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Memorial of Gabriel Johnston concerning land grants in North Carolina
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
June 27, 1750
Volume 04, Pages 1082-1090

To the Right Honourable The Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations

The answer of Gabriel Johnston Esqre Governor of North Carolina to the Memorial of Henry McCulloh.

The Governor acknowledges that he has seen a Commission under the Great Seal to Henry McCulloh appointing him Commissioner and Comptroller of the Quit Rents with a Power to call for the Title Deeds of every person in South and North Carolina holding Lands under the Crown, or the late Lord Proprietors, and after having examined them to certify them By which the Titles should be confirmed and the Possessor of them freed from any further troubles forever. And this seems to have

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been the Memorialists Chief view in soliciting such a Commission, by which he flattered himself he should be able to raise vast Contributions on every person holding land in either South or North Carolina But when he found that the people paid no manner of regard to this uncommon Clause, the Governor never heard nor understood that the Memorialist took one step or did any one act in consequence of His Commission until the year 1746, when he demanded Mr. Allens Bond of which a particular account shall be given in the sequel of this Answer.

The Governor further acknowledges that he has seen No 15 & 16 of his Instructions and the memorial and thō he and every Body else was sensible that the Memorialist had procured them by false suggestions in order to throw Incumbrances in the way of Peoples taking up lands from the Crown and to lay them under a necessity of purchasing some of the One Million Two Hundred Thousand Acres of Land engrossed by him. Yet the said Governor absolutely denies that he has been guilty of any breach of them

The Memorialist all along takes it for granted that everything related to his Majesties Lands was in great confusion and disorder before his arrival but this is a fact that will never be allowed by any person who knows the state of the Country. From the first granting of Lands under the King the Warrants and Grants were always recorded in the Secretarys Office and a Doquet of the Latter in the Auditors Office, and the situation and the Bounds always distinctly set down both in Warrants and Grants it was not indeed before his time thought necessary to enter a Doquet of Warrants in the Auditors Office as it was only a preparatory step to taking out a Grant, and several people take out Warrants who never afterwards apply for Grants but since his Majesty was pleased to command it whatever the Memorialist may please to assert no Body since that time gets Warrants without proving their Rights they do not indeed always swear to them before the Council because it was found impracticable to swear such a number there without neglecting every other Business and impossible to know whether persons living at such a distance swore to the truth or a falsehood it was therefore judged necessary to allow them to swear to their Rights before the Courts of their respective Counties where they could more conveniently attend and the number of their Familys be more easily known and this practice if it is not exactly according to the Letter it is certainly within the Intention of the Royal Order it does not indeed answer quite so well the Design of the Memorialist Because if people were obliged to travel 150 or 200 miles twice or thrice before they could take up Lands under the Crown they might be tempted rather to purchase some of his vast tract than put

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themselves to so much trouble and expence. When the Clerks of the County Courts return the names of the persons who have proved their Rights with the number of their Families to the Secretarys Office, then and not till then he prepares a Petition for a Warrant in which he always certifies that they have proved their Rights and prays an order to survey such a piece of Land particularly discribed, this is the constant practice, if a Doquet of this Warrant is sometimes not entered in the Auditors Office the Governor can never be blamed for it, it is impossible for him to follow every person to the Auditor or Surveyor to attend to his Book when Grants are petitioned for, and if he finds any person applying who has not entered a Doquet of his Warrant in his Office to stop his Grant which would never be refused, what is meant by the Memorialist when he complains that the Terms and conditions of the Warrants are not particularly expressed is very hard to understand, the Terms and conditions on which the Warrants are granted can be no other than the number of Persons of which the Petitioners Family consists. The Terms and conditions on which Grants are issued are these First that a Doquet of the Grant shall be recorded in the Auditors Office in six months, Secondly that the Grantee shall cultivate three acres of every hundred in three years and Thirdly that he shall pay yearly four shillings Proclamation money for every hundred acres to the receiver and I can't think anybody will deny these are always particularly and expressly mentioned It would be indeed a piece of injustice to the Governor in Council not to observe that their method of granting Lands from the beginning both before and after the Memorialists arrival has been so cautious regular and equitable that there has not one Law suit been occasioned by their proceedings during that long period which is a pretty strong Proof that matters have not been managed in that loose disorderly manner as the Memorialist would represent them.

