Bostonians_Paying the Excise-man or Tarring and Feathering 1774 Wikipedia.jpg
Friday, July 01, 2022 Nic Butler, Ph.D.

Like most American colonists during the turbulent spring of 1775, the people of South Carolina were anxious about British military preparations to suppress the first sparks of the Revolution. When two Irishmen in Charleston expressed views that offended their pro-American neighbors that June, an elite secret committee ordered the pair to be stripped, covered in tar and feathers, paraded through the town, and exiled. Some historians have identified the two victims as loyalists to the British Crown, but the extant evidence suggests a more nuanced interpretation: Religious discrimination, inflamed by political paranoia, fueled this episode of vigilante injustice.[1]

The principal issue at the heart of the Charleston tar-and-feathers incident of June 1775 was religion; politics was a secondary issue.[2] To understand the clues imbedded in the surviving primary sources related to this event, we have to recall the deep historical tension between the Protestant Church of England and the Catholic faith, sometimes called the Church of Rome. That tension commenced in the 1530s in England and eventually spread to the nation’s various colonies, including Ireland and, later, to North America. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation in England, the English crown required its subjects to follow the example of monarch and break from the Church of Rome.



The royal endeavor to supplant the Catholic Church of Rome with the Protestant Church of England largely succeeded in England, thanks to a great deal of persecution, but it largely failed in nearby Ireland. England began colonizing the island of Ireland in the late twelfth century, but encountered many centuries of native resistance. To force the Irish to conform to foreign rule, Anglo-Irish laws enacted from the fourteenth century onward prohibited the use of the Irish language, banned Irish laws, customs, and eroded the civil rights of native Irish citizens.

The most offensive of these “Penal Laws,” as they were known in Ireland, were passed between 1691 and 1759. Catholicism was prohibited, and those who adhered to the old faith were denied basic civil rights. If a native of Ireland residing in Ireland or anywhere in the British Empire wanted to worship freely, access the educational system, own property, hold public office, serve in the military, or bear arms, they had to renounce the Catholic faith and the Irish language, and embrace the English language and the Church of England.[3]

Catholicism was not explicitly illegal in early South Carolina, but it was certainly not welcome. As I described in an earlier program about “The Myth of the Holy City,” the colony of South Carolina followed British practice by barring Catholics from full citizenship. Catholic men could not hold office, vote, or receive grants for free land like Protestant men could. South Carolina law prohibited the organization of Catholic churches and Catholic worship in public, and Anglo-American rhetoric and culture in general treated Catholics as untrustworthy agents of foreign enemies.

As I described in a recent episode about “The ‘Irish Church’ in Mazyck’s Pasture,” there were certainly some Irish Catholics in colonial-era South Carolina, but it’s difficult to identify them and quantify their numbers because they generally kept such information secret to protect themselves from the traditional anti-Catholic sentiment that permeated British and Anglo-American culture at that time. Prior to the year 1790, when Catholicism gained a measure of legal recognition here, very few South Carolinians openly identified themselves as Catholic.

Most American colonists of the early 1770s were indoctrinated within the traditional British prejudice against the Catholic faith. Like their contemporaries back in England, they felt that Catholicism was antithetical to the mainstream concept of British identity in the eighteenth century. That prejudice came to the fore in the second half of 1774, after the British Parliament enacted a series of acts to punish rebellious American colonists who were protesting new taxes on tea and other commodities. The several punitive acts of 1774, which became known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts, included a controversial law that few citizens of the United States remember today.

The so-called “Quebec Act” of June 1774 was a major piece of legislation for the administration of the former French territory in North America that Britain won during the French and Indian War (or Seven Years’ War), 1756–63. The territory in question included Canada as well as the Ohio Territory and land adjoining the Mississippi River. This monstrous swath of real estate was Britain’s newest and largest colony in the New World, sparsely populated with French-speaking Catholics and Native Americans. Because English-speaking Protestants formed a tiny minority of the population in Canada at that time, the Quebec Act granted to Catholics a number of civil liberties—the right to vote, to hold public office, and to bear arms—that were denied to Catholics in every other British colony.

