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CONCERNING Joseph Hewes, the circumstances known are much less abundant and particular than we desire. Nearly half a century has passed since he died: he left no children, and no very near relatives now survive, from whom the details of his life could be ascertained.
His parents were members of the society of friends, and at the time of their marriage resided in the colony of Connecticut, in one of the settlements farthest removed from the coast of the Atlantic.
In this situation they were obliged to bear the double perse- . cution arising from the frequent hostilities of the Indians, who roved through the forests in their vicinity, and the prejudice still remaining among the puritans of New England, against all that wore the quaker habiliments, or professed the quaker doctrines.
For persons of this persuasion, and indeed for all that were ambitious of a quiet and secure life, a residence in Connecticut or Massachusetts, was at that period far from desirable.
The government of Massachusetts had, in order to “ promote enterprise and encourage volunteers,” raised the premium on Indian scalps and prisoners to one hundred pounds
for each ; and in the temper of mind which is sufficiently in. dicated by such an enactment, a bitter and murderous warfare was waged against the natives of the forest, attended with circumstances often discreditable to the humanity of the white men, and with instances of reprisals and retaliation on the part of the Indians, involving the most shocking barbarities.
The province of Connecticut had refused to unite in any measures of war that were not defensive ; but the Indians were not always careful to observe the boundary line between the two colonies, or to discriminate between people so closely resembling each other in manners and appearance.
The inoffensive and industrious farmers of Connecticut were therefore exposed to suffer the vengeance intended to be dealt upon the scalping parties of Massachusetts, and many of them were induced to move off from the lands they had prepared for cultivation, and to seek a more secure asylum in a southern colony.
Among these emigrants were Aaron and Providence Hewes, who made their escape feom the scene of savage warfare, not without difficulty and imminent personal risk ; so near, indeed, were they to the scene of danger, that in crossing the Housatanic river, they were almost overtaken by the Indians, and were within the actual range of their bullets, one of which wounded Mrs. Hewes in the neck.
They took up their abode near Kingston, in New Jersey, where they (sound a peaceful and secure dwelling-place, and where they remained to the end of their lives.
Their son Joseph was born in the year 1730, and after enjoying the advantages of education common at that period, in the immediate neighbourhood of Princeton college, he went to Philadelphia to acquire a knowledge of commercial business.
When his term of apprenticeship in a counting-house was closed, he entered into the bustlo and activity of trade ; and availing himself of the fortunate situation of the colonies in respect to commerce, and the great opportunities then afforded by the British flag, particularly when used to protect American ships, he was soon one of the large number of thriving colonial merchants, whoso very prosperity became a lure to Great Britain, and induced her to look to this country for a revenue.
Mr. Hewes did not remove to North Carolina until he was thirty years of age, previous to which time he had been residing at New York and Philadelphia alternately, with occasional and frequent visits to his friends in New Jersey.
Having made choice of Edenton for his future home, he soon becamo distinguished in the community of that city for his successful career as a merchant, his liberal hospitalities, great probity and honour, and his agreeable social qualities.
Although nearly a stranger in the stato, he was very shortly invited to take a seat in the colonial legislature of NorthCarolina,--an oflice to which he was repeatedly chosen, and which he always filled with advantage to the people of that colony, and with credit to himself.
When the British ministry had proceeded so far as to close the port of Boston,-thus ovincing their fixed determination to proceed in their plan of taxing the colonies, and the committees of correspondence instituted first at Boston, and after. wards elsewhere, had proposed a meeting of deputies to a general congress to be held at Philadelphia, Mr. Hewes was
one of three citizens selected by North Carolina to represent her in that assembly.
On the fourth of September, in the year 1774, this first congress began their session ; and on the fourteenth of the game month, Mr. Hewes arrived and took his seat..
The members were generally elected by the authority of the colonial legislatures; but in some instances, a different system had been pursued. In New Jersey and Maryland, the elections were made by committees chosen in the several counties for that particular purpose; and in New York, where the royal party was very strong, the people themselves assembled in those places where the spirit of opposition to the claims of parliament prevailed, and elected deputies who were received into congress, because it was known in such instances, it being known that no legislative act authorizing the election of members to represent that colony in such a meeting, could have been obtained.
The powers, too, with which the representatives of the several colonies were invested, were not only variously expressed, but were of various extent. Generally they were authorized to consult and advise on the means most proper to secure the liberties of the colonies, and to restore the harmony formerly subsisting between them and the mother country. In some instances, the powers given appear to contemplate only such measures as would operated on the commercial connexion between the two countries ; in others, the discretion was unlimited.
The credentials of Mr. Hewes spoke a bolder language than was found in those of most of the delegates ; for while the greater part of the colonies professed, in appointing the members, an earnest desire of reconciliation, and named the return of harmony as the principal object of their assembling,
North Carolina resolved, by a general meeting of deputies of the inhabitants of the province, that the people approved of the proposal of a general congress to be held at Philadelphia, to deliberate on the state of British America, and, “ to take such measures as they may deem prudent to effect the purpose of describing with certainty the rights of Americans, repairing the breach made in those rights, and for guarding them for the future from any such violations done under the sanction of public authority."
The delegates were accordingly invested by this meeting of deputies, with such powers as might “make any acts done by them, or consent given in behalf of this province, obligatory in honour upon every inhabitant thereof who is not an alien to his country's good, and an apostate to the liberties of America.”
But, however diversified may have been the instructions and powers given to the colonial delegates chosen for this congress ; certainly a separation from Great Britain was no part of the object then in view. Reconciliation and the restoration of harmony under the regal government was the aim and the desire of all, although the means of obtaining such a result were variously estimated, as involving more or less of forcible resistance.
Immediately after the assembling of congress two important committees had been appointed to whom in fact nearly all the business of the congress was entrusted. The one was to “state the rights of the colonies in general, the several instances in which those rights are violated or infringed, and the means most proper to be pursued for obtaining a restoration of them.” The other was to examine and report the several statutes which affect the trade and manufacture of the colonies.”