The third volume covers the period from the surrender of the Lords Proprietors to the end of Burrington's administration as Royal Governor, almost six years in duration.
For more than two years of this period Sir Richard Everard was Governor, being allowed by the Crown to hold over until his successor under the new rágime was ready to enter upon the discharge of his duties. During this time the Legislature met only once, in November, 1729, and enacted a number of laws, the originals of which, with all the endorsements thereon, are now preserved in the office of the Secretary of State in Raleigh. The validity of these laws being called in question, as it was recited in the enacting clauses that they were passed by authority of the Lords Proprietors, the matter was referred to the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General of the Crown, and they declared them to be null and void. In spite of this, however, they were regularly brought forward as valid in all of our Revisals.
On the 25th February, 1731, Burrington, who had just arrived in the colony, took the oaths of office as Governor before the Council, assembled in Edenton, and his administration terminated on the 12th November, 1734, when in the same town he received a proclamation announcing that his successor, Gabriel Johnston, had arrived at Cape Fear and qualified according to law. His first Legislature met on 13th April, 1731, the second on 3d July, 1733, and the third and last on the 5th November, 1734.
Historians have fallen into grave errors in regard to Governor Burrington. The minutes of the last meeting of the Council held before Governor Johnston's arrival, so far as now appears, record the fact that on the 15th April, 1734, Nathaniel Rice being the oldest Councillor, took upon him the administration of the government in consequence of the
Reliable evidence concerning him, however, is to be found in a manuscript volume of records in the office of the Secretary of State at Raleigh, in the shape of a copy of his last will and testament and of the probate, from which it appears that the will was made on the 8th December, 1750, and that administration with the will annexed was granted on 23d March, 1759. As the record states that the sole executor named in the will died before the testator, and does not state that the administration was de bonis non, the inference is that Burrington on the 23d March, 1759, had been dead but a short while. If, therefore, his statement made in 1732, that he had “served the Crown in every reign since the abdication of King James” was true, he must have been a very old man at the time of his death, somewhere near eighty years old, a fact that does not seem consistent either with a drunken life or a violent death in even an occasional midnight orgy away from home.
Burrington's administration as Royal Governor was a stormy one in spite of the bright auspices under which it began. Welcomed with open arms and the greatest demonstrations of joy on his arrival, ninety days
The Chief-Justice he declared to be an ungrateful, perfidious scoundrel and an egregious sot, whose father was a smuggler and whose mother was a woman of a poor, mean family; the Attorney-General, he said, did not know law enough to be clerk to a Justice of the Peace, and was besides a man of innumerable villanies; the Secretary of the Province made it his whole business to create mischief, and attended neither the Council nor his office, and finally sought to murder him; the Judge of the Court of Admiralty was an infamous character; another member of the Council was an ungrateful villain, and still another was a disgrace to it. Nor was he less sparing in his denunciation of the Lower House of Assembly.
In some of his many quarrels the issues involved were of a purely personal character, in others they grew out of differences of opinion as to matters of public policy, but whatever the cause every difference with him resulted in a quarrel. He could tolerate no opinion that was not in accord with his own and deemed every one a personal enemy, if not a villain, who differed with him.
The result of it all was that the Assembly would, as he wrote to the Board of Trade, “never pass one of the acts required or recommended in the King's Instruction nor of his proposing.”
The mode of disposing of vacant lands, the powers of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, the regulation of fees of public officers, the provisions proper to a bill for a rent-roll for the Crown, the right to appoint clerks to the Assembly, to appoint the Public Treasurer, to create new precincts or counties with right of representation in the Lower House of Assembly, and to fix the rate of exchange, were all causes of serious difference and quarrel at one time or another within two years after his administration began. The right to create new precincts or counties he strenuously insisted belonged solely to him and the Council. The Lower House, on the contrary, quite as strenuously refused to admit members
In the matter of the rent-roll there were two points especially that never failed to provoke trouble: 1. How the rents were to be paid: whether in certain productions of the country, and if so, at what price should they be rated, or in specie or currency, and if in currency, at what rate of exchange. 2. Where the rents were to be paid: whether on the land or at places to be named by the agent of the Crown. The Governor insisted that these points should be settled in favor of the Crown, while the Assembly insisted upon its right to settle them as might be most conducive to the interests and convenience of the people. In the matter of public officers' fees, also, there was a wide difference of opinion, each side insisting upon its right to fix the currency in which they should be paid and the rate of exchange, or value, at which it should be taken.
