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Proceedings of the Committee of Observation


Committee Chamber, Norfolk, Virginia, February 7, 1775.

We the subscribers, ballotted for, and duly elected by the Freeholders and Freemen of the Borough of Norfolk, to act as a Committee of Observation under the Continental Association, in obedience to the same, and in discharge of the trust reposed in us by our constituents, do find ourselves unhappily compelled to hold up for publick censure Doctor Alexander Gordon, of this Borough. Upon what facts the justice of our censure is founded will appear from the following detail: — On Monday, the 23d of January, Doctor Gordon informed this Committee, who were then sitting, that he had just imported in the Active, Captain Huntley, two crates, four hogsheads, one chest, one barrel, two casks, and one case of Medicines, of more than two hundred Pounds sterling value, and desired the opinion of this Committee, whether they might not be delivered up to him, agreeable to the exception in favour of Medicine, in the Provincial Association. This Committee informed him that our decisions were regulated by the directions of the Continental Association, which had superseded the Provincial one, inasmuch as it was subscribed and acceded to by the Delegates from this Colony; and that therefore, agreeable to the tenth article of our own Provincial Association, it was our duty to submit to this further restriction imposed by the Congress. It was also observed to him, that if a freedom from Provincial restrictions would exempt any from the Continental Regulations made in Congress, all Goods imported into most of the Northern Colonies might, for the same reason, be delivered up to the proprietors, as the importation of them was not subject to any Provincial restrictions. Instances were pointed out to him of Medicines being sold in this Town agreeable to the tenth article of the Continental Association that were ordered some time before our Provincial Convention, of the 1st of August; and indeed one gentleman of this Committee, to convince the Doctor how unjust any notions of partiality would be, mentioned his own case, as much harder than the Doctor' s; for, as the gentleman observed, trusting that the Congress would make the same exception in favour of Medicine as the Convention had done, he had neglected to give his orders for his Medicines till some time in October, so that they probably would not arrive till after the 1st of February, but that yet he did not conceive a doubt with respect to the conduct he should observe on the occasion, and was satisfied they must go back. All arguments, however, availed nothing with the Doctor; but, upon a final declaration from this Committee, that we had no authority to dispense with the Association, but requested him to make his election what should be done with his Medicines, as directed by the tenth article of the Association, the Doctor, to the surprise of this Committee, chose to have them stored. Pains were taken to convince him of the loss he himself might sustain by this election, and to point out to him the injury that might be done to the publick at large, by thus storing such a quantity of Medicines at a time when we have reason to apprehend a general scarcity.


He was also informed, that where there did not appear in the importers any design to contravene the Provincial or Continental Associations, there had never been an instance in this place of the inhabitants bidding against the proprietors; that as he had the sanction of the Convention for the importation of Medicines, there could be no suspicion in this case of any such sinister motive in him; and that, were we to judge from the sale of the other Medicines imported under the like circumstances, in all probability he might purchase them in at the very trifling expense of only the vendue-master' s charge. The Doctor however remained inflexible, and with much warmth insisted upon the immediate appointment of persons to receive the packages, and a store-house to put them in; as he said, "they might be landed in the rain, and damaged for want of knowing where to carry them." Two gentlemen of this Committee were accordingly appointed in his hearing to receive them, and the store-house, which was a very safe one, was also mentioned to him. Thus matters rested till the 30th day of January, when the Sub-Committee appointed to receive and store the Medicines, reported, that having waited two or three days expecting to be sent for by Doctor Gordon for that purpose, and finding he did not pay any regard to the appointment of the Committee, one of them at length applied to him, to know where they were, and what he had done with them; to which the Doctor replied, "he had taken charge of them himself, and as some of them were damaged, he had obtained an order from the Mayor for a survey, and had broken open the packages and examined the contents, and had stored them in a store he had rented solely for that purpose, where he should keep them till he should receive an answer to a letter he had written on the subject to the Honourable Peyton Randolph, Esquire, by which answer he said he would be governed." In consequence of this report, the Doctor was summoned to appear the next day before the Committee, which he did accordingly, and delivered in a writing, purporting to be a vindication of his conduct, which confirmed the truth of the report of the Sub-Committee, and desired we would not remove the Medicines from the store they then were in, before he should hear from Mr˙ Randolph. Willing to give him every indulgence, although the Committee were sensible of the impropriety of his application, or appeal as he called it, if it was intended to influence our deliberations, as we conceive the Association to be the only rule of our conduct, yet we granted his request, and put off the further hearing of the matter till the 6th of February; at which time one of this Committee, at the request of the Doctor, laid before us the letter from Mr˙ Randolph, which being read, and the Doctor' s former defence re-considered, and the Committee being desirous that the Doctor should entitle himself to his insurance by selling the Medicines, it was agreed that he should be sent for to make a new election, if he thought proper. The Doctor, however, still adhering to his former opinion, with great warmth rejected all the mild proposals of this Committee, refused to make any election as required, and would neither deliver them up to be stored or sold, nor even show his invoice. For all which reasons we, the Committee for Norfolk Borough, think ourselves bound in obedience to the eleventh article of the Association, "to publish the truth of the case," and give it as our unanimous opinion that Doctor Alexander Gordon has violated the Continental Association.

M˙ Phripp, Chairman.
James Taylor,
John Hutchins,
John Lawrence,
Joseph Hutchins,
Thomas Newton, Jr˙,
Thomas Ritson,
John Boush,
James Holt,
Niel Jamieson,
Robert Taylor,
Thomas Clairborne,
Samuel Inglis.