North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Colonial Records Project
Jan-Michael Poff, Editor
Historical Publications Section
4622 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4622
Phone: (919) 733-7442
Fax: (919) 733-1439

Print Bookshelf

Last Updated 10/20/00




[On November 27, 1735, James Murray and his little company, after a good voyage of nine weeks and four days, landed safely in Charleston. “From hence,” he wrote two days later to his cousin, John Murray, the son and afterwards the successor of Sir John of Philiphaugh, “I shall in about ten days proceed to Cape Fear.” “If I may judge from ye short trial I have had of this country,” he adds, “I think it is a very agreeable one, particularly at this season, and ye people seem very friendly among themselves and kind to strangers.”

[His reception “by Mr. Grimke and others” in Charleston was cordial. Indeed, the Charleston men, in their efforts to detain him in South Carolina, did not stop at mere cordiality. They united in abusing the Cape Fear country. Some of the newcomers were dissuaded by their bad accounts from journeying further. “The Dutch people that came over with us,” runs one of Mr. Murray’s letters, “stayed in South Carolina, being deterred from proceeding by misrepresentations...From this you may see ye risk of losing people that are sent that way. I was almost in doubt myself...from the strange stories they told me.”

[With the last day of the old year, however, he was off for the land of doubtful promise, and in due time reached, not, indeed, his final destination, which was New Town, alias “New Liverpool” and afterwards Wilmington, but its rival, Brunswick. The old proprietary divisions of North Carolina were fast disappearing. At this date the province was divided into two counties, Albemarle and Bath, which in turn were subdivided into precincts. From the precincts were sent the popular representatives, who formed the Assembly’s Lower House, a body usually at sword’s points with the governor, whoever he might be, and supported or opposed, as the wind shifted, by the Upper House, or Council, as well as by the principal officeholders, namely, the surveyor-general, the receiver-general and attorney-general, and the secretary of the province. In the precinct of New Hanover in Bath were these two small settlements of New Town and Brunswick, both on the Cape Fear River and both struggling for supremacy. Brunswick had been commended to the former governor as a settlement deserving advancement, but Johnston, who paid as little heed to the wishes of popular factions as did his predecessors, favored New Town.

[In Brunswick were the Moores, Maurice, George, and Roger, grandsons of Sir John Yeamans. To the Cape Fear lands, which their grandfather had “first settled and afterward abandoned,” the brothers had come from South Carolina, and by long residence and many services had acquired leadership in the little community. Maurice Moore had won fame in the Indian wars of the past. He had also gained popularity in the never-ceasing strife between the people and the governors. It was he who, with Edward Moseley, had gone in 1718 to Edenton, and taken forcible possession of all the papers in the office of the secretary of the province, a high-handed measure which, in spite of his consequent arrest and fine, in no wise lowered him in public esteem, for the people had had need of men of this kind, to hold overbearing officials in check. Moseley, on his part, was for years before and after this episode Speaker of the Lower House.

[James Murray, entering provincial life as a thorough-going conservative and friend of Johnston, could scarcely be expected to fall into easy relations with the governor’s natural enemies. Almost at the outset he clashed with the Moores. From Roger he rented a vacant house, and in it took up his first abode, displaying to the Brunswick folk his London wares, and feeling that he had gained a foothold on the new soil. But his political tendencies and affiliations put a too great strain upon the relations of landlord and tenant, and within a year Roger gave him notice to “turn out.”

[The stock, meanwhile, sold at a good advance, with the exception of a supply of wigs, which met with no market. The utter lack of civilization indicated by the small demand for this commodity struck painfully a youth accustomed to the niceties of Scottish gentility. He excused it to his friends on the valid ground that since there was no court here there was no occasion for ceremonious dressing. Even after sixteen years had passed he wrote to his London wigmaker: “We deal so much in caps in this country that we are almost as careless of the furniture of the outside as of the inside of our heads. I have had but one wig since the last I had of you, and yours has outworn et. Now I am near out, you may make me another good grisel Bob.”1

[Indeed, the unkempt population with its rough and ready ways disappointed and disgusted him from many points of view. The country itself, he declared, was well enough, but of the people of North Carolina he had not much more good to report than had others of their critics in the early days. Their faults revolted him, their virtues he was not prepared to understand. Bona terra, mala gens was at that time his verdict.

[With Governor Johnston, on the other hand, he was in accord. His letters to the Governor had procured him an invitation to Eden House, the mansion on Salmon Creek, across the bay from Edenton, inherited by Penelope Johnston, the Governor’s wife, from her father, Governor Eden. This visit established cordial relations, and resulted in his being asked to join the Governor in an exploring expedition up the Cape Fear. As he had been commissioned to select lands for Mr. Tullideph and Mr. Ellison in this region, the invitation was opportune.

[The young man’s care of Mr. Ellison’s sons is only one illustration out of many of the willingness with which he undertook the charge of those who had any claim on his good offices. In this case his pains came to naught, for William died in North Carolina not many years after his arrival, and Andrew returned to England.]


BRUNSWICK, 14th Febry, 1735/6.

DEAR SIR — ... We sail’d from Charles town the last day of Decr, & came over the bar of Cape Fear the 2d day of Janry & camp’d ashore all night by a good fire in ye woods. Next day we got up to this town. I intended to have gone up to New town, Alias New Liverpool, but was told there was no house there to be had except I built one; so was oblig’d to bring all ashore here, where I have got a good convenient house2 on rent, which I shall keep until I can purchase a few slaves & a plantation in the country where I can have all kind of provisions of my own raising. Here I am oblig’d to pay no less than 17 to 20/ P bushel, this money, for corn, & 10, 12 & 14d P lb. for meat. I am told this place is every bit as healthy as New town. There is a great emulation between the two towns, but I intend to concern my self with neither, but throw my self easily out of trade into ye plantation.

As to your son William I have the pleasure of giving you a just & good Accot of his behavior, which has been very discreet & sober ever since he left you. While at Charlestown he lodg’d & boarded in ye same house with us, & as soon as my house here was fitt’d up he stay’d with me till we went up to ye Govrs, & there I left him to come down to court with his Excellency next week. The only fault that I & every body else has to him is, that he has not pick’t up a common (much less a lawyer’s) assurance, yet, the want of which I tell him will be a vast loss to him....

I have supply’d William with what money he want’d & shall continue so to do as he has occasion for it; but if you send him a fresh supply, it must be in some thing else than wigs, for I have not been able to sell one of them, tho’ I open’d them both in Charles town & here.

When I was at Brompton I took an opportunity to mention your land to ye Govr. He said you should have it, but added this question, “what could you do with it?” For he did not believe your son understood how to manage it. I answered that tho’ he did not I had another of your sons who would probably learn something of husbandry before his time was out with me, & for him it would be a good beginning, tho’ you had not determin’d [on] whom to settle it. As I go up ye North east with ye Govr, shall see your land & Mr Tullideph’s laid out in ye best place I can. I have not yet determin’d whether to take any for my self. Sterling are not nor will for some time be easy to discharge by people that have their effects here. Land is easier to be purchas’d here for Currency than bills on England....

You are mistaken. We are not depriv’d of the advantages of ye gospell preach’d, for we have ye best minister that I have heard in America to preach & read prayers to us every 2d or 3d sunday at least, & in a cold day a good fire in ye church3 to sit by. In these & many other respects this town is preferable to New town, & yet I believe the last will be first in a little time. We have had a great deal of snow & cold weather since we came here.

I shall deliver William his indentures, & put him in mind to look out for his 50 acres. If he can find land, he may have 10 times that quantity; if not, he will get none that is worth while, nor no body else, for people that are aquaint with ye country only know where ye vacant land is, so they get a warrant survey & patents & then screw as much as they can from a stranger for it, who in his turn serves others the same way.


BRUNSWICK, 31 March, 1736.

DEAR SIR, — Since my last of ye 21 Ulto have been up ye North East branch of this river about 180 miles from ye mouth of it. We found a little difficulty in getting up & down, with our Canoes which were deep loaded, by reason of logs lying across; but where ye river was clear we had 6 foot water as far as we went & an easy current. There is not such a Quantity of land in any part of this country yet discov’d so good as yt that lyes on the head of ye North East & black river, whose branches enterlock one another, which is ye centre of ye province, & in all probability will far exceed any part of it were there but industrious people enough to inhabit it. But notwithstanding all I have said & a great deal more I could say in praise of it ye Govr thinks it will not be for your interest to take up any land here unless you come to live on it yourself, & indeed I am of ye same opinion, for I observe this country even exceeds all ever I heard of ye West Indies for bad Attorneys & overseers. If it was in my way to overlook your plantation, you might expect to be better serv’d; but I do not intend to take up any land within 100 miles of it for some time, till I see how it is like to be inhabit’d & improv’d, & I am afraid you will get none to live in such an out of ye way place as it will be for some time that will be strictly honest to you, & you are oblig’d to clear about 60 acres of your 2000 within 3 years after you are possess’d of it or else your right lapses....

[The burden laid upon trade by the inflated currency and by the almost prohibitive restrictions imposed by Virginia and other colonies hastened Mr. Murray in his purchase of land. On a plantation he could at least raise food, which was scarce and high, and becoming more so through an increase in the number of mouths to be fed; for within a year of his arrival came the advance guard of a great influx of Irish and Swiss Protestants. These emigrants, seeking homes in North Carolina, were many of them sent or brought over by Murray’s friend and correspondent, Henry McCulloh, a Scotchman who later came to Cape Fear as “His Majesty’s Surveyor, Inspector and Controller of the Revenue and Grants of Land.”4 ]


NEWTON, Janry 10th, 1736/7.

...I can write you nothing Entertaining from this, but from the number of the Irish and Swiss that are soon expected here some of us imagine the prosperity of the country and happiness of its inhabitants in general to be at hand. Others are in dread and confusion, fearing an end will be put to their Lording it over the King’s heritage.5

When I first came in6 I rented a house of Roger Moore’s, to whom my behaviour and intimacy with some gentleman was so disagreeable that he told me to turn out before I had been 3/4 of a year in the house. Then I bought a house and lot in this town where I now live, and immediately after purchased a plantation within fifteen miles of about 500 acres. The one cost me £1000 and the other 500£, this Currency. With both I am very well satisfied, and since I cannot make remittances to carry on trade I intend to turn planter as soon as possible.

[Through Mr. McCulloh Mr. Murray set in motion an application for the position of collector of the port, an appointment which in 1739 he received. As a matter of course, since the time was the reign of George II., when bribery in matters of this sort had not yet fallen into disrepute, he expected to pay a reasonable amount for the appointment. The reasonable amount, £200 in the following letter, shrinks to one half that sum in the next, in view of] “ye precariousness of ye post and ye uncertainty of people’s lives in this country.”7 [Commenting upon this application, he wrote on the same day to Mr. Ellison:] “You’ll hear from Mr. McCulloh of a chimerical scheme of mine in behalf of your son and myself. I call it chimerical because it is putting in for a living man’s post who must first be dead, and it is a court preferment, which implys more uncertainty than the other.”


BRUNSWICK, May 3, 1736.

Since my last of ye 24th Febry I Have not had an opportunity of writing you, for just before I came down from ye North East Capt Keit sail’d. I then promis’d you an Accot of our expedition, but must defer it till I have time to write our Journal out fair, which will send you by a vessel that will sail hence in a little time. Ye people here have got ye South Carolina notion that they are not oblig’d to pay residing merchants for their goods in less than a twelve month, so that I shall hardly be able to remitt any thing this year. Indeed it will not be much to my loss, for their only staple commodities, Viz. pitch, tar & turpentine are as dear here as I imagine they will be cheap at home; & if I delay till next crop I may come in for a little rice, of which there is only 500 barrels made on this river this year, & next crop we expect 1500 or 2000 barrels. I was up at Brompton last week, where I saw ye Govr & Capt Woodard in good health. Ye last has had a gentle fit of ye gout since he came from ye north East, but that expedition was of service to his Excellency’s health, & Capt Innes,8 & I grew fat upon it. My business at Brompton was to advise about ye employment of Mr Tullideph’s negroes, which he intends to send in very soon, for whom have come to a resolution (if my instructions will permitt) to get a plantation within ye settlement there, to employ them untill ye rich land is settled by some familys from Ireland. Now I have mention’d the Irish I cannot help giving you an instance how much some gentlemen here endeavour to defeat all ye Govrs Designs for settling ye country. Roger Moore I am told has wrote to Mr Dobbs that it will not be his interest to concern himself in land here or something to yt purpose. His view in which is that if ye Irish came over here they will be a weight against him in ye Assembly & will by Cultivating ye land confirm Mr Dobbs right to what he would be content to take ye advantage of a lapse of, in case a new Govr should be appoint’d, which all ye blank patent gentry are in great hopes of. Mr Solivol has been lately appointed Collector & searcher of this port, who is just a dying of a dropsy. If that could be got either for Mr. Ellison or me, or both, one to be principal & ye other deputy, you would do us a particular piece of service. There is £65 Pr Ann Sterling Sallery beside fees here, which may amount to near 100 Pr Ann in all. What money you may have occasion to apply in presents, not exceeding £200, shall be faithfully paid you as soon as possible, & if ye Comission is in my name your security shall be reliev’d by gentlemen of substance either here or in Scotland, & if Mr Ellison will go half ye charges and use his interest to obtain it I oblige my self to make his son William Deputy & give him half ye fees & half ye sterling sallery. I do not expect I have any friends but you two in town at ye season this will reach you to apply to....