Many Anglo-American colonists were offended and terrified by the Quebec Act specifically because of its religious concessions. The new Canadian territory effectively surrounded the thirteen colonies spanning from Massachusetts to Georgia, and many Protestants in those colonies felt that the law would compromise their future growth and security.[4] For many disgruntled Americans who were already angry about the British “Intolerable Acts,” the Quebec Act was the final straw. In their opinion, the idea of enfranchising and arming Catholic neighbors was a betrayal that endangered their lives, property, and fortunes.

The Quebec Act, as the capstone of the Intolerable Acts, motivated political activists across the colonies to coordinate their efforts. Delegates from twelve colonies, including South Carolina, convened in Philadelphia in September 1774 for the first Continental Congress. Their goal was to unite their shared resistance to what they perceived as British oppression. On October 20th, the delegates adopted a set of Articles of Association, which complained specifically about the Quebec Act and its inherent “hostility against the free Protestant colonies.”[5]

The Quebec Act also inspired American colonists to revive an old English holiday known as Pope Day or Guy Fawkes Day, which celebrated the triumph of Protestants over Catholics in England in 1605. In Charleston on November 5th, 1774, angry White citizens paraded through the streets with a large rolling stage containing oversized effigies of the Pope, the Devil, and two British politicians. The not-so-subtle message of that display was clear: Catholicism was an evil influence that contributed to the oppression of Protestant American liberty. The effigies, along with a supply of imported tea, were set alight at a massive bonfire designed to instill community solidarity.[6]

In January 1775, one hundred and eighty-four representatives from across the colony of South Carolina assembled in Charleston and voted to resolve themselves into a new, quasi-legislative body known as the “Provincial Congress” of South Carolina. Throughout the remainder of the year, the Provincial Congress functioned as an increasingly powerful shadow government that encouraged citizens to arm themselves to defend their communities against the threat of British and Catholic oppression.

Shots rang out in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, on April 19th, 1775, pitting American colonists against British soldiers. News of that momentous event arrived in Charleston Harbor on May 8th, by which time agents of South Carolina’s rebellious Provincial Congress had already stolen arms and gunpowder from official British stockpiles within the capital (see Episode No. 64).

On May 29th, 1775, one of Charleston’s three weekly newspapers included a story, purportedly sent from London, that a ship was preparing to leave England carrying “seventy-eight thousand guns and bayonets, to be sent to America, to put into the hands of N[egroe]s, the Roman Catholics, the Indians and Canadians; and all the wicked means on earth used to subdue the colonies.”[7] The story was a fabrication, but it served as potent propaganda for colonists already upset about the Quebec Act by reinforcing the belief that the British Government was prepared to punish Protestant colonists by arming their traditional enemies.

At least one Catholic person in Charleston cheered this news because it suggested that the British Government was ending its legal prohibition against Catholics owning or using weapons. Irish Catholics, for example, could not bear arms in Ireland, but they could move to one of the American colonies and carry arms as long as they kept their Catholic faith to themselves. For English-speaking Catholics in the colonies, the British act recognizing the civil rights of French Catholics in Canada must have seemed like an enormous development, and the idea that Britain was shipping arms to protect the Canadians might have seemed like the beginning of the end of the dreaded Penal Laws.

In Charleston on Friday, the second day of June, 1775, a young Irishman named James Dealey, servant or assistant to a local shopkeeper, walked into a “house” (probably a “public house” or tavern) on King Street.[8] Speaking aloud to the room, Dealey said that “there was good news come to town.” Another man in the room, a weaver named Michael Hubert (probably of French Huguenot extraction), asked aloud—what was the news?[9] Dealey answered by paraphrasing the report published in the South Carolina Gazette several days earlier, “that a number of arms was sent over [from England] to be distributed amongst the Negroes Roman Catholics and Indians.”[10]

Dealey appears to have held a naïve view of the political situation of his community at that moment, and perhaps did not fully grasp the implications of the story he read in the South Carolina Gazette. He did not seem to understand that Catholicism was as unwelcome in Charleston in 1775 as it was elsewhere in the British Empire. Michael Hubert, a Protestant, replied that he did not consider this report about guns to be good news. In fact, said Hubert, “he thought it was very bad news that Roman Catholics and savages should be permitted to join [together] and massacre Christians.”

