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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Archibald Maclaine to Edward Jones
Maclaine, Archibald, 1728-1790
November 23, 1790
Volume 21, Pages 573-575


23rd November, 1790.

Dear Sir:

Since I gave you my sentiments relative to a court house in the street, I have seen your letter to Mr. Hooper, where you mention a proposal (without saying from whom) of erecting a brick building 60 by forty, without expense, reserving four shops and the cellars to indemnify the undertaker. It is indeed very extraordinary, that the district cannot be contented with a convenient house in a convenient place, unless they can have a shaded walk from which they can see the four quarters of the town. Is a building to be erected merely for private gratification, without any degree of public utility? And what is much worse to the manifest injury of the inhabitants, and evident danger of their property? In case of a fire it would be impossible to save a building of that size unless it should be built of solid bricks or stone, without any apertures; for doors and windows will take fire. Between such a building and covered piazzas, our streets would be completely blocked up. In what direction this proposed

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building is to stand, does not appear. Sixty feet across the widest streets will take two thirds of the whole, for steps & platforms already occupied fourteen feet; but suppose that forty is intended, and that the house is to be extended sixty feet along the street, there will, after deducting the steps, &c., be no more than forty-five feet left, which is 22 on each side, and this space would generally be pretty well occupied by carts & horses loitering about the dram-shops at each corner; so that a private projector would have a fee simple in a cellar of 60 by forty, and four shops in the public passages, to the great annoyance of the inhabitants and of every person who walked the streets, merely to gratify a few loiterers who wish for a place of indulgence. If such a scheme was to take effect, I will venture to assert, that the communication between the upper and lower part of the town, must be conducted by boats, for I am sure there would not be room for the different carriages, casks, &c., that ought to have a free passage in the streets.

As to the building of any kind of a house, or shed in the place where the old court house stood, it is too absurd to need a refutation, You very well know that in Philadelphia, where a great length of street is occupied by sheds for market houses, these sheds never cross any street, and they are very narrow indeed. No other building is admitted but one joining Second street, over the market, merely for the purposes of the town. The principal courts of Justice are held in the State house. There was indeed in the original plan of that city, squares laid off about the centre for public buildings but the plan was too extensive to admit of their being applied to that use. In Wilmington no such provision was made; but a pleasant and convenient lot was purchased for the public, which is however not altogether convenient for the private business of the country gentlemen. God send us under some rational Government; for the private schemes of individuals, who are always pursuing their own crude indigested ideas will never suffer us to prosper. They are not able to discover that the health and conveniency of towns, are highly advantageous to the country; but instead of seizing every opportunity of improving them as people are doing in old countries, they are for some whim, rendering them as much worse as possible.

How do you advance in your grand scheme to defeat Congress? Is the all-knowing Doctor Williamson, instead of being on the road to attend his duty as a representative of the United States, torturing

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his ingenuity how to evade the laws of that bodv of which he has the undeserved honor to be a member? He would have made a good pettyfogging attorney; but nature never intended him for a legislator.


You tell Mr. Hooper that you and Mr. Hay do not agree about the Federal Courts. I hope our Memorial will satisfy you. You must know that it will be impossible to interest the Assembly in favor of Wilmington. Besides it would not answer our purpose. In favor of Fayetteville, we shall probably succeed. Our situation is such in this State, that Congress will so far alter the system, as to give us a stated court, and though I wish very sincerely that Fayetteville may have the courts alternately, I am very apprehensive that it will be only her turn of the circuit court unless the jurisdiction of the district court should be enlarged. I do not know what service it will be of to Fayetteville, provided we have a court here for maritime causes; unless merely to have a court held there; but no maritime business can arise at that place.