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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from William Davis to Thomas Burke
Davis, William
April 18, 1782
Volume 16, Pages 596-598


S. Cape Fear, April 18th, 1782.


From your Justice in Administration, to prevent all oppressions, and to punish the Guilty, and to redress the Grievances of the afflicted, I take this Opportunity of Addressing myself to you, who I look upon, as not only the Commander in Chieff of the State of North Carolina, but the Patriot and Father to the People. A Man, one Abner Nash, who passed for a Gentleman, formed a Plott, the most Cruel, the most mean and Black, that the Memory of Man can Trace. He Joyned with my Own Nephew, Mr. Roger Moore, to carry into Execution his destructive Plan. Mr. Abner Nash came about three years agoe with his Lady to Mr. Roger Moore’s up the Norwest, about 4 Miles from my Plantation. I owed then on Mortgage 2600£, and 1900 in other Debts. Mr. Moore, on Nash’s arrival, Sent to let me know Mr. Nash wished to serve me and render me happy in my old days, and beged I would come over. As my Nephew Sent and Mr. Nash had married my Sister, and was a man of great abilitys, Oppulent in Fortune, and in Appearance a Gentleman, I went over to Mr. Moore’s well pleased with one that could so readily assist me. I rejoiced, as if some Guardian Angel had dropt from the Clouds. After we had dined, we took a turn in the Piaza. Colol. Davis, Said he, doe you Intend to Stay in the Army? I Informed him, from my Campaign to the North, I had Lost the use of my Arm for about Three Months, but had got the Use of it again, and if I continued well Should Stay in the Service.

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He replyed, if you should want Money, I shall take it particularly kind if you will draw on me for unlimited Sums and your Bills Shall be paid on Sight. This Liberallity, this Generosity Charmed me, So addapted to my Own Sentements. I must confess my heart flowed with Gratitude. He saw it which pleased him, as well as it did me. I thanked him for his good will Sincerely. He was then Sewing the Seeds of Confidence to destroy my Peace and Happiness. The Evening we passed very agreeably, the Violin, the Harpsicord were both going. I had the pleasure of dancing with Mrs. Nash (who was as artfull as her good Man), and the other Ladies, While Nash Sat by with his Stern Brow and deserning Eye, to take an Observation to find out How the Liquor opperated, while his faithful Tool Roger Moore, was to ply me with the best old Rum, Loaf Sugar and Cool Water; Indeeed he never let the bowl be empty but only half way, the Servants had that, and fresh made for me. Mrs. Nash often drank to me, and others the same, for Most were his Emissaries. As I had drank hard, the heat of the weather and dancing much over Night, the next Day when the Liquor had Subsided, Nature Sunk, and he found I seemed Stupid; this he saw would Soon doe to take his advantage when a fitt and certain Opportunity offered. But he was determined for Shure Work. After Dinner the Bottle was put about, which was wellcome to me to raise my Spirits. Nash then began his Plan. He offered me 1500£ paid down, to discharge my Mortgage of 2600£ to Mr. Wm. Hill, and to send me 500£, the whole Sum, 4600£; Besides I was to have his fine Plantation on Roan Oake with Stock of all Kinds on the Place, my Negroes were to be with me, and at my Death they were to be the property of young Abner, his Son, I was to act as if Mr. Nash himself was on the Plantation. I was to have all kind of Necessarys; I was to have Rum of the best, Wine, Tea, Sugar (Brown and Loaf), and every thing Suitable to a Gentleman. Colo. Davis, Said my good Friend, Abner, These Valuable Slaves of yours, which are family Negroes, I shall give to my Son, your Nephew, and also all the Negroes which I had by your Sister, Mrs. Dobbs, as they are of the Same family Negroes, which I will Imediately Send up to Roan Oake to be with you for him, and them Negroes and Plantation he shall have with yours. As to my sons by my Present wife, the Lands on Trent River and other Negroes I intend for them, and
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my Daughters I intend to put Money in the Funds for their Fortunes. I told him I aproved much of his plan, and thought it a very good one.

He asked me for my proposals. I gave him a memorandum of 150 p. year for cloths, as I thought I would be as moderate as possible to a man which was willing to Oblige me, and would not be outdone in Generosity. He made use of this very Paper against me, which you will find. The fatal night came when every thing was ripe for the Aproaching Day; we Danced Late; I was very much in Liquor (Mr. Richd. Speight was there). There was a Particular Bottle for me. I told Mr. Moore the Rum had a Physical taste, but, not being Suspicious, it past off, tho’ I am now certain there was Lodanum in the Rum. The next morning Nash Saw it was the proper time to take every advantage of me, As he Saw I was totally Stupid and, to be certain of his Work, he asked me for the Memorandum I gave him; I puled out of my Pocket some other Paper. This is not it, said he, for he had the paper in his Pocket, but did this to find if I was not a total Blank as to any desernment. He asked me Imediately to goe into the Study. I went; he then Drew an Instrument of Writing, tho’ Short Contained Much, for it was to dispossess me of all property, Real and personal, without any Provision for my Support, but only the 150£ pr. year. He drew a Bill of Sail which took every thing from me, both real and Personal, nothing of property Left. My Fourteen Consisted of 28 Negroes, a Plantation of 1000 acres, a fine Place, on which are a Saw Mill, a Pretty Stock of Cattle, Sheep & Hoggs. There was in Gang of Negroes a Shoemaker, a Wheel Wright, Carpenter, an Excellent Cooper; they were beyond the best negroes to their number in the State. And these were taken from me in this Wicked manner. He Broke me up intirely and Turned me on the World for Bread.

I am your Excellency’s most devoted Servant,