One week before the American Revolution began, British Gen. Thomas Gage wrote to North Carolina Gov. Josiah Martin complaining about the ‘seditious and licentious’ spirit of the leaders of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. He expressed hope that their madness would wear off.
Gage, the military governor of Massachusetts, had long served the British government in North America. He fought alongside George Washington at the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755 during the French and Indian War. He proved a competent administrator as governor of Montreal, and in 1774 replaced Gov. Thomas Hutchinson in Massachusetts. Gage was responsible for the British attempt to seize the patriot militia’s military stores in Concord. As we know, that didn’t end well for the British.
Lt. Col. Josiah Martin, like Gage, was a well-connected aristocrat. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a family with a well-established plantation in Antigua. He had been appointed royal governor of North Carolina in 1771, but was nearing the end of his time in office. On April 24, 1775, patriots attacked his home and he fled to Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear River. Martin would soon be writing another letter to Gage asking for arms and ammunition.
Here is the letter Gage wrote to Martin:
Boston, April 12, 1775.
SIR: Your letter of the 16th of March, I have had the pleasure to receive, and am glad to hear that many of the people in your Province are beginning to find they have been misled, and that they seem inclined to disengage themselves from the arbitrary power of the Continental Congress, and of their Committees. I wish I could say as much for the people of this Province, who are more cool than they were, but their leaders, by their arts and artifices, still keep up that seditious and licentious spirit, that has led them on all occasions to oppose Government, and even to acts of rebellion. The late accounts from England have embarrassed their councils much. They have applied to the New-England Governments, and doubtless will to those at the Southward, to assist them, but I hope the madness of the latter is wearing off, and that they will get no encouragement from thence.
This Province has some time been, and now is, in the new-fangled Legislature, termed a Provincial Congress, who seem to have taken the Government into their hands. What they intend to do I cannot pretend to say, but they are much puzzled how to act. Fear in some, and a want of inclination in others, will be a great bar to their coming to extremities, though their leaders use every measure to bring them into the field. I have the honour to be, &c.