Transcription of Informations concerning the Province of North Carolina addressed to Emigrants from the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland by an Impartial Hand. Nos Patriam Fugimus (We Left Behind). Glasgow: Printed for James Know, Bookseller, Glasgow, and Charles Elliot, Bookseller Parliament Close, Edinburgh, MDCCLXXII (1773).
Province of North Carolina
Migrations to America from many parts of Britain, particularly to the province of North Carolina, from the Highlands and isles of Scotland, have, of late, become very frequent and numerous, and are likely to continue so. Whatever this may be owning to, the matter is serious, and to some, the consequences are very alarming. The natives of the highlands and isles have always been remarkable for the strongest attachment to the place of their nativity, and for the highest respect towards their masters and superiors. In these, they were wont to find kind patrons and protectors, and cherishing, indulgent fathers to themselves and familes. This endeared to them a soil and climate to which nature has not been very liberal of its favours, in somuch, that they have ever shewn the utmost aversion at leaving their country, or removing to happier regions, and more indulgent climates. That this is true of the Highlanders in general, will be acknowledge by those who are in the least acquanted with them. The cause, then, that could induce a people of this cast, to forsake their native lands, in such numbers, and make them seek for habitations in countries far distant and unknown, must, doubtless, be very cogent and powerful. And here, let the present land-holders and proprietors consider, whether, of late, they are not greatly to blame? whether they have not begun to shake the iron rod of oppression to much over them? Let proprietors of the largest estates among them, such whose fortunes enables them to figure it away in life, ask themselves, if they have not used every means to estrange the affections of the Highlanders from them? whether they have not contributed all their power, and, in a manner, exerted themselves to make their home intolerable and disabreeable to them, and lessen their once strong attachment towards their beloved, though poor country, so as to make them forget their native prejudices, surmount every apparent difficulty, and become emigrants and adventurers to other climes and regions far remote.
The luxury, dissipation, and extravagance of the times, may chiefly account for this change of conduct in the land holders towards their tenants. Formerly the proprietors resided mostly among them upon their estates, conversed freely, and were familiar with them, were tender of them, cherished, and patronized them; to them the tenants were devoted; to them they had recourse upon every emergency: they were happy, they grew up and prospered under them. The modern lairds, unlike their fore-fathers, live at a great distance from their estates. Whatever misfortunes may befal the tenants, whatever grievances they have to complain of, whatever oppression they may groan under, they have no access to their masters; they scarce know where he lives, or where to find him; or, if they should, it is a long and expensive journey to go where he is; and compaints at a distance are seldom listened to, or properly redressed. Careless and unconcerned the master lives in the circle, as it is called, of the gay and great. There, in a round of merriment and whim, in a vortex of air amusements, of giddy and unsubstantial pleasures, and at the height of an expensive, though false and unnatural taste, he squanders away his fortune, and wastes his time and his health at once.
Seldom does he visit his estate, or if he deigns to do it, it is only with an intention to squeeze and oppress the tenants still more, and then betake himself in haste to the same scenes of dissipation and luxury, where, what he has extorted from the over-awed and deluded tenants, soon runs short, and is exhausted. In these visits to their estates, they are commonly attended with minions and sycophants, ever ready to soothe and flatter them, and escite their predominant passions, to the great hurt of the tenants, whom they are taught to look upon, only as instruments whereby to grativy their avarice and extravagance. And when the poor expect relief and protection from their masters, as formerly, they find every avenue and all access to them shut up, or, if admitted into their preference, they find such an awful distance and state kept, that they are spurned away with looks expressive of the utmost contempt, or dismissed with a volley of oaths and curses, in a language strange and unknown to the most of them.
