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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Theodorus Swaine Drage to William Tryon
Drage, Theodorus Swaine, ca. 1712-1774
May 29, 1770
Volume 08, Pages 202-210

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[N. C. Letter Book S. P. G.]
Rev. Mr. Draige to Govr Tryon.

St Luke's Parish in the County of Rowan, May 29th 1770.

May it please your Excellency,

It is with the greatest candour and with all due submission I represent my situation here. On Easter Monday many of the parish met to proceed to the Election of a Vestry, two several Lists of twelve persons each (copies of which are sent with this) were made out for the direction of the Voters. The one consisting of nine Magistrates, one captain of Militia, and two other persons, if not Elders, duly qualified as to principles to be so. This was composed with care, supported by misrepresentations as to the grievances and oppressions the people would be subjected to in consequence of their having a clergyman of the Church of England; all the weight and influence as Magistrates was exerted by which with other means, and the Dissenters having Deeds for their Lands, this List was declared to have the superiority of Votes as the fact was. Tho' these Voters, are rotten nuts, in the Eye of the Law, for the direction of the Act of Assembly is absolute to make a choice of a Vestry: and the contention as to the two Lists, was not as to which of those persons contained in those Lists the Vestry should be composed of, but whether there should be a vestry or not, so understood by those who voted for the List returned, declared that to be their intention when they gave their votes, and which they were before assured would be the case if the persons of the first List came on the return, by their declaring they would not qualify, that they had thus kept the Church out for years and hoped to do so perpetually with much impudence and impertinant threats on the part of the voters as to the consequence of any establishment of a clergyman of the Church of England.

Those of the Second List while together in the court House desired to know of those returned whether they would qualify, assuring them if they did not, that they of the Second List would, That it was a deceitful evasion of the law, and infringement of their liberties, and rights as members of the church of England here established, whom in spite of the intrigue and double management which had been made use of, had the Members of the established church been possessed of their Deeds would have outvoted them, five to

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one. That it was from the great distance, the scarcity of money, the reason for saving, and the poverty of the cattle from the severity of the last winter which occasioned a scarcity of fodder, that they had not a greater appearance of their friends there at that time, though they were sufficient to show the sense of the county, and which otherwise, those of the other List knew, and feared a superiority even under the disqualifications of the Members of the established church for want of their Deeds. It was an instance how little they deserved the indulgence they had, who thus assumed a licentious liberty to oppose that Government, whose favor they received to prevaricate with its Laws and endeavour to subvert the constitution in part.

The Sheriff summoned those returned, before the meeting in the Court House broke up, to come and qualify the Monday after, which they agreed to, Those of the second List told them, if they did not they would meet, the Summons was not legal as to time, being but a Summons of eight days notice, whereas the Act says Ten, yet as they agreed to meet, they could not legally have taken advantage of their own Act. I was in Town but no way interfered, nor even, did not know who were the persons in the Second List, made out that morning, ill digested, and no interest made for it, whereas they had been canvassing for the former over the whole county for some weeks, and with the greatest assiduity for the fortnight past. The separate Anabaptists joined them, Murphy, who talks away, seducing the people even in direct opposition in many points to the Dissenters principles was received into the Court House as in communion with them and great countenance given him. I had a conversation that evening with some of the returned List who said their purpose was to evade the Law, that Government had yet taken no notice of it though before practiced and therefore looked on it that these measures were approved. I observed they should be very cautious of entertaining such thoughts, and of expressing themselves in that manner. They said if I would take a Subscription and be in the county on those terms, having no objection as to me personally the Dissenters would subscribe to me liberally also; my answer was, it is a thing out of my power, and it would not be right in me to presume to settle in any other manner than what the Law appointed, that their share of the Taxation with respect to a clergyman would not amount to Eight pence a head, nay I was well assured it would not be Six pence. They said it

