Tag Archives: 18th Century

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


Royal Governor 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.[


Keeping the South Carolina Colony Informed

The 18th century newspapers in the British colonies of North America covered a fascinating combination of international news and extremely local topics. This edition of The South Carolina Gazette from January 26, 1737 is an excellent example.

International News


The poor Kingdom of Poland, already laid waste by War and Famine, is now visited by the Bloody Flux, which is become epidemical, and has carried off infinite Number of People, and frightened the rest to such a Degree, that whole Provinces are deserted.


Extract of a Letter from Spanish Town in Jamaica. ‘Our once most flourishing Island is now exceedingly upon the Decline; and nothing so much as Luxury, Poverty, Taxes and Faction abound among us: Neither are our intestine Wars with the rebellious Negroes in the least abated; and nothing is become more common, than to hear of Plantations burnt and utterly destroy’d by them, insomuch that some of our distant Parishes will be oblig’d in a little Time to abandon their Habitations.

Holland and Maritime Canada

From Amsterdam they write, That the Greenland Fishing this Year has been so prodigious, that the Dutch have taken 589 Whales and three young ones. The French and Spaniards have also taken 70 Whales this Season at Groenland: And if, as one observes, England has not come in for her Share of Train-oyl and Whalebone, she may boast of having out number’d all her Neighbours in Horse-Races. He might have added too, for the Glory of this Island, That we out do all our Neighbours in Pantomime, Farce, and Puppet-Shew.


The Woollen Manufacture in Denmark is so much improved, that his Majesty finding there is Cloth enough made in his own Kingdom to serve his Subjects, has forbid the Importation of any Woollen Manufacture from foreign Parts. (more…)

Ordinance of 1787

The South and the Ordinance of 1787

The drawing above shows men in colonial dress nailing a broadside onto a tree. Other figures, including some which appear to represent historical figures such as George Washington and Patrick Henry, and some Indians, watch. The drawing probably refers to the 1787 Northwest Ordinance which created the Northwest Territory as a part of the United States. The artist was James Henry Beard (1812-1893).

The Ordinance of 1787

We have been accustomed to attribute the unanimity with which the Ordinance of 1787 was enacted, to the prevalend of Anti-Slavery sentiment in the country at the time of its passage. The Richmond Whig seems anxious to divest the South of all credit on this score.

Read the following:

“We have never been able, satisfactorily, to account for the extraordinary unanimity with which the Southern members of Congress supported this famous Ordinance – by which slavery was excluded from the Northwestern Territory. It is explained, however, by a paragraph in a letter from Colonel William Grayson, one of the members of Congress from Virginia at that time, (which we find in the New York Tribune,) addressed to one of his colleagues. He writes: ‘The clause respecting Slavery was agreed to by the Southern members, for the purpose of preventing Tobacco and Indigo,’ (the former the great staple of Virginia, and the latter of South Carolina,) from being made on the Northwest side of the Ohio, as well as for several other political reasons.’

“What those ‘political reasons’ were, however, we are unable to conjecture. That class of reasons now exert a contrary influence.”

It is painful to see this anxiety on the part of a leading Virginia paper to ascribe one of the noblest acts of Virginia and the Southern States, to merely selfish motives.

One is tempted, after reading such a paragraph, to believe that there was too much truth in the imputation made in the Convention that framed the Federal Constitution, that the efforts of Virginia to obtain an immediate prohibition of the foreign slave trade, were stimulated by a disposition to monopolize the business of supplying Georgia and South Carolina with slaves. But, no! we will not follow the example of the Whig, and offer such an indignity to the State which, through its delegates in the Federal Convention, stood pre-eminent in its opposition to slavery.

Whatever the public sentiment in Virginia now, once she had a Washington, who deplored Slavery as a crime, declared that it ought to be abolished by law, and that, so far as his suffrage could go in obtaining such a law, it should not be wanting.

Whatever the political or economical reasons which influenced the action of the Southern States, in 1787, this much is certain – they were unanimous in the passage of an ordinance prohibiting Slavery in the only Territory possessed by the United States.

The fact that they gave changed their policy, and that “that class of reasons exert a contrary influence,” does not make the prohibition of Slavery now, in United States’ territory, unconstitutional, or render it proper now that the other sections of the Union should change their minds – unless, indeed, it be claimed, that the fluctuating views of a few slaveholders, in relation to the interests of Indigo, Tobacco, Rice, Cotton, and Sugar, should decide what is constitutional, just, and politic, for twenty millions of people.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Source: The National Era, February 17, 1848

Runaway Slave

Runaway Slave Notices in the South Carolina Gazette

The South Carolina Gazette (1732–1775)  was South Carolina’s first successful newspaper was begun in 1732 by Thomas Whitemarsh in Charles Town, and released its final issue in December, 1775. A “middle of the road” paper, the Gazette printed news of Europe, what the royalty had worn at the last formal event, news of the colony, notices of births, deaths, marriages and estate auctions, and advertisements, including those for runaway slaves.

