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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Preface to Volume 4 of the Colonial Records of North Carolina
Saunders, William Laurence, 1835-1891
Volume 04

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The fourth volume covers the period of Governor Johnston's administration, the longest known in the annals of North Carolina.

Governor Gabriel Johnston, the successor of Burrington, was a Scotchman by birth, and received his education in the University of St. Andrews. He also spent a few years in studying medicine, after which, still in early manhood, he was made professor of the oriental languages in St. Andrews. Later still, he removed to London, where he employed himself as a political writer with such effect that he was appointed Governor of North Carolina, Spence Compton, Baron of Wilmington, being his chief patron.

His administration began on the 2d November, 1734, when he took the oaths of office at Brunswick, and continued till his death, which occurred on 17th July, 1752.

Unlike his immediate predecessors, Governor Johnston was neither a profane man nor a drunkard, and he has come down to us with the enviable reputation of having done more to promote the prosperity of the colony than perhaps all the other colonial governors put together.

One of our historians goes so far as to say that he deserved the gratitude of every citizen of North Carolina as a statesman, a scholar and a patriot. Another lauds him as a general benefactor of the province and its special patron of learning, declaring that he was so earnest in his efforts to advance the cause of education that he urged its importance upon every Legislature during his stay here. A still later writer says he was the ablest of all the colonial governors, not less distinguished for his energy and prudence than for his extensive classical and scientific attainments. Chalmers, who lived nearer to his time than any other historian, says “he was a man of sufficient knowledge and prudence, but whose experience degenerated a little into cunning.”

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It may well be doubted, however, in view of the facts now presented, whether his enviable reputation has a sure foundation. The fact that his brother was the founder of a distinguished and influential family, and that a noted fort and a prominent county in the State have borne his name, and the further fact that the province grew and thrived greatly during his administration, have doubtless had much to do with creating and perpetuating a favorable public opinion in regard to him. But the fact that a county was named after him proves nothing, unless it be that our ancestors were wise in their day and generation, for every royal Governor, save Burrington, was thus honored, just as in the days of the Proprietary Government, the Lords Proprietors were the recipients of such honors. At the breaking out of the Revolution there were four counties in North Carolina named after Royal Governors, viz: Johnston, Dobbs, Tryon and Martin. Wake county, too, may almost be put in the same list, for it was named after Esther Wake, a sister of Governor Tryon's wife. In the course of time, after the Revolutionary fever had reached its height, Dobbs and Tryon counties disappeared, Glasgow and Lenoir in the east and Lincoln and Rutherford in the west taking their places. Wake county came very near sharing the same fate, but when the proposition was made in the Legislature to change its name, it was replied that the county was named after a woman who was as charming in manner as lovely in person, and with one consent, our gallant ancestors declared the name should remain, and it is to be hoped it will ever remain as a memorial, not only of the beauty and attractions of Esther Wake, but of the gallantry of our forefathers.

Neither does the fact that the province advanced rapidly and steadily during his administration prove anything, if it be remembered that the province had already entered upon and was well on the way in a career of prosperity before he landed upon our shores. And in the matter of his efforts to advance the cause of education, the truth seems to be that in all the years he was Governor of the province, Governor Johnston called the attention of the Legislature to the subject only one time—an effort that, made shortly after his arrival, seems to have exhausted his interest in the subject.

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Indeed, so far as now appears, if he had any influence whatever upon the province it was to retard its growth. His intentions doubtless were good, and his motives pure enough, but he was exceedingly arbitrary, not to say unscrupulous, in his methods. In one case, according to his own admission, he sought to procure the passage of a bill he favored by calling the Legislature together at a time and place that would prevent its opponents from being present, and, he significantly adds, “some of the most troublesome leading men were prevailed upon to be absent;” but it was all in vain. At another time, using similar means in behalf of another measure, he was more successful, but the “management,” as he called it, was so glaring that the Crown refused to accept the fruits of it, though much desired and much to its advantage.

At still another time, when he wished to move the seat of government from Brunswick to Newton, the place he afterwards named Wilmington, in honor of his patron, the Earl of Wilmington, his course was equally arbitrary, to call it by no harsher name. There were eight members of the Upper House, four of whom voted against the bill for the removal, and four, including the presiding officer, voted for it. The presiding officer, Chief Justice Smith, claimed the right to give a casting vote, and having done so, that is to say, having voted twice in favor of the bill, declared it had passed, and sent it to the Governor. The Governor, thereupon, formally gave his assent to the bill, and announced that he would regard all bills passed in that way as being legally enacted.

