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Letter from Arthur Dobbs to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Dobbs, Arthur, 1689-1765
November 09, 1754
Volume 05, Pages 144g-151

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 12. C. 44.]

Letter from Arthur Dobbs, Esqre, Governor of North Carolina, to the Board, dated Newbern, Novr 9th 1754.

To the right honble & honble the Commrs of Trade &c.

My Lords,

Upon my leaving Virginia the 23rd of October after consulting with Mr. Dinwiddie and Col. Sharpe, to whose letters I beg leave to referr I made the best of my way for this place. About the boundary line of this Province, I met the messenger I had sent to Cape Fear, to the President upon my landing in Virginia, and had an account from the President that he had sent to summon the Members of the Council to meet him here the 29th, to receive me, and swear me into the Government so that I found my stay in Virginia had occasioned no delay in business, since I could not have been sworn before the 30th, and I arrived here on Thursday the 31st, having lost one day at Edenton by a ferry above eight miles over, by a contrary wind so fresh that the ferry boat could not pass. The President and Mr. Murray met me at Bath town; when I arrived

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here there were only two more of the Council arrived, Mr. Rutherford and Mr. Swan, Chief Justice Hassell having been detained at his Circuit Court at Edgcomb, so that I had but 4 to swear me, but as it was chiefly matter of form, tho' material to begin upon Busyness, I took the several oaths required, and then administered them to the Councillors present, according to my Instructions, and after reading over some of the most material Articles, gave Orders in Council for issuing a Proclamation for dissolving the Assembly that day, and for issuing writs next day, to elect 60 members pursuant to my Instructions; who by the practise here are to be elected on the same day, which I appointed for to be on the 26th instant, and the Assembly to meet here on the 12th of Decr forty days from the test of the writs. On Saturday the 2d after swearing Mr. Hassell I by advice of the Council ordered a Proclamation for all Officers to hold their places till farther Orders, & then published by Proclamation the repeal of several of the Laws, which were necessary immediately to be known, but the Laws about the Courts of Justice, the Law about Elections and those for erecting Counties &c. as it might occasion a confusion at present, we thought it prudent not to publish the repeal of those until the Assembly met, or after the first Prorogation to prevent delays & disputes as well as about the right of the Members, as we had not time to make out Charters without postponing the Assembly, which might delay us in assisting Virginia.

I then directed circular Orders to be sent to the Colls & Captains of the Militia to send me an exact list of the men in their several districts capable of bearing arms, with an account how they were armed & what ammunition they had, to be returned to me by the 12th of December; (and then enquired into the state of the Publick Stores and with concern must inform your Lordships, that there is not one pound of gunpowder or shot in store in the Province, nor any arms, and those given to me by His Majesty are not yet arrived from Virginia, tho' hourly expected, nor upon enquiry can I find that there are twelve barrells of gunpowder in the Province, in Traders hands; and that they sell at two shillings per pound currency, and shot in proportion.)

I at the same time sent Orders to the Registers and County Clerks to send me a return upon Oath of the number of taxables, distinguishing how many whites & blacks and also an account of the number of women and children.

I shall also by the first opportunity send Orders to the several Collectors or proper Officers to send me a list of the Vessells entered inwards or outwards, distinguishing from what Ports for 7 years past; and also what number of Negroes have been imported in that time, and an account

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of the gross and net produce of the several duties, fines, forfeitures &c. for 7 years in order to know the state of the revenue raised by the Laws of the Province and what care is taken of the Collection.

I have also directed Mr. Rutherford the Receiver General to make out immediately his account of receipts and payments and arrears standing out upon the Quit rents, and to make out a rent roll distinguishing the quantity of Land granted by Patent from those by warrant in each County; in order to transmit the account to your Lordships, and to the Lords of the Treasury, and have directed Mr. McCulloh the Auditor to meet him, that no time may be lost in doing it, in the best manner they can, altho' it may not be perfect, which can't be until a true Survey is made of each County, and where the Counties are divided between the King and Lord Granville, I submit it to your Lordships, whether you won't apply to his Lordship, to send orders to his Agents here, to joyn in the expense in proportion to the number of acres which shall appear to be in his part of each County; As this Survey can't be done without expense, I submit it to your Lordships whether you won't apply to the Treasury for an Order to the Receiver General to pay the expense out of the Quit rents; as it must ascertain & greatly increase the rent roll and receipts; by discovering the quantity of Lands granted in each County and consequently discover what surplus Lands are held, above what is granted by patent, as the total of the Grants ought to make up the total of the Survey in each County, if no surplus Lands are held by patent, for I apprehend the Assembly will give no allowance for that pupose.

