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Governor James Wright Letter to British Board of Trade

Jan. 15, 1766

My Lords

The beginning of last Month I did my Self the Honor of writing your Lordships two letters which I sent to Charles Town in South Carolina to go by the Grenville Packet, in which I acquainted your Lordships of the Perplexed Situation I was then in, with Respect to the Stamp Duty, and in the last Mentioned that the Papers &c were brought here by His Majesties Ship Speedwell, and had been Landed & Lodged in the Kings Store in Fort Halifax under the Care of the Commissary without any appearance of Mob or Tumult, but that I had great reason to apprehend there was a design, when the distributor Should arrive to Compell him to resign or Promise not to act, as had been done in every other Colony to the Northward of this. I also acquainted your Lordships that I had been Informed Several Persons here, had signed an association to Oppose & Prevent the distribution of the Stamp’t Papers, but that I Could not come at Such Proof as was Necessary to Support any Legal Proceedings against them. All which I now Confirm & beg Leave to Refer your Lordships to those Letters. The Military force in this Province my Lords is two Troops of Rangers Consisting in the whole of 120 Effective Men, which occupy 5 Forts or Posts, in different Parts of the Province, also 30 of the Royal Americans, 20 at Fort Augusta 150 Miles from hence, & 10 at Frederica about the Same distance. And on the 1st appearance of Faction & Sedition I ordered in Some of the Rangers from each Post & made up the Number here at Savannah 56 Privates & 8 officers and with which & the assistance of Such Gent as were of a Right Way of thinking I have been able in a great Measure to Support His Majesties Authority. but my Lords I think it my Indispensable Duty to give your Lordships a Short detail of Some things that have happened here relative to the Stamp Duty affair. Since I had the Honor to write last on Thursday, the 2nd instant about 3 o’clock in the afternoon I received intelligence by the two Captains of Rangers, Milledge & Powell, that the Liberty Boys, as they call themselves, had assembled together to the Number of about 200 & were gathering fast and that Some of them had declared they were determined to go to the Fort & break open the Store & take out & destroy the Stamp’t Papers &c. Upon which I immediately ordered them to get their Men together and armed myself & went to the guard House. And having got together to the Number of about 54 Marched to the Fort & had the Papers taken out of the Store & Carried in a Cart to the guard House Escorted by the above Number of Rangers. This was done my Lords between 4 & 5 o’clock in the afternoon and without any disturbance or opposition tho there was at that time at Least 200 assembled together.

But my Lords appearances & threats were Such that I have not had less than 40 Men on duty every Night Since that to Protect the [stamped] Papers, or I am Confident they would have been destroyed, and for the 1st four nights I had not my Cloathes off. I had my Lords used Such Precaution as I was Sure to be first Informed of the Arrival of Mr. Angus the distributor [of stamped papers] for this Province, & had notice of its accordingly on friday the 3rd inst about one oclock, when I immediately Sent the Scout Boat to Tybee with an Officer & a party of Men to Protect Mr. Angus & Suffer no Body to Speak to him, but Conduct him Safely to my House, which was done the next day about noon, & that afternoon he took the State Oaths & Oath of Office, & is still at my House, as no other Could Protect him. And I have had the Papers distributed & Lodged in all the different Offices relative to the Shipping & Opening our Ports, but understand my Lords that the People in General are determined not to apply for any other Papers untill His Majesties Pleasure is known on the Petitions Sent from the Colonies. However my Lords I Presume in a very Short time Necessity will oblige them to apply for other Papers.

Notwithstanding my Lords I have been so far Successfull in Supporting His Majesties Authority in this Case. Yet my Lords I must not Conceal from His Majesty, that Several Public Insults have been offered, & abuses Committed, and that I have very nearly seen the Power & Authority His Most Sacred Majesty has been graciously Pleased to Vest in me, wrested out of my Hands, a Matter my Lords too Cutting for a good Subject & Servant to Bear. No Pains my Lords has been Spared in the Northern Colonies to Spirit up and inflame the People here, and a Spirit of Faction & Sedition has been Stirred up throughout this Province, and Partys of armed Men actually assembled themselves together, and were Preparing to do so in different Parts, but my Lords on my Sending Expresses with Letters to many of the Most Sensible & Dispassionate People. I had the Satisfaction to find that my Weight & Credit was Sufficient to Check & Prevent all Commotions & disturbances in the Country, & every thing is at Present Easy & quiet, & I hope Peace & Confidence will be Restored in general. Thus your Lordships will See the Situation I am in, and I Trust my Lords that Effectual Means will be taken to Support his Majesties Authority from Future Insults, & to Prevent Mobs from daring to attempt to Obstruct the due Course of Law & Civil Power from taking Effect which has been too much the Case upon this Occasion.

The People in general my Lords I think not ill disposed, but have been Misled & Influenced to a degree of Madness, by the Seditious & Rebellious acts & Publications in the other Colonies. And I humbly hope the whole Province will not suffer in your Lordships Opinion for the Rashness of Some. At the Same time my Lords it Seems very Clear that the Executive Part of Government requires Some further degree of Strength & Support.

My Mode of Correspondence being in this Case (as I Conceive) Confined to your Lordships, I have not wrote to Mr. Secretary Conway. I have my Lords Exerted every means in my Power for His Majesties Service on this Occasion, & hope no further disturbances will happen.

P.S. That your Lordships may See a Specimen of the Rebellious Spirit in this Part of the World. I have Liberty to Inclose the last Paper Published in Charles Town So. Carolina.

Kenneth Coleman and Milton Ready (eds.), Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. 28, Part II (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979), pp. 132-134.