Dealey was offended by Hubert’s reply on at least two points. First, it echoed the traditional British Protestant discrimination against Catholics; and second, because it invoked an old Protestant fallacy that Catholics are not Christians. In response, Dealey arched his back, “struck his breast and swore that ‘he was a Roman Catholic and that he had arms and would get arms and use them as he pleased.’” Although Dealey might not have realized the gravity of the situation, his words formed an incendiary statement in 1775 Charleston, lobbed naively into a room full of distrustful Protestants. In an instant, he identified himself as an armed enemy to his neighbors. Michael Hubert took offence to the Irishman’s self-declaration and left the scene to return to his own house, the location of which is unknown.

James Dealey also left the tavern on King Street and returned to his place of employment, a shop run by Irishman Laughlin Martin, on Wragg’s Wharf, at the east end of modern Cumberland Street. According to an advertisement published three days earlier, Martin’s shop sold ship-chandlery goods like rum, sugar, salt in barrels, oars, handspikes, cured hams, and various food stuffs in bottles for use at sea.[11] Martin was both a shopkeeper and “under wharfinger” or assistant manager of Wragg’s Wharf, under his friend and fellow Irishman, John Poaug.[12]

Laughlin Martin received several land grants in South Carolina in the 1770s and occasionally settled business debts in the local Court of Common Pleas—civic activities that suggest he had sworn the traditional British oaths supporting the Church of England and rejecting the Church of Rome.[13] Like his friend and associate John Poaug, Martin apparently presented himself in Charleston as a Protestant in order to support his wife, Eleanor, and their four children. Behind closed doors, however, Martin secretly identified himself as a Roman Catholic.[14]

James Dealey told his employer about his encounter with Michael Hubert, and their conversation apparently included a man named A. Reed, whose identity is unclear. The three men discussed the recent news reports about both the British and the American colonists arming themselves, and the recent anti-Catholic rhetoric embraced by members of the South Carolina Provincial Congress. In the wake of the recent battles at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, the Provincial Congress was eager to gain a clear view of who in the local community supported the policies of the British Government and who support the American resistance. Word on the streets of Charleston suggested that the General Committee of the Provincial Congress was composing a sort of pledge to test the allegiance of every White male in the colony. This development was not good news for men attempting to hide their Catholic identity from both sides of the political debate.

It appears that these clandestine Catholics lost their patience with the religious discrimination they faced on both sides of the Atlantic. They had crossed the ocean to start a new life in South Carolina, but they could not fully escape the prejudice enshrined in Anglo-Irish and Anglo-American law under British domination. Shortly after Dealey shared his story about arguing with Michael Hubert, Martin and Reed agreed to confront Hubert and extract and apology. Before setting out on that mission, Laughlin Martin buckled a sword belt around his waist, supporting a scabbard with a type of naval sword called a cutteau (also known as a hanger or cutlass). The trio then walked to the residence of Michael Hubert, which was located behind a shop facing an unknown street. They knocked at the door, introduced themselves, and Mr. Hubert invited the three men to enter and sit with him. After exchanging a few pleasantries with his Protestant neighbor, Laughlin Martin rose to his feet and asked, “So Mr. Hubert, you’ll not allow Roman Catholics to carry arms?” Mr. Hubert, no doubt intimidated and caught off-guard by the question, replied meekly “that his circumstances were to[o] small to forbid any party or set to carry arms.”

Martin then unmasked his pent-up Catholic anger and launched into a furious tirade. He damned Hubert as a “false faced villain” and “declared he would believe Dealey sooner than he.” The Irishman drew his sword from its scabbard and ordered James Dealey and Mr. Reed to drag Hubert out of his own house. “Pull him to pieces,” barked Martin to his friends, swearing that that if they refused “he would have blood himself.” All of this activity drew the attention of Hubert’s wife, Jean, and their children, who were no doubt terrified by what they saw and heard.[15]

James Dealey grabbed Michael Hubert by the throat and dragged him into the shop in front of Hubert’s house. In the shop, Mr. Reed made Dealey release his grip on the prisoner’s throat. Before Hubert could relax, however, Laughlin Martin “came up with his cutteau drawn,” pointing it at the Protestant and threatening to put him “to immediate death.” Hubert fell to his knees and “begged [for] his life,” joined by his frantic wife and children who huddled around him and begged Martin “to spare the life of their father and husband.” Hubert then rose to his feet and stumbled into an adjoining room in the shop. Martin followed close behind him and vowed to God that if Hubert did not beg for Dealey’s pardon then “he would that instant cut off his head.” Hubert immediately complied, “to save his life,” he later said, and asked for James Dealey’s pardon.

