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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Samuel Ashe to Allen Jones and Thomas Benbury
Ashe, Samuel, 1725-1813
January 15, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 248-251

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]

Rocky Point, 15th January, 1779.


I beg leave thro' you to represent to the Honourable Houses of the General Assembly wherein you respectively preside, that the great depreciation of Our Bills of Credit, & the rapid and extravagant rise in price of every necessary article of life, render it impossible for me, under my present Salary, to execute the Office they have been pleased to confer on me in that decency of appearance which (I persuade myself) they, with every other good citizen, wish me as their Officer to maintain, without involving my own private Fortune in difficulties, and perhaps finally incurring its total ruin. Believe me, Sirs, this is not mere suggestion, nor does it arise from a miscalculation of figures. I have made the experiment of one year, and thereby form the estimate. I have found the present Stipend so inadequate to the Expence attending the Service that the whole annual allowance will not equip for and defray the necessary charges of one Circuit. The incident expences of the second, & more, must of consequence fall on the Individual. This is a Truth easily demonstrated. The Depreciation of our Bills is a matter of such notoriety that every one knows & feels it. Their Value at this time bears not the proportion of twelve to one of their original value (nor can they without the immediate effectual interposition of the Legislature continue at their present stand against the constant endeavours of the mongrel Tory Traders & others among us to destroy their Credit); consequently your Officers, in receiving the nominal sums granted them, do not receive the Value intended to be given them. I can't better evince this truth than by declaring I had rather receive

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Eight pounds in Goods at their former price, for each hundred of my Salary, than the nominal hundred in Bills; or, to be more explicit, in other words I had rather have ninety-six pounds paid in such Family necessaries as I have occasion for, at the price I could have purchased them at prior to the commencement of these Troubles, than the whole Twelve hundred pounds granted me on mentioning this. I hope I shall neither be understood to disparage the money, or to mean to bargain with the Assembly. No, Sirs, I disavow the first & I disclaim the Idea of the latter. I am incapable of the disrespect; I mention it only to show the low ebb of Credit of our money; however, permit me in support of the position to declare my readiness to carry the same into a Contract with any Individual who doubts the Truth of it.

Would your Honorable Houses, disengaged a moment from their more important business, please to reflect on the triflingness of the above value, they would readily discover how far it is short of that intended to be given; would they also consider the severe Duties (I may say drudgeries) & heavy expences attending the execution of the Office, they must be of the opinion that the first consideration undiminished is far from being an equivalent.

The late Chief Justice under the Crown received in Salaries & fees, I believe, upwards of £1,500 Per annum, & the late Associate Judges (partially dealt by) received £500, with about £100 fees, as I have been informed; these last gentlemen, with whom I hold an Intimacy, have repeatedly told me their appointment was impoverishing; they all declined. Compare the first of these Sums with the value of my Stipend, & the difference is excessive; & the very pitiful and impoverishing allowance to the Associate Judges is a princely one in comparison to mine.

At the last Assembly under the Crown, Governor Martin pressed the making adequate provision for the Judges, &c., & that Assembly in their address to him signified their disposition to do so, for Judges who should be appointed during good behaviour, thereby at once expressing a Sentiment that the former allowances were inadequate, & discharging Intentions of liberally augmenting them to Judges appointed agreeable to their wishes; and as, since which, Heaven propitious beyond your then most sanguine wishes (for I consider you the same representatives of the same people) has favoured your Cause, aided your struggles

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& enabled you to emerge from obscurity, & from a poor, distressed people of a Province, ruled, ruined and judged by Tools and Sycophants, chosen and imposed on you by a Tyrant ad Libitum, to become a free and independent State, giving out your own Laws, creating your own Officers, & rising in reputation with the first nations of the world—I may, surely, under this happy change of circumstances, reasonably hope those liberal intentions towards men, merely for a seeming independence of the Crown, will be carried into effect in favor of those whom you wisely mean to place above every undue influence.

There may be perhaps a seeming indelicacy in my making this application, & I may incur the charge of Avidity by it, but I am drove to the necessity of these alternatives, to make it, resign, or be ruined. A respectful regard to the appointment of the General Assembly points out the first in preference to the second, and the more so as, in case of a refusal, I shall be justified in adopting the second to avoid the last. I hope this will apologize for the application, & to obviate the unjust imputation of avidity, suffer me to say that a Man's disposition is to be discovered by his general Conduct, and that it is but fair to judge of his present Temper by his past behaviour. Upon these principles I submit my Intentions to the strictest scrutiny, letting it be first known that in the earliest period of our dispute with Great Britain I arose among he first in defence of our Common rights; no lucrative expectations nor exalted hope of Honour under our present Government could then have influenced me, nor did any particular resentment at, or disappointment from, the former Government actuate me. On the contrary, I had well-grounded expectations of holding under it an office similar to my present, had that Government continued & Courts been established. That the feelings of a Freeman for himself and for his Country, ready to be enslaved, warmed me into resentment, impelled me into resistance, & determined me to forego my expectations & to resque all things rather than submit to the detested Tyranny, and for the rectitude of my Conduct in the Congresses & Assemblies I have had the Honour to sit, I submit it to the Judgment of our Peers, the worthy members who served with me, many of whom, I doubt not, are now with you. They, I flatter myself, will do me the justice to acquit me of sinister motives. Pardon, Sirs, this digression,

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into which I have been led, not in arrogation of Merit, but in prevention of an opprobrium.

I do most seriously declare that I neither expect or want to accumulate a Fortune to myself from my Services to the Publick. I only wish to be enabled to support the respectability of the office, consistently with the Dignity of a Free people daily rising in Consequence, and to be Compensated for the injury I must of course sustain in my private affairs in pursuing those of the publick. To the first I hope the laudable Ambition & good policy of Assembly will stimulate them, as it will at once give energy to their Laws & respect to their Commonwealth; and that their inviolable regard to Justice will induce them to the second.

Before I conclude I beg leave to observe that if the Assembly adopt a too parsimonious plan in regard to their officers, they will in fact exclude themselves from free elections; they will not be able to fill their offices with such Men of abilities, Integrity & reputation as they would choose, whose Characters in life would add Dignity & Lustre to their appointments, but they will be under the necessity of admitting into the highest & most important departments of the State such as they can prevail on to accept them; whether they be Fools, Knaves, Drunkards, or men of Contrary Characters. It will be Hobson's Choice. Believe me, Sir, I have not the vanity to speak thus with an eye to myself; I have passed the meridian of life, & my prospects now terminate at a short distance, but an almost enthusiastic zeal for the welfare of a Country in which I had my Birth, & to which I am attached by every tie that can bind the human Heart, has urged and emboldened me to intrude my Opinion.

I hope in this Letter I have not dropt an unbecoming or indecent expression. I should feel a pain to have any considered so either in respect to the Houses or yourselves.

I am, Gentlemen, most respectfully,
Your Obedient Serv't.,
The Hon'rble Allen Jones and Thomas Benbury, Esqr., Speakers.