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Letter from Gabriel Johnston to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
November 29, 1736
Volume 04, Pages 202-207

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 10. B. 25.]

North Carolina 29 November 1736.

My Lords [of the Board of Trade.]

The enclosed Proposals I have drawn up after trying what could be done for His Majesty's Interest and the Settlement of the Country with two Assemblys and after considering with all the attention I am capable of the state of the Province and the Depositions of its inhabitants. Ever since the year 1719 when South Carolina rebelled against the Late Lords Proprietors the Assemblys of this Colony have been encroaching upon the Rights and Revenues of their Superiours at home and the first Governour from the Crown here did so entirely neglect everything relating to its interests that the people are fully persuaded they may make as free with his Majesty now as they did formerly with the Lords Proprietors. I doe not know any method so effectual to convince them of the contrary as his Majesty's establishing some such orders as these because they will then see plainly his Majesty can do himself Justice without their assistance which is a point that all the pains I have taken (which have not been small) has never yet been able to convince them of and if there is not something done soon to shew them their mistake it may, nay it certainly will in time prove a very troublesome affair.

As His Majesty is Sovereign of the Province and Proprietor in seven parts of eight of the soil I do not apprehend that there can be any Objection in point of Law against any thing contained in these Proposals. As to the Laws of the Country there are none of them (except six which dont at all relate to these matters) confirmed by the Board of Proprietors without which confirmation and it being declared publickly at the next Biennal Assembly the charter pronounces all Laws void, so that the King has all these Laws in his Power. Whether your Lordships will judge it expedient to advise his Majesty to make such orders is what

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I must humbly submit to your better judgement. I shall however give the reasons why I offered them to your consideration as to the first two I hope I have said enough in mine of the 16th of last month from Edenton. For the 3d I must observe to your Lordships that the people who hold land under the late Lords Proprietors are not obliged by their Patents to bring their Rents to any certain places and consequently (as I am told by the Lawyers) the Rents can't be demanded but on the Lands themselves, I was mightily puzzled with this difficulty when I began to collect the Quitt Rents for their habitations are so scattered and lye at such a distance from one another that it is impossible the Receiver could go about among them I was therefore oblidged to take the Method mentioned in this Article to induce them to come to the court houses and pay by which I got pretty well over the difficulty for that time But lately since Mr Burrington's Paquets have come in this objection is Trumpt up again and instilled into the minds of the people with more assiduity than ever, so that I think it is become necessary to have his Majesty's sanction for it. In South Carolina they pay at three places only for the whole Province, as to the latter part of it about commodities. It depends upon your Lordships Judgement whether they are to be allowed to pay in any. If you think it proper to indulge them so far, there must be some Restriction as to the places for receiving it. I believe I need not enlarge on the 4th Article the necessity of some such order being self evident as also that of the 5th. There are a great many persons satt down on Lands who have never apply'd for any grant, the reason they give for it is that they are assured by Mr Moseley and the Family of the Moores that the Quitt Rents are too high for the poor people and that they with the assistance of Messrs Burrington and Wrag will procure an abatement at home and then it will be time enough for them to take out Grants.

In order to explain the 6th Article I must inform your Lordships I brought over a Draught of a Patent by the late Attorney General and present Lord Chief Justice. But upon the first Assemblys rejecting the Quit Rent Law it was thought proper In order to secure his Majesty's Rights to make some Provisions in the Body of the Patent. The first was that the Quitt Rents should be payable at such places as the Governor in Council should appoint and this was to prevent the Inconvenience I have now mentioned. The second was that a Doquet of that Grant should be entered with his Majesty's auditor or his Deputy in six months and the third this Clause of Cultivation without these the Patent was to be Null and Void. Experience has justifyed the Prudence of the two first of the Provisions, but thō I think the third was an

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Error on the right side it has been a vast Hardship on many poor Familys. If they possess 500 acres of land in three years they are oblidged to cutt down the trees (which are here very large and grow very close) of 15 acres of land and to plant and fence it in. I now plainly see that it is impracticable unless they entirely neglect building a tollerable house or raising a stock of cattle the want of either of which exposes them to great sickness and misery in a country where both the heat and the cold are extreem. There will in particular be a great demand for Cattle if so many Forreigners come into the Country. It is therefore proposed that there be such an Alteration as is expressed in this Article which will equally oblige the people to reside on their lands as the former which is a much more Rigid Cultivation than is required in any part of America. It was thought more proper to apply to his Majesty to do this than for the Governour in Council because Precedents of any alteration in form of Grants already established ought to be avoided as much as possible. The Form of a Patent is in the minutes of Council sent to your Board.

The 7th Article your Lordships will find very reasonable if you please to consider that Edenton is within thirty miles of the Virginia line and Two hundred miles distant from Cape Fear where most of the Council have their Habitations and Newberne is much nearer the center of the Province. I have not been able to hold above two Courts of Chancery since I came into the Province upon this account. If there is any Law confining the Courts to Edenton it is more than I know but if there is it never was confirmed by the Lords Proprietors, and the Province is so much altered since by the peopling of the Southern parts that it is highly proper to repeal it I am to acquaint your Lordships that Thomas Wardroper Esqre late Surveyor General recommended by your Lordships as a fitt person for a Councellor is lately dead.

