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Memorandum from inhabitants of North Carolina to the Board of Trade of Great Britain concerning land grants
Porter, John, ca. 1710-1743; Moore, Maurice, 1682 or 6-1743; Swann, John, 1707-1761; Swann, Samuel, 1704-1774; Et Al.
October 21, 1735
Volume 04, Pages 308-315

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[To the Board of Trade,]

The case or Representation of Sundry of the Inhabitants of North Carolina dwelling at Cape Fear River & the parts adjacent, on behalf of themselves & others who claim Land by Virtue of Grants under the seal of the Late Lords Proprietors of Carolina.

That the power of Granting lands in this Province hath always been exercised from the first settlement thereof, by the Governour & Council who having been the Lords Proprietors and Intrusted with full power as will appear by the Constitutions and their Lordps Rule of Government.

Their Lordps first Terms of Granting Lands being found too hard, they Intrusted John Archdale Esqre one of the Proprietors & Governor of South & North Carolina about forty years ago to sell lands at twenty pounds per thousand acres, reserving one Shilling per hundred Rent but for Land that lay above one hundd miles from Charles Town to sett the same at ten pounds per thousand reserving sixpence per hundd Rent.

Pursuant to these Instructions or Rules of Governmt the sd Archdale Granted Sundry Tracts of land in North Carolina at Ten pounds per thousand acres in the year 1696 as will appear by those Grants, or the Record of them now remaining in the Secretarys Office of this Province.

This method of Granting Lands was followed by the succeeding Governrs and Commanders in Chief until the arrival of George Burrington Esqr His Majesties Governr of this Province in the month of February 1730/31 as will appear by the Records in the Secretary's office of the several Grants passed by Rd Danial Tho Cary Will Glover Edwd Hyde Thos Pollock Ch Eden W Reed Geo Burrington & Sr Richard Everard.

By Grants from some of the before named Governrs or Commandrs in Chief divers of us the Subscribers do possess & hold Land having paid Ten pounds per Thousand Sterling or the value thereof to the Receivr Genl as purchase money the Rent reserved on Such Grant being sixpence per hundred acres agreeable to those before mentioned Rules of Government Others of us do possess land on the payment of twenty pounds per thousand acres Sterling or the value thereof paid to the Receiver General on a reservation of twelve pence per hundd acres Rent These Latter Grants being agreeable to Warrants since the Proprietors raised the Price of their Land as we Informed Thus the difference of Rent has been occasioned as the warrant Issued; If the warrant issued since the Proprietrs raised the prize of the land the Rent has been twelve pence: But if the Warrant issued before that time then the Rent reserved in the Grant has been six pence per hundred acres.

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We never imagined that any dispute would arise concerning grants Issued before the arrival of Govr Burrington in February 1730/31 For until new orders Should come from his Majesty (or from others in case others had purchased) We Humbly conceive The Acts of the Govr & Council being no other than what was always heretofore accustomed would remain firm and valid: This we had the greater reason to expect from His Majtys Known Clemency & Goodness: who in his Instructions to Govr Burrington directed only an account to be taken of such Land as had been granted since His Majestys purchase That such ordrs might be given as Should be thought convenient for his service.

As the purchase money arising by those Grants that issued since July 1729 the time of His Majtys purchase was apply'd by ordr of Governor & Council to defray the Charges of running the Boundary line between this Province & Virginia and other Publick services; We make not the least doubt, But His Royal Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that the possessors of those lands may hold the same on the terms in the several Grants mentioned For it could not well be otherwise, but that some Grants would issue before the Notice of the proprietors sale could reach this Province and even after notice it would be difficult to determine what Act of Government should cease and what should continue to be Exercised That our hopes of holding such lands was the more strengthened in regard it will be made appear, That the money arising by such grants is not only paid to the Receiver General But by him apply'd & paid away by ordr of Govr & Council as will appear by the several ordrs of Council and the Receivr Genl original accots now ready to be produced.

We do not only find the Grants before mentioned like to be disputed; but to our great astonishment those Grants that were issued before His Majestys purchase are like to be called in question; althō by the tenor of the Act of Parliament by which His Majty purchased all such lands are excepted as passed the seal of the Province. The calling these Grants in question is what we gather from the purport of the Quit Rent Bill as amended by the Council, and one other Bill proposed by the Council as also by sundry Proclamations & advertisements and the erecting a Court of Exchequer & c.