Having accomplished his goal, Laughlin Martin tempered his rage and sheathed his sword. He proudly “declared he was a Roman Catholic and vowed to God to cut off the head of any person who said he should not carry arms.” Before leaving the shop, which apparently sold spiritous liquors among other goods, Martin called for a round of drinks for himself, James Dealey, and Mr. Reed. The shopkeeper, no doubt horrified by these violent proceedings, produced glasses and poured several rounds for the visitors. Martin then made a series of toasts, one of which was directed at the General Committee of the rebellious Provincial Congress of South Carolina. The committee, congress, and Martin’s Protestant neighbors had all publicly declared their contempt for the Quebec Act that provided civil rights to Catholic colonists. In return, Martin charged his glass and drank with his friends, “Damnation to the Committee and their proceedings.”

The day after Martin and Dealey assaulted Michael Hubert, June 3rd, 1775, the South Carolina Provincial Congress in Charleston finalized the text of an “Association” pledging to use lethal force to defend American liberty against British oppression. The document required the citizens of South Carolina (that is, White Protestant males), to “unite ourselves, under every tie of religion and honour, and associate, as a band in her defence, against every foe.” In short, the Association of 1775 was a pledge of allegiance to an exclusively Protestant rebellion. Printed copies of the Association began circulating in Charleston on Monday, June 5th, when twenty-six agents spread across the town to gather signatures. Men who refused or declined to sign the Association were reported to the General Committee for future exclusion and punishment.[16]

It appears that Laughlin Martin and James Dealey were among those who refused to sign the provincial “Association” during the first week of June 1775. We might even speculate that Martin might have argued with the men who came to collect his signature, since he was clearly angry about the systemic discrimination against Catholics like himself. Like most Irish Catholic men of past centuries, he apparently harbored little respect for the British Government that abridged their civil rights in their native country. Why would he now choose to embrace the rebellious spirit of his Protestant neighbors, who called themselves “patriots” but who perpetuated the same anti-Catholic sentiment as the British? To Catholic men like James Dealey and Laughlin Martin in the spring of 1775, who were accustomed to receiving disrespect from mainstream British society, there was nothing noble or patriotic about the unfolding rebellion against the distant British Government.

While agents of the Provincial Congress began canvasing Charleston for signatures to the Association, Michael Hubert wrote a petition to the shadow government’s Committee of Correspondence. (More precisely, a friend or associate penned a petition, which Hubert later signed.) In that document, which still survives at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in Columbia, Hubert recited the details of his encounter with Dealey, Martin, and Reed on June 2nd, and noted that he had already reported the assault with the civil authorities.[17] “As the times appear to be very troublesome,” said Mr. Hubert, he asked the rebellious Committee of Correspondence to investigate and “enquire into such parts of the transaction as concern the public.” In Hubert’s opinion, the three Catholic men who assaulted him were among the “numbers of enemies both to the Protestant interest and the present cause [who] are lurking amongst us.”[18]

The Charleston Committee of Correspondence, to whom Mr. Hubert appealed, read his petition and perhaps also noted that Laughlin Martin and James Dealey had declined to sign the Association then circulating in urban Charleston. The committee then handed Hubert’s petition to the shadow government’s “Secret Committee” composed of five affluent White Protestant men. According to records from that era, the Secret Committee (created in April 1775) included William Henry Drayton (chairman), Arthur Middleton, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, William Gibbes, Edward Weyman, and perhaps Thomas Corbett. These men then reviewed the case and ordered operatives to tar and feather both Laughlin Martin and James Dealey.[19]

On the morning of Thursday, June 8th, unidentified operatives located the two men and forcibly escorted them to the South Carolina State House (now the Charleston County Courthouse) at the northwest corner of Meeting and Broad Streets. Bells were rung to gather local citizens to pass judgment on the Irishmen in custody. Henry Laurens, then President of the Provincial Congress, happened to be walking to the State House at the same moment to attend a meeting of that body, and took note of the proceedings as he passed the scene. Martin and Dealey were to be tried by a vigilante court comprised, as Henry Laurens said, of “some of the lower people,” who “set up a judge & called witnesses.” The venue for this proceeding might have been the customary courtroom within the ground-floor of the State House, or perhaps outside the State House, in the courtyard on the north side of the building.[20]

