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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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Letter from Gabriel Johnston to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
January 28, 1740
Volume 04, Pages 415-417

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[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 10. B. 44.]

My Lords [of the Board of Trade]

If I had not been prevented by a tedious Indisposition this Letter should have gone along with the Copy of the Acts passed last Assembly, which was some months since sent home by the Secretary.

I need not detain your Lordships with any remarks upon the Law for Establishing Sheriffs and that for appropriating Circuit Courts. The necessity of these Acts is very apparent, and as there is nothing in them which encroaches upon His Matys Authority, and as the good Effects of them have been already very sensibly felt in this Colony by the speedy execution of Justice beyond what was ever known here before, I don't at all doubt but your Lordships will think it proper to recommend them to His Majesty for his Royall sanction.

The other Acts are only Regulations of some Matters of very small consequence within the Colony, except the Quit rent Law, about which I am to offer your Lordships the following Observations.

After the Preamble the Act begins with the strongest and most ample Clause for procuring to His Majesty a full and complete Rent Roll which is a point which could never be carried before either under the late LLs P. Ps nor since the purchase of the Crown. I must take the liberty to remind your Lordships of what I have often represented on former Occasions. Vizt That one great Obstacle which prevented the passing of a proper Quit rent Law was the obstinacy of the People in the Northern parts of the Province, especially in insisting on paying their Rents in the worst and most bulky kind of their Produce, such as, Butter, Cheese, Feathers, Tallow, Tarr, Pitch, Indian Corn etc and these hopefull Commodities they likewise insisted on paying either at their own Houses, or at least at forty two different places or Landings and to be taken away from thence at the King's Charge, which considering the Qualitys of the Commodities they would probably have paid in would have made the Expence of the collection amount to more than the value of what was to be received.

It was impossible My Lords to prevail on the People to drop entirely their Pretentions to pay their rents in some Comodity or other, and I am indeed afraid at present it is impracticable for them to raise as much Gold and Silver or even Bills Currency as to pay all that is due. It was therefore thought expedient to indulge in paying their rents in such

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Comodities as would bear a Price if sent to England and at the same time encourage them to raise a Produce which would promote aditional Trade to Great Britain, provided that their Comodities were valued at an under value so that they might bear the Charges of Warehouse Room Shipping etc.

Accordingly Tobacco inspected, Hemp, Flax, Deer skins and Bees Wax of the best sorts were pitched upon, as there is a constant Demand for these Commodities so they are by this Act rated so much under their real value, that I am satisfied no person will offer any of them in payment who can by any means make a shift to raise as much Gold and silver as will be sufficient for that Purpose.

I could have wished that the Places of payment in that part of the Country formerly called Albemarle had been fewer in number, but there was no possibility of avoiding it. But effectual Provision is made, that the Countys were these Places lye shall defray all the Charges of this collection, and that His Matys Revenue shall be paid in Nett unto his Receiver's hands, either in Inspectors Notes or Cash, which in my Opinion removes all Objections. The Proportion betwixt Bills of Currency of this Province & Sterling & Proclamation money is by this Act to be settled by the principal Persons of the Government every year, who are to deliver their Opinion upon Oath. This is more than is done in any other Colony.

When the Quit rent Law for South Carolina pass'd the Bills of Currency there with respect to sterling money were as seven to one, & in that Proportion they are still paid for Quit rents, tho' in matters of commerce & all private dealing they are not of the value of Eight for one. But by this Act it is impossible that His Maty can ever be a loser by taking Currency let it fluctuate never so much. In former collections our Bills were taken at seven for one, but by the method laid down in this Law the King now receives ten for one, which is almost 30 per ct gained to the Revenue. The whole amount of our Bills does not exceed £5000 sterling & they expire in 1745, & I hope after that we shall never more be plagued with any Paper money.

The other great obstruction to the passing of a Quit rent Law was the affair of the Blank Patents, all which the Persons concerned insisted on having confirm'd by that law. This was reckoned a most Exorbitant Demand by everybody who had His Matys Interest at heart, for it was computed that no less than 400,000 acres of land were held by these Patents, besides the greatest part of them were never registered nor so much as ascertained, so that they had it in their power to claim any man's land by Virtue of these as Prior Titles to any granted by His Majesty.

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After a tedious struggle for four years the possessors of these Patents were prevailed upon to rest satisfied with having such of them confirmed as were registered in due time & ascertained. Provided always that the whole amount of the lands claim'd even by these, should not exceed 150,000 acres, & that such of them as bore date after the purchase of the Crown, should be left entirely to His Matys pleasure, either to allow them or declare them null & void as it should be thought proper.

When matters were brought to so narrow a point, I thought it would be highly unreasonable to keep the whole Province in confusion any longer for the sake of so small a matter as the Difference betwixt the Quit rents paid under the L. Ls P. Ps & the rents reserved under the Crown for 150,000 acres of land, & therefore consented to their proposal after they had promised all the Assistance in their power to get justice done to His Majesty in the other parts of the Bill.

The most exceptionable Clause of this Law is where Allowance is made to such as bring their Tobacco to the Landings of 12½ll per hundred weight. No Endeavours were wanting to bring the People of from insisting on this Clause, but as they are in the neighborhood of Virginia & most of them come from thence And this allowance & even greater is made in that Colony by the Crown it was impossible to prevail. But this will by no means be so prejudicial to the Revenue as at first sight may appear, for it extends only to that small part of the Country which lyes contiguous to Virginia, and then Tobacco is so underrated that I really believe even this will be no Temptation to them to bring that Comodity any great length to pay their Rents. In short my Lords it is the best Law could possibly be procured, better in many respects than any I expected to see, & will from nothing at all as near as I can compute bring a Revenue to the Crown of £1800, per annum, which will be daily increasing one good effect it has already had, it has restored Peace and Tranquility to a Colony which has from its first settlement been quarrelling about these Points now so happily adjusted

I am your Lordships most, &c.,
GAB: JOHNSTON.

Cape Fear, North Carolina, 28th January 1739/40.