Last Friday I visited my favorite place in Raleigh to pull a 1799 petition in support of a post I’d recently seen on the Stanly and Montgomery County, NC Facebook Genealogy page. More on that later. As always, one search opens the door to another and on this particular visit to archives I found seven or so relevant petitions read before the General Assembly … Bonanza!
One of the petitions was absolutely the longest I’d ever seen and from a quick glance, the paper also appeared to be the most bizarre I’d ever read. More on that later, but first there was the unusual weekend that followed.
It rained hard on Saturday followed by a sudden and severe drop in temperature. The skies cleared late in the day on Sunday with temperatures dropping into the teens. That night we planned to join at a friend’s house to watch the much hyped Bloody Wolf Moon, the brilliant rare red moon occurring during totality of a full lunar eclipse. It was awesome, everything we had been told and more. The small group huddled in a front yard and watched in wonderment thinking what it might have been like in days of antiquity.
Back home and then on Monday morning, cold air settled in while I buried my retired self at home digging into that crazy petition. The four page double sided paper quickly opened up with the accusation that “Mr. McFarland feeling at certain times of the moon the effects of the saliva commixed with his blood, at a wound received in an encounter, which he formerly had with a mad wolf within the limits of the said county, cannot distinguish a horse from a mare.” Truth! …that’s what was presented to the General Assembly by a group from Richmond County.
The memorial or deposition of sorts continued that “the same cause is to be attributed many of his eccentric ideas and artifices especially his insane idea of his being a proper person.” It’s at this time the reader begins to realize the petition is really a complaint concerning practices of politics. The mad wolf was really an overzealous politician whose methodology was deemed out of place if not illegal. It’s also possible this was a well-placed hack job on a candidate who had won fair and square.
In this post I’ll step away from any politically leanings maybe hinted at in the document presented. But, realize in 1799, like now, there were real concerns with the manner in which our newly formed government behaved. It’s my belief things have changed only little with similar ideas still empowering present party politics to a whole new maddening level.
Some look at me with glazed over eyes when I tell them I dig genealogy and family history. It’s reading papers like the following that keeps me coming back for more. You can’t make it up. Who’d have thought that I’d have the chance to find such an article a day or so prior to the rare appearance of a big red wolf moon:
To the Hon’ble, the Senate of the State of North Carolina,
in Session in Raleigh
Memorial from the County of Richmond in Senate November 26th, 1799
read & referred to the Committee of Privileges & Election
by order M. Stokes, clk
The Memorial of sundry of the inhabitants of the County of Richmond is most respectfully presented in favor of Mr. James Sanford the present member in senate from the said county, and in order to make known some of the proceedings and designs of a certain Duncan McFarland of the said county, from whose conduct for many years, there appears sufficient reason, to believe that the said McFarland feeling at certain times of the moon, the effects of the saliva commixed with his blood, at a wound received in an encounter, which he formerly had with a mad wolf within the limits of the said county, cannot distinguish a horse from a mare: To the same cause are to be attributed many of his eccentric ideas and artifices, especially his insane idea of his being a proper person to represent the District of Fayetteville in the Federal House of Representatives, for which important and confidential seat he had the impudence to be a candidate, but notwithstanding the extreme eagerness with which he pursued the election in several counties, seldom passing one without calling to solicit his vote, he was treated with the neglect he deserved and fortunately for the District, lost his election.
