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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Memorial from members of the North Carolina Governor's Council to Gabriel Johnston concerning sectional dispute over North Carolina General Assembly sessions and representation
Rice, Nathaniel, d. 1753; Moore, Roger, 1694-1751; Allen, Eleazer, 1692-1750; Rowan, Matthew, d. 1760; Halton, Robert, d. 1749
Volume 04, Pages 1198-1201

North Carolina.

To his Excellency Gabriel Johnston Esqre Captain General and Commander in Chief of his Majesties Province of North Carolina

The Memorial of the Members of His Majesty's Council of the said Province.

May it please your Excellency.

The Members of his Majesty's Council having with great concern reflected upon the present confused state of the Province the many and great difficulties which the administration of publick affairs has been and is still attended with the artifices too often made use of by ill designing Men to defeat and bring to nothing the very best schemes for the Publick good particularly manifested during the last session of Assembly when instead of providing in a just and equitable manner for the sinking the present Bills of Credit now just expiring which your Excellency so earnestly recommended to them a Bill was brought into the House of Burgesses to continue them for Ten years longer on a very slender foundation

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and not only so but a new Emission of paper therein proposed of £16.000. Proclamation Money without any foundation at all which they obstinately persisting in occasioned your Excellency among many other reasons to dissolve them In all humble Duty to his Majesty's and regard to your Excellency's Administration Beg leave to offer to your Excellency's Consideration the two following Points as the source of these and many more evils which your Excellency's long experience in the Government must acquaint you with, and therefore needless to enumerate and at the same time to give your Excellency an account of the reasons why they have so long subsisted and humbly offer our advice towards a remedy.

The want of a more central and convenient place for the meetings of the General Assembly, holding the Courts of Judicature, keeping the public Records and Transacting at proper times of the year all the publick business of the Province. The great difficulties and hardships that his Majesty's more Southern subjects are liable to from the Court of Judicature being held and the Secretary's Office kept at Edenton the most Northern Part of it are too obvious and too well known to require particular account of. The only reason for this practice we find to be a Law passed in the year        under the proprietors Government which the greatest part of it then settled was circumscribed within the Limits of what was then called Albemarle County and long before the more Southern parts were inhabited, by which Law of Penalty is laid on the several Officers who shall keep their Offices in any other place since which time several new Counties to the southward have been made whose number of Inhabitants Trade and Commerce with Great Britain especially those on Cape Fear River your Excellencys well apprised of

2ndly. The great inequality of Members in the Lower House of Assembly by whom the several counties in this Province are represented.

As this inequality consists in five of the Northern Counties being allowed hitherto to send each five Members to the General Assembly while the more Southern were allowed but two we have made the most diligent enquiry into the grounds and reasons upon which this pretended Priviledge is founded and upon an impartial Examination find it rather to be of late usurped than supported by any reason of right or law subsisting for that purpose a state of which we now lay before your Excellency.

After the Charter granted by King Charles to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina they formed several Constitutions or Rules of Government wherein (inter alias) It was provided that the lands should be laid off into Counties each county to be a seperate Government and a Proprietor

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or his Deputy to have the Government of it But still the whole eight Counties to be under the Government of the Eight Proprietors accordingly the first Government or County was that of Clarendon County on Cape Fear River so called from the Earl of that Title first mentioned in the Charter the second was that of Albemarle from the duke of that name next in the Charter and it is to be remarked that the Deed of Grant to this County so highly valued by the Inhabitants of it and upon which so great a stress is laid with regard to his Majesty rents was directed to Samuel Stephens Governour of our above County of Albemarle and the seal of that County Government (used as the seal of North Carolina untill the King's purchase) had together with the arms of the eight Proprietors the word Albemarle in capitals fixed between the Coats.

As each County was by the constitution mentioned to be a Government so each County was to be subdivided into four Precincts and each precinct to send five Representatives to the General Assembly whereby the Number of Representatives for each of these small Governments was to be Twenty those to be chosen Biennially.

These Constitutions were for some time the rules of Government as may be seen by the Publick Transactions of the Assembly or Palatines Court to which every Member was to sign before his admission however some things in them seeming to differ with the peoples pretence of Titles to Lands by virtue of the Deeds of Grant with other objections was the reasons why they were never fully received but always signed with some exceptions and at last formally renounced by the people and the Proprietors themselves. But at the same time the Assembly made an Act called the Biennial Act wherein the substance of those parts of the Constitutions relating to Parliaments or Assemblys were contained by virtue of which the Assembly consisted of Twenty Members untill the addition of the Southern Counties which increased their Number

About this time the Government came to be distinguished by the name of North Carolina from a Settlement made at Ashly River and increasing Southerly by persons on Pamplico River and the parts adjacent that was called Bath County from one of the Lords of that name allowed to send two Members to the Assembly increased the number to Twenty two and so continued till about the year 1706 or 1707 when this County was subdivided into Two Precincts But the Northern Members not consenting to any more than two Members for a Southern Precinct the number amounted to but Twenty Four.

Since which time several new Precincts to the Southward have been made which as their Inhabitants increased were also allowed to send two Members by which means and the addition of Four Towns the Number

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of Representatives at length amounted to Fifty of which that House at present consists.

From this short view of the Facts it appears plain to us the Inhabitants of Albemarle County formerly so called could plead no manner of right to the Priviledge but by virtue of the Biennial Law before mentioned while it subsisted which Law his Majesty having graciously thought fit to repeal that also vanishes.

Wherefore it is unanimously our humble opinion and advice to your Excellency on these heads

That your Excellency would be pleased to join with his Majesty's Council in soliciting the repeal of the Law before mentioned whereby it is thought the Courts of Justice Offices and Records of the Government are obliged to be kept at Edenton and an order procured for a more central and more proper place for these purposes as well for the greater ease and conveniency of his Majestys now numerous subjects of the Southern parts of the Province as to methodize and bring into order the several Offices and Branches of the Government now in Great confusion.

That in as much as by a Law passed by your Excellency in 1738 the whole province was divided into Counties and Offices appointed more agreeable to the Law and Practices of Great Britain and whereas the necessity of Publick affairs such as the sinking the Bills of Credit now near expiring with other matters of moment may induce your Excellency to a speedy calling a new Assembly that your Excellency would be pleased to issue precepts for the Election of two Members only for each County in the Province to the end that the Inhabitants in all and every of them may be more equally represented and the business of the Province carried on with less tumult clamour and Disorder than has for some time heretofore been practised.