As the Interest of so many of the Inhabitants of this Province was concerned in these attempts to vacate their Grants, several mesne Conveyances having been passed from such Grants, and thereby many people their Children & familys like to be involved in so great a Calamity; We thought it our duty to apply to his Excellency our Governor, That no farther proceedings might be had to our prejudice, until we had the

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oppertunity by applying to yor Lordsps to procure a more favourable Interpretation of the Royal Instruction, which here in our Humble opinion was endeavoured to be stretched beyond the true meaning This being granted by the Govr We humbly pray your Lordps to Judge of our Case as before truly represented.

We thought ourselves exceedingly happy in being more Im̄ediately under his Majestys Governmt on the Proprietors sale of the Province We expected that the lands of the Province would have been Granted in the same terms and after the same manner as in Virginia the lands in that Province being much more Valuable (occassioned by the good navigation) than its possible they will ever be in this, where the navigation is so bad, and the lands in general much worse. Instead of this, we find the rents not only enlarged for the future and much larger Fees taken than ever were heretofore. But an attempt made here (as we think contrary to the Royal Intention) to vacate those Grants that were passed before his Majtys purchase: Should such an attempt take Effect it must be our Humble Opinion very severe and afflicting in regard so many persons are concerned by original purchase mesne conveyance or otherwise We who have at very great Loss & Impoverishment of our Estates removed into this new Country and endured much Fatigue and hardship in promoting the settlement of this place; who have Actually and Bona Fide paid our purchase money for lands (besides Fees to the Officers) and those moneys truly paid away pursuant to ordrs of Council and the proprietors ordrs have some reason to be under no small concern when we find attempts to vacate them by Wresting the scence of the Royal Instruction.

The principal objections that we think are possible to be made against the validity of the Grants, may be reduced to two heads vizt

First the want of power in Grantors.

Second, The frauds, or Injuries committed by such Grants As to the First; Besides what has been before expressed we desire your Lordsps may be informed, That the Notoriety of the land office being shut (as is sometimes urged here) is not so in fact; it having always been the received opinion that were the moneys received by the Proprs paid, or an Equivalent thereto as divers of their Instructions intimate Grants were to pass of course and whatever clog might be thought to arise from any of their Instructions it was the propr care of the Government & Council and not of the people; nor were such Instructions ever construed to extend to bar grants from issueing for any lands that were claimed by virtue of Warrants issued by Tho Cary, W Glover E Hyde Tho Pollock & Charles Eden, prior to those ordrs, and accordingly Grants issued from

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time to time by several Govrs & Commanders in Chief for such lands as were claimed by virtue of those warrants, wch according to the dates of them were some at six pence per hundred rent and some at twelve pence what was transacted by the Council & assembly in 1724 only intended lands to be granted by future warrants but no ways respected such lands as were claimed by those prior warrants this will evidently appear not only by the constant practice (as is before mentioned) of the several Governours Granting Lands on such warrants But even the same Govr Burrington in whose time the Transaction passed between the Council & Assembly he continued after that to issue Grants for those lands as were at divers times claimed by virtue of those prior Warrants, which practise was also continued by his successr Sr Richard Everard, until the arrival of His Majestys Governor without the least objection (that we know of) being made thereto

And if others have issued by ordr of Council to raise money to pay such salarys and sums as were appointed by the proprs to be paid and for their service; even such we conceive ought not to be vacated in regard the proprs were duly apprized of the publick transactions by the transcripts of the Council Journal constantly sent them; whch the Proprs were so far from contradicting that they never shewed the least displeasure at such their doings. On the contrary it manifestly appears to us that they approved thereof in the care they took in their Treaty for a surrender or sale of the Province; to except all such lands as had passed the seal of either of the Provinces Besides as we have before hinted we think it ought rather to come undr consideration how far the Governor & Council were answerable to the Proprs for such an exercise of power, in case they had exceeded their Instruction, rather than to Involve in so much ruin & confusion, so many Innocent persons, their Families widows & orphans who claim by such grants or by mesne conveyance therefrom. On the whole we are persuaded yor Lordsps will be of opinion that this Article, Vizt The want of power in the Grantors is no ways Insisted on by the Royal Instruction but has been lately made use of here; finding so little could be made of the Frauds and Injurys so much talked of For if the want of power (admitting it so) were sufficient, there had been no occassion to have mentioned any other methods, as the want of forms & c accordingly to that known maxim, Frustra fit per plura quod Fieri potest per pauciora

