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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Aedanus Burke to Thomas Burke
Burke, Aedanus, 1743-1802
December 02, 1769
Volume 15, Pages 676-680

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Marlbrough Stafford, Decemr. 2, 1769.

I return you my dear Mr. Burke the sincerest thanks for the favour of your very friendly letter, and assure you I cannot express the joy and satisfaction I felt on reading it, and finding that Notwithstanding your attention to the cares of business, the noise and Hurry of a Town, and the engagements of friends and acquaintances, I am happy enough to have so high a place in your esteem as not to be forgotten. It has remov'd no small share of uneasiness that visits me many times, when I consider myself thrown at a distance from every friendly connection with you, and deprived of the many advantages I deriv'd from your most agreeable Improving conversation and Judicious counsel, who with all the freedom and kindness of a good friend us'd to advise and instruct me and Engag'd the influence of that distinction and character your merit both deserv'd and Acquired, to procure me Notice and Esteem among your friends. These were Advantages the Loss of which cant but affect me with a good deal of sorrow, which in some measure Vanish by reading your letter, and a packet sent me by Mrs. James Taylor, Arbuckle and Thorowgood Smith who continue to favour me with their correspondence.

The inclosed piece of my drawing is your coat of Arms, which I thought you might be fond of having painted on your chair at the foot of your picture, or engrav'd on a seal for your use, on your Plate, furniture &c. As I have of late Studied a little Heraldry you may depend on their being taken of According to wit, and in a manner that an Esquire or private gentleman ought, by law, to wear 'em. You may also be assur'd that they are your Arms, (of which in the sequial I will convince you) and that I would not rashly give you another's armour, which to wear would not only be ungenerous, or some thing worse, but Subject you to Action of tresspass, by any of the family whose Arms you wore, so that if you think you could depend on my knowledge in Pointing out the difference between an EJECTMENT and ASSAULT and BATTERY, take these as your Arms. I forgot til this moment that you understand Heraldry; for methinks I recollect your telling me you studied this branch of science at the University. Whether you

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forgot your father's Arms or not, when you compare this draught, with the image you retain of those you No doubt, have observ'd on your father's coach or Chaise, it will be a matter of certainty with you whether these are like them.

Now sir, to let you see I would not act upon any affair of importance without reason and some good authority, I will in the first place make it appear that I have lately got acquainted with your family and its arms, and secondly that I understand something of heraldry.

As to your Family you know in the year 1066 two brothers, viz. Serlo and John de Burgo or Burke sons of one Eustice, a Norman attended the conqueror into Britain who for their services in the Conquest, gave them several Manores in the County of York, where Serlo built the Castle of Knaresborough, which stands to this day; he dies without Issue, and is Succeeded by John his brother, who for the loss of one eye, was called Monoculus. John Marries a Norman Lady Nam'd Beatrice de Vessey of a very extensive fortune, being sole heiress to her father Pvo: they had Issue two sons, James Lord of Knaresborough—the other Nam'd Richard the Red. Richd has Issue Walter, who had Issue three sons, Namely, Haburt, Jeffrey, and William; Hoburt (whose transactions are mention's in Smollett's History of Eng. 2 Vol.) was Earl of Kent and Chi. J. of Eng. Jeffrey was Bishop of Ely, and Willm, Sirnam'd de Adelmel, was sent into Ireland by Henry 2, who confer'd upon him the greatest part of the province of Connaught. We have no account of the descendants of that part of the family Which remain's in Britain, and not one Notable or even obscure family of that Name Appears now adays to Exist as natives of the Island. We must now conclude that these died without Issue; for having vast Estates in Britain, we can't Suppose that they left them, and transported themselves to Ireland to share the Acquisitions of William, and consequently the Various branches of the name in various conditions of fortune in Ireland must be the descendants of the Said William.

However this may be, their Arms were always the same, Until the third year of Charles first 1627, when a branch of the house of Clanrichard was Creat'd Viscount Mayo, and the Arms to be Wore, by his branch, were somewhat alterd, to establish a difference between those of the Earl and Viscount. In our conversation at

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Onancock you told me that your father's Estate descended lineally from the time Henry the Second, which proves beyond Contradiction that in a proximate degree you are related to that house. Admitting you were an utter Stranger & lost among the Multiplicity of branches in such a manner as you Could not run down your own particular branch to the common Stock, which is not your Case, (but whether it is not mine is more than I know, for from the want of the Spirit of enquiry into my Original in my youth, which seems natural to a more advanced age, all I know is this, that My grandfather came from Connaught, & being an officer under James the Secnd. & the Army breaking up after the treaty of Limerick, he in 1693 Settled in the County of Kilkenny by taking a Long lease from Wandeford Ld. Castlecomber, which determind in my rem'brance in the possession of my father's elder brother.) If you know nothing, I say, of your regular descent, yet your Arms are the same1 with the Earl of Clanrichard, except those differences peculiar to him as a Nobleman, which none but his heir apparent (not even his second son) can wear. You will perhaps ask how comes it to pass that the arms of a nobleman can be said to be the same with those of a private gentleman? I answer, that to establish a distinction between private gentlemen, persons enobled and Royal Families of the same family, the Arms of Gentlemen, Esquires, Knights and Barronetts, are blazon'd with tinctures, Viz. Metals, Coulours & furs &c. those of Barons, Viscounts, Earls, marquesses, and dukes, by precious Stones, as Topas, pearl &c. & Emperors and Kings by planets, as Sol, Luna &c. In ranging their armies in the field of war, when Armorial Standards were first introduced by their ancestors, these differences being observ'd, in depicting the Standard of each family on each man's Shield, or embroidering it on their banners or pennons, the better to be known at a distance from each other, in order to inspire them with martial bravery and courage to distinguish themselves thro' all their respective tribes and clans. This, I say being observ'd was a material & sufficient difference.

