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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Report by George Burrington concerning general conditions in North Carolina
Burrington, George, 1680-1759
January 01, 1733
Volume 03, Pages 429-437

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 9. A. 33.]

To the Right Honourable the Lords of Trade and Plantations.

May it please your Lordships,

I do myself the honour to send the Lords of Trade, an account of the present state, and condition of North Carolina; which continues in perfect quietness; Peace, and good order subsist throughout the whole Province. I beg leave to assure your Lordships; this is oweing to my industry, and care, in vissiting the several districts of the Government; by adviseing, and encourageing the Magistrates faithfully to discharge the duty of their offices; countenanceing and assureing them by my own presence frequently, in the Precinct Courts; this Method, to me very troublesome and expensive, has proved effectual, in resetling the Authoritys of the Judicatures, and restraining Profligate, lawless men, from unruly Actions.

There is not one clergyman of the Church of England, regularly setled in this Government. The former Missionarys were so little approved of, that the Inhabitants seem very indifferent, whither any more come to them.

Some Presbyterian, or rather Independent Ministers from New England have got congregations, more may follow; many of them being unprovided with liveings in that Country; where a Preacher is seldom

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pay'd more than the value of twenty Pounds sterling a year by his Parishioners.

The Quakers in this Government are considerable for their numbers, and substance; the regularity of their lives, hospitality to strangers, and kind offices to new settlers induceing many to be of their persuasion.

Plantations continue to sell very cheap, those with Houses, Barns, Orchards, Gardens, Pasture, and Tillage grounds fenced: yield about thirty or forty pistoles; Notwithstanding the work done upon them, oft' times has cost four times as much. The reason why they yield no more is, that several People chuse to remove into fresh Places, for the Benefit of their Cattle, and Hogs, which is a great convenience to new Comers, who may always buy convenient settlements; for less mony then the buildings, and other improvements could be made.

A few years past a Planter removed from Virginia into this Government, he bought eleven inhabited Plantations, adjoyning each other in the old settlements; on the said Plantations lived almost one hundred white People when I was here formerly, now all removed into new settlements, this Purchaser has no white Person in his family except a wife, and not more then ten Negroes, yet keeps all the Plantations in his own management; by this and many other instances I am able to give, it appears how easy a man that has a little mony may purchase much Land in North Carolina.

The Trade of this Country is on so bad a footing, that it is thought, the People who traffick with the New England and Virginia Merchants, loose half the value of their goods; the way to remedy this, will be to open a Port on Ocacock Island, more fully shewn in former writeings.

It is by most Traders in London believed, that the Coast of this Country is very dangerous, but in reality not so. There are no more than three shoals in about four hundred miles on the sea-side. Cape Fear river, Beaufort & Ocacock are very good harbours, will admitt the largest Merchant ships, as may be seen by the Drafts of these places, made by my orders, and sent the Lords of Trade.

Great is the loss this Country has sustained in not being supply'd by vessells from Guinea with Negroes; in any part of the Province the People are able to pay for a ships load; but as none come directly from Affrica, we are under a necessity to buy, the refuse refractory and distemper'd Negroes, brought from other Governments; It is hoped some Merchants in England will speedily furnish this Colony with Negroes, to increase the Produce and its Trade to England.

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I had been almost a year in the Government, before People began to enter Land. Edward Moseley Surveyor General for the late Lords Proprietors, and his Deputys; more especially Mr John Ashe, one of them, (now in the Council) had been guilty of many vile frauds, and abuses in surveying, one of their Practices was, to survey without Warrants for Gratifications; to men that enquired into the validity of those Surveys the Deputys answered, they were right and good. Near upon a year since, Mr Rice the Secretary entered some Lands held in that manner and keeps them; this put several men who had no other Titles than the Deputy Surveyors could give them, upon makeing proper entrys; many others have them still to make, of Lands they have been in Possession of seven or eight years, without paying Quit rents.

The Method I take in signing Warrants (related in a former Paper) has effectually put an end to unfair Practises in takeing up of land, too much used formerly; as the old Land Jobbers are now restrained from getting mony, by selling Warrants, and Entrys, they complain, but all the fair dealing honest men approve & commend what is done.

