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PUBLISHED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF THE TRUS-
OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
COLLECTED AND EDITED
ONE OF THE JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF N. C.
VOL. XVIII ---- 1786.
The year 1786 is memorable as being the date when the deficiencies of the old Confederation became so apparent that the movement for a change was inaugurated that led to the adoption of the present condition. On July 10th, 1786, Gov. Caswell addressed letters to Gov. Abner Nash, Alfred Moore, Hugh Williamson, John Gray Blount and Philemon Hawkins, informing them that in consequence of the Acts and Resolves of some of the other States to appoint Commissioners to take into consideration the trade of the United States and to report to the States such a draft of an act as would best promote the commercial interests of the United States, the Council had advised him to appoint them commissioners to attend at Annapolis on the first Monday in September.
Gov. Nash and Mr. Blount were delayed by illness, and Mr. Williamson, waiting for them, was detained and did not reach Annapolis until the 14th of September, on which day the other commissioners, having determined not to enter on the work, adjourned.
But before adjourning, they prepared a letter to the several States recommending that a convention be held at Philadelphia the following May with power to take into consideration other subjects than merely trade and commerce, and on this recommendation the Convention was held which framed the Constitution of the United States. On the part of North Carolina, Gov. Caswell, Col. Davie, Alex. Martin, R. D. Speight and Willie Jones were appointed to this convention ; but Col. Jones declining Hugh Williamson was appointed in his stead..
An imperfect Census of the State was taken in the year 1786, by State Authority. The returns were certainly far from accurate: but they show that Halifax was the most populous county in the State, having a population of 10,327. Caswell came next with 9,838. Edgecombe third, 8,480 ; Warren, fourth, 8,295 and Northampton next with 7,043. Duplin had 5,245, Sampson 4,268; New Hanover 5,042 and Richmond returned only 2,585. From these figures it would seem that the overflow from Virginia into the border counties on the North maintained that section as the most populous portion of the State.
The Assembly met November 20, 1786, at Fayetteville. James Coor of Craven County was chosen Speaker of the Senate and John B. Ashe, Speaker of the House. In the Senate Elisha Battle and Genl. Rutherford were among the leaders; while in the House there were Richard D. Speight, Wm. R. Davie, Archibald Maclaine, Reading Blount, William Polk, Stephen Cabarrus, William Hooper, Judge Sitgreaves and many others of the most influential characters of that day.
There was considerable excitement throughout the State at the time the Legislature assembled because of frauds discovered in the disbursement of public moneye. A Board of Commissioners had been appointed for liquidating the army accounts. Certificates were to be given by officers certifying the claims of soldiers and of others, and these certificates had to be passed on by the Board, and upon their approval the Treasurer of the State was to pay the same.
In many instances, certificates were improperly made in blank; in others certificates were given where no service whatever had been rendered. In some cases forgeries were practiced. Some of the officers, it was alleged, gave certificates under an agreement to share in the spoils; and it was thought that some of the Board shared in the frauds.
Governor Caswell in his message, upon the opening of the Legislature, reported :
"The frequent and repeated observations of individuals and the clamor of the people at large respecting the conduct of the Commissioners for liquidating the army accounts, and their suggestions of many fraudulent accounts being passed, induced me to state the matter to the Council who advised me to direct the Treasurer to stop the payment of any Certificate granted on accounts passed by that Board since the sitting of the last Assembly, and also advised me to direct the Commissioners to transmit to the present Assembly all such accounts and vouchers as were lodged in their office since that period. This advice I have pursued, and I flatter myself these officers have and will comply therewith, though report says that the Treasurer has not attended to it, and the clamors of the people have since been greater than before, and some illiberal suggestions have been thrown out against several of your principal officers."
The subject was at once taken up by the Assembly and pressed with vigor. From information furnished by Governor Caswell, a resolution was adopted requiring the Governor to cause to be apprehended all the persons concerned, of whom twenty-three were individually named in the order of arrest, and the names of twentyeight witnesses were stated. The accused were all to be arrested and held in close confinement as "prisoners of State.”'
Gov. Caswell's measures for carrying into effect the directions of the Assembly were so prompt and efficient, that the Assembly passed a resolution that “it entertains the highest sense of the upright, spirited and vigorous exertions of His Excellency in that behalf.”
On the arrest of the prisoners, a grand Committee was raised, from among whom a sub-committee was appointed to examine the prisoners and to take depositions.
On December 9th the Houses met in joint session, with Elisha Battle in the chair to hear the report of the Committee which was voluminous and full. The report signed by Gen. Rutherford, Gen. Gregory, Col. William Polk and A. Neal, was explicit and had the clear ring of impartial investigation.
Henry Montfort, a member of the House, was implicated and given a day to defend himself from the charges, which be failed to do to the satisfaction of the House, and was expelled.
The Treasurer, Memucan Hunt, also, was required to appear before the Houses and was heard in his defence. His term was about to expire; and John Haywood was elected Treasurer in his place.
Finally, it was "Resolved, that the several persons apprehended and charged with the crimes of fabricating false accounts and being concerned in wrongfully and fraudulently procuring claims to be passed in the Commissioners' office of Army Accounts, be admitted to bail on giving proper security for their personal appearance at a Court of Oyer and Terminer to be held at Warrenton on the last Monday in January next, and also for the security and forthcoming of their respective estates and that the Clerk of this House be directed to deliver the depositions taken against such persons and all the papers relating thereto to the said Judges of the Superior Courts who are requested to proceed accordingly.”
McKee in his Life of Iredell says: Indictments were speedily found against McCulloch and Montfort, and others of lesser note. The military and legislative services, the wealth, the social rank,