it would not be advisable to put Herman Husband on his tryal for the libel he published against Judge Moore no witness yet appearing concerning the riots at Hillsborough. That from the jealousie generally prevailing among the common people at his confinement I was apprehensive while Husband continued in gaol without being brought to tryal and the courts of law open, no vigorous support could be relied on from the militia, but when he was found guilty of the charge there would be better grounds to keep him in prison, until he had complied with the penalties of the law. The Chief Justice assured me it would be very proper that Husband should be forthwith brought to tryal, and that he would take care that he was so. Accordingly the Deputy Attorney General, the principal being sick and absent from me ever since the last session of Assembly, prepared an indictment for the libel and presented it Fryday the 8th of February to the Grand Jury, who not finding the Bill, and the Chief Justice not seeing cause to bind Husband over to his good behavior, he discharged him from his confinement the same evening.

Colo Caswell's letter bearing date the 20th of February inserted in the minutes of the Council Journal of the 23d of that month will

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inform your Lordship of the sequel and consequences of Husband's release.

Not being satisfied with the temper and disposition of this grand jury unpleased with the discharge of Husband, and further no evidence coming down from the back settlements to prosecute the insurgents agreeable to subpœnas sent to them, this Court was dismissed and a commission issued the first of March for a new Court of Oyer & Terminer to be held here the 11th of March. Finding the reason the evidence did not appear resulted from the intimidations of the insurgents who had threatened destruction to every man who should give evidence against them, I sent my secretary expressly up to Hillsborough with a letter requiring the attendance of the witnesses, and at the same time giving them assurance of protection by a body of forces. I also sent circular letters to the Sheriffs of the several counties within this district recommending to them on so important an occasion to make choice of gentlemen of the first rank, property and probity in their respective counties. These measures had their desired effect, Mr Edwards by his great diligence and activity brought down fifteen witnesses from Hillsborough under the confidence of the protection of government. The Grand Jury was formed of the most respectable persons. The Court was opened. The Deputy Attorney General and Mr Gordon, whom I employed as assistant Counsel for the Crown, drew out and accepted sixty one indictments, every one of which were found without a dissenting voice. The Grand Jury to the number of twenty three, after the business of the Court was over, waited upon me by appointment at the palace, when I made them an offer of going in person to suppress the insurgents if they thought the inhabitants of the Province in general, and the Counties in particular in which they resided, were hearty and willing to stand up in the cause of government, to compel the insurgents to obedience to the laws, to resent the insults offered to his Majesty's crown and dignity and the outrages already committed, and still threatened against the constitution. They unanimously and thankfully accepted my proposal, promised me their interest and influence, and instantly assigned the association, which with their presentment I herewith transmit: Printed copies of these have been circulated through the Province.

In confidence my Lord of such support and seeing a few days before in the Wilmington Gazette an association of similar purport and intent entered by the gentlemen on Cape Fear River, the next

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day, the 18th, I summoned his Majesty's Council, related to them some reasons that prompted me to offer my service and took their advice on the expediency of raising forces to restore peace and stability to government. They approving the measure I lost no time in sending requisitions to almost every county in the province for certain quotas of men, in appointing the time and place of their rendezvous respectively, and ordering the necessary preparations to be made for service. I have wrote to General Gage to request he would send me two field pieces to cover the passage of the forces across the broad rivers on which it is expected the insurgents will make their stand.

To forward this business I went myself last week to Wilmington, when I appointed Mr Waddell General of all the forces raised or to be raised against the insurgents, and expect he will get seven hundred men from the western counties to serve under his immediate command, who will march them into the settlements of the insurgents by the way of Salisbury, while I bring up the forces from the southern and eastern parts and break into their settlements on the east side of Orange county.

In my excursion to Wilmington I had the satisfaction to find the gentlemen and inhabitants of Cape Fear unanimous and spirited in the cause, and the officers successful in recruiting.

On the Minutes of the Council Journal your Lordship may see an intercepted letter of Rednap Howell, a leader in the councils of the regulators; it gives the fullest proof of the wicked designs of those people. The judges' apology for their not attending their duty at last Hillsborough court also stands on the minutes of the Council. The conduct and proceedings of the insurgents on the sixth of March last in and near Salisbury will be best understood by the letter of Colo Frohock and Colo Martin to me and the deposition of Mr Avery, both which with my answer to the above letter accompanies this dispatch, as well as the general orders sent to the commanding officers of regiments. The forces in this neighbourhood I expect will march the 23d instant, and join other divisions as they move up the country.

I have communicated to Governor Bull and Mr President Nelson my plan of operation, that they may prevent the insurgents from taking shelter in the provinces of Virginia and South Carolina should they retreat to those governments.

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A principle of duty my Lord has embarked me at this time in this service. The country seems willing to seize the opportunity and I cheerfully offer my zealous services, relying that the motive of this conduct will be favorably accepted by my most gracious Sovereign.