Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Message from Alexander Martin to the North Carolina General Assembly
Martin, Alexander, 1740-1807
April 20, 1784
Volume 17, Pages 34-39

[From Executive Letter Book.]

20th April, 1784.

Gentlemen of the Honorable the General Assembly:

I am happy to meet so respectable a representation of the State at this important crisis, when objects of great national as well as internal concern are to employ your Councils, and attend your decisions; from the wisdom of which I have the highest confidence that those establishments necessary for the interest of the United Empire and the prosperity of this State will be formed.

The several communications necessary for your information on this occasion I do myself the honor to lay before you; among which with great satisfaction I first present you with the definitive Treaty, concluded at Paris between the United States of America and his Brittanic Majesty by their respective Commissioners, the 3d day of September last, transmitted to me by the Secretary of Congress. By which under God our Sovereignty and Independence are fully confirmed, a conflict with one of the first nations of Europe gloriously terminated and a revolution produced, scarce equalled in the annals of mankind. By which we have also secured the inestimable

-------------------- page 35 --------------------
rights of humanity and the enjoyment of those domestic & political blessings which contribute to render freemen happy. A recommendation from Congress pursuant to the tenour of the said Treaty accompanies the same, which will require attentive consideration suitable to its great importance.

With pleasure I communicate to you from above authority; a treaty of amity and commerce, concluded between the United States and his Majesty the King of Sweden, the 3d day of April, 1783. The alliance with this great Northern power, at the then situation of our affairs was somewhat unexpected, and becomes the more engaging and interesting as that Monarch, with generous and Princely affection for these States requests that it may be known that it was unsolicited by them. This new friend to the American Republic joined to her other illustrious allies raises her to still higher importance, and intitles her to rank among the most favored nations of the Earth. The jealousy of Britain seems yet to be awake at these distinguished marks of friendship and respect we are honored with from her Neighbours; still uneasy at our separation from her, she wishes by her Commerce to accomplish what she failed by her arms, that we may become her tributaries. I lay before you a proclamation of his Brittannic Majesty in Council, under the authority of his parliament, restricting the American trade to his West India Islands in British Vessels: a measure not only injurious to the commerce and navigation of the United States, but highly derogatory to their national honor.

An act of the honorable the Legislature of Virginia, together with the communications of his Excellency the Governor of that State, and our Delegates in Congress on this subject, I submit to your deliberations; urging the necessity and propriety of granting to Congress powers similar to those mentioned in said Act, or adopting such uniformity of measures as may be pursued by other States, that this great commercial wound be healed, in the meanwhile that you remove every obstacle in the way on our part, in cultivating harmony and good will between the two powers agreeable to the Spirit of the late Treaty, and those principles of reciprocity, on which it is expressly founded.

I present you with a circular Letter from his late Excellency, General Washington, which I am honored with, for your deliberations

-------------------- page 36 --------------------
and which he is pleased to signify may be considered his “Legacy to the States” on his retirement to the class of fellow Citizens, after gaining the mighty objects of the revolution.

The interesting matters therein contained evince the able Statesman in our late illustrious Commander, and demand your serious and particular notice. We must be greatly sensible with him, that the powers delegated to Congress by the Confederation must be exercised, and supported in the several States in their fullest extent, to give life and vigor to the American Union: Otherwise they will become disjointed, feeble, and inadequate to bring to a point the federal Government; resolutions and recommendations will be only the shadow or theory of power, to which Philosophers may indeed pay obedience, when a practical coercive Government must bind the Nation. Great Wisdom hath been discovered in forming these new Common-Wealths, and connecting them under one common Sovereignty in Congress; to whose Constitutional authority however if due submission be not yielded, in regulating and directing the affairs of the United republic, a time may come, which God avert, when jealousies and competitions may arise from restless enterprising ambition, and feuds and faction rend the boasted knot too slender and too loosely tied; and thereby subject the scattered powers of the Continent to the first Tyrant who will dare to seize them.

The Laws of Solon and Lycurgus are still revered but Sparta and Athens and the other Confederated States of ancient Greece long since have been no more; pride and ambition dissolved their union, which during the continuance, caused their enemies to tremble: From those sources sprung their intestine divisions by which they became a prey to a Conqueror, whose more compacted strength and wiser Councils soon gave Law to the World. The superstructure of the vast American commonwealth is raised, we trust, on a firmer foundation; on a land unknown to Alexander or Cæsar; it remains for time and experience to complete the building; the eyes of the World are on this new Phenomenon, wondering how the mighty work is so far accomplished; one of the apartments of this fabric is yours, the task will be to strengthen, ornament, and finish what is so well designed under one uniform appearance; otherwise rude disjointed materials may weaken and disfigure the whole, and one faulty pillar bring the goodly structure to the ground.

