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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Richard Caswell to Henry Laurens
Caswell, Richard, 1729-1789
January 31, 1778
Volume 13, Pages 22-24

[From Executive Letter Book.]

North Carolina, Kingston, 31st January 1778.


I had the honor of receiving your letter of the 12th this day, and so far as I am able to recollect the circumstances respecting Folger's conduct, when I saw him, I will now inform you, what information I can obtain from the Capt. and passengers of the vessel he came in, I will transmit so soon as I possibly can, as the vessel arrived in Cape Fear, where she now lies (I believe) and the Capt. is about disposing of the cargo, one hundred miles to

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the Southward of New Bern. It would I find be disagreeable to the bearer to wait the return of the Express, I shall this day send there.

Capt: Folger's information, I think in every particular is true, except one which is that in which he says I broke open the main packet directed Despatches. On my arriving at the place he mentions, about eight miles from Newbern, I found him a stranger, there, the Landlord informed me he had said he had business with me. I asked him a great many questions which he answered in monsyllables, and in equivocal terms, until one of the two gentlemen he has mentioned were in my company informed him I was the Governor. He then showed me first a letter, which he said was from Mr. Dean, but unsigned, with which he saw I was not satisfied. He then showed a letter signed with the names of Mr. Franklin and Mr. Dean, and by the writing I was induced to believe that letter was signed by those gentlemen. He afterwards began to be more open in his behaviour, I commended his caution, tho' very awkward, and to convince me he was the person, he assumed, he carried me into a room, where undoing his portmanteau, he showed me a large packet addressed to himself, which was bound round in several places with twine, & sealed. I asked him if he had opened it, it being directed to himself, he answered no, he knew it contained nothing for him, that its contents were papers for Congress as he had received it in a bag, to which he had affixed a lead for sinking it at sea, in case the vessel in which he came passenger being boarded by the enemy, and that he had Mr. Dean's particular orders to do, and in case of accident happening to himself he was to give similar directions to the Capt. which he had done. I told him it was rather odd that he should have so large a packet in his possession so long, and not know its contents, when directed to himself, and wished him to open it the better to satisfy himself in the business he was upon. He declined opening it, but said I might, which I did, and this packet which was the only one I broke the seals of was I declare upon my Honor was addressed to Capt. John Folger, I think at Havre Degrace; in it, I found a great number of letters and packets, directed to many members of Congress, one I particularly remember was addressed to Mr. Hancock President of Congress, several to Mr. Morris and others, whose names I do not now recollect, there were several

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endorsed “Despatches” and the same in French above or below the english on the same packet, I think some of them said (“Despatches for Congress”) observing one or both ends of one these packets to be opened and sealed in the middle. I drew out at the end several pieces of blank paper, on which I expressed my surprise in the manner Folger was mentioned. All the letters and packets were as he says by him and myself put into the original cover directed to himself, the twine bound round and sealed by me, and I gave him the pass he mentions, and after the labor I had to get this knowledge, which was not small, his manner being uncommon, I sent him on firmly persuaded the packet addressed to the President did contain some matters of an interesting nature, to the States, it was pretty large, and was I am sure, put again in the original cover, which I am positive was sealed by me, in the same manner I found it, and that no other seal whatever was broke, but those on the wrapper.

What the man may be I will not pretend to say, but if he has not delivered the packet addressed to Mr. Hancock, he has certainly had some design in secreting it, and I most sincerely wish Congress may be able to get such information as may enable them to do him justice.

I have the honor to be with great respect and esteem Sir, your most obedient servant,

P. S. I have furnished the express with twenty Dollars, enclosed in his receipt.