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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Address by George Sims to inhabitants of Granville County concerning the fees of lawyers and public officials [Extract]
Sims, George, 1728-1808
June 06, 1765
Volume 07, Pages 89-90

-------------------- page 89 --------------------
[From Husbands' Book About the Regulation.]

A serious address to the inhabitants of Granville county, containing a brief narrative of our deplorable situation by the wrongs we suffer. And some necessary hints, with respect to a reformation.

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“Well, gentlemen, it is not our form or mode of government, nor yet the body of our laws, that we are quarreling with, but with the malpractice of the officers of our county courts, and the abuses we suffer by those that are empowered to manage our public affairs; this is the grievance, gentlemen, that demands our serious attention. And I shall show you that most notorious and intolerable abuses have crept into the practice of the law in this county, and I doubt not into other counties also; though that does not concern us.

In the first place, there is a law which provides, that every lawyer shall take no more than fifteen shillings for his fee in the County Court. Well, gentlemen, which of you has had his business done for fifteen shillings? they exact thirty for every cause; and three, four and five Pounds for every cause attended with the least difficulty; and, in the Superior Court, they exact as fees, almost as many hundreds and laugh at us for our stupidity and tame submission to these damn'd, &c.

Again, a poor man gives his judgment bond for five Pounds; which bond is by the creditor thrown into court. The clerk of the county has to enter it on the docket, and issue execution, the work of one long minute, for which the poor man has to pay the trifling sum of forty one shillings and five pence. The clerk, in consideration of his being a poor man, takes it out in work, at eighteen pence a day. The poor man works some more than twenty-seven days to pay for this one minute's writing.

Well, the poor man reflects thus: At this rate when shall I get to labor for my family! I have a wife and a parcel of small children suffering at home, and here I have lost a whole month, I don't know for what, for my merchant or creditor, is as far from being paid as ever. However I will go home now and try and do what I can. Stay neighbor, you have not half done yet. There is a damn'd lawyer's mouth to stop yet, for you empowered him to confess that you owed this five Pounds and you have thirty shillings to pay for that or go and work nineteen days more; and then you must go and

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work as long for the Sheriff for his trouble, and then you may go home and see your horses and cows sold, and all your personal estate, for one tenth of the value to pay off your merchant; and lastly, if the debt is so great that all your personal estate will not do to raise the money, then your lands the same way, to satisfy these accursed catterpillars, that will eat out the very bowels of our commonwealth, if they are not pulled down from their nests in a short time. And what need I say to urge a reformation? If these things were absolutely according to law, they are enough to make us throw off all submission to such tyranical laws; for were such things tolerated, it would rob us of the means of living; and it were better to die in defence of our privileges, than to perish for want of the means of subsistence. But as these practices are contrary to law, it is our duty to put a stop to them before they quite ruin our country and before we become slaves to these lawless wretches, and hug our chains of bondage, and remain contented under these accumulated calamities.

I believe there are few of you who have not felt the weight of these iron fists. And I hope there are none of you but will lend a hand towards bringing about this necessary work, (viz: a reformation): And in order to bring it about effectually, we must proceed with circumspection, not fearful, but careful.

First, let us be careful to keep sober—do nothing rashly—act with deliberation.

Secondly, let us do nothing against the known established laws of our land—that we appear not as a faction endeavoring to subvert the laws, and overturn the system of our government. But let us take care to appear what we really are, free subjects by birth, endeavoring to recover our lost native rights, and to bring them down to the standard of law.

6th June A D 1765.
Nutbush, Granville County, North Carolina

Additional Notes for Electronic Version: Although the index attributes this speech to Herman Husbands, the author was more likely to be George Sims according to his biography in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography.