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Letter from Gabriel Johnston to the Board of Trade of Great Britain, including report by Johnston concerning acts of the North Carolina General Assembly
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
December 05, 1735
Volume 04, Pages 23-27

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 10. B. 9. and 41.]

My Lords [of the Board of trade]

Your orders of the 11 of June last did not come to my hands before the latter end of October and this is the first opportunity by which I could inform your Lordships that there is not now, nor has been in any former time that I know of, any Duty in this Country upon any sort of goods imported, except a small Import upon Wine, Beer, Cyder, Rum

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and Arrack not imported from Great Britain, of 18 per Gallon this currency that is about 2½d sterlin which was laid on last sessions of Assembly for defraying the charges of Government, and there is likewise a duty upon shiping which is called powder money of 3s this currency per ton.

I send your Lordships by this conveyance the Regester of the Upper and Lower House last sessions of Assembly as also a Copy of the Laws which were then passed, a list of the Officers Fees in Currency and Silver money, and also a Copy of the Laws of this Province, or what they call their Laws for except six there was never any of them ratifyed as the Charter directs, upon which account whenever I found any of them which incroached upon his Majesty's prerogative or revenues, I took advantage of that defect and would not allow that they were laws some of them are so very gross and invade the Right of the Crown so plainly, others are so unjust in matters of private life, that I could not help pointing them out to your Lordships and I hope you will with the first convenient opportunity advise his Majesty to           them for untill that is done they will be eternally           about them.

          the Honour to write to your Lordships the Collection           of the Arrears of Quit Rents for Albemarle County           of Trade. was not finished I find the Receiver and his assistants then collected £1200 ster: they are now about the second           of Arrears which I am satisfied will amount to double that Sum and in March next they proceed to collect the whole Arrears for the County of Bath, notwithstanding Hammerton's insolent attempt, the people pay very quietly and as we make them shew their Deeds by which they hold their lands I believe we shall have a very exact Rent Role thō it costs a good deal of trouble and charges           the collecting his Majesty's Rents with so much Spirit as has been done in this Province is not only the best method of getting a good Quit Rent law next Assembly but is really in some respects better than if we had gott a good one last sessions because it shews the people that the King will have his Right whether they or their Assemblys consent to it or not which is a very new sort of doctrine to them

The only remains of faction in this Colony is kept up by Mr Moseley and the Moors the principall proprietors of the Blank Patents they have burnt the light wood and boxed the trees of most of the poor pine land and consequently rendered it unfitt for anybody to take up, and now they want to hold the rich land at 6d per. 100 acres. I hope your Lordships have sent me before this time full directions how to proceed in this affair in answer to my two last and to the State of the Blank

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Patents I should be glad to know if my predecessor sent me the Proprs Seal after his Majtys purchase because I have lately heard of some Quires of Blank Patents lately seen in a private persons custody all subscribed with the names of the Proprs Council but not Sealed, now if the Seal be Still in the Province there will be no end of these Patents I am

Yours &c

Edenton Dec: 5th 1735.

Govr Johnston's Observations upon several old Acts passed in North Carolina, & transmitted in One Book with his Letter of 5th Decr 1735.

The Biennial Law.

This Act ought to be repealed because by the first Clause the Subjects are Impowered to meet for the Election of Representatives without any writt from the Crown.

2ndly They are impowered to meet in consequence of that Election by the second clause.

3rdly The 3rd Clause is a contradiction to the two former.

4thly By the last Clause the question is too large and often proves inconvenient.

At the end of the first Clause it is Enacted that every Precinct in Albemarle County should send five members, which besides the Inequality of it (the Precincts of Bath County being allowed but two) makes the representative vastly two large, and often tumultuous. No Precinct ought to be allowed more than two Members; and besides repealing this Act, it would be proper that this was declared by his Majesty in Council in the most express terms, any Law usage or Custom to the contrary notwithstanding.

“An Act ascertaining the time for return of Original Writs” etc.

The second Clause contradicts the first and occasions great delays of Justice. The 3rd & 4th Clauses seem to be unintelligable, therefore ought to be repealed.

“An Act to direct the method about the Examination of Criminals.”

This Act seems to be Against the Laws of England, as it impowers the Justices of peace, to try the matter, & examine the Evidences on both sides.

“An Act for the relief of such Credrs having land depart without leaving personal Estate.”

By the last Clause in this Act too much power seems to be Vested in the Inferior Courts, and there are many instances in this Province in which it has been grossly abused.

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“An Act to direct the disposal of Goods upon Execution”

The whole of this Act injurious to his Majesties prerogative and Revenues.

“An Act concerning Attorneys.”

This Act in many places contrary to Natural equity.

“The Form of a Pattent.”

This Law useless.

“An Act concerning old Titles.”

This Law unintelligable, contradictory and in many places unjust.

“An Act for preventing disputes concerning Lands surveyed.”

This Law by its first Clauses seems to be contrived to screen the rogueries of Land jobbers, and in the following Clauses highly injurious to his Majesty's Revenue.

“Staple Commodities Rated.”

This Law is most unjust and seems to be calculated entirely to defraud the King of his rents, and the fair Trader of his Right, and ought to be repealed.

“An additional Act for rating Staple Comodities.”

This Act ought to be repealed for the same faults contained in the former Act.

“An Act to appoint the marking of Horses.”

This Law is very unintelligable and contradictory.

“An Act concerning Orphans.”

This Law highly unjust and seems designs to encourage and protect unjust Guardians who rob their wards, a practise too common in this Country.

“An Act for preserving the Queen's peace.”

This Act is well framed for support of the Prerogative.

“An Act for ascertaining Officers Fees.”

“An additional Act for the same purpose.”

These Acts ought to be repealed because they give too large a Power to the Lower House to establish Fees.

2ndly The Fees established are not sufficient to support the Principal Officers of the Crown in any tolerable degree.

3rdly The last Clauses in the Additional Act make it impracticable for the Officers to recover their Fees.

“An Act concerning Escheat Lands.”

Some of the Clauses of this Act are not intelligible, by the last Clause the Assembly are invested with a power which plainly encroaches on the royal prorogative.

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“An Act for lessening the Land & Pole Tax.”

The 14th Clause of this Act supports His Majestys Prorogative, other Clauses are usefull.

The 21st Clause is injurious to the Prorogative.

“An additional Act to an Act for Qualification of Officers.”

This Law disables the Government to grant any office to any British subject who hath not resided three years in this Province, which is injurious to the Prerogative and the Subject.