I have acquainted Mr. Rutherford that the Lords of the Treasury had agreed to give 5 per cent to the Sherrifs of each County, in case they gave security to receive and pay unto him the arrears and growing Quit rents in their several Counties, over and above ten per cent. at present allowed to him; which will make them exact in the receipts, as it will be their interest to receive it, & without it I apprehend the Quit rents will never be regularly received by Mr. Rutherford, for tho' I have no reason to doubt his being an honest man, yet I believe he is quite indolent, and am told gives himself no trouble to go about to collect the Quit rents; whether his being married to the late Governor's young widow, makes him unwilling to go abroad or whether it is his natural inactivity I can't tell; but I'm told he has received very little of late, under pretence that he would await my arrival. It certainly requires a person of activity as well as a carefull and good accomptant, to be employed in that receipt, and is a place not to be given out of favour. I submit it to your Lordships whether it may not be proper upon his getting this

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allowance, to let him know either from your Lordships or from the Lords of the Treasury, that if the best rent roll be not made out that can be done until there is a returning; in which he shall have all the aid I can give or procure to him; and that the whole recoverable Arrears and rent, be not immediately levyed by distress; that upon my making a return that the account rent roll and receipt is not complyed with; and laid before me, to be transmitted, that I shall have power to suspend him & to nominate another pro tempore, until His Majesty's Pleasure be known who shall succeed him, this may perhaps rouse him out of his lethargy.

I have directed the late President and Secretary Murray, to lay before me all the papers relating to the late law for issuing out the paper Currency, and the several payments made upon it; and what remains in bank out of the £22000 issued, and that they may make up a state of the whole to be sent to your Lordships, in justification of themselves and the Council; and at the same time that the Treasurer appointed by the Assembly, should lay before me the state of the former paper Bills, and what sum was standing out, when the last were issued; and the funds appointed with the annual receipt, appropriated to pay it off; and how these sums have been applied. This must take up time as the Treasurers dont live here, and have not attended me. I apprehend I shall be greatly delayed in business, since none of the Council, nor publick Officers reside here, being all dispersed, 7 of the Council near Cape Fear, 2 at Edenton, one at present in Virginia, 2 in England; notwithstanding this is the most central place, and of late supposed to be the seat of Government and Courts of Justice; and no meeting can be had of the Council, or public officers without sending expresses which travel very slow & at great expense; and no fund for contingencies to pay it. I came here the 30th ult. past the 2d of Novr Mr. Swan begd leave to go home, Mr. Rutherford did the same next day, so that I had only three left to consult with, on the 6th President Rowan went home and on the 8th Secretary Murray, and with him Chief Justice Hassell, who holds a Circuit Court next week at Wilmington, they alledge their books are all at Cape Fear, so that I shall get no business done nor any to meet me until the Assembly the 12th of December.

Although the Chief Justice seems to be a good natured man and bears a good character here in private life, yet as he has neither capacity nor law, sufficient to be Chief Justice, that your Lordships may procure for us a worthy good lawyer for Chief Justice, it is my duty to let you know that the business of the Court has so much increased here, that the President Rowan informs me that the Chief Justices Fees amount annually to

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above £360 Currency besides his Salary on the quit rents and £200 allowed for going the Circuits. It may in a little time be enough for two Judges as business increases. As soon as the seat of Government is fixed which I apprehend at present will be upon News river, above this town, as far as it may be navigable for flat bottomed boats, in case I find the Lands good, and situation healthy, as it will be nearer the back settlements which increase very fast, and is most central, and this town will still be the place where the merchants will reside and ships be entered, and both the gentlemen to northward and southward, seem to like it as the great Ferries at Edenton and Bath will be avoided; and it will be equally near to Cape Fear, as this place, and more healthy, I submit it to your Lordships whether it wont be necessary to oblige at least 5 of the Council, to reside at or near the metropolis, or at least so many in rotation for 3 months at a time, to expedite publick business, and save the expense of expresses and also to oblige the Receiver General, Auditor and other publick Officers to fix and keep their Offices there; and attend by themselves or proper deputies & clerks that their several books may be inspected; that it may be known that they are doing their duty, for at present each lives upon his Plantation and never attends but upon Summons, the Receiver Genl above 100 miles to the southward and the auditor 100 miles to northward, how then can they meet with the Secretary, to make out a rent-roll, or attend their Offices; so that they never meet but at Assemblies or perhaps at a General Court; I must therefore beg your further Instructions about it, and in case they don't attend, by themselves, or sufficient deputies, whether I should not have a power to remove them, or at least suspend them till His Majesty's Pleasure is known.