[The “blank patent gentry,” alluded to in the preceding letter, are, again, the Moores and their friends. The term probably arose during the altercation between Johnston and the holders of certain grants of land made by former governors. During the Proprietary rule patents for North Carolina lands were kept on hand in the secretary’s office ready for use. These patents were made out in due form, but with the grantees’ names, the number of acres, the description of the lands, and the sums to be paid left blank, to be disposed of and filled up “just as the Lords Proprietors thought fit.” Even before the Proprietary rule came to an end governors were forbidden to make any more grants of land, but several did in fact use the blank patents long after the land office was closed, and in some instances after the king had taken the province into his own hands. Governor Johnston early came into conflict with those who held land under these patents, the invalidity of which he dwelt upon with insistence, and a bitter quarrel ensued.9

[Mr. Murray’s letters naturally present the Governor’s side in these disputes, which derive their main interest from the fact that they were early examples of the long struggle between English authority and American self-rule.]


BRUNSWICK, CAPE FEAR. July 8th, 1736.

Since my last I have your favour dated ye 12th March, with a very agreeable postscript which I should be very glad to see accomplish’d, for if things in this country are not in a better situation during Mr Johnstons Governmt, I shall almost despair of it.

By a vessel which will sail directly to your port, in about 3 weeks, I intend to send you a cask of skins which is all ye remittance I have got out of £4800 Currency, value of goods sold since my arrival, I do not reckon Cash, of which I have receiv’d about £900, a Remittance. I have more than half my goods yet on hand, which are no pain to me, as none of them are perishable but some cloath & stockings which I can easily take care of. As ye most necessary things sell first, ye remainder of my cargoe will want an assortment to help it of, which should have desir’d you to send, according to ye list annex’d, had I been able to clear old scores with you. Instead of that I have laid a new demand on you, in ye affair of ye Collector. If you have not, before this reaches you, made some advances in that affair, I desire you would not expend above one hundred pounds about it. That, on second thoughts, I think is enough, considering ye precariousness of ye post & ye uncertainty of people’s lives in this country. If you do succeed in that affair at a considerable expence, & if my bill on Mr Dunbar is not honour’d, I desire you will not send ye goods mention’d. If otherwise, I leave it to you, to send them or not as you find convenient. I intend as soon as I can secure enough of Such tar & Turpentine to send for a vessel from New England10 and load her to send home to you.

NEWTON, Nov. 6, 1736.

...Last week I was up the North East to the lower part of your land setting the Carpenter to work to finish two houses there (I mean at Camp Innes) for the reception of the Swiss Messrs Hutchinson & Grimkie have sent in.11 They were here about 3 days, during which time his Excelly our good Govr took a great deal of pains to provide for them & to assure them they should have every thing to their satisfaction till they were settled. With which they went up last Tuesday very well pleased.... Since I last wrote you have bought a house & lot in this town & a plantation in the country about 15 miles from this, joining on Capt Rowan, 200 acres of the 500 land as good as his that he values at 20/ Ster P acre. The other 300 acres are fit for building on & for corn & pasture. It cost me about £30 Ster, as I sold my goods, but when I shall turn planter God knows. It will not be till I can turn some Money out of the country to buy some negroes. But first I ought to be even in your books, for if trade is not grown much worse at home I am sensible you must be a looser by mine & every other debt that you get no more than 5 P C by Par. I wish I could write you something agreable of the country or rather the present set of inhabitants, for the place it self is well enough were it peopled by frugal, honest, industrious people who would not sacrifice the general good of the province for the obtaining their own private ends or would not be so stupid as to be led by the nose by those that would. Then I might say without the spirit of prophecy that this Province would soon be one of the best in America....

[Meantime the growth of Newtown had begun. James Innes, like Mr. Murray, was one of the earliest settlers of the town.]


NEWTON, Janry 10th, 1736/7.

...Your Swiss families are very well, but lost one their men in a fever at Brunswick & another old man since they went up. I have agreed for Indian corn at 12/, pease at 20/, & potatoes at 7/6 P bushell, enough to serve them till next crop. Indian corn is since risen to 15/ & is like to go to 20/. Rice at £4 Pl & hardly to be had. The Swiss have been very uneasy, for their land not being run out by reason of the only surveyor that could do it his being gone into the other county where he was detained by an illness; but now he is returned, and will settle their bounds next week.

We are very upish upon Capt Woodard, Mr Johnston, Capt Rowan and Capt Innes each of them purchasing a good lot in this town, which thrives a pace.

[The pioneer’s descent, however, from great expectations to the bed-rock of reality was being made by Mr. Murray even while he noted the country’s growth. He felt strongly the peculiar disadvantages from which North Carolina suffered.]


NEWTON, CAPE FEAR, Janry 10th 1736/7.


Hond Sir, — It is no small comfort to me to find by yours of the 14th June & other letters that I am not yet forgot by my best friends, tho’ in this remote corner of the world, and that they have a just opinion of my concern for them by giving me an Accot of their welfare & other occurrencies, than which nothing can be more agreable.

I wish I could give you equal satisfaction by my letters, but alas it is not to be expected from a new country such as this where you know no body, whence we can write of nothing so well as the inconveniencies we suffer in reality for the advantages we form to our selves in imagination; and was I to undertake to give you a description of the place, it would only be darkening instead of enlivening your Idea of the continent. I shall therefore confine my self to answer your questions, what trade have we & what is my scheme of settlement.... As the present staple commodities are very low in Europe, European goods are very high here and our payments, being slow and but in small quantities at a time, will not defray the charge of a freight from Britain. We therefore send our peddling to some or other of the neighbouring colonies, for which we have European or other goods at their price, and the necessity of our country obliges them to give almost what advance the importer pleases on the goods he thus buys at second hand. We have £150,000 of bills emitted by the publick, which are current in all payments, and the King takes them for his quitrents at the rate of 7 for 1 Sterg, but the merchant has for his goods from 12 to 20 for 1 Sterg. These bills are lent out upon good security at 6 P Ct P. añ which interest with an impost on liquors is allotted to the sinking of the principal, and so long as this Govr is continued he is resolved to observe that act & to grant no more bills for Currency till the present by it’s scarceness comes to its true value of 7 for 1. Thereby he and all the king’s officers who are paid their sallaries here at that rate will receive the worth of them; thereby the merchant who sells his goods at the present prices and has his debts outstanding with 10 pCt P. añ accrewing on them will be a great gainer. The Merchant has another chance of turning his cargoe to a good account. He sells his goods at a high price for the reason above observed. The country in a year or two is well settled by Irish and Swiss, who in a year or two more make such commodities as are valuable at home and enrich the country here. Now for what I am to do in the mean time. I have sold about 2/3 of my cargo, for which we have got a pretty large sum of our Currency in debts outstanding and in bills received. Was I to press speedy remittances, it would be very much to my disadvantage. I have provided my self with a plantation in the country within Fifteen miles of the place which in all probability will be the principal town on this river, if not the Metropolis of the province, that I intend to settle as soon as I can get Negroes. Then I shall live very well upon my own industry and save the interest of my stock. For all my complaints a man with a moderate fortune & tollerable management may live very happily and plentifully here. I cannot say he has it in his power to make a great fortune at once.

[Barbara Murray married, in less than two years after coming over, Thomas Clark, a young man thoroughly liked by her brother and associated with him in his public and private interests. In the same summer (1737) Mr. Murray received news of the death of his mother, which left the younger children still more dependent on his care. This necessitated a journey to Scotland, which he accomplished in the ensuing spring. The settling of Mrs. Murray’s estate and other matters detained him for nearly a year, during which time he was much at Chesters and renewed his intimacy with his Bennet cousins, particularly with Barbara. On returning to America he brought with him his younger brother and sister, William, sixteen, and Elizabeth, not quite fourteen, years of age. Elizabeth proved so capable that she was before long installed as James’s housekeeper, and thus began that affectionate intimacy between them that was perhaps the most vital and enduring element in the life of each.

[A portion of the small inheritance left to William and Elizabeth he now invested in negroes.13 For himself, although the disadvantage of trade had been strongly impressed upon him, he had been unable to resist the temptation of bringing over a cargo of goods even larger than his former venture, as the succeeding letter to his brother-in-law relates.]


LONDON, 23 December, 1738.

...In my last I told you of my brother & Sister’s intention to go over with me, who are now here for that purpose. I said also that nothing was coming to you from my mother’s Estate. Have notwithstanding got £20 str for you there, which is as much as the two younger childring have got.

You’ll be surprised when I tell you that, instead of my Scheme of retired life, am going to involve myself in the Cape Fear trade deeper than my self or any of my predecessors or contemporaries have done hitherto, & am now fitting out a Cargo of above £1500 str to begin with, & have charter’d a ship to load derectly back with such Commodities as can be got. If our Gentlemen Planters have a mind to set their trade on the footing of South Carolina now they’ll have a fair opportunity. If I find they are not ready & willing to encourage it, especially in the loading of this ship, I shall set down my little family with you & go away without breaking bulk to South Carolina or Georgia, for my cargo is suited for either of these places, & shall come back with the refuse of my cargo (if any), for which I shall expect 2 & 3000 P Cent, as other people as well as I used (& I presume still continue) to sell for. Let them pay when they will. But I hope this will not be the case & that every body who do’s not want to enrich themselves by the ruin of the Planters & Country in General will encourage so Laudable a design & will be as ready to pay me their Commodities in merchtable order as I shall be to sell them goods useful, fresh & reasonable as they can wish. At all Hazards you may fit up my store in the same manner as Mr Drys with all possible dispatch, that is the whole 22 foot by 18 on the east end of the house to be lined with boards on the side & plastered on the siling, to be shelved as far as the door from the east end, & counter from side to side with a board to fold down in the middle. I hope the cellar is done under neath, and the sashes according to the dementions I sent you by Wimble ready to put in the glass. Let sashes be done for all the windows in the store, and a door for the store cellar. I am affraid I have shaped you more work than you’ll sew till I see you, but you’ll do all you can. Give notice of my intentions to leave this the middle of next month with a Vessel and Cargo bound derectly to you-ward, that those that owe me as well as those that do not may have their goods ready. Great encouragement will be given to rice & tar chused in full bound barrels, turpentine & pitch as usual. I have bespoke a petty auger from South Carolina, which at all events cannot miss to sell if not wanted by me. You need put yor self to no inconveniences about moving from my house in a hurry, for I shall have none but my brother & Sister & one, two or three more in my family, for whom there will be room enough with you for a while.

I have also sent their money in value to south Carolina in order to buy negroes for them, most part of which I design to be under your management.

Mr Douglass has taken the same method with his in order to sit down in a plantation. So, whether I shall be the better for the Country or not, it is plain the country will be the better for me, &, I hope, so will my friends for being recommended thither....

[Mr. Murray had by this time, aided by absence and his natural tolerance, come to wish to be on a friendlier footing with his Cape Fear neighbors. He wrote to John Porter14 from London, Dec. 20, 1738: —]

“I have observed (in you) a justness of thought and generosity of temper that I would endeavor to imitate wherever I found it. If some gentlemen of our acquaintance had with the same good nature overlooked a zeal (perhaps a little imprudent) for one’s friends I should have had more friends in Cape Fear, but as it is, I am sensible there is and will subsist a Dryness between some certain Gentlemen and me until the unhappy Differences of the Province are reconciled.”