The Governor denies that the Memorialist did ever desire him to stop all Grants to persons already possessed of Lands, who were in arrears for their Quit rents he is positive he could not have forgot if such a proposal had been once made to him it is so reasonable in itself that he is sure he would have readily come into it, as he did when it was afterwards moved for by the late Receiver General and it is now a standing order of Council.

The Memorialist is pleased to insinuate in several places that Blanks are left by the Governor to be filled up at the pleasure of the Persons petitioning for lands. This assertion is very remote from Truth, the said Governor never since he has been in the Government which is now sixteen Years trusted any person with a Blank Grant [but] once, and but

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once when he was called away on a sudden by an extraordinary Emergency He left a few Grants with the Dates and names of the persons not filled up at the Office with his Secretary with a strict charge to see them properly filled up.

The Memorialist has given a very wrong account of the affair relating to Mr. Allens Bond of which the following is a true and impartial relation.

The Memorialist has taken Great Liberties with Mr. Allens character and laid gross things to his charge Mr. Allen complained in April 1745 of this usage to the Governor in Council and desired the Memorialist might be called upon to prove his allegations, and that he might have justice done him in case of his failing so to do. This was too reasonable a request to be denyed a Member of his Majesties Council, accordingly the Secretary was ordered to write to the Memorialist and acquaint him with Mr. Allen's complaint and desire his attendance next Council, instead of complying with this in June 1746 he sent by his attorney a long tedious paper which he called a Declinature of their Jurisdiction, and demanding Mr. Allens Bond which demand as it was the only act he did in consequence of his Commission during his six years residence in the Province so it seems to have taken its rise entirely from a desire of evading to give answer to a charge of gross Calumny and defamation against a Member of Council In what passed afterwards the Governor was entirely guided by the opinion of the Council which then consisted of six persons and not of four only as is suggested by the Memorialist One thing he was well assured of the Bond would not have been denied him the Moment he as Comptroller had commenced suit against the Receiver but he never did take any step to sue him, as to the taking out an action of Ten Thousand Pounds against the Memorialist to prevent his going to England the Governor looks upon it to be a meer Chimere which never entered into any Bodys head but his own.

His Account of the Grant of one Million Two Hundred Thousand acres of Land is a shameful misrepresentation of matter of fact from beginning to end. He wants to put the Grant of this excessive Quantity of Land on the same footing with that of one Million Six Hundred Thousand acres granted by the Royal Instruction to the Government of South Carolina for the settlement of Forreign Protestants and for which the Assembly of that Province raised the necessary sums for carrying it into Execution. Whereas his was a private Jobb of his own and a great imposition upon his Majesty in Council as will appear by an original paper recorded in the Secretarys office of this Province hereunto annexed by which it is plain that the property of that whole exorbitant

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quantity of Land is entirely vested in him tho he can't pretend to any Estate sufficient to make a tolerable settlement on it and his engrossing of it is a great Impediment to the peopling of this County. He has himself in person and by his Agents been Hawking it about in small quantities thrō all the back parts of the Province and quite thrō America even to Boston. This is a very different case from the settlement in South Carolina.

The Governor absolutely denies that he made any stipulation with the Surveyor General about the survey of that Land in favour of Mr. Woodward or any Body else but sent him the order of Council for that purpose without any other injunction besides recommending to him to find out the best Land he could for the Memorialist. He likewise denies that he knew anything of or was in the least concerned in the suit which the surveyor General commenced against the Memorialist for his legal Fees and looks upon it as a bare and groundless reflection to insinuate that he had, when he first heard of it he brought them together and took great pains to bring them to a good understanding. But after he found by their animosity against one another there was no hopes of reconcilling them, he never directly nor indirectly troubled himself about it. But left it to the course of the Law.