At still another time, when he wished to save Chief Justice Smith from impeachment and trial for malfeasance in office, he induced members of the Legislature to absent themselves, and then a quorum not being present he dissolved the Legislature for want of a quorum and sent the members home.

In spite of all his “management,” however, he seems to have been but little if any more successful in controlling the Legislatures of his day than were his predecessors, and was in favor neither with the people in the province nor the government at home in England. One of his first acts as Governor was to initiate a bitter quarrel with the leading men of the Cape Fear on the subject of the Blank Patents, as they were called, in which he alleged that the grossest fraud had been perpetrated. Later,

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his quarrel was with the Albemarle counties, in which he sought to deprive them of the greater part of their representation in the Legislature. He quarrelled also with McCulloh, the Receiver General. In turn, Corbin, the agent of Lord Granville, Child, the Attorney General, and others, backed by Dobbs, afterward Governor, and others, preferred charges of various sorts against him before the government authorities in England. The Board of Trade, too, constantly complained that he was negligent and remiss in his duty as Governor, especially in the matter of correspondence.

Governor Johnston was doubtless well enough versed in the learning of the books, and doubtless, too, he was not unacquainted with the learning so easily to be acquired in London under Walpole's administration, as to the “management” of legislative bodies. It not unfrequently happens, however, that a mere scholar is unfitted to grapple with the practical details of daily life. Especially is a mere theorist unfitted to solve the problems that constantly present themselves in frontier life. Had Johnston been a practical man, he would have seen the importance of answering the queries annually propounded to him by the Board of Trade as to the material condition of the province, its resources and development, and we would not have been left so much to conjecture in that regard. Had he been a man of practical business capacity, he would certainly have collected money enough to pay his own salary and the salary of the other officers of the Government. As it was, when he died his salary was thirteen years in arrears—years during which the province had grown greatly in wealth and population. His salary was £1,000 per annum, and he might have paid himself out of the Quit Renis under his Instructions if he had collected them. Had he been a practical man, he would have counted the cost, to say nothing of the chances of success, before entering upon a quarrel like that with the northern counties, the outcome of which he ought to have known would be confusion and anarchy, if not open insurrection, that he was helpless to suppress. But counting the cost and weighing chances of success, he seemed to think not worth considering. Sharp practice, intrigue, “management,” as he termed it, and the manifold devices of a cunning nature, were much more to his taste. But they availed not

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with a people who “could neither be outwitted nor cajoled, and who always behaved insolently to their Governors.”

But what better could have been expected from a man who, going from the atmosphere of a Scotch University to that of a London political writer at a time when political writings were characterized by “equal animosity and argument,” was suddenly transplanted to the wilds of America and made Governor not because of his fitness for the place, but as a reward for his vigor or his zeal in the defence of his patron?

In a word, our present knowledge of the condition of the province during his administration does by no means justify the impression that he exerted any influence for good on its destinies. Nor does it increase our respect for him as a man, after bringing about a deplorable state of affairs, to find him complaining to the authorities in England, that without help from there he could not much longer maintain even the semblance of a government, a complaint that he had occasion to make more than once during his administration. Nor does it improve one's regard for his memory to find him abusing, as “wild and barbarous,” the people he could not mould to his will.

It is difficult to believe, too, that a man could have exercised a controlling influence in a province without leaving some record showing the fact. Governor Johnston left no such record. In none of the many papers he wrote during the eighteen years he was Governor is there anything by which we may form an estimate of the population of the province or its material growth. Happily, Burrington and Dobbs left us information by which its condition at the beginning and at the end of Johnston's administration may be known.

Of his quarrel about the Blank Patents, that with the northern counties, that with McCulloh, and those about the currency, the King's Quit Rents, about the Chief Justice, about the removal from Brunswick to Wilmington, the records are full enough, but nowhere do we find a word from him to show the condition of the agricultural, commercial or manufacturing interest of the province, and but once any reference to the great tide of population that was so rapidly filling up the western section of the province. In this regard he was inferior to Burrington, and greatly inferior to both Dobbs and Tryon. It may be that, in the later years of his life,

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his mind grew weak, as it was said, but that was no excuse for his inefficiency in the early years of his administration.