[Early in the summer of 1739 he was again in North Carolina, having brought with him John Rutherford, who afterward became receiver-general of the province.]


Cape Fear, Sept 4, 1739.

That I may be as Good or Rather as troublesom as I promised in Writing you once in 3 Months, take this for my first, which happens to be about that time Since my Arrival.

After our Departure from England I expected to See Cousin John Very Sea Sick, but instead of yt. He was ye only person of all the Cabin Passengers that was not Sea Sick, & took a most compassionate Care of us in our Distress. That he might not Be Idle in his Passage I Set him to... [a] Book of practical Geometry, in which he took Much Delight & Made Great Proficience for ye time. Since my Arrival my head has been so much taken up with Business that I cannot go on with him; but when he is not imployed in ye Store he applies to it himself, [so] that with mine or Some other’s help next winter I doubt not of his being able to apply Mathematicks to most of ye Common Occasions for them in life, particularly Surveying & Gauging, two usefull Sorts with us. Delivering out Goods, Writing in ye Waste Books & copying Letters is his Cheif imployment at present. I am now got to Sepr the 6th, & pretty well recovered of what I thought a Severe fit of the Rheumatism, which has laid me up ever Since I wrote ye forgoing & makes me Glad now to walk with Stilts, what I was never used to before. If you have a Mind to Send any wearing apperel or linnen, ye most useful Article to Johny, you may Ship it & Send ye Receipt to Mr Henry Houson Merchant in London, who will forward what you Send. If you chuse to Send any thing for Sale, Scots plad about 18d or 20d pr Ell, brown Linnen from 3d to 18d pr Ell, Coarse & Midling Diaper, these fit for ye Summer & Winter. Galacheils Gray at 6d or 7d pr Ell to be here in Sept or October for Winter only. What you buy by ye Scots Ell, let it be measured by an exact 3 foot allowing a thumb, & yt Measure put on ye Piece. As I am an Invalid & have other letters to write yet, I must not Delay. We are in Hopes this war will Drive some of ye Southern Settlements to us. ‘T is a Bad wind blows no Body Good.

[The Spanish War, alluded to in the last letter, presented to William an opening for a military career. North Carolina had raised four companies for General Oglethorpe’s expedition against St. Augustine. That expedition having failed, the North Carolina contingent was to be sent to join the English forces at Jamaica, and with it were to go Captain James Innes, Mr. Murray’s “most intimate friend next to T. Clark,” and also two cousins of the Murrays, Lieutenant Archibald Douglas and Lieutenant Pringle. William was, in his brother’s opinion, unfitted for a planter’s life. On the other hand, his inheritance was sufficient to procure him a commission, and an opportunity was now offered to enter the army under Captain Innes’s special care. At Jamaica, moreover, he would find his brother John, graduated from his “studies of pharmacy and surgery,” and appointed surgeon’s mate on board the Tilbury, English man-of-war. So, with all these advantages on his side, and further fortified by a letter to John Stuart, Aide-de-camp to Lord Cathcart, William set out for the war.]


WILMINGTON, 20th Novr, 1740.

DR. SR.... My brother John, Surgeon’s mate on board the Tilbury man of War, I have desired to apply to you, as well for advice as for some money, if you find it will be of service to him, either to promote him, preserve or Recover his health, or to supply him with necessarys and a little pocket money if his pay is not sufficient. I desire you may inquire how much of his own Money he has taken up, and how he has Managed it, that you may the better judge of his economy. You’ll likewise supply my brother Billie with what you think necessary. I leave him intirely to your care, hoping also that his cousins the Lieutenants will be kind to him.

It is out of my power to give a Greater instance of my confidence in and good opinion of you than I have done by sending him along with you. I do hereby impower you to engage as far as his (Billy’s) whole fortune which is one hundred pounds Sterling, in buying a commission, Land, or Negroes or anything Else that you think will be for his Advantage, and He approves of it.


To Mr John Murray, Surgeon’s Mate On board the Tilbury Man of War, at Jamaica or Elsewhere, Pr William Murray.

Cape Fear, November 13th, 1740.

DEAR JOHN: ... As this goes with your brother William, I have the less Occassion to be particular in anything that relates to us here. I have only to desire that in Case he should be sick you will take all possible Care of him. If you Should have any emergent occasion for Money either to forward your promotion or recover your health, I have desired Capt Innes to advance you Some. It will require much of your Care and Attention to chuse Your Company — Men of Sense, Sobriety and Good Manners — to avoid the Extravagance of many, but not to be so very frugal as to keep no Company at all. Capt Innes, I hope, will take notice of you, and is very able (as I know by Experience) to give you good advice. I have some thoughts of Going home next Spring, but that resolution will take Effect or not according to the letters I shall receive from thence. I am

Dear John

your most affectionate Brother


CAPE FEAR, Septr 1740.

...It would be too tiresome to you to be troubled with a Repetition of the several Particulars in Your Letter, how much some of them pleased me. You, who know me and my Affection for my friends, may easier Imagine than I can Express. And if others Gave an Account of Accidents and Ommissions that are not so Agreeable, it is what I lay my Acct with to hear in almost every Letter; for if the Accidents in human Life are by a wise providence for good purposes interlarded with bitter and Sweet, Letters will bring acct of these Accidents just as they turn out. But to return to my letter. In my last to my uncle I wrote of the Scituation of my Affairs here and that I was winding up my bottom as fast I Could, with an Intent to go home next Spring if some persons with whom my Cheif business is will take the trouble to advise that it is proper; but I have much to Complain of the Laziness of Some Correspondents.

Your letter to Betty gave great joy. She is now my only Housekeeper and entered that Station the beginning of this week just after my return from the north. You have long ago heard the News of my Sister Clark having a son. I have only to tell you that he lately entered the Christian list by the Name of James. Capt James Innes and I were his God-Fathers.

I wrote my Uncle that Mr Douglass was to go Lieutenant to Capt Innes. Since that Mr William Pringle, Clifton’s Son, happened to be one of the four Lieutenants appointed at home for this Province that Came to Edenton while I was there. I brought him along with me a Journey of 200 Miles in five days. He is now in My house and is to be Capt Innes Eldest Lieutenant. They seem to think themselves very happy in each other....

[Nov. 26th.] Tempted with the promise of care from my friends Innes, Pringle and Douglas, I have sent my brother Will along with them. They are but just put to Sea with Letters of Marque, and to make the best of their Way to Jamaica, Where they expect to meet the English forces as well as those of America, all under the Command of My Lord Cathcart. I have sent about £80 Str. value along with them and Impowered Capt Innes to spare it to John and William as he should find they stood in need of it. I likewise Impowered Capt Innes to draw for Will’s patrimony if he could lay it out for his advantage.

When the rest of the Gentlemen going hence on the Expedition were making their Wills Billy also made his at my request and left all he has to my sister Betty & when he gave her the paper and told her what it was the tears run down her Cheeks like hail. I must not omit to tell what they alledge of Mr. Douglass at signing his Will. He first signed a power of Attorney with his usual ease, but when he came to sign the Will his hand shaked terribly, So that he was Obliged to take it twice off before he Could finish his Name; and when he had done, he said, “I hope never to live to put that Will in force for all this.” He could hardly stand this joke. Mr. Pringle by his good natured agreeable way of Disciplining the Company and in his Conversation and behavior in General gave great Satisfaction to Capt Innes, to the soldiers and everybody else; and it gave me Sensible pleasure that I was the Cause of his being allotted to Capt Innes....Had I been certain of such good Officers, I would readily have persuaded Billy to accept of the Govrs. kind offer of a Pr. of Collours but by the time we had Determined on it the Govr. had filled up all the Commissions he had. So far we were unlucky....A ship had lately arrived after a long passage from London which brings some Goods for John Rutherford....


WILMINGTON, CAPE FEAR, 5th September, 1741.

DEAR SIR, — I have a long time Denied my self the pleasure of writing to you having still had some hopes of hearing from some of my friends at Chesters by every opportunity. I know not how I have Deserved it, but I never had such Signs of being forgotten or out of favour there.15 But enough of this. Since my friend Mr McCulloch’s Arrival in this Province with his family he has been an Inhabitant of my house in this town, which made it necessary for me to Discard all my own family but Johny Rutherfurd & a Couple of Negroes. Betsy therefore Stays with Mr Clark, as does Jeany Ker. The former has now a little of the fever & Ague. My Sister Clark about 3 weeks ago was Delivered of another Son16 and is bravely Recovered. The Lad promises to be as pretty & thriving a boy as the other,17 which is saying a great Deal. Mr Clark has been Sheriff of this County ever Since June Last and is to Continue in that Office (worth about £100 Ster P Ann) for two years. He has also had the good fortune to be Appointed Collector of this Port in the Room of Samuel Woodward Dece’d by Mr Dinwiddie, the Surveyor Genl of this Continent, but for want of friends & interest with the Ministry at home Dispairs of holding it Longer than another is Appointed & sent over by the Lords of the Treasury. That office is also well worth £100 a Year, attended with little trouble, & Generally Continues during Life.

I have Letters from Jamaica of the 15th June which inform me that Jack & Willy were well, as also Mr Douglass and Capt Innes, but that Mr Pringle was Shott before Bocha Chica on board the Prince Frederick, Lard Awbery Commor, who was also Killed Next Day. Mr D. & Will had the good Luck to be on a Cruise at the time of that unsuccessful Siege and to take Some Valuable prises, from which Mr D. expects £300 & Will £20 to his Share; but no Doubt you have heard particularly from them. I am tired of Deferring my Voyage any Longer and am Risolved to Depart from this with Johny Rutherfurd some time next month. If it please God to give us a prosperous Voyage, I may have the Pleasure of Eating my Christmass Dinner with you.

Since I begun this Letter 5 days have Elapsed in which time I have taken my Passage & Cousin John’s on board the Leathly, Peter Harrison Commr, for London; and that we May have Some Money to Spend Among the Spaniards in Case we Should be Nabb’d by them I have by this Opportunity ordered £500 Ster insurance against Capture i. e. 300 £ for Self & 200 £ for Cousin John.

Pray give my Sincere Duty to My Aunt and my Love to My Cousins. My Compliments also if you please to My friends in Your Neighbourhood. I am Dr Sr your most obliged & most Dutifull Nephew

J M                              

Betsy is Recovered of the
Fever & Ague

[Mr. Murray remained in England and Scotland until the latter part of 1742, busy with various commercial affairs of himself and his friends in North Carolina. A promise from his cousin Barbara was obtained during his stay, and when he came back to Cape Fear, which he did in February, 1743, it was in the hope of a speedy return to Scotland for the marriage.

[Mr. Murray, as has been said, was appointed collector of the port in 1739. At about that time New Town, the village where he lived, was made the port of entry, to the great detriment of Brunswick, which had formerly been the port. This was a grievance to which the opposing faction could not submit in silence. A slight skirmish of letters between Roger Moore and Mr. Murray was but the prelude to a complaint in the form of a memorial to the Board of Trade, signed by Nath. Rice, Eleazer Allen, E. Moseley, and R. Moore.]


Newto 24th Novr 1739.

SIR, I received your Letter Desiring me as Deputy Naval Officer to Come down to Brunswick to Clear out the Henry & Mary of Hull — I am to inform You that his Excellency has Appointed me principal Naval Officer of this port. With Orders to reside here: And He bids me tell you, that if you think either his Majesties Revenue or the interest of the County is injured thereby : You may Represent it to the Lords of the Treasury or to ye Comrs of the Customs Who No Doubt will give proper Orders thereupon

I am Sir your Very humble Servt

[Soon after this episode, Mr. Murray was drawn into political life by Governor Johnston, who, in February of that year, secured his appointment as a member of the Board of Councilors.18 The appointment was not, judging from the two ensuing letters, especially desired by Mr. Murray, but rather brought about by the Governor’s need of his coöperation.

[The quit-rent law, to which the first of these letters refers, was passed before Mr. Murray entered the Council. Governor Johnston, who was first and foremost a faithful servant to the king, reported that the law would raise the revenue to be derived from the province by the crown from nothing at all to £1800 a year, and added as a secondary consideration that it would “bring peace and tranquillity to a colony which had from its first settlement been quarreling about the points now so happily adjusted.” He shared the common view of the time in looking upon the province merely as a means of procuring revenue for the mother country.