“In less than an hour,” said Laurens, the vigilante court decreed judgment on the Irishmen, and ordered “the ceremony of tarring & feathering . . . upon Laughlin Martin & James Dealey.” Operatives then stripped the clothes from the two men and coated their skin with tar, a viscous black substance derived from pine sap. Tar was readily available in every port community at that time because it was used extensively in the maritime industry as a waterproof coating for ropes, hulls, and textiles. The production of tar and other “naval stores” (pitch, rosin, turpentine) formed a significant part of South Carolina’s economy during the colonial era, and there were always barrels of tar standing on or near the wharves of Charleston.[21] After covering the two men with the sticky black coating, operatives dumped bags of feathers over Martin and Dealey, providing them with what one local newspaper called “complete suits of tar and feathers.”[22]

The vigilante mob then forced the two men to climb into the back of a horse-drawn cart, which paraded them through the streets of Charleston for approximately half an hour to maximize their public humiliation. Henry Laurens, who was inside the upper story of the State House presiding over a meeting of the South Carolina Provincial Congress, reported that he could see “from our windows the shocking spectacles [Martin and Dealey] put into a cart & driven up & down the Broad Street.” After that “degrading punishment,” said Laurens, “they were put on board a vessel in order to be banished hence for ever.”[23]

In fact, only one of the two feathered men was banished from South Carolina. All of the primary sources related to this episode agree that James Dealey was placed aboard the merchant ship Liberty, commanded by John Lasley, then anchored in Rebellion Road and preparing to sail for Bristol, while Laughlin Martin was allowed to remain in Charleston. Details related to Martin’s reprieve vary among the surviving contemporary accounts. On Friday, June 9th, for example, the South Carolina and American General Gazette reported that both of the tarred-and-feathered men “made many acknowledgements of their crime” and were then “conducted home, cleaned, and quietly put on board of Capt. Lasley’s ship, lying windbound for Bristol: We hear that, upon the intercession of Martin’s friends, and his repeated promises of future good behaviour, he is allowed to come on shore and follow his business, as usual.”[24]

One Charlestonian who witnessed the tar-and-feathers incident of June 8th boarded a ship bound for England shortly after the event. In London, he described the spectacle to someone who then reported it to a newspaper in the metropolis. According to his testimony, Laughlin Martin was “taken to a tavern where the committee were sitting, and obliged to drink a counter toast.”[25] This is probably a reference to a meeting of the Secret Committee, chaired by William Henry Drayton, held at their usual haunt within Charles Ramadge’s tavern at the southeast corner of Church and Broad Streets. The surviving copy of Michael Hubert’s petition includes a few inscriptions apparently made at this meeting. After listening to appeals from Martin’s friends, the Secret Committee agreed to let him stay in Charleston, then scribbled two notes on the back of Hubert’s petition. Next to the name of Laughlin Martin, they wrote “to land & be discharged upon his expressing his contrition in the most public manner.” Next to the name of James Dealey, the committee simply wrote “send away.”[26]

Laughlin Martin’s formal apology to the people of South Carolina appeared in two Charleston newspapers in early June 1775:

Whereas I Laughlin Martin, having spoken unjustly, and having behaved myself in a very criminal manner, touching the Association lately entered into by the good people of this colony: I do hereby in the most solemn manner, express my sincere sorrow and contrition for such a shameful conduct, well deserving exemplary punishment, most humbly entreating pardon and forgiveness for such daring offences against the peace and liberty of this colony in particular, and of America in general, promising never to offend in like manner.

Laughlin Martin.

Charles-Town, June 9, 1775.[27]

Astute readers will notice that Martin’s apology does not mention any sort of loyalty to the British Government. His contemporaries would have realized that Martin, as a self-described Roman Catholic, did not support the British politics of that day. His crime, therefore, was to have made himself offensive to the majority of his neighbors by cursing the Protestant rebellion. The day after the event, for example, the South Carolina and American General Gazette said that Martin and Dealey were punished for having displayed “very indecent and daring behaviour.”[28] Ironically, the pro-rebellion South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal described Martin and Dealey “as rebels to the state to which they belong.” The two men had expressed “ridicule” and “contempt” for the Association recently adopted by the South Carolina Provincial Congress, and, according to the Country Journal, “drew on themselves the resentment of the populous.”[29] Similarly, the Charlestonian who reported this incident to the London press stated “that the populace tarred and feathered one Laughton Martin, a shop-keeper, and his servant, for drinking destruction to the American cause.”[30] John Drayton, who wrote about this event in the early nineteenth century after consulting the papers of his father, William Henry Drayton, concurred with these eye-witnesses. He concluded that Martin and Dealey were punished not for expressing loyalty to the British Government, but simply for “having behaved in a very improper manner” regarding the American cause.[31]

