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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Gabriel Johnston to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
December 17, 1740
Volume 04, Pages 423-425

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[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 11. B. 52.]

My Lords [of the Board of Trade]

Just now I have received your Letters of the 20th & 21st of May and 26th of June last together with their Duplicates by the same Vessel.

It is a great misfortune that Letters are so long in coming to hand in this Country and the want of opportunity to transmit answers unless one sends them to the neighbouring Colonies of Virginia and South Carolina where they often lye a long time and are sometimes entirely neglected.

I cannot charge myself with ever missing wilfully any opportunity or delaying to send returns to your Lordships Letters unless prevented by sickness or want of shipping which last is the cause of letters arriving so late, as in these I answer at present and am obliged to send what I now write with their Copies by two expresses—One to Virginia and another to South Carolina.

I know your Lordships are too just to blame me for what is entirely oweing to the present Situation of the Country.

The raising of Forces has occasioned my residence in these Northern Parts of the Province for several months past. I have sent to Cape Fear for a Coppy of the state of our Currency which I shall take care to transmit by the very next opportunity.

I am sorry that what I sent before did not come to your Lordships in the authentick manner it ought. It was however a true state of the Currency in this Province Colony, and as it expires in four years I think the most effectual way of sinking it is to let it take its course and never more to renew it.

I have given orders to the person who acts for the Secretary in this Part of the Province to transcribe a Copy of what they here call their Laws.

There were none passed since his Majesty's purchase untill my arrival Those under the Lords Proprietors are of dubious Authority none of them printed and the written Coppies very different from one another. The best Coppy could be procured I sent to your Lordships with some remarks about Five years agoe.

I cannot help here remarking another great Impediment to the dispatch of publick business in the Colony because I am afraid it may make me often appear culpable to your Lordships when I am really innocent. And that is that the Papers and Records of the several offices are so dispersed that I am frequently obliged to send from one end of the Province to another for them.

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This is entirely oweing to the want of a Town near the centre of the Country where all the Offices ought to be kept. But the people both here and in Virginia are very far from being fond of Towns.

I have however last Assembly prevailed so far thō not without great opposition to get a law passed for establishing a Town on the Forks of Cape Fear River which is the most commodious in every respect, of any situation in the Province.

In a year or two I hope to get all the Publick Business done there. But this must be done by Degrees.

In Consequence of His Majesties Orders I called an Assembly in the beginning of August last who laid on a Tax of above £1000 sterling for subsisting the Troops raised for the intended expedition and for victualing the Transports. I must do them the justice to say they were all very zealous in promoting this service. But such is the Poverty of the Country and the scarcity of Gold and Silver it was not in their power to hire Transports.

Several new Laws were made but I have ever since been in such a hurry in getting the Forces embarked both here and at Cape Fear that I have never yet had leisure sufficient to send my Remarks upon them Thō I believe the Secretary may have before this time transmitted a coppy.

I must therefore [beg] your Lordships would be pleased not to make any report concerning them until I send such Observations as I made at the time of their passing.

I am heartily sorry that your Lordships think it advisable to report against the Quit Rent Law. It was with such difficulty and after four years hard struggle that the people were prevailed upon to pass one so much in favor of the Crown. And I really flattered myself that I had done an acceptable piece of service it obtaining it.

I have perused all the Laws of this Nature which take place either in the continent of America or in the West Indies and I cannot find any in which the Crown has so many advantages as in this.

As your Lordships have not thought proper to acquaint me with any particular Objection against it I shall not trouble you any more on this subject; Only I must say this that I despair of ever seeing so good in its place and I am afraid the repeal of this Law will be the occasion of this Countrys relapsing into all its former confusions and animosities whereas the people have been very quiet and tractable ever since it passed.

As to the cultivation Law I never expected your Lordships would approve of it and shall be very glad to see it repealed.

There is at present no Provost Marshal in this Province but by a Law past Two Years since and transmitted with remarks to your Board every Country has its Sheriffs as in England and the other Colonies.

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The Coppies of the Laws are sent from the Secretarys Office, and I shall take care for the Future that the Colony Seal be always affixed.

I hope your Lordships will excuse what is past.

The four vacancies in Council were occasioned by the death of Edmund Porter and John Baptist Ash Esqrs and by two persons being put in by Mr Burrington into the List and continued in my Instructions who never appeared in this Country nor any other that I can learn of viz: Stallard & Eyens.

Upon receipt of your Lordships Letter adviseing his Majesties approbation of James Murray Esqre I ordered him to be sworn in because the eight other Councillors were often equally divided when they sat as an Upper House and a stop was thereby put to Publick Business.

There are few Gentlemen here who care to pay the Taxes Fees of their Commissions Councellors because it occasions a great Expence and Fatigue without any manner of Profit.

There is not at present any person absent upon leave, I shall take care to acquaint your Lordships when there is.

I am, my Lords, &c.,

Edenton, in No Carolina 17th December 1740.