But, perhaps after all, Governor Johnston's great fault was not that of the individual, but the fault of the age in which he lived, an age that regarded a province simply as a mine, to be worked solely for the profit of its owner, the King. Accordingly, never during his whole administration did he seem to think the colonist subjects had any rights that he, as the King's representative, was bound to respect, and so, when he found upon his arrival in the country that of all of the proprietary statutes only six had been confirmed by the Lords Proprietors, as had been required by a practically dead provision of the law, he proceeded to declare all of the unconfirmed laws to be null and void wherever, in his opinion, trenching upon the King's prerogative. To promote the interest of the King and to magnify his prerogative, seemed to have been the mainspring to every action during his administration. Many masters doubtless have had more discreet servants, but none one more zealous than was Johnston.


In 1735, was run the first or eastern part of the boundary line between North and South Carolina. It began at the mouth of Little River, on the seashore, thirty miles below the mouth of Cape Fear River, and was extended in a northwest direction 64½ miles, to a point two miles northwest of one of the branches of Little Pedee. In 1737, the line was extended in the same direction 22 miles, to a stake in a meadow, erroneously supposed to be at the point of intersection with the 35th parallel of north latitude. The Commissioners on the part of North Carolina were Robert Halton, Eleazer Allen, Mathew Rowan, Edward Moseley and Roger Moore.

In 1738, the act was passed appointing sheriffs in the place of the marshal and his deputies in the province, directing the mode of choosing them and prescribing their duties, and providing that the precincts should be called counties.

In September, 1739, “Dugald McNeal, Col. McAlister and several other Scotch gentlemen,” arrived with three hundred and fifty Scotch people, doubtless in the Cape Fear country, and, in 1740, at the ensuing

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session of the Legislature, made application for substantial encouragement, that they might be able to induce the rest of their friends and acquaintances to come over. Upon reading the petition, the Upper House came to the following resolutions, viz.:

Resolved that the Persons mentioned in the said Petition, shall be free from payment of any Publick or County tax for ten years next ensueing their Arrival.

Resolved that towards their subsistance the sum of one thousand pounds be paid out of the Publick money, by his Excellency's warrant to be lodged with Duncan Campbell, Dugald McNeal, Daniel McNeal, Coll. McAlister and Neal McNeal Esqrs to be by them distributed among the several families in the said Petition mentioned.

Resolved that as an encouragement for Protestants to remove from Europe into this Province, to settle themselves in bodys or Townships, That all such as shall so remove into this Province, Provided they exceed forty persons in one body or Company, they shall be exempted from payment of any Publick or County tax for the space of Ten years, next ensueing their Arrival.

Resolved that an address be presented to his Excellency the Governor to desire him to use his Interest, in such manner, as he shall think most proper to obtain an Instruction for giveing encouragement to Protestants from foreign parts, to settle in Townships within this Province, to be set apart for that purpose after the manner, & with such priviledges and advantages, as is practised in South Carolina.

The Lower House concurred with the several resolves of the Upper House save that relating to the thousand pounds, which was held over till the next Assembly for consideration. This was on the 29th February, 1740. Further consideration was shown to the new comers on the next day by the appointment by the Governor and Council of Duncan Campbell, Dugald McNeil, Dan. McNeil, Col. McAlister and Neil McNeil as magistrates for the county of Bladen, being the first Scotch names that appear in the record of magistrates for Bladen county.

Among other charges brought against the Governor was an inordinate fondness for his brother Scotchmen, even Scotch rebels. His partiality

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for this latter class of Scotchmen, it was said, was so great, and his lack of joy at the King's “glorious victory at Culloden” was so conspicuous, that he was accused of a want of fealty to the House of Hanover. It was charged, too, that he had dispossessed the poor Palatines of their lands on the Neuse to make room for Scotch rebels. His denial of these charges was very emphatic, and doubtless quite true. But for all this, it is also true, probably, that, like other Scotchmen, he was fond of the people of his native country, and sought to better their condition by inducing them to emigrate to North Carolina; and in this he showed a commendable regard both for his brethren and for the province.

In 1740, England having declared war against Spain, over four hundred men were raised in the Colony, and distributed into four companies for service in the expedition against St. Augustine. Two hundred more could have been easily raised if it had been possible to negotiate bills of exchange so as to get ready money. The troops embarked, some at Cape Fear and some at Edenton. Three of the companies were raised in the northern counties. The Legislature appropriated £1,200 sterling to aid in the expedition. Early in the following year these troops were transported from Florida to Jamaica, and there embarking on board the British fleet, under command of Admiral Vernon, sailed to the harbor of Carthagena, in South America, where they took part in the attack on Fort St. Lazarus.