The good ship Liberty sailed out of Charleston Harbor for Bristol, England, on June 13th, 1775.[32] What became of James Dealey is unknown. Laughlin Martin remained in Charleston through the war, but he was ill and infirm and died shortly after the Revolution.[33] Michael Hubert enlisted in the First South Carolina Regiment of the Continental Army in November 1775, but disappears from local records after the fall of Charleston in 1780.[34]

The Charleston tar-and-feathers incident of June 1775 was a brief episode in the much larger drama of the American Revolution in South Carolina, but it provides a valuable window into the thoughts and emotions of the participants of that distant era. It also serves as a reminder that the Revolution was driven by a complex tangle of beliefs and values that included long-held prejudices. To understand why Laughlin Martin and James Dealey acted as they did, and to understand why their neighbors responded as they did, we have to peel back two centuries of glorification of the Revolution to see a few rather uncomfortable facts.

As Catholics of Irish extraction, Martin and Dealey clearly resented being treated as a second class citizens within the boundaries of the British Empire. Each man carried a religious chip on his shoulder, to use a modern expression, that rendered him acutely sensitive to the prejudice voiced so freely by their neighbors in the spring of 1775. The internal frustration they had long repressed exploded in a tirade against a Protestant scapegoat on June 2nd.

The reaction against the two Irishmen on June 8th was not necessarily inspired by religious discrimination, however. The various committee members of the South Carolina Provincial Congress were offended by the contempt voiced by Martin and Dealey against the political opinions of the Protestant majority. The two men were tarred and feathered not because they were Catholic, but because they had cursed the nascent rebellion in a manner that attracted public attention. Even after Laughlin Martin exposed his Catholic identity, he was permitted to remain in Charleston and keep his religion to himself.

Anti-Catholic sentiment continued in the American colonies through the remainder of 1775 and into the following year. The Quebec Act of 1774, for example, was mentioned as a grievance in the South Carolina Constitution of March 1776.[35] It also appears in the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776 as the twentieth grievance in a list of reasons for dissolving the union between the colonies and Great Britain.

The traditional Anglo-American prejudice against the Catholic faith began to soften, however, after the Continental Congress signed a pact of friendship and cooperation with the King of France in February 1778. The subsequent arrival of French resources to assist the American Revolution forced English-speaking Protestants of the nascent United States to temper their traditional animosity towards the Catholic religion.

With the assistance of French soldiers, guns, ships, and cash, the United States prevailed in its War of Independence against Great Britain. The new state and federal laws created in the aftermath of that eight-year struggle demonstrated that the people of South Carolina, and most of the nation in general, were willing to be a bit more accepting of religious differences. Both the United States Constitution, ratified in 1789, and the South Carolina Constitution of 1790 finally removed the legal barriers to the free practice of religion that the colonies had inherited from Britain.[36]

The Charleston tar-and-feathers incident of 1775 reminds us that democracy has always been a work-in-progress in our community. The politics of the 1770s, just like those of modern America, included a plurality of beliefs and values that complicate the narrative of our nation’s past. Embracing rather than suppressing uncomfortable historical facts, I believe, can help us navigate future challenges, as we strive to create a more perfect union of diverse citizens.




[1] Walter J. Fraser, Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 143, described James Dealey and Laughlin Martin as “crown loyalists.” William R. Ryan, The World of Thomas Jeremiah: Charles Town on the Eve of the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 48, identified Dealey and Martin as “Catholic loyalists.”

[2] My interpretation of the Hubert-Dealey-Martin episode of 1775 as an example of religious rather than political differences is not new. John England, first Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, described it as such in an 1831 essay; see John England, Letter III of “The Republic in Danger,” in Sebastian Gebhard Messmer, ed., The Works of the Right Reverend John England First Bishop of Charleston, volume 4 (Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1908), 431–38; James Lowell Underwood and W. Lewis Burke, eds., The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006), 69–70.

