Of course, as we have seen, Governor Dobbs and the Assembly did not continue on good terms, for in spite of the friendly professions and complimentary expressions with which they set out, it was, in the nature of things, simply impossible for a royal Governor and the Provincial Legislature to work together in harmony.
Under the rule of the Lords Proprietors, the people of North Carolina were confessedly “the freest of the free,” and their legal status in this respect was due, in their opinion, to the royal Charter under which the Colony had its rise and got its growth. To them, Magna Charta, “the great charter,” was not the one granted by King John to the English Barons at Runnymede, but the one granted by Charles the Second to the Lords Proprietors of the Province of Carolina. The liberties, franchises and privileges of Englishmen claimed and enjoyed as a matter of right by our ancestors belonged to them, in their opinion, not because they were Englishmen, indeed for that matter they were not all Englishmen, but because they were inhabitants of Carolina—all of whom were guaranteed the liberties, franchises and privileges of English subjects by the Charter in question. In like manner, as St. Paul boasted of the vantage ground he occupied by virtue of his Roman citizenship, so our ancestors claimed, that, as inhabitants of Carolina, they too occupied a vantage ground peculiarly their own, and of which they could not be lawfully deprived without their own consent; that they occupied this vantage ground not by virtue of an unalienable manhood birth-right, not by English birth-right, nor yet by any right as Americans, or as Colonists, but solely and selfishly as it were by virtue of their chartered rights as inhabitants of Carolina, rights to which the inhabitants of other soils could lay no more claim than could the Gentiles of old lay claim to Jewish rights and privileges;
Unhappily, however, for the Province, the views of its inhabitants were not those of the British King, and what was, perhaps, of more practical importance, were not those of British business men. As has been pointed out before, the British theory was, that the Colonies were permitted for the benefit of the Crown and the mother country; that to this end, that is to say, to increase the revenues of the Crown and to promote the business interests of England, agriculture, manufactures and trade were all to be controlled by such “appropriate legislation” as might seem requisite; in a word, that the Colonies had neither rights nor interests that the Crown or the mother country must regard. It was also pointed out how difficult it was to put in practice such a theory in a Province that had always lived and had its being under chartered rights, and that in
Two weeks had not elapsed after the first royal Governor met the first Provincial Assembly summoned by royal writ, before the issue was squarely made, and the Governor officially notified by formal resolution in writing, duly signed by the Speaker, that “by the Royal Charter granted by King Charles the Second, to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, it is granted that the inhabitants of this Province shall have, possess and enjoy all Libertys, Franchises and Privileges as are held, possest and enjoyed in the Kingdom of England.” For this declaration, the Assembly was first showered with abusive epithets, then prorogued and finally dissolved by His Majesty's representative, Governor Burrington, and for two years afterward no other Assembly was allowed to meet.
So much for the struggle of the inhabitants of North Carolina under the first royal Governor for the rights “possest and enjoyed in the Kingdom of England,” rights that for them had the special sanction of a formal charter. Under the first Governor, the struggle was sharp and short, if not decisive. Under the second, it was quite as sharp, much more decisive and very long drawn out, but all the while it was the same old story, iterum et iterum, a contention for the rights possessed and enjoyed in the Kingdom of England, because they were guaranteed to them by the Charter of Charles.
Arthur Dobbs was the third royal Governor, and the struggle between him and the Assembly for the maintenance of the chartered rights of the people is now for consideration. Governor Dobbs, like other Colonial Governors, thought he was, or, at least, ought to be, the Province, and felt that just so far as he was thwarted by the Assembly, he, and through him the King, was wronged; in a word, that the Assembly, though in form representing the people, was, in fact, intended to be only a piece of machinery for carrying into effect the will of the King as declared through the Governor. The Assembly, on the other hand, thought the people possessed rights that not only the Governor but even the King himself was bound
With such widely divergent views about the powers of the government, of which, as we would say in this day, they were co-ordinate branches, serious friction was inevitable. That Governor Dobbs recognized this divergence of opinion, is evident from his declaration that the Province was notorious for its republican sentiments, and from a still later declaration, that it was necessary to garrison Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear River, and Fort Granville at Ocacock, to put down the spirit of republicanism in the Province, and from the further fact that all the while from the time he got well under way, he complained of systematic efforts on the part of the Assembly to engross power into their own hands at the expense of the King and his prerogative. With Governor Dobbs' views in the premises, it was not surprising that these efforts should seem to him both republican and unlawful, as well as systematic, intelligent and persistent, and that he should appeal to the King “to strengthen his hands to oppose and suppress a republican spirit of independence rising in the Colony,” nor was it surprising, on the other hand, with their views, that the Assembly should “think themselves entitled to all the privileges of a British House of Commons, and therefore ought not to obey His Majesty's Honorable Privy Council further than the Commons do in England or Ireland, or submit to his Majesty's instructions to his Governor and Council here.”
