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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Message from Thomas Burke to the North Carolina General Assembly
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
April 22, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 292-295

[From Executive Letter Book.]

State of North Carolina,
April 22nd, 1782.

To the Honorable the General Assembly—


This afternoon is appointed for the election of a Governor and I

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am in nomination. Permit me to say that it was the wish that the several intimations I have given the General Assembly might have prevented any gentleman from naming me as a candidate for an office which I sincerely wish to be filled by a much abler man or by any man rather than myself.

When the General Assembly did me the honor to make choice of me for their Chief Magistrate, though nothing could be more injurious to me or more repugnant to my inclinations, I accepted the trust because I was apprehensive that declining it would be construed into a doubt of our success, which, at a time when our prospects were over-cast, might have had bad consequences. Happily, that reason no longer exists, and I do not now feel the necessity of sacrificing my time and industry which are absolutely necessary to retrieve my private affairs from the ruin in which, my being constantly employed in public service for several years, has very nearly involved me.

My misfortunes during this year have been heavy and complicated and have involved me in debts and in private distresses which it would be painful to particularize. I hope it may be sufficient to say that it will require the best exertions of my industry to extricate me from them.

Though I could offer many other reasons, I hope they are unnecessary, and that what I have said will sufficiently justify my request that my name may be struck out of the nominations.

As this will, I presume, be the last Message I shall have the Honor to send to the General Assembly, I hope I shall be indulged in requesting that they may point out some mode whereby I am to settle my accounts for such applications as I have made of the monies voted for the contingencies of Government during my administration, and of such other supplies as have fallen under my direction. Also to inform me whether I am to consider the advances made on my credit to the Citizens of this State, when prisoners with the Enemy, are to be ultimately borne by the public or myself.

Though several of my vochers I fear are lost through the destruction of my papers by the Enemy, yet I had rather suffer the loss of the Sums they may be for than leave unsettled accounts and give the least color for ranking me in the number of public defaulters.

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On the 20th a Message was delivered to me by two Members of the House of Commons purporting to be from the General Assembly, but it does not appear to be concurred in by the Senate. Although I cannot consider anybody to be, the General Assembly of this State, except “the Senate and House of Commons assembled for the purposes of Legislation,” yet in respect to the suggestion of that Message, the orders therein alluded to were, contrary to my judgment, countermanded.

Whether the omission of the concurrence of the Senate was by over-sight or design, I presume it will be deemed necessary to prevent an Act from being drawn into precedent, by which one branch assumes the authority of the whole Legislature.

I hoped to have obtained during the Sessions the Returns from the Brigadiers of the Militia, but none are yet come in, but such as appear in an imperfect general return herewith sent to you.

I have also taken measures for procuring a State of the Quarter Master’s and Commissary Departments, which I hope will produce some effect before the General Assembly adjourns from hence.

Some returns from the Quarter Master are already come to hand.

One thing more I beg leave to trouble the General Assembly with.

During the misfortune of my captivity I had great obligations to a few persons who were then with the Enemy. Those to Mr. William Campbell I have already suggested. A Mr. John McClean and a Mr. McLuer, of Cumberland, and a Mr. Murphy, of Surry County, have not before now been mentioned. In favor of the first there is a petition which will be laid before you and which only speaks what I well to know to be true, relatively to his behaviour to those who were with me in the hands of a barbarous Enemy.

The two latter continued to us the most humane care and attention during our long and harrassing march, and more than once prevented our being murdered.

I have the clearest conviction that all those persons are proper objects for the mercy of the State, and did I not feel my personal obligations to them, should not hesitate upon extending it to them by virtue of the power vested in me for such purposes.

But as every power intrusted to the Magistrate of free People ought to be exercised altogether from public motives, and without

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the least suspicion of the influence of private affections, I am unwilling to execute the power of pardoning in this instance without consulting the General Assembly. This induces me to trouble them on a subject otherwise not sufficiently important for their deliberation.

I request, therefore, that I may be favored with their views time enough to enable me to execute this act of mercy, mingled with gratitude, before I go out of office.