Upon application from some men who imploy their slaves chiefly in makeing Tar and Pitch, that less quantitys would be made and their business cramped, if they were not permitted to take up more then fivety Acres, for each Person in their Familys. I was prevailed upon to sign Warrants, for a small quantity beyond that complement, the land was barren and unfit for cultivation.

In this Country is a Law called the Lapse Act, which seems to allow every man the liberty to take up 640. acres, and it was never refused any one, in the time the Proprietors held this Province, I will be careful to observe the Instructions on on this head in signing warrants. Before I am honoured with an answer to the Report made last year and know what Laws will be continued and which repealed.

A Gentleman liveing in Virginia, reputed rich, and owner of above one hundred slaves, desired to enter five thousand acres of land, part of a Savanna between Panticough and Nuse River, I went to view this Place, and think I never did ride over worse land, I granted the Gentleman's request, am not able to judge what use he designs to put it to, in my opinion the whole is not worth one shilling. There are millions of acres of Savanna Land in this Country, if they were taken up the King's rents would be much increased.

The Instruction for takeing up land (if not alter'd) will greatly obstruct the Peopleing of this Province. Not an hundredth part of the grounds are Plantable; the barren Pine lands will never be cultivated;

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the several sorts of wet lands, called in these parts, Dismals, Pocosans, Swamps, Marishes and Savannas cannot be cleared and drained, without great charge, and labour, therefore not hitherto attempted.

The sure way to increase the Quitt rents, will be to allow all men liberty to take up what quantitys, of these barren and wett lands they are willing to pay the rent off, without being tyed down, to obligations of cultivateing soils, that cannot recompense the charge of any labour. It is obvious to all men, how prejudicial it must prove to this Colony, should the Quitt rents be higher here, then in all other Governments, from this Place even to Nova Scotia Where only the good lands to be taken up, the Quitt rents will increase but slowly; but if all the poor lands were Patented the Revenue ariseing from them will amount to a considerable sum.

I am able to demonstrate, that the two Provinces of North and South Carolina contain above one hundred Millions of Acres.

It is computed at this time, not five millions are Patented in both Countrys.

Land is not wanting for men in Carolina, but men for land.

Several Saw mills have been lately erected in the South Parts of this Government and others are now building. Two Petitions were delivered to me in Council, the third day of November last, on behalf of the subscribers and other Proprietors of Saw Mills; praying Grants of Pine Lands lyeing near their respective Mills; which is deferr'd to such time as I can receive orders about it.

The granting five thousand acres or more, to each owner of a mill, cannot be a prejudice to any person, and may increase the quitt rents, one or two hundred pounds per annum.

The Petitions and resolve of Council in Answer are incerted in the Journals.

The Reputation this Government has lately acquired, appears by the number of People that have come from other Places to live in it. Many of them possessed of good American Estates. I do not exceed in saying a thousand white men have already settled in North Carolina, since my arrival, and more are expected.

This increase of Inhabitants, made it necessary to erect new Precincts. On receiving Petitions from those that lived remote from Court Houses, setting forth the hardships they laboured under, in being at great expences, and loss of time in attending Courts from great distances, to ease these People, three new ones have been made, the bounds are incerted in the Council Journals.

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I have taken great care and gone thro' much fatigue in settling the Militia; which had been totally neglected, dureing Sir Richard Everard's administration; two Colonels dyeing last summer prevented my receiving lists of their Regiments. In November last I sett out in hopes to have finished that affair but was prevented by a severe frost that came on after I had began my journey; the way I was to travell not being passable for Ice, that covered the brooks and low grounds. The Militia I am certain consists of five thousand men, and there are at least another thousand not enrolled. I compute the White men, women, and children, in North Carolina; to be full thirty thousand, and the Negroes about six thousand. The Indians, men, women and children, less then eight hundred.

The last Spring and Summer proved excessive hot and dry, which rendered this and neighbouring Provinces very sickly, Feavers and bloody fluxes made great havock among the People; violent heats and want of rain, damaged the crops so much that there is scarce sufficient grain made this year, to suffice the Inhabitants who usually exported great quantitys.