The Province, too, was still suffering grievously from the effects of ill-government, and with its revenues and finances generally in a
Remembering, therefore, the views of North Carolina Assemblies, and their usual mode of enforcing them, it was idle to hope for harmony. In this state of affairs, it was the obvious policy of Governor Dobbs to render himself independent of the Province, if possible, for if not master, he must be servant. He very much preferred to be master, and so the old struggle renewed itself. How it progressed, the incidents related in the following pages will show in some sort.
A frequent and ever recurring cause of disagreement between Governor Dobbs and the Assembly, was the appointment of an Agent to look after the affairs of the Province before the various government boards in London, from the Privy Council down.
That the Governor and the Assembly should each greatly desire to have the appointment, and as a matter of course in consequence thereof the control of this Agent, was but natural, as upon his representations and statements in great degree depended the fate of measures pending before the authorities in London relating to the Province.
To appreciate the importance of the Agent's position it must be remembered that the Crown had the right to pass upon all the acts of the Legislature, and to repeal or “disallow” such as might for any reason seem inexpedient. The proceedings in the case were, in brief, as follows, viz.: The act was, in the first instance, sent by the Governor to the Secretary of State for America, by whom it was laid
A cause of irreconcileable quarrel with the Assembly was about the right to appoint the public treasurers of the Province.
At an early day, a public treasurer, by whatever name called, whether receiver-general, tax-collector, treasurer to the Province, or simply public treasurer, became a public necessity, and, as a matter of course, the office grew in importance and influence as the taxes increased. Jealous of authority in general, especially jealous of executive authority, and with a quick eye to the main chance, the Assembly soon succeeded in getting the benefit of the treasurer's influence by securing the control of his appointment, and certainly if, as they contended, to them belonged the power over the purse of the Province, the appointment of the keeper of the purse also belonged to them. The Governor, however, denied the claim of the Assembly, both as to the purse and its keeper. The Lords of the Board of Trade, the Governor's official superiors in England, told him plainly that whatever might have been the merits of the question, as an original proposition it was then too well settled that the Assembly had the right to appoint the treasurer to think of attempting
Another protracted fight was about the disposal of the dividend coming to North Carolina from the appropriations made by the British Parliament, for the reimbursement of the Colonies for their expenditures in the war against the French and Indians. One of these grants was for £50,000, to be divided between Virginia and the two Carolinas. Another was for £200,000 and to enure to the benefit of all the Colonies. This fund belonged not to the Governor but to the Province, and could not regularly be drawn upon, so Governor Dobbs said, except by the joint authority of the Governor, Council and Assembly. North Carolina, in view of her generous, not to say extravagant expenditures in aid of the war, some £66,000, of which more than half was for services outside of the Province, naturally expected a large dividend. In this, however, she was sorely disappointed, as the Assembly affirmed, by reason of not having an Agent in London to present the proper documents and make proper representation of her action in the premises; and that she had no Agent there, the Assembly further affirmed, was due to the persistent refusal of the Governor to approve a bill appointing one, unless one Mr. Smith, his private attorney, was therein named as the Agent.
The Governor's purpose, it seems, was to keep the fund arising from these Parliamentary grants as a sort of contingent fund for executive use, to render himself independent of the Assembly. By drawing on this fund at will, in spite of the fact that by the acts of Parliament creating it, the Assembly was to have a voice in its disposal, he was enabled to enlarge appropriations without the consent of the Assembly, that is to say, by giving orders to the General Commanding payable out of the dividend coming to North Carolina, to pay and feed her troops under his command. Thus when our troops were in New York, in 1756, he sent the General Commanding
For these acts the Governor's excuse was, for the two first, that the condition of the currency rendered it impossible, except at a heavy loss, otherwise to provide for the troops, as experience had proved. Driving cattle to the scene of action, and buying produce of any kind for shipment to the West Indies or elsewhere, to purchase current bills of exchange, had not only proved costly and unprofitable, but had given color at least to the oft made charge, that ample appropriations had been wastefully and extravagantly, if not corruptly, expended. As to the last, he said simply, that the troops ought to have been sent, that he had asked the Assembly to make the necessary appropriation and that it had refused to make it. But no matter how honest the Governor's motives may have been in the premises, it is clear he exceeded his authority in thus drawing upon a fund that belonged not to him, but to the Province, and this he admitted when he called attention to the fact that his draft was not “regular.” Of course, no North Carolina Legislature would submit in silence to such an usurpation as that on the part of the Executive, encroaching as it did upon their dearly loved right to control the purse of the Province. And indeed it would be difficult to conceive of an usurpation more glaring.