These gentlemen too, accustomed to live in large and wealthy cities, or in the most fertile and best cultivated provinces of Britain, are greatly shocked, in their visits, at the rude aspect, and sterile face of the Highlands, and at the small progress that agriculture makes in these remote parts. The natives are exclaimed against, as an intractable, idle, and useless set of beings. Without means, without encouragement, at a distance from market, against climate, and soil too, in many places, it is expected of them, that they should cultivate and eclose wide extended heaths, rugged mountains, and large barren morasses. But, may it not be asked, if the proprietors themselves have shewn any extraordinary specimen of examples of this sort among them? have they done anything effectual towards bringing on, or establishing fisheries, trade, or manufactories on their estates? Such of them as do improve and enclose their ground, is it not an immense expense, far beyond the reach of most tenants in the Highlands? Are not these things carried on from father to son, through a long tract of time? And, in general, may it not be asked, whether much advantage has, as yet, been made of them? and whether they are not still at a very low pass over all the Highlands?But, at any rate, can it be expected, that tenants, upon short leases, can do anything remarkable in this way, especially at this period, when, instead of that tender indulgence and encouragement requisite to bring forward agriculture in a country still lying in a state of nature, nothing is heard of but new impositions, new grassums, and a rife of rents equal to, if not beyond, what the gross produce of the ground can amount to? But if, in the opinion of these gentlemen, the native highlanders are deemed so useless and lazy a people at home, why is any bar attempted to be thrown in the way of their emigrating from their native country? why rather not contribute to send them off, in order to make room for another "set of tenants more able and industrious, that will soon make the country put on a different aspect, that by dint of labor or magic, shall make their barren wastes, and heath grown mountains, rival, in verdure and produce, the fertile plains of Lothian, or Carse of Falkirk;" tenants that can bear any load laid upon them by their tender-hearted landlords, with chearfulness, and without murmuring? What a happiness for these needy and arbitrary lairds to rule over a parcel of such tame and passive subjects?
But, in the name of wonder! why are such low arts used to hinder the Highlanders from quitting their country? why so much ridicule thrown on America? why so many false representations, and discouraging accounts given of it, in the public papers? and, when these seem to be disregarded, and of no effect, why is recourse had to the daring effrontery of some puny scribbler, to threaten the interference of administration against depopulating the Highlands, and that a parliamentary inquiry was to be made, to prevent any more emigrations, as if the Highlanders were totally ignorant of the world, and of the laws of their country? The Highlanders are not to be intimidated by bugbears; nor are they so little versant in the history and constitution of their country, as not to know that they are free born, and that they have a right to emigrate into any part of the British dominions that they choose. Such mean hints, and despotic notions, might well enough suit the meridian of Moscow, or of Paris, during the reigns of Peter the Great, or Lewis XIV. How fatal to France was the oppression and persecution of the Huguenots? what a reproach to the memory of Lewis? and how vain were his severe edicts, and all his endeavors, to prevent their emigrating from that country? are facts too well known and ascertained. What ignorance, then, of the laws and constitution of Britain, do writers of this stamp betray? how unworthy are they of the protection and blessing of these laws? what friends are they to domestic tyranny and private oppression, when they thus talk of getting them sanctified, and our chains fastened and rivetted by the authority of a British legislature. It is indeed astonishing, how far ignorance, partiality, and prejudice, will often carry people. But, surely, it must be a new thing in these enlightened times, for one to publish such glaring absurdities, such grovelling sentiments, concerning the right of British subjects to change their place of settlement under the same happy government. None but a rapacious, despotic land-holder, or his greedy, disappointed factor, or agent, could be capable of it. Theirs, then, be all the praise of this generous and well-timed suggestion! theirs also be the glory of falling upon those lucky expedients, by which the Highlanders are forced from their dwellings, and reduced to the hard necessity of making use of emigrating from their country, which, by all laws, human and divine, they know they are, and ought to be possessed of!
