DescriptionOutstanding Content and Rare Arthur Middleton Letter Describing the Early Days of the Revolution
Arthur Middleton (1742-1787) Autograph Letter Signed with his pseudonym "Andrew Marvell", four pages, 7.5" x 12.5", Charleston, South Carolina, August 12, 1775 to an unknown recipient with a few marginal explanatory notes in another hand. A rare and exceptional content letter written in the early months of the American Revolution by a Signer of the Declaration of Independence -- only a year before he would sign that document. A flippant but informative letter detailing the chaos that reigned in the early days of the rebellion, Middleton, then a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress and the Committee of Safety, describes with glee and wit the tarring and feathering of political opponents, seizures of loyalist estates, as well as measures to prepare for colonial defense and moving against prominent Loyalist Thomas Fletcher. He also notes a rumor of an overwhelming victory by Washington over the British in Boston. He writes in full: "Dr. Sir - Since I wrote the damn'd Stuff contained in the enclosed Letter, more for my own amusement during a long sitting at the Council Table in debate about nothing, than for your profit or entertainment upon receipt of it, your second Set of Letters came to hand, with one for myself dated 9th inst. for which I am obliged to you. It gives us particular pleasure to find you gave had so much success in your Labours - what would I not have given to have been a spectator at the Dutch crying bout with an Hogarth's pencil in hand? One of you certainly must have been vastly moving, whether Tennent or yourself we are much at a loss to know, for I find you have united the orators under the word We & then confounded religion & politicks. The plan of you operations is much approved of. I like sometimes to see a man turn'd inside out; but as to Tacitus [alluding to Colonel T. Guillard] I may with such alteration of the Poet say 'ego illum intus etq in cute novi.' The Affidavit proves Capt. K[irkland] a rebellious Seditious Son of a B-- & the Letter shows Capt. P. not to be one of the best sort of Folk - for God's sake as you come down seep the chimney of the State, or we may shortly have a Bonfire - as you say it shall be done, I trust it will - The general form milate are to sit Tomorrow morning upon the trial of the Two Lawyers: we have the papers in hand, & without doubt they are to be convicted; but what the devil shall we do with them? what Boot will fit Dunn, or what shall be Done to Boote? I wish they were at the provincial Camp. I suppose we shall Dine late for the business is to be concluded at one sitting- A Mr: Walker gunner of Fort Johnson had a new suit of Cloaths yesterday without the assistance of a single Taylor [sic. an allusion to tarring & feathering] - his Crime nothing less than damning us all - during his circumcartation he was stopped at the doors of the principal non-associators & was made to drink damnation to them also not excepting our friend Sr. Wm. on the Bay. A Committee is appointed & will sit on Tuesday to receive the answers of the non-subscribers whether they will swallow the oath or not - Dr. M[illiagan]'s answer to the messenger who summon'd him was 'that he should not take the oath & he did not know whether he should obey the summons;' this answer preceded the Show of yesterday; whether that will alter hi tune or not I cannot say -- Nothing has yet been concluded upon but the tender of the oath to those people - I have twice pushed hard for the resolution for attaching Estates in case of desertion, but have not been lucky enough to get a Second: the matter however is not rejected, only postponed. Rawlinus postponator declares the resolution not proper to proceed from the Committee of So[uth]. Caro[lin]a. & so arbitrary that none but the Divan of Constantinople could think of promulgating such a Law. I still however do not despair & shall make another trial or two, for I believe at last the State Motto must be 'urgendo vincimus.' the proposal of having waggoners examined by the Guards before they enter the Town Gates will be taken up the first time we have leisure for considering it, & I doubt not will be adopted. I have mentioned your request respecting the vacancies in the regulars, & the blank omissions are all forwarded to Thomson by this conveyance. I also this day once more urged the necessity of entrusting you with blank commissions for Volunteer Companies on the back of [Colonel Thomas] Fletchall, & with some difficulty carried my point, so that the President will enclose you 6 setts; it is expected however that you will have the resolution of congress strictly complied with before delivery of the commissions: I mean as to the associating of 50 Men & the election of Officers; & that you will bring down with you copies of such associations & Lists. the Continental Congress strongly recommend the dividing the Militia of each Colony into Regim[en]ts or Battalions - If we should carry that point also in council it will be a means of diminishing the influence of Fletchall & every Scoundrel like him in the colony - If I mistake not Col. Laurens mentions these matters to you by order, & will also intimate that if any complaints are lodged against Fletchall he will be deprived of his commission. It is said he abuses much the authority vested in him as a Justice of the Peace, by issuing process contrary to the express laws of the Congress. If you should find that to be the case, I think you might, I have no doubt you will, draw a very weighty argument for rendering him despicable, from his arouse of power especially in your discourses among the poorer sort: but why need I mention what must occur to you? I know not what Stuart has said to you - but his letter to us is evasive in the last degree. Muckenfoos tells me upon delivery of the express packet he turned as pale as his shirt tail -- behold the 'mens conscia.' We have notice that one or two of our Vessels are upon the coast with the needful, but no particulars. We have a flying report that Washington has entirely defeated the King's Troops, but I do not credit it; I fear it is too good to be true. It grows too dark to see what I write, & I grow so stupid that you must excuse my breaking off abruptly & telling you that I am your's Sincerely Andrew Marvell."
Middleton had used the same pseudonym "Andrew Marvell" in several political pamphlets, taking his name from the English poet, political pamphleteer and satirist, Sir Andrew Marvell (1621-1678). This is a fine letter illustrating several personal dimensions of an historically elusive figure. Like many in the colonial elite, Middleton was educated in England, attending Hackney and later St John's College, and then Cambridge -- where he obviously applied himself in Latin, poetry, and history among other subjects. He later spent time touring Europe and upon his return to South Carolina in 1773, be From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection.came a prominent Whig leader. He was known for his ruthlessness toward his opponents and was a strong advocate of confiscating Loyalist property and other measures meant to intimidate the opposition. Ironically the draconian measures he advocated also speak to his (albeit dark and cruel) sense of humor. His witty allusion to a tarring and feathering is but one example here.
The following year, Middleton was elected to the Continental Congress in place of his ailing father, Henry Middleton, and was present for the vote on Independence. In 1780 he was arrested by the British after they captured Charleston, and was exchanged in 1781. He served in Congress again between 1781 and 1783 and then retired from public life. Overall this is a wonderfully rich letter, giving the reader a vivid impression of the chaotic early days of the rebellion. Provenance: Goodspeed's Book Shop, 1959. Archival tape repairs at left margin, light folds, else very fine condition with rich, dark ink. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection. Accompanied by LOA from PSA/DNA.
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