The result of it all was that Virginia got £32,368 out of the £50,000 appropriation, £20,546 out of the other, £52,914 in all, while North Carolina got only £7,789 in all from that and the £200,000 both put together, a result that by no means tended to create a kindly feeling for the Governor, who was believed to have
The Governor in his dispatches alleged that the proposition of the Assembly covered a huge swindle on the part of the Assembly leaders equal to any in modern times, considering all the circumstances, but in reply the Board of Trade said that his own plan, while seemingly preferable in its purpose, in their opinion, opened the door to frauds of like kind and extent. Possibly, however, neither party intended any wrong.
On 21st February, 1762, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, the General Commanding, made a requisition on Governor Dobbs, in pursuance of orders from the Crown, for 134 men and officers, the officers to be selected by the Governor, to help fill up the royal regiments in America. The Governor had before its receipt ordered a new Legislature, and it met in Wilmington on the 13th April. In reply to the demand for an appropriation for troops, the Assembly said that to add to the present debt would reduce the people to the utmost distress, and that even if that were not so, they had little hope that any appropriation they might make would do the King or the Province any good. Thereupon the Governor prorogued the Legislature until the following day. On the next day the demand for troops was renewed, accompanied by newspapers from Virginia showing that the requisition for the quota from that Province had been complied with “with unanimity, alacrity and dispatch.” The Assembly replied that, impoverished as the Province was by repeated grants for the King's service during the war, it was impossible to
Another cause of frequent trouble between Governor Dobbs and the Legislature, grew out of his fondness for filthy lucre. His first official act, so far as now appears, was to beg the King for an increase of salary, and this importunity in behalf of himself was continued until his death, the act of Assembly regulating official fees in the Province being a lasting eye-sore to him. He complained that as long as this act was in operation, the fees were fixed at the pleasure of the Assembly so that he could neither add to nor diminish them, which he claimed was not only a grievous wrong to himself, but a serious incroachment upon the royal prerogative. Another complaint was that the fees were too low to secure the services of competent officials, the currency in which they were paid being worth one-fourth less than English money, and the produce in the markets very high, for example “beef 2d. per lb, mutton 4d., butter 9d., and other things in proportion, common labor 2 shillings per day
But not only did he seek to increase existing fees, he seemed to be on the lookout to make new ones whenever opportunity offered and he was not expressly forbidden to do so by the words of the fee bill, for example when the acts creating a number of counties and towns were repealed and charters were required to enable them to regain their rights of representation in the Assembly, he straightway proceeded to fix a fee to suit himself although no law authorized him to do so. Also without any authority whatever, he required every vessel before leaving port to get a license from him for which he exacted a fee, fixed as in the other case, to suit himself. And whenever he spoke of such things he gave as his reason or excuse therefor that the Province did not provide for him as it ought to do, that
Of course the old claim of the Assembly to control the purse of the Province, was a fruitful cause of quarrel between the Governor and that body. In this matter the Lords of the Board of Trade sympathized most sincerely with the Governor. They wrote to him that it gave them great concern to see the methods of granting and issuing of public money in the Colonies so very different from the practice in the mother country. But for all that, the Assembly maintained their position in the most open and fearless manner; and well they might, for by this time the right they claimed was an hereditary right, the exercise of which they were born to.