[The collecting of the quit-rents was, as he said, a matter in which the people had long been successful in baffling their governors. They would not, and probably could not, pay in gold or silver, or even in paper currency, their proper dues, but were found year after year “insisting on paying their rents in the worst and most bulky kind of their produce, such as butter, cheese, feathers, tar, pitch, Indian corn, &c.” These commodities, moreover, the people maintained, must be fetched by government if they were to be obtained at all, as they had not means of transportation. The result was that the rents usually went unpaid.

[Johnston’s quit-rent law limited the commodities to inspected tobacco, hemp, flax, and beeswax, which, moreover, were to be rated so much under their real value that transportation would be covered by the gain in selling them abroad, while no planter would give the preference to payment in commodities if he could possibly lay hold of currency for his rents.

[As to the value of the currency itself, the relation between the bills of the province and sterling and proclamation money was to be settled yearly by the principal persons of the government.

[The law also touched upon the disputed point of the blank patents. By it such patents as were registered in due time and ascertained were confirmed, provided that their aggregate amount did not exceed 150,000 acres; but those that bore a date subsequent to the purchase by the crown were left entirely to his majesty’s pleasure “either to allow them or to declare them null and void.”]


CAPE FEAR, 30 Janry, 1739/40.

...As to Publick Affairs I wrote you in My last that since the Reconcilement Occasioned by the Quit Rent Law Mr Allen Had Joined the family,19 who thereby had got a Majority in Council & were like to Carry things in an Arbitrary and Selfish Way, for Which Reason I proposed to You the taking out my Mandamus, and Charge the fees to Me. But Since that the Governr has had a letter from the Board of Trade Wherein they inform him that his Majesty has been Graciously Pleased to Appoint Me a Member of his Council here, Which Will be a Sufficient Warrant for the Govr to Call me to My place if he finds his Majesys And the Countrys Service Absolutely require it. Till then I Do not Desire it. So you’ll take Care Not to Advance any More Money on that Acct than what I have Already paid the Board of Trade. The Effects of the Quit Rent Law, beside What I have Mentiond, are that it has Made the Govr Independent either of Mosely, Moore &c, whom we call the family, or of the Northern Men; and his Conduct even Since the Quitrent Law has been Approved by both Sides and by the Country in General. The Only thing the People Complain of is that by the clause in the Q. R. L. for Valuing ye Currency We are now to Pay our Quit-rents at ten Currency for one Sterling, whereas before We Grumbled at 7 for one...

I hear Mr. Roger Moore alledges that he has an old patent (which is now confirmed by the Q. R L.) that he Says is Within your 72,000 acres; and sometimes he says it is Within the Bounds of yr Land Sold Vaughan. You’ll Observe a Clause in the Quit Rent Law that all Disputes between Proprietors’ Patents and those lately issued are Determinable by the Govr in Council, who I hope will take Care that no injury be done to you.

[The removal from Brunswick of the port of entry was only the forerunner of a yet greater blow to the family. The Governor’s account of the doings of the General Assembly of February reads very smoothly,—] “Our Assembly, which met here on the fifth of February, 1740, is just now prorogued. They behaved with decency and parted in very good humor (a thing not very common here) after passing some Laws. At present I shall only take notice of one, which is an Act to erect a Village called Newtown on the Cape Fear River, into a township by the name of Wilmington.... The town is at the meeting of the two great branches of the Cape Fear River, its road capable of receiving vessels of great burthen.... I always looked upon the want of a Town with a Convenient Port as one of the greatest Obstacles to the Improvement of the Trade of the Country and the polishing its inhabitants. I return your Lordship’s thanks for recommending Mr. Murray.”

[As a matter of fact it was a time of storms, at least in the Council. The favoring of Newtown and giving it, as the township of Wilmington, the dignity of one of the chief places in the province, could not have been done at that time had not the Governor been able to call Mr. Murray to a seat in the Council;20 even then it was only accomplished by what was virtually a tie vote, made decisive by the eldest councilor’s casting a second ballot in addition to his first. This the opposing party insisted was illegal, but the Governor gave it his sanction. The four members who had voted against the measure were the former memorialists, Rice, Moore, Allen, and Moseley. They sent in a protest to the Governor, which was answered, as follows, by the other four who had favored it, Wm. Smith, Robert Halton, Mathew Rowan, and James Murray: —]

“As their [the protestants’] tedious account of the casting vote is but a second edition of their Protest given at Newtown a little improved in stile and virulence since their arrival at Cape Fear, a few words will serve as an answer to it. We were then and are still of Opinion that in case of an equality of Votes there must be a decisive Vote in the first Person in the Commission, and this we take to be warranted by the practice of several corporations and societies at Home; and if ever it was necessary or allowable, We do conceive it to be so in this case, for as the Council has seldom or never consisted of above eight persons with such a vote it would be in the power of four persons to stop all manner of business and put a negative upon Governor’s Council and House of Burgesses, and this we look upon as an absurdity which can never take place in any Constitution founded on that of Great Britain.”

[Mr. Saunders21 characterizes Johnston’s acceptance of this casting vote as arbitrary and unjust. The above answer, which bears some marks of Mr. Murray’s pen, must stand as the Governor’s defense.

[Mr. Murray’s own account of these matters is as follows: —]


CAPE FEAR, 25th March, 1740.

DEAR SIR, — This waits on you with Copy of my last of the 30th Janry. Since that time the assembly met at New Berne where our Southern gentlemen (viz. Mr Moore and friends) expected to carry everything before them and aimed at no less than turning out Chief Justice Smith and putting a tool of their own in his place. To effect this they exhibited articles against him in the Lower House, which for want of proof were then dismissed without ever being brot up to the Govr in Council who was to have tried him. This being over and the Governor finding the house of burgesses disposed to do business, but being apprehensive of a stop being put to everything in the Council that was not every way agreeable to the —, who had the majority in Council by reason of Collo Pollock’s absence, he sent for me and swore me in by virtue of the Lords of Trades Letr. Then the assembly proceeded to business and passed several laws, one of which establishes Newton a town by the name of Wilmington with Privilege of Sending a Member to the Assembly &c. I refer you to the Copy of the acct which is enclosed. The other three acts are for directing the method of proving book debts, for allowing wages to the Members of both Houses viz: 40/ to one and 30/ a day to the other during their Sitting, and appointing John Hodgson speaker of the Lower house publick Treasurer for Albemarle. It was also resolved by both Houses of Assembly that the families lately arrived from North Britain and settled in the Neighborhood of your Lands on the North West branch of Cape Fear River should be exempted from all taxes for ten years, next after their arrival and that all protestant families that shall come from Europe to settle in this province provided their number at setting out be above forty shall in like manner be exempted from all taxes for ten years next after their arrival. The assembly was prorogued to Edenton there to be held on the 2d Tuesday of November next. And the Govr Intends to hold the assemblies after that at Edenton and Wilmington by turns. The Court of Chancery is appointed to be held here twice a year.

The law for this town passing in the council only by the President’s casting vote, there being four for and four against the bill, the Moores think they have thereby a good handle to get a law Repealed at home that affects them so much here. I think I may Venture to say that it is for your Interest to Support that law and get it confirmed if Possible. Captain Woodward it will also oblige, who had much rather live here than at Brunswick. He is very much indisposed, and has been this long time with the Gout.

As to Remittances, I shall be able to do something from my old debts when the receiver general returns from the Collection of the Quit Rents at the nor-ward, and as soon as I have a ship load of either Tar or Pitch or part of both with some Rice ready shall send for a vessel to South Carolina or Boston, let the freight be what it will. While the Export of this River continues in the hands it is in at present, I expect to meet with all the Disappointment they can give. They have already show’d me in several instances what they are capable of doing. But I shall be able within a twelve month to overcome all the hindrance they can give me so far as to satisfy those concerned with me. And what injury they can do to my private fortune I had and will much rather put up with than basely truckle to a set of men whose doings are in my opinion so far from being justifiable....

I have for some months been Naval Officer of this Port at Request and for the benefit of my Brother Clark who formerly executed that office and who will take it into his hands again as soon as he is superseded by a Collector from home for the Port of Bath, whom he expected long ere now. As soon as the Govr returns from the Norward so that he (Mr. Clark) can send him his accots attested I shall have a sterling bill of at least forty pounds from him.

The advantage I have by the naval office is that it brings a great deal of ready money into my hands.

[A year later Mr. Murray bore testimony in a letter to Mr. McCulloh, then newly arrived in America, as to the relations between Johnston and the people in general.]


WILMINGTON, CAPE FEAR, 12th April, 1741.

I had the pleasure to Receive the agreable News of your Safe arrival by your letters of the 4th & 7th March while I was at Edenton, on which I heartily Congratulate you, Mrs McCulloch and family.... I Returned here on friday last after having seen a period to a long session of Assembly at Edenton where a good deal of business has been done. I delivered the letters you inclosed me to the Governor, who has published the instructions relating to the Land Office by proclamation, and that relating to the reducing of our Money to Procl. Standard was not thought Necessary to be made publick. Nor Could he Conveniently promulgate the other instructions &c. till the Sitting of next Council here on the third tuesday of May, and it is hoped you will be very Cautious in making any declarations about them that will reach this place before the end of May.... There has been some debate in Council how My Lord Carteret is to be Pd his eight part of the Quit Rents, whither out of the Gross or Neat Produce; but they would not take upon ym to determine the same, but left the Receiver General to do as he pleased. No doubt you are informed how My Lord receives his share in So. Carolina & how he ought to Receive it here.

The Collection of the Quit Rents for this Year and for all Arrears will as much as possible be endeavoured to be Compleated before the latter end of May. The Officers have Reced so little of these 4 or 5 years Salary that they would be very much Straitened without it. As to the Disputes of this province, they are not between the people in General and the Governor, for they are very well satisfied with him, but there are a certain set of Men in this Province who are never to be Satisfied, if they have not the Cheif Management of Affairs. As you may meet with some of this Complexion before I have the pleasure of Seeing you I depend so much upon my knowledge of you and on your knowledge of their Characters that I am Certain a Caution of incredulity and reservedness until you have been sometime in the Country would be altogether needless.

If this finds you in So Carolina I would advise Mrs McCulloch rather to put up with the inconveniences of this place than to trust her self this summer in so sickly and Mortal a place as So Carolina. It is thought this place is rather cooler than any to the Nor’ard in the Settlements of this province by reason of ye constant breeze —

[Mr. McCulloh, on his arrival at Cape Fear, occupied Mr. Murray’s house, availing himself of the offer contained in the following letter. The difficulties of the journey in those days, so cheerfully minimized by Mr. Murray, are apt to be forgotten unless brought to mind by some such evidence as this.]


WILMINGTON, 11th May, 1741.

...I am sorry that Affairs of any kind should detain you so long in Charlestown particularly at this season of the year. I should think it much the easiest way for Mrs McCulloh and you too to come by water. If the risque of being taken at sea is apprehended to be great, the coming within land to Winyan [Winyah] and thence up Wackaman [Wacamaw] to within 5 miles of the widow Master’s I am told is very practicable and will shorten the Journey to three very easy days riding. You may have as many horses as you please sent to any place at or on this side Winyan on 5 or 6 days notice before the time they’ll be wanted....

In my house there is a large Room 22 by 16 feet, the most airy of any in the Country, two tolerable lodging rooms & a Closet up stairs & Garrets above, a Cellar below divided into a Kitchen with an oven and a Store for Liquors, provisions, &c. This makes one half of my house. The other, placed on the east end, is the Store Cellar below, the Store and Counting House on the first floor, & above it is partition’d off into four rooms, but this end is not plaister’d but only done with rough boards. Of this house you may have as much as you please, for I can send my Apprentice & little Sister, who are all the family (beside Servts) that I have now to take care of, I say I can send them or at least her to my Brother Clark’s. You’ll find here the best water in either of the Provinces, & you’ll generaly be well supplied with fish only by one hand or two employ’d that way. We are also much better Situated for having supplys from the Country. But without a Cook wench, a store of Rum, Wine, flower, Melasses, Sugar, Tea, &c., brought with you you’ll find your self at a Loss for want of them, or else supplied with them & everything else that is not the produce of the Country at most extravagant rates. If you intend to do any business here, a Cooper and a Craft that will carry about 100 barrels will be absolutely necessary. I have suffer’d much for want of them, and that want of Craft and negroes will be a great obstruction in securing the Quantity of Naval Stores at this time that otherwise I might do. Tar is 30 to 35/, Pitch 50 to 55/, Turpentine 70/ p barl, Rice £4 to £4.10 p C, boards 15 to £17.10 p thousd feet, white oak hhd Staves £15 Pm, Shingles 80 to 90/ Pm.

