The Papers of Henry Laurens

[Page 305]

Commons House Of Assembly to Lord William Campbell[1]

May it please Your Excellency

It was be For When we applied to Your Excellency for leave to adjourn it was because we foresaw that we were should continue wasting our own time without a possibility of rendring any effectual service to His Majesty or to our Constituents_ long had we been flattered with expectations of being restored to our Constitutional Right of framing Laws, which a Right which in the most essential degree, we have[3] been deprived of by upward of five Years by an unconstitutional & arbitrary Mandate_ We had been taught to beleive that through Your Excellency's indefatiguable labours His Majesty's Instruction of the [blank] April 1770.[4] was withdrawn nay we were assured that Your Excellency had particularly requested several Gentlemen in London to transmit such intelligence to their friends in this Colony_ how great then must our M the tidings from such good authority had reached our[Page 306]Ears & we rejoiced & waited in anxious suspence every day that Your Excy's arrival among us was delayed_ Consider we beseech you Sir_ how great must have been our Mortification after such flattering expectations to find your Exc¯y totally silent on that head a point of such vast importance If Your Excellency has received no Instruction thereon on that head it is in vain for us to meet, we know Your Excellency cannot be Ignorant we can Assemble as the Representatives of the People we can do them no good_ our Meetings is are suppressed dishonorable to ourselves_ if you have Sir_ the suspence in which we have been kept we view held is painful we view it as an an Act unfriendly to the our Constituents& as treating their Representatives with unmeritted slight.
In this stra from this & many other Causes our arising from the same source & tending to the same end, of which Your Excellency is not Ignorant, cannot it be it is not would not be surprizing that if the People of this Colony are were should be driven to the most unhappy extremities_ they have suffered many Years under the oppressive hand of an Arbitrary Ministry with amazing patience_ at length wearied out they have adopted measures from whence they hope to derive redress of their grievances, which And although all some of their proceedings may be the effect of Necessity & not not have the Sanction be warranted by any of the written Laws, yet we are bold to assert they are all[5] much so as Legal & Constitutional as many of the late Acts of Administration by which they have been our Constituents are cruelly bereaved of their dearest priveleges_
We acknowledge that we are not unacquainted with the Outrage Circumstance of last Saturday of which Your Excellency particularly so pathetically Complains, but if Your Excy¯. supposes that we either encouraged or commended that Act you add to the injuries wh? which we have already received. At the same time that we Censure disapprove of & Censure such Licentiousness_ We hope Your Excy¯. will not magnify nor exagerate the Circumstance Act as if for such an Acts it was peculiar to this place or of a more atrocious nature than Acts is to be found frequently extraordinary violation of Law & good Government[Page 307] than is frequently found in Cities Renowned for Policy & good Government
We Upon Enquiry into this Matter we have been told that the Populace in Charles Town enraged by the daring & unprovoked Insolence of a Person who although he was supported by the Public & eat the Country's Bread had openly & ungratefully uttered the most bitter Curses & Imprecations against the People of this Colony & of all America had seized Tared & feathered him & then him_ & after a slight Corporal[6] had Carted him through the Streets_ we c this we confess was an Outrage but at the same time Your Excy must do us the Justice to own it was not in our Power nor within the line of our Duty to prevent it even if we had been Spectators present which was not the Case_ and we appeal to Your Exc¯y if the Outrage Punishment which we suppose to be more alarmg from its Novelty than its severity was greater equal in any comparative degree to that of dragging Men & Women through a vast body of Mud & Water to the destruction of their Apparel, injury of their health always at the hazard & sometimes to the Loss of their Lives which Your Excellency knows is frequently very frequently inflicted by an English Mob upon very pettit Offenders surrounded by an Active Magistracy & even in full view of thiirer Majesties Palaces.