I was in hopes to have got 2 or 300 men raised at 8d per diem in independant Companies to lessen the expense, the regiment having been disbanded in August for want of pay and upon account of their desertion for not being allowed three shillings per diem. But find there is not £2000 left of the £22000 emitted, except what is appropriated to the building the two Forts which I cant dispose of, and the disbanded Officers are exclaiming for want of their pay, from June till August, when they were disbanded; so that I can't act till the Assembly meets and empowers me, nor give any support to Governor Sharpe in case he should have an opportunity of making any impression upon the French before winter. As I can do no more at present, I propose going to Cape Fear, and see what they are doing at the Fort and make a report to your Lordships of the condition of it, and give further directions about it, and by seeing so much of the Country can form a Judgement where to fix the seat of Government.

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As your Lordships may observe in how weak a condition the country is, for want of ammunition and Stores, I humbly hope that you will move His Majesty to allow us twenty or thirty barrells of Powder and a proportionable quantity of Balls; which if not otherwise to be had, shall be repaid out of the Powder duty which I expect will be raised by Act of Assembly; since at present we have no credit and must pay double price, if any is imported by merchants.

I shall furnish myself with all the proceedings & facts relative to the Boundary with South Carolina, to support what alterations we shall desire to be made in the Boundary Line, for His Majesty's Service & the good of this Colony, and shall then write to South Carolina and desire them to lay reasons before your Lordships for what alterations they think proper to have made, upon account of that Colony, and when you will have both transmitted to you your Lordships can then properly represent to His Majty what you shall think will be the most equitable boundary, and most for his service and further benefit of each Colony ; But as I expect Mr. Glen will be soon removed, I dont propose doing it sooner, as he is too opiniated and self sufficient to have any dealings with him.

I find it will be impracticable to have a resurvey made to find out the overplus lands held by the Planters Patents, in order to detect their frauds, without having an independent Company established here, to support the Surveyors in their Survey, where any are obstinate, for a Surveyor who had been directed to resurvey a Plantation, upon his attempting only to enter the Land, was shot by the Planter, who fled for the murder, but am told his son or family still remain on the Land ; This hath so intimidated the Surveyors that none will venture without a guard to protect them, where the Planter is obstinate; and as I expect Fort Jackston will be soon tenable and a sum is granted for erecting a Fort at Portsmouth near Ocacoe, and also considering the murder lately committed by the French Indians at the back settlements, of which President Rowan tells me he acquainted your Lordships, it will be necessary to erect a Fort beyond our farthest setlers to protect that Frontier and our Indian Allies; and it is also necessary to support the custom house Officers and to prevent an illicit Trade; I hope therefore your Lordships will represent to His Majesty the necessity there is of having a Company of 100 men established here for these purposes; in order to have His Majesty's approbation of laying an estimate of the expense before the Parliament.

Before I left London I lodged a memorial to the same purpose before the Council.

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I am informed since I came here that there is a Gentleman (who they say is very well qualifyed for it) now engaged in surveying the whole sea coast from Cape Romain beyond Winyan, to Cape Henry in Virginia; which is at present done by subscription; if I find he is qualifyed for it, I will joyn in it and encourage him all I can, as it will be of great benefit to our Trade & safety to our ships. I mentioned the Copper Coinage, which I had applyed for to the Treasury to be coined at the mint at our expense, for this Colony to the members of the Council who were here, and also the Plan of an act for a Loan Office, instead of a paper currency a Copy of which I left with your Lordships; and they seem to relish both, as they will operate together, and are of opinion they will be both greatefull to the Assembly, and may prevail with them to give larger supplies to sink the present currency the sooner; and for giving them so great a benefit which they much want, it may induce them to comply with other demands, I therefore think of printing the plan of the act, to give to each of the Members for their consideration when they meet.

I submit it to your Lordship's consideration whether it maynt be of service to His Majesty & this Colony to enlarge my instructions relative to the Grants of Lands; so that I may not exceed 640 acres in any one Patent, for I find there are no Lands in the Colony where there is any quantity together, not patented, but at the back settlements near the mountains, there being none now that are good near any navigation, but what are patented except where there may be over pluss Lands discovered or marshes & swamps upon the resurveys and therefore no Grants can be made near the sea coast, or river navigation, and the settlers who are coming in hundreds of waggons from the northwards to take up land in the back settlements employ either some of their own people to come before them to look out for Lands, or some of their friends already settled here and they desire to take up 5 or 600 acres to accommodate 2 or 3 families together in the same grant, and as none take up lands there, but with a view to cultivate and improve them, as fast as they can, all the back settlers being very industrious, cultivating Indigo, Hemp, Flax, Corn & c. as well as breeding horses and other stock, they ought to be indulged being a frontier at present much more than those near the shore, who only took up lands for the sake of light wood, to make pitch, tar & turpentine, and then gave up their lands, having only taken out warrants; besides there is no danger now of them not taking out Patents upon their warrants, for President Rowan has introduced a method to prevent it by obliging those who take out warrants for a survey, to lodge the money for their Patents, and for registering them when

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taken out upon return of the survey and before they get possession and then their Patents are made out upon return of the Survey so that His Majesty's quit rents are secured, and cultivation inforced properly, and the Country settled to the satisfaction of the people, by not giving large Grants to any one Person. This method I believe your Lordships will approve of when executed by the new Settlers, and you will please to give me Instructions accordingly.