The Govr will be here the latter end of this week or beginning of next, and if Mrs Johnston does not continue in the bad state of health she was in when I left Edenton I am in hopes he will stay ‘til your arrival or at least ‘til the return of this Express.

As to the little Politicks and disputes of this place, I was never more unconcern’d than at present, for I have nothing either to hope or fear from the Issue of them except the pleasure of re-establishing a good understanding among my friends whom I know to be Gentlemen of worth & honour.

[With all his energy and a fair share of hopefulness, Mr. Murray was wholly without the mainspring of sanguine enthusiasm which moved the New England emigrants and supported the Quakers, a trait of character which has come to stand at home and abroad as one distinctive mark of an American. A true American James Murray never became. Still, he was essentially a man of a public spirit, and so far as that spirit could be exercised in an atmosphere of party faction he exercised it. His public standing was high, and he always wrote about provincial matters with a certain tone of authority.

[In the year in which he was made a member of the Council, George Whitefield, who had come over from England with Fox, visited North Carolina, while his colleague devoted himself to Virginia. He evidently urged the importance of schools, and in this Mr. Murray was ready to second him, not being of the mind of Governor Berkeley, who broke out, in his report to the proprietors in 1671:] “Yet I thank God there are no free schools nor printing presses, and I hope we shall not have any these hundred years. For learning has brought disobedience and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, — God keep us from both.”


WILMINGTON, CAPE FEAR, June 24th, 1740.

DR SIR ... I heartily thank you for the two barrels flower that you were so kind to Send Me, & the sermons &c with the good advice you give me along with them is very Obliging, & Confirms Me in the Opinion I have always had of you Since I had the hapiness of you acquaintance that you are Sincere disinterested & indefatigable in promoting true Religion, — Christianity. Your Sermons here had (as we have reason to believe) a good Effect on Several of your hearers, & the accot of them made many others sorry they were absent.

As the great aim of your life is to do good by propagating the Gospel, it is the opinion of many People of good sence that there is Not a Province in America where your preaching is So Much wanted as in this.

May therefore hope you’ll persist in your first resolution of Staying Sometime among us in your way from the nor’ward.

As to a School-master, one would certainly be Very necessary here. I shall consult with those most Immediatly concern’d in that affair, & if they will come under any Engagements sufficient to Incourage one to come here I shall presume to give you the trouble by the Post to Charlestown of a letter to desire you would recommend one to us.

[Early in the year 1744 he went to Scotland to be married to his cousin Barbara. His plantation he left in Mr. Clark’s hands. His house was occupied by Mr. McCulloh. Elizabeth’s negroes were hired out, while Elizabeth herself accompanied her brother.]


WILMINGTON, 28 Feb., 1743/4.

I have three Negroes named Glasgow, Kelso and Berwick22 in Trust for my Sister Elizabeth Murray, which you may have on hire for three years from the first of March Next, on or before which Time they Shall be Delivered to You if You Agree to my Proposals; which are: that you Pay Yearly at the Time and manner after mentioned Eight Pounds Sterling money of Great Brittain for the Negro Called Glasgow, and Six Pounds ten Shillings like money each for Kelso and Berwick, in all Twenty One Pounds Sterling; for which Sum You’ll Please to Deliver to me or my Attorney some Time between the 10th Day of May next and the 10th Day of May following and so yearly for the said three Years Good Bills of Exchange, or a Sufficient Quantity of Merchantable Produce fitt for a british market, to be Shipt on your Account & Risque in the first Vessel that I or my Attorneys can Procure freight in after the Receipt of it, on which Produce Such Value shall be Insured for you on the Usual Terms as You Please to Direct at each Time of Payment, which Sum Directed to be Insured Shall be accounted for to you in the Customary Terms of Interest in Case of Loss and taken in Payment of the said hire, and the neat Proceeds of Such Commodities so Delivered & Shipt shall be taken in Payment of the said hire. Among other Charges of Your Goods aforesaid the Premium of the Sum you Direct to be Insured is also to be Deducted from the Neat Proceeds. And in Case you fail to make Sufficient Payment yearly within the Time above mentioned as above mention’d, You Will Pay Whatever Sum you are Deficient, together with Twenty three P Cent thereon, within two months after Such Deficiency Shall be known, in Tar at the Current Price here, reducing the Same to Sterling at the Common Exchange. You’ll allow this Twenty three P Cent advance because I have excepted of Sixty five pounds (in Consideration of my being Paid in Sterling money) instead of Eighty Pounds you Offered to Pay me here. And as We have by mutual Consent Valued the said Glasgow at five hundred Pounds, and Kelso and Berrwick at four hundred Pounds each, you will Return the said three Negroes at the expiration of the said three Years from the first of March next, Provided they are alive, but in Case of the Death of them or any of them, or in Case they or any of them run away, so as they can not be found, then & in either of these Cases you must Pay in the Same manner you pay the hire aforesaid the Value as above fixed of such Negro or Negroes Dead or run away as aforesaid, and allow the hire of such Dead or Run away Negro as if he had been alive and present untill you Pay the Value of him as aforesaid; and in Case of their being runaway so as not to be had in a Resonable Time, you shall have a Bill of Sale for Such Runaway on Paying the Value as aforesaid and in Case any of them shall Receive any Damage by the Wilfull abuse of Your Overseer, then you must allow for Such Damage at the Returning of the Said Slaves, I am

Your most humble Servt                    

[At some time during this year —1744 — James Murray and Barbara Bennet were married. For five years after his marriage Mr. Murray remained in England and Scotland. He lived at one time at Ninton, at another at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at another in London. It was in a house on Tower Hill, in London, in the year 1745, that his eldest child, Dorothy, was born. The death of Mr. Clark recalled him to America, whither with his wife and child and his sister Elizabeth he returned in 1749. He sailed first to Boston, where Elizabeth, as will be seen in a later chapter, established herself in business, and leaving his wife and child there temporarily in his sister’s charge, he repaired alone to Cape Fear.

[The shoals of the North Carolina coast, and the ignorance of the captain, nearly brought shipwreck to the vessel in which he sailed from Boston. An account of the misadventure was sent to his cousin and sister-in-law, Jean Bennet. The two sisters, Anne and Jean Bennet, stood in a peculiarly intimate and dear relation to their sister Barbara’s family, being able, as they never formed absorbing ties of their own, to give the warmest affection and sympathy to her, her husband, and her children. They were long held in remembrance by Janies Murray’s descendants, several of whom bore their united names, “Anne Jean.”]


CAPE FEAR July 24th, 1749.

...I had yesterday the Happiness to receive Letters of the 24 June from my Lass and my Sister at Boston.... You will be curious to know how I do to live without them. Why, to confess the truth, I have a much better time of it than I expected. Whether this is owing to age, to the Heat of the Season, the regularity of my life, or to that Serious turn which grows upon me and becomes more and more agreeable, I cannot tell. I shall leave you to determine. I Discover for all, however, by this Separation that so much of my Happiness depends upon my Dear B— that I shall be very averse to such another parting while it pleases God to continue us in life, and I purpose to be like the Prodigal son after his hardships more obliging for the time to come. But where am I got to? ... Since I Came here I have been in good Spirits and without any sort of ailment. I had indeed a little fright in coming which discomposed me. The Story of it is this:

We left Boston on the 5th of June, and after much contrary winds, warm weather and a Stream against us we made the land on Thursday, the 6th of July, about 11 o’clock, having had Soundings about 20 fathom at 8. The day was clear and the wind was fair. In these Circumstances I found a heart more grateful than I believe it would have been after the same Voyage perform’d in a Week or ten days. At noon we were by the Capt & Mate’s observation abt 30 m south of our port. While we were thus sailing along at the rate of four or five miles an hour, and the Pines raising their heads more distinctly to our View, I took the advantage of this Good temper to review my conduct in the place to which I was now returning, to resolve an Amendment of the many faulty parts of it, and to acknowledge the undeserved goodness of Providence in the several Dispensations by which I had been led to so just a sense of my Sins and to a clearer perception of those Rules which adher’d to will secure my Tranquillity in this life and my happiness in the next. I need not tell you how much this meditation exalted the pleasure of my present situation & at the same time check’d the excess of it.

About two o’Clock we discover’d, as we thought, the Inlet of Cape Fear and saw a small Vessel going in before us. At three we came so near as to see a Ship at Anchor within the Harbour. From that time til four we were trying in vain to bring our Land marks to bear, perplex’d with the shoalness of the Water and with the Breakers we saw ahead. At last, dreading some mistake, we try’d to stretch out again to sea, but the Wind & tide were so strong against us we could not. Then we run in as well as we could. A little after four o’clock the Ship thump’d on the ground about two leagues distant from the shore. At the same time that this shock made my feet start from the Deck it rais’d my heart from its place. The People Star’d at one Another, and the Dog with his tail between his feet run into the Steerage. After a few of these strokes the ship went forward no more, but was only lifted up with the Sea and let fall in the same place. It luckily happen’d to be sand, and she stuck right on her Keel. The Pump was tried; as yet she made no water. The Sails were left standing to hinder her from Striking, and the Yawl was hoisted out with 5 hands to search for the Channel. They returned, finding it all shoal round. Now we fir’d Guns and made other Signals of distress, tho’ we knew no help could come to us against such a wind and tide. While we were lying in this posture, the man who was left in the boat to prevent her staving against the Ship let his rope Slip, and away he went. He had nought on but a shirt & P of trewsers, no subsistence, no help in the boat, and above two leagues to the Harbour. Tho’ the Wind was in, the tide was almost spent, so we gave up the man for lost; but that was a small matter to us compar’d to the loss of the boat and the Oars on which our own lives depended. Towards High water between 7 & 8 o’Clock it looked very black, thunder’d and lightened much, so that we expected a Storm and to pass our last night but uncomfortably. Yet the Common Sailors shew’d the same Stupidity, the same inconcern about a future State, and the same disregard of a Supreme Power now they were about to die as they had done in their lives.

A Black Dismal night Succeeded and the Wind increased, but by this time the Water left us at rest upon the Sand and the Wind drove the Waves against the ship as against a Rock, the noise of which prevented me from Sleeping tho I was very much fatigued with helping to heave out Balast to lighten the ship. At last about twelve o’Clock I fell fast a Sleep and was so happy as quite to forget the Condition I was in til near three next morning, when I wakd calm and in good Spirits. Now it being low Water, we saw there was not above two feet Water all round, and the Capt now first lost all hopes of the Ship and cried like a Child. I had put up the night before a Candlebox with a couple of Shirts, some papers &c, and was puting in the Silver Spoons; but the Cabin boy told me to put them in my pockets, for they would be taken out of the box. “A good thought,” said I, “George, they will help to sink me the sooner when turn’d a Drift, and if I’m sav’d they’ll be safe.” While I was lying awake and the waves giving us long warning of their Approach I thought my self very lucky that my wife was not with me, and now I had a very lively view of the vanity of all worldly Possessions. Here was a good Vessel, which we imagined was in a few hours to be safe in her port, like to be reduced to a wreck, and ourselves glad to give up every thing to save our lives and but little prospect of that. Now what avail’d all the Studies, cares & fatigue of my life except those which tended to improve me in Virtue and Religion? Now it was my greatest Support to have a firm perswasion that whether God intended my life or Death it was in Mercy to me; if life, to wean me still more from the world and give me another Instance of Deliverance never to be forgot; if Death to take me out of the way of approaching Temptation and for Exercise to the Piety of those concerned in me.