In 1760 they formally declared that it was the indubitable right of the Assembly to frame and model every bill whereby aid was granted to his Majesty, and that every attempt to deprive them of the enjoyment thereof was an infringement of the rights and privileges of the Assembly. And in November, 1764, “taking into consideration his Excellency's speech,” and in reply thereto, the Assembly, with equal formality, entered upon its journals a peremptory
So too, there was a great conflict as to the manner of auditing the public accounts. The instruction of the Crown, under pain of its highest displeasure, to the Governor was, to see that all public accounts should be audited and attested by the King's Auditor-General, and copies thereof sent to England. The practice, however, was for the Treasurer to account with the Assembly through a committee appointed for that purpose, who reported to the House for final action, and this, the Assembly maintained, was agreeable to the laws of the Province, and consonant to constant and uninterrupted usage.
The trouble over the Court Bills, as they were called, that is, the bills proposing to provide a judicial system for the Province, and creating the necessary machinery therefor, seems to have been a premeditated trial of strength on the part of what Governor Dobbs was fond of describing as the “rising spirit of republicanism in the Colony.” Perhaps, however, as we have seen, it would have been more accurate to have attributed the action of the people in the premises not so much to a spirit of republicanism as to a determination to assert the rights of British subjects guaranteed to them by the Charter of Charles and which they were daily in danger of losing.
Hitherto the Judges had been sent from Britain, and had held their offices at the pleasure of the Crown, that is to say, of the Governor, both of which practices were, to put it mildly, unacceptable to the people of the Province. It was conceded on all hands that the nomination and appointment of the Judges was a part of the royal prerogative in England, as well as in the Colony; all, therefore, that could be done to prevent the accustomed importation of Judges, was to provide such qualifications for eligibility to the bench as would practically exclude undesirable persons. Accordingly, in the first court bill, that of 1756, it was provided that no one should be a Judge in the courts then proposed to be established who was
When the bill reached England, and was sent before the Lords of the Board of Trade, the provisions above mentioned seeming without the assistance of an Agent to explain matters, to be “new and unprecedented,” they asked the opinion not only of Sir Matthew Lamb, their “reporting counsel,” but of the newly appointed Provincial Chief Justice Berry, and Attorney General Child, who were both still in England. Each of these officials advised against the act on both points, and it was accordingly disallowed or repealed by the King, and the Governor was ordered for the future not to approve any similar bill. This was in April, 1759.
The Governor, however, it seems, regretted the “hasty repeal” of the act, which he thought was “inadvertently advised” by the Chief Justice and Attorney General, so much so, indeed that upon the advice of the Council he would not publish the King's order in the premises until the Chief Justice and Attorney General could arrive and the Legislature be called together to enact a new bill. The great trouble with him was that the repeal of the Court Bill of 1756 left no law subsisting on the subject but that of 1715, and no place, save Edenton, in an extreme part of the Province, for holding the Courts, and there was such a confusion in the laws before and since 1715 until the late law was made, that neither Judges nor lawyers knew how to act.
The Legislature met in November following and adjourned without having passed a Court Bill, the Council having thrown out two bills from the Assembly because they encroached, it was said, upon the King's prerogative, and because also of the mode prescribed for
On the 24th April, 1760, the Legislature again met, having been called together by the Governor to grant an aid or appropriation desired by the King. The Assembly at once passed still another Court Bill containing the objectionable provisions of the bill of 1756, proposing to force the Governor to approve it or go without the desired appropriation. Accordingly, on the 16th May, the Assembly in a full body waited on the Governor and presented to him a formal address through their Speaker, setting forth that as the Court Bill seemed to them of the first importance to the Province, they had given it precedence over all other business, and that the extreme solicitude of the people for the passage of the bill and their own experience of the evils arising from the want of it, induced them to ask that he would give his immediate assent to it, so that the Assembly might proceed to other business. The Governor refused to make any answer then, further than to say that the proceeding was of such an unusual nature that he would take advice about it, and return a reply in writing that might be entered on the journals of the Assembly. On the next day he sent a message to the Assembly denying the propriety of their course, and asserting that precedence ought to have been given to the Aid Bill, or, at least, that it should have had an equal chance with other bills. Some further correspondence ensued, but without definite result, until the 22d, when the Governor wrote to the Assembly that, seeing they would proceed to no other business until they knew the fate of the Court Bill, he would inform them that if they would pass the Aid Bill and amend the Court Bill, either by striking out the objectionable provisions or inserting a new clause making the bill temporary in its nature, until the King's pleasure might be known, he would approve them. On Saturday the Assembly, in secret session and in committee of the whole House, acting as it were as a grand inquisition for the Province, sat for five hours and made presentment of the grievances
The war was now to the knife and the knife to the hilt and along the whole line.