Among the Acts which are repealed by your Lordsps representation, there is one entitled, an Act to put in force in this Province the several Statutes of the Kingdom of England or South Britain, therein particularly mentioned, which Law passed in the Session of October 16th 1749, Chapter 1st, but there is another Act which passed the same Session Chap: 6th entitled—An Act to confirm the several Acts of the Assembly of this Province therein mentioned, as revised by the Commrs appointed by an Act to revise and print the Laws & c. and such other Laws of this Province as have been passed here since said revisal, and to direct the printing of the Laws—which I believe you will think proper to have repealed—For in the 4th section there is a clause That all & every Act or Acts, Clause and Clauses, Section & Sections, of all and every act & acts of the General Assembly of this Province in the said revised Laws or Acts of the said General Assembly, mentioned to be obsolete, expired, and repealed, are hereby enacted & declared to be obsolete, expired and repealed, and the title with such note only to be printed. By this clause and repealing the above Law Chap: 1st An Act entitled An Act for the more effectually observing the queen's peace and establishing a good & lasting foundation of Government in North Carolina I think stands repealed, which I believe was not your Lordships intention; as so good a Law can't be passed again in this Province; For the title of this Act is only entered & printed in the book of Laws, mentioned Chap. 31st 1715, with this margine note provided for by Statutes enforced in this Province by Act October 6th 1749 Chap: 1st which being the Law above mentioned lately repealed in Council, it can't be provided for by that Act, and therefore stands repealed by their book of Statutes, by the above clause, which declares those Laws whose Titles only are printed, to be obsolete, expired and repealed; until that Law be also repealed; when you look into the Law of the queen's Peace, you will see the usefullness of it, and then can judge whether it ought to be continued, and if so this last law ought also to be repealed.

I think it proper also to acquaint your Lordships that there are some other Acts which upon recollection you may think proper to have repealed with those already repealed—viz. An Act passed in 1715, chap. 52, for

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appointing a Township in the County of Bath &c. which erects Bath Town into a Borough with a power to send a Burgess to the Assembly, when they should have 60 houses in town. Also two additional Acts, besides the Act repealed which was passed in 1739 for the erecting the Village of Newton in [New] Hanover County into a Town and Township by the name of Wilmington viz. one passed in 1739 Chap: 4th for the better regulation of the Town called Wilmington in New Hanover County &c. which enacts the making the Town a Borough, and to send a Member to the Assembly—And an Act passed in 1745, Chap: 10th for the better regulating the Town of Wilmington &c. which appoints markets, the appointing of which is also the Prerogative of the Crown; you will please to consider whether these also ought not to be repealed; An Act also passed in 1752, Chap: 6th which divided part of Granville, Johnston & Bladen Counties into a County & Parish by the name of Orange County &c. And also an Act passed in 1753 for erecting the County of Rowan. Neither of which were repealed & altho' Orange County was erected a year before the other, yet it was overlooked, & it was omitted in my Instructions to send Members to the next Assembly, altho' it was allowed to Rowan; & therefore I did not think proper to send out a writ for Orange, contrary to my Instructions, which limited me to the several Counties mentioned, & to the number of 60 members. There hath also been a new County erected since, in the Assembly held in March last, called Cumberland, as also Brunswick Town into a Borough; which you will see in the Laws of last Session sent over to you since I left England, by President Rowan. I believe your Lordships will represent all these Laws fit to be repealed as soon as possible, otherwise I shall be obliged to issue out writs for the Members, & hope for your Instructions to give a Charter to Orange County as well as to the rest, & to know whether I shall do the same to Cumberland County & Brunswick Town, or whether the 2 last may ly over until I see whether it is necessary for His Majtie's service & the conveniency of the Colony.

I am afraid I have tired your Lps & therefore shall only assure yr Lps that I shall do my utmost when the Assembly meets to raise & keep up their spirits against French Incroachments & their villanous schemes & to promote a union in the Colonies to act in concert against them, & beg leave to assure you that I am with the greatest respect

My Lords, your Lordships most, &c.,
ARTHUR DOBBS.

Newbern, Novr 9th 1754.


Additional Notes for Electronic Version: An extract of this letter was enclosed with a memorandum from the Board of Trade - See Related Documents.