[3] Scholarly discussions of the Irish Penal Laws abound; see, for example, Tony Crowley, The Politics of Language in Ireland 1366–1922: A Sourcebook (New York: Routledge, 2000); Tony Crowley, War of Words: The Politics of Language in Ireland 1537–2004 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); S. J. Connolly, Divided Kingdom: Ireland 1630–1800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Stephen Duane Dean Jr., “Firearms, Legitimacy and Power in Eighteenth-Century Ireland,” Ph.D. diss., King’s College London, 2015.

[4] See, for example, the essay by “Devil on Two Sticks” in South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (hereafter SCGCJ), 1 November 1774, page 2; essay by “Pro Bono Publico” in SCGCJ, 7 February 1775, page 1.

[5] For a more detailed discussion of the Quebec Act and anti-Catholic sentiment in the early stages of the American Revolution, see, for example, Martin I. J. Griffin, “The Anti-Catholic Spirit of the Revolution,” American Catholic Historical Researches 6 (October 1889): 146–78; Maura Jane Farrelly, Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620–1860 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Evan Haefeli, ed., Against Popery: Britain, Empire, and Anti-Catholicism (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020); Katherine Carté, Religion and the American Revolution: An Imperial History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021).

[6] John Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution, volume 1 (Charleston, S.C.: A. E. Miller, 1821), 226–28, described this event, which was “calculated to arrest the public attention [and] to throw odium on the British Administration,” but failed to provide a date. The event occurred on Saturday, 5 November 1774, and was described in detail in the South Carolina Gazette (hereafter SCG), 21 November 1774, page 2, under the news that should have been published on 7 November (but was not because the newspaper briefly suspended operations).

[7] SCG, 29 May 1775 (Monday), page 2. Robert G. Parkinson, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 95, footnote 26, demonstrates that Charleston printer Peter Timothy, the publisher of the SCG, copied this information from the New-York Journal, 27 April 1775.

[8] Dealey was identified as the “servant” of Laughlin in a new item published in The Edinburgh Advertiser, 20–24 October 1775, page 9, quoting from an unidentified London source dated 14 October 1775; accessed via on 29 June 2022.

[9] Michael Hubert was identified as a weaver in his purchase of a small lot on the east side of Union Street; see Charleston County Register of Deeds (hereafter CCRD), book G5: 336–39, Edward Hare to Michael Hubert, lease and release, 15 June 1778.

[10] My narrative of the events of 2 June 1775 is constructed from the undated manuscript petition of “Michael Hubart” (signed, in a different hand, “Michel Hubert”), South Carolina Department of Archives and History (hereafter SCDAH), Robert W. Gibbes Collection of Revolutionary War Manuscripts (S213089), box 2, folder 40. This petition was transcribed in Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution, 1: 300–2. I have modernized the spelling of several words in the petition for the convenience of modern readers. Hubert’s petition and other sources identified Martin’s accomplice as James Dealey, but two local newspapers called him John Dealey in June 1775.

[11] Martin advertised “his shop on Wragg’s Wharf” in SCGCJ, 30 May 1775, page 2. After the American Revolution, Wragg’s Wharf became known as Vanderhorst’s Wharf; see, for example, the sale advertisement for the brigantine Hope in South Carolina and American General Gazette (hereafter SCGGA), 3 December 1784, page 3. The Ichnography of Charleston, published in 1790 for the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company of London, places Vanderhorst’s Wharf at the east end of Wragg’s Alley (now Cumberland Street). This location is confirmed by David Denoon’s auction advertisement in the [Charleston, S.C.] City Gazette, 24 December 1788, page 2.

[12] Henry Laurens identified Martin as “an under wharfinger & [man] of some credit in town” in his letter to John Laurens, dated 8–10 June 1775, in David R. Chesnutt, et al., eds., The Papers of Henry Laurens, volume 10 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1985), 167. Martin identified himself as a shopkeeper in his September 1775 conveyance of 500 acres in Craven County to William Downes, in CCRD, R4: 252–29. The aforementioned news item in The Edinburgh Advertiser, 20–24 October 1775, page 9, also identified Martin as “a shop-keeper.” In SCAGG, 28 April–5 May 1775, page 5, John Poaug announced that he had taken possession of “Wragg’s Wharf and Stores.” Martin identified Poaug as his “good and worthy friend” and appointed him executor of his will on 24 November 1778; see SCDAH, Will Book A (1783–86), 480, or WPA transcript volume 21: 601.

