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Letter from Charles MacIver to Robert Town-shend Hooe soliciting the aid of the Convention in carrying out his plans of emigration



Alexandria, May 6, 1776.

SIR: As I have never been concerned in drawing Petitions or Memorials, and have no paterns of such writings, may I hope your honourable Convention will condescend to grant the contents of this paper a hearing, destitute as it will be of form.

I would humbly represent, that I have for many years interested myself in plans of emigration, which, though they may seem directly intended for the benefit of particular people, yet were also originally intended, and eventually calculated, for the emolument and prosperity of this Continent, wherein I have been long disposed to end my days.

Though more instrumental in these emigrations than any individual I have heard of, others reaped the benefit of my designs, whilst I lost time and money by the unpunctuality, clashing interests, selfishness, indolence, and inattention of various people on both sides of the Atlantick.

When the spirit of emigration was largely diffused among the common people, some people of superior rank took advantage of it; and, desirous to fatten on the ignorance and dependance of their poorer countrymen, conceived the design of diverting them into clusters, resembling the clanships of their native country. At the same time I was deceived by some, and disappointed in my expectations of others on this side, which obliged those I had instructed and retained as my assistants on the other side to look for employment elsewhere. Employers they readily found, and some, both employers and assistants, have made fortunes, of which the greatest part might have been fixed in America, could I have got the Virginians to adventure. As I have wasted many years depending on a successful issue of my designs, so I have contracted such a relish for them as has disqualified me, in some measure, from the pursuit of other business, though I Understand a variety.

Wherefore, though you promised no support to the plan of which you have heard the sketch, which, as a member of Convention, you did not think it your duty nor for the interest of your constituents to do; yet, agreeable to what you thought the Convention would encourage, give me leave to represent that the address necessary to engage any kind of emigration is no more than a necessary part of the plan I showed you. I have never failed to persuade the poor and disinterested of my country with whom I had opportunities of conversing, except in very few instances, wherein they were tampered with and supported by men of superior wealth, and principles widely different. I therefore entertain little doubt of success of engaging artisans, of whom my former plans required no inconsiderable number.

The wisdom of the honourable Convention may devise some plan of alluring and interesting the affections of such people, whether by removing every civil or religious stumbling-block, if such exists, or some temporary or permanent accommodation equally inviting.

The last paragraph solely regards the plan you propose to support in Convention. I would now beg leave to address you, and such other members of your honourable body as it may suit to adventure as individuals, or in mercantile adventures or copartnerships. To such I would intimate that I have not relinquished the design of diverting a considerable part of the tide of emigration to the districts of Potomack, on which I had in a more particular manner fixed my affections. My hopes are founded on a proper acquaintance with what appertains to this subject, and the best instruments in Scotland, and in the north of Ireland.

If, in these pursuits, I can procure such appointments from the Convention and individuals as may enable me to pursue my design with incessant application among the various ranks of life, and to shift my situation as often as it is proper and necessary so to do, I have little doubt of acquitting myself a useful member of your community.

Whatever selfishness may be laid to the charge of this undertaking, I beg it may also be known that I have long been inclined to repose my hopes of political happiness on the prosperity of America, to which few of her own sons have


been attached with such a fervour of enthusiasm. If the honourable Convention is pleased to enjoin it upon me as a necessary task, I doubt not of procuring such consistent evidence of this, as they may also please to accept as an earnest of the zeal and fidelity with which I propose to serve them. And as a further security against any egregious imposition, I would humbly propose that one or more sensible and candid friends of the Convention, residing in Europe, may have a power to disburse my appointments with such precaution that I may not long eat the bread of idleness, nor be allowed to triumph in my ingratitude to the country and magnanimity of the Convention. At the same time let me beg the honourable Convention may give me assurances of support and redress against the selfishness, caprices, or tyranny of any persons intrusted with such a power.

Too much address, secrecy, and precaution on all hands cannot be used in this business; for, notwithstanding I may have as many advantages on the whole, from the country of my birth, from the nature of my education, and the manner of my life, as most men; yet unknown dangers from private attacks, publick oppression, or despotick laws, may start in the prosecution of this business.

In hopes of all the support you and other sons of liberty can give this undertaking, (which, for various reasons, cannot commence at a more proper period than the present,) I respectfully remain, sir, your obliged and humble servant,


To Robert Townshend Hooe, Esquire.