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Letter from Gabriel Johnston to Alured Popple
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
October 06, 1737
Volume 04, Pages 265-268

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 10. B. 32.]

Sir, [the Secretary of the Board of Trade]

I am sorry there is nothing done with regard to the Blank Patents, it being impossible to go on with Publick Business here till their fate is determined one way or the other. For my part I dare not give up so much of the only Revenue the King has here, and the Fund from whence the Officers Sallaries are paid without Orders or at least a Permission from home, so if the Attorneys Opinion should not come these seven years (this is now the third year that it has been lying before him, and the fifth year that the other Question relating to our Laws) for anything I can see all our Affairs must remain in suspence until then, this I have hinted at more than once already. I would thank you heartily for the Copy of Mr Burrington's answer if I had not seen it above in Print sixteen months ago when it was dispersed thrō the Province as a Masterpiece infinitely esteemed by the Board of Trade and by them referred to the Attorney General which last indeed I never did believe until you was pleased to inform me of it. I am sure that paper with some others sent over by the said Person have done a vast deal of mischief and emboldened the Lower House of Assembly to order the Officers who were collecting the Quitt rents into Custody during the time of Collection for which attempt I was oblidged to dissolve them as I wrote you from Newbern last March, Mr Burrington holds upwards of Fifty Thousand Acres of Land for these Patents and by what I can find since my arrival here never gave himself the Trouble to consider the Validity of them, or anything else relating to the Revenue. I have no remarks to make upon his Paper for I dont find anything in it which invalidates any Proposition

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advanced in my representation. There are indeed some low Jokes and personal reflections scattered up and down, but as I find that Gentleman has upon another occasion made at least equally free with the Lords of Trade themselves I think I have no occasion to complain.

The only thing I shall take notice of in Mr Burrington's Paper is of the Patents which were issued for the payment of those Gentlemen who run the Boundary line betwixt this Province and Virginia the lands claimed by these Patents do not in all amount to 100,000 acres but upon this Pretence there have been Patents sold for upwards of 400,000 acres and every days experience convinces me, that some people have still a good stock of them in their custody which they can fill up as they please and lay upon anybodys land they think proper which I am affraid will be a fresh occasion of perpetuating the disorders of this unhappy Country if they are confirmed. Tho my opinion which I formerly offered to their Lordships on this subject does not seem to be much approved by them I can't help proposing one Expedient more which appears to me exceedingly fair and that is to allow all those Patents which were issued for payment of the charges in running the Line amounting betwixt ninety and one hundred thousand acres at the rents reserved in the said Patents and the Attorney General here have orders to vacate all those I proposed to be declared Null and Void in my Letter of last November in his Majesty's Court of Exchequer, by this there will be no occasion to trouble his Majesty in Council the Revenue will not suffer a great deal and every one who possesses these Patents will have a fair opportunity of defending them or if they please to resign them they may hold the same lands at 4s per hundred acres. If this wont do I despair of being able to offer anything which will less hurt the Crown and at the same time be favourable to these People, and I think it may be put into Execution without loss of time or waiting for any opinion of the Attorney General there not being the least Pretence for Justice issueing any other Patents before his Majestys Purchase. Upon the whole all I beg is only Directions about this troublesome affair which I shall most punctually obey. I look upon that part of your answer relating to the Quitt rents as an absolute Prohibition to receive Quitt rents in any Commodities and shall observe it accordingly, what has been already paid of the arrears was received mostly in current Bills of this Province at the Exchange of seven for one ster: money. Tho indeed in Virginia and other places where they Trade they pass generally at 9 to 10 for one, but as there was a good arrear due it was thought proper for the ease of the people to take it at 7 which was a great loss to me and all the Officers whose sallaries are paid out of the Quitt Rents for with £7 Currency which we received for one

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pound sterling we cannot purchase Goods to the Value of Fourteen shillings sterling but we chearfully submitted to this loss (about 30 per cent of our Salaries) in order to reconcile the people to the payment of their Rents a thing quite new to them by the negligence of former Governors.

By the Law which establishes the currency these Bills were ordered to pass as they pretend at 5 for 1 sterling but as they have in reality always passed at 10 and it was a favour to receive his Majesty's rents in current Bills at all we declared we would not receive them at less than 7. for 1. and as their value is not advanced I am of opinion it will be necessary to fix the exchange higher for the future.

I must not ommitt to inform my Lords of Trade by you that at last General Court at Edenton a man was imprisoned for insulting the Marshall in the Execution of his Office during the sitting of the Court The People of the Precincts of Bertie and Edgecombe which lye next Virginia believing he was called in question about his Quitt rents rose in arms to the number of 500 and came within five miles of the Town in order to rescue him by violence. Cursing his Majesty and uttering a great many rebellious speeches. The fellow thought proper to pay his fine and beg pardon of the Court before they came so near the Town and by this means no mischief ensued but they threatened the most cruel usage to such persons as durst come to demand any quitt rents of them for the future. It is only in these two Precincts that the people have dared to get together in a Body and how to quell them I cannot tell if they should attempt an insurrection against next collection. I have suggested something to Mr McCulloh which without much Trouble might do great Service in this case if my Lords please to pay any regard to it and it be done speedily. I shall take care in all Events to do my Duty. I have sent Mr McCulloh for their Lordships Inspection part of a Crop of Silk I made truely and Bona Fide on my own Plantation this year. I was oblidged to feed the Worms mostly with wild Mulberries but next year some hundreds of my Italian Mulberries will be in bearing and I dont doubt to make finer thō this is reckoned not at all amiss for a beginning. I have at last gott from the Commissioners an account of their Charges in running the Boundary Line with a Draft of so much of it as is already done which I send to you for their Lordships use by this Conveyance. I hope my Lords of Trade will be so good as to take the other points I mentioned in mine of the 15th Octr and Novr 29th 1736 into their consideration very soon I have often suggested that this Province has never been regularly settled and that a few vigorous Declarations from the Board of Trade would have a very great Effect the people seem here to be persuaded that they may do what they please and that they are below the

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notice of the King and his ministers which makes them highly insolent they never were of any service to the Lords Proprietors and if something is not speedily done to convince them that his Majesty will not be so used I am afraid they will be of as little profit to the Crown

I am, Sir, &c.,
GAB: JOHNSTON.

Cape Fear Octr 6th 1737.

P. S.—I have been lately informed that Mr Moseley has several of Mr Little's the Receiver General under the Lords Proprietors accounts in his Custody upon which I ordered Mr Allen to demand them of him but he positive[ly] refused to give them up, thō they are office papers alledging that he was accountable for them to Little's Executors.

P. S.—Mr Moseley has refused to deliver the Papers relating to the Revenue that he has of the late Receiver Generals.