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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth to Josiah Martin
Dartmouth, William Legge, Earl of, 1731 - 1801
August 04, 1773
Volume 09, Pages 680-683

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

Whitehall August 4th 1773.


Your several Dispatches of the 30th & 31st of March, 6th & 20th of April and 20th of May, numbered 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 have been received, and laid before the King.

His Majesty has seen with concern the business of the last Session of Assembly conducted with so much ill humour, and with such a spirit of opposition on the part of the Representatives of the People to those measures, which had been recommended with no other view than the Welfare and Prosperity of the Province.

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It is essential to the good government of the Colonies, and to the happiness of the People there, that Justice should be ably and impartially administered and that the Jurisdiction of the Courts, and their Rules of Proceeding, should be as near as may be agreeable to those in this Kingdom, and I am persuaded it must appear to every man of candour, that the mode of attachment insisted upon by the Assembly is as inconsistant with Justice as it is contrary to the Spirit even of those local Regulations to which they refer.

It is a principal inherent in the Constitution of the Colonies that nothing should be established there but what is consonant to the Laws of England, which know no such Regulation in regard to Attachments as that now proposed. The Court Act therefore which you have transmitted cannot be allowed, but as His Majesty is at all times disposed to yield to the inclinations of the People, as far as it can be done without violating the Constitution, I am commanded to say, that you certainly may without a contradiction of the Spirit and Intention of your Instructions, allow of Provision being made of Attachments in Cases where the Cause of Action arises within the Colony, and due proof has been made upon oath, before such Attachment issues, whether original or Judicial, that the Defendant in the Suit has absconded to avoid Payment of his Debt and that the ordinary process of Law cannot be served upon him, and as I do not find upon the fullest enquiry, that the Regulations with Regard to Attachments, either in the Commercial Cities in this Kingdom or elsewhere, do go beyond what is here suggested, I trust that the Assembly will be induced to desist from that Proposition in the extent it is now contended for.

Another essential objection to the Court Act is, that it restrains the Superior Court from any original Jurisdiction in cases under £50 value.

The Intention of this Restriction is so obvious and it is in its nature so repugnant to every just Principle of Government, that it can never be admitted. The King will not consent that the jurisdiction of his Superior Courts should be limited in Cases of any value whatever, at the same time as the having Inferior Courts of Common Pleas in the several Counties, is a Regulation which under the present Circumstances of North Carolina may be of great utility. There can be no objection to those Courts having a Power to judge and determine in all Cases to the amount of £20 value Proclamation money, and that their Judgments should be final and without

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appeal in cases to the amount of £5 Proclamation money, where titles of Land, or the Rights of the Crown shall not be involved in the Question.

In all other respects the Law you have transmitted does not appear unreasonable or improper, nor do I think that the comprehending the Establishment of both Courts in one and the same Law is any ground of material objection, and therefore as I have most sincerely at heart the Welfare of North Carolina, it will give me great satisfaction to receive from you another Act conformable in the two Cases of objection, to what is above suggested. If however the Assembly should persist in the ideas they have adopted in respect to Attachments, and the Jurisdiction of the Courts of Law, and refuse to frame the Court Act conformable in those Cases to what is proposed, it will be your Duty to exert the Authority vested in you by your Commission, and to erect with the advice of His Majesty's Council, such and so many Courts of Judicature as shall be necessary for the Trial of Civil and Criminal Causes, conformable to the Laws of England.

My sentiments with regard to the Justice and Wisdom of that Toleration, which the Laws of England allow to Dissenters, are the same as yours, and therefore I thought it unreasonable and unjust that the Presbyterians in the Counties of Guilford and Wake, should be subjected to greater Restrictions than those in the other Counties. At the same time I cannot approve of the Dissenters in general in North Carolina, having any greater privileges than are allowed to Dissenters in this Kingdom, and I think what whilst Marriages here continue to be regulated by the Act of the 26th of the late King, I am not at liberty by any Concurrence of mine, to admit a different Mode in the Colonies.

With regard to the Bill for erecting a Chappel, inclosed in your Dispatch No 8, it appears to me, that in strict propriety, it ought to have passed through all the Forms prescribed by your Instructions in the Case of private Acts, but I do not think that the notices thereby required were of absolute necessity and as the object of the Act is very commendable, I see no objection to its being passed into a Law.

The request of the Freeholders and inhabitants of the Town of Beaufort, as expressed in their petition to you is not unreasonable; and you certainly may with great Propriety, issue a writ for the Election of a Representative for that Town, for tho' on the one hand, I agree with you in opinion that an increase in the number of Representatives

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may be some inconvenience yet it is an unavoidable and necessary consequence of the extension of Settlement and increase of Inhabitants, and therefore I do not think that the Provision in the Law of 1715 to which you refer is so improper as to induce a Disallowance of that Law. If the Act for erecting parts of the Counties of Halifax and Tyrrell into one distinct County has no other objection than what you state to it, I do not see any impropriety in its being passed into a Law, but I should at the same time do injustice to you if I did not express my satisfaction at the attention you have shewn to your Instructions in not assenting to it, until the King's Pleasure was known.

Having now Sir signified to you His Majesty's Commands, and expressed my own sentiments upon those parts of your Dispatches which, from the nature and importance of them demanded my more immediate attention, I must not omit to say to you that Mr Burgwin's Conduct, as stated in your dispatch No. 5, appears to me to be exceedingly disingenous and sinister, and I shall not fail to attend to every circumstance you have related to me, in case he should think fit to make the application you suppose he has in view.

Your acceptance of the Proposal made to you by Mr Thynne is a matter of some delicacy, but as you say that your superintendance of Lord Granville's Affairs will be a signal advantage to Government, and highly satisfactory to the People, I can have no objection, being well satisfied that you will not allow your attention to Lord Granville's Interests to interfere in the least with your duty to the King, in the station in which His Majesty has been graciously pleased to place you.

I am etc,