In reply to the message proposing to amend the Court Bill an address was sent to the Governor declaring his approval of the bill in the shape it then had was an indispensible necessity. The Governor thereupon rejected the bill and prorogued the Legislature until Monday, 26th May. On Monday morning the Governor asked, and was refused, permission to see the minutes of the proceedings of Saturday, and the Legislature having reassembled passed the Aid Bill and also the Court Bill with the temporary clause above referred to and presented them to the Governor, when, strange to say, he approved the Court Bill and rejected the Aid Bill, and straightway prorogued the Assembly until the 9th of September ensuing.
On the next day he wrote a long letter to the Lords of the Board of Trade giving a statement of events up to date, and telling them the kind of treatment the King's Governors would receive if they adhered to his instructions and supported his prerogative; that there would be an end of provincial dependence on Britain if Governors were not supported when they did their duty; that he cared nothing for the secret resolutions, petitions and letters which, though the session was over, were withheld from him, and urging that the Court Bill be rejected by the King.
The reasons assigned by the Governor for refusing to approve the Aid Bill were, in brief, that it was crude and undigested, contained many improper provisions and had been delayed too long to be of any service to the King, and had a “foreign” provision in it for the payment of £500 to an Agent in London. His apology for approving the Court Bill was, in substance, that there was already a great ferment in the Province, and that it would be better to sign the bill for two years than to make the ferment greater at so critical a juncture and that it was an error of judgment committed without any intention of infringing His Majesty's prerogative or of disobeying his
Was there ever a more absurdly inconsequential or illogical ending of so important a contest, a more thorough collapse, in appearance at least? Certainly at this stage of the proceeding the Assembly seemed to have greatly the advantage. The Governor was evidently frightened, evidently in dread of the outcome of that five hours' session, with locked doors and members “tyed” to secrecy by a solemn oath upon pain of expulsion and disfranchisement. And well he might be, for his arraignment by the Assembly was certainly a terrible one, without an equal until that brought against King George at Philadelphia by the United Colonies, on the 4th of July, 1776. There is this notable difference between the two however. That of 1760 ended with an appeal to the King, that of 1776 concluded to the country as was proper and becoming and in the natural order of things. Whatever may be thought of the theory of evolution as applied to the material world, no student of North Carolina history will doubt that North Carolina was a regular, orderly, progressive growth both intelligent and beautiful in its development, the various stages of which are so plain to the nakedest eye that even he who runs may read.
But “he laughs best who laughs last,” was true then, as now, as the Assembly learned to its sorrow.
To this quarrel the Governor seems not to have been a party at the outset; indeed, he seems to have sympathized with the Assembly. At a later period, however, having received a different inspiration from home and a fresh batch of instructions by which he learned that the bill was inimical to the royal prerogative he went into the fight hotly, and doubtless made it warm for those who opposed him. It would seem, too, from the fact that the members of the Council who supported the Governor were denounced as his “pimps and hangers-on,” that the gentlemen on the other side were, perhaps, no more cool in their tempers than careful in the choice of their words.
So the effort failed, and the people of the Province, at the end of six years, found themselves just where they were when they began. Nothing more could be done for the present; every resource had been exhausted, for the time for the bullet and the bayonet had not yet come, though such struggles served to hasten it. So the people, nursing their wrath, and with a bitterness of feeling toward Royalty never before felt, for they had appealed to “the best of kings”
The Tower Hill incident, in its various phases, created much talk and controversy, spreading over the entire period of Governor Dobbs's administration, and even now it is not completely devoid of interest, if for no other reason, because it has been the fashion of “historians” to impute personal corruption to Governor Dobbs in the premises, an imputation that the records seem by no means to justify. The facts in the case appear to be briefly as follows:
The act fixing the seat of Government at New-Bern that was passed in 1746, under Governor Johnston's administration, having been repealed by the Crown, Governor Dobbs was directed, by the 41st article of the instructions he brought over with him, after due consideration, to report to the Lords of the Board of Trade a proper place for a seat of Government that would best answer the needs of the whole Province. For various reasons, New-Bern did not seem to him to be the proper place, the chief one being that in his opinion the capital ought to be somewhere near the centre of the Province, and that the rapidly increasing growth of population to the westward indicated that in common fairness the place selected should be much higher up the country, an opinion that the site of the present capital, near one hundred miles further west than the place he proposed, fully justifies. Accordingly in the Spring, after his arrival, he went from New-Bern up the Neuse to its falls some 100 miles looking for a place the most central and convenient for the above purpose. The place he finally selected was a bluff at Stringer's ferry, on the north side of the river, some 42 miles by land and 50 by water above New-Bern, called Tower Hill, and he made his report to the Board of Trade accordingly on 6th August, 1755. The Board replied that
It is difficult to see in the above any evidence of personal corruption on the part of the Governor. The incident is worthy of notice, too, if for nothing else, to show how slow was the progress of events when provincial legislation was subject to revision and repeal by the authorities in England. This matter, which began in 1746, under Governor Johnston, did not end until 1766, when New-Bern was made the seat of government, and Tryon began to build his famous “palace” at a cost that prevented the Province from rallying from the effects of the war.
