The Papers of Henry Laurens

[Page 397]

Council of Safety to South Carolina Delegates in Congress


As we have business of very great importance to lay before you, which we think will merit the consideration of the Representatives of the United Colonies before their next intended adjournment we are fortunate in meeting with the present opportunity for [conve]yance[2] by Mr. Hindson who has promised us not only to deliver our dispatches into your own hands but also to impart a to communicate a verbal message verbally which can not be so well delivered imparted in any other manner.
Recent transactions of the a most dangerous tendency in the interior parts of this Colony, the treachery of our Governor who has been pursuing the Steps of Mr. Martin [as] nearly[Page 398] as his situation would allow him, our late intelligence respecting the Indians & the unhappy differences which now subsist among the Inhabitants of Charles Town render this application for your advice & assistance absolutely indispensable.
We had for some time suspected His Excellency entertained suspicions of the conduct of Ld Wm. Campbell, but a late circumstance has furnished us with possitive proof of his disengenuity & intention to undo us by stealth_ His Lordship had not only shewn a fair face when waited upon, but had even [in the most condescending terms] invited Gentlemen to call on him in order to [give him an opportunities][3] for expressing his good wishes to the Colony while he was at the same time privately spiriting up the People on our Frontiers to oppose our Association & to hold themselves in readiness to act [in Arms] against the Colony. when called upon at a proper time_ after having received reiterated accounts of the increasing discontents of those People, together with assurances that they were instigated by the Emissaries of Government the British Administration & supported by promises of Royal favour, this Council judged it expedient to send proper Persons to explain to them, the causes & nature of the dispute subsisting between Great Britain & the Colonies to endeavour to reconcile their minds to an Union in defence of their common rights by approving the illegible; for these good purposes The Honb¯le. Mr. Drayton & the Reverend Mr. Tennent were sent into those parts where the disaffected were most powerful & most numerous & most powerful & although their[4] progress of those Gentlemen has been attended with many salutary effects yet particular characters & their abettors continued so irreclaimable that it was found necessary to abandon the mild mode of persuasion & to have recourse to the use of Arms which they had first taken up_ &[5] we have now 1200. Men of the Regiment of Rangers & Militia under the direction of Mr. Drayton at Ninety Six who we hope he will be able to illegible suppress all opposition or at least to drive away the ringleaders of it._ among the heads of our opponents was one Capt Moses Kirkland who[Page 399] may with great justice be denominated a Traitor. as[6] he had actually taken a Commission in the service of the Colony, & had enlisted a Company of Rangers whom he afterward incited to Mutiny & Desert. this Man after having threatned the distruction of Augusta & Recapture of Fort Charlotte in vain attempted to make a stand with his adherents illegible & being closely pursued & fled in disguise to Charles Town, illegible which he entered by Night here he took sanctuary in the Governor's House & was by His Lordship's means conveyed on board the Tamar Sloop of War_ a report of this matter facts[7] was soon brought to the Gen¯ Committee who happened to be sitting & a discovery was made of a Person who had been one of Kirkland's Company of Rangers & had attended him in his flight, this person being Committed to the Guard was made use of by some of the Officers of our Troops to carry on a stratagem the result of which you will learn from one of the inclosed Papers marked "Minutes of a Conversation." The Committee upon this discovery demanded a sight of the Letters which the Governor had just received from Administration by the Swallow Packet, His Lordship peremptorily refused to comply but in the course of conversation acknowledged that Ships & Troops were to be sent from England to all the Colonies & might be shortly expected; the next Evening he gave orders for dismantling Fort Johnson which was in part performed by Men from on board the Tamar who dismounted all the Guns on the lower Battery & broke many of the Carriages, after which His Excellency dissolved the Assembly & without assigning any reason in public, retired on board that Man of War where he has ever since remained & from certain circumstances he means, as we believe he means to remove his family to the same place._ fortunately the Seamen neglected to spike up the Cannon, we have therefore taken possession of the Fort & remounted them_ the Garrison now consists of about 400. of of our new raised Troops commanded there by Collo. Motte we intend to persevere in putting into repairing the Fort & will put it in the best posture of defence. & we also intend to fortify the Harbour as effectually as our circumstances will admit of_ tis possible the Man of War may interrupt our proceedings,[Page 400] in such Case we shall be under a necessity of attempting to take or destroy her._[8] here we are at a loss to know to what lengths each Colony will be warranted by the Voice of America in opposing & restraining the Kings Officers of Government in general & the British Marine, tho' such opposition should be necessary for the very existence of a Colony & the support of the common Cause_