In 1744, Lord Granville's one-eighth part of Carolina, under the original grants from King Charles, was set off to him by grant from King George, entirely in North Carolina, all that territory lying between the Virginia line on the north and the parallel of 35° 34′ on the south, being thus set off to him. The line ran near or through the old town of Bath, the present towns of Snow Hill and Princeton, along the southern borders of the counties of Chatham, Randolph, Davidson and Rowan, a little below the southern border of Catawba county but not as low down as Lincolnton, and so on west to the Mississippi. In the winter of 1743-'44 the line was run from the coast to the town of Bath, and in the spring of 1746 from Bath to Peter Parker's house, on the west side of Cape Fear River, now the southeast corner of Chatham county. The reason given by the Commissioners for not continuing the line at that

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time (10th April, 1746), was, among others, that it was not then practicable, they said, the country “being very thinly peopled, nor can we be supplied either with corn for the horses or provisions for ourselves and those employed by us there being no inhabitants that can assist us to the west of Saxapahaw River.”

In 1747, several small sloops and barcalonjos crept along the coast from St. Augustine, full of armed men, mostly mulattoes and negroes, their small draught securing them from the attacks of the only ship of war then on our coast. They landed at Ocacock, Core Sound, Bear Inlet and Cape Fear, where they killed several people, burned some ships and small vessels, carried off some negroes and slaughtered a great number of cattle and hogs. These practices were continued all the summer of 1747, and led to the erection of several forts along the coast, one of which, Fort Johnston, still survives.

In 1748, on the 29th September, Samuel Davis, Charles Robinson and Thomas Smith, in behalf of themselves and sundry other inhabitants of the Pedee, exhibited to the Governor and Council a petition setting forth in substance that the inhabitants on the river were some eight hundred to twelve hundred in number, and that the court house of Bladen was about 100 miles from the nearest inhabitant, and the roads at times very bad if not impracticable, and praying that a new county be erected to be called Anson county. The petition was granted and the new county erected, the boundary between it and Bladen being the Little Pedee river, to the head of the main branch of it, and thence a line equi-distant between Haw River and Great Pedee River.


In 1749, on the 11th July, died Colonel Edward Moseley. As has been well said of him,1 : “Of all the men who watched and guarded the tottering footsteps of our infant State, there was not one who, in intellectual ability, in solid and polite learning, in scholarly cultivation and refinement, in courage and endurance, in high Christian morality, in generous consideration for the welfare of others, in all the true merit, in fine, which makes a man among men, could equal Edward Moseley.”

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And yet it is to no one of these qualities, nor to all of them, that the great debt of gratitude North Carolina will ever owe to him is due, but to his undying love of free government, and his indomitable maintenance of the rights of the people. Doubtless no man ever more fully realized than he, that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, nor was there ever upon any watchtower a more faithful sentinel than he. And to him, above all others, should North Carolina erect her first statue, for to him, above all others, is she indebted for stimulating that love of liberty regulated by law, and that hatred of arbitrary government that has ever characterized her people.

In him, arbitrary and oppressive government ever found a bold, prompt and effective opponent. Not a mere brawling demagogue, by any means, but a true patriot, who knew the rights of the people, who knew how to assert them and feared not to do it. Happily for our State, he came to the front in the formative period of her existence, and, so far as her records show, did more than any man ever within her borders to give shape and direction to the character of her people. It was under his lead that the Assembly, in 1716, in a formal resolve, told the Governor and his Council, “that the impressing of the inhabitants or their property under pretence of its being for the public service, without authority from the Assembly, was unwarrantable, and a great infringement of the liberty of the subject.” The man who, at that early day, could formulate that resolve, and the people whose Assembly could fling it in the face of the government, were worthy of each other.

His first appearance upon the records that have come down to us is as a member of the Council in the year 1705, at the meeting at which the county of Bath was divided into three precincts. He was then a house-holder, and the Council met at his house. How long he had been a member of the Council does not appear, this being the first record of that body that has come down to us. From that time to the day of his death he was continuously in the public service, in some high office or employment.

