Copyright 1985. South Carolina Historical Society. All rights reserved.
My Dear Son__
I beleive it was the day before yesterday Mr.
] called on me to take leave; by him I wrote a very few lines while he waited in the parlour__ from the bad opinion every body entertains of a Vessel called the Wilhelmina
I am induced to trouble you with duplicate of a Letter which I wrote the 30th. Ulto.
& delivered[Page 320]
to the care of her Capt. Williams_ it contains accounts of certain public matters continued by a P. S. of yesterday which you will be glad to know._ Since that date a bold enterprize has been carried into execution by Some of the Friends of America & about Seven Tons of Gunn powder acquired_ while people were flushed with Success, a Report prevailed that an Armed Vessel having 120 Soldiers on board was
arrived within a few Miles of the Spot where the powder was lodged_ I won't attempt to describe the effect which it produced_ but I am convinced that a false alarm now & then, would do no harm_
Three days ago the Negro Man Jerry was executed;[2
] uncommon pains had been taken to Save him, the fellow had Money & many friends among people of his own Colour, Some among the White_ I Say uncommon pains, tis remarkable that both of the Clergymen of our Church[3
] visited him frequently
_ Your Uncle well knows that that Sort of Duty had been generally left to the Dissenting Ministers when White Men have been under Sentence of Death.
The Law by which he was tried[4
] was called in question, the Judges & Attorney General were called upon for their opinions, & for a while those Sages were pleased to aver that a Free Negro was not amenable to that Act, & one of them threw Magna Charta in the Faces of the people_ but loose opinions would not pass & the Gentlemen dared not venture to Subscribe a declaration which must have called Something more valuable than their Law knowledge into question.
after that Bar was removed, one of the Witnesses named Jemmey, it Seemed retracted from his Evidence & declared Jerry was Innocent, this declaration was made in a variety of Answers by[Page 321]
Jemmy to the Revd.
Smith's questions_ which are introduced by Mr.
Smith on a piece of Paper in these words, "After Some conversation with Jemmy, I put the following Questions."_ Jemmy's Recantation was immediately Sent to the Governor_ & immediately by His Lordship to me Sitting in the Chair in General Committee_ evidently intended for the Committee although His Excellency avoided the Recognition of Such an Assembly_ the Committee on their part refused to take the Letter under their Consideration_ good manners obliged me to write an answer & my Love of plain dealing to write Such
an answer; but it was done in haste & very late at night therefore I may be excused for not expressing my thoughts so clearly as I might have done at a little more leisure a Short correspondence followed which gave me Some pain, Capt Innes
I beleive to be a Man of honour & a good Soldier but his passions & prejudices are bad qualities in a Secretary to a Gentleman of Lord Williams abilities_ you will See the correspondence in papers inclosed with this._ the retraction by Jemmy could have no weight with Men who would give themselves time to consider that his first Evidence was corroborated by two other Witnesses, that a Sambo who was the main Witness would not retract_ & that Jerry when he
first confronted by Jemmy, possitively denied that he knew his person_ that he knew the Man_ although upon enquiry it clearly appeared that they were old acquaintance & nearly allied by Jerry's connection as a husband to the other Man's Sister_ these & many other particulars were unknown to me when the Governor first wrote_ I am now fully Satisfied that Jerry was guilty of a design & attempt to encourage our Negroes to Rebellion & joining the King's Troops if any had been Sent here_ the uncommon pains taken to
Save his Life had filled the minds of many people with great Jealousies against certain Crown Officers acting under direction_ but I declare upon my Honour that I entertain no Such thoughts of any of them in particular_ & I altogether acquit the Governor. my regard for him induced me to alarm him by writing so plainly as I did in my first answer, I believe it had the desired effect_ I am glad of it_ for although I know none of the out of Door Secrets of the people, & carefully avoid Such knowledge, yet I had heard enough to fill me with horror from a prospect of what might be done by Men enraged as Men would have been if a pardon had been Issued_ Jerry was a forward fellow, [Page 322]
puffed up by prosperity, ruined by Luxury & debauchery & grown to an amazing pitch of vanity & ambition_ & withal a very Silly Coxcomb_ Such Characters are found in all Countries, & Men may be ruined by prosperity when perhaps their whole Estate real & personal would not yield an hundred Guineas_ Riches are great or Small comparatively_ as a Negro Fisher Man Jerry was comparatively as Rich as a Vannuk, in the Circle of Stock holders._ I have not Said so much on this head merely to furnish you with a narrative of Jerry's latter history as to enable you in case of need to contradict false reports which may be, among others, propagated to the prejudice of the poor Carolinians whose impolicy &, in many instances, mad conduct, will appear glaring enough without the aid of one Lie_
I informed you Some time ago that one Company of our Regiment of Rangers
had disbanded themselves, that was Capt. M. Kirkland's who was
at the bottom of the plot & we have made Such discoveries as will probably bring him to Death if he can be Seized_ Since that another whole Company with their Captain E: Polk at the Head, have followed the example & the remaining Seven Companies
are true Carolina Rangers ready to receive the Public Money & determined to follow their own Orders, the Council of Safety have had much trouble with them, forced to coax & at last Suffer them to take their own way_ this is no more than I foresaw & against which I forwarned my Country Men. See my Letter 8th. June
per Lassley_ Notwithstanding the nearness of my Situation to the Barracks I know very little of the Government there, but I am frequently told that there is no prospect of our receiving greater advantages from the 1st.
