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Memorandum from George Burrington to the Board of Trade of Great Britain concerning blank land patents
Burrington, George, 1680-1759
October 13, 1735
Volume 04, Pages 299-307

My Lords [Of The Board Of Trade]

I lately received from No Carolina, the Copy of a Representation, sent by Gab: Johnston Esqr Governour of that Province to Your Lordships which the said Govr Stiles The Case of the Blank Patents in North Carolina fairly Stated in behalf of his Majesty.

My Lords. After I had read and Considered this Composition, was greatly surprized to find my Successor had not fairly (nor indeed truly) Stated that Matter, very far from me, be the thought of Suspecting a Gentleman endowed with so much wisdom, & learning as Mr Johnston, should want knowledge therefore cannot refrain from mistrusting, he has too much an Eye to his own Proffitt, and this might induce him to frame the said representation in the manner it came to your Lordships, more than any vein of serving the King, That neither Mr Johnstons Sophistry nor Elegance may obscure the Truth from Your Lordship, I will endeavour for Your Lordships clearer Information to lay before you many Omissions and great defects in Govr Johnstons State of the Patent.

In the first paragraph and part of the 2nd Mr Johnston affirms that before the year 1724 the Land Office for the County of Bath was shut up &c This is very true and after the Late Lord Proprietors signified their Pleasures to Charles Eden Esqr their then Govr of North Carolina (to whome I succeeded) on that head: there were no more purchase warrants issued, but as that Province had been many years grievously harrassed by long and dangerous Warrs, with the Indians; Some Persons who had taken out warrants for Lands, were afraid to fix in Bath County

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during the said Warr; but when Peace and Quiet times succeeded to wars and Tumult part of the Proprietors of those Warrants required patents for the Quantity of Land Specified in their respective warrants, which was Unanimously consented to by Mr Eden then Govr and the rest of the Proprietors deputies the rest of the Possessors of these sort of Warrants were by different Motives deterred from Settling their Familys in Bath County, and therefore transferred them to others more Adventurous; who always obtained patents on those Warrants When a Survey was returned into the Secretary Office all this was well known to the Lords Proprietors; they had Yearly accounts of it; Yet they never forbid nor found fault with their Govr and Deputies for providing in that manner during the time I was their Governour I signed about twenty such Patents. Sr Richard Everard the last Governour the Proprietors had in No Carolina Acted in the same Manner, as Mr Eden and myself had done before him I cannot Imagine that either of us betrayed our Trust or Committed a fault in what wee did in this particular, but if any man differs in opinion from me he will find that all the Deputies and Councillors of the proprietors will fall under his Censure all the time the Proprietors held North Carolina the Governour and at least one half of the Council signed the Warrants and Patents I cannot help observing to your Lordship that Mr Johnston in the remaining part of the second paragraph doth not proceed with the Truth, and Candour, necessary in a matter of so great consequence which will appear by my Stateing the matter rightly. to illustrate and prove what he asserted in the first Paragraph and beginning of this he writes that in the Year 1724 &c Your Lordships may be pleased to Observe, that when the Lords Proprietors altered the ancient custom, and manner of Selling their Lands in Bath County, there never appeared any Purchaser to deal with them, on the terms they proposed because the price they fixed was double or Treble what land then and long since sold for, from one man to another in Bath County which I can prove by many Scores of Sales. In the Year 1724 I was Governour of North Carolina Mr Johnston must know this, but what reasons he may have for not taking notice of it, am yet to learn. At my first arrival in that Country I found the inhabitants were few in Number and inexpressibly poor I made it my Chief Study to increase the People and Promote trade, had the pleasure to find the method I used succeeded beyond my expectations the Daily Coming of People into the Country raised the Price of Lands insomuch that a Considerable number of Men were inclined to sell their Old Settlements and look for new in the desarts (in those days there was but a small part of the Province Inhabited) the project was very agreeable to me but a method how to put this in execution was necessary to
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render it Effectual. After many Consultations, held with the most intelligent and experienced Men, I could not discover any better way than that the Assembly should present an Adress to myself, and Council, on that head; which was done and complyed with in the manner I formerly made known to your Lordships, when I sent you a coppy of this address, and the order of Council made thereon to which for Brevity I referr