Burrington was removed from office by the Lords Proprietors, and upon the intimation that he would be sent back to the province by the Crown, a paper was presented to the Board of Trade entitled “The case of the inhabitants of North Carolina in respect to Mr. George Burrington's being reappointed their Governor,” in which a most earnest protest was made against his appointment, based mainly upon the affidavits supporting a petition for his removal as Proprietary Governor. These affidavits, if true, show him to have been violent and lawless, both in speech and action, and given to excessive drink. The protest goes on to say, also, that he had been heard to declare that if ever he got to North Carolina as Governor again he would be the destruction of all those who aided in his removal. This paper, it would seem, was prepared in London.
On the other hand, after his removal by the Proprietors, the Lower House of the General Assembly, John Baptista Ashe being Speaker, made a formal address to the Lords Proprietors asking for his restoration
“Whereas, By the Royal Charter granted by King Charles the Second to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina it is granted that the Inhabitants of this Province shall have, possess and enjoy all Libertys, Franchises and Privileges as are held, possest and enjoyed in the Kingdom of England. And Whereas it is the undoubted Right and Privilege of the People of England that they shall not be taxed or made lyable to pay any sum or sums of Money or Fees other than such as are by law established. Notwithstanding which it appears by complaint made in most parts of this Province that the Officers in General do demand take and receive from the Inhabitants and Masters of Vessells trading to this Province four times more than the Fees appointed by the Laws of this Province to the great Discouragement of the Trade of this Province and the Oppression of the People
“Resolved, That this House do wait on the Governor with this complaint and that the Council be desired to joyn with this House in requesting His Excellency to issue a Proclamation declaring such practices to be
Not content with abuse of its members, Burrington prorogued the Legislature from time to time, and finally dissolved it, so that there was not another session for more than two years.
But the plan of governing without a Legislature by no means softened the temper of either Governor or Legislature, for in the next Legislature that met the committee appointed to draw up a reply to the Governor's speech at the opening declared the country to be laboring under oppression and perversion of justice, and specified as instances thereof that the Governor made himself the arbiter in his own quarrels, that he used force to gain possession of goods he claimed from one person, that he burnt the house of another to gain possession of land he wanted; that when attempts were made by due course of law to recover satisfaction therefor from him, the Chief-Justice and his assistants gave judgment that the party injured by the Governor had no relief in their court, and, at the Governor's instigation, sought to prevent him from seeking relief elsewhere by imprisonment, excessive bail and refusing to read his petition wherein his grievances were shown; that persons upon the least displeasure were called two hundred miles away to answer to trifles; that fees were unaccountably multiplied in all cases; that people were turned out of their lands by those who had no right to them; that none were permitted to take up lands, though they were ready to comply with the Royal Instructions, unless they paid the Governor 2s. 6d. silver money for every fifty acres, a demand warranted neither by the laws of the province nor the Royal Instructions; that free people were taken up by magistrates and placed in a state of servitude little inferior to bondage; that, in short, all the laws of the province were in a manner disregarded, all the courts of justice in a manner stopped, and that injustice, oppression and arbitrary rule almost overran the whole province.
His reply, prompt and decided, came in the shape of a peremptory summons to the Assembly to attend him at once in the Council Chamber,
The next Legislature met on 6th November, 1734, but before he had time to raise an issue with it his administration came to an end.
