Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]


A. D. 1776

1776 34 little danger rather than abandon their property :orhers hoped that their conduct from its moderation would bear an enquiry, and the majority from their having no prospect of subfiflence if they quitted their homes, and an expectation that their obscurity would fave them from notice. But such charges of oppreffion, injustice, and cruelty were made on both sides as are usually done in such cases.

In the mean time the people in the fleet were distressed for the want of provisions and neceffaries of every fort, and were cut off from every kind of fuccour on shore. This occafioned frequent skirmishies between the armed fhips and boats, and the forces that were stationed on the coast, particularly at Norfolk. The Liverpool man of war at length arrived from England, a flag was sent a-lhore, to put the question whether they would supply his Majesty's ships with provifions, which being aniwered in the negative and the ships in the harbour being continually annoyed by the fire of the rebels from that part of the town that lay next the water, it was determined to destroy, it and diliodge them thereby. Previous notice being given to the inhabitants that they might remove from the danger, the first day of the new year was signalized by the aitack, when a violent cannonade from the Liverpool frigate, two floops of war, and the Governor's armed ship the Dunmore, seconded by parties of failors, who landed and set fire to the nearest liouses, foon produced the defired effect, and the whole town was reduced to afhes. There were at that time various accounts concerning the burning of Norfolk ; the royalists affirmed that the rebels burnt a great part of it themselves, and they on the other hand throw the whole of the charge upon Lord


Dunmore and the King's friends. From a Gazettes j ublished in the Governor's ship, whither he had removed the printing press, it appears that it was only ii tended to destroy that part of the town which most arnoyed the ships; but Lord Dunmore's gazettes are not to be considered of much more credit than the accounts of the Virginians. Whoever was the author of this catastrophe, it is certain that this town was consumed to ashes in this unnatural contest. When a fire is once kindled, it is not easy to prescribe limits to its progress, or to determine by what accidents it may be extended beyond the bounds that may be designed by those who kindled it at first. On this occasion a few of those who landed were killed, as also some of the townsmen and provincials.

Such was the fate of the unfortunate town of Nor. folk, the moít considerable for cominerce of any town. in the colony, and so growing and flourishing was it before these unhappy troubles, that in the two years frôm 1773 to 1775, the rents of the houses encreased from 8,000l. to 10,000l. a year.---The whole lofs was estimated at above 300,000.---Though Lord Dunmore might think he had just reasons for what he did on this occasion, and might probably plead necesfity for this measure, it was undoubtedly a grievous office, as well as an odious talk to a governor, to be himseli a principal actor in burning and destroying the best town in his government.

The rebels after this disinal transaction, attempted to cut off every resource from the ships, and parily to purifh the friends of government, burnt and destroyed the plantations within reach of the water, and obliged the people to remove with their catile, provisions, and portable effeets farthe: into the country.

[ocr errors]


The situation of other governors in America was not more elegible than that of Lord Dunmore.- Lord William Campbell in South Carolina, having as they faid entered into a negotiation with the Indians for coming in to support government in that province, and having also succeeded in exciting a number of those back settlers, who are distinguished in the Carolina stile by the name of regulators, to espouse the fame cause, the discovery of those measures before they were ripe for execution, occafioned such a tumult among the people, that he thought it necessary to retire from Charlestown aboard a ship of war in the river, from whence he returned no more to the seat of his government. It is fomewhat strange that these governors should have had so little regard payed them, and so little authority in these provinces, as in none of them to have a majority of the people on their fide. They must certainly have been exceedingly unpopular in former times, and ruled with rigour in their governments, otherwise it could never have happened that the general voice of the people would have been fo universally against them.-To prevent any ill effects from Campbell's negotiation, one Mr Drayton, who was judge of the superior court. and one of the most leading men in the colony; marched with a strong armed force to the back fettlements, where a treaty was concluded between him and the leaders of the Regulators, in which the differences between them were attributed to misinformation and misunderstanding of each others views and designs, and a tenderness of conscience on the parts of the latter, which prevented their signing the associations, or pursuing any measures against government; but as they were engiged neither by word nor act to im


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

pede or contravene such proceedings as should be adopted and pursued by the province in general, nor give any information, aid, or aslistance to any British troops as should at any time arrive in it ; so they were to be entirely free in their conduct, otherwise to enjoy a safe neutrality, and to suffer no molestation for their not taking an active part in the present troubles. It is probable that the report of Lord William Campbell's misfortune, and the force under Mr Drayton, prevailed more with these Regulators than any principles of justice or moderation. They found that their schemes were discovered, and they wanted to colour them in the best manner they could. It was prudent ir Drayton to make this agreement,' and thereby free himself and the whole colony from a war which must have greatly embarrassed them on this occafion.

The government of the province was now lodged in the council of safety, consisting of thirteen persons, with the occasional assistance of a committee of ninety one. "As they were informed that an armament was preparing in England, which was particularly intended against the colony, no means were left untried for its defence, in disciplining the forces, procuring arms and gunpowder, and particularly in fortifying and securing Charlestown. Similar measures were pursued in North Carolina, with only this difference-Governor Martin was more active and vigorous in his proceedings, but attended with as little success as the other Governors. The provincial congress, committees, and governors were in a continued state of the most violent warfare. Upon a number of charges, particularly of fomenting a civil war, and executing an infurrection among the negroes, he was declared an


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ful eye

enemy to America in general, and to that colony in particular, and all persons forbidden to hold any como munication with him. These declarations he answered with a proclamation of uncommon length which the provincial congress resolved to be a false, scandalous, fcurrilous, malicious, and feditious libel, and ordered it to be burnt by the hand of the common hangman.

The Governor had a palace at New Burn, which he now fortified with an expectation that by means of the back sertlers and the Scotch inhabitants, as well as the Highland emigrants, which were numerous in the province, he would be able to raise a large force and make a considerable diversion, Bup she watch

of jealousy which seldom suffers the smallest · hints given by an enemy to escape an interpretation, perceived the designs of the Governor. Before his design could be effected, the moving of some cannon stirred


such a commotion among the people, that he found it necessary to abandon his palace, and to retire aboard a floop of war in Cape Fear river. The people upon this occasion discovered powder, shot, ball, and various military stores and implements that had been buried in the palace-garden and yards. This served to inflame them exceedingly, every man considering it as if it had been a plot against himself in particular. In other respects the province followed the example of their neighbours in South Carolina, hy establishing a council and committee of fafety, with other substitutes for a regular and permanent government. They also pursued the same method of

providing for defence, of raising, arming, and supporting forces, and of training the militia, and shewed equal vigour and readiness in all their proceedings. The


« PreviousContinue »