In 1708, he was elected to the Assembly of that year, chosen to decide between the claims of Cary and Glover to the Governorship, and was made Speaker of that body. From that time until 1734, when he became a member of the Council by royal appointment, and as such a

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member of the Upper House of the Legislature, he was almost constantly a member of the Assembly or Lower House, and when a member invariably its Speaker.

He was also Surveyor General of the Colony, and for near twenty years one of the Commissioners in behalf of North Carolina in her famous controversy with Virginia about their boundary line. He was also one of the commissioners that ran the line between North and South Carolina, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and Associate Justice of the General Court of the Province. He was also for many years Public Treasurer. Meanwhile, he was also the foremost lawyer in the Province, and an active member of the vestry in his Parish and ever a friend of learning. The list of books he gave to found a Provincial Library in Edenton is still extant. He was also one of the Commissioners that ran the line between Lord Granville's possessions and the King's domain in the province. His last public service was as a member of the commission to revise the laws of the Province.

Surely, it is no mean tribute to his character that while he was so beloved by the people, that he received through life every possible mark of their regard and confidence, he was so respected by the Government, also, that upon all important occasions, when honesty, ability, and courage, were required, and the interests of the Province were to be subserved, it too, called his services into requisition.

The name of Moseley will never be without honor in North Carolina so long as time and gratitude shall live.


In October, 1749, the line between Virginia and North Carolina was extended from Peter's Creek, where it stopped in 1728, to Steep Rock Creek, a distance of 90 miles. William Churton and Daniel Weldon were the commissioners on the part of North Carolina, and Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson on the part of Virginia. Governor Johnston says “they crossed a large branch of the Mississippi [New River] which runs between the ledges of the mountains, and nobody ever dreamt of before.” It so happens, however, that no record of this survey has been preserved, and we are to-day without evidence, save from tradition, to ascertain the location of our boundary for ninety miles.

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In 1750, by a statute of the British Parliament, the old method of computing time was abolished in all the King's dominions and the new style introduced, under which the years began on the 1st of January instead of the 25th of March. In 1752, the day after the 2d of September was counted the 14th of September, eleven days being omitted.

In 1752, appeared the first printed revisal of the Laws of the Province ever published. The revisal was the work principally of Samuel Swann, Edward Moseley, his colleague on the commission, having died before the completion of the work. The printing was done at New Bern by James Davis, who, in 1749, had carried there the first printing press ever in the province. This revisal was known in common talk in the province as “The Yellow Jacket,” from the color of its covers.


Governor Johnston began the Quit Rent quarrel in less than ninety days after his arrival, by seeking to limit the number of places for the collection of quit rents. The importance of the question at issue will be appreciated when it is remembered that the people of the province did not own their lands in fee simple, as is now the case, but were mere tenants of the Crown, holding the lands upon payment of an annual rent per acre. The people contended that unless they agreed upon a different place, the rents were collectable only upon the land upon which they accrued, and were payable in certain products, or “commoditys,” as they were called, at fixed prices. Governor Johnston held that, as the representative of the King, he had a right to fix not only the place of payment, but how it should be made, and the bill then pending was amended in the Upper House so as to reduce the number of places to four. The House of Burgesses refusing to agree to this view of the case, the bill fell through, and thereupon Governor Johnston issued a proclamation directing where the rents should be collected and the prices at which commodities should be received.

Against this proclamation the House of Burgesses on the 26th February, 1735, made the following respectful protest:

“We are very much concerned to see your Excellency's Proclamation commanding us to pay in Sterling Money or in bills at the difference that your Excellency and Council shall be pleased to assess which we

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humbly conceive is contrary to our Laws Customs and even to the conditions of the grand Deed and must inevitably terminate in the ruine of many of the Inhabitants of this Province both with respect to the manner of Collecting the rents and the distresses that may ensue thereupon.

“Wherefore we humbly pray your Excellency would be pleased to Issue out a proclamation directing the Officers who are appointed to Collect the quit rents to proceed in the said Collections according to the Laws and Customs of this Province and that no distress may be made upon his Majesties poor tenants contrary to the same untill a Law shall be passed directing some other method for collecting the said rents more agreeable to his Majesties Instructions and as much as may be for the ease of his Majesties Tenants which we were in hopes would have been done by the Bill We offered this Session and that your Excellency would be pleased to give a further time for the payment of arrears which does not become due by any default of the Tenants refusing to pay those rents but in the officers neglecting to collect the same.”

