Lawson, John (d.1712) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


LAWSON, JOHN (d. 1712), traveller, a native of Scotland, was sent to America as surveyor-general of North Carolina, and arrived at Charleston in September 1700. A few months later he started on his exploration of the Carolinas with five white men and four Indians, went by canoe as far as Santee, and then turned inland on foot, jotting down his experiences as he journeyedContinually roaming over the country in the exercise of his profession of survey or, he came much into contact with the Indians, upon whom he made many acute and trustworthy observations; but the natives began after a time to suspect that his surveying operations cloaked some designs upon their lands. He was accordingly seized in 1712, hard by the river Neuse, by the Tuscarora Indians, together with a Swiss, Baron de Graffenreid. The latter was suffered to ransom himself, but Lawson was put to death, probably in the gruesome manner described in a chapter of his book upon the cruelties of the Indians, resinous pine splinters being driven into the prisoner's flesh and then set alight. This is the generally received account, but William Byrd, in his 'History of the Dividing Line between Virginia and Carolina' (ed. 1866, 174, 214), says 'he was waylaid and had Throat cut from Ear to Ear.'

Lawson's impressions of travel were recorded in 'one of the most valuable of the early histories of the Carolinas.' It appeared in London in 1709, under the title 'A New Voyage to Carolina, containing the exact Description and Natural History of that Country, together with the present state thereof, and a journal of a Thousand Miles Travel'd through several Nations of Indians, giving a particular Account of their Customs, Manners, etc..' forming the second part of 'A New Collection of Voyages and Travels into several parts of the World, none of which ever before printed in England.' completed in 1711 by the publisher, John Stevens. Other issues of the same sheets, with slightly different title-pages, appeared in 1714 and 1718. A German version by M. Vischer, entitled 'Allerneuste Beschreibung der Provinz Carolina in West-Indien.' was printed at Hamburg in 1712; 2nd edit. 1722. The work was accompanied by an interesting map; it is by no means devoid of literary style, and is, according to Professor Tyler, 'an uncommonly strong and sprightly book' (Hist. of American Literature, u. 282).

[Field's Indian Bibliography, p. 228; Winsor's Hist. of America, v. 345; Appleton's Dict. of American Biog. iii. 642; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, iv. 492; Lawson's Works in Brit. Mus. Library.]

T. S.