These runaway slave notices appeared on October 7, 1756:

Runaway Run away, a yellow Wench named Sue, Bermuda born, (belonging to Louis Outerbridge) about 32 years of age, of a middle size, estimable to be fair, with a pretty large scar on the right side of her neck; she took all her clothes with her, amongst which were a red petticoat, striped jacket and gown, and an oznabrug glow; and it is supposed she signs privately to get on board some vessel bound to Bermuda. Whoever delivers her to the warden of the work house, shall have a reward of 20 pounds and whoever will prove by whom she is or has been harboured, shall receive the like reward.

Run away from the subscriber,a negro fellow named Winter, about 30 years,of age, formerly belonging to Mr. Samuel Wainwright,and is supported to conceal himself aboutGoose-Creek. Whoever delivers him to me, or the warden of the work house shall have 10 pounds reward, and reasonable charges.


Martha Jefferson Randolph

The Presiding Ladies of the White House

I was doing some research on Martha Jefferson Randolph, the older of President Jefferson’s two daughters, and I stumbled a short little book published by the United States Bureau of National Literature and Art in 1903. The book provides portraits of each of the women who presided over the White House household staff from the time of Martha Washington through Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt as well as short one or two paragraph biographies.

The book is Presiding Ladies of the White House Containing Biographical Appreciations Together with a Short History of the Executive Mansion and a Treatise on its Etiquette and Customs by Lila G. A. Woolfall with an Introduction by Margaret E. Sangster.

This volume is not suitable for serious academic or historical research but it is still a lovely book with wonderful illustrations that is fun to leaf through. We have posted the women’s portraits on the Accessible Archives Facebook Page.

I have included an excerpt from Mrs. Sangster’s introduction here and below that you can page through the book.

Margaret E. Sangster’s Introduction

Margaret E. Sangster

Margaret E. Sangster

There are two attributes of the American woman which are undeniably predominant in her nature, and these are adaptability and individuality.

They are displayed by the members of all ranks and classes, but probably the twenty-five women who form the coterie of “First Ladies of the Land” in our republican court at Washington, have had as great, if not greater, opportunities for exercising these qualities than any who have entered only into court life abroad.

Noblesse oblige” is true in all stations of life, whether it be the nobility of honorable living or of high social birth, but in royal circles there is a code of etiquette which is enforced from generation to generation, just as royal sons and daughters are born to royal parents, and so its followers abide by its mandates as a matter of course. In a democratic country like America, no such rule obtains, for the children of a President of the United States, after their father’s term expires, may relapse into social inconspicuousness and seldom appear before the public, instead of, as in royalty, inheriting their father’s official greatness.

The wife of a President may have been born in affluence and social prominence, or she may have passed her early years in the humblest environment, as was the case with a number of the women who have presided at the White House, but in every instance the duties of hostess have been faithfully and creditably discharged, while natural ease, grace and tact, combined with this wonderful power of adaptation, have rendered the hospitality of the White House unquestionably refined, and marked by the highest breeding.

Some of the women who have held this exalted position have been called to it while little more than young girls, and others have assumed its responsibilities and obligations late in life, yet all have upheld the dignity of the nation of whose social life they were, for the time being, the highest exponents.

The individuality of each hostess has left its imprint upon the history of her time from the pomp and ceremony of Martha Washington’s regime, to the greater freedom from restraint of that of “Dolly” Madison. We hear also of the extreme “simplicity” of Jefferson’s administration and the social festivities which marked Mrs. Grant’s residence at the White House. Mrs. Polk abolished dancing, while Mrs. Hayes banished wine, from their entertainments. Mrs. Fillmore founded the library, for of books there were none when she was installed as mistress of the White House; and Mrs. McElroy marked the administration of her brother, Chester A. Arthur, with the acme of refined hospitality.

The author who has with marvelous industry and good taste, written these condensed biographies of our country’s most eminent women, deserves the thanks of all; yet such short sketches as are embodied in this volume, can give but little knowledge of facts concerning lives with so much interest attaching to them that a history of each would offer absorbing entertainment to the lover of biography, but they can serve to enlighten every intelligent reader sufficiently to arouse a desire for more information relating to these women, famous in the story of their country’s social and political events, and to awaken a feeling of pride that these queens of a republican court have no peers in any foreign realm.

Presiding Ladies