The protest had no effect, however, and the Governor's officers proceeded to demand the rents as directed in the proclamation, and to distrain for them when not paid. Thereupon ensued what the Governor called “great confusion and disorder.” On the 7th October, 1736, the Legislature having again met, the House of Burgesses presented the following address to the Governor, viz.:

“We the Members of the Lower House of Assembly humbly beg leave to lay before your Excellency the several grievances represented to us by the Committee appointed for that purpose which are in the words following (vizt)

“On reading the Petition of Perquimons, Bertie and other Precincts and also several other informations complaining of the illegal Proceedings and methods of collecting & receiving the Quit rents, it appears to this Committee, that the Collectors or receivers, have compelled the Inhabitants of this Province, who hold their Land by Grants from the late Lords Proprietors, to carry their Quit rents to certain places appointed, tho' such rents were only demandable and payable on the Lands for which they were due, and had by custom time out of mind been received by the Collectors at the People's respective dwelling Houses; and that they

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then and there exacted and received, seven for one, contrary to the Laws of this Province, and by distress levyed on such as did not bring their rents to the Places so appointed eight for one, with extravagant Charges; It is therefore resolved, and it is the opinion of this Committee, that such Proceedings are illegal and oppressive.”

The Governor paying no attention to this respectful address, and his officers continuing to distrain for the rents, the Assembly ordered the officers into custody.

Thereupon, as the record states, “His Excellency being now come to the Upper House, and having sent a message to command the immediate attendance of the House of Burgesses, they not paying obedience thereto, His Excellency was pleased to send another message to them; but they still neglecting to give their attendance, His Excellency then by and with the advice and consent of His Majesty's Council, prorogued the General Assembly to the first day of March next, then to meet at Newbern.”

But putting an end to the Legislature did not reconcile the people to the collection of the quit rents at unlawful places. Some months thereafter, in 1737, at the General Court at Edenton, a man was imprisoned for insulting the marshal in the execution of his office during the sitting of the Court, and the people of Bertie and Edgecombe precincts, hearing that he was imprisoned about his quit rents, rose in arms to the number of 500, and marched within five miles of the town, intending to rescue him by force, in the meantime cursing the King and uttering a great many rebellious speeches. By this time the man had made his peace with the Court, and the crowd learning the truth, dispersed without doing any mischief, threatening, however, “the most cruel usage to such persons as durst come to demand any quit rents of them for the future,” and the Governor goes on to say further, “how to quell them I cannot tell if they should attempt an insurrection against next collection. ∗ ∗ The people seem here to be persuaded that they may do what they please, and that they are below the notice of the King and his ministers, which makes them highly insolent. They never were of any service to the Lords Proprietors, and if something is not speedily done to convince them that his Majesty will not be so used, I am afraid they will be of as little profit to the Crown.”

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This state of things continued until 1739, when the Governor, having become convinced that the collection of the quit rents was impossible except in a way satisfactory to the people, a bill was permitted to pass the Legislature to which all parties agreed.

From the Governor's representation regarding this bill, it would seem that it was also passed in part, at least, by “management,” that is to say, in consideration of an abatement of his demands in the matter of Blank Patents set forth in the bill. He seems, too, to have thought he had overreached the Assembly in the prices at which the commodities agreed upon were rated; at least, he represented to the Board of Trade that the rates were fixed so much below their real value that none of them would be offered in payment. A great concession was that the bill contained a provision, whereby the power of fixing the value of paper money was given to a committee consisting of the Governor and Council and the Attorney General and Receiver General on the one side, and an equal number of the House of Burgesses on the other. Another great concession was as to the number of places at which payment might be made, which he said “it could have been wished were fewer in number, but there was no possibility of avoiding it.” The next year, 1740, the Crown disallowed the Act, on the ground that the vesting the power to regulate the price of money “in any person whatsoever, might be of dangerous consequence, and highly prejudicial to the trade of the nation.”

In 1741, an attempt was made to pass a new Quit Rent Law, but although, as the Governor said, “the Assembly was called in the most southern part of the Province on purpose to keep at home the Northern Members who were most numerous and from whom the greatest opposition was expected and some of the most troublesome leading men were prevailed upon to be absent,” he was obliged to prorogue the Legislature without accomplishing anything.