-------------------- page 37 --------------------

The important business of a Continental revenue from this State was left undetermined in the last session of the Assembly: I am earnestly pressed by his Excellency the president of Congress, and the financier, to urge the importance of this subject, at your first meeting; and even to call you together at an earlier day than the present for this purpose. The weighty arguments contained in the Resolutions of Congress, their addresses and other papers I present you with, anticipate any further observations of mine on this topic, but most earnestly to request your compliance with the requisitions of that Honorable Body, or form in your Wisdom some other plan of supporting on your part the Continental credit, by which the national character of these States is to be supported at home, and respected abroad.

That the poor be relieved as much as possible in the business of taxation, it may not be improper to suggest that should you approve of the impost, recommended by Congress in addition to the same, some funds be raised for public exigences, from duties on such artiticles of produce in which the more oppulent are concerned, provided those States who cultivate the same articles acceed to the measure, and extend it to themsleves.

The defence of the State as well as the Union, must now be placed in our Militia, who being properly arraigned might be very respectable, and answer all the purposes of a standing army.

The boundary Line with our Sister State of South Carolina, claimed in our Bill of rights, is now a proper subject for your consideration, to ascertain which with precision becomes daily more interesting.

A Treaty was directed by an Act of the last Session to be held with the Cherokee Indians, to obtain a cession of their claim to certain Lands in the Western Country within the Chartered limits of the State, and that goods to a certain amount be bought and given them as a compensation for the same. The difficulty of procuring proper goods hath somewhat retarded this business, but this is removed as a purchase has been lately made & the goods arrived; the intention of the legislature will be answered, as soon as they can be conveyed to the place of holding the Treaty.

An Act for opening an Entry Office for the said Lands seems to

-------------------- page 38 --------------------
contain some ambiguities of expression which I submit to your pleasure for further explanation and amendment.

The paper emission of the last assembly having the happy effect in discharging part of the pay of the Continental Line of this State to the great satisfaction of the Officers and men, and the public in general, permit me to propose the expediency of forming a sinking fund for collecting and destroying the same yearly, or sooner, that it continue no longer than the period the Legislature have assured the public its existence will terminate; by which in the meanwhile a greater credit will be given to the residue of that emission, which may remain in circulation to the time aforesaid.

The trade and navigation of this Country are of lasting consequence, and require your immediate interposition and patronage. It is necessary our Rivers be rendered more navigable, our roads opened and supported, by which the industrious planter may have his produce carried to market with more ease and convenience. Thereby more Merchants of opulence would be induced to settle in the State, and open new resources of industry among our inhabitants; whose labor being fully compensated daily additions would be making to their respective Wealth, in proportion to which the revenues of the State would be also increased.

The inspection Laws have long been dormant. I beg leave to remind you of the necessity of their revival and amendment, that the former credit of our produce be still supported at Foreign markets.

Let me call your attention to the education of our youth; may Seminaries of learning be revived and encouraged, where the understanding may be enlightened, the heart amended, and genius cherished, whence the State may draw forth men of abilities to direct her Councils and support her Government.

Religion and Virtue claim your particular care: Legislators in all ages & nations have interwoven the Government with these essential materials: To preserve the morals of the people is to preserve the State; may men of piety and exemplary life, who conduct the affairs of religion, meet your countenance, and receive support, not incompatible with the principles of the Constitution.

The more minute objects worthy of your deliberations I shall not delay your patience to enumerate, submitting to your wisdom those

-------------------- page 39 --------------------
concerns of the State you shall deem more or less interesting according to their magnitude; and shall take my leave with the general observations.

At this auspicious period of our affairs, when the noise of arms and War are no longer heard, a glorious opportunity presents of cultivating the arts of Peace and good Government on principles of the soundest policy, by which nations have been conducted to greatness, and become the envy and admiration of the world. You have before you the wisdom and experience of Ages, sources from whence what is great and good may be drawn, which added to your own treasures of political knowledge, may be wisely applied in bringing the State in some degree towards perfection. I need not mention you are building for futurity, and that your wisdom and caution will hand down only proper materials, as monuments of your transactions. For centuries to come the infant annals of these times no doubt will be traced back with eagerness by inquisitive posterity for precedents, for maxims, to which the future Government may still conform. Let them not be disappointed. Now is the important moment to establish on your part the Continental power on its firmest basis, by which the people of these States rose, and are to be continued, a Nation. Now it behooves you to render permanent the Security, and the honor of the State; to form such Laws, that public Virtue may be encouraged to diffuse its spirit through all ranks, and be pleased with the Government which it hath erected that the guilty be punished, and the just rewarded; that every Citizen enjoy these equal rights promised him by the Constitution, and which God and nature have given him. By these you will discover to the World the Excellency of an American Republic, and evince that the Government of Kings is not always necessary to make the people happy.

I have the Honour to be with very great Esteem and Respect, yours &c.,