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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Thomas Macknight to Samuel Johnston
Macknight, Thomas, fl. 1757-1787
September 17, 1775
Volume 10, Pages 249-251

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]
Letter from Thomas McKnight to Samuel Johnston Esq.

Belville 17th Septr 1775.

Dear Sir,

I have just now had an opportunity of seeing a letter from Boston dated August the 11th in which are some extracts of letters intercepted from one of the Mr Adames to Mr Warren, president of the Massachusetts provincial Congress—a copy of which I have inclosed and have left this letter open that Mr Iredell may have an opportunity of perusing it before he forwards this to you, should it be in his power before your return home. You'll observe that this is only for your own information because by some 'twould be deemed inimical to suspect Mr Adams capable of such intention. Should you however believe the letter to be genuine as I firmly do, it may incline you to examine the truth of my suspicions, that there is, and has been from the beginning of the dispute, a fixed design in some peoples breasts to throw off every connection with G. B. and to act for the future as totally independant; now however suitable this may be to the Northern provinces, I cannot think it adapted to our circumstances—but notwithstanding I am convinced no such designs are harboured in this province, I cannot help thinking we are gradually and step by step drawn in to second them as effectually as if we had been originally concerned in the plan. My ideas of the interest of this Province prevents me from joining in measures of violence which tend to separate us from Great Britain forever, or may precipitate us into that very state which we wish to guard against. I am very far however from pretending any right to judge for the community, or dictate to a single member of it, but surely I ought not to be blamed for declining to be active in measures which I cannot approve—but the violence of the times may increase to such a degree as will scarcely permit a man to remain passive without being exposed to the attacks of his private enemys under the cloak of zeal for the cause of liberty—and when in his own defence he offers to the publick the reasons which influence his conduct, that very step to which necessity impells him is adduced as evidence of his latent designs to hurt the cause by arguing against some of the means used to promote it; but why do I say such may be the case?

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It has already been mine—and attempts to injure me in my person & property have been made and countenanced not only by a Persons & Jones, but by men whose general character entituled me to expect from them humanity as well as justice—men who ought to have been satisfyed after having done all that lay in their power to take away my character & deprive me of the advantages of society; their endeavours however give me less uneasiness than your last letter by which I find myself suspected of somewhat that indangers the loss of your good opinion. Why did you not point out especially what prevented your subscribing yourself as sincerely mine as usual, that I might have known what part of my conduct was necessary to justify or alter? You have known my sentiments from the beginning of the affair; they have been uniform and consistent with my conduct. I believed they were yours as well as mine—if you have changed them I am unacquainted with your motives. I know you disdain duplicity of conduct, and notwithstanding the apparent current in favor of violent proceedings you would despise me for chiming in with these without being convinced of their rectitude.

My heart assures me I have done nothing to forfeit your friendship—I still rely on it; tell me therefore your Opinion of the steps taken in the other Colonies, as well as of those intended to be pursued in this—and above all let me know what conduct you think an honest man in my circumstances can pursue.

I am Dear Sir,
Your most obedt humble servt


“The business I have had upon my mind has been as great & important as can be trusted to man, and the difficulty & intricacy of it as prodigious. When 50 or 60 men have a constitution to form for a great Empire, at the same time that they have a Country of 1500 miles extent to fortify, millions to arm & train, a naval Power to begin, an extensive commerce to regulate, a standing army of 27000 to raise, pay, victual & officer; those 50 or 60 men are to be pitied.”

“We ought to have settled a month ago the legislative, executive & judicial power of the whole Continent, and have completely modelled the Constitution—to have raised a naval Power, and opened all our ports wide—to have arrested every friend of Government on the Continent, and held them as hostages for the Poor

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victims in Boston and then opened the door as wide as possible for peace & reconciliation; after this they might have petitioned, negotiated, addressed &ca &ca if they would—Is all this extravagant? is it wild? is it not the soundest policy?”

We have a Continental Treasure to establish a paymaster to chuse, and a Committee of Correspondence & Safety. Shall I hail you Speaker of the House, or Councellor, or what? What kind of an Election had you? What sort of magistrates do you intend to make? Will your new Council and executive feel bold or irresolute? Will you Judicial hang, whip, fine, & imprison without scruple?

(N. B. His letter is to Mr Warren Prest of the Provl Congress.)

In Conclusion there is this stricture upon General Colonel Lee.

“You observe in your letter the oddity of a great man: he is a queer creature, but you must love his dogs if you love him, and forgive a thousand whims for the sake of the Soldier & the Scholar.”