Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Gabriel Johnston to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Johnston, Gabriel, ca. 1698-1752
March 09, 1747
Volume 04, Pages 1152-1153

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 11. B. 74 and 75.]

North Carolina March 9th 1746/7

My Lords [of the Board of Trade]

I have the Honour to send along with this an Attested Copy of a Law for regulating of Elections in this Province passed in December last at Wilmington, which I just took the Liberty in the close of my Letter to Your Lordships of the 5th of January last:

I have taken this first opportunity to transmit it, because in my Opinion it is of the greatest Consequence to the maintenance of his Majesty's Authority and just Perogative, as well as of considerable Advantage to his Subjects in this Colony.

That Your Lordships may form a better Judgement of this Affair, I send a short and plain State of it as follows

This Province is divided into Seventeen Counties and four Towns, who send Representatives to the House of Burgesses. Of these six Counties lying towards the North East were by the late Law for Biennial Elections entitled to send Five Members each to the General Assembly, the other Eleven never pretended to send more than two, and one from each Town, whereof one only belongs to the Northern Division

Another clause in this Biennial Law enacted that the House of Burgesses should not proceed to Business till a Majority of the Members was present. By this means they had thirty one Votes out of Fifty four,

-------------------- page 1153 --------------------
which is the full number of the Representatives of this Colony. And being generally united under the conduct of a few designing Men who found their account in Keeping Public Affairs in confusion they have made the Governour and Council, and the remaining Members of no weight in the Legislature for they could not so much as meet unless they thought fit to be present and after they were met if they did not like any Bill, they withdrew Privately and then the Majority of Burgesses being absent, no more Business could be done, so that the very being of Assemblies depended on their whim and Humour, and not on the Kings Writ; and Governours Proclamation and Prorogation.

This is no Imaginary Consequence, but a real effect which has happened more than once within these four years past, when I have waited with the Council for three or four weeks and been obliged to Separate without doing any one thing

When I prorogued the Assembly in June last till the middle of November next then to meet at Wilmington, they entered into a formal Agreement not to attend, and to engage as many of the other Members as they could influence to stay at Home.

At the time appointed I met his Majesty's Council and a considerable number tho' not a Majority of the House of Burgesses who have a just regard for his Majesty's Perogative and are Gentlemen of the best sense and estates in the Province.

After two small Prorogations to render their absence inexcusable, we proceeded to Business and passed this Law now under Your Lordships consideration and another for fixing the seat of Government, and Regulating the Courts of Law, which was exceedingly wanted; and which I have ordered the Secretary to Prepare Copies of to be sent to your Board.

I dissolved them and called a new Assembly to be chosen in conformity to this Law: But these Gentlemen in some places by Threats compell'd, and in other places, by offering to Indemnify cajoled the Sheriffs to return Five Members for these Counties as formerly tho the Kings writs impowered them to choose but Two; and refuse all Obedience to the Laws passed in this or last Session of Assembly until they are confirmed by his Majesty For which reason I hope Your Lordships will let me know his Majestys pleasure as soon as may be

I am, your Lordships most, &c.,

P. S. The Biennial Law has been Repealed some years ago by his Majesty