Mr Johnston says that the Council did upon a second address from the Lower House of Assembly, venture to make a regulation by which People were allowed to set down and cultivate Tracts of Land &c I remember but one address on this affair and believe that was all Surely Mr Johnston must know that a Council without Concurrence of the Governour, could not make a Regulation to Allow People to Sett down and Cultivate Land. Warrants to the Surveyor could not be granted nor executed without the Governour set his hand to them therefore your Lordships may perceive Mr Johnston has prevaricated or at least concealed part of the truth, in the Account he has given you, I must allso take notice that Mr Johnston in Plain Inferrence mentions only two parts of the Legislature. Yet I know and well remember that the third was not sleeping at the Solemn and deliberate proceedings had, by the Other two parts on that Occasion, but was the life of the whole Mr Johnston Seems to Strain himself in closeing this Article to prove a Vast truth, which no man ever did or ever will contest.

In the next paragraph the Govr is not mentioned with the Council thō he ought to have his place at the head of the table according to ancient and modern usuage. the reason may be, because his Excellency cannot help owning that the regulation then made was very prudent and just this was adhered to all the time I continued Governour for the Proprietors; had it also been adher'd too in Sr Richard Everard's administration I do affirm it would not have prevented the one hundredth part of the confusion that happened during the Baronetts Government. I have given your Lordships ample and faithfull accounts of these matters in the Letters I had the Honour in former times to send you. If there is anything more to come to my knowledge. [I] shall be allways ready to make it known to your Board when you please to Command my Attendance.

It must appear Strange to your Lordships if you Seriously Consider Governour Johnston's Representation, that he take no notice of running the Line between Virginia and North Carolina because on this Article much depends when his Majesties Commands and those of the Lords Proprietors came into the two provinces, to fix the Boundarys according to an Order signed by the King in Council two or three orders were

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made in the Council of North Carolina to sell Lands to defray that Expence there being no other way to Effect it, this was the true reason why Sr Richard signed so many Patents in the Course of this Affair he kept an exact account of all the Patents he signed, the day when he signed them, to whome granted and for whose use and the nature of the Grant A Coppy of this Register I sent your Lordships After I had rec'd it of Sr Richard I thought proper to compare that with the receivers. I found them to agree, but for my further Information required to see his day book (knowing he always kept one) which he readily produced and upon comparing them perceived all the Accounts to be within A thousand acres of one another as far as Mr Little the receiver had gone for Sr Richard had signed sixteen patents that remained in the Receivers hands for want of paying the purchase money, which Patents were never patented nor passed the seale.

It was always the method in North Carolina whilst the Proprietors held that Province for the Secretary to Acquaint the Governour and Council if he had occasion for Patents which were drawn in the usual form but a Blank left in the middle to be filled up with the Persons names the description and Situation of the Land Number of Acres and soforth which the Secretary for the time being, filled up when the Surveyor General or his Deputies made returns of Surveys this method did not seem to me regular but was never of any Ill consequence for as the Governours received A fee of two shillings and sixpence for every Fifty acres of Land Granted it behooved them to see that the Quantities mentioned in the Patents were no more than Specified by the Warrants. Moreover if any fraud had been attempted it might easily have been discovered in one or both of the Secretary and Surveyors Offices Purchase Patents were drawn in a different manner from those under the Grand Deed (as it is called) for the County of Albemarle Sr Richard Everard always took ten shillings as a fee for every thousand Acres of Land granted by purchase and Patents and as he kept a very exact account of what he Signed it is not probable that he put his hand to any that he had not the Number of Acres sett down I made diligent Inquiry after these sort of Patents mentioned by Mr Johnston that were so very blank but could never see one of them many Wittnesses were heard in Council to prove there were such on the Examination of Mr Lovick their depositions & his answer were inserted in the first Council Journals I sent your Lordships. I think all that could be advanced on that head, was then urged against him, and he was allowed by all to have cleared himself. I have heretofore given Your Lordships my Opinion of the Transactions on this matter and truly informed you, who