At the next session of the Legislature, 1744, the Committee on Propositions and Grievances reported, on 29th November, the following resolution, in which the House concurred, viz.:

“Resolved by this Committee that no produce of this province being accepted in payment of quit rents of late years nor the current bills at less than 10 for 1 which is equal to sterling money as this from the

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great scarcity of silver and gold puts it entirely out of the power of the greatest part of the inhabitants of this province to pay their quit rents being contrary to the Grand Deed and also a law of this province is a Very great grievance.”

On the 4th December the Governor prorogued the Legislature. In April of next year, 1745, the Legislature met again, but neither side was in better temper than when they parted. In his opening address, the Governor reviled the Assembly for having passed no bills at the last session, and informed them that he had “orders from His Majestie and Lord Carteret to insist on their passing a quit rent law.” The Assembly replied that they had “frequently in former Assemblys had under their consideration matters of consequence recommended by his Excellency but had been unhappily prevented from doing anything therein with effect by unexpected dissolutions and prorogations,” and no quit rent law was passed.

In 1746, in June, the Assembly again declared the refusal to receive “commoditys” in payment of quit rents to be a very great grievance. After this session, the northern counties were not represented in the Legislature during Johnston's administration, and in April, 1749, the Governor succeeded in passing a quit rent law, but in the condition the province was from that time to the end of his administration, it could not have accomplished much.


His quarrel with the Albemarle or northern counties and its consequences deserve a more extended notice, if for no other reason, to show into what gross and unpardonable errors historians can fall upon the most important points. When Governor Johnston came to North Carolina, the precincts of Albemarle county sent five members each to the Lower House of the Legislature, while the precincts of Bath, that is to say, the newer precincts, sent only two. Of course, this gave the older counties controlling influence in the Assembly. Doubtless this was not an equitable representation, and ought to have been changed if possible, but in a legal and fair way. The Governor, however, determined to bring about the change in his own peculiar way, that is to say, in a manner neither legal nor fair. So he called a session of the Legislature to meet on the

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18th November, 1746, in Wilmington, in the expectation that the northern members would not be there. They were not there, and in their absence he proceeded without a quorum to pass a bill equalizing representation, so that no county, whether new or old, should send more than two representatives to the Assembly. This bill he approved and sent over to England in the ordinary way, as if it had been an Act of a full quorum of a duly constituted Legislature. He afterward ordered an election for new Legislature, to which each county was directed to send two representatives and no more. The result was that the northern counties refused to regard his writs of election, and when they voted, each voter put on his ballot the names of five men agreed upon, and the sheriffs so returned. The Legislature thereupon declared the election void. In consequence of this the northern counties were not represented in the Assembly for eight years, and not being represented there, the people refused to pay taxes, refused to attend the General Courts, in a word refused to obey or regard in any way the authority of what they considered a “rump” Legislature, and were for eight years in a state of defiance, if not insurrection. The southern counties, seeing that the northern counties refused to pay taxes, said it was not fair to make them bear the whole burden of government, and they, too, refused to pay taxes. This was the condition of the province for the last six years of Johnston's administration and for two years after his death, a state of things for which Governor Johnston was undeniably responsible.

In the meanwhile the northern counties sent agents to London to represent matters to the authorities there, and after a full investigation, the Crown disallowed the Act, on the ground that it had been improperly and unfairly obtained, and the order of repeal was brought over by Governor Dobbs. The unequal representation being restored, continued until the Provincial Assemblies of the Revolution came into existence, as appears from the records preserved here from that day to this. To these bodies each county sent five delegates, equality of representation doubtless being considered as a necessary preliminary step to united harmonious action, especially in view of the fact that the bulk of population was then in the west. In spite of the records, both here and in London, the historian Williamson, after reciting the main facts in the case,

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goes on gravely to say: “The Act in question was arbitrary, but no redress was obtained, for the Crown was not used to favour a numerous representation.” Martin, another so-called historian, follows Williamson, and leaves the impression that from 1746, the counties continued to send only two representatives each. Such an error, on so important a point, with such ample means of information at hand, is simply unpardonable. Our trouble has been that neither of our historians was native here, and neither after he came continued here for the remainder of his life, his residence in North Carolina being, so to speak, a mere episode in his life. The result was that neither Williamson nor Martin availed himself even of the scanty means of information in his reach.