A moderate rise of rents, is what every proprietor has a right to expect, at certain periods of time, in a country advancing in agriculture, trade, and manufactures. How far back the Highlands in general are, in these respects, is too obvious to the view of every visiting traveler; yet no set of people would be more disposed, or ready to give additional rents, and grassums, than the Highlanders, according to their circumstances; for they commonly think it a hardship to change their master, and look upon it as a worse than banishment to be obliged to quit the spot where they and their forefathers have lived. Some of their landholders, not ignorant of the prejudices and strong attachments of this sort that prevail among them, and prompted by their own avarice or extravagance, both equally insatiable, have laid down schemes for raising their lands to three or four rents, with grassums. Some of the poor tenants were over-awed, and some others deluded, to take their lands at this immense rise, and, having scarce stood it two years, have become bankrupts and beggars. Thus, though they and their forefathers might have formerly lived easy, and made some small provision for their families, they are now, by one sweep of grassum and additional rent, reduced, at once, to the lowest state of indigence.
It is a well known and received maxim, in farming, that the gross produce of the land should be, at least, equal to three of the current rents, or by what means shall the farmer support himself? But, in these modern schemes, this maxim is quite laid aside, and another of a different and strange complexion is attempted to be substituted in its place, viz. "That the more rent is laid upon any farm, the better shall the tenant be able to improve the land, to pay his rent, and to live well, than when he paid a small rent." In conformity to this refined maxim, some of these gentlement set part of their lands, and soon found their expectations disappointed. With true tyrannic perseverance, they have tried one set of tenants after another, by the same rule, and have seen them all beggared in there circumstances. When they perceived some tenants of more spirit than the rest, discover an impatience of the oppressions they bore, threw up their tacks, convert the remainder of their subject into cash, and attempted to try their fortunes in another country, and open a door for themselves and friends in a land of liberty and plenty, by a few going this year, 1770, and numbers following the next; then it was, that these gentlemen, with their wonted candor, began to enterain the public with exclaiming against all emigrations in general, with running down a country and its climate, both of which they are equally unacquainted with, and by giving false accounts of it, depreciating its produce, its customs, and its trade, through utter strangers to them all. How eagerly to they catch at any discouraging tale, picked up from some sailor or skipper that has but touched on the coast of North Carolina, though at a great distance from our Highland settlers in that province, and having never had any intercourse with them, who wanted both understanding and opportunity to judge properly of their advantages and mode of living? how ready are they to publish these vague and indistinct accounts, as ample and satisfactory? but all shipmasters are not of the same cast; some there are who have penetrated among the Highland settlers there, who formerly knew their situation in their own country, and can do justice to that state of ease and happiness in which they now live. Nay, I am well aware, that some few among the Highland gentelmen are no strangers to the truth of what is reported concerning North Carolina; and that, if they would speak out, they know it to be a country no way inferior to what is represented. Some of them were officers in America, and our common men served as soldier there during the last war, and both acquired immortal honor. It would seem as if they had made such important conquests in that quarter of the globe, in order to secure to themselves, and their countrymen, and agreeable and happy retreat, and a large and fertile field for them and their posterity to flourish in. To such as are unprejudiced among them, we might appeal for the truth of the most flattering accounts of North America in general; but, pudet hoc opprobrium (ashamed of this shame), they disguise or conceal what they know of it; self-interest biases them, and makes them suppress the truth, 'til it is now too late to do so; it is in vain to carry on the farce, for the truth will remain no longer concealed.
And now; is there any wonder, if, under their present discouraging circumstances, and considering the dark and gloomy prospects they have before them at home, that the Highlanders should seek for refuge in some happier land, on some more hospitable shore, where freedom reigns, and where, unmolested by Egyptian talk-masters, they may reap the produce of their own labor and industry. For this purpose, where can they better betake themselves than to the large continent of America, to that part of it especially, to which some of their countrymen went sometime ago, where their posterity still live well and independently, and to which, of late, numbers have gone, who shew no inclination to return; but on the contrary, send the most favorable accounts to their friends and acquaintance in the Highlands, and the most pressing invitations for them to follow after them across the Atlantic. Here they still belong to the British empire, and are happy under the benign influence of its administration. Here, at ease, they may enjoy all those civil blessing which the noblest constitution under heaven was intended to communicate to all ranks belonging to it, and to make these blessing permanent and sure.