Mr Palin .... succeeded Mr Smith as Chief Justice of this Province, upon the departure of the last for England, being incapacitated by sickness to attend the business of that Office, resigned; with the approbation and consent of the Council; I appointed Mr Little Chief Justice because there was no other Person in this Government capable of duely executeing that Imployment. This Gentleman was Attorney General, and Receiver of the Quitt rents, to the Lords Proprietors; is heavily charged by Sir Richard Everard, and Mr Smith, with accusations of concealments and embezzlements, amounting to a great sum, but it is well known he never received by the sale of lands, and for Quitt rents in this Province, the value of one thousand pounds sterling. I think the accounts he has delivered are fair and just, much is said in my answer to Mr Smiths complaints upon this subject, therefore will add no more, then that I think he is an honest man, and am sure he is a very good lawyer, and in all respects well qualified to discharge the Office of a Chief Justice, in North Carolina.

After the decease of Col: Joseph Jenoure, Surveyor General of his Majesty's Lands, Mr Lovick was appointed to succeed him; this gentleman is also virulently attacked, by the Knight and Squire before named; not for that Mr Little and Mr Lovick had in particular done ill; but because they refused to joyn with them, and others (tho' much sollicited) in carrying on the Designs formed against me. Mr Lovick can be of singular use and service, in the next Assembly, by helping me to draw Bills,

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being on the conferences between the Council and Assembly, and many other ways. It is impossible for one man to do everything requisite during the sitting of an Assembly, as maintaining all the Debates and writing all Papers that pass on those occasions. If Mr Lovick does not assist, it will fall to my lot to have all that to do; the other Members of the Council are not inclined or not capable of giving me sufficient assistance on those occasions. Therefore hope Mr Lovick will be continued in his present imployment, or obtain some other when a vacancy happens, to reward the services he has and is able to do the King in this Province.

The Act for resurveying Land in this Country is framed artfully and fraudulently, if the Law is repealed, and every man has liberty to resurvey, at his own expence, any Plantation, where he knows more Land is held, than specified in the Patent, & have liberty to take up the overplus; a multitude of frauds and concealments will be discovered, and the Quitt rents increased without putting the King to any charge.

I have been informed Mosely when Surveyor, did make Surveyes in his own House, & plotted out Land upon paper, with bounds by waters, trees, and other signs, and tokens, that he never saw, nor knew anything off, includeing much more than in the Returns set forth, for which Patents went out in Course. By all I can hear, his deputys seldom measured, but contented themselves to mark two Trees in front for corners, and then guessed the other bounds, and so returned the Pretended Surveys into the Secretary's office.

A Commission was drawn for the erecting a Court of Exchequer, and layd before the Council last November; several objections being made to it, the present Chief Justice, with two of the Council, we appointed to consider thereof, make alterations if they see cause, and lay them before the next Council to be considered; in the meantime, the Lawyers in Virginia, have been desired to give their opinions, upon several matters we are not clear in.

It is thought by every man here, that this Country is not without a Court of Exchequer at this time; the General Court of this Province under the Proprietors, had the powers, of the King's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer granted them; which Court is no ways altered, but invested with as full Powers as heretofore.

All the time Sir Richard Everard governed this Province, the Publick Roads were in a manner unregarded, one markt by my order when Governor for the Proprietors, from Nuse to Cape Fear River, about one hundred miles in length remained unwrought upon. The last summer

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I prevailed upon the men liveing in that part of the Country, to take in hand that necessary work which was chearfully and effectually performed, Bridges lay'd, and Causeways made over all the Waters, and Morasses; it is the way men travel, that go from this, and the more Northern Governments into South Carolina.

Having succeeded in that affair, I made a journey to the Inland parts, and proposed to those People makeing a Road from the Borders of Virginia, to Cape Fear River, through the middle of the Country, a considerable distance higher then the former, which they readily assented to, proper measures are taken for marking and laying out the said Road this winter, I hope to see it perfected before the next Christmas.

The old Highways that I found very much in decay are tolerably well repaired; what remains wanting to be done on them, will be easily compleated in the ensueing Spring.