Enraged at his disappointment, he had recourse with redoubled diligence to his former mad project of endeavoring to govern and yoak the good citizens of this county to attain that end, he was almost continually going to and fro, up and down the said the said county seeking whom he might deceive, and in order to carry his said governing and yoaking schemes into effect, he renewed his system of terror, which he had first began in his own neighborhood with a deserter from the British army, by the powerful and of this Worthy armed with his implements of conjurations sieve, shears, and Bible, he, (McFarland) convened at or near Major Carmichael’s in the said county, a considerable number of men and women, chiefly honest well-meaning North Britons many of whom not understanding English and then and there the said McFarland assuming legislative and judiciary powers, formed a new —?— which was administered to most of the said North Britons, each of the said people having one of their own hands on their own heads respectively and their other hand under the sole of one of their own feet, and in that situation were made to swear by “Devoting all to the Devil between their two palms” or in words nearly to that affect, if “they did not answer truly to the questions to be asked them” such as “Did you not take the juice out of McFarland’s corn-stalks in his field?” Did you not bewitch his “butter and take the milk from his churn?” “Did you not bewitch the said McFarland? Did you not harass him by appearing to him in several frightful forms” and “made his pursuits in the shape of a snake by vanishing in the dirt when he had a stick uplifted to kill you &c” or in words of nearly the same purport the distress of many of these absurd people was extreme for when and accused, there was no escaping, their solemn denial of the absurd charge, on the oath imposed on them did not avail, for the infamous auxiliary having had his due, caused the ever unnerving judges, his terrific sieve, shears and Bible to find the unhappy persons guilty; Such was the tyranny of the said McFarland aided by his said associate, full worthy of himself, who he found so well to answer his purposes in many respects, and more especially to help him to keep most around him in superstitious awe, that he ventured, to begin to punish some of them deemed guilty, and now assuming the executioner, not by proxy as was usual with him but, in person actually assaulted two defenseless women Sibyl McDaniel and her aged mother and with some offensive weapon wounded and drew blood from both above their eyes, with avowed intent of thereby baffling the Devil and forever after preventing the said two helpless women from doing him further harm or mischief by their sources; the said McFarland was, soon after, found guilty on two indictments and fined by the court of the said county for the two said assaults, and after making use of every subterfuge he was made to pay smart money for the same in the district court, to the no small diversion of the Inhabitants of Fayetteville.
-The said McFarland has for four or five years past, employed several months previous to each annual election, in canvassing the said county in a manner so unprecedented, persevering and determined as gives room to believe that he neglects every domestic concern and makes canvassing his sole business, his primary object having it continually in his view as his polar-star to conduct him ultimately, to the end of all his mad politics, namely to his often declared intention of governing and yoaking the citizens of the county but finding it not to answer his present purpose, he denies having had the intention of yoaking the people generally and now threatens to yoak only “such as Governors and Generals.” Your Memorialists do not remember of the said McFarland having yoaked any of the states generals, but they well remember, that reports, not by any means kept secret, have for years been talked of in the said county that the said McFarland was at Hillsborough with and did assist the infamous, cruel and savage British Colonel Fanning in capturing, plundering and carrying off our late Governor Burke to the British Army in South Carolina.
–The said McFarland attends almost constantly at every election when he is a candidate as well while the votes are going in as when called out of the ballot boxes, and usually enters the names of all or many of the electors on different lists, in a little book, by which means he generally knows how they vote and often injures them who do not vote for him either by force or low cunning, this last being his strong-hold makes him to many ignorant poor men truly formidable. Sometimes he assaults openly those who do not vote to please him, others he binds to the peace, then aggravates them until they curse or swear inform against them, by which they are obliged to pay money that they cannot well spare; others he will have before a Magistrate for little or not any cause, and sometimes when his Vietem (Venom ?) he by his control over John Bounds Esq. prevents the papers from being returned to the court of the said county, others the said McFarland will have indicted on various frivolous presets or entangle with suit in the said county court, and he perceives his testimony is not sufficient or from any other cause that he cannot succeed, he then works his warried antagonist with such skill and severity in arbitration that the said McFarland seldom, by one means or other fails of success. Others are worried by written penal agreements, one of these one-sided agreements caused the loss of freedom for a time, to a free young man of colour, who the said McFarland bound to himself by indentures for a term of years, while he had the said young man of color prisoner and was himself conducting the said helpless poor young man to the common goal of the said county by virtue of an execution, believed to have been, obtained for a sum of money forfeited on one of the said McFarland’s one sided penal agreements. Your memorials could enumerate many more of this, would be the congress man’s curious artifices, but they trust the aforementioned will fully serve to show how much he ought to be detested and with what an iron rod the said McFarland’s rules when he has either usurped or legal power, he has indeed carried on his system of terror so long and so perseveringly , that he has tired down many of the most ignorant of the electors to be submissive to his imperious will, that some of those whom he had formerly used all vote for him, and declare to others that “they vote for him because they hope he [will] do at Raleigh and that they would vote for the said McFarland to go to hell.” Some declare they vote for him because “They cannot have peace near him when he loses his elections” and may not this last account for any swearing they voted for him when they did not vote for him or did not vote at all.
