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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Archibald Maclaine to Edward Jones
Maclaine, Archibald, 1728-1790
November 18, 1790
Volume 22, Pages 618-620


Wilmington, 18th Nov. 1790.

Dear Sir:

I have enclosed you something to be enacted in place of Mr. Smith’s clause last session relative to Bald Head, for which I have referred Mr. Hay to you. To make the Matter more easy of Admission, and to relieve you and Mr. Hay as to matter of Delicacy, I have written very fully and freely to Mr. Smith, and sent him a copy of what you have enclosed. He has taken care to get himself inserted as possessor of the Island, under the will of Mr. Fry. He may be said to be the only actual Possessor; but I believe the title is now in Mr. Smith. He has prohibited all persons under a penalty, from carrying guns, &c., on any part of the Island, without a saving clause in favour of other claimants, which the Assembly ought not to have omitted. The penalty is to be paid to himself, and therefore, he is in a better situation than any other freeholder in the State. Every Gentleman who wishes to view the light House, and even the Officers

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of Government, whose Duty may require their attendance, these must supplicate Mr. Smith for license to carry a gun, before he can go along the Beach to shoot Birds. The Law should have been confined to Mr. Smith’s land, and to such persons as were or might be employed about the light House. As to the gift of the ground, it is of little consequence. The public were intituled to it upon paying the value. I believe Mr. Smith alleges, that if persons have liberty to go on his lands with guns (a liberty which they take with every Man in the State) they may kill his Cattle, as he can have no legal evidence against them. Is it not the same with every Man who depends upon Negroes for the care of his Stock? Would it not have been the same if the land had been purchased from him? Is it not the same with respect to his timbers, which I believe to be more valuable than his Cattle? Why did he not make it penal to carry an axe on any part of the Island? What would avail his penal law if Sam’l Ashe should make a plantation on that part of the lands which he claims, and hunt Deer every day of his life? Must not the right to the land be first Determined? I will thank you to communicate this to Mr. Hay, as I expect he will concur in the repeal of a very improper and illegal law. I heard you had a grand Scheme on Foot to defeat Congress. I find North Carolina will be North Carolina still, whether in or out of the Union; but I never conceived that men in their senses would attempt to do away the force of the Supreme Law of the land. I have also heard that you have a Bill before you for prohibiting the Importation of slaves, and that you support it with a religious enthusiasm. Considering our situation on the sea coast, and particularly in the neighborhood of Cape Fear, I should have thought it prudent to leave that Matter to Congress, who certainly will do the business Effectually at the expiration of Eighteen Years. I believe you have had no instruction on the Subject, and probably the Majority of your Constituents who either having no property, or not considering the dependence of the Town upon the country, might probably have been willing to abolish the Importation; but though I make no doubt even had your Sentiments been fully known, you would have carried your election; yet you certainly would not have had quite so great a majority as you had. As you do not think it necessary to consult any of your constituents on a Matter of such importance to them, you have my permission, as far as it is of any weight, to follow the Dictates
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of your own ideas. I understand you are likely to make a pretty long Session. I hope, therefore, that the Court System will be new modelled for the better. I scarcely know whether I have any Acquaintance in the Assembly. Give my best respects to the Governor.


I send you a petition from the Administrator of Mr. Swann, with a bill. If the petition is received let Mr. Hay and Mr. Green know that I request their support, and the support of such others as you and they can interest in the Business. By the Gazette paper, I perceive there is a petition from persons who purchased lands from Mr. McCulloch, in order that persons may be appointed by the Assembly to pay what monies may be due. This in a very extraordinary Manner has been referred to a Committee. What have the Assembly to do with the discharge of private contracts? Why should they in this interfere, when the treaty of Peace has made sufficient provision, if the creditor chooses to avail himself of it? Maybe the Legislature will not act so absurdly. Under the Treaty Mr. McCulloch will certainly recover, whenever he chooses to sue, and the Assembly cannot do anything that will prevent him.

To Edward Jones, Esq.