Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Memorandum from John Ross Dunn concerning his imprisonment
Dunn, John Ross, d. 1783
July 27, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 673-678

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]
Statement of John Dunn as to his arrest in Salisbury, his removal to South Carolina and his imprisonment there.


Persuant to your request of me, I have drawn up the Folowing State of Matters and facts, as they are with Regard to my person, being Seized upon, in my own Province and Sent Prisoner to Charles Town Together with Mr Benjamin Booth; where I now am, and have been for Twelve months, wanting a few Days.

Some Time about the last of August or Beginning of September in the Year 1774 and previous to the meeting or Assembling of any Congress or Committee in any of the Southern Provinces, or their having entered into any particular Resolves, with regard to the general cause of American libertie, So far as at that time I had any knowledg off. A Certain William Temple Coles Then a magistrate came to me at the Yard in Salisbury where I then was looking over Some hands who, were then at work for me, about Making of Bricks. Mr Booth and others Present. Mr Coles Pull'd out of his Pocket A northern News Paper, where printed I do not Recollect, and Among other Things he Read Certain, Resolves or Protests, entered into by the people of New York and declaring their disapprobation to the Measures then Carrying on by the people at Boston & in opposition to the British Acts of Parliament, Touching the Tea act and other Acts that as Soon as he had read those resolves he Seem'd to approve of them Very Much, and then said he thought it was Very Necessary and becoming the people of our Province, Especially Crown officers to enter into Such like resolves or Resolves

-------------------- page 674 --------------------
Similar to those and then prevailed on Mr Booth to draw up Something of that Nature; that in a few days after, I being at Mr Coles house in Salisbury, Mr Booth, produced a paper Containing a Declaration of Allegiance, fidelity and obedience to his Majesty and Submision to the British Acts of Parliament in General, & That this paper being similar to that published at New York it was approved off by Mr Coles, Mr Walter Lindsay (who also was a magistrat) and my Self and was then Signed by Mr Lindsay, Mr Booth and My Self and I believe one Person More; Mr Booth then kept the paper and it was then concluded upon by us not to offer it to any other person to be Signed. Neither have I been privy to its being Signed nor no Copy thereof by any other person to this Hour, nor have I made any Inquiry about it Since.

Shortly afterwards, I being at Mecklenburg Court I had learned that Mr Avery had by some means procured a Copy of Mr Robinson a schoolmaster in Salisbury, who had copied it fair from the Original Rough draft. I was also told that Mr Avery had Read it to the whole Presbyterian Congregation at their Meeting at Mecklenburg. I being asked at that Court by some persons who Shew'd me a copy (given I presume by Mr Avery,) whether or no I knew anything of it, to which Question I answered in the affirmative. In September or October following and on a day when a general Muster was held in Salisbury, Some of the Inhabitants in Salisbury and adjacent Neighbourhood formed themselves into a committee and amongst other matters there Deliberated and Considered upon the above paper or Copy was Considered upon, and after some time (it was as I had been Informed) was Voted Seditious, libilous, and Inflamatory &c.

I heard no more of the matter from that time untill the last day of July following, which was almost a year, (During which Time Many Committees, and Councils of Safety, and Committees of Intelligence Sat in Salisbury where I lived. I was Never Examined or brought to any Account, before them. Neither had I to this day, been asked to associate with them, Nor join in their deliberations, Neither have I ever seen any S'cociation Paper nor do I believe they had any untill I procured one, Since my Confinement in Charles-Town which I inclosed to them as a presedent to adopt another by it Suitable to the genius of the Back inhabitants of North Carolina; I Recolect that at a time When the People were met at the Court house in Order to choose New Different Committees and a Council