Concerning the second head we are sensible that much talk hath been in this Province, and representation made at home touching Blank Patents & c. on which ordrs have been sent for an Enquiry to be made into such Frauds This has produced a regular Enquiry before his Majty

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Governor at the Council Table; to wch the secretary (whose business it has always been to be prepared with proper vouchers for his issueing grants) made an answr to the full satisfaction of his Majty Govr & Council; and since the arrival of the prest Governor Proclamation have been issued; persons appointed to Enquire into Frauds Courts Errected and held and other methods used but not the least sign of any fraud has appeared, and here its proper for us to beg leave to represent unto yor Lordps the method that has been used in this Province (time out of mind) in issuing Grants. Blank Grants were lodged in the Secretarys Office, which the secretary caused to be fill'd up, as they were demanded; if the lands were taken on arrival of Rights Vizt 50 acres for each person that came to settle in this Province, the secretary kept the proof of such Right or Entered it under the Grant for his Voucher, if on purchase, then the Receiver Generals Recpt. Something was offer'd about the year 1718 to prevent the signing blank Grants as usual but at a Council held

1718 Mr Eden being Governor and Mr Knight Secretary, it was then the unanimous opinion of ye board that Grants should be signed blank as will fully appear by that order of Council; and that without the least view or intention of fraud nor can we well conceive how a fraud could be committed, without its being very easily detected, in regard the secretary, if called upon, was to produce his vouchers, and it would be very easy to detect such fraud if any by comparing the Records in the Secretarys Office with the Receivr Genls accots the one being a Check upon the other

Grants being signed in the manner as before set forth some were issued at Sixpence per hundred Rent and othrs at twelve pence, according to the date of the Warrants and others to raise money given by the proprs for pious uses and some for defraying the Charge of running the Boundary line between this Province and Virginia, and the proprs duly apprized thereof by the Council Journals sent home to them Whereupon we humbly hope that yor Lordps will be the means, that the possessors may be quieted in their Titles, if the purchase money shall appear to be paid to the Receivr Genl as we doubt not but the same will be evident, as well by the Receipts as by the Receivr Genls accots.

The frauds committed by Grants being signed blank may be of two sorts, the first respecting the moneys paid or numbers of acres granted the other in Case those Grants were fill'd up for lands Justly claimed by other persons and as so much noise had been made at the last assembly both within doors and without some who were members of assembly being very desirous that such abuses should be detected, proposed two clauses to be added to the Quit Rent Bill, the one to Vacate all such

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Grants as had been issued without the number of acres Incerted & such as the purchase money had not been truly paid and in that Clause the most Effectual method was propos'd to make the discovery by Interrogating the partys and Examining witnesses on oath before the Governor and Council or in any other Court he should appoint, The other clause was to Vacate all such Grants how regular so ever issued, that had been laid on Land justly claimed by others: by those two Clauses added by the assembly frauds & Injurys of any sort would have been Effectually remedied. But those two Clauses were Rejected by the Council without any offer of amendment in Case they had been thought in any part defective.

Much discourse has been here concerning the Essential requisite forms of Grants &c with Humble Submition we undr[st]and those principally to consist in: the Consideration money, number of acres Reserved Rent, and date But whether the name was incerted or the Exact description of the lands at the time of their being signed & seal'd we think is not material in Case those were incerted before registring; the registring them in the Secretarys office being the last requisite to their being perfect & compleat and not the time of signing & sealing, which as we have before shewn used to be blank.

As to frauds in blank Grants being issued in such a manner as to leave the party possessing them room to incert more acres than were intended, We solemnly declare we Know of no Grants issued without the number of acres and purchase money incerted nor do we believe any Such has been other than what is mentioned in that transaction wch was before the Governr and Council conformable to his Majtys Royal Instructions to Governr Burrington; whereto the Secretary made such answr as the Gov and Council unanimously acquitted him.