Our Hopes began again to dawn with the Day, at least of being safe in our lives. The Weather was moderate & the wind off shore, a thing very uncommon on this coast at this Season. About Sunrise we saw a Boat coming out, which in a little time came to an Anchor and made a Signal for us to send our Boat to her; but we could not, having nothing but a great Long boat, no Sails and but two oars. As soon as there was water sufficient she made toward us and to our great Joy we found it was the Pilot of Winyan, which place we had mistaken for Cape Fear. To bring you and myself out of this trouble a little faster than he did, I must briefly let you know that when we saw him every one, having no hopes of saving the ship, began to put up what few things they chused to save to be thrown on board the boat. He boarded us about seven and told us that a few yards distant from us lay a large parcell of Stones thrown out by another ship in the like distress, which if we had light upon would infallibly have destroy’d us. Favourd with a fair wind & moderate Weather, he got us off again about nine o’Clock to deep water, where you will be glad to leave us til the next Day, being Saturday, that we came safe in here.

Mrs. Murray joined her husband in August, 1750, and in the course of a year or two Point Repose, as the North Carolina plantation was fitly called, became their home.]


WILMINGTON, Nov. 10 1750.

...I am giving up all thoughts of Trade and retiring to a Plantation in the Country there not to live in a disgraceful Ease but to be ready at every call to serve my Country or my Friend. When I was appointed one of his Majestys Council for this Province about Eleven year ago there were Eight before me now I stand the fourth in the List — this office to compare small things with great is like your Attendance on Parliament it gives me the benefit of a two hundred Miles Ride twice a Year, some Influence in the Country and some Power to promote the good of it That and the Charge of Sisters Family and the Independence I can live in are my Chief Inducements to spend the rest of my Days here and never more to think of crossing the Atlantick.... Mr Rutherford with all his easy Temper is more pushing than one would imagine he is daily expected here with a Commission for Receivr Genl of the Kings Quitrents and a Considerable Cargo both obtaind as we hear by the Assistance of Mr Dinwiddie — his Place will be attended with much fatigue and Perquisites worth about two hundred a year.

My Wife desires to be dutifully remembered with me to Lady Philiphaugh and all your family. I have at last got her from Boston to help to plant this New Country but not till I went for her — In May last I arrived in Boston and left it the end of August by which I had an opportunity of spending three of the most disagreeable Months of this Climate in that poor Healthy Place New England— their Health they owe to Gods goodness their Poverty to their own bad Policy and this to their Popular Government.

I have little to say of our Friends here but that they are all well — my Eldest daughter is the only Child I have now alive she is a thumping Girl.23 My Sister Clark has three fine boys and a Daughter.

[The temporary shelter which held the family at first was before long replaced by a comfortable brick mansion, and though the tale of deaths following hard upon births, bearing evidence to the unhealthiness of the climate, is a sad one, the general tone of life there was that of cheerful success.24 Mr. Murray’s letters to Mrs. Bennet, and to Mrs. Clark, who, in 1753, went back to Scotland, give an idea of the varied and healthful interests of the planter’s life, as well as of his unfailing kindness to his sister, now dependent on him for support.]


CAPE FEAR, Febry 26th, 1755.

...I have about 100 thous’d Bricks burnt, & am to begin my House, if the Bricklayer keep his word, early next Month. My Crop of Rice comes much short of my expectation, partly by its having been too rank & Lodging & partly from Ignorance & want of Convenience to manage it. The middle part of my Log house I was obliged to turn into a Barn to pound the Rice in, not being able to get a bricklayer in time last fall to build a Barn, and tho I still continue Secretary the Money I get since the Presidents Currency came out is all proc. This renders My remittance for you and my Creditors Slacker & more difficult than I expected it. I thank God, however I have Received & am to receive sufficient to make both them & you easier, & the money employ’d in raising your Nursery gives me more pleasure than any I spend otherways, so you ought not to abate that pleasure by uneasiness or repining on that Score. If Indigo holds its price, or any thing near it, I shall be able to do a great deal, & so will the province in general.25


CAPE FEAR, Feb. 28, 1755.

...Being well acquainted with your Publick Spirit, I beg leave to put you in mind of representing to the Lords of Trade & Admiralty the Excellent quality of our Cypress & its fitness for Masts, & how much it would tend to increase our Shipping if proper encouragement could be had for Sending home our pine plank, which far exceeds that of Norway which you buy with ready money, whereas ours would be the purchase of your own Manufactores. The bounty on Indigo & several other Articles is a proof how usefull that kind of reward is to drive people out of a beaten Track of mispending their Time into unprofitable exports. The people of this Province are about 30,000, who from their Poverty & the Scarcity of European goods, the Effect of their poverty, are obliged to waste much of their time in the Manufactures of wool, flax & Cotton which with a vast deal more benefit to themselves as well as to the Mother Country might be employed in making the rough Materials to be Manufactored where Labour is Cheap & the Climate & soil more inhospitable. The Poverty of this Province appears to me (but to few in the Province beside me) to be owing in a great measure to our dabling in a paper Currency & dispensing with all special Contracts, under pretince of supporting the Credit of that Currency, but in truth to answer the ill designs of the Champions for it to enable them to pay their Creditors on their own terms. Another cause of our Poverty, idleness & uselessness to our Mother Country, & likewise of the thinness of our Settlements, [is] a Single person being able to hold a great quantity at a low rent without Cultivation. All Instructions restraining this are continualy broke thro. A more effectual way to remedy the past ills of this kind & to prevent the future seems to be to impose a smart Land tax, either by the General union, if it takes place, if not by act of Parliament. Such an act might be so contrived as to procure a good rent roll for the Crown thro out the Provinces, a Considerable part of this Tax to be applied to encourage Manufactures benificial to the Province & Great Britain. I make no Apology for these Hints. Use them as you please. Our Governor26 has the Interest of the Crown & his Government much at heart, but does not throughly understand the ill Tendency of a paper Currency, especially to a poor Colony, as will be evident to you when I send you his plan for a Land Bank. To this plan it seems he has got the previous Concurrence of the Lords of Trade, & it is to come under consideration next Assembly in November. If it passes, it will continue us in spite of Indigo so much the longer useless to our selves & the Mother Country.


Mercht in New York

CAPE FEAR, Sept. 4, 1756.

...If you Can meet with a Sober diligent man with or without a familly, Skilld in Tanning and Currying, I desire the favour of you to engage him for me for three years at the rate of forty Pounds Sterling payable in the Currency of this Province yearly, or thirty Pounds like Money payable as aforesaid with Provision, lodging & washing. I shall pay the Customary Passage for one or two persons, provide him a House & Some ground to Plante, about 5 Acres fenced in for himself if he has a familly. You may put an advertisement in your paper for this purpose if you see it necessary, and let me Know before Christmas, whether I Can be Suplied by you.


Mercht in New York

CAPE FEAR, Sept 4, 1756.

...I am also in need of good Sawyer to tend a Saw Mill, which when well tended & in a Common year will Cut about 100 Thousad feet. To such a one I would be willing to give a tenth part of the Lumber Sawn.... If Mr Franklin would Send me his Gazette postage free, it Should be punctualy paid for, & it would also oblige our President, who is my next Neighbour....


CAPE FEAR, July 19, 1756.

I find also by a trial that my overseer, a Swiss, has made both this year & last that silk may be made here to great advantage. The worms thrive uncommonly, fed with the leaves of wild Mulberry. Whether they will be equally healthy upon the Italian I Shall know, as I intend to Plant out 2000 trees next year. This, I hope, will entitle me to the bounty of your improving society in London. I have forgot its name. I shall send you a specimen of the silk.


CAPE FEAR, Februry 8th, 1757.

...The accounts you give of the Children’s health & progress except Jammy’s are very Satisfactory. Only I think the Master is to blame for keeping back Tommy in Compleisance to his Brother. We cannot expect that Jam will in his sickly way come any great Length, whereas Tom’s genius ought to be improv’d to the uttermost. It is my Settled Intention if I live, & let my Family Increase as it will, to carry on Tom’s Education at the Expence of £200 or £300 Ster. and to make a Lawyer of him, if he has not an aversion to it. Brother John proposes to take charge of his Namesake, & Jammy must come out with you when the others have done with their Schools, or sooner by himself when the war is over, if the Doctor’s think it will be for the Benifit of his health....

I am much oblig’d to Lady Don for her kindness to you & the Children & shall contrive some such way as you propose to make my Acknowledgments to her.

[When the French and Indian wars broke out, Mr. Murray followed with interest the movements of his friend Captain Innes.] “You will be informed e’er this,” he wrote on September 4, 1754, to Captain Archibald Douglas, “that our old friend Col. Innes has the chief command of the American forces aboard the Ohio, where he has an enemy alert in their preparations and notions, well supported, and only a few ragged men from these discontented colonies without money or provisions to oppose them. Thus he is like to gather few laurels on these mountains. He had better have stayed at home to gather lightwood.”

[Perhaps it was the influence of Dr. Franklin’s gazette that inclined him favorably to the “plan of general union” mentioned in the following letter, although it could not endue him with belief in the immediate greatness of America.]


CAPE FEAR, March 3d 1755.

...About a fortnight ago I had the Pleasure to receive your favr & from the Camp at Wills Creek. The calling you off from your Connections & Improvements at home I dare say must be a great Mortification to you, your Lady & Friends, but I would fain hope you will do the Business of the French so speedily that it will only be a short Recess & give a better Relish to your Retirement. The Plan of the General Union or some thing like it seems absolutely necessary to bring the Colonies to act with Vigour in their own Defence, & it is thought such Union will prove a Step in the Scheme of Providence for fixing in Time an Empire in America. But this will be long after our Day.

Every Body in this province (one only excepted) readily acknowledges Col. Innes’s fitness for the Task he is engaged in, and will be as ready to thank him in words for His Services but as to pecuniary Reward I dare say they will not think of it. His Fortunes they know are not only easy, but opulent. Theirs in general are not so. The paper Money they are so bewitchingly fond of gives them, ‘t is true, some temporary Relief, but certainly brings Discredit, Perfidy & Poverty in the Rear.

If Indigo succeeds, as we have Reason to hope, the value of our Export will be so increased as to remove several of the bad Effects of our Paper Coin; but if that fails, we must spin & weave & brew for ourselves. No body will deal with us. But to return to a more agreeable Subject, your Letter....Mrs Murray & my two Daughters,27 the eldest & youngest of Six Children, are now all my Stock, & are very healthy & hearty. My Wife has not had an Hour’s sickness since she has been in the Province. This and some good Luck as Temporary Secretary render the Climate and other Circumstances tolerably easy to us....

Mr Elliot, Sir Gilbert’s Son, about whom you enquire, is making moderate bread as a Lawyer, & that in spite of great Modesty, Integrity & disinterestedness, Qualities for which the Gentlemen of that Profession in this Province are not in General very remarkable.

[Of Braddock’s defeat he wrote January 14, 1756, to his cousin Lady Mary Don:] “Being here at a distance both from the scene and season of war, it is out of my power to give you any information on that head, only that our hopes of success are as sanguine, and we think better founded than ever, since the French have been so depressed at sea and have taught us how to attack and defend in the woods. But whatever coup de maitre by negotiation or arms the French have in reserve for us, it can hardly be more surprising than was Braddock’s defeat, not indeed to everybody, for men of experience, some of them I have conversed with, saw him by council and conduct a bird ready for the snare.”

[While Governor Johnston lived Mr. Murray’s interest in public affairs was active, though he did not by any means support all the Governor’s measures. Johnston had died in 1752. In 1753 Mr. Murray was appointed “Secretary, Clerk of the Council and Clerk of the Crown,” but he was not in sympathy with Johnston’s successor, Governor Dobbs, who was appointed in 1754. Friction soon arose between them, which resulted in 1757 in the suspension by the Governor of Mr. Murray, as well as of his friend John Rutherford, then receiver-general of quit-rents, from their seats as members of the Council until his Majesty’s pleasure should be known. Through exertions of friends in England, however, who presented the matter before the proper authorities, both were in 1762, by his Majesty with the advice of his Privy Council, reinstated, Mr. Murray being restored to the rank he held at the time of his suspension. This, owing to the death of the senior member, placed him first in the list, with the ex-officio rank of president of the Council. The suspension seems to have given him little concern, nor are the matters in controversy clearly stated in his letters, but they may be gathered from the printed records.

