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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Josiah Martin to William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
March 30, 1773
Volume 09, Pages 613-618

[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. No. 220.]
Governor Martin to Earl Dartmouth.

No. Carolina, New Bern, March 30th 1773.

My Lord,

The ungenerous and insidious measures that I have reason to believe have been taken by Mr John Burgwin, late Clerk of the Upper House of Assembly in this Province, force me in my own justification to relate to your Lordship, circumstantially how, and by what means he lost that Office, which he is now practising the most base and disingeneous artifices to recover.

Mr Burgwin, My Lord from my arrival in this Government to the beginning of May last had always professed the strongest desire of opportunity to oblige me and had found two or three occasions to do me little good offices that lay in his way as a Merchant, which very naturally disposed me to reciprocate his civility.

At this time I received a letter from him by one of his friends, importing, that he had determined to go to England immediately for the recovery of his health, that therefore he wished for my leave to resign his Office of Clerk of the Upper House of Assembly, and that it would particularly oblige him, if I should appoint a Gentleman, he named, a friend of his to be his successor. I told the bearer of the Letter that I had a just sense of Mr Burgwins civilities to me and that it gave me pain to find it out of my power in this instance to comply with his request, especially too as I approved the Gentleman, for whom he solicited my favour, and had a respect for all his connections, but that I stood engaged to Mr Hawks, who had been particularly recommended to my patronage by my friend Governor Tryon, to whom I owed all sort of respect, that this might be the only opportunity I might have to demonstrate it, and that Mr

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Hawks was a man of unexceptionable character, of known sufficient Qualifications, and living on the spot, where the Office was to be exercised, whereas the other Gentleman recommended by Mr Burgwin lived as he did at Wilmington, one hundred miles off. The Gentleman who had been employed to urge the suit of Mr Burgwin's friend, and who was really a party more deeply interested in his success than Mr Burgwin himself, being then actually on the point of marrying his daughter to the Candidate, acknowledged with great candour and generosity the propriety and politeness of my predilection of Mr Hawks, whose merit he confessed, declaring that nearly as he was concerned in the fortune of Mr Hooper, the other Candidate, he entirely approved and acquiesced in my determination as he thought all the world must do. By this Gentleman my Lord, I wrote to the same purpose to Mr Burgwin, and about a month afterwards I issued the Commission to Mr Hawks, for the Office I had conferred upon him immediately on the receipt of Mr Burgwin's resignation and I heard no more of him until the month of November or December last, when he arrived in this Town from Boston, whither I found he had gone in the summer instead of returning to England, as he had at first designed. He visited me on his arrival, with his usual complaisance, and at taking leave solicited me with the most earnest importunities to make his house my residence when I should go to Wilmington. He staid here two or three days afterwards, and it happened that a young gentleman then in my Family, was present in a Company, when he was deploring the loss of an office in which I had superseded him and he knew not for what reason. The young Gentleman who was a stranger in this Country and to my transactions with Mr Burgwin, after taking occasion to ask me, if I had lately superseded him in an office, and being answered in the negative, but that I had not long ago appointed to an office he had resigned, expressed great surprise, and related to me the conversation of which he had been a witness. Upon this information, I lost no time in sending to Mr Burgwin, and desiring to see him before he left Town. He attended me accordingly and I communicated to him, with the astonishment I had received it, the relation of my friend, and desired to know if it was possible he could assert, I had superseded him, and that he knew not for what reason, when he must remember he had by his letter to me expressly and absolutely resigned his office, of which I never dreamed of depriving him and that it would have been full evidence of his resignation
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if it had been forthcoming, but that I had burnt or destroyed it, never conceiving that my conduct in that transaction could be impeached. I told him however, that if it was necessary I could swear to the import of it, as I made no doubt others could to whom I had communicated it, and particularly Mr Hasell President of the Council. Discovering thus from my ingeneous inadvertance that his letter could not appear against him, he declared that he made the appointment of Mr Hooper, the condition of his resignation, and that as I had not thought proper to confer the office upon him, he expected still to hold it himself, that if however his resignation had not been conditional as I maintained, I had by my answer to his letter left it to his option to keep or resign the office, and that he was surprised to hear, soon after his arrival at Boston, that he was superseded, to which I replied, that I should have considered a proposition of a conditional resignation of an office, he held at my Will indecent and impertinent but that his resignation was absolute, that I could not engage for the precision of my answer to his letter, that I well remembered to have written in a great hurry, but that I could never be persuaded by him or any other man, that I could intend to leave it to his election to keep or resign an office, he had already rejected, that I had actually at that time conferred upon another Gentleman whom I was earnestly desirous to serve, and with the approbation of his own friend whom he had employed to solicit the appointment of the Candidate he espoused, as that Gentleman would inform him, if he did not at the time, but that admitting I had acted so inconsistently, as to have given him his election, to resign the office or not, I must be justified in thinking he relinquished it, since he had not during near three months that he resided in this Province afterwards, made me the least reply upon the subject, that I had issued the Commission to Mr Hawks as nearly as I could recollect, about a month after the receipt of his resignation, and near two months before his departure, just as I was setting out for Hillsborough, on Mr Hawks' representation that it might be necessary, to authorize him to call upon Mr Burgwin, for the Journals and Papers belonging to the Upper House of Assembly, before he should sail for England which I should not otherwise have done until the meeting of the General Assembly as I knew he would not be called upon, before that time, to exercise any of the duties of that office. That I disdained and despised the false insinuation, that I had superseded him on his leaving the Country, and that he must
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impute to himself the loss of an office he might have held for me as long as he had behaved well and thought fit to keep it, that I had really supposed with his friends, that in the present prosperity of his fortune, he had outgrown this little office, but that although I thought his conduct did not deserve such treatment at my hands, and that I was entirely satisfied in my own conscience, I had acted in this whole transaction with the utmost correctness, yet in remembrance of his little civilities to me, and to convince him I had never entertained the least shadow of design to injure him, I would, however little such a conduct might appear, revoke my appointment of Mr Hawks and restore him to the office rather than endure, even the false imputation of doing wrong to him, and that I would take some other occasion to make amends to Mr Hawks. To this he answered, that such a concession was more than he could ask or expect, that he could by no means wish me to take any steps that might possibly expose me to the obliquities of a censorious world, that as the office was lost to him, it could not be helped, and that he should be satisfied, and think and say no more of it, unless he was called upon to justify me, if I would oblige him with a certificate that I had not superseded him for misbehaviour, and given him hopes, at a proper time and occasion of some future mark of my favour. In some heat of mind (for I dare say your Lordship cannot suppose me unmoved upon such an occasion), I gave him a certificate of the tenor he desired, telling him at the same time, I should remember his former good offices, and when a fit opportunity offered, he would find me disposed to make him reparation for a loss he was to ascribe to his own temerity or indiscretion, and to which I had not been wittingly or willingly accessory having never conceived a thought of removing him from his office, or of disposing of it otherwise, until he had absolutely rejected or resigned it. After this My Lord, we parted, he paid a visit to his successor, congratulated him, and delivered into his custody the Official Papers, he soon after left Town, declaring to his particular friends that he was most perfectly satisfied as indeed I believe your Lordship will think he had good reason to be.