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had been the gainers thereby On this Occasion I hope your Lordship will excuse my Informing you, that after the Death of Mr Lovick and Mr Little they were found to be both very much in debt, and that Mr Lovick had not in ten years before, any Ways Improved his fortune; but lessened it Considerable as for Little tis doubted whether he left Enough to pay his debts it is not out of kindness, I say anything in their vindication pretending friendship both betrayed and perplexed me, and did me more Mischief than they could possibly have done Acting as declared enemies as to the defects Mr Johnston has found out in all or some of these patents it must lye upon him to Prove them Mr Johnston deals in Generals alltogether. I think he ought to have been more particular, named the guilty ones by themselves and not to put the innocent upon the same footing with them it is certain that many patents were filled up, and dated after his Majestys purchase which is very apparent by the records the Charge of running this line went away with all the money received for them. It may not be improper to acquaint your Lordships that the Secretarys in No Carolina ought to have recorded all patents that passed the Seal before they went out of their Office, but patents were often delivered without recording, altho the Deputy Secretary always incerted at the foot of each patent, Recorded [in] the Secretarys Office I myself possessed some that were not recorded in that Office Six years after they passed the Seal this fact will serve to Enlighten one dark passage in Mr Johnston's representation

I do not believe there are any patents that will cause the two bad effects Mr Johnston set down. it is almost five years since Sr Richard Everard ceased to be Governour, Surely cunning and crafty men would have placed their Patents, if any such they had, before Mr Johnston was a blessing to that Country, for many reasons more especially the following one. there were then more valuable lands not claimed than are now to be found all the plantable Land Upon Navigable Streams (not taken up before) being entered before I left that Country. When the line was running some few people in Albemarle County that held Lands at two shillings per 100 acres did take out purchase patents on the same Lands at six pence per 100 Which somewhat lessened the amount of the Quit rents What Sr Richard could plead in excuse to this I know not when Sr Richard ceased to be Governour A Stop was put to all Patents, and not one signed in all the time I was the Kings Governour, the reason is not unknown to your Lordships the Imaginary patents must be of very little value if the Crown Tenants in the other county would purchase them to save a few shillings yearly a very few of their patents are for more than six hundred and forty acres, but one with the other not

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half so much for which reason could the owners of these Imaginary patents sell them to the Crown tenants and the Crown tenants give them at the rate of twenty years purchase for what they saved by the change the takers out of the Patents would not be reimbursed their charges. Notwithstanding Mr Johnston inveighs with great heat on this Article I am certain his suggestion is frivolous and trifling. I am afraid Mr Johnston will be deemed by grave men somewhat rash in asserting that one of the principal reasons Why his Majesty purchased that province was that his subjects might possess Land Upon paying an easy Quit rent, because the people in Carolina know that the rent now sett is fourteen times as much as they paid the Proprietors. Mr Johnston in my opinion has finished his paragraph in a Ridiculous manner therefore not worth answering.