In the following pages, I mean to give my countrymen a short sketch of the province of North Carolina, with regard to its climate, soil, produce, and manner of settling there, founded upon unquestionable evidence, as well as personal obsevation, by which it will appear how little credit is due to the ridiculous and discouraging accounts given in the public papers, at the desire of some of the landholders, but which also will be shown, that of all our colonies it is the most proper for Highlanders of any degree to remove to, if they want to live in a state of health, ease, and independence. No circumstance shall be exagerated, as it is not intended to deceive or mislead any person; the simple truth shall be told, and let facts be judge of as they really are. And as no man would choose to be deceived himself, nor would any honest man impose upon others, conscious no charge of this kind can justly be laid against me, when I fairly lay before the world, and my countrymen, the present situation of that province, in the above respects, by which I candidly own, that I myself am swayed, and led to risk my all, and fix my residence for life. Whether others shall follow my example, or whether mattes shall strike them in the same light, is what I know not, nor am I much solicitous about; but, in justice to a country so falsely arraigned, so undeservedly depriciated and ridiculed, I venture this brief account under the eye of the public, and as it may be supported by the concurring testimony of many gentlemen of repute and credit who have been among our settlers in North Carolina, who were at pains to be thoroughly acquainted with their method of settling, mode of living, and everything relating to them. To show that they have made a happy exchange, and no people can be in more easy circumstances, or better satisfied with their present condition, I might appeal to numberless letters from those very settlers, to their friends and acquaintance in the Highlands, which may be easily seen, and might, if necessary, be produced. In these letters, we find parents inviting their children that were left behind, children their parents, husbands their wives and families, and brothers their sisters, all describing their state there, as far preferable to what they ever knew before in every respect; and earnestly wishing their relations and connections of every tender tie would go and partake of the same happiness, and no longer remain under home oppression. Surely, if these people, artless and undersigning as they are, could mean to deceive, it must be reckoned a very uncommon and most unnatural deception; nor will it be easy to explain how they should conspire in the same tale, and, without varying, stumble upon the same favorable accounts.
That these accounts are genuine and true, we hope, will appear from the following general description of the province in question, in which all that is intended, is to lay before my countrymen things most essential for them to know, without launching into the favorite topics of mere travelers, or attending to an exact form and method, like writers on geography.
North Carolina lies between 31 and 36 degrees, and 31 miles N. Lat. 76 and 19 W. Long. from London on the east, it is bounded by the Atlantic ocean, and has about 400 miles of sea coast; on the north it boarders with Virginia, and on the south with South Carolina; but its boundaries to the west are unkown and unlimited. It surrounds a part of South Carolina, extending itself, on that side, to places as yet unvisited, which are inhabited by Indian tribes. The climate is agreeable and wholesome in general; and, compared with the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, may be looked upon as the most temperate part of the Earth on the north side of the equator. It agrees, in general, with that of Virginia; but where they differ, it is much to the advantage of Carolina. The summers are warmer than Virginia; but the winters are milder and shorter; nor are there such sudden transitions from heat to cold, nor such violent extremes as in Virginia. The winters are seldom severe enough to freeze any considerable body of water, and affect only the mornings and evenings, when the air is felt as sharp as in the Highlands; but the frosts have seldom strength to resist the noon-day Sun; so that many tender plants, that do not stand the winter of Virginia, flourish here. The sky in winter is commonly clear and serene, and no deep snow is to be seen. The climate in summer is said, by people of observation, to resemble that of Italy and Lisbon, and indeed they lie in pretty much the same latitude. Many are made to believe, that in Carolina, as in Jamaica and the Leeward Islands, the whole year is one continuous summer; but this is a mistake; they have the four revolving seasons as in Britain; the transitions to each are gentle and imperceptible. In the months of March, April, and May, their spring, all things are alive; the birds make the woodlands ring with mirth; and the kingdom of vegetables, under the Divine care, springing forth in rich profusion, adorning gardens and meadows with gay and glowing colors; the trees produce their buds and foliage, promising rich fruits in their appointed seasons; and no place can exhibit a richer carpte, and more beautiful verdure. The jasmine, the laurel, the bay, the sassafras, the pines, the honeysuckle, the dogwood, and most kinds of shrubs, enrich the air with their fragrant odors, and the woods are covered with the greatest variety of flowers and blossoms. The mariners, going upon the coast in the spring, have smelt the pines when several leaves at sea. About this time the farmer sees his work begin to prosper, and his industry rewarded.