Our Provincial Congress in June last Resolved that Officers in the two Regiments of Foot in Colony Pay should when acting in Conjunction with Officers of the Militia of equal Commissions take Rank & precedence of these without regard to the dates of their Commissions_ this Regulation gave no Umbrage till lately, when we judged it necessary to Issue an Order for compelling many delinquents to do equal duty with their fellow Citizens in the Militia then a general Clamour was raised, Petitions & Remonstrances from the "12 United Companies" of Volunteers were sent in, to this Board & to the General Committee & the dispute was carried to so great a heigth as to threaten a defection an over throw of our Association,[9] temperate measures have however pacified many of the well meaning honest people who had been misled by the contrivances of false friends, nevertheless there remains no inconsiderable degree of ferment & dissatisfaction_[10] to this untoward circumstance add, the unfavorable accounts which we have received from the Indians, the danger which we are always exposed to & more especially at this time from domestic Insurrection & the expectation of British Troops & Ships of War with other circumstances incidents hereafter to be mentioned & you[Page 401] will agree that we have an before us a very unpleasant prospect. We have been informed that you have granted 1000. Men to North Carolina on Accot. of the disturbances in that Colony, be that as it may surely we require in this weaker part stand more in need of an Army of Observation & General Officers to Command all our forces, at the general charge of the Colonies; we would if time had permitted have applied to North Carolina & Georgia to have joined us in an application for such an Army, & we now recommend it to your serious consideration & enjoin you to Address the General Congress upon this subject & to use your endeavo¯rs for obtaining such defence for us,[11] without which Carolina & Georgia will be involved in such difficulties as may & probably will greatly injure the common Interests of America.[12]
We particularly request you to consider of proper measures for Regulating the Militia & to procure a strong recommendation on this head from the Congress_[13]
the Judges have refused to do business in their department, hence the Courts are shut up, the Custom House may soon follow the example & we rather suspect it from an application which Mr. Haliday has made for leave to retire from the Province altho' he has assured us that he will leave a Deputy.[14]
We have used our utmost endeavours & gone to very great lengths expence for procuring ammunition, we were stimulated to the Act upon Lofthouse's Vessel at Agustine Bar by our[Page 402] hearty desire to supply the common Stock on your side, we rejoice to learn that you now have abundance[15] we have also in our Magazines enough to serve our present purposes & hopes no bad prospect of receving additional quantities very speedily_ but none to spare. Nothing would be more acceptable to us than two or three Thousand stand of good Arms is it possible to obtain them such & so many from Philadelphia? if it is, we recommend it as a most essential service_
Your Letter of the 3d. August with Resolutions of the 1st. came duly to hand, perhaps after a Post Office is established, the Congress will find it necessary to open the American Ports to Foreigners & to pursue the most vigorous measures in our illegible Infant states, by Sea as well as Land neither of which in our opinion can be effected if the Doctrine of abandoning our Sea Coasts should prevail._[16]
We have just received a private intimation that Moses Kirkland is to be put on board this Sloop in which after she is over the Bar_ & have the he is to proceed to General Gage in hope of obtaining & apply for Men & Amunition to enable him to recover his ground & to distress us in the back Country_ We have laid a Plan for having him safely landed at George Town[17] if that should fail, the Committee or Council of Safety at New York will be informed of his arrival & of his intended Schemes we hope in such Case they will detain him for your directions & that you will give such as shall put it out of his power to do us any further mischief _ to return him to Carolina in order to be tried by a Court Martial would will be best._ Inclosed you will find a Copy of our late Order concerning the Militia
We must not conclude without intreating you to consider of proper measures for keeping the Militia in due subordination &[Page 403] procuring a strong recommendation on this head from the Congress._