From this time my Lord, I heard no more of Mr Burgwin until the last month that I was informed he had applied to the Council for a certificate of his good behaviour, during his service as Clerk of that Board in its capacity of an Upper House of Assembly which he deserved, and it was readily granted. Soon afterwards it transpired,

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to the great discontent and surprise of the Council, that this certificate was intended to be employed by Mr Burgwin, through his mercantile friends, to procure his re-establishment in the office, by His Majesty's Commission, that he had so lately renounced at my hands. I was apprised of it, and I leave your Lordship to imagine my astonishment at so base and vile a treachery.

As I apprehended this clandestine and subtle artifice of Mr. Burgwin might convey some ill impressions of me to your Lordship, it became my duty as well from the desire I have of the honor of your Lordship's favorable opinion, as in justice to my own reputation, (that I have the happiness to think has never yet been wounded) to prevent it by a faithful relation of the whole transaction, which I have now given; and most humbly submit to your Lordship without further observation than that Mr. President Hasell, to whom I communicated Mr. Burgwin's letter, and all other people, his most intimate friends, whom I have consulted, assure me that they have no doubt at all that his resignation was intended to be absolute at the time he made it. My heart, my Lord, would incline me to draw a veil over the unfair sides of characters of which I have occasion to speak, but as I am not sure, that in my public station, and in this instance I should do my duty if I yielded to that disposition, whatever violence I may suffer in my own mind, I think it proper to represent to your Lordship, that Mr. Burgwin (as I am credibly informed by the first people of this country) by the grievous oppressions, and extortions, he preached [practiced] while he exercised the office of Clerk of the Superior Court for the District of Wilmington, that he held within these two years rendered himself so odious and obnoxious that he was compelled to relinquish it, through dread of the people's menaces, to take vengeance for his iniquities. His Majesty's Receiver General lately presented to me in Council a memorial against him for taking double Fees on suits of the Crown, from Plaintiff and Defendant, and he will be prosecuted for it at the first Court, and I hear on all hands that he is execrated in his neighborhood for his mercenary exactions and inhuman rigour. He is joined in trade with Mr. Waddell, a very worthy man, and upon his capital, with nothing of his own, has raised in a few years a considerable fortune, such as ought to have set him above the little office he is employing the basest arts to obtain, that is not worth at most above £100 sterling per annum, and is now filled by a gentleman of universal good character who gives the utmost satisfaction.

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Although my Lord the Council has borne testimony to the good conduct and qualifications of Mr. Burgwin as a Clerk, some of its most respectable Members have assured me that his behaviour at the Board was oftentimes officious, impertinent and offensive.

It is with concern I obtrude upon your Lordship this long narrative, but I have thought it necessary in my own defence, to give your Lordship the most minute detail of this transaction.

I have the honor to be &ca