When Governor Johnston undertook forcibly and fraudulently to deprive the northern counties of the greater part of their representation in the Legislature, he had been Governor of the province for twelve years, and he must have studied the people over whom he ruled those twelve years to but little purpose if he supposed they would submit to a deprivation of their rights, either by force or by fraud. He must have known, too, that if they did not choose to submit, he was utterly without power to compel them to do so; but in spite of everything, and seemingly regardless of consequences, he pursued a policy that resulted in an open defiance of the law, that he dared not even to attempt to punish. Such a state of things probably never existed in any other province for such a length of time—open, bold resistance and defiance of the constituted authorities for eight years, without an attempt even to enforce obedience.


The population of North Carolina at the beginning of Johnston's administration was near 50,000 in all, and at the close it was somewhere about 90,000, that is to say, just about double the number usually given. Of course this great addition was made up from immigration as well as from natural increase. This immigration came in part from adjacent Virginia counties, covering the northern border generally, west of the Chowan. These immigrants simply followed the tributaries of the Chowan and the Roanoke rivers in their search for “bottom land;” other immigrants came from the adjacent South Carolina counties,

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covering our southern border, generally west of the Lumber river. They also followed the streams. Notable among these were the settlers on the Pedee river, for whose convenience the Governor and Council erected the county of Anson. The great bulk of the immigration, however, came from the northward, principally from Pennsylvania.

On the 15th February, 1751, Governor Johnston wrote to the Board of Trade that inhabitants flocked in daily, mostly from Pennsylvania and other parts of America already overstocked with people, and some directly from Europe. Many thousand people, he said, had then come in, settling mainly in the west, so that they had nearly reached the mountains.

On the 28th June, 1753, President Rowan wrote, that in the year 1746 he was in the territory composing the counties of Anson, Orange and Rowan, and there were then not above one hundred fighting men in all that country; whereas, at the time he wrote, there were at least three thousand, mostly Irish Protestants and Germans, and their numbers were daily increasing. At these figures this new population must have numbered near twenty thousand. In 1776, their settlements had extended beyond the present State limits.

The route that these immigrants from Pennsylvania took to reach their future homes in North Carolina is plainly laid down on the maps of that day. On Jeffreys' map, a copy of which is in the Congressional Library at Washington City, there is plainly laid down a road called “the Great Road from the Yadkin River thro' Virginia to Philadelphia, distant 435 miles.” It ran from Philadelphia through Lancaster and York to Winchester, thence up the Shenandoah Valley, crossing the Fluvanna River at Looney's Ferry, thence to Staunton River and down the river through the Blue Ridge, thence southward, crossing Dan River below the mouth of Mayo River, thence still southward near the Moravian Settlement to the Yadkin River, just above the mouth of Linville Creek and about ten miles above the mouth of Reedy Creek.

Remembering the route General Lee took when he went into Pennsylvania on the memorable Gettysburg campaign, it will be seen that very many of the North Carolina boys, both of German and Scotch-Irish

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descent, in following their great leader, visited the homes of their ancestors, and went thither by the very route by which they came away. To Lancaster and York counties, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina owes more of her population than to any other known part of the world, and surely there was never a better population than they and their descendants—never better citizens, and certainly never better soldiers. It was by men largely of Pennsylvania birth that the Mecklenburg Declaration was promulgated, and the record of their descendants shows them to be worthy sons of noble sires.


The following is a brief statement of the condition of the currency of the province during Governor Johnston's administration:

In 1735, by act of Assembly, bills for £40,000 to be exchanged for the bills issued in 1729. Not a legal tender at any rated exchange.

In the same year, bills for £10,000 for the more immediate discharge of the public debts, not issued at any rated exchange, but for the payment of them a poll tax was laid. The rate of exchange in 1739 was 1000 per cent., and there was outstanding about £50,000.

The above seem to have been redeemed by bills for £21,350 issued in 1747, of which £189.13.3 in April, 1749, and £513.12.0 were burned in April, 1750, leaving in circulation £20,646.14.0 proclamation money, equal to £15,485.1.0 sterling money. These bills maintained the value they were issued at as late as 29th September, 1850.


No question seems to have arisen during Johnston's administration as to the right of the House of Burgesses to control the purse strings—about the only trouble that he seems to have avoided. But that the people for eight years refused to recognize, in any way, the authority of the government under which they lived, because they were not represented in its Legislature, is evidence enough that even at that day they were fully inspired with the principles that underlaid the great American revolution, and foreshadowed plainly enough what their course would be in that great struggle.


1 A Study in Colonial History. Hon. George Davis.