The summer, which is in the months of June, July, and August, may indeed be called hot; the mercury, in an approved thermometer, keeping up from 70 to 80 degrees at noon. Near the caost, and in the sandy parts, the heat would be intolerable, were it not for the cool breezes, which come from the sea; but, by not exposing the body to the warm sun beams at noon, a man may always keep himself cool and comfortable in the hottest day; the houses are built air, so that they always have a cool room to go into. Up the country, and on river sides, the warmth is less intense, the soil being deep and moist, and covered with verdure; nor does the heat hinder people to travel easily and comfortably the whole day in summer, as they go over a level country under the shade of lofty trees in the woods, which are widely separated, and clear of underwood. The longest day in Carolina, the Sun rises at four and sets after eight.
September, October, and November, are the autumn months; the first of which, together with part of August, are their rainy and windy months; but, in the month of October, there cannot be a more temperature air, and finer climate, than here, the weather being mild and dry for the space of forty or fifty days.
In the low and marshy parts of the county, the inhabitants, particularly newcomers, are apt to fall in those diseases incident to a moist climate, especially in July and August, when the weather is the hottest, and the air becomes stagnant; and in September, when the weather changes, and the rains fall heavy; then I say, they are subject to agues, fluxes, and intermitting fevers; but these do not prove mortal; and in general, it is allowed, that the inhabitants are not affected by any particular distemper, except such as proceed from intermperance, and a neglect of themselves upon their first arrival. The dropsy is very rare; as for consumptions, they are not very destructive; perhaps it may carry off a person in nine or ten years; and that dreadful complaint, an asthma, is not know, unless brought from other places; in which case, the climate affords great relief to the afflicted. The three remaining months are the winter season: the air is serene, the weather dry and wholesome, and intensely cold but for a short time; the mercury in the thermometer being all the winter between 30 and 50 degrees, and, when carried into the open air, has never been known to sink lower than 20 degrees. The shortest day, the Sun rises half an hour before six, and sets at five. At this season, the country is very agreeable to sportsmen, having plenty of all sorts of game in the greatest perfection; such as deer, which are as numerous as sheep in Scotland; wild turkeys, in flocks, throng as rooks or crows, and weighing about thirty pounds, which shows they are of a large size; geese and ducks, of which last great quantities are taken; eight or ten, when sitting, is but a middling shot. There are also great quantities of partridges, doves, larks, woodcocks, snipes, plovers, and blackbirds, besides a great number of sea fowl; and in the back woodlands, where the chestnut grows, they have pheasant and peacock.
This colony is but in a manner in its infancy, and newly settled in respect to its neighboring ones. There is a great coincidence between the soil, produce, and face of the country with those of Virginia; but, in the fertility of nature, Carolina has the advantage. In a word, the northern parts of it produce the same things with the southern parts of Virginia, and in greater perfection. The southern parts of it produce the same things with which the northern parts of South Carolina abounds; and, as in the back parts it skirts or runs along a great part of South Carolina, the produce is much the same as in that county, and is conveyed by rivers or land carriage to Charleston, and other ports of that province for sale. Its commodities and general produce are very valuable, consisting of rice, indico, hemp, tobacco, fur, deer skins, turpentine, pitch, tar, raw hides, tanned leather, flour, flax-feed, cotton, corn, peas, potatoes, honey, bees wax, Indian corn, barreled beef and pork, tallow, butter, rosin, square timber of different sorts, deals, staves, and all kind of lumber. This short description will not admit of entering into the manner in which the above commodities are cultivated; but the late settlers there from the Highlands are assiduous in their employments; and this, joined with the hospitality, friendship and harmony, that subsists among them in general, from whetever country, cannot fail, in a short time, of making the province flourish, and of rewarding their labor with independence and wealth, the offspring of ingenuity and industry.