-------------------- page 675 --------------------
of Safety, my assistance was asked for by some Gentlemen. I attended, and Told I could not act my Self in any public Capacity from Meer Principal and Matter of Conscience; have at diver's times and on many Occasions, before then taken the several oaths of Government, as also being then the Sworn and Acting Attorney for the Crown, in Rowan County Court as also A notory Public in the Province, But that I was Ready at any time to assist them in Choosing of fit members for Committees and Proper persons to attend as Delegates to Serve in general Congress and assist them with my advice or Oppinion upon any Special Ocassion, with which they Seemed well Satisfied and Accordingly I did; which gave great umbrage to a Certain person then Present, he having missed being Elected himself owing as he imagined to my fault, and wondered what right I had to Interfer in the matter and Swore as I afterwards was told if I ever Came there I should be kicked out of doors. I then Desisted from Concerning Self further, Either on the one Side or the other,

On Monday being the last day of July or the first day of August 1775, being just recovering out of a fit of Sickness and at my own house in Salisbury, it being the day before the Sitting of the Court as also the meeting of the Committee for the County, I being Busy prepareing my papers Relative to the Crown as well as Civil business, a number of Armed persons Entered into my house and after haveing Seized upon my person I was forced away to one Lewis Coffee's house in Salisbury, and in a few minutes I saw Mr Booth Conducted in the same manner to the Same house. Shortly afterwards William Kennon Attorney at Law and Adlai Osbourn entered the room, And they being Asked by Several Gentlemen Merchants and others the Chief of whome, were Members of the Town Committee and Council of Safety why we were Restained from our liberty, for what reason, or by what authority, or by whose order we were taken into Custody. Kennon and Osbourn Seemed to Signify it was at the desire of some Gentlemen from the Southward, and who were then waiting at Mr Locks, about five mile from Town, in Order to Examine us with regard to our Political Sentiments, with regard to the American Cause of liberty &c., and that we would be detained but a few minnits before we should be set at large, in order to return home, those Gentlemen Reply'd and Told them, that they looked upon it that they were the only proper Judges of our Conduct on those Ocasions, and they only, had the best right to

-------------------- page 676 --------------------
Examine into these affairs, as nothing could be Transacted by us to the Prejudice of the Common cause, but they of course must have had notice thereof, and Reflected very much on the Arbitrary conduct of those busy and Intermedling men, and looked upon it an Insult offered to them and violation of that liberty which Americans in General were then Contending for with great Britain.

Notwithstanding Every Argument which could be offered from reason and Common Justice by Mesrs Troy, Chambers, Nesbett, Beard, Little, Members of the Council of Safety and Dr Anthoney, We were Sent off under a guard of Men whom a few minnits before then, those two conspirators had lead out into the woods, they caused them to be first sworn to Secrecy and fidelity (as the men themselves told us afterwards) and then Ordered them to take us, into Safe Costody, thus were we Exposed and Drove to Mr Locks that Evening as Felons. When we arrived there I saw no Gentlemen from the Southward or Else where, but there we were kept under a strong Guard, untill about 11 oClock at night, at which Time, those Gentlemen above mentioned, who went with us to Learn the Event of Such Treatment Grew Impatient and proposed Entering themselves Security in any Sum of Money whatever so far as their Respective Estates were worth, for our appearance before our own Committee, The Next day who were then to meet at Salisbury, According to appointment, and if any Such matter which as they Could lay to our Charge would be fairly and Impartially inquired into, but all to no purpose; in the mean time Mr Avery, Mr Willis who was Kennon's Brother in law and a negro fellow were Sent off along the Road leading To Mecklenburg, and in Some time returned with Near Thirty or forty Armed men from Mecklenburg and Tryon Counties, who were Engaged in the same manner persuant to an unjust Scheme and plan Adopted by the Said Kennon, Osbourn, Polk and others a few days before. That about Two oClock in the morning we were Forced away from Mr Locks & Escorted by this Guard to Mecklenburg Court house where we Arrived in the evening of the next day. The said Kennon and Osbourn having signified that the Mecklenburg Committee would Examine into those affairs, we made application to Mr Polk to call upon the members of that Committee, many of whom were then In town, and that we were ready to Answer to Any Charge that any one could accuse us with, and would give them any Reasonable Satisfaction with regard to our Conduct which they in reason Could expect or desire, to which

