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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Josiah Martin to George Sackville Germain, Viscount Sackville
Martin, Josiah, 1737-1786
August 07, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 733-735

[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. Ind.: No. Carolina. No. 222.]
Letter from Governor Martin to Lord Germain.

On board the Sovereign Transport in
the narrows of New York Harbour August 7th, 1776.

My Lord,

I have the honour to acquaint your Lordship that I arrived on the 1st instant with General Clinton and his division of the Army at this place where I find all manner of preparation going forward for the great scene that is likely to be opened on this theatre and which I most fervently hope will soon close with all honour and glory to the vigour and spirit and to the wisdom and magnanimity of Britain's Councils.

I am to pray your Lordship's pardon for the omission of some advices in my dispatches from North Carolina which I ought to

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have transmitted earlier. The first My Lord regards the institution of a Court of Vice Admiralty in Cape Fear River in which in the course of its proceedings took cognizance of prizes brought into that port by the King's ships of War after the Act of Parliament prohibiting all Trade with that Province and most of the other Continental Colonies became known there as well as of such as were brought in previously to the declaration of that law but I am to observe to your Lordship that most if not all of the condemnations which passed were founded on breaches of former Acts of Trade. The circumstances my Lord which led me to the measure of instituting a Court of Vice Admiralty at that period I flatter myself will justify it to your Lordship however it may seem at first view to militate against the intentions of the Act of Parliament before alluded to.

When General Clinton arrived in North Carolina in March provisions were extreemly scarce on board the ships there. At this time and soon afterwards no prohibition then known the Cruizers brought in Sundry American Vessels loaded with Rice, Bread and flour, &c.: all of which were locked up from use for want of some legal mode of proceeding against them. The Captors urged me to establish a Court of Vice Admiralty that their prizes might be brought to trial. The General saw it absolutely necessary that the Cargoes should be distributed for the immediate support of the ship's crews and the few soldiers who were there as well as the need there would be of such supplies when the number of mouths should increase by the arrival of the expected Armament from Ireland. The prohibiting Act of Parliament arrived while these matters were agitated; I saw My Lord that it contained no express restraint of the powers vested in me as his Majesty's Governor of that Province to constitute a Court of Vice Admiralty while it bore a manifest interdict to the Captors to bring their prizes into the Court of a Colony of a discription too corresponding with the then state of North Carolina. I represented this to the Captains of the King's Ships of War who acknowledged they were forbid by the Act to bring prizes into such Ports, alleging on the other hand that if following the letter of the Act they were obliged to send their prizes to distant Ports whence they might be tried, they should unman their ships and render them unfit for service, and that as they confidently relied on the expediency and necessity of the case for their indemnification they wished to hazard the trial of their prizes in a

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Court of Vice Admiralty there. After mature consideration, being clearly of opinion that the Act of Parliament did not restrain the jurisdiction of the Vice Admiralty Court discerning no possible ill consequences from the condemnation and sale of Prizes at that Port, and seeing that the ends and objects of the Act of Parliament of preventing succour going to the Rebels were fully answered while the purchase of prizes and their Cargoes was necessarily confined to his Majesty's Fleet and Army, I gave into the measure of erecting a Court of Vice Admiralty and that relief was afforded by it in a formal course of proceeding which necessity must otherwise have compelled the Commander in Chief to take by the strong hand of power.

My next omission My Lord was the neglect formerly to notify to your Lordship that with the approbation of General Clinton I hired the ship Jenny, John McNeil Master of three hundred and ten Tons burthern for the reception and accommodation of a number of his Majesty's faithfull subjects who fled to the Fleet in Cape Fear River for protection and could not be otherwise provided for; of this circumstance My Lord I shall think it proper at the present opportunity to advise the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury and I shall humbly hope that my conduct in both these cases will meet with your Lordships approbation.

My best information since the unfortunate check of the loyalists in North Carolina (of which I had the honour to give your Lordship the minutest detail then in my power in my dispatch No. 1,) teaches me to think their good purpose was frustrated at least by egregious misconduct and that they would have made their way good even in the small force they appeared if they had been conducted with a little more prudence, the want of which cannot be enough lamented more especially as expense to Government was incurred in the course of that unlucky business.

I have now my Lord the sore mortification to find my family inaccessible at only twenty miles distance but I trust the time is at hand that will deliver them and me from misery, my share of which abstracted of the circumstances of my family's distress in a sort of Captivity that your Lordship will believe have not been a little afflicting to me, I leave to your Lordship to compute after observing that I have now spent nearly fourteen months on board divers ships under every possible disadvantage and inconvenience.

I have the honor, &c.,