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Address of the Committee of Norfolk to the Freemen of Virginia



Committee Chamber, Norfolk, March 6, 1775.

Trusting to your sure resentment against the enemies of your Country, we, the Committee, elected by a ballot for the Borough of Norfolk, hold up for your just indignation Mr˙ John Brown, Merchant, of this place. We are fully sensible of the great caution with which publick censure should be inflicted; and, at all times, are heartily disposed to accomplish the great design of the Association by the gentle methods of reason and persuasion. But an unhappy proneness to unmanly equivocation, which has so much distinguished Mr˙ Brown, and for which he has, in more than one instance, been censured by the voice of the people, added to the present manifest discovery of his secret and most direct attempt to defeat the measures of the Congress, in the case now before us, and of some very unjustifiable steps taken to conceal his disingenuous conduct, hath precluded us from the milder methods we would wish to adopt, and compelled us to give the publick the following narration: On Thursday, the 2d of March, this Committee were informed of the arrival of the Brig Fanny, Captain Watson, with a number of Slaves for Mr˙ Brown; and, upon inquiry, it appeared that they were shipped from Jamaica as his property and on his account; that he had taken great pains to conceal their arrival from the knowledge of the Committee and that the shipper of the Slaves, Mr˙ Brown' s correspondents, and the Captain of the Vessel, were all fully apprized of the Continetal prohibition against that article. These circumstances induced a suspicion that Mr˙ Brown had given orders for the Slaves himself, which he positively denied, asserting that he had expressly forbidden his correspondents to send any, as being contrary to the Association for the truth of which he appealed to his own letter-book. The Secretary being desired, at the request of Mr˙ Brown, to attend him to inspect the orders said to have been given, reported that he had had some slight and hasty glances at letters written between the middle of December and beginning of January, and was sorry to say he had seen one directed to Mr˙ Henderson, and another to Mr˙ Livingston, both of the date of December, and a third to Messrs˙ Campbells, of the first of January, all containing positive and particular orders for remittences to be made him in Slaves; at the same time hinting the necessity of secrecy, as it is an article, he writes, he could not avowedly deal in. The Secretary also reported, that he had seen a postscript, written a few days after the determination of this Committee, directing the return of a Slave imported from Antigua, in which postscript Mr˙ Brown writes his correspondent To send


him no more than two Negro lads, as it would be dangerous to sell them here. But his orders to his other correspondents appear to have been so positive that they were complied with, notwithstanding his friend writes him that good Slaves would sell to more advantage in Jamaica than in Virginia. From the whole of this transaction, therefore, we, the Committee for Norfolk Borough, do give it as our unanimous opinion, that the said John Brown has wilfully and perversely violated the Continental Association, to which he had, with his own hand, subscribed obedience; and that agreeable to the Eleventh Article we are bound "forthwith to publish the truth of the case, to the end that all such foes to the rights of British America may be publickly known, and universally contemned, as the enemies of American Liberty, and that every person may henceforth break off all dealings with him."

James Taylor,
Thomas Newton, Jr˙,
Niel Jamieson,
John Hutchings,
Thomas Ritson,
Robert Taylor,
John Lawrence,
John Boush,
Thomas Claiborne,
Joseph Hutchings,
James Holt,
Samuel Inglis.

Extract from the Minutes.