The province is divided into several counties, and intersected by many large navigable rivers; the chief rivers are Albermarle, Pentaquen, Neuse, Cape Fear or Clarendon, Watere, Santee, Pedee, &c. The only sea bordering on this coast is the Atlantic ocean, which is reckoned shallow for ships of burden to come nigh the coast, except in a few places. The coast is lowland, and the shallows come on gradually, so that, by sounding, it is easily known when vessels are near enough, so as to make for their destined harbors, which are now found to be equally convenient with the most noted in other provinces, and they are also seated at proper distances along the coast: it is true, that higherto they have been looed upon as incommdious, but, from the increase and goodness of the commodities raosed in the colony, ships begin to find their way with ease, and many ports are frequented with ships from a great part of the trading world. The harbors of Roanack and Pimlico are famous and well known: many others are good and safe. The most remarkable promontories are Cape Hatteras, in 35 degrees N. Lat. and Cape Fear to the south of it. At the mouth of the river here, vessels of large burden have ready access; and this is the principal and most central river in the province for trade. From the entrance of Fort-Johnston to Brunswick, the former seat of the governors, it is 12 miles up the river, from thence to Wilmington about 15 miles. Wilmington is well situated for trade, as it lies at the confluence of two large branches of Cape Fear river, by which means all commodities from the southern and middle parts of the province center there; consequently it is, of late, become a place of elegance and wealth: there are many eminent merchants there, and much shipping from the neighboring colonies, from the West Indieas and Britain; so that, for commerce, and a well furnished market of all necessities, it is at present reckoned the most flourishing; and is still greatly increasing. Here the river is as broad as the Thames at London. The northwest branch of this river, along which I traveled, is navigable about 40 miles above Wilmington for large vessels; but long boats, lighters, and large canoes, carry coods for about 100 miles farther up. On this northwest branch of the same river, lies Cross Creek, or New Campbleton, about 100 miles distant from Wilmington in the course of the river. This town is situatedin Cumberland county, and the inhabitants mostly Highlanders, emigrants from Argyleshire, and the western isles, are settled in said country. The land, in general, along the sea coast, is light and sandy, and promises little in appearance to a stranger; it is, however, of generaous nature, and helped by a kindly Sun, yields corn and tobacco extremely well, and when flooded, yields rice plentifully. But, along the sides of rivers and creeks, there is a fine black mold, and rich soil, for about a mile and a half back from either bank of the river, which, without manure, returns plentifully whatever is committed to it. This good soil spread still wider, and improves continually, as you advance into the country, and then it is uniformly good and fertile for immense tracts of land. The whole country is in a manner one forest, where our planter have not cleared it. And a 100 miles from the sea, where it begins to grow hilly, and mixed with rising grounds, the soil is of an amazing fertility, fitted for every purpose of human life. Nor can anything be imagine more pleasant to the eye, than the variegated appearance of this back country. The air is here pure and wholesome, and the heat in the summer much more temperate than on the flat sandy coast. It is diversified in the most abreeable manner, with arable lands, meadows, and woods; here and there appear rising hills; and it forests abound with excellent timber, such as oak of several sorts, cyprus, hickory, the pine, the walnut, the ash, the poplar, the beech, the elm, the sycamore, the laurel, the bay, the bum, and the mulberry, with many others not mentioned. This furnishes the inhabitants with plenty of firewood, and the best of timber for shipbuilding and other uses. The woods in general wear a refreshing verdure through the year: and the Earth is rendered rich and delightful by the fine rivers and streams which glide through them. Where I traveled, the banks of the rivers from Wilmington to far about Cross Creek, were agreeably adorned with fine seats, villas, and pleasant farmhouses, at moderate distances, on either side, which afforded a most enchanting scene of the ease and happiness which the present settlers enjoy: and, in general, most of the present planters may be said to have a river at their door, and an easy conveyance for their commodities to market.