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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
October 08, 1773
Volume 09, Pages 690-691

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[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. Vol. 221.]
Governor Martin to Earl Dartmouth.

No. Carolina, New Bern, October 8th 1773.

I have had the honor to receive your Lordship's letter of the 5th of July signifying The King's Pleasure, that I should transmit to your Lordships as soon as may be, for His Majesty's information, full and particular Answers, on the several heads of Enquiry, contained in a Paper therewith inclosed.

I beg leave to assure your Lordship that no diligence on my part shall be wanting, in the execution of these or any other of His Majest'y or your Lordship's commands. But, as in the present case, I must depend on the punctuality of many other people, I am to hope your Lordship will make me such large allowance of time as shall be reasonable considering the variety of sources, from whence the desired intelligence must be derived, and the difficulties that will occur, in procuring such precise Knowledge, of some of the subjects, upon which I am expected to report, as I ought to have, to be qualified to make a representation, of such accuracy., as may be fitted for the King's Information, on points of so great consequence, many of which I have laboured in vain to make myself acquainted with ever since I have been in this Country.

I am apprehensive my Lord, that I shall never be able to obtain an exact account of the number of Inhabitants without the aid of a law, the proposal of which there is too much ground would beget suspicions of Government meditating a Plan of Taxation; that would not only be reason for the General Assembly to reject it, but to employ every means to prevent its being procured otherwise. The remissness of the Magistrates and County Court Clerks who are required by Law to take lists of the taxable People only has been such hitherto, that I have never yet had it in my power to make myself master of that first principle of the revenue of this Country, although I was aided by the most diligent searches of a Committee of the General Assembly, at the late Session, when the Knowledge of it became indispensibly necessary towards the settlement of the Public accounts. Your Lordship may depend however upon my employing every feasible measure to acquire exact information on this, and every other head of enquiry.

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I have the honor to transmit to your Lordship herewith, a late Compilation of the Laws of this Country, which I am really ashamed to present to your Lordship, in so coarse a dress, but the Bookbinders here are not able to put it in seemly apparel. It is matter of belief and Tradition in this Province, that there were five Acts of dates prior to any of this collection, confirmed by royal authority, of which it is certain I have not been able to find any other trace or record. If My Lord any such Laws have ever existed, it may be presumed they will be found at the Plantation Office, and as they are said to relate to objects of importance, it is to be wished, your Lordship may be pleased to direct them to be sought for, and transmitted here.

In the Bill I had some time ago, the honor to offer to your Lordship's consideration, as a Plan for the effectual Collection of His Majesty's revenue of Quit rents, I assigned certain important duties to the County registers, believing that those Officers were absolutely in the choice, and appointment of the King's Governor, as indeed they are by long usage, but, having since discovered, that by a Law of the year 1715, they are elective annually by the Freeholders, I am apprehensive if it should be again drawn into use, the Office may fall into very improper hands, and I therefore submit it to your Lordship, whether it may not be more expedient, if the power of the Clerk of the Pleas to appoint County Court Clerks, be confirmed, that the services in the Bill allotted to the registers, should be performed by them, although, I am not certain whether, the Strictures of the Bill, may not be sufficient to secure the end proposed, whosoever shall be the instruments employed.

I have the honor to be &c