The number of members necessary to constitute a quorum of the Assembly also gave rise to much dissension whenever circumstances permitted. The Assembly contended that a majority of all the possible members was necessary to make a quorum. Governor Johnston, in 1746, when he got the bill passed taking away the representation of the Northern counties, contended that a less number would make a quorum, but though the Board of Trade said they were not sufficiently satisfied that a majority was necessary to make a quorum, he was overruled, and the bill, while a desirable one to the Crown,
The act of Assembly of January, 1715, entitled an act for appointing a town in the county of Bath, was long an eyesore to the Governor in that in addition to the special provision authorizing the town of Bath to send a member to the Assembly it contained a general clause by which every town in the Province might send a member as soon as it had sixty families resident therein. This act, so far as appears, was never repealed, and under its authority every town would, from time to time, as it could comply with the requirements, send a member without having a charter from the Crown, and once, as in the case of the town of Halifax, in 1760, without the formality of a writ of election from the Governor, Stephen Dewey, Esq., being the member thus sent. Sometimes, however, as in the case of the town of Brunswick, in 1754, the Legislature would pass a special act authorizing a town to send a member that did not have sixty families resident therein. Brunswick had at that time only twenty families. Wilmington, that had seventy families, was also authorized by a special act of the Legislature to elect a member. In one case, at least, that of Tarboro, in 1772, an effort was made to give a town representation in the Legislature solely by charter from the Governor, but it was not successful, for the Assembly would not allow the applicant, Henry Irwin, Esq., to take his seat, alleging among other things that the town did not have sixty families resident therein.
At another time the conflict, as various in form as irrepressible in nature, was about the appointment of a Public Printer, and took place only a few months before the Governor's death. An Assembly Bill appointing James Davis Public Printer having been killed in the Council sitting as the Upper House, the Governor, by and with the advice of the Council sitting as a Council, appointed Andrew Stewart Printer to his Majesty in the Province, for eighteen months, with orders to print such things as the Printer had been accustomed
The Governor replied that it was the King's “undoubted prerogative to nominate and appoint a Printer to publish his proclamations and orders of government, and to publish his laws, and that the right of the Commons, or Lower House of the Assembly was only to appoint a Printer to publish their votes and resolutions during their sessions,” and again asked for an adequate salary for the new official. He also told them of the pleasure it would give him on going to England to represent to the King the action of the Assembly in a favorable light, and not as encroaching upon his Majesty's just prerogative. The Assembly rejoined, that while insisting upon their right to appoint a Printer for the Province, they would not deny his right to appoint one for the Crown. In spite of his threat, they reminded him, however, that like the right to appoint, the corresponding duty to provide a salary, was also with him; in a word, that the power to appoint, and the duty to pay, lodged together; and as the Assembly controlled the purse-strings, and entered upon their journal a peremptory order that the Speaker should send copies of all laws passed during the session to their own Printer, James Davis, and that the Treasurer should not pay any money out of any
Nor was there any greater harmony in ecclesiastical than in secular affairs. The Church of England was, indeed, the “established” church in the eye of the law, and the Province was divided into parishes, which had the right of taxation to support ministers, build churches and parsonages and buy glebe lands. As a matter of fact, however, that denomination by no means met with universal acceptation among the people, of whom the “Dissenters,” as they were called, of various denominations, constituted a very large proportion. In the Middle and Western portions of the State, during the Dobbs administration, the Presbyterians were largely in the ascendant, and next to them the Lutherans and German Reformed. In many parts of the State, too, the Baptists were to be found in large numbers. In the whole Province there were not more than a half dozen ministers of the Church of England, though there were some twentynine parishes, each county being a parish. And doubtless that Church would not have been established, in name even, had it not been that a number of people, regardless of denominational preferences, thought that the establishment by law of some Protestant denomination was more important than the shades of its creed.
