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DEAR COUSIN :
I am sorry to find that you have not yet heard any thing from. our uncle, respecting his ideas upon his situation at the present crisis, and this induces me to trouble you with this letter.
You will know to what a low ebb our affairs were reduced at the Northward; and that it is the received opinion that they were so reduced by the underhand management of persons on the other side of the question, from principle, or hopes of regaining their offices. In short, our moderation to such persons almost ruined our cause. You know, also, the inclination of our public, to expel such persons from among us, and the difficulty of any discrimination of persons, lest while every man endeavored to save his friend, the measure itself be defeated.
At length, driven thereto by recent danger, we have brought in an ordinance for the banishment of crown officers and suspected persons, upon a contingency therein expressed. Only five persons in the General Assembly appeared against it. You were not present in the debate, and I will, therefore, tell you what I said introductory to my support of the ordinance. My situation was truly disagreeable. I spoke but once, the last in the debate; and, considering the lead I have taken hitherto, it would have been justly and injuriously remarked, if on such a question I had been absent or silent. The conclusion of my last charge to the grand jury must have condemned me. I arose deeply impressed with a feeling I had never before experienced, and having observed that I was more tenderly interested in the debate than any man in the room, I lamented that the time was come when the public welfare called upon us to adopt measures that might effect the tranquility of our nearest relations ; that I was sensible the present measure might effect, in its operation, a gentlemen to whom I was nearly related by blood to whom I owe the greatest obligations, and to whom I bore the most respectful affection ; that I was fully aware my appearing in support of such a measure would open the mouth of calumny to reproach me as an ingrate a man void of natural affection. That it was out of my power to avoid reproach; but that as it was my inclination and duty, so it was in my power to avoid giving just occasion for censure. That there were various duties, public and private, each rising in gradation; that it was a first principle in society, that our duty to our country was the first of the social duties ; that America had engaged in the present war upon this principle, and that our independence was to be supported only by carrying that principle into practice. In short, that in this particular case, as in all others, I firmly trusted that my conduct was, and would be, a sufficient refutation of every calumny. I then proceeded to support the ordinance, which I held to be absolutely necessary.
Having in this manner supported the uniform vigor of my public conduct, to find a flaw in which my private enemies have always sought, and having thus discharged my duty to the public, I lost no time, you know, to discharge my duty to our respected relation. I sought you through the town, told you what had happened, and laid down the only means by which, in my opinion, our uncle could with credit . preserve his tranquility. Many weeks ago I informed him such an event was to be expected, and I have never mentioned this conversation to any person but yourself. Let us consider what our uncle may do.
We know his situation. His good sense and integrity stand confessed. I will not determine upon his opinion respecting the present controversy. But, without any imputation, he may resign to the King of Great Britain, by a letter containing some such representation as the following. We will send the letter to Congress, and they, by a flag of truce, will send it to Lord Howe to be forwarded,
His infirmities of body, his advanced age, and the calamities of his country, which he can neither remedy nor alleviate by a continuance in office, impel him to resign a commission which he had accepted and hitherto held, only because it enabled him to serve his country. That his laborious services under the crown, from his early youth, entitled him to a retirement from public business in his advanced age; and that his infirmity of body, distress of mind and age, demanded a release from labor.
Is there an idea in that representation inconsistent with fact, or injurious to his character ? Can such sentiments and corresponding con duct endanger him under the crown, or give offence to posterity ? No ! But even such sentiments will satisfy his countrymen and conemporaries. How really fortunate, therefore, is his situation, who at such a time as the present can procure not only safety but tranquility, on both sides, by a conduct satisfactory to his countrymen, without incurring blame in the eyes of posterity!
I am persuaded no man has our uncle's tranquility, welfare and honor, more at heart than you have, and I am satisfied you do not, on these points, think amiss of me. I am also convinced that upon the subject of this letter no person can discourse to him so freely as your, self. His situation is perilous with respect to his tranquility, and no time ought to be lost, or importunity omitted, in representing such a conduct, and pressing him to adopt it, as may ensure his tranquility.
If he resigns, let his letter be by you delivered open to the President, who will seal and forward it to Congress. The letter ought to be dated before Wednesday next. These things done, he will not be interrupted in his retirement. If there shall be occasion for your producing the letter, I shall ask you for it on Wednesday. If I do not then ask you for it, you may return it back, observing a profound silence to me and to every other person upon the subject, whether you ever received such a letter or not. For while by importunity I am inclined to do a violence to his judgment to preserve his tranquility, I am unwilling that he should unnecessarily do any thing against his free inclination. Adieu.
- William Drayton
- Documentary History of the American Revolution Consisting of Letters and Papers Relating to the Contest for Liberty, Chiefly in South Carolina, from Originals in the Possession of the Editor, and Other Sources, 1776