December 31, 1952
Dr. Joseph E. Fields
Medical Arts Building
Dear Dr. Fields:
The Arthur Middleton letter, a copy of which you so kindly
sent to me, is of greater worth than perhaps you may think it to be.
The "charge" referred to in the letter was the charge that
Drayton gave to a Grand Jury at Charleston on the 23rd day of April,
1776. On motion of the Attorney General, on May 2, 1776, the court
ordered the charge to be printed. The words "prosperous seal" pro-
bably refers to the fact that a copy went to Middleton under the seal
of John Colcock, Clerk of the Circuit Court. It is likely that the
Clerk made a copy of the charge to be forwarded to Middleton, and that
after it was made it was decided to have it published in pamphlet form.
It is likely that a manuscript copy was forwarded to Middleton before
the printer completed his work.
The "plant which you have been nursing has thriven amazingly"
means that the "plant", independence which Drayton had been nursing
had at last grown into a Declaration of Independence. The phrase
"its roots as reach'd this place and sprung up in full vigour" means
that the Drayton Grand Jury charge had blossomed out into the Declara-
tion of Independence. The fruit was hanging from that "plant". The
"fruit" from Drayton's tree had ripened on 12 branches and the 13th
was in "full blossom". Jefferson plucked the fruit from Drayton's tree.
where he said "my sentiments upon this subject you shall have soon; in
in the meantime enjoy the delicacies of this forbidden fruit, if it has
any" is sarcasm that would not indicate any misgivings on the part of
Middleton. If we would interpolate after the word "any" the words
"for you" the meaning would be self-evident. About all the "delicacies"
in the Declaration of Independence, so far as Middleton and Drayton
were concerned was the first part of the Declaration of Independence
copied from the first three paragraphs of the Virginia Bill of Rights.
May I assume that I shall be permitted to quote the first two
paragraphs of the Middleton letter, giving full credit, of course?
The Drayton charge of April 23, 1776, was printed in Quarto
Pamphlet in Charleston on or about May, 3 1776. It was also printed
in the London Remembrance 1776 Part II pages 321-330.
My count of clauses and sentences in the grand jury charge
borrowed by Jefferson and used in the Declaration of Independence is
approximately 30. Jefferson made many changes in an effort to disguise,
but he failed miserably, if we give impartial consideration to all of
the evidence. In an earlier charge, a copy of which was sent on to John
Hancock by John Rutledge, the following phrase appears: "All men are
created free and equal."
Drayton's April charge contained what I now refer to as John
Locke's "train". It also contains the misspelled word "unalienable".
You have furnished the last bit of evidence that I need.
Everything that I shall say in my article that deals with the subject will
be consistent with everything that Jefferson ever said about the Declaration
of Independence. You will recall that at no time did he claim originality.
He denied that it was original. He described some of the sources from
which he did not draw from. Nothing that he said is inconsistent with the
fact that he drew at least three-fourths of the contents of the Declaration
of Independence from Mason and Drayton.
Yours very sincerely,
R. CARTER PITTMAN