The Memorialist by mentioning he was in the custody of the Sheriff for Fifteen months wants to have it believed that he was under confinement all that time thinking that may prove some excuse for doing nothing in consequence of his Commission But it is well know[n] he was not one day under confinement and went from one end of the Province to the other without any officer to attend him during that time.

As the Governor never did exert himself to oppress the Memorialist so he absolutely denies that he either granted or revoked letters of adminstration in any illegal or arbitrary manner or that he ever granted Injunctions contrary to all rules and forms of Law and when the Memorialist thinks fit to mention any particular case he does not doubt to give a satisfactory account.

That for ten years after the Governor came in there were no courts of Chancery regularly held is certainly true, but that can be no crime in him, by the Laws of the Country the Court of Chancery was to sit at three different times, and immediately after the General Court, at Edenton on the Borders of Virginia. The Members of Council all but two lived at Cape Fear joyning to South Carolina, and two hundred miles from Edenton. The Governor did attend three or four Courts but he could not compel the majority of the Council to leave their Business and Plantations three times every year and travel backwards and forwards

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Twelve hundred miles when they had neither fee Salary nor reward for so doing. As this was matter of great concern to the Governor so it was one of the Principal Inducements with him to give his assent to that Law passed at Wilmington for fixing the General Court at Newbern in the centre of the Province, since which the Courts of Chancery and other Courts have been held with the greatest regularity Thō the passing that just and necessary Law gave the Memorialist and his Agents a Handle to raise great disturbances and commotions among the people for some time.

In the case of Lithgow when the Governor was applied to by Messrs Rice and Moore he absolutely refused to meddle at all with that affair until the Attorney General came into Council and declared that a Nole Prosequi was a thing of course in such cases and if the Governor scrupled it he as Attorney General would grant one.

As to the affair of the paper currency the Governor has nothing to add to his letter to your Lordships on that subject last summer, only as to the Memorialist assertion that there is no ordnance planted on the Batterys of that Fort, it is false for there are four pieces of cannon planted there and application has been making for these two years past to his Majesty for a compleat set of ordnance which we hope soon to obtain.

The last article of his complaint as it consists only of general assertions the Governor will take no notice of until he enters into particulars he accuses him of not ordering rejoiceing thrō the Province on occasion of his Royal Highnesses victory over the Rebels at Colledon It is very true he did not nor more did any Governor in America at that or any other time. He was then at his Plantation about one Hundred Miles from the seat of Government and very lukily had at his House the Chief Justice of the Province and two Captains of the army Messrs Hodgson and Nelson who were daily Witnesses of his service and frequent wishes for good success to his Royal Highness before we heard the news of his glorious Victory and of his real and unfeigned joy when he was assured of it. But this is only a sequel to the many attempts he has made to represent the Governor under the base and vile character of a Jacobite and having turned out the poor Palatines from their Lands to make room for Scotch Rebels. Having now given a full and distinct answer to this Tedious and perplexed complaint in which the Memorialist has collected all the facts during an Administration of sixteen years which malice itself or the worst of his enemies could represent and put a wrong construction upon he hopes your Lordships will be so good as to indulge him in making a few observations on the state of this Colony.

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That no other Governor in America had such difficulties and discouragements to struggle with as he had chiefly occasioned by the unequal representation of the Lower House of Assembly in which the Members for six Counties had it in their Power and actually did defeat and disappoint for twelve years together all the measures of the Governor Council and the Members for the other eleven Counties.

