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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Preface to Volume 12 of the State Records of North Carolina
Clark, Walter, 1846-1924
Volume 12

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In this volume will be found the Journals of the first General Assembly of the State, held at New Bern from April 7 to May 9, 1777, together with those of the second session held from November 15 to December 24; and the Journals of the first session of the second Assembly, held at New Bern from April 14 to May 2, 1778, and also the Journal of the Senate for a special session convened by proclamation of Governor Caswell at Hillsboro on August 8, 1778. The members of the Assembly were chosen each year, and the election for 1778 was held on March 10 of that year.

The Editor has also embodied in this volume an Orderly Book, kept by Jacob Turner, in the army of Washington, between July 5, 1777, and August 27, 1778, from which an insight can be obtained of the movements of the North Carolina Brigade of Continentals. From it we learn that while in the Continental army promotions were from the entire command, yet that rule was relaxed as to the North Carolina line, and promotions were allowed to be made regimentally, that practice having been adopted in organizing the North Carolina forces.

The action of the Assembly at its first session has been considered in notes to a previous volume. At its adjourned session various important measures engaged its attention.

It being represented that probably a large force would be needed for the service at the North, the Legislature promptly passed a bill empowering the Governor if the necessity arose to have five thousand militia drafted and sent Northward. But it does not appear that the contingency happened, although in the following Spring a large force of militia was sent South.

Again, at the Assembly of April, 1778, a requisition having been made by Congress and General Washington for two thousand men to fill the ranks of the North Carolina Continental regiments, it was resolved that a force of two thousand men be raised, as expeditiously as possible, to serve nine months, and the several counties were to furnish their quota, in proportion to the number of their militia. The Act offered a bounty of one hundred dollars

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to each person who should voluntarily enlist, and it provided that the deficiency in each county should be filled by a draft.

For this purpose the field officers and the captains of each militia regiment were to determine how many men should be raised by each company; and the men and officers of each company were directed to vote by ballot and thus select those who were to be drafted; they being first sworn to vote for those who could best be spared. Each soldier so selected was to receive a bounty of fifty dollars, and also a good, serviceable outfit.

These men were collected and from time to time went forward; but despite these efforts the ranks of the Continental regiments, or battalions as they were called, continued so thin that later our regiments were consolidated. While such were the needs at the North, the danger towards the Southward seemed so threatening that the Governor was authorized to draw on the Continental Treasury for two millions five hundred thousand dollars to raise and equip troops to carry on the war in that quarter.

In the midst of the alarms of war, the Legislature still continued its work of perfecting civil government. The Court law which has received many encomiums was adopted; the English Statutes in force in the State were ascertained and declared; the powers of the County Courts were extended, and Superior Courts were established, from whose decisions as there were no higher courts there was no appeal. Superior Court Judges were elected in December, 1777, being Samuel Ashe, Samuel Spencer and James Iredell, and Waightstill Avery was elected Attorney General. Courts for the trial of civil causes that had so long been suspended were thus reopened in the Spring of 1778.

Laws were passed confiscating the property of citizens who absented themselves from the State; and further steps were taken to perfect the militia. Mr. William Skinner was elected Brigadier General of the Edenton District, and also Treasurer for the Northern District. A fort was built at Ocracock, and the better to protect the commerce passing through that inlet, a large row galley, built by the State of Virginia, was purchased, and was named the Caswell; and a fast sailing tender was bought to accompany her. The brigantines that had been built were sold for privateers.

Congress having recommended that there should be always

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three delegates in attendance from each State, the Legislature resolved to elect four, so as to admit of one being absent.

In April, 1777, Mr. Hewes was not re-elected, the delegates being Burke, Hooper and Penn. Mr. Hooper having resigned, Cornelius Harnett was elected in his stead; and in April, 1778, Dr. Burke was not sent back, there probably being dissatisfaction with him, because in recommending the appointment of a Brigadier General, after the death of Genl. Moore, he had overlooked the North Carolina Colonels and had recommended Genl. Hand of Pennsylvania, which called forth a strong protest and remonstrance from the North Carolina officers.

To replace him, Abner Nash was elected, but he declining, John Williams of Granville, who was then Speaker of the House, was chosen.

The discussion in the Continental Congress upon the proposed articles of Confederation was largely participated in by Dr. Burke, and he transmitted to Gov. Caswell a brief of the argument. When the articles were laid before the General Assembly for its action, that body at its December session declined to ratify the entire instrument, resolving that certain articles designated “ought to be immediately ratified, but that the remaining articles containing matters highly important and interesting to the future of the people of this State, and involving what may very materially affect the internal interests and sovereign independence thereof, and not being immediately essential to the success of the present war, ought not to be ratified until there shall be full time and leisure for deliberately considering the same.” And so careful were the patriots of those days about entering into an agreement with the other States that might injuriously affect the rights of the people, that the articles were not at once adopted. But at the next session, the Confederation was formally agreed to and the delegates were directed to sign them, and were given power and authority to bind the State in matters not inconsistent with their particular instructions.