suppose you the People were to Duck some of those People as they do in the Canal in St James's Park to a poor Devil who had only attempted to pick a Hanch¯f. & sell it instantly for a twopenny loaf_[7]
Your Excy¯ is pleased to call upon us for aid & assistance_ Alas Sir, what can we do? Your Excellency knows that tis not our Province to Execute or to enforce, but to frame Laws_ & here we cannot forbear repeating with the deepest sorrow & concern_ that the we have been long denied the free exercise of this inestimable branch of our Priveledges & that in so far, all our power & consequence in Government is at an End.
Could we be so happy as to prevail upon Your Excellency by our[Page 308] "Advice"_ good Order this Colony would soon be restored to good Order_ His Majesty's Servants & faithful Subjects reestablished in the quiet possession of their Liberties & properties & the hands of Government recover their former vigour & strength, at least the Blessings of this the present & future Generations would be insured to Your Excy¯_ for your endeavours to obtain perform such important services to his Majesty & to the good People of this Colony His Majesty's faithful & Loyal subjects._[8]
Here's such an Address as which may boast its originality_ & be valuable for its rarity_
I might trim it up a little if I had patience to go over it again but once is enough for a person who has nothing to do with it_
give me this again to Morrow
10 oClock_
for Mercys Sake deliver Your Answ to Morrow_
ADraft, S.C. Council of Safety Papers, 1775-1779, NN; no address; no date; endorsed "Copy / To Lord Wm. Campbell."
[1.] On Aug. 15, 1775, Governor Campbell addressed a letter to the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly requesting its assistance "in enforcing the laws and protecting his Majesty's servants." This letter was prompted by a tar and feathering incident that had occurred August 12 in Charleston. George Walker, a gunner at Fort Johnson who had made an "insolent speech" about the patriot cause, was carted around the city as an example to the non-Associators. Peter Timothy recalled that "there is hardly a street through which he was not paraded nor a Tory house where they did not halt." At each Tory's residence he was forced to "drink damnation to them all." Drayton, Memoirs, II, 17. The Assembly, which had requested a dissolution, during this period met and immediately adjourned each day before it received Campbell's letter. On August 15, an Assembly committee composed of Miles Brewton, Thomas Heyward, James Parsons, Thomas Bee, and George Gabriel Powell was appointed to write a reply. HL was not a member of the Commons House of Assembly but probably as president of the Council of Safety and the Provincial Congress was asked to draft an answer to the governor. His draft is printed here. A second draft in Thomas Bee's hand drawn in part from HL's ideas and phrasing, but more radical in tone, is much closer to the final version that the Assembly presented to Campbell August 18. Bee's draft is in the HL Papers, ScHi, and copies of the letter can be found in the Journal of the Commons House of Assembly, XXXIX (Oct. 8, 1772-Aug. 30, 1775), pp. 311-312, ScA; and in the S.C. General Gazette, Aug. 25, 1775.
[2.] HL's draft was written about Aug. 17, 1775, while in its final form the address was dated Aug. 18, 1775.
[3.] "have" written over "had".
[4.] The Additional Instruction of April 14, 1770, barred the governor of South Carolina from approving any money bill which sought to expend funds for items which had not been previously authorized by legislation. This action had arisen because the South Carolina Commons House tried to pass a bill which would have reimbursed the colony treasury for £1,500 donated to the Wilkes Fund. The Papers of Henry Laurens, VII, 336n. Lord William Campbell had indeed worked to have the instruction repealed, a fact which HL reported on several occasions. The Papers of Henry Laurens, IX, 345, 381, 390, 402, 522.
[5.] "as" changed to "all".
[6.] HL may have intended to write "corporal punishment", which is the wording that appears in the final version.
[7.] HL probably intended that this paragraph, which appears on the last page of the draft below the closing comments, be inserted here. He marked the draft with an "X X" at this point but made no corresponding designation of the paragraph.
[8.] The material below this point was obscured by a sheet of paper attached at each corner with sealing wax. In 1978 the sheet was detached by the Manuscripts and Archives Division staff of the New York Public Library.