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Nansemond County (Virginia) Committee



March 24, 1775.

However disagreeable and unhappy it is to hold up for publick censure the conduct of any man, yet when we consider the present unfortunate disputes between the Mother Country and her Colonies would probably, in the result, be the ruin of both, if some timely, judicious, and wise methods were not contrived to effect a reconciliation, and adjust, the lamentable differences; we cannot but think that all those who endeavour to frustrate, and labour to counteract such laudable ends, are enemies to America, no friends to the excellent Constitution of England, and strictly merit the censure and disesteem of all lovers of their Country, freedom, and just rights. We, therefore, the Committee for the County of Nansemond aforesaid, in obedience to the eleventh Article of the Association, as we' ll as for the above-mentioned reasons, think it our duty to publish the behaviour


(respecting the Association, &c˙) of the Reverend John Agnew, Rector of Suffolk Parish, in this County, as it appeared from the testimony of William Cowper and Solomon Shepherd, Esquires, Messrs˙ James Murdaugh, Willis Hardgraves, Thomas Minton, Jonathan Smith, and Major Thomas Godwin, taken before us this 6th day of March, at Suffolk.

Mr˙ Agnew being first summoned to attend, but refused, Mr˙ Shepherd declared, that upon his remonstrating to the said Agnew how disagreeable it was to his audience in general, and to himself in particular, to hear the Association, and those who had come into it, abused from the pulpit in the sermons he there preached, desired that he would in future, desist therefrom. His answer was, "If you do not like such sermons, you can only leave your seal;" and to the same gentleman said, that the Delegates of the Provincial Congress had rebelled in all their Resolves. In presence of Major Thomas Godwin and Captain William Cowper, he asserted, as his opinion, that it was no hardship to be carried beyond sea for trial of crimes committed here. Mr˙ Hardgraves has frequently heard him (when speaking of the Congress) declare that all such combinations and associations were detestable. Mr˙ Minton says, that after condemning the presence Association, he produced one of his own, and in his presence offered it for signing. In a conversation his Reverence had with Mr˙ Smith, he affirmed our gentlemen (meaning, as Smith took it, the gentlemen of the General Congress) knew not what they were about; that to resist the King and Parliament was rebellion, and that the proceedings of the General Congress were resisting the King and Parliament; that the designs of the great men were to ruin the poor people; and that, after a while, they would forsake them, and lay the whole blame on their shoulders, and by this means make them slaves. Upon Smith' s doubting how all this extraordinary villany could be brought about, "Why (says the parson) they have already begun; for the Committee of Suffolk has invaded private properly; they have taken goods from a man of Carolina, and sold them against his will." He likewise informed Mr˙ Smith there was an Association of the other party op the Country, and the people signing it very fast; that they had discovered their errour in signing the present one, and that he would see this fact published in the Norfolk paper shortly.

We have now related-the substance of what the above named gentlemen declared upon their oaths, and here we could wish to end this narrative; but we have too much regard for our own characters to suffer them to be injured by so barefaced a slander as appears in Smith' s testimony, respecting the Carolina gentleman and his goods. The truth of that transaction is precisely this: Mr˙ Samuel Donaldson, merchant, and one of the Committee of this County, informed some of the members that his friend, "Mr˙ John Thompson, merchant of North-Carolina, had imported some goods into this Colony, which come under the tenth Article of the Association, and desired that a Committee might be held to determine what should be done with them; and Mr˙ Donaldson (that Mr˙ Thompson might suffer as little inconvenience as possible from the detention of the goods) advertised,, them to be sold on the same day that the Committee was to sit. At the time appointed we met, when Mr˙ Thompson was present, and, on examining him and some letters he produced, we found that by the importation of these goods he had not violated any of the articles of the Association. And although we were not entirely pleased with Mr˙ Donaldson' s advertising the sale of the goods before he had orders from us so to do, yet we ordered them to be sold under the care and direction of three gentlemen of the Committee. Mr˙ Thompson bought the goods, expressed himself highly satisfied, and insisted on our partaking of a cheerful bowl with him.

Upon the whole the publick will plainly discover the principles this reverend gentleman entertains, and in what light he views the general Resolutions adopted and entered into for our relief from the oppressive hand of power. Had this zealous advocate for despotick rule been as assiduous in the discharge of the several duties of his function as he has been industrious in propagating false and erroneous principles, not only in private, discourse, but in blending detestable tenets in his angry orations from the pulpit, in order to gain a party in opposition to the common, cause,


and thereby lending his little aid to seduce the very people that gave him bread to a state of wretchedness, this Committee had not been at the trouble to examine the eleventh Article of the Association, and opening his conduct to the censure of the world.

JOHN GREGORIE, Clerk of the Committee.