But whatever may have been the opinion of others, in his own opinion, Burrington was a man who deserved exceedingly well, both of the colony and the Crown. He said he had “served the Crown in every reign since the Abdication of King James and always was allowed to behave as a man of Honour”; and that when he first came to the colony he found the inhabitants few and poor—in fact, that North Carolina was little known or mentioned before he was Governor for the Proprietors; that he took all methods to induce people to come from other countries to settle there and put himself to very great charges in making new settlements in several parts of the government, in which he succeeded according to his expectation; that the Cape Fear settlement cost him a great
On his return to England, he petitioned the King for the payment of the arrears of his salary and for re-imbursement for his expenditures, in having surveys and drafts made of the ports and harbors, which surveys and drafts were made under instructions from the King and sent to the Board of Trade. Had he stopped there he might possibly have gotten his money, but the temptation to get another fling at his enemies was more than he could resist and he repeated the old, oft-told story of his grievances and asked that the conduct of his adversaries be examined into in order to his restoration to Royal favor. Taking advantage of this, the King, at the suggestion and upon the advice of his Privy Council, dismissed
If what he says of himself be true, Burrington was indeed an exceedingly ill-used man, for, among other things, according to his statement, the Chief-Justice, the Attorney-General and the Secretary of the province, attempted to assassinate him by shooting him with a pistol, and his life was only saved by the interposition of some courageous men who came to his assistance. The conspiracy to murder him was, he believed, set on foot in England, because authentic accounts of the assault upon him sent to the Board of Trade were not treated with any consideration. Indictments being found against his would-be murderers, they fled by night and hid themselves in Virginia, where they remained until Governor Johnston landed in North Carolina. On their return, Governor Johnston immediately distinguished the assassins with his favor, every one of them being placed in some employment.
On the other hand, as has been said, if a tithe of what his enemies said about Burrington be true, the wonder is that he got away from the colony alive, and not that an attempt was made to kill him.
What, then, in view of all the facts, is the real character of Burrington? The seemingly respectful consideration given to him and to his opinions by the Board of Trade after his return to England, is by no means consistent with the theory that he was a mere drunken brawler whom they had just displaced for grave malfeasance in office. His official papers, too, relating to the province, those at least unconnected with his quarrels, are well written and show an intimate knowledge of the country and the measures best adapted to promote its development. Considered alone, indeed, they would present him as an active, intelligent, progressive ruler. But they cannot be considered alone, and he stands out, therefore, as a man of ability, but utterly disqualified by grievous faults for the position he occupied. And yet he was a wiser ruler than his predecessor, Everard, and possessed no more faults; he was, too, to say the least, as wise as his successor, Gabriel Johnston, and no more arbitrary. Certain it is, too, that the province under his administration continued to flourish and greatly prosper, both in wealth and population.
It may be that Burrington was hampered by his instructions from the Crown, and that no Governor could have carried them out and kept the peace with a people who, as he said, were subtle and crafty to admiration, who could be neither outwitted nor cajoled, who always behaved insolently to their Governors, who maintained that their money could not be taken from them save by appropriations made by their own House of Assembly, a body that had always usurped more power than they ought to be allowed; with a people, in a word, who well knew their rights and dared to assert them to the full. This was, in substance, evidently the opinion of the sagacious, as well as humorous, Colonel Byrd, of Virginia, for on the 20th July, 1731, he wrote to Governor Burrington, saying: “I think, by some samples I have known of that country [North Carolina], it would cost a pretty deal of trouble to bring it into order, and a less spirit than yours will never be able to effect it. People accustomed to live without law or gosple will with great Reluctance Submit to either ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ In the meantime I wish you all the success in the world in bringing the chaos into form and reducing that Anarchy into a regular Government. In so doing you will deserve to have your statue erected or, which perhaps is better, to have your salary doubled.” But the event proved that not even Burrington's “spirit” was equal to the task of reducing North Carolina to what he and Byrd considered good order and regular government, and that unhappy Burrington got neither statue nor double salary—indeed, no salary at all.
The task was, perhaps, an impossible one, and in passing judgment upon those to whom its execution was entrusted we ought, at least, to bear in mind the difficulties in the way of its accomplishment.
The transfer of the province from the Lords Proprietors to the Crown brought about little or no change in the practical machinery of the government and no change whatever in the rights of the people, for those rights depended, not upon the will of the Proprietors nor upon that of the Crown, but upon the well-known charters of King Charles the Second. But the administration of Burrington as the first Royal Governor marks so plainly a new departure in the history of the province, that a brief
The province was divided into counties, precincts and parishes, with a population of not less than 40,000 black and white, lying to the eastward of a line between the towns of Weldon and Fayetteville of the present day. The counties were two in number, divided into thirteen precincts, as follows:
1. Albemarle county, into six precincts, viz.: Chowan, Perquimans, Currituck, Pasquotank, Bertie and Edgecombe.
2. Bath county, divided into seven precincts, viz.: Beaufort, Bladen, Carteret, Craven, Hyde, New Hanover and Onslow.
Each precinct was a parish also, with a vestry and church-wardens clothed with power to raise money by poll-tax not exceeding five shillings in currency on a tithable to maintain the poor and pay preachers.