As I know your great aversion to any thing that savours of dulness or prolixity, I must think, that by this time you are tired

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enough of all this Stuff. You will, I hope excuse me sir when I assure you I greet you to all this trouble as a Satisfaction that you may use these as your Arms, and also to Manifest (tho', except I tell you so, it is out of my power) my warm affections and love for you. I am sensible, Mr. Burke, of the great improvement I had from my commerce with you; and knowing how much I would be a gainer by receiving your instructive letters, I desire nothing more ardently than to be honor'd by them when your time permits, and alway merit your esteem and notice. You mentiond in your letter to me that you receiv'd only one letter. I sent you two, whether they arriv'd I cannot tell; and for the future I shall be more troublesome by my letters. Since I saw you, I have Enjoy'd health of body & of mind. I Read with the greatest application, but the common Law takes up the most of my time; besides the History of England, several treatises on government, Trade &c., I have lately read Dr. Keating's History of Ireland, which is very entertaining, and pleases me much in his accounts of the Antiquity, invincible bravery, benevolence and humanity which distinguish'd the Native Irish, whilst, that unhappy Country was govern'd by her own Laws, and enjoy'd freedom; tho' from the Scandelous partiality of the English, they are unjustly characterized for Savageness, Cruelty and barbarism, a character void of every foundation except that Instance of the rebellion in Car. I. Reign, which was dictated by a Spirit of freedom and independence that inspired the unfortunate old nobility to reinstate themselves in their Anscient privileges & Liberty; and as to the circumstances of Cruelty that appear'd, when we reflect on the resolution of the puritans, to give all the Papists to the Sword; just before the Rebeln., the tide of fanaticism and bigotry that overflow'd the three kingdoms at that time, with many other reasons, laying aside Religion, the impartial will cease to wonder. Having heated my Imagination with the achievements of this once brave people from some unaccountable vanity, I was mortified to think myself originally of foreign descent, until I found that both my father and mother ex materna parte, were of the old Milesian race. Reading the public paper yesterday, I to my great satisfaction, found you were qualified as a notary Public. I with pleasure congratulate you on it, and assure you I cant express my joy.

You will excuse Sir I hope the Enormous Size of my letter, &

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be Assur'd that I am with the greatest respect and Esteem your affectionate.


It may be observ'd that the Strokes drawn from top to bottom in the Cross in the Arms, denote a red colour or in Heraldry, Gules, accordingly the Cross must be red when you paint your Arms on your Chariott or Chair. The little points, in the field or charge, denote a yellow colour which must be also observ'd as aforesaid. The Lion must be black and the Car on the Crest, must be white. Pray send me word whether you like the Arms, or are satisfied they are yours, as I don't pretend to infallibility, yet I am as convinced of these being your's as if I really knew so. If you are pleas'd with 'em, and are willing to have your Arms pasted on the front of all your books, which is usual with most Gentlemen that have or know their Armour, And you will, as soon as this arrives, send me word & proof, I will have your Arms engrav'd on Copper-plate by an engraver living in Fredericksburgh who serv'd his time in London, a man of genius and design, in his business; After it is finished, I will send it to you by a Sure hand, or rather to Mr. Bind, where you can have it; Mr. Bind has no Rolling press for copper-platework but you may send the piece by a Vessel from Town, to Philadelphia where in Third street, you can have any number of pieces struck off for one Shilling a hundred. Several gentlemen in this Neighborhood have done so; the expence in Philadelphia for the number you may want (which will be perhaps 2000) is 20s. and as for the Copper plate done here, I will make you a present of it. I shall conclude with telling you that My letter being so fraught with impertinence, inaccuracies, and digressions, I don't expect any Answer to this particular letter, except that I above mention'd.



The field. Or. Cross-Gules, in the dexter canton, a Lion Rampant, Sable.

Crest. A wreath, a cat & mountain. Proper.

Motto. Un Proy, Une foy, Une Loy.


1 According to this maxim in Heraldry; “it is Lawful for any person, of any house or Family, to wear his Arms with Proper distinctions &c.” McKensey on Heraldry, which would be a good plea in Bar in Trespass.