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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Thomas Burke to John Mathews
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
March 06, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 217-219

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Halifax, March 6th, 1782.


I have received your Excellency’s letter of the third of last month.

Though I do not admit that any treaty of Neutrality made by the officers of one State with people inhabiting such State, can be “on the part of the Citizens of these States” or obligatory upon the Citizens of any other State, yet I am very far from being disposed to contravene any measures taken by General Marion, for his character

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sufficiently assures me that they were judicious. But the truth is no preparations are making in this State, of which people in your Line are the object.

An officer from the County of Bladen which borders on the State of So. Carolina and in which are several waters that discharge themselves in Little Pee Dee, has represented to me that about one hundred of the people who inhabit those waters and who are the most desperate and destructive of those who were put in motion against this State by the Enemy, had taken shelter among the people whom General Marion had granted a Neutrality and from thence infested our people.

I had intended writing to the Executive Magistrate of South Carolina on this subject requesting that General Marion might cause this abuse of his compact to be remedied and that he would co-operate with us in measures that are now nearly ready for execution, the object whereof, is to make all those people of whom the Enemy can always avail themselves while they remain amongst us either Continental soldiers or prisoners of War.

We hope by this means to raise a considerable reinforcement of recruits to obtain persons to be exchanged for our Citizens and yours, and at all events to deprive the Enemy of the advantages they derive from having a body of such men in the heart of the Country devoted to them and ready to undertake enterprises which greatly distress this State and diverted its powers and resources in a great measure from the common object.

The checking of the furious resentment that prevails among the people and produces tragical effects and the preventing the number of Judicial convictions for Treason which involved the Government in the dilemma of suffering numbers to be executed summajure, or by interposing pardons to even the due authority of the Laws, were with me strong motives for adopting those measures by removing the objects. I hope both will be effected, and on the return of the soldiers their Country will be reconciled to them.

In a few days a force will move into the disaffected parts of the Country for carrying those measures into execution. Such as are inveterate may probably remove over the Line, thinking to avail themselves of General Marion’s compact by mingling with the people there.

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Should they escape by this means, they will prove very troublesome as well to you as to us in case the Enemy get reinforcement sufficient to make them act offensively. I hope, therefore, you will recommend it to General Marion to take measures for preventing those people from availing themselves of a protection to which they have no claim and which we cannot admit, and to enable us to discriminate should be we under the necessity of pursuing our Enemies into your borders.

The predatory habits of the people here referred to, being originally outlaws, and since the War remorseless plunderers and murderers, make them an object of terror to their vicinity, nor will the Government, by any Civil interposition, be able to restrain the disorders which they provoke and commit. What are measures expedident for you I will not presume to judge.

I thank your Excellency for your congratulations upon my escape, which, indeed, was “fortunate,” so far as it preserved my life and prevented great distress to my family, but however necessary it was it gave me great pain, and I am concerned to find that some officers expected me to remain in a situation so dangerous that the Continental officers, then prisoners, refused to enter it, though they had the protection of a victorious regular Army, in full condition to retaliate, and I had literally no protection at all and was moreover designed, as the subject of retaliation in case of an event which would certainly happen. I hope candid and reasonable men will judge better.

I am too well acquainted with the difficulty of your public situation to congratulate you upon it. But be assured I wish you and your Country every felicity.

I feel every wish that gratitude can inspire for the prosperity of the people of your State whose generous attention to me while amongst them merits my best returns.

I am, Sir,
With respect and esteem,
Your Obedt. Servant,