–The said McFarland has lately compelled many ignorant electors to meet at several places in the said county by a pretended legal authority, or the voice of real or sham constables, or by both, to swear for whom they voted at the last annual election endeavoring thereby to determine by open and extorted votes , what should be done by ballot. This your Memorialists believe to be unprecedented and directly contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution, which clearly established the mode of ballot so friendly to the most useful and most numerous class of citizens. McFarland by this swearing made of election had has brought his long planned system of terror into effect, and notwithstanding the General Assembly long since repealed the act that appointed three different places for the election to be held in to said county and thereby determined that there should be but one place of election and that one at the court house: the said McFarland has continued by his said new mode, to have ten or more to believe that he neglects every domestic concern and make canvassing his sole business, his primary object having it continually in his view different places of election within the county. The said McFarland having gradually and by — undermined the Freedom of many as electors and being blooded by, what he calls, success, now with a coup de main strikes at the liberties of all these who may be his competitors, for of those men who may hereafter be thought worthy of representing the said county in Gen’l Assembly, not many will be found whose fortunes or inclinations will admit them to follow this electioneering McFarland over the whole of the said county again and again prior to any election and again after, ——? —– duly elected, to be dragged over the said county at his will wherever his ambition shall lead him, until the General Assembly shall meet and even then their seat may be contested by a man they must unavoidably despise, over whom conquest cannot be an honour. The said McFarland having thus laid his plans to use superior to all opposition in the said county, or in fact to the election annually whether the electors will or not, without any person to oppose him, has, to appearance, extended his views, in hopes, without doubt of extending his system of terror, talks big and much of his old regulars, and in the extreme height of this deliberate follies has dared to threaten, as Mr. J. T. Sanford can prove, that if he, the said McFarland is not successful at Raleigh a thousand lives shall be lost. Is not this threat in an oblique manner for your Hon’ble House & does it not, in a great measure confirm the opinion of the effect of the life of the mad wolf to have been well founded?
The said McFarland became a candidate for a seat in the senate in 1795 and then there were double and triple votes found in the senate box which to the best of your memorialists remembrance were not heard of before in this county at the last election may also justly be, that McFarland might charge Mr. Sandford’s friends with so doing and thereto enable the said McFarland to triumph by oversetting an election at which he could not be chosen. The character and conduct through life of the sitting member and his opponent McFarland are especially different, Mr. Sanford comporting himself in a modest manner, becoming a man who wishes for the suffrages of his fellow citizens, attends to his production farm, or when in company behaves with respectful difference, not soliciting a single vote, while the other candidate is prowling day and night all over the said county for weeks together, breaking at several musters if not at every one and with the most consummate assurance, asks and presses almost every man he meets to promise to vote for him, to this may be added that it appears by the deposition of Doctor Bishop that the said McFarland has promised to pay the aforementioned John Bound Esq. two hundred dollars for going round the said county with him to swear the electors and has actually paid a mare, saddle and bridle to the said John Bounds in part of the said sum. The Bounds certainly ought to be well paid for he while going their rounds appeared to be dusted to and under the control of the said McFarland.
– Your Hon’rble House cannot be pleased to the said McFarland’s company in senate after hearing the depositions carried forward by Mr. Sanford, nor can there be a doubt for a moment, in the breast of an individual. Senator of the unworthy man at whose instance the double votes and ballots or supernumeracy were put in motion.
—Your memorialists therefore hope that coming up to the spirit of the Honorable, the General Assembly, and therefore ought not to be admitted new evidence, and that your Hon’ble House will permit our senator Mr Sanford to keep his seat. Your memorialist pray, and will think themselves honored, to have their memorial ————(lost two lines of text)————————– before your said committee, which will serve to educate and to prove several parts of this memorial, and your Memorialists will not only forever pray in the usual style, but let your decision on this contested election be as it may. They will, as true citizens, obey the laws and cheerfully endeavor to support them at the hazard of their lives and fortunes.
Ja’s Terry, Walter Leak, Henry W. Harrington, John Wall, Sen., Eli Terry, Micajah Gainey, L Macalister, Wm Robards, Wm. Wall, Sam’l Sprawls, Mathew Dockery, Daniel M. Lauchlen, John Mathias, Moses Knight, John W. Dowel, Benj. Smith, James Pickett, John Clark, Benj-n Long (by concent), Tod Robinson, Solomon Sprawls, Robert Webb, Daniel Sneed, Laurence Everett, Edwine Ingram.