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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Henry Laurens to Richard Caswell
Laurens, Henry, 1724-1792
April 04, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 57-58

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[From Executive Letter Book.]

Philadelphia, 4th April, 1779.


The Honorable the Delegates of North Carolina now in Congress have shewn me a letter, intended by them to be addressed to your Excellency, in which they display very freely, and, as I apprehended, very unjustifiably, an instance of my conduct in that Assembly.

“I will hear the other party,” has ever been a governing principle in my mind. No man [is] more convinced of the truth of this operating in my own favor than the Hon. Mr. Burke. Your Excellency will believe it, too, when you recur to my letter of the 27th April, 1778. I am persuaded, Sir, that I shall not find your Excellency less impartial. Were I, in the present moment, to attempt a vindication of that part of my conduct which has given the gentlemen offence, I should copy the bad example set by the Honorable subscribers of the letter alluded to. I should join in the disclosure of a momentous subject now under deliberation, which I have pledged my faith and honor to keep secret.

But admitting, as the gentlemen allege, that I am in error, admitting that my supposed malconduct arises from “Infatuation or some thing worse,” does it follow that one state in our Union should be devoted to carnage, and the interest of the other twelve essentially injured because South Carolina is so unhappy as to have one of her Delegates wrong-headed or foul-hearted? Can we discover no medium? To speak a little freely, Sir, in my turn, these gentlemen of North Carolina appear to be under the Government of passion—I will not say any thing worse.

Are men to be drawn into measures by Sophistry, misrepresentation and menaces? Could I have expected such attempts from gentlemen whose daily and laudable boasts are, “I am accountable to my own State, and will be governed by my own judgment.”

Fiat justitia ruat coelum.

“I have my own feelings, and I am not answerable to any man

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or set of men, but to myself and to my constituents,” &c., &c., &c., &c., &c.

One moment's reflection, Sir, I am persuaded will determine your Excellency's “good sense” to make “such an use of the Gentlemen's letter, as the importance of it deserves.”

Were I to presume to give an additional hint, it would be to keep in your Excellency's own breast a secret which the gentlemen have obtrusively and unnecessarily thrust into it.

It is possible I may have erred in judgment. The gentlemen, in their attempt to correct the supposed error, have committed acts which appear to me in the glare of heinous crimes. They have attacked the freedom of debate and suffrage. They have menaced a free citizen in order to bias his vote. They have advised the abandonment of an innocent people to the rage of a powerful and merciless Enemy. They have recommended measures, which, if adopted, will endanger the safety of the United States; and have they not sacrificed their sacred faith and honor to pique and resentment?

But, Sir, I will disclose to your Excellency a secret which I never promised to keep. It is a settled plan, and has been for some time past, “to hunt me down.” Were there any just cause, unjustifiable means for accomplishing this pious purpose would not be resorted to. The “vantage ground of truth,” says Lord Bacon, “is an incomparable pleasure; 'tis and will not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene;” and believe me, Sir, I do, consistently with truth, add that I have seen Errors and Wanderings and Mist and tempest in the vale below. All this if my address arrives alone will be a riddle. If the honorable Gentlemen shall think proper to send forward their letter to your Excellency, that will produce explication.

I have the honor to be, with the
Highest regard and esteem,
Your Excellency's mo. ob. and mo. humb. Serv't.,