Mr Johnston tells your Lordships in the following paragraph that the only Appearance of argument (thō by no means a solid one) that he has heard in favour of such patents, as are dated before January 1727 is a clause in the Act for the sale of the two Provinces, by this it appears to me his Excellency (if he deserves to be credited) has conversed with Ignorant men only since he got into America. in the former part of this Paper I presume there are some reasons given why not only patents before the year last named should stand good, but even those that were subsequent. it appears by what he lays down, that he would not have one patent be allowed he makes no Distinction between the Different kinds of Patents of which there are four sorts (vizt) purchase patents, common patents Under the Grand Deed. Lapse Patents and Escheat patents (all these he seems to endeavour to confound & destroy) in one common ruine, and Strip the People of their Possessions which a Part of them under great difficulties depredations and Slaughters hardly maintained by long and bloody wars against the Indians. it is no way requisite for me to trouble Your Lordships with anything relating to the aforesaid Act or Clauses, but as Mr Johnston proceeds to lay down the Ill consequences of blank patents he ought to make it first evident to your Lordships there are such who have them and how they came by them I could never get the Sight of any such althō as I remarked before in this letter, I made all possible inquiry.

I hope Mr Johnston crossed the Attlantick more fully Instructed how to Erect a Court of Exchequer than his predecessor.

Mr Johnston informs Your Lordships he issued a proclamation by which he declared his intention of ordering the Attorney General to vacate all these patents (they are his own words) Surely Mr Johnston ought to have Informed your Lordships what he means by these Patents

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whether he would order the Attorney General to vacate all that were ever granted in that Government (being of four different kinds) or all the purchased Patents issued after any certain period of time he ought also to have made known to your Lordships the manner by which he proposed to accomplish his intention herein if he knows any other, than right or wrong to order the Attorney General to make the intended declaration to void all these indefinite patents without farther ceremony by word of mouth or by his own Proclamation. This manner of Proceeding if put in Practice would not have the effect he proposes to himself because it is incompatible with Law and Justice. The declaration of his Intention to order the Attorney General to vacate all these patents Appears to me rash and inconsiderate Its giving Judgement without hearing it will be an attempt if done to take away mens supposed or real properties and freeholds without due form of Law. The partys concerned will never submit to be Spoiled of what they think themselves Justly entituled to and possessed of before the usual tryals at Law are over and if they suppose even then Justice is not done them in North Carolina [they] will bring appeals into England. Mr Johnston tells your Lordships he will allow Innocent and fair purchasers the liberty of surrendering these Patents (without any distinction) to him, and take out new ones according to his Majestys Instructions This will be far from doing any kindness to the Innocent and fair purchasers Supposing Mr Johnston would out of his wonted goodness and generosity give them new Patents for all the Land they now hold. The Quit rents would be more than they are to pay by their present tenures and the charges of taking out the patents cost them a great deal of Money; the fees being more than doubled Since Mr Johnston was Governour May it not be reasonably suspected by these Innocent and fair purchasers that Mr Johnston might upon their surrendering be induced to make Grants to others of part or all the Lands so Surrendered or convert them to his own Use many good Brick and wooden Mansion Houses with Suitable out houses are built on many parts of these Lands. Orchids planted Gardens handsomely laid out, large quantities of woodland cleared, cultivated and fenced for Cornfields and pastures more than one hundred times the prime cost of the first purchase has been expended in buildings and other Improvements on Several of the plantations. Mr Johnston would have it thought the possessors have no right to enjoy, if these fine Settlements which are the most valuable in the whole Province are Surrendered to Mr Johnston he will be possessed of a power to give and grant them to whatsoever persons he pleases, which being duly considered, his intended allowance may prove a snare but cannot be construed or deemed a very great indulgence to the innocent and fair purchasers, whome it so nearly concerns.