The instructions from the Crown to the Governor were to permit liberty of conscience to all persons except Papists, so as they were contented with a quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same, not giving scandal or offence to the Government; to take especial care that God Almighty be devoutly and duly served; that the Book of Common Prayer, as by law established, be read each Sunday and holiday, and the blessed Sacrament be administered according to the rites of the Church of England; to see that new churches be built and that those already built be cared for, and that for the minister of each orthodox church a house and sufficient glebe should be provided; that no minister be assigned to a parish without a certificate
But it was easier to write instructions in England than to formulate them into satisfactory Church acts in North Carolina, and, even when thus formulated into statutes, experience showed that practically it was simply impossible to have them executed in the parishes when contrary to the wishes of the people.
The following is a brief summary of ecclesiastical legislation during Governor Dobbs's administration:
In January, 1755, an act was passed establishing vestries, making provision for an orthodox clergy, etc., which, having been laid before the Bishop of London, in whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction the Colonies were held to be, was objected to because the vestry of any parish that might be vacant for one year was authorized to procure some other minister to perform divine service once in three months; 2d, that the minister of each parish should be obligated to officiate in such parts of the parish and at such times as the vestry should direct; 3d, that provision was made to punish ministers guilty of notorious immorality. The vestrymen were required by this act to make a declaration that they would conform to the liturgy of the Church of England as by law established. In consequence of the objections, the act was disallowed by the Crown on the 3d of March, 1759.
In May, 1760, two acts which, together aimed at the purposes of the act of 1755, were passed, and, according to custom, referred to the Bishop of London. After consideration of these acts it was objected that they not only revived several of the exceptionable provisions of the repealed law, but in some respects contained matter of new and greater objection, viz.: 1st, that a vestryman was not
The Legislature met again in November, 1762, and once more began to discuss measures for the establishment of vestries and the encouragement of an orthodox clergy. Governor Dobbs informed the Assembly that he would approve none but temporary bills, and them only provided they made the clergyman one of the vestry to preside in its meetings according to his instructions, and provided further, that the choosing of the minister should be given to the Crown.
It seems, however, according to the statement of the Governor, that the bill making provision for the clergy, when presented to him for approval, contained no provision making it temporary in its nature, a fact of which he then first became aware, so that he was constrained, either to pass the bill without a temporary clause, or to deprive the clergy of the salaries allowed them by the bill, so he approved the bill rather than have no established clergy in the Province. When the vestry bill was presented to the Governor for approval, he learned for the first time that it also contained no provision, either to make it temporary in its nature or to make the minister a member of the vestry, and thereupon he rejected it.
The provision made for the orthodox clergy was a salary of £133 6s. 8d. proclamation money, to be paid by the church wardens on or before the last day of June annually, for every minister of a parish; and every such minister was also entitled to take 20s. for marrying, if by license, and 5s. if by banns; for publishing banns and granting certificate thereof, 1s. 6d.; for preaching a funeral sermon, if required, 40s. proclamation money, and he might take the said fees if he had not refused or neglected to do the said services, although the services had been performed by some other person. The glebe was to contain at least 200 acres of good arable land, and upon it were to be erected one convenient mansion house of thirty-eight feet in length and eighteen in width, a kitchen, barn, stable, dairy and meat house, and such other conveniences as the vestry might think needful; until these things were provided, the minister was to receive £20 proclamation money annually in lieu thereof. In every case of vacancy, the vestry was authorized to choose the minister for that parish, provided that no one should be so chosen without having a certificate from the Bishop of London that he had been duly ordained, and was of good life and conversation. The power to try and punish ministers for gross crime or notorious immorality was given to the Governor and Council.
In February, 1764, a new Assembly met in Wilmington, and in the absence of the Northern members passed, with the approval of the Governor, a vestry bill by which the minister was made a member of the vestry, and the vestry given the power to levy a tax of ten shillings per taxable to build churches, glebe houses, school houses, pay a school master and buy glebes. The vestrymen were only required to promise not to oppose the liturgy of the Church of England without saying anything about conforming thereto. This act was to continue in force for five years from its passage.
