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The Nemesis of Samuel Garrigues Sr.

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 5 May 1766 to 20 May 1766
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamap
Surnames/tags: garrigues macpherson
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Note: David Hall ran Ben Franklin’s newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. He was so successful, that in 1766, he bought out Franklin and formed the new printing firm of Hall and Sellers.

The following letters appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette and The Pennsylvania Journal in 1766. They document a war of words between Captain John Macpherson and Samuel Garrigues.

Macpherson was a Privateer, or perhaps a pirate, gaining a fortune in this endeavor. According to John Adams, MacPherson had "an arm twice shot off". Macpherson was one of the ‘wealthy colonial elite’ of Philadelphia and his home, 'Mount Pleasant', reflected that wealth. John Adams called the mansion "the most elegant seat in Pennsylvania." Mount Pleasant was built on the cliffs overlooking the Schuylkill River. It was built about 1761-62 in what was then the countryside outside of the city. There was an accompanying farm. MacPherson was also a slave owner.

Letter from John Macpherson to Mr. David Hall, publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette:

Mount-Pleasant, May 5, 1766:
Mr. David Hall,
That duty incumbent upon every honest man, to vindicate his character (when maliciously and unjustly aspersed) obliges me to trouble the publick with the annexed. Should room be wanting in your next gazette, be pleased to print it on a separate half-sheet, and send it with your papers to each of your correspondents in this province, and in the Jerseys. By John Macpherson.
Last Monday, while a horse of mine was standing at Mr. John Moody's shop, (which I had sent there to be shod) Mr. Samuel Garrick coming along, stopped and asked whose horse it was, Mr. Moody answered, the horse belonged to me, upon which Mr. Garrick told him, that some time ago, I had taken up a very fine horse, which I wanted to conceal; he said it was true I had advertised him, but that I had pasted the advertisements on the tops of trees, with design they should not be seen. At this time one of my servants was standing by (unknown to Mr. Garrick) who said it was not so; that I had advertised him at the Robin Hood tavern, and also in the public papers. Ay, Ay, replied Mr. Garrick, he did advertise him in the public papers, but it was by a false colour, upon which my servant said it was a damned lie; Mr. Garrick replied poh, poh, I know better; and immediately left Mr. Moody's shop. As soon as my servant came home, he informed me what had passed. Early next morning I went to town, to be more fully informed about this affair, and found what my servant related, to be strictly true. I was really surprised to find a person entirely unknown to me (for till this moment I never saw him) taking so much pains to injure me. As soon as my business permitted, I sent him the following letter, which this great man (now grown proud by an office he unworthily holds) has not condescended to answer.”

Published in the Pennsylvania Journal, No. 1224, May 22, 1766: -

Mr. Garrigues's answer to Captain M'Pherson's piece in our last, is come to hand, but, for want of room, must be deferred till our next.

Samuel’s answer to John Macpherson's letter: -

Philadelphia, May 19, 1766.
To the Printers of the Pennsylvania Gazette,
In the Midst of A Profound Peace, It Is A Little Surprizing, That From the Craggs of Mount-Pleasant, A War Should Be Declared Against Me ... I Have Seen A Paper, Signed by John M'Pherson, Printed by You ... Which I Apprehended Had A Malicious Design to Asperse My Reputation ... I Hope, Therefore, for An Equal Indulgence With Others, and That Should Room Be Wanting in your Next Gazette, You Will Be Pleased to Print This on A Separate Half-sheet, and Send the Copies of It With your Papers, to Each of your Correspondents in This Province, in the Jerseys, And, If You Please, in New-York, and Maryland. By Garrigues, Samuel.
I have never been privateering, am unacquainted with the rules of war, or the profits arising from it: I shall therefore content myself on shore, defend my property from privateers, and my character from the attacks of privateering men.
I have seen a piece signed by John M'Pherson printed in your Journal of No. 1223, which I apprehend had a malicious design to asperse my reputation, I scarcely thought it worthy my answer, and should have treated it with the same disregard as I did his unparalleled letter to me. If the hero had confined his calumniation to the people of this province Phily, where I was brought up, and my true character known, I should have rested contented. But he has endeavored to stigmatize me in the Jerseys also, where I have some connections which may injure me if I do not vindicate myself; and I am apprehensive he may 'ere long scatter his grape-shot across the Atlantick, I should not have given the public and myself this trouble.
I know the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of British liberty. I hope therefore for an equal indulgence with others, and that should room be wanting in your next Journal, you will be pleased to print this on a separate half sheet, and send the copies of it with your papers to each of your correspondents in this province, in the Jerseys, and if you please in New-York and Mary-land.
Yours, S. G.
John M’Pherson hath charged me with saying that he had "taken up a fine horse which he wanted to conceal.
I saw a horse at John Moody's smiths shop, which I knew (without asking any questions) to have been sold at vendue at the London Coffee-house to Mr. M'Pherson. Upon this occasion I inadvertently, without any bad design, or the least malice, mentioned some part only of what I had heard in relation to another horse, which will appear by the following affirmation.

[The affirmation also printed]

City of Philadelphia, ss. Be it remembered, that on the 17th day of May, 1766, Before me Jacob Duche, one of the justices of Philadelphia, Aquila Richards, of the county of Philadelphia, yeoman, cometh, (and being one of the people called Quakers) on his solemn affirmation saith ....
[Signed] Aquila Richards.
Affirmed the same day and year before Jacob Duche.
Thus it must appear that I was not the first inventor of this story I shall now take my leave of the hauty gentleman, and let him know if he chooses to write any more, I shall treat him and his scrawl with the contempt they may justly deserve. — The Pennsylvania Journal, No. 1225, May 29, 1766.

Captain MacPherson’s retort: -

May 20, 1766.
I HAVE this instant seen a most extraordinary performance of Mr. Garrigues's, to he published against me, from what he asserts and what I have published, it is now very evident, that he or I must be a notorious villain. I hope the public will suspend their judgment, 'till I have made a reply; and then, if I do not fully vindicate myself, and show him in his proper colours, may I be detested by all honest men; may my children never think of their father, nor hear him named, without bitterly cursing the infamous wretch, from whom they sprung.

John M'Pherson.” The Pennsylvania Journal, No. 1225, May 29, 1766.

Due to increasing debt, including unpaid taxes, Mount Pleasant was advertised for sale in the Philadelphia Gazette. Also advertised for sale were three of MacPherson’s slaves. The Captain was imprisoned for 100 days, in a shepherd’s cottage at Mount Pleasant. He believed his wife, Margaret, was involved in his imprisonment and his being labeled a madman. When he eventually gained his freedom MacPherson demanded from Margaret all the keys to Mount Pleasant and their separation as man and wife. By April 1770, Margaret was locked out of Mount Pleasant and suffering from what she called “my disorder” which she wrote, “every day increases”. Margaret MacPherson died two months later age 38.

To read more about John MacPherson and his dislike for Samuel Garrigues Sr. see Clerk of the Market.

Researched by Vivien Garrigues

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