The underlying cause of the suspension, and the kernel of the whole matter, was Mr. Murray’s opposition to Governor Dobbs. This is apparent from a letter written by the Governor himself to the Board of Trade, dated December 27, 1757, in which he states his case against the two councilors, and in which Mr. Murray is made to figure in the novel rôle of leader of a junto, enemy of the royal prerogative, and popular agitator. This letter contains the following paragraphs:—]

“First it appeared plain to me that they [Murray and Rutherford] and 2 others had agreed always to vote together in Council and others being disunited that they might carry or reject what Bills they thought proper, and thus by a party to make it necessary to the Governour to confide in them and govern by a party. But I had also further reasons against Mr. Murray, who piqued himself in leading and advising the Junto, that he as one of the Council endeavored to lessen his Majesty’s prerogative and add to the power of the Assembly: That he had endeavored to form a party in the Assembly to make himself popular against the Government, raised and encouraged a republican party, drew clauses in the former Sessions which he gave in his own handwriting to them, to obstruct and clog the Aid Bill by encroaching upon his Majesty’s prerogative and taxing the fees of his officers, and so make a division between the Council and Assembly in case they would not carry the clause in Council. However, his clauses were thrown out by management in the Lower House. This I had from several of the members of the Assembly, yet did not think it prudent to mention it in Council as a charge against him, but delayed it until by his schemes something further should appear against him.

“This uniting their Interest together appeared in their carrying a Bill thro the Council by one vote to distress the Government by secluding several of his Majesty’s friends from sitting in future assemblies by a Bill to regulate Elections which I rejected, a Copy of which I send to your Lordships that you may see what they and the assembly are driving at to raise their own power and lessen their dependence on the Crown. This Murray and his Junto did that they might make me unpopular with the Assembly in rejecting their favorite Bill.... I therefore leave it to your Lordships whether I have done my Duty in suspending Mr. Murray and Mr. Rutherford from the Council or whether such a designing man acting in conjunction with others against the prerogatives is a fit person to be restored and made a member of the Council.”28

[The ostensible reason for the suspension, the “something more which should appear against him,” for which the Governor waited, before suspending him from the Council, was Mr. Murray’s issuing over his signature printed “notes,” which by their terms promised that they should be accepted by the Receiver-General in payment of quit-rents due to the Crown. These instruments were in effect bills drawn upon the Receiver-General, by whom some of them were accepted by his writing on the face over his signature, “To be paid with interest,” and were subsequently received in payment of quit-rents from the persons into whose hands they came. The charge was thus directed against both Murray and Rutherford.29 The issue of these bills, and their acceptance and receipt by the Receiver-General in lieu of money was apparently irregular, but involved no bad faith upon the part of either, and was an expedient, not without precedent, adopted as a means of securing payment to Mr. Murray of arrears of his salary then long overdue. At a meeting of the Council, on December 1, 1757,30 the Governor brought the matter before the Board, and an order was passed that a proclamation issue forbidding the receipt of any such bills thereafter.

[Rutherford vigorously defended his course before the Council. When called upon by the Governor to explain his action, he answered,31 ] “Mr. Murray having a salary due to him from the Crown for the time he acted as Secretary and Clerk of the Crown in this Province, & having occasion to buy corn and other Commody from the Planters, desired leave to make use of this expedient to get payment of his salary, & firmly obliged himself to be accountable to me in money for the surplus if any. This expedient,” he continues, “I consented to for the following reasons —

“lst. Because the receivers, my Predecessors, admitted of orders from the Officers of the Crown, in the like cases for Quit Rents and for sums of greater value.

“2nd. Because I apprehended it to be well calculated for easing the Tenant and enabling, nay putting him in mind, to pay his rents, and at the same time for discharging the debts of the Crown without depreciating the Currency, — No person being compelled to take those notes in payment, and the sum issued inconsiderable.

“3rd. The sum Mr. Murray issued in notes was three hundred and twenty pounds, of which there are not more now circulating than eighty eight, and that shall speedily be called in.”

[The defense was, however, addressed to unwilling ears, and the minutes of the meeting of the Council of December 14, 1757, contain the following record of the suspension:] “...and on account of the Issuing the Printed notes under hand and Seal by James Murray Esquire promising the same should be accepted by the Receiver General in payment of his Majesty’s Quit Rents and the same being agreed to be accepted in payment of his Majesty’s Quit Rents by John Rutherford, Esqr. Receiver General of his Majesty’s Quit Rents His Excellency was pleased to suspend the said James Murray and John Rutherford Esqr as Members of his Majesty’s Council for this Province, and the said James Murray and John Rutherford are accordingly suspended until his Majesty’s pleasure be known.”32

[In a memorial addressed to the “Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations,” praying for an inquiry and for redress, Mr. Murray states that he was “suspended from his seat ... by his Excellency Governor Dobbs without being accused of or being conscious to himself of having been guilty of any crime or misdemeanor whatsoever.”33 The Lords Commissioners sustained the Governor and recommended to the Crown that the suspension of both Rutherford and Murray be confirmed. Their recommendation was based rather upon the general charges of factious opposition contained in the Governor’s letter than upon the issue of the bills, as to which as a sufficient ground for suspension they appear to have entertained doubt.] “We must beg leave to submit to your Majesty,” they reported, “whether the Reasons entred on the Council Journals, grounded as it appears on Facts fully proved in Council, might not alone be sufficient to justify such suspensions and to induce your Majesty to confirm them; but if it be true, as Mr. Dobbs alledges in his letter, ... that these gentlemen have formed parties in the Council and Assembly with design to embarrass and oppose your Majesty’s Prerogative and to add to the Power of the Assembly, We are humbly of opinion that it is necessary for the Peace and good government of North Carolina, as well as for the support of your Majesty’s said Governor in his administration, that they should be removed.”34

[The recommendation of the Lords Commissioners bore date May 12, 1758. No further action appears to have been taken by the Crown in the matter until 1763, when by order of his Majesty (George III. since 1760) both Murray and Rutherford were reinstated as has been already explained.

[A few passages from Mr. Murray’s letters will serve to show how lightly the whole matter touched him. To his brother John he wrote, in January, 1759:—]

“I can no longer delay my acknowledgments for the most friendly & Zealous part you have acted in my Affairs. I could wish indeed that you had the same View of them that I have taken since I have been untied from the World by the Loss of the greatest Blessing, the greatest Comfort I had in it.35 You would then have saved a deal of Trouble & vexation to your self & my good friend your Father in Law. In my present Temper & Circumstances I had much rather be the private man minding my Farm & endeavouring to leave something clear to my Family than be the Zealous Counsellor strugling against the Stream for Measures thought right & hated or envied by those I contended for. I cannot, indeed, say that my Zeal has been always temper’d with that meekness and Prudence which ought to be the Cardinal Virtues of a man in public Life.”

[And to John Murray of Philiphaugh in 1760:—]

BOSTON, August 6th, 1760.

...I find by all hands you continue to be the same Zealous Patron of your Friends that Philiphaugh used to be. I am sorry, however, you should have had so much solicitation on my account by Reason of Govr. Dobb’s Suspension. That gentleman by the extraordinary efforts of his power in more Suspensions and Removals &c. &c. has done all that in him lies to establish properly his own Character and that of his opponents. The seven votes and addresses which have lately passed almost unanimously in his Genl. Assembly will probably appear in your public papers and show in what light he stands here. As I have taken no part in these Squables he has nothing new to charge me with, and I hope it will not be in his power for the former score to keep me out of the list in the next Commission. This is the more material as I am now the first, by the death of the late President....

[In a letter of 1761 he said to his brother:—]

“As to the politicks of our province, it is some time since you knew my Sentiments of them and the little desire I had to be again engaged in them, so little that I would not trouble my Friends with a Justification of my Conduct, which you hinted to be necessary. They, I knew, did me Justice in their own Opinion. And there was no room to expect it, let me say whatever I could, from a board which had condemned me unheard, upon no heavy charge. From the apparent partiality and Credulity of the first Commissioner, the Dominus factotum, to my Opponent I imagined it in vain to make my personal appearance at home, altho I could have been well supported with money. Mr. Rutherfurd’s tedious attendance, successful though it may be in the end, is sufficient to deter every man of less patience and Assiduity than himself, that is about 99 in 100. Could I have foreseen the change in the ministry, encouraged by the prospect I should have been ambitious enough to have accepted of your Invitation and of the support that was offered me. Now I believe it too late. From this you perceive that I have seen your Letter of the 7th June, 1760, to my Sister, which overtook me in my way Southward at Philadelphia; and on my return home I met with your long and distinct letter to me of the 15th December, 1759, giving the whole process of Mr. Rutherford’s affairs and mine at the boards. This afforded great satisfaction, not only to me but to all our Friends to whom it was proper to show it, which were the fewer, that the old Gentleman our Governor might not be further exasperated.”

[In the letter of March 3, 1755, to John Rutherford, Mr. Murray referred to his wife’s constant good health. A wet and sickly season in the summer of 1757, however, brought on a low fever, which was partly checked by change of air only to come back in full force with the autumn. Her illness continued with alarming symptoms through the winter until, on the 19th of February, she died. Her infant daughter survived her only a fortnight, and the death of little Jean, a child of engaging qualities, followed hard upon.

[The letters of this period speak for themselves.]


CAPE FEAR, March 21, 1758.

MY DEAR DOLLY,36 — Your Letter to your Mama of the 20th Feb came to my hand a few days since with the worked chair, both of which would have given her great pleasure, but she is gone to enjoy pleasures infinitely greater. This Loss, both you & I have Reason to thank God, will be well made up to you in an Aunt whose Affection has been always more like a Mamas than an aunt’s; and as to the two younger Children, if they Survive, ‘t is probable I may get them tollerably well taken care of ‘till you come up to be a Mother to them. If you answer my expectations, you may rest assured I shall be as good a father as you can desire. Such a one the Children of the best of Wives deserves, and shall glory in denying my self the enjoyments of a world I am shortly to leave in purpose that you may the better enjoy a world you are soon to come into. Have therefore no anxiety or Suspicion about my Conduct, but be careful of your own. You have a good example before you. Be constant in your prayers to God & in Endeavours to imitate it. It is my purpose, if it is agreeable to your Uncle & Aunt, to continue you where you are till the Autumn 1760, unless they come hither in the time & then you can return with them.

If my Sister thinks proper all or part of your Mama’s Cloaths shall be sent for you. May God direct & preserve you for a Comfort to a father who at present is desolate enough.

Your affectionate J M                        

March 23. Your Sister Jeany dead


CAPE FEAR, March 25th, 1758.

DEAR MADAM, —... The Waters continued on our low grounds part of July & August with little Intervals, and at going off in September the Vapours from the Swamps made the Inhabitants near the low Grounds very sickly. Hence Mrs Murray’s and my Daughter Jeany’s sickness begun. We went to the Sound near the Sea in October, & they recovered so fast that she was impatient to be home that I might be disengaged to look after my business; but no sooner came we home than she relapsed into her intermittent fevers, attended with Swellings. We went back to the Sound in Novr, but not with equal benefit.... At length on the 17th of February Mrs Murray was deliverd of a Daughter in the 8th Month, and died on the 19th. The young child lived only a fortnight after her, and Jeany died on the 23d of this Month. I am Your dutiful & Affecte Son


March 27th 1758.

DR SISTERS, — I must refer you for what concerns you here to my letter to your Mamma of the 25th. The tale is not easy to be repeated. I did not imagine any thing in this world or the Loss of all of it would have sit so heavy on my Spirits. In this Distress the following home spun Lines have been some hours amusement. I know I have no turn for what they aim at, but when I meet with any thing of that sort not unworthy of the Subject I have a very good Marble Slab on which to cut them. I have saved some of your Sister’s Hair, which I shall send with my Crop in the fall if I make any for Rings to you both & Mamma.

You may depend on my making a good Father to both my poor Children.... Dolly I intend shall stay with her Aunt for a year or two, & Bettzy must be my little Comfort here if it pleases God to spare her. I am Dr Sisters

Your Affectionate Bror                        

February the 19th, 1758.

At Point Repose
Humbly Confiding
In the Approbation of Almighty God
Of a Life well spent
In the prudent and pious Discharge
Of Every Duty incumbent
A Soul departed the Earth
And for herself now careth not
How or by whom she be here remembered
But her Friends
Who in her Life were happy, in her Death are desolate
Here plant this in Fears.
But why Lament? since a few minutes more
“Will set us off this Transitory Scene
“In Joy Serene for ever to remain
With this Meek Friend whom we deplore.


CAPE FEAR, April 1st, 1758.

