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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
May 04, 1774
Volume 09, Pages 987-989

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

Whitehall, 4th May 1774.

To His Excellency Josiah Martin, Esquire, Captain General, Governor, &ca,


I have received your Dispatches numbered 18, 19, 20 and 21, and have laid them before the King.

At the same time that I lament the distracted and disordered state of your Government arising from the obstinacy and want of temper in the Assembly in their last Session, I should do injustice to you if I did not express my approbation of your conduct in the steps you took to reconcile the difficulties that arose during the course of the Session, and in putting an end to further proceedings, by Adjournment when there was no longer any hope that those difficulties would be removed, but on the contrary a very just ground of apprehension that the House would have proceeded to more violent and unwarrantable Acts.

The manner in which they very early took up and concurred in the resolutions of the House of Burgesses of Virginia was a very

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unfavorable omen of what was to follow, and the whole of their proceedings respecting the Court Acts discovers such an unwillingness to acquiesce in what had been recommended to you upon that subject in my letter of the 4th of August last, that I am almost without hope of seeing an end to the distraction that prevails within your Government and which has already operated so prejudicially to the King's authority and to the real interests of the Province.

I have already in that letter fully expressed to you how much I have at heart the welfare and prosperity of North Carolina, but I should betray the trust that my Royal Master has reposed in me if by any direction of mine I could authorize provisions to be made by Law, for any Establishments that might militate against those principles of Justice upon which the Laws of England are founded.

The alteration proposed to be made in the Oath to be taken before an Attachment issues in cases where the cause of action arises within the Colony does not however appear to be objectionable, and if the Plaintiff deposes that the Defendant in the suit has according to the best of his belief and information absconded to avoid payment of his debts so that Law process cannot be served upon him, it may certainly be consented to in that form, and the King desirous of conforming to the wishes of his faithful subjects in all cases where it may be done without hazard to the Constitution, is graciously pleased to allow that you may consent to any Law by which the mode of Attachment adopted in other Colonies shall be enacted with regard to defendants resident in either of the adjoining Colonies of Virginia or South Carolina.

I shall be very happy if this explanation of the King's gracious intentions may have the effect to restore peace and harmony to the Colony and may induce the representatives of the people no longer to withhold those Establishments so essential to the welfare of their constituents or to persist in that limitation of the Jurisdiction of the Superior Court which it will be your duty firmly to withstand, pursuant to the instructions you have already received.

The endeavours of the Assembly to throw doubt upon the validity of the proceedings of the Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction established by you in consequence of the powers vested in you by His Majesty's commission is a further evidence of their presumption and the want of candour that has so much distinguished their late proceedings. I agree with you, however, in the opinion that whilst they continue in this spirit of obstinacy and ill humour it may be advisable to desist

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from the establishing any Courts of Civil Jurisdiction unless such establishment shall become absolutely necessary.

Whenever that case occurs it will be your duty to obey your Instructions, for it is not possible without a violation of every principle of Government to withhold from the King's Subjects a due Administration of Justice in what relates to their civil rights, merely because the Assembly from an obstinate adherence to a regulation inconsistent with the practice and spirit of the Laws of England, refuse to make any Provision for that purpose.

The new charter proposed to be granted to the Town of Wilmington appears to be unexceptionable and consequently there can be no objection to your giving your Fiat to it.

The resolution of the Assembly of the 9th of December respecting the Taxes and duties that were established as a fund for sinking the Paper currency seems to me if not unwarrantable in the form, at least highly improper in the object of it, and therefore it was extremely necessary that you should put your negative upon any Bill that should be founded on such a resolution and your conduct on that occasion is very much approved by the King.

The Election Law of the year 1715 evidently establishes a disqualification in any Town to send a representative that has not the number of Freeholders therein described, and therefore it was prudent in you to avoid entering into any controversy with the Assembly upon their rejection of the Member elected for Tarborough in consequence of the charter you granted to that Place.

I am &c.,