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was their opinion everyone ought to pay their own clergy, and what the law required was a constraint, the other would be a free gift. I told them had this been imposed subsequent to their settling they might have considered it as a grievance; Such was the constitution of the province, had been from the first settling of America, as it was taken out of Virginia, agreeable to the charter on the separation, no alteration made with respect to the church, on the contrary, Acts of Assembly to settle it in a firmer manner on the old Establishment. If this part of the constitution was not approved by them they should not have come, but kept in those Colonies, the constitutions of which were more to their mind. If they had flattered themselves the church would not be supplied, and were now vexed at the delusion they had lived under, this they might have foreseen, that they would be undeceived in time, and it was equally inconsiderate in them to take the present measures against the inclination and the voice of the majority of the people, who are of, and desire the established Church, and moreover as they did not nor would not provide themselves with any teachers, though well able so to do, by which means, the reform of the people was entirely neglected, deficient in their morals and in their obedience to Government. That Government would consider this, and think some means should be used to influence the mind as well as Laws to punish the Action and in what manner could it be done; but in that which the constitution pointed out by an established Clergy, and a Toleration as to those Teachers they should provide. The Government acts uniformly in all places of its dominion, and will not suppress the Established Church here, and give the pre-eminence to any Sect or Sects, for the ill convenience which might arise, would be greater, for the complaint of the people of the Church of England, more numerous, wealthy and powerful, would be greater than any they would think to guard against by such a concession. Their purposes was to sift me: They had my Sentiments, our conversation was with temper, and we parted with great civility, many people a liberty they take in this part of the world stood by to hear.

On the day appointed for the Vestry to qualify, Seven of the Second List met, two were sick, and the other three though not present would be determined by the resolutions of the Majority. The two Members of the County, and one Allison, a principal Elder, were the only persons of the First List who appeared in Town. Mr Morgan Briant, cool and sensible went to them in a private

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room, told them, they being Members of the County, consequently were to consider the Interests of the people and wished they would qualify. That there was two years parish Tax had been collected and paid into hand by Miller the Sheriff some years since who was then ready to come, if sent for, and produce his receipts for having paid in such monies, one farthing of which hath never been accounted for, nor doth it appear was ever laid out, which causes a great uneasiness amongst the people, they complained that they should pay for a Clergyman, which they apprehend they did, and now when they could be provided to their liking, should be denied that benefit. That the poor lay a burthen upon many private persons, no public provision could be made for their relief as the Law required, by a Vestry, any attempt of the Justices was illegal, and it was well known there was a large sum in the hands of the Justices and some others which could not be come at, but by a Vestry, computed to be Three hundred pounds and upwards to defray the expence of the maintainance of the poor, that to quiet the minds of the people by an adjustment of these affairs, a Vestry was certainly necessary. It was a representation without effect, and they would not determine, whether, they would qualify or not. Said the Sheriffs summons was not legal, denied against all truth, that they personally agreed to it, whereas I was personally a witness to the contrary, but I took no notice, therefore they should not meet until the 15th of May, which was the furtherest day they were entitled to qualify, on this declaration the seven of the second List went into the Courthouse entered down as a Vestry (a copy of which memorandum your Excellency receives) to save their time, and as they are not under obligation to swear at their first meeting, omitted it at that time, that their proceedings might not be considered by Government as a rash act, but as it appeared to them, requisite to shew that a vestry was really desired by the Members of the Church of England, as they had made a List of such persons, who would act, a Memorandum was entered by the Sheriff of those who appeared on the first List.

After this proceeding I produced your Excellency's Letter, addressed to the Vestry of Saint Lukes Parish. Told them I thought them to be the proper persons to see it, who were representatives of the Body of the Church people, and acquainted with my Ministry. That I had a discretionary power from the Governor, in a conversation which I had the honor to have, to shew it, if there was a case

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of necessity to my friends. On this Rutherford and Lock, the two Members, were alarmed, not knowing that I was thus provided, nor indeed those of the second List, for I am sorry to say it, that sincerity and confidence are herbs scarce to be found in this climate.—