It will be seen from the above that for several years of the Dobbs administration there were no vestry laws in force in the Province, and that when such laws were in force the “orthodox clergy” were not necessarily benefitted thereby, being practically dependent on
Among the many men who contributed to the discomfort of Governor Dobbs during his stay in North Carolina, Colonel John Starkey, of Onslow county, was one of the most conspicuous, for he was both a public treasurer and an avowed republican. He was a man of good fortune and integrity, and was very much liked and esteemed by the people. He was executor of most people who died near him, having won public confidence “by his capacity and diligence, and in some measure from his garb and seeming humility by wearing shoe-strings, a plain coat, and having a bald head.” But, in spite of all this, Governor Dobbs said he was the most designing man in the Province; that he was a “professed, violent republican in every instance taking from his Majesty's prerogative and encroaching upon the rights of the Council and adding to the power of the Assembly to make himself popular;” that getting into the Assembly, he “continued to make himself popular by opposing all taxes that did not turn out to his profit, and by attempting to gain power to the Assembly at the expense of his Majesty's rights,” and that finally he made himself strong enough to induce the Legislature to appoint him one of the treasurers of the Province without any limitation as to term of office, a circumstance that greatly increased his power, which he hesitated not to use against the Crown. Being treasurer, he had charge of the payment of the allowances to the members for their attendance, which he could advance or delay, as to him seemed best, so that all unstable impecunious members who wanted a supply followed him like chickens, and he swayed the House against the most sensible members of it. As an instance of the control Colonel Starkey wielded, Governor Dobbs said, it was through his influence that the Assembly refused to give a proper salary to a storekeeper at Fort Johnston, though recommended to them by his Majesty in Council because they did not have the selection of the man, and for this and other contumacious acts the Governor took from him his commission both as magistrate and as Colonel of Militia.
The above is the portraiture by Governor Dobbs of a man whom our records show the people of North Carolina long held in the highest honor; not, indeed, because of the humility of his garb, for he seems to have been the only one so singular in his dress thus honored and loved, but because of his sterling qualities, both of head and heart. That he was guilty of avowed republicanism some twenty years before republicanism ceased to be considered a crime there seems no reason to doubt, and that thus confessedly guilty, he was honored and confided in by the people, is beyond question; and this doubtless was the head and front of his offending. And just here the question arises, if the people of North Carolina thus openly and persistently honored and rewarded, for the Treasurer's place was the most lucrative in their gift, an avowed republican, how far were they too tainted with republicanism? We cannot answer.
There is more in Governor Dobbs's comment on Colonel Starkey's dress than appears at the first glance. If Colonel Starkey played the demagogue by having a bald head and using plain coats and shoe-strings, it is apparent that the custom of the country for men in his station in life was to dress differently. When he said Colonel Starkey had a bald head, Governor Dobbs, being an Irishman, doubtless meant that he wore his own hair; that is to say, that he did not wear one of the big wigs in style in that day. So, too, if wearing a plain coat and using shoe-strings distinguished him for humility in the class to which he belonged, then lace coats and shoebuckles were the prevailing wear of those not so distinguished. And so in this incidental way we get information as to the modes of dress that obtained amongst our ancestors and the extent to which the more pretentious styles were worn.
Governor Dobbs did not confine himself to members of the Lower House in his quarrels, for he quarrelled with members of the Council as well. Messrs. Rutherford and Murray he removed from the Council, assigning therefor reasons that were not the real motives of his action. The charges preferred were indeed serious enough, involving as they did grave malfeasance in office, but the real reason
But with all his love of prerogative rule Governor Dobbs boasted that he was not as arbitrary in his official conduct as Governor Johnston, in that he never disbarred attorneys whom he disliked at his own sweet will as Governor Johnston did in the cases of Mr. Hodgson, then Speaker, and Mr. Samuel Swann, afterwards Speaker. But he did not hesitate to follow his predecessor's example in other respects. For instance: in 1760 he secured, he said, the passage of “an unexceptional aid bill to raise and equip three hundred men, and to pay for scalps, contingencies and other claims,” involving an addition to the debt of £12,000 “by having the Assembly held at Wilmington,” which meant that the Northern members were not present. “Scalps, contingencies and other claims” were evidently, then, as now, costly luxuries. The bounty for a scalp then was £10 when taken by a civilian and £5 when taken by a soldier. It is probable, however, that this particular bill would have been passed in a full Assembly, the emergency being very great.