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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Richard Caswell to Evan Shelby
Caswell, Richard, 1729-1789
May 31, 1787
Volume 22, Pages 687-688


Kinston, May 31st, 1787.


Your letter of the 4th instant came to my hand the 19th. The Superior Court was to sit the 21st at New Bern. I therefore thought that place the most suitable and convenient for the meeting of the council, and accordingly summoned them to attend there the 22nd, but it was the 28th before a board was formed, which has occasioned the detaining your express, to whom I have advanced twenty pounds.

I stated the situation of your country to the Council and laid your letter and every other information I possessed respecting the same before them for advice. The result of their deliberations I have the honor of inclosing you a copy of. They may not answer your expectations, but I hope will prove satisfactory when I inform you upon what principles they acted.

They think it would be very imprudent to add to the dissatisfactions of the people there by shewing a wish to encourage the shedding of blood, as thereby a civil war would eventually be brought on, which ought at all times to be avoided if possible, but more especially at the present, as we have great reason to apprehend a general Indian war, in which case there is no doubt but they will meet with support from the subjects of foreign powers; at least, they will be furnished with arms and ammunition. And if the northern and southern tribes should unite with your neighbors, you will stand in need, they

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think, of all your force, and therefore recommend unanimity amongst you, if it can by any means be effected, as you will thereby be much more able to defend yourselves than you possibly can be when divided, but also save the circumstance of cutting each other’s throats. Besides these, it would be impracticable to raise an armed force here to be sent to your assistance at this time, if we were ever so much disposed thereto, for the following reasons, the people in general are now engaged in their farming business, and if brought out would very reluctantly march; there is no money in the treasury to defray the expenses of such as might be called out, nor in fact have we arms or ammunition; under such circumstances it would be madness to attempt it.

I must therefore recommend to you the using every means in your power to conciliate the minds of the people, as well as those who call themselves Franklinites as the friends and supporters of government. The measures you took with Mr. Sevier and his party, of which you first acquainted me, if again they could be adopted, would be best under the situation that things now are. If things could lie dormant as it were, till the next Assembly, and each man’s mind be employed in considering your common defense against the savage enemy, I should suppose it best. And whatever unanimity prevails among your people and their strength and numbers will justify an application for a separation, if it is general, I have no doubt of its taking place upon reciprocal and friendly terms.

I have written a letter to the inhabitants of the counties of Washington, Sullivan, Greene and Hawkins, stating matters in such a point of view as they strike me, and consistent with the opinion of the Council, a copy of which I have the honor to enclose you. Your express also carries a letter for the commanding officer of each of the said counties, which you will be pleased to forward to them.

I have the honor to be, with great respect and esteem, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,


Copy of a letter to General Shelby, 31st May, 1787.