That since the year 1746 in which the Assembly at Wilmington was held there has been a more sure and perfect foundation laid for the future peace and Tranquility of the Province by the many good Laws which have been passed than ever was before since the Country was settled The only considerable grievance yet remaining is the vast load of arrears of Quit rents due to the King and Earl Granville and even this is in a fair way to be remedied by a Law passed for that purpose but it is certainly an inquiry well worth making How so great an arrear came to be due It is highly impossible that the Governor if he could by any means prevented it would have suffered his Sallary to run in arrear almost Twelve Thousand Pounds sterling, nor is it natural to imagine that the Receiver thō he has been so much exclaimed against on that account would have lost ten per cent for so large a sum as might have been collected if he could have helped it. The true reason my Lords why neither Governor nor receiver could ever yet make any tolerable collections was the want of a Rent Roll the Question then returns why were not effectual Measures taken to procure a Rent Roll My Lords there was a most full and ample Clause for that purpose in a Law we after a four years struggle passed in 1739. But there were it seems some other unhappy Clauses in it which induced his Majesty to repeal it before it had opperated so far as to obtain any tolerable Rent Roll as was allowed to a Law for that purpose in South Carolina thō far enough from being agreeable to the Crown in other respects. That this Law was repealed so speedily and before the province had a hearing is by every body imputed to the gross misrepresentation and false assertions of the memorialist and his undertakings to put this part of his Majesties Revenue on a better footing than could possibly be done by this Act. This My Lords accompts for the want of a Rent Roll until the year 1741, The remarkable æra of the Memorialists appearance in North Carolina, that he might begin his undertaking to the best advantage he prevailed upon the Auditor General to appoint for a Deputy a Nephew of his from Ireland and who was to be entirely under his Direction and who it is well known here never takes one step without his direction and who even refused the Officers Deventures for their Sallerys without giving one reason for it except this that his Uncle had given him no orders about it now it is

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the known duty of the Deputy Auditor after every sitting of the Governor and Council to grant lands which is twice a year if not oftener to give the Receiver fresh and additional Rent Roll, and charge him with the rents thence accruing, But so it is that during the Memorialist six years residence here he never once allowed him to give an additional Rent Roll; as the chief reason given in the Preamble of the Commission appointing the Memorialist Commissioner and Comptroller of the Quit Rents was the careless and irregular conduct of the Governor and other officers, The Governor thought it but prudence not at all to interfere with him But to leave the whole affair to his management But immediately after his departure for England in summer 1747, He expostulated very sharply with the Deputy Auditor upon this head and laid his commands upon him to supply the former defects and to be more punctual for the future But it was all to no purpose for he either could not, or would not do it, until last summer he gave in a few loose papers unsigned and so vastly unconnected that it was impossible for the Receiver to make any use of them and that in nine years that is since the Memorialists first appearence here; there is above half a Million of acres with which the Deputy Auditor has never charged the Receiver and which his Uncle and Director is entirely to be blamed for It always appeared very strange to the Governor that the Memorialist who is so mighty zealous about proving Rights and entering Warrants and several other small things should suffer so essential so absolutely necessary a matter to be neglected by an officer of his own recommendation and always acting under his eye There is no accounting for it, but one way and that is he thought it was his Interest to keep this Branch of the Revenue which was immediately under his inspection in confusion in order to make the continuance of this commission seem necessary at home.

The Governor begs leave to assure your Lordships that as it has always been his study to preserve Harmony and good agreement among all his Majesties Officers so in particular endeavoured to keep up a good understanding with the Memorialist But soon found that unless he would make all publick Measures The Settlement of the Country and his Instructions subservient to his little schemes for jobbing his Lands there was no avoiding his malice and detraction he has further the pleasure to assure your Lordships that there now wants nothing to the settling this Province in perfect peace and tranquility But his Majestie's determination of the points now in dispute Thō the memorialist and his open avowed agents have done all in their power to excite the people to a Rebellion, and would certainly have succeeded if things had not been managed with great temper and moderation.

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The Memorialist in particular has used all methods to keep matters from coming to a speedy issue of which his very memorial is a plain Instance for thō it was presented to your Lordships on the fourteenth of July it was not sent from London until the middle of November nor served upon the Governor until the Seventh of March last otherwise he would have put in an answer to your Honourable Board before last Christmas But that would not have agreed with the Memorialists views of heaping up a flame in this Country.

All which is humbly submitted, &c.,
GAB: JOHNSTON.

Recd June ye 27th 1750.