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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Evan Shelby to Richard Caswell
Shelby, Evan, 1719-1794
May 04, 1787
Volume 22, Pages 680-682


Sullivan County, May 4th, 1787.

His Excellency Richard Caswell.


The 27th of April past, I called the Colonels (viz., Tipton, Maxwell and Hutchins) of Washington, Sullivan and Hawkins counties, in order to consult on some means which might be most salutary for the safety of this country at the present time. The gentlemen met accordingly at my house, and severally gave it as their

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opinion that I should address the government in the following manner:

“As the safety and wellbeing of government are now at hazard, and the liberties and properties of the good citizens thereof wrested from them by parties of faction, notwithstanding the lenient and conciliating measures of the General Assembly, by the call of the commanding officers of the several counties and sundry complaints from individuals and the inclosed copies of letters, it was thought proper to advise with your Excellency on the occasion and send a just statement of the proceedings. The Assembly of Franklin, being called, have passed and ratified the following acts: They have opened an office for the lands reserved to the Indians from French Broad River to the Tennessee River; also an act fining and imprisoning any person who shall dare to act under any judicial authority of the State of North Carolina, under which act they proceed with the greatest vigor, beating and imprisoning and seizing the property by men in arms. A third act, in order to complete their designs and draw a party to their interest, they have laid their taxes, one shilling the poll and six pence per hundred acres of land, after the collection of which they give three years’ tax free. Those methods, with many others, such as appointing officers to carry into execution their treasonable acts and designs, a total subversion of all laws and good government, even every sense of civilization is lost amongst them. I have therefore thought it expedient to call upon you for your immediate assistance, having the faith and honor of the Legislature of North Carolina pledged to us that we shall remain secure in our liberties and properties. The matter is truly alarming, and it is beyond a doubt with me that hostilities will in a short time commence, and without the interference of government without delay an effusion of blood must take place. I therefore think it highly necessary that one thousand troops at least be sent, as that number might have a good effect, for should we have that number under the sanction of government, it is no doubt with me they would immediately give way, and would not appear in so unprovoked an insurrection. On the contrary, should a faint and feeble resistance be made, the consequences might be fatal, and would tend to devastation, ruin and distress. Should your Excellency think it convenient to call on the Commonwealth of Virginia, I have reasons to believe we might meet their aid, as they have four counties nearly bordering on us,

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and would be the most speedy assistance we could come at in case your troops do not reach us in time to relieve us. I think it highly necessary that a quantity of ammunition be forwarded to us, as it is very scarce in this country.”

Thus, Sir, you have before you the result of my conference with the aforementioned Colonels. It is plain where the measures therein advised, if adopted, will end. The matter I entirely refer to government, and hope that something may be done or some measure adopted, to put a final end to the present unhappy disturbance.

The offiecers in Greene county have all engaged in the new State affair and, have therefore refused to receive their commissions.

There is scarcely any money in this country. I have been obliged to fit out this express with horse and cash to bear him down. It is to be expected your Excellency will procure some money to bear his expenses home again.

Your Excellency will perceive, by comparing the enclosed in my last letter with this, that the people of Franklin have not assented to the agreement which was entered into with their Governor for the preservation of peace and good order in this country. Not many men are here engaged in vindicating the authority of North Carolina. They have hitherto behaved with that coolness and prudence which ever ought to characterize good subjects, assured of their safety under the government they are in, at the same time convinced that allegiance and protection are reciprocal; they expect to enjoy the one as they have yielded the other. I have the honor to be, with much respect.

Your Excellency’s most obedient and humble servant,


His Excellency Richard Caswell, Governor State of North Carolina. Public service.