[13] Martin received two grants of 250 acres each in Granville County on 23 June 1774; see SCDAH, Colonial Land Grants (Copy Series)(S213019), volume 31: 59, 74; he received two grants of 500 acres each in Craven County on 15 September 1775; see SCDAH, Colonial Land Grants (Copy Series)(S213019), volume 37: 497, 499.

[14] Eleanor Martin’s name appears in the aforementioned September 1775 conveyance from Martin to William Downes. Eleanor does not appear in Laughlin’s aforementioned 1778 will, which names their four children Margaret, Marianne, Anne, and Richard Withers Nugent Martin.

[15] Hubert’s wife is mentioned in CCRD G5: 340–43, Michael Hubert and Jean, his wife, to Thomas Arwin and James Rugg, merchants, lease and release, 22–23 September 1780, concerning the same lot in Union Street that Hubert purchased in 1778.

[16] The full text of the “Association,” and instructions for gathering signatures thereto, appear in SCGCJ, 6 June 1775, page 3.

[17] Hubert’s petition states that he “has prosecuted them as law directs,” which suggests that he filed a complaint with a justice of the peace in the parish of his residence. No police or criminal court records survive from this era, rendering it impossible to confirm Hubert’s statement.

[18] Hubert’s petition, SCDAH; Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution, 1: 300–2.

[19] Drayton, Memoirs, 1: 220–21. Thomas Corbett later claimed to have been a member of the Secret Committee in 1775; see William Moultrie, Memoirs of the American Revolution, volume 1 (New York: David Longworth, 1802), 59. At the end of Hubert’s aforementioned petition, the chair of the Secret Committee wrote the words: “Secret tar and Feather Him ¶ Passd [sic] the Secret Committe [sic] & ordered to be put in Execution.”

[20] For information about the courtroom within the South Carolina State House at this time, see Carl R. Lounsbury, From Statehouse to Courthouse: An Architectural History of South Carolina’s Colonial Capitol and Charleston County Courthouse (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001), 28–37.

[21] For more information about naval stores, see Justin Williams, “English Mercantilism and Carolina Naval Stores, 1705–1776,” Journal of Southern History 1 (May 1935): 169–85; Robert B. Outland, Tapping the Pines: The Naval Stores Industry in the American South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004), 10–13, 24–25.

[22] See the local news in South Carolina and American General Gazette, 2–9 June 1775 (Friday), page 3.

[23] Henry Laurens in Charleston to John Laurens, 8–10 June 1775, in The Papers of Henry Laurens, volume 10: 167–68. Laurens’s letter is dated 8 June at the head, but internal clues indicate that it was composed over a period of three days. Laurens’s statement that the trial of Martin and Dealey occurred “yesterday morning” is contained within a section that was clearly written “very early” on June 9th.

[24] See the local news in SCAGG, 2–9 June 1775, page 3.

[25] The Edinburgh Advertiser, 20–24 October 1775, page 9.

[26] Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution, 1: 274, 302.

[27] Martin’s apology appears in SCAGG, 2–9 June 1775, page 3; and SCGCJ, 13 June 1775, page 3.

[28] See the local news in SCAGG, 2–9 June 1775, page 3.

[29] See the local news in SCGCJ, 13 June 1775, page 3.

[30] The Edinburgh Advertiser, 20–24 October 1775, page 9.

[31] Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution, 1: 273.

[32] See the local news in SCGCJ, 13 June 1775, page 3.

[33] The will of Laughlin Martin, dated 24 November 1778, was proved on 25 February 1785; see SCDAH, Will Book A (1783–1786), 480; WPA transcript volume 21: 601.

[34] See Bobby Gilmer Moss, Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983), 468. See Hubert’s abovementioned sale of property in September 1780.

[35] See the Constitution of 1776 and the Constitution of 1778 in Thomas Cooper, ed., The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, volume 1 (Columbia, S.C.: A. S. Johnston, 1836), 128–34, 137–46.

[36] See the Constitution of 1790 in Cooper, Statutes at Large of South Carolina, 1: 184–93.


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