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Arming Slaves: Gov. Josiah Martin’s Denial

Lieutenant-Colonel Josiah Martin (23 April 1737 – 13 April 1786) was the last Royal Governor of the Province of North Carolina (1771–1775). Martin was born in Dublin, Ireland, of a planter family well established on the Caribbean island of Antigua, third son of his father’s second marriage. His elder half-brother Samuel Martin (1714–1788) was secretary to the Treasury in London. Another brother Sir Henry Martin (1735–1794) was for many years naval commissioner at Portsmouth and Comptroller of the Royal Navy. Sir Henry was father of Thomas Byam Martin.

The following letter was wrote by his excellency governor Josiah Martin, to the honourable Lewis Henry De Rossett, esquire, in answer to an information given him of his having been charged with giving encouragement to the slaves to revolt from their masters. As the substance of this letter is truly alarming, his excellency therein publicly avowing the measure of arming the slaves against their masters, when every other means to preserve the king’s government should prove ineffectual, the committee have ordered the said letter to be published, as an alarm to the people of this province, against the horrid and barbarous designs of the enemies, not only to their internal peace and safety, but to their lives, liberties, properties, and every other human blessing.

Fort Johnston, June 24, 1775

Sir,

 

Josiah Martin

Josiah Martin

I beg leave to make you my acknowledgements for your communication of the false, malicious, and scandalous report, that has been propagated of me in this part of the province, of my having given encouragement to the negroes to revolt against their masters; and as I persuade myself you kindly intended thereby to give me an opportunity to refuse so infamous a charge, I eagerly embrace this occasion most solemnly to assure you that I have never conceived a thought of that nature. And I will further add my opinion, that nothing could ever justify the design falsely imputed to me, of giving encouragement to the negroes, but the actual and declared rebellion of the king’s subjects, and the failure of all other means to maintain the king’s government.

Permit me, therefore, sir, to request the favour of you to take the most effectual means to prevent the circulation of this most cruel slander, and to assure every body with whom you shall communicate on this subject, that so far from entertaining so horrid a design, I shall be ever ready and heartily disposed to concur in any measures that may be consistent with prudence, to keep the negroes in order and subjection, and for the maintenance of peace and good order throughout the province. I am, with great respect, sir, your most obedient humble servant,

Jo. Martin

Published weekly in Williamsburg, Virginia between 1736 and 1780, The Virginia Gazette contained news covering all of Virginia and also included information from other colonies, Scotland, England and additional countries. The paper appeared in three competing versions from a succession of publishers over the years, some published concurrently, and all under the same title.

Source:  The Virginia Gazette, August 31, 1775

In July 1775, a plot instigated by Martin to arm the slaves was discovered. In retaliation, John Ashe led a group of colonists against Fort Johnston on 20 July. Martin was forced to flee aboard the Cruiser while the colonists destroyed the fort. Martin remained off the coast of North Carolina, directing the rising of the Loyalists, whom he supplied with weapons brought from England.

After two attempted invasions during the Carolina campaign to re-establish his administration were turned back, Martin, who was then in ill health due to fatigue, left for Long Island and then England.

He died in London. He is the namesake of Martin County, North Carolina.[

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