Regiment of Regulars as they are Stiled than from the Rangers_ be that as it may, these people cost us now upwards of £150. Sterling Per day._[5
Drayton & Mr.
Tennant are Still in prosecution of their Embassy, important intelligence I expect from them every hour._ Some[Page 323]
ten days ago we were alarmed by an Account from Savanna, importing that a certain Some body whose name I don't recollect[6
] was Marching at the head of 200 Men of Fletchals band in order to lay Augusta in Ashes & to punish Some of the Inhabitants who had Tarred & feathered the Said Marching Hero_ this cut out a fine piece of work for me to write Letters & Send off expresses_ but as we have heard nothing more of the affair, I conclude the Report was groundless.
Yesterday Sennight the populace of this Town Seized upon a fellow Gunner of Fort Johnson, having been prevoked by his impudence in wantonly Cursing & abusing America & all her Committee Men_ they Tarred & feathered him & then Carted him through the Streets Stopping at the Governor's Door, the Doors of Several Non associates, & acted upon the whole like an ungoverned Mob_ this drew from His Lordship a Message to the House or as I might with more propriety Speak to the Members of Assembly_ His Lordship complains pathetically of the Outrage committed upon the Gunner_ the Assembly gave him an answer_ I will endeavour to Send you both_ the House has been adjourned from day to day Several Weeks past without doing business._
After more than a Month's deliberation in meetings of the General Committee three or four days in the Week, we find ourselves utterly at a loss what measures to pursue with about 24 persons who had refused to Subscribe the Association_[7
] an Oath was[Page 324]
tendered to them by which they were to bind themSelves not to write Speak or Act in any manner against the American Cause, thank God I escaped the painful ridiculous task of tendering the Oath, that part was assigned to a Sub Committee who Reported five days ago that 23 of the 24 had peremptorily refused to take the Oath_ it has been our employment every day Since to determine what Should be done with them & we have advanced no further than the Eigth name_ what we have determined or rather not determined, is by Some means or other very well known abroad, but as our Members are all under a Solemn engagement not to divulge, until a certain time, you must not expect me to Say more on this head_ what a glorious & delightful time I must have of it_ what ridiculous painful Scenes Men must Submit to & pass through who are driven to the necessity of Serving an oppressed people who
establish Right & Wrong according to the number of Votes_ Dotr.
] one of the 24. but whose name is not yet arrived at in the list has taken Sanctuary on board the Tamar
Man of War & intends 'tis Said to go to England in this packet_ if he has any private business to transact there tis well enough, otherwise I apprehend his flight unnecessary_ One of his Country Men intimated to me yesterday his opinion that the Doctor was glad of a pretence_ Government will take care of its freinds.
You would have Smiled to have heard & Seen me by order of the Committee Interrogate John Dunn & B. Booth Boote Esquires two Gentlemen in the practice of the Law & Sensible Men, Sent hither from Rowan County in No.
Carolina as persons "Inimical" to the Liberties of America_ these Gentlemen were of Governor Martin's party & had exerted themselves by promoting protests & Associations against the Measures of the Continental & provincial Congresses & Committees_ the Sons of Liberty enraged[Page 325]
against them Seized their persons & without giving them time to take a change of Raiment hurried them from Stage to Stage till they reached Charles Town_ I was not a little Surprized to find these Men who are of considerable Rank in No.
Carolina & who have both acted in different Counties as Attorney General, readily Submit to the Jurisdiction of the So
Carolina General Committee, & undergo an Examination of an hour & an half Standing all the time as Culprits_ the Committee have very prudently referred their Cases back to the provincial Congress which is to meet two days hence at Hillsborough in No.
Carolina_ in the mean time Messr
Dunn & Boothe are detained & treated as State prisoners._
Our Cherokee Indians according to advices which we have just received from thence are well disposed towards us._ they blame King George exceedingly for quarreling with his Children about "the Leaves of a Tree"_ they Say "he is foolish"_ "if they did, would they have thrown a whole Ship Load of it into the Sea," & they moreover "think it very hard that the King will not give us powder & Bullets & Blankets because we wont drink his Tea." they wonder too at the attempt to make Men "Slaves by pieces of Paper"_ meaning Acts of Parliament, they can form no Idea of the possibility of making the Americans drink "the Leaves of a Tree"_ or "Give their Money for nothing"_ by means of writing upon Paper over the Great Water their Brothers they Say "would be as foolish as old Women to mind paper."_ but they pathetically lament the Scarcity of Gunn Powder & Bullets_ & it would be consistent with Sound policy if we were just now to Supply them with those articles._
Not a Step taken towards establishing places for retreat in case of an attack upon the Sea Board, See what I wrote the 14th. July
_ & the work on our Fortifications goes on just in the manner I expected it would & so does the expence_ were we at open War with France or Spain this languor would not be so visible_ but against the force of Britain, Men of any penetration of any reflexion, See the almost impossibility to fight in a Country Situated & circumstanced as this is_ provided Britain is in Earnest_ I hope She is not quite So infatuated as to persevere till She has destroyed, as to herSelf, the work of her own hands._ I don't mean by any thing[Page 326]
Said above that people here would tamely Submit if British Troops were to land here_ No! I am Sure they would not I rather beleive Charles Town would be reduced to Ashes by Some hands in order to force All to retire into the Country._ Gracious God! what a prospect is here before us? tis not merely the figure of imagination._ many people are prepared to Send their valuable furniture into the Country at an hours warning._ I can dwell no longer on the Subject_ I cannot help flattering mySelf Still with hopes that a treaty will Soon be proposed_ & our divisions healed_ no matter on which Side it begins; blessed & for ever blessed Shall those be who make Peace between us._
Our Militia persevere in nightly duty & that Service is extremely well performed, and our Town kept in quiet & Safety_ throughout the Country Volunteer Companies of 50 to 80. Men are formed these choose their own Officers who are Commissioned by the Council of Safety.