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My Lords the fear of Lengthening this Paper too much occassioned my omitting to remark on some trifles the faithful and sworn Servant of the Crown has incerted in his representation

I desire your Lordships will not look upon me as an Advocate for the man that dealt in Sales of Land or patents in North Carolina. it is well known every one of them were my declared Inveterate Enemys. I have been defrauded by some of these to a great value, basely belied and cruelly used, by them all they stick at nothing in carrying on and perpetuating their villainous designes against me. I am now in law with some of them have no Correspondence with any Man that can be taxed with that sort of Traffick

My Lords there is not so much Land possessed by purchase patents as Generally is thought, in North Carolina part of the purchasers upon bare Intelligence, and descriptions of Land by Indians and other Discoverers prevailed on the Proprietors Surveyor General and his deputies (for rewards) to make returns of Imaginary surveys of Land, that neither the purchasers or surveyors, that returned the Surveys into the Secretarys Office, ever set foot upon, and obtained Patents. Several of these patents proved useless to the Owners, by reason they did not know where the land lay, they claimed In one place ten thousand Acres were Settled by Warrants that I granted and althō the land was intended and pretended to be taken up, by a purchase patent, the Settlers laughed at that claim, and merryly demanded to be Informed of the descriptions and be shewn the lines of the Land so claimed The Settlers (by my Warrants) were never molested, nor disturbed in their possessions. Some lands were patented by two purchasers, and large tracts thō patented, not yet found out, nor never will because their Intelligencers gave them false and feigned descriptions. I can make appear to your Lordships that a third of the Acres in Sr Richard Everards accounts are not now held by the men, or any claiming under them that took out the purchase patents for that Quantity My Lords Several Gentlemen and Industrious Planters from South Carolina, and Other his Majestys Dominions on the Continent of America and from the islands, are Settled on Cape Fear River all or the Greatest part of the Land they possess is purchased.

After being at great Charges, and Expenses and the fatigues they have gone through, in removing themselves and familys; buying Lands building houses, and makeing Plantations, it will Appear very severe and unjust if they should be stript of what has cost them so dear and drove out of possessions they Expected to enjoy quietly during their lives and bequeath to their posterity when they left this world. Should so Unexpected an Undertaking be effected it must undoubtedly be esteemed very

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cruel thō brought about by a Faithfull and sworn servant of the Crown for my own part I never Sold any land in Carolina claim none but what I fairly bought and paid for, and have a good right either to Keep or Sell His Majesties Quit rents may be augmented [if the grants made] by Sr Richard Everard can be vacated. Such an Addition will be an inconsiderable Proffit to a great a monarch Should the said Patents be rendered Invalid many Innocent and fair purchasers would loose the Expected fruit of their Labours, and be half undone, many honest Gentlemen and good Planters be utterly ruined. There are no men to be found, Whom the sufferers could sue for recovery of the Money they paid if their lands are taken from them, they will consequently Loose all they have bestowed in Building and other Improvements. Should this great evil Come to pass in the days Mr Johnston Governs North Carolina, he would have the means, in his power of rendering himself Master and possessor of the best fortune, and Estate in that Province without cost or Labour.

By the Kings orders the three Commissioners of Virginia for running the Partition Line were paid for themselves their Attendants & Labourers two thousand pounds. The Commissioners for North Carolina were four. Their followers Equal in Number to the Virginians. all the Latter were paid out of the money received by the Sale of Lands. the four Commissioners that acted on the part of North Carolina deserved as much for their trouble and pains as the three [who] were employed for Virginia upon the whole if the Land sold for running the said Line be by law reassumed for his Majesties Use, and his Majesty (now possessor) of North Carolina pay the same sum of money to the North Carolina Commissioners that was Given them of Virginia the King would be gainer little or nothing.

I do not in this letter make use of any points or arguments of Law but am provided with material ones, which I shall be ready to produce, when your Lordships Command or the righteous cause I undertake requires.

Your Lordships tis hoped will give such directions in this Affair as may prove most conducible to render Ineffectual all fraudulent and unjust practices, of the dealers in patents and Sellers of Land, and that Your Lordships will have a tender regard to the Wellfare and fortunes of the many honest Men Governour Johnston I believe has an Inclination to deprive of their Estates.

I thought myself obliged to make known to your Lordships what is contained in this paper which is humbly Submitted to your Lordships Wisdom and Goodness by

My Lords, &c.,
GEO BURRINGTON.

October the 13th 1735.