Nothing has been done in respect to the boundary between this Government and South Carolina; if a line is run, it must prove a great expence to the King, Pedee River will be a natural and proper division, that Water being made the Bounds of each Province, South Carolina will contain double the quantity of Land left to North Carolina, the elder settlement. What I formerly wrote upon this head, and now in some measure repeat, is purely to save His Majesty an unnecessary expence. But if His Majesty gives order for a line to be run, Money must be provided before we can begin the work, the charges will not be less in my opinion then three thousand pounds sterling.

There remain in the Government Mr Rice, Mr Halton, Mr Ashe and Mr Rowan appointed Councellours in the King's Instructions one more viz. Mr Eleazar Allen, I have never seen, he was lately Clarke to the Assembly of South Carolina. I hear he designs speedily to settle on his Estate in this Country; the former exception against his sitting in the Council here, by reason of the Imployment he held in South Carolina, ceased, by the appointment of another to that Place.

Since my last account of the Council, Colonel Jenoure departed this life, and Mr Cornelius Harnett resigned, to make up the number of Councellours seven I swore Colonel William Forbes a Member, the chief Justice when appointed in England Mr James Tunes, Mr Thomas Pollock, Mr William Owen, and Mr Mackrora Scarborough are fit persons to fill up the Council. I believe Mr John Baptista Ashe will be thought unworthy to remain any longer therein, by every Person that reads the Council Journals now sent.

Mr Secretary Rice has openly placed himself at the head of my enemys, sets his name to Mr Ashe's compositions, as will be seen in the Council

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Journals, I think he has made it his whole business to create mischief, and disturb the Administration, ever since he came into the Province, Mr Smith is able to unravel all this Mistery of iniquity having been a principal actor.

The King's business in this Government will greatly suffer by the Attorney General's want of capacity, and knowledge in the law. His Majesty's service requires in that office, a very industrious, skilfull lawyer, to assist and advise the Deputy Auditor and Receiver Generall in makeing a Rent Role, inspecting and examining the Titles of Lands (which will prove a tedious and very difficult work) and to transact the other business incident, and belonging to an Attorney General; In all these matters the present Attorney General Mr John Montgomery is without the requisite understanding. So much concerning him the Duty of my Imployment demands.

Part of the King's business is delay'd by the absence of the Deputy Auditor and Receiver General. No Quitt rents have been pay'd nor accounts audited in North Carolina since His Majesty purchased this Province.

North Carolina was little known or mentioned before I was Governor for the Proprietors, when I came first, I found the Inhabitants few and poor, I took all methods I thought would induce People to come from other Countrys to settle themselves in this, and put myself to very great charges, in making new Settlements in several Parts of the Government, succeeded according to my expectation in all; Perfecting the Settlement on Cape Fear River cost me a great sum of money, and infinite trouble. I endured the first winter I went there, all the hardships could happen to a man destitute of a house to live in, that was above a hundred miles from a Neighbour in a pathless Country and was obliged to have all Provisions brought by sea at great charges to support the number of men I caryed there, paid and maintained at my sole expence it can hardly be imagined what pains I took in sounding the Inlets, Barrs and Rivers in this Province, which I performed no less than four times; I discovered, and made known the Channells of Cape Fear river and Port Beaufort, or Topsail Inlett, before unused and unknown. In attempting these and other discoverys by Land & Water often run the hazard of drowning & starving; and never obtained any other reward, or gratification, but the thanks of two Assemblys in this Country; For all the pains I took and money I expended in carrying on, and compleating those enterprises. Horses and Cattle were of very little value in this Country before Cape Fear River was Inhabited. As very few men came there

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provided with these creatures, they were obliged to come into the old settlements to purchase them, which doubled the Prices, they sold att formerly, this still continues and will last some years longer, to the great benefit of Persons who have large Stocks.

As the foregoing Paragraph relates to myself in some measure, I have carefully avoided, couching the same in a very extraordinary stile, if your Lordships are of opinion it ought to be explained or proved, either, or both, shall be faithfully performed by

Your Lordships Most humble and most obedient Servant

No Carolina the 1st of January 173⅔.


Recd 1st June 1733.

Read July 25th 1733.