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Letter from John Stuart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs



St˙ Augustine, July 18, 1775.

GENTLEMEN: I am now to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of 21st and 29th June, by express. In the former, you are pleased to acquaint, by order of the Provincial Congress, that I stand in a very unfavourable light with the publick; but you have not thought proper to acquaint me of what I am accused, and upon what evidence the publick has conceived an unfavourable opinion of me. You must he conscious of the impropriety of desiring me to answer in my own vindication to a charge which is not stated. And here I must beg permission to say, that my services to your Province have merited very different sentiments than you tell me they entertain of me, and much better treatment than I have received.

I am sorry that it is not in my power to comply with your requisition, of sending you copies of all my correspondence on Indian affairs with Administration, the Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty' s Forces, and my Deputies. But I hope it will be sufficient to assure you, most faithfully, that I have always considered myself to be most effectually discharging my duty to the King, and fulfilling his intentions, when employed in securing the friendship and affection of the Indian Nations to his Majesty' s Provinces and in preventing, as far as in my power, jealousies arising from encroachments and mutual violences. And the long uninterrupted tranquillity which your frontiers have enjoyed, without any expense to the Province, during the past thirteen years of my superintendency, evinces that my endeavours have not been unavailing. And this will appear in a clearer point of view, if you will contrast the state of Indian affairs, and the expense to the Province, during the above period, with that of the thirteen preceding years. I never have received any orders from my superiours which, by the most tortured construction, could be interpreted to spirit up, or employ the Indians to fall upon the frontier inhabitants; or to take any part in the disputes between Great Britain and her Colonies. And I do not know that any part of my conduct, through all the various scenes of my life, can fix upon me the imputation of cruelty or inhumanity, or induce a belief that I could wantonly use any influence with Indians to make them fall upon innocent people.

Yet such an opinion has been most industriously propagated; although it is absolutely impossible that it could, or can be supported by any evidence of the least credibility. And I will venture to say, that every one, and all of you do, in your consciences, believe the charge to be false. I therefore think I have a right to call upon you, as men of honour, to efface the impression it has made on the minds of the people.

With respect to the warm expressions in my letter to Colonel Howarth, I cannot help thinking them in some measure justified, by your being authorized by the Congress to tell me that I stand in a very unfavourable light with the publick. What can have placed me in such an unfavourable light, but calumnious falsehoods, which endangered my life and property? I know not the authors, and shall pot repeat illiberal epithets; you know what are suitable to such characters.

You are pleased to say, that my estate is a security for the good behaviour of the Indians in the Southern Department. It is disagreeable that my all should be held by so precarious a tenure as their behaviour; which, in a great measure, will depend upon the conduct of the inhabitants of the Provinces: yet you must allow, that holding my personal safety and life itself on such terms, would be more so. His Majesty' s service will necessarily detain me here some months longer.

My little estate in your Province was purchased under the protection of the laws of my Country. I have always considered both life and fortune as pledged for my dutiful obedience to the King, and the laws. As I am pot conscious of having transgressed, I hope for that security to my property, which is inseparable from the idea of a virtuous and well-policed community; and as power is now in your hands, I doubt not but I shall find this security from your justice.

Your letter of the 29th renders it necessary for me to


tell you, that some time before I left Charlestown I had received information of a design to seize my person; and in order to give a colour to such a step, a report was industriously propagated of my having sent to call down the Indians. Immediately after my removal from Charlestown to my plantation on Lady' s Island, it was reported, that in consequence of my orders, thirty-four families on the frontiers had been murdered by the Cherokees. When I was at Georgia, I had information that Captain Joyner and Mr˙ Barnwell, two members of the Provincial Congress, had returned to Beaufort; where, by most defamatory reports and insinuations, they endeavoured to blacken my character, and render me obnoxious to the people; giving out that my having called down the Indians was proven before the Congress; that great quantities of arms and ammunition were shipped for me to arm the Negroes and Indians; and that it was now discovered that I had sold Fort London, and was the instrument of getting the garrison massacred; and Captain Joyner showed at the publick muster-field, in St˙ Helena, printed bills, containing the above, and other false accusations.

From thence they went to Savannah, and in the night had a meeting with the Committee, of which Sir James Wright gave me notice early next morning, and advised me to take steps for the security of my person. I accordingly prevailed upon Captain Grant, of the St˙ John, armed schooner, to land me at St˙ Augustine, where the business of my department called me. But before I embarked, I saw some of the members of the Committee, and read to them some part of my correspondence with my Deputies, which they communicated to you. They candidly told me that the people were much enraged; and they could not answer for the safety of my person. I then thought it high time to provide for my safety; and went on board the St˙ John, armed schooner, at Cockspur.

I have since been informed, that two boats were sent down the river in pursuit of me; and from the schooner I saw several armed canoes, said to be commanded by Captain Joyner and Mr˙ Barnwell, who, before they left Beaufort, gave out they were to receive and conduct me back to Charlestown. The armed schooner, however, proceeded the next day for this place, where I landed in a very weak condition; and this, gentlemen, you are pleased to call a precipitate departure, though I shall lever consider it as a most fortunate escape.

I am, Gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant,


To William Henry Drayton, James Parsons, John Lewis Gervais, Arthur Middleton, William Tennent, and Thomas Heyward, Jun˙, Esquires.