In the Executive department of the government there were a Governor, Council, Secretary of the Province, Receiver-General for the collection of rents due the Crown, a Surveyor-General and an Attorney-General. The power to prorogue and dissolve Legislatures and to veto their acts strengthened the hands of the Executive beyond measure almost.
In the Judicial department were the Supreme Court for the province, called the General Court, consisting of a Chief-Justice and Associate Justices, and Precinct Courts that met quarterly, one for each precinct, consisting of Justices of the Peace appointed for the purpose by the Governor and Council, with power to try all personal actions under fifty pounds, to act as Orphans' Courts, appoint guardians, take securities, &c. In the General Court were combined the powers of the King's Bench, Common Pleas and Exchequer in England. The Chief-Justice and Associate Justices, together with the principal officers of the province, sat also as a Court of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol delivery. Chancery jurisdiction was vested in the Governor and Council. A list of jurors for each precinct was made up by the Assembly and the names put in a box, to be drawn at the ending of each court, by a child, for the next court. The
The Legislature consisted of an Upper House, composed of the members of the Council, and a Lower House, composed of representatives from the precincts, and one each from the towns of Bath, Edenton and New Bern, the precincts in Albemarle sending five representatives each and those in Bath sending two each. The only tax imposed by the Legislature was one of five shillings in currency on each tithable, and a duty of 3s. 4d. per ton on vessels for powder money, as it was called, intended but not always used for pilotage and buoying out the inlets and channels. This duty was first payable in powder, shot and flints, and its purpose was to supply the demand for ammunition then so greatly needed in the conflicts with the Indians. All males not slaves, over sixteen years of age, and all slaves, whether male or female, over sixteen years of age, were tithables. There was no fixed time for the election of members of the Legislature then as now, but they were elected at such time as pleased the Governor and held office at his will, for even after they met and organized he could prorogue them at wil from time to time, or might dissolve them and order a new election, if to him it seemed good. It would seem, too, that a minority had not even the power to adjourn from day to day, a prorogation by the Governor being the expedient resorted to when a minority only was present and wished to adjourn.
The currency of the province outstanding during Burrington's second administration was estimated to be £40,000, issued under an act of Assembly passed in 1729. £10,000 were set apart to be exhausted for old bills then current and the other £30,000 were distributed to the several precinct treasurers, to be let out on loan on land security, such a part of the principal with interest to be repaid annually as would sink the whole in fifteen years. There were treasurers for the province also, elected, like those for the precincts, by the Legislature.
There was a militia system also, that provided for the organization of the able-bodied men into companies and regiments. But there were neither arms, ammunition nor fortifications.
The laying out of new roads, building of new bridges, and the repair of old ones, were also provided for.
The products of the country were tar, pitch, rosin, tobacco, indigo, rice, Indian corn, English wheat, beans, peas, flax, cotton, &c. Horses, cattle, hogs and poultry were abundant, at least in the older settlements, being easily and cheaply raised. Sheep, too, were raised, though perhaps not in such great numbers. It was estimated that 50,000 fat hogs were driven to Virginia every year, and 10,000 fat beef cattle. Pork and beef in barrels were also shipped to Virginia and elsewhere in large quantities by water. But abundant as were the products of the province then, as for many years afterward, they were all needed, the surplus at least, for the purchase of negroes and “British commodities.”
Saw-mills also were being put up for carrying on a trade in boards and sawed timber.
The trade of the province was confined to New England and Virginia. West India goods, sugar, molasses, rum, salt, &c., came from New England in small sloops of less than fifty tons, that went about from river to river, and for return cargoes carried back such things as could not be conveniently transported to Virginia—that is to say, the great bulk of the produce. Great complaint was made of this traffic, especially that good wheat was carried away and bad flour brought back. New England rum, too, was by no means as palatable, and perhaps not as wholesome, as that of Jamaica. “British commodities,” as they were called, were brought from Virginia by land or in canoes in small quantities at unreasonable rates, but the bulk of the cloth used in the country, whether cotton, linen or woollen, was made at home, each plantation, or at least each neighborhood, supplying its own needs from its own products and its own labor, the housewives of the country being very proficient in such matters. The staple article of this domestic manufacture was, doubtless, the cloth known as “homespun,” a mixture of cotton and wool. “British commodities” were so called because they were goods permitted by the British Navigation Laws to be carried into the colonies only in Britishe growth, production, or manufacture of Europe, except salt for ye fishery of New England and Newfoundland, wines of the growth of Maderas or Western Islands or Azores, servants and horses from Scotland and Ireland.” A British vessel, in the meaning of the statute, was one built or owned in England, Ireland or one of the colonies, and owned wholly by the people thereof and navigated with the master and three-fourths of the mariners of the said places. Smuggling was an inevitable consequence of such legislation, and all along the Atlantic coast it was carried on whenever opportunity offered for doing so without too great risk of detection, and carried on, too, doubtless, without any feeling that it involved a violation of moral obligation, and looking with modern eyes upon the British Navigation Laws of early colonial days, it would be strict judgment to hold that an evasion of them by the colonists did involve the violation of any moral obligation.