By order of the Council of Safety.

Henry Laurens

ADraftSigned, HL Papers, ScHi; addressed below close "Henry Middleton / Thomas Lynch / Chris. Gadsden / John Rutledge / Ed. Rutledge Esquires, Delegates for So Carolina / in General Congress Philada. "; dated "Charles Town So Carolina 18 Septem. 1775"; docketed "Copy 18th. Septem˜ 1775 / To The Delegates of So. Carolina"; numbered ''10''. Fair copy, HL Papers, ScHi; addressed below close "Henry Middleton / Thomas Lynch / Chris. Gadsden / John Rutledge / Ed. Rutledge Esquires, Delegates for So Carolina / in General Congress Philadelphia"; dated "Charles Town So Carolina 18 Septem 1775"; docketed "Copy 18th Septem 1775_ Delegates for So. Carolina". The fair copy was initialed by HL below close.
[1.] An earlier draft, in another hand, was dated September 17. "In the Council of Safety," Sept. 17, 1775, S.C. Council of Safety Papers, 1775-1779, NN.
[2.] Bracketed material here and below supplied from fair copy.
[3.] "opportunity" changed to "opportunities".
[4.] HL crowded in an "ir" to make the word "their".
[5.] In the fair copy HL cancelled the ampersand and capitalized the next word "We".
[6.] When HL cancelled this word he also inserted the period after "Traitor".
[7.] HL cancelled the "s" in the fair copy.
[8.] The South Carolinians were at that time in awe of the British warships. William Moultrie recalled that "every order and every movement of our's shows how fearful we were of the [Tamer] man-of-war." Moultrie, Memoirs, I, 88-89, 90n.
[9.] In the fair copy a dash has been interlined after "Association".
[10.] When the Council of Safety issued its Declaration of Alarm (September 5) putting volunteer companies within the militia on the same footing for service as regular militia, twelve of the thirteen volunteer companies in Charleston presented remonstrances against the Declaration to the Council of Safety (September 12) and the General Committee (September 16). The Council responded on September 19 and the General Committee on September 20, but neither answer placated the volunteers. The twelve "United Companies" restated their objections in letters to both bodies on September 30, but neither responded. By mid-October matters had cooled and the volunteers made a series of gestures which acknowledged their willingness to recognize the authority of the Council. The volunteer company which refused to join in the remonstrances was the German Fusiliers. Drayton, Memoirs, II, 25-28.
[11.] The Continental Congress, Nov. 4, 1775, resolved to maintain "for the defence of South Carolina . . . three battalions of foot" and one battalion "for the defence of the Colony of Georgia." These battalions were to be "upon the same pay, and under the same regulations, as the continental army." The troops were to be enlisted to serve until Dec. 31, 1776, and blank commissions were to be sent to each province's "Conventions, or, in their recess, the councils of safety" to "fill them up with the names of such officers as they may think proper." Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, III, 325-326.
[12.] HL inserted the following sentence which is treated as a distinct paragraph in the fair copy.
[13.] The Continental Congress's response to this request concerning the militia took the form of a resolution that continental officers of equal rank take command when acting in conjunction with provincial officers of the same rank and "the Officers of the troops on the provincial establishment shall, when acting in conjunction with the officers of the Militia, take command and precedence of the latter of equal rank, notwithstanding prior dates of commissions." Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, III, 326.
[14.] Robert Dalway Haliday, collector for the port of Charleston, reported that all export was forbidden by the rebels in September 1775, and that the South Carolina state government took forcible possession of the customs house and its contents April 6, 1776. Haliday to Lord North, July 10, 1777, AO 13/129, PRO. See also The Papers of Henry Laurens, VI, 109n.
[15.] In the fair copy HL inserted a dash here and then capitalized the next word "We".
[16.] The next paragraph is an insertion written on a separate scrap of paper.
[17.] Captain Hindson, acting as an agent for the Council of Safety, was to sail north aboard the sloop New-York Packet and convince Ferdinand Little, the captain, "to go into George Town to deliver him [Kirkland] to the Committee there with Special orders to hold him in Safe Custody till delivered to us." In order to faciliate the task the Council agreed to "pay any reasonable Sum for loss of time & Insure the Sloop together with Such reward as you may agree to give." Council of Safety to Captain Hindson, Sept. 19, 1775, HL Papers, ScHi; S.C. General Gazette, Sept. 22, 1775.