You have now from all that I have Said a pretty clear State of our Colony affairs, our abilities & impediments_ endeavours & obstructions; Alertness & languor_ Unanimity & divisions &ca. &ca
We have had the wettest Season from July to this day that I remember_ it has rained every day; notwithstanding which it is very healthy_ of which I judge chiefly by the Silence of the Church Bells. these Scarcely ever give the Signal of Death_
Our Crops of Rice Indigo & Corn will be large_ but what Shall we do with them?_ those who are indebted to England will be distressed but more so those to whom they are indebted_ if times are not like to mend what will My Dear Brother do, if he recovers his health, I was going to Say he must return, but that must not be, till better times, tell him I am willing to forego my own peace & Ease & every enjoyment for his Sake without Complaining_ God assigns us certain Duties in Life, tis an essential one to Act without repining.
What Shall I Say of you & your Brothers & Sisters, how long will my funds hold out to Support you? Such reflections are necessary, but they are exceedingly painful_ patience I repeat is the Sum of my present happiness_ but I recommend to you to think deeply on our circumstances & to look forward, Say to yourSelf what is to [Page 327]
become of me & of those Brothers & Sisters, Should the hand of power prevail, Charles Town be ruinated, my Fathers Life distroyed & his Estates lost in the Rubbish?_ Converse frequently on the Subject with your Eldest Sister & prepare her to meet a great reverse of fortune, instead of being waited on, perhaps to wait upon others & to depend upon daily labour for Bread. talk to Harry & Jemmy at proper Seasons & explain to them the danger we are all exposed to_ & think what is to become of an aged & infirm Uncle & Aunt_ & of an Aged Father admitting that he escapes with Life_ pity me when Sitting all alone in this Hall Secluded as it were from all the World, no bosom friend to advise with, nor to participate the burthen of my mind when Strongly agitated by prospects of what may happen_ Secluded I Say_ because I cannot join heartily & Sincerely in common conversation with either party_ & I avoid the Lukewarm & dissembling Class_ Mr.
Manigault is unable to come to me often, indeed I have Seen him but once & I can Seldom call upon him_ Mr.
Gervais is Contracter for Supplying the Troops with provision & is therefore fully employed we Seldom meet but in Committee. & it would be held Criminal in me to associate very familiarly with the good Doctor[9
] against whom there is a most unjust & implacable hatred by Some people who take upon them to form a Committee of Observation upon Companies_ Some Men in Such circumstances would Seek relief in that Ocean of froth & folly the Corner Club;[10
] passing by it & unavoidably being in the midst of it once or twice for five minutes, has persuaded me to give a preference to the Small Society of mySelf what a reverse from that course of Life in which I had
for upwards of twenty Years_ but let me not complain_ indeed I do not_ thank God I enjoy good health & a mind unmoved._ & I firmly confide in your magnanimity & prudence & have no fears that you will not act your part well_ hope Sustains me too_ I trust we Shall meet again & that I Shall yet enjoy the Society of my freinds my Children & that we Shall part no more till they lay me in the Silent Grave_ where the wicked cease from troubling & where the weary are at rest_ patience & Faith are ex[Page 328]
cellent Sound axioms for the absence of companions on the Road of Life.
I ought to have Said they are the best Companions, but for them, how often would my moments which now pass in thankfulness, be imbettored[11
] in this lonesome State by anticipating Sorrows, on my own & my Childrens account_ nevertheless these very
reflections are a proof that I am not void of feelings._ I
at that point an Express arrived to me with a Letter from the Back Country which Satisfies me that the Report of an attack upon Augusta was not true._
My Love to your Brothers & Sisters tell My Dear Patsy I Shall about a Month hence expect an Account of her Voyage & first Ideas of England_ I commend you all to God's protection My Dear Son Adieu._ &ca
The Papers of Henry Laurens,
ed. David R. Chesnutt, et al.
(Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999).
Electronic version based on
The Papers of Henry Laurens
(Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1994), Vol. 10, pp. 305-415. On the Web at http://mep.blackmesatech.com/mep/ [Accessed 8 January 2018]