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A full account of these Proceedings, by Mr. Drayton


In South-Carolina the Association was punctually complied with; no goods from England being allowed to be landed, nor were any other importations, contrary to the provisions of that instrument, permitted. About this time the Ship Charming Sally had arrived from Bristol, in England, with three thousand eight hundred and forty-four bushels of Salt, thirty-five chaldrons of Coal, and forty thousand five hundred Tiles; all of which were (25th February, 1775,) thrown into Hog Island Creek, by the proprietors or their agents, rather than they would be at the charge and trouble of sending them back to England, in pursuance of the tenth article of the Association. So, also, a cargo of near three hundred Slaves was sent out of the Colony by the consignee, as being interdicted by the second article of the Association. In short, the publick regulations were duly and patriotically observed. A case, however, arose, which, called forth the spirit of the people, and evinced their determination to support and enforce the Association, in all its various provisions.

A respectable family had been residing in England for some time, and were returning home; in which removal it was expected the household furniture and horses, which had been in, use, would also be brought over. Some attempts had therefore been made to declare the importation of household furniture and horses, that had been in use, and might be imported from England, not to be within the meaning of the tenth article of the Association, as relating to goods or merchandise, but they had been unsuccessful, At length the horses and furniture arriving from thence, application was made on the 15th day of March for their being landed; and after a long contest in a thin General Committee of only thirty-three members, the motion was carried by the voice of the Chairman. This permission occasioned a ferment among the citizens, and they almost generally exclaimed "The Association was broken," and that the horses at least should not be landed. Some hundreds of the inhabitants assembled, and many active and influential members of the Committee endeavoured to satisfy them respecting the vote of permission which had passed, but in vain. On the contrary, they continued in their opposition, and supported it with a representation signed by a considerable number of persons, and which was presented to to the Chairman of the General Committee, desiring the Committee would re-consider their late vote. In pursuance of this request the Committee was convened on the 17th day of March, 1775, and the room of meeting was crowded with people. Edward Rutledge, who had been one of the most active in the affair, now commenced censuring the people, in thus questioning the vote which had been given, but he was received with a clamour. The General Committee now began to think their authority insulted. Some members accordingly departed in anger, others became vociferous in rage, and for a few minutes all was in confusion. At length tranquillity prevailed; the consideration of the subject was postponed until a more full Committee could be procured; and the third day after was appointed for a final decision. To procure the presence of all the members of the Committee within reach, was now an object of importance, and great exertions for that purpose were made by both parties.

When the appointed time arrived the General Committee convened, and great was the press of people who attended; for the Town was in universal commotion, and application had even been privately made to the incorporated armed companies to cover the landing of the horses. Some individuals of the companies agreed to do so, but the majority of them refused; and the people declared if the horses were landed, they would put them to death. Under these unpleasant aspects the debates began, when Mr˙ Gadsden moved to reverse the former determination, relative to landing the horses. Ha urged the vote had been carried in a thin Committee; that it was contrary to the Association; that it would alarm the Northern Colonies in a most lively manner; and that our people were highly dissatisfied with it. And he contended this last of itself was a cogent reason to, reverse such a determination. The Rev˙ Mr˙ Tennent next addressed the Committee to the same purpose; as did Mr˙ Hugely, who, in addition, urged that, as the horses paid a duty, they ought not to be landed. These gentlemen, in speaking, spoke immediately after each other. Oh the other side Edward Rutledge, Rawlins Lowndes, Thomas Bee, and Thomas Lynch, contended that the vote of the General Committee ought not to be reversed, but on the contrary ought to be maintained, otherwise the Committee would fall into contempt. That the opinions of the General Committee, now sitting, ought not to be influenced by the petition, as the spirit and not the letter of the Association ought to be attended to.


That temporizing did not become honest men and statesmen, who ought to declare their opinions according to their consciences. That if we adhered to the letter of the Association, no arms or ammunition could be received from England; and when the letter of the law bore hard against an individual, Lord Chief Justice Hale allowed him to escape by any subterfuge; and that it was never the idea of Congress to exclude such articles.

William Henry Drayton the only person who rose in reply. He contended that because an errour had been committed, it was no reason it should be continued; that the people thought an errour had been committed, and it was our duty to satisfy our constituents, as we were only servants of the publick. That such conduct was evinced by every day' s practice in Parliament, therefore it could not be disgraceful to reverse the vote of the Committee, as on such occasions Parliament had often done so. That our present application to the King was for such a purpose; and if we defended ourselves on the principle of falling into contempt, might it not be as reasonable for the King to retort the same argument upon us? That it was always safer to follow the letter than to explore the spirit of a law. That in the case of the St˙ John' s people of Georgia, we preferred the letter to the spirit of the Association, as was evident by our refusal and advice; then why not adhere to the letter of that instrument now? That temporizing ever was practised in publiok affairs by the most honest men, witness Cato, of Utica, in Caesar' s election to the Consulship; and by the best statesmen, witness Cicero' s letter to Atticus, relating to a good pilot' s shifting his helm, if he could not reach his port by a direct course; witness the conduct of the Long Parliament, and all history in general. That to discharge a statesman' s conscience was to aim at the publick good, and not be pertinacious of his own opinion. That even if there had been an article in the Association, that we should not receive arms and ammunition from England, the publick necessity would cause it to be a dead letter, as self-preservation was the first obligation, and fas est, ab hoste doceri. He farther contended that Lord Hale' s principle was just, when applied to an individual, in the event of whose case the publick could not be interested; but it never could be applicable to such a case as the present, where the conveniency of the individual and the national interests of the publick were in direct opposition; and that he could not hold the understanding of the late General Congress in so trivial a light, as to entertain a thought of looking for the sense in direct opposition to the words of one of the principal articles of the Association.

He farther said the present case stood divided into two points — the spirit of the regulations, and the union of the people; and that the latter was infinitely of the greater consequence. That the letter of the Association was clearly in support of the motion, and in the present situation of affairs the spirit of that instrument was equally in favour of it. That union was the rock upon which the American political edifice was founded; and whatever hazards its existence, is to militate against the ground work of the Association. Hence it was evident, landing the horses hazarded our union, for the people were in commotion against it. Upon all publick and general questions, the people ever are in the right; so said Lord Mansfield, in the House of Commons; and the people now think the late vote was wrong. Can it be prudent to oppose our constituents? In civil commotions the common people ever struck, those blows which were of any effect. If you retract, there can be no just cause of fearing contempt; as it is not reasonable those should contemn you who have ever honoured you, and whose opinions would be in favour of your retraction. The Roman, Senate were a wise body; they often yielded to the people; but nobody supposed their concessions brought them into contempt, and they continued illustrious during the existence of the Commonwealth. Let us imitate, on this occasion, so great, so successful an example, and endeavour, by the same means, to call forth the affections of our fellow citizens, and to bind them to us by the same ties.

John Rutledge now rose and endeavoured to take off the force of the arguments which had been urged but failing in his endeavours, he only added to the many instances he had previously given of his ability as a good speaker. The debate was then closed; and the question being put, was carried in the affirmative. It is worthy of remark, that this is the first instance of a point of importance and controversy being carried against those, by whose opinions the people had been long governed. And such was the powerful effect of habit, that this important question was carried only by a majority of one voice — thirty-five against thirty-four.