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Letter from Gabriel Johnston to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
May 25, 1735
Volume 04, Pages 8-10

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[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 9. A. 59.]

North Carolina May 25th 1735

My Lords, [of the Board of Trade]

The Journals of both Houses of Assembly are now preparing in order to have copies transmitted according to my Instructions I shall at the same time send a copy of our Laws with remarks upon them. But what demands the most immediate attention is the affair of his Majesties Quit rents and the proceedings thereupon in the last Assembly. I have always looked upon this as a matter of the greatest moment and as this Country pays no other acknowledgment to the Crown of Great Britain and would even defraud his Majesty of that if they were not very narrowly watched. I very early last Session gott a Bill brought into the Lower house for procuring his Majesty a Rent Roll and the more regular payment of his Quit Rents. Your Lordships have no doubt heard of what they call blank patents in this Country (of which I have sent a true state along with this) there are very near half a million of acres held by these patents in this Province which pay but 6d or 1s per 100 acres Rent instead of 4s Proclamation money, the people concerned in these patents tryed all manner of Arts to gett a Clause in this Bill to confirm their Grants but as I thought it would vastly diminish his Majesties Revenue and hurt a number of private persons in their property and as I had reason to beleive that besides the great quantities of land which are held by them already they might have numbers of them lying dormant by them to produce upon occasion I would never consent to it for which reason they loaded the bill with so many Clauses prejudicial to his Majesties Revenue that the Council thought fit to reject it. I shall send by next conveyance a Copy of the Bill as brought into the House and another Copy of it as clogged by their Artifices.

I immediately after this in order to convince the people that his Majesties just revenues did not depend upon any Acts of their Assembly as some of them had the assurance to give out I issued a Proclamation ordering all his Majesties Tennants to pay the arrears of their Quit rents (for none has been paid since his Majesties purchase) to the Receiver General and being informed that this occasioned a General murmur I took care to put the Militia in such hands as to prevent the Kings officers from being insulted in collecting of his Rents.

I have now the pleasure to inform your Lordships that there now appears a General Submission to these orders and I am confident I shall be able to give a good account of the arrears and make them glad to offer

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of themselves such an Act as will do justice to his Majesty against next Sessions. As the Proprietors of these Blank patents have troubled your Board with a representation in their Favour I must in Duty to his Majesty declare unto your Lordships that after a very nice and important enquiry I can see no reason to confirm one of them and that in Justice every patent issued since the land office was shut up, was a cheat from the beginning and ought to be declared null and void, and as they have promised to submit to your Lordships opinion without repining I must acquaint you that if your Lordships make any the least concession or destraction there will be no end of their Quibbling and this matter wont be determined for years to come whereas if you think proper to condemn all patents issued on any pretence whatever since the land office was shutt up by the Lords Proprietors and oblige them to take out new patents from the Crown, it is no hardship to them it will much encrease the only Revenue the Crown has here and it will finish the affair at once. I must once more putt your Lordships in mind that these patents take place in the County of Bath only, which however contains three parts of four of the whole province.

I have according to my Instructions erected a Court of Exchequer in this Province and the Attorney General has begun to vacate some of the most grossly fraudalent of these patents but I shall take care that nothing shall be finally determined in that Court until I have the honour of your Lordships directions.

Commissioners from this Province and South Carolina have mett and adjusted the Boundaries betwixt the two Provinces which has hitherto very much perplexed both Governments, they have actually begun to run the line and are to proceed next Autumn I shall send all the papers relating to this affair by next oppertunity and hope as it is now finished your Lordships wont hearken to any sollicitations from our neighbours who I hear design since Mr Johnson's death to procure a new Instruction more in their favour than the last, in order to have a pretence for receding from an agreement made by their own Commissioners fully empowered by themselves.

There are at present three vacant places in his Majesties Council one occasioned by the death of John Baptista Ash Esqre as for James Stallard and Richard Eyens whose names I find in my Instructions I cant find that there ever was such persons in this Province. I recommend unto your Lordships any three of the following Gentlemen to supply their places William Forbes James Innis Esqrs Thomas Wardroper Surveyor General of lands Samuel Woodward Samuel Johnston Esqrs

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Before I conclude I beg leave to represent to your Lordships that it would contribute very much to his Majesties service if I could receive your commands about these patents before November next when our next Assembly meets for there wants little else to terminate all disputes about land

I am with great respect & c