-------------------- page 677 --------------------
request he seemed to have some thoughts of complying, but instead thereof the next morning he, at the head of about Sixty horsemen, all armed, Signified to us that we were to be sent to Camden Jail in South Carolina, and according we were forced to comply. From Camden we were sent to the Congress and from thence to Charles Town without a shift of any kind of apparel nor a shilling in our pockets to buy us the least necessary of life, and previous to any Examination, Trial or Conviction or any legal or Just charge, but such as those cruel and unjust persecutors please to Suggest, in Order to Justifie their Conduct, having violated every principal of Honour, Justice and humanity, and even one of the Established Maxims and rules of the General Congress before that time made and Directed to be observed throughout the whole Continent. And now here we still remain prisoners in Exile from the Enjoyment and Society of our wives, children and families, who have suffered great Distress and hardships on many ocasions, contrary to every principal of Humanity and Christian Virtue and without any Just Cause whatever, unless it be to gratifie the malice and envy of wicked, artful and Designing persons, who in Order to gratifie their own ambitions and carry their pernecious & wicked designs into Execution would sacrifice their own Honour and the repose of their Innocent neighbours, and happiness of their families to Answer their Pernecious views.

It has been proposed to us Several Months Ago, by the Gentlemen of this place, that if we would Release those men, and Indemnifie them from all Actions or Causes of Actions Accrueing to us on account of our sufferings, we should be released and permitted to go home to our families. As to myself, I answered and told them that I was ready and willing to release and Indemnifie Every Person Belonging to any Congress, Committee or Council of Safety or any Person Who had been invested to act in any wise by any authority of the people, but those who had Treated me with Cruelty and Barbarity, in an arbitrary and unjustifiable manner I could not in Justice to myself, family and fellow Subjects forgive; having suffered near Twelve months' false Imprisonment, and was also Indebted near one hundred pounds proc. money, To Physicians who attended my son, who was sent hither with a Certificate by the Gentlemen of Salisbury in order to shew the falsity of the Charge laid against me, he being sick of a violent fever for seven weeks, Exclusive of his bord and attendance and keeping his horse, as also another

-------------------- page 678 --------------------
Debt owing from myself to the Doctor who attended myself when Taken with the Yellow Janduce and a fever, and now cannot command a shilling to pay of those Just debts.


South Carolina.

John Dunn, attorney at law, late of Salisbury Town in North Carolina, personally appeared Before the Subscriber, one of the Justices assigned to keep the peace for the District of Charles Town, and being first sworn upon the holy Evangelists of Almighty God, Deposeth that the Accusations wherewith he stands charged by William Kennon, Adlai Osbourn, Saml Spencer and others, of and Concerning his being Inimical to American libertie, and of his holding Correspondeance with Governor Martin, of North Carolina, and other Government officers, and Acting and Doing other Matters and things to the prejudice of the people of North Carolina in Particular and America in General, is false and without foundation, And further Declareth on his oath aforesaid that he has not at any Time heretofore Directly or Indirectly Wrote any letter or letters to Governor Martin or any Crown Officer or other person whatever of or Concerning the present Disputes Between Great Britain and the American Colonies, neither was he privy to any letters being wrote or sent by other persons on that Account, Neither Did he Ever write, Dictate or cause any Petition, Remonstrance, Plan or Scheme Either for himself or other person or persons, nor has he at any time been privy to any such being done by others, as to his own knowledge, neither has he been active or privy to any Combination or Meeting of any Number of People whatever in order to Oppose or frustrate the views or Designs of the Americans, Neither has he at any time aided or assisted in any of the above schemes, Nor has he ever been solicited by any person or more on that head, but once (which he then positively refused,) that of Drawing, what was called A petition, and would not. And further that he never Exhibited, nor read to others, nor even so much as Carried about him a Certain paper called a protest, nor wrote or caused to be wrote any Copies thereof, nor Tender such to be signed by others, Neither has he at any time set his name to any other Paper, Remonstrance or Petition, other than the paper mentioned in the foregoing state of facts mentioned in this paper, but whatever his private oppinion or Sentiments may be with regard to those matters, he has not acted at any time Directly

-------------------- page 679 --------------------
or indirectly by any act of his or other deed to the prejueduce of the Common Cause.

Sworn and subscribed to before me this 27th day of July, 1776.