The collection districts were five in number, and nominally, at least, covered the entire coast line of the colony, viz: Currituck, without any fixed place for a port of entry, Roanoke with Edenton for a port, Bath on the Pamlico, Beaufort at Topsail Inlet, and Brunswick on the Cape Fear. The towns of Bath and Edenton being far from the sea and the Currituck district having no fixed port, and there being many islands and rivers between them and the inlets, abundant opportunity was given to masters of vessels to unload goods before they saw the collectors and to take in produce after they were cleared. Of course masters of vessels did not fail to take advantage of the facilities for smuggling offered by the North Carolina coast and sounds, and great quantities of North Carolina tobacco were exported by the New England skippers without paying duty. Virginia tobacco was also sent to North Carolina and disposed of in the same way. The following is given as an instance of the way in which smuggling was carried on: In 1734 a ship loaded with French wines, brandy, tea, woollen and other prohibited commodities, came in at Ocacock, and in the harbour there transferred the cargo to vessels belonging to the country, in which they were carried through Pamplico and Albemarle Sounds into Virginia and there delivered to merchants of that
Virginia does not seem to have been a very favorite market with North Carolina traders. Great complaint was made of the inspection law there, under which much of the tobacco was burned as unmerchantable, and of undue advantage taken by the Virginia purchasers of the Carolina drovers in the matter of charges for butchering. Of course, too, complaint was made of the prices demanded for the wares the Virginia traders had for sale.
There seems to be little doubt that the planters of North Carolina, and planting was almost the only occupation there, were at a great disadvantage, not only in selling, but in buying as well, even to the loss of half their goods, it was said. Governor Burrington was strongly of this opinion, and constantly urged upon the government at home that the only way to put the trade of the province on a right footing was to settle a custom-house at Ocacock Island, at the south end of which he said there was sufficient water for any merchantman to come in and a secure harbour. On the island was a hill, on which a small fort would command the bar, channel and harbour, and if a custom-house were settled there a town would soon grow up and serve as a depot and distributing point for a large direct trade, the goods to be sent from there to the interior in small vessels to all places not depending on the Cape Fear River for their trade, and, in a word, be the port for the Collection Districts of Roanoke, Currituck and Bath Town, create a direct trade with England, put an end to the peddling carried on by the Virginians and New Englanders and bring in ships-loads of negroes that, being much needed by the planters could be sold well.
Something did indeed need to be done, for English goods that had been bought for 6d. would buy a bushel of wheat and a bushel and a half of corn, and similar goods that had been bought for 18d. would buy a barrel of tar.
The Indians were much reduced in numbers and lived within the English settlements on reservations specially set apart for them and secure
Of course all roads in the northern counties, if not all in the colony, led to Virginia, the general point of convergence being on the Nansemond River, at or near where the town of Suffolk is situated. Going southward from Albemarle, the route was from Edenton across the sound to Mackey's Point, some ten miles below Plymouth, a distance of about nine miles, thence to Bath, thence across the Pamplico River, and across the Neuse to New Bern, and thence to Wilmington. From Edenton to Wilmington the distance, as the road ran, was near two hundred miles, with three long ferries to cross. To compel northern members to go to Wilmington was a great hardship, as it was also to compel southern members to go to Edenton. Hence the Assemblies came to meet at Bath, as a half-way house, and then at New Bern. Indeed, a strong effort was made to establish the permanent seat of government at Bath, not contemplating, as it were, any extension of the settlement to the westward. But try as much as might be, it was found impossible to make a town at Bath, although it was the first chartered town in the colony.