SISTER CLARK, — ... thus it has pleased God in a very Short time to make a wide breach in my Family. May I learn from it to be more resign’d & to be faithful & Diligent in my part while I am left behind....

As to advice about your moving & the Children’s Education & putting them to business, I am greatly at a Loss. Were it not for the uncertainty of the Times I should be glad to have you here with Tommy, since he inclines to be a planter. It will disappoint my Hopes to see him something of more importance than a meer Planter, but since it has pleased God to disable me to prosecute that Scheme as I intended and to reduce me to this Solitary Condition, his being here will be a present ease & help to me without, and your care will be no less necessary within doors, for I do not propose to take Dolly from her Aunt at Boston these two years. Jacky cannot be placed better than with his Uncle John to be brought up in his way, but his Education must be finished so as to make him fit for the business either there or thereabout if you come away. I have no Objections to James’s being a Merchant, only let him be with one that is realy such and who is exact and regular in Method, and this on as easy Terms as may be. I suppose you’ll bring Anny with you. I still think she ought to be bred under her Aunt at Boston, tho’ I have heard nothing in approbation of what I formerly proposed about that either from you or them. If it should succeed, she must stay till Dolly comes away, that we may not be too burdensome.

You are not to construe any thing in this as a Desire, and much less as peremptory Directions, for your coming out. I submit the whole intirely to your own Judgment and Inclination. If you find Continuing at home will be more agreeable to you and more for the benefit of the Children, stay in God’s name. The Difference of Expence in one way or the other will be inconsiderable to me. I hope, if Fortune does not persist in persecuting me, still to be able to continue your 60£ a year, if that will do. But Times must Mend considerably before I can pay up the arrears or enlarge the allowance, as I am sensible it ought to be according as your Children grow up. And it is likely Bror John’s Circumstances are so narrow & his own Family so large that he can give no Assistance, to which his generous Heart would readily prompt him were he able.

Miss Bell McNeil has been with me since your Sister died & takes great care of the House & Bettzy, who seems at present to thrive, but so did the rest at her age....


BOSTON, June 24th, 1758.

HONOURED FATHER, —I received your most affectionate letter which brought the melencholly news of my Dear Mammas death. It greaves me very much ... I have an Aunt that has always been like a mother to me which I am very thankfull for, notwithstanding the loss of so Dear and Tender a mamma is very great to me, but Gods will must be done. I hope He will enable me to submit as becomes one who has been brought up as I have. You my Dear Papa meet with great afflictions; how moving your letter. The death of my two Sisters so soon after my Mamma must increase your grief tho’ small in comparison to the first, yet to so tender and good a Father it is melencholly. You bid me have no anxiety or suspicion about your conduct. No my Papa, far be it from me to suspect you in anything that would not be to my advantage. I am very anxious about your health. I hope you will do everything to contribute to it and pray keep up your spirits. I shall endevour with the assistance of my Aunt to be qualified as you direct, and hope with your good advice from time to time to answer your expectations in every particular. I am determined to do everything in my power that she thinks will be agreeable to you.

May God Almighty of his Infinite Goodness, Bless and preserve My Dear Papa for a director to his helpless babes — helpless indeed without your paternal care. I hope we shall have gratitude enough to acknowledge your goodness to the last moment of our lives. Even after this mortal state that we meet never to part and give thanks that we had so good a Father and Mother, is the sincere prayer of

Your most dutifull Daughter     
DOROTHY MURRAY.                    

P. S. — Give my love to my dear little Sister Betzy. I have sent her a doll and a few other things which I hope she will like. Please offer my compliments to Mis McNel and I am very glad she is with you.


[To Dr. John Murray, who had for some years been married to Mary Boyle, daughter of Valentine Boyle, Collector of Customs, and was settled ashore37 in the practice of his profession, Mr. Murray wrote in January, 1759: —]

“I congratulate you on your Numerous family, & rejoice to hear how happy a man my Sister Makes you. If your Roses are mix’d with thorns, there’s no other cure for that in my Dispensatory than Resignation. Every part of your Letter engages my affection, but that the most where you undertake to be a parent to my Girls in case they are deprived of their solitary surviving one. I do not flatter my self with living to take care of some of your Bairns; but if I do, it will be as much in my power, & no less in my Inclination, if they are willing to become Americans, a Country which in their day will in all probability be a very flourishing one, & the new Acquisitions toward the Mississippi the most. Let me not by anything said alarm you for my health or chearfulness. My Health has been better of late than it used to be in the Winter season, & if I have little Comfort I have little care. My House is almost finished & paid for at a very easy rate, considering the Strength, Beauty & Conveniency of the building. The money & Labour expended on it, or a great part of them, would probably have been sunk otherwise without such a desirable Monument of the Expence. ‘T is true the House is by much too grand & splendid for me, considering how my Family & Prospects are reduced, & yet I do not repent the undertaking. If my Daughter does not like it or has no use for it, it will sell better in her day than mine, and in the mean time a Corner of it will afford me a warm & comfortable Retirement. I am not out of humour with the Country as you imagine. I am perswaded I have my health better here than I could have any where else, and my Improvements are amusements to my taste no other place could afford. As to the people, they are neither better or worse in gross than those of other Countries: that I have not been a greater favourite with them is more my own fault than theirs.”


1Letter to Wm. Guyther, March 20, 1752.

2 Roger Moore's.

3 As to church services, it may be said that ever since the Bishop of London had, in 1725, extended his jurisdiction to the American colonies, churches or chapels had been established in the different counties; but to get and keep a reputable minister had been, as late as 1731, a difficult matter. In that year Governor Burrington wrote, in his address to the Duke of Newcastle, “This country has no orthodox minister legally settled; those that formerly have been here generally proved so very bad that they gave people offence by their vicious lives.”

4 Williamson says, in his History of North Carolina, that McCulloh “speculated largely in crown lands with a view of paying for them by importing settlers,” and that his son, Henry Eustace McCulloh, “reported between three and four hundred persons thus brought into the Provinces.”

In the Life and Letters of James Iredell, McCulloh is described as having been “cherished by his friends with affection and regard.” The same book says, further, that he impaired his large fortune by furnishing means to his immigrants, but that his son, who was apparently a man of a very different stamp, succeeded in making good his claim to about sixty-four thousand acres of land. Henry McCulloh was an uncle of James Iredell.

5 This is an allusion, of course, to the Moores.

6 To the Cape Fear region.

7 “...Many have I seen since I have been here, hearty & Gay & Brisk one week & the next attended to the grave. This is a dismal climate & when one gets sickly here I have hardly ever known an instance of his recovering.” Macdowell, in Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. vi. p. 977.

8 James Innes, afterwards Colonel Innes.

9 See Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. iv. p. v.

10 This illustrates the backwardness of North Carolina in possessing means of transportation.

11 “There are now forty Swss people,” Mr. Murray wrote in this month to Andrew Bennet, “the beginning of six thousand contracted for from that country, which, with a great number of Irish expected next year, will raise our country in a hurry.”

12 A son of John Murray of Philiphaugh.

13 Negroes, since the very earliest days of the country, when slaves worked under Sir John Yeamans, in the Cape Fear settlement, had proved the speediest means of gaining wealth.

14 Of Newtown.

15 His cousin Barbara was evidently a poor correspondent.

16 Thomas.

17 James.

18 Mr. Murray was then twenty-seven years of age.

19 A term of derision possibly dating from the time when Maurice Moore and others, in a document setting forth the claims for consideration possessed by these holders of the blank patents, stated that there were “twelve thousand persons in their families” and in families of those under their care. Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. xviii. p. 310.

20 “At a Council held at Newbern 18th February, 1739/40.
Present his Excellency the Governour
The Honorable Wm Smith, Nath Rice, Robt Halton, Math Rowan, Edwd Moseley, Roger Moore, Eleazr Allen, Esqrs Members of His Majesty's Council. His Excellency the Governour was pleased to acquaint this Board that he had received a letter from Right Honorable the Lords of Trade and Plantations Signifying that he had been graciously pleased to approve of his recommendation of Mr Murray for a Councillor of this Province in the room of Mr Porter deceased, which the Governour ordered to be read.

WHITEHALL, Sept. 12th, 1739.

SIR, -... In compliance with your request of the 8th of Feby. 1737/8 we have recommended Mr Murray to... his Majesty for a Councillor in the room of Mr Porter deceased and his Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve of him accordingly....

M. BLADEN.                                

JA. BRUDENELL.                          

R. PLUMER.                                 

...And the said Mr Murray, being called to the Board and acquainted therewith took and subscribed the several oaths by law appointed to be taken for the qualification of Public Officers also to execute said Office Faithfully.” Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. iv. pp. 444, 445.

21 Editor of the Colonial Records of North Carolina.

22 The names recall the Scottish associations.

23 Of the death of the daughter born in Boston there is no mention.

     James Murray's children, so far as the letters and records show were:—
     Dorothy, b. 1745, in London; died 1811.
     Daughter, b. Jan. 1749, in Boston; died—
     Archibald, b. July 1751, in North Carolina; died 1753.
     Jean, b. 1754, in North Carolina; died 1758.—
     Elizabeth, b. 1756, in North Carolina; died 1837.
     Infant, b. 1758, in North Carolina; died 1758.

24 He was always supported by a philosophic habit of mind. Of a cousin's death he wrote, for example, in 1757, “These Incidents ought to learn us to lean little on Comforts of that kind & to resemble old Officers season'd in Service, who are not so much concernd to see their Freinds dropping from about them as watchful to do their own part, till it comes to their Turn to fall.”

25 His success in indigo was fair. In 1759 he wrote to his brother John, “I have made about 1000 lb to my share this year, besides Rice and Tar and might have made clear double that quantity had my Overseer been good.”

26 Governor Dobbs, who had recently succeeded to the governorship upon the death of Governor Johnston. Mr. Murray's opposition to this measure and to others proposed by Dobbs drew down upon him the governor's ill-will.

27 Dorothy and Jean.

28 Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. v. p. 946.

29 Governor Dobbs's version of the matter, contained in a letter of Dec. 26, 1757, to the Lords of the Treasury, is this:—

“...He [Mr. Rutherford] allowed his friend and adviser, Mr. Murray, one of the Council, to issue printed notes under hand and seal without limitation to be allowed in payment of Quit Rents with Interest, ... which he himself [Rutherford] endorsed or accepted to give the same a Sanction, and directed the several Sheriffs to take them in payment of Quit Rents, which was an effectual way to depreciate the paper Currency of the Province, which he said was with an Intention that Mr. Murray might be paid his arrear due from the Establishment, giving him the preference to others without any orders for it. Upon this sanction Mr. Murray issued Notes of his own to be allowed in the Counties of New Hanover, Onslow, Duplin and Bladen, and upon the success he had in issuing of these he then issued Notes to be allowed in Quit Rents over the whole Province ... and refused to pay them in Provincial currency or in anything but for Quit Rents or for Debts due to him, or for Goods bought for him at what price he pleased to sell them, which at least is 300 p cent currency upon sterling money. They said he had issued but few, for which no evidence appeared and can't tell when it would have ended if they had not been stop'd by Proclamation, and after their defence the Council without a Negative voting Mr. Rutherford guilty of a misdemeanor in his Office I suspended him until his Majesty's pleasure is known, and both him and Mr. Murray from the Council....” Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. v. p. 941.

It is to be observed that the letter charges that the notes had been issued “without limitation,” and disregards the statement of Rutherford and Murray that “he had issued but few,” on the ground that no “evidence appeared” to support it, thus casting on them the burden of proving a negative. Rutherford stated specifically that the amount issued was £320.

30 See Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. v. p. 821.

31 See Ibid., vol. v. p. 937.

32 Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. v. p. 827.

33 Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. v. p. 956.

34 Ibid., vol. v. p. 957.

35 This letter was written after the death of Mrs. Murray.

36 Dorothy was with Mr. Murray's sister Elizabeth in Boston.

37 Dr. John Murray served for many years as a surgeon in His Majesty's navy, but having received his diploma from Edinburgh, retired from service on half pay, and in 1751 settled at Wells in Norfolk, where he practiced as a physician until 1768, when he removed to Norwich. See Appendix.

| Out-of-Print Bookshelf | Maps | Newspapers | Picture Gallery | Other Useful Links |Monographs| NC Historical Review | First Editions

North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Colonial Records Project Home Page