We are informed that it is suggested some blanks are still Extant but as we know of none so we think were there any such the frauds by them committed, as well as what has been already committed (if any) will be very easily discovered by the method proposed by the late Assembly we surely trust yor Lordp will not be of opinion that because there is a possibility (and we think it is but barely such) of frauds that may be committed; Therefore all promiscuously shall be vacated. We do not become suiters to yor Lordps that any other Grants may be supported, But those that were at first issued with the consideration money number of acres & Reserved rent incerted before the arrival of His Majty Governor and for any frauds that may have been committed by claiming Lands otherwise than according to the tenor before mentioned we shall readily consent to any method that shall be proposed for the discovery

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thereof; as also to relieve all such persons as have been really injured by any Grant whatsoever What we have before related being the truth of our Case, we know not what Inducements may be offered to yor Lordps towards vacating such of our Grants as have been completed in the manner before set forth; unless it should be that by vacating those Grants and the persons being oblig'd to take out new ones at a Higher Rate an increase will be thereby made to His Majty Revenue. We can scarce Imagine such a suggestion will be made it being far from our thoughts, that yor Lordps would be a means of increasing the Revenue of so Potent and Opulent a Prince (perhaps £150 per annum that being the Utmost advance we think will be made thereby) at the Expence, great damage & perhaps ruen of so many of his Majty dutiful subjts who have with so much Expence Loss and damage seated themselves in this new Country and who have actually & Bona Fide paid their money for the same; the regaining of which sums we conceive to be Impracticable after they have been paid away and accounted for by the Receiver Genl pursuant to the proprs ordrs and ordrs of the Governor and Council.

This its possible may be used as a motive to have these Grants vacated. thō in reality it will miss having any such Effect much of the lands now held by those Grants being so very poor and mean as not to be worth the taking as the new terms whereas by the present tenures the rents will be rather encreased by such a small addition Perhaps the gainful prospect of a great number of fees to the several officers on the Issuing new Grants for those Lands (which Fees have been prodigiously encreased of Late without any & contrary to law) not a little contributes to the stir which is made in this matter But as we trust Your Lordps will not think of any increase to be made to the Revenue by such a rigorous and severe proceeding in a matter transacted before His Majtys purchase took place here; so we promise ourselves that you will disappoint the Expectations of those who propose to Enrich themselves by such Extravagant Fees at least if not by taking some of the lands of those persons who have done and suffered so much towards the settlement of this part of the Province.

We have understood that many untrue suggestions have been made to our prejudice in England of very great quantitys of Land held in an Illegal & Clandestine manner by the Inhabitants of this place & particularly that Col Morris Moore and Roger Moore Esqr have each one hundd thousand acres A wicked and Untrue suggestion so far from truth that upon the best Enquiry we can make all the Inhabitants of this River do not in the whole hold one hundred thousand. We the subscribers who are the principal Inhabitants, upon a Strict Examination find that ourselves and those our relations and friends do not hold or claim by our

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Grants more than about seventy five thousand acres of wch about twenty thousand are since his Majtys purchase and even of those before the purchase about fifteen thousand are so Wretchedly poor, that we shall readily part with them rather than to hold them on a higher rent than our Grants specify and as our familys and those undr our care consist of near twelve hundred souls yor Lordps will easily discern how much the settlement of this place and the Increase of its Trade is owing to us; so that were the lands given to us clear of any Rent His Majesty would be no Looser seeing so great an Increase of his Revenue has been promoted by the settlemt of this place and the Encouragemt the Trade has met with from us and our friends without which even at this time scarce one vessell in Ten would be timely dispatched. So far are we the subscribers, our familys and friends from holding such great Quantitys of Rich Land, as we are told has been (untruely) suggested. That thō we are about 1200 persons in our familys, we do not hold so much good land as his Majtys Officers in this Province and claim to hold by themselves and their Friends, althō they scarce amt to one tenth of the number of persons in their Familys

JOHN PORTER
JNo SWANN
M MOORE
EDWd HYRNE
SAM SWANN
THOs JONES
J DAVIS
NATHll MOORE
JN DAVIS

Recd Oct 21st 1735