I am My Lords, &c,

P. S. If there are any Patents since 1724 confirmed which were not preceeded by regular Surveys I must once more repeat it, that it will cause very great confusion in this Province.


Humbly proposed to be made by his Majesty in Council for the Preserving his Majesty's revenue, Quieting the minds of the Inhabitants in their Possessions and the better Regulation of his Majesty's Province of North Carolina.

1mo. That the Biennial Law passed in the time of the late Lord Proprietors be repealed, and no Precinct in the Province of North Carolina

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be allowed to send more than two Members to the Assembly on any Pretence whatsoever and that no Law for Erecting any new Precinct for the future shall be of force until his Majestys pleasure is known.

2d. That in order to put an end to all disputes which have arisen about the validity of Patents Granted in the time of the late Lords Proprietors, To be declared 1mo. That no patents dated before the 25th March 1724 shall be called in question upon any Pretence whatsoever by his Majesty, his heirs or successors 2d. That all Persons who hold Lands by Patents under the Lords Proprietors since the year 1724 if they have cultivated or Built upon the same shall (notwithstanding the late Lords Proprietors Prohibition to the Governour and Council to dispose of any more Lands) have them confirmed at the Quitt Rents mentioned in their Patents upon proof made on or before the 25 March 1738 before the Governour in Council that such Patents were preceeded by Regular Surveys, if not regularly survey'd they may still have them att the Quitt Rents mentioned in his Majesty's Instructions. 3d That no Patents of Land dated since 1724 which have never been cultivated or built upon shall be deemed valid or good without proof being made in the time above mentioned of their having been preceeded By regular surveys 4th That all Patents in the name of the Lords Proprietors dated since the soil became vested in his Majesty be       such as have cultivated even under these Patents a        up the Lands at his Majesty's Quitt rents

3d That in receiving the rents due for Lands held und        If the receiver is oblidged to go upon the lands he shall take the said rents in Gold and Silver and in nothing else but from each such as attend at the Receipt at the Court Houses of the respective Precincts he shall accept of payment in Bills of Currency of the Province at the Exchange as shall be settled yearly by the Governour in Council and that he be oblidged to accept in payment of Quitt rents of Hemp Merchantable and well dressed at the rate of 20 sh: per hundred and Flax well dressed at the rate of 30. sh. per: hundred Provided they are delivered free of all charge at the following places viz: Edenton Bath, Newbern and a place commonly called Newton on Cape Fear River and all rents for Lands held under the late Lords Proprietors be paid in or at the rate of sterling money

4th. That the Attorney General shall prosecute with the utmost severity in the Court of Exchequer all persons who have or shall presume to box Pine trees or burn Lightwood on his Majesty's lands and that on the conviction of each Offender the Receiver General be ordered to pay Twenty pounds currency to the Informer.

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5th. Whereas many persons have sat down on his Majestys Lands and neglected to take out Grants or Patents for the same. That all such persons shall be charged with the payment of Quitt rents from the time of their possessing these lands and this Rule to be observed from time to come and in case they shall continue above the space of one year without applying for a Grant then the Lands may be granted to any other person applying for them. among other conditions of the Grants or Patents for land in Carolina. It is expressly provided that the Grantee within after the date of his Grant shall clean and cultivate at Acres for every hundred so granted. In order to encourage the Inhabitants to build Good & sufficient Houses on their Lands and to breed and rear live stock. That for the future the said Clause of Cultivation shall be expressed in the following Words “Provided always that in case the said A. B. his Heirs or Assigns shall not within the space of three years after the date hereof clear and cultivate according to the proportion of three acres for every hundred, or build a good and sufficient house or put and keep upon the said land Five head of black cattle and ten Hoggs. and also &c: And that the same Method of cultivation shall take place in all the Lands already granted by his Majesty and be reckoned as sufficient as if expressed in the Grant.

7th. That as the holding all the Courts particularly that of Chancery where all the Members of his Majesty's Council are oblidged to attend at a Place so near the extremity of the Province as Edenton is found to be by experience very inconvenient. That for the future the Court of Chancery be held twice each year Viz. on the first Tuesday of December and first Tuesday in June at Newbern at present the most central place of the Province where all the Members of Council shall be obliged to attend under pain of suspension without a reasonable excuse, and at the same time and no other all Grants for lands shall be passed by the Governour in Council and that the Governor with the advice and consent of Council may remove the other Courts to Newbern when it shall be judged for his Majesty's service or the good of the Province and that the Offices of the Secretary and Surveyor Receiver and Auditor General with all other offices be for the future kept in the said Town of Newbern. Any Law Custom or Usage to the contrary notwithstanding.

Additions To Article 3d. There are 14 Precincts in this Province. Whether your Lordships will allow the Inhabitants who come to the Court houses of these Precincts the Liberty of paying in Bills of Currency instead of Gold and Silver, or whether you will oblige them to come to the four places named for the Receipt of Commodities, in short,

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Whether the Receipt shall be in fourteen or four different places deserves some consideration. In South Carolina they collect only at Port Royal Charles Town and Winyaw

Art 4th. After these words—His Majesty's Lands—and all uncultivated lands which are not entered in the Auditor Generals Office shall be looked upon as his Majesty's Lands.