They the members of the County being thus alarmed fired away freely scandals to the Church and contemptuous expressions, as to the power of the Crown, and of the Parliament of England. I appeared in behalf of the Church, had been silent on all occasions before, but now had my equals in the Lists, the County members and a Senior Elder, an altercation followed, which drew many people, I took no notice of their reproachful expressions, so that artillery was soon silenced, but came to a spirited argument drove them out of their Posts, and the people declared me victorious. This opened the Eyes of the people, set them in a great measure right as to the false representations which have been spread abroad, made them sensible that the Dissenters power was a thing assumed, that they were not the Established Church, or on an equality, that their power was a mere form of Government, which was not before generally understood. They had opposed the others reading the Letter first questioning its authenticity, therefore carefully perused the Seal before it was opened, then desired them not to read it as a Vestry, but they read it publicly, and whether as a Vastry or not, they would not satisfy them. The nominal Vestry then adjourned to another place and wrote the enclosed answer and recommendation to your Excellency for my Induction.

The dispute was conducted without the least disturbance, amongst the people silent attention, and they went away with murmurs expressing satisfaction.—Also the nominal Vestry were well pleased, who thought my behaviour before lukewarm and indifferent proceeded from indifference whether I would stay with them or not, and suspected a purposed intention to leave them, but now saw, from this conversation that I waited for a proper time and proper persons before whom to defend the character and rights of the Church of England, and of the just and laudable proceeding of the Government, in the intended appointment of a clergyman and a submitting with so much temper & condescension to their approbation before Induction, whereas legally the Government need not have done so, it was unprecedented in any other part of His Majesty's Dominions, as there was a forfeiture of the right, if originally any, by a lapse in time, not only of Months but of years; after the

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nominal Vestry had thus secured their Day, and wrote their recommendation, they went Home.

On the fifteenth most of the first List appeared in Town, I returned that day having been out almost a fortnight on my Ministry, and found five of the nominal Vestry, their intention being only to observe the proceedings of those of the first List, and to incite them to qualify. But no one of those of the first List, though they kept parading the Streets would go into the Court House attended with many of their friends who came in the same day, seeking occasions to quarrel, the thing was suspected, and all was kept quiet, the Sun was set, those of the Nominal Vestry went home, but on their not appearing any more about, a Spy was sent to me to ask what those of the Nominal Vestry intended, I said to qualify, they understood as that night, not knowing they were gone home, on which those of the first List immediately mustered, took possession of the court house, and sat there till three the next morning, to prevent the others coming in. Sometimes pretending they would, then they would not qualify, neither did they, completely answering the intention of the Voters, to effect if possible that there should be no Vestry.

The Resolution of that Nominal Vestry is to carry everything on with peace and temper, That I should immediately forward the recommendation to your Excellency, That they would raise me a Salary half yearly by a liberal contribution (which I limited to be no more than what the Law allows) towards which they would neither ask the Dissenters nor the poor, That the Congregations of the several preaching Stations, which are no less than six and twenty, should each respectively build their own chapels, with which some are already provided, and others are a providing, So that they shall not, who make any disturbance in the county, pretend to say it is occasioned by the oppressive Tax or Tyrany of the church. That an Induction obtained, the right of taxing would be preserved, though not to be exerted until an opposition would be of no avail on their parts who refused, as to their disturbing the peace of the county.—They propose not to meet again or qualify as yet, and if they do to proceed no further than the choice of two church wardens who are to be Cyphers, To have a general Petition of the Inhabitants Members of the church addressed to your Excellency, the Council and Assembly, stating the case and seeking redress as to such evasive practices, for the future, as to the present the establishing

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them for a Vestry, for the remainder of the year, with all due defference and submission to the determinations of the Legislature.

I must assure your Excellency, the people of the Church of England are very numerous, above Five thousand Souls, I think I do not exagerate for there are parts on the extremity of the Parish of which there is no certain Account which hath been owing to the severity of the winter and the height of the waters; am certain the Dissenters are not a fourth of the people found, the representations of those who live in Salisbury very erroneous, Knowing very little of the distant Settlements. I am so circumstanced as sometimes to preach four times in six days, and do other offices of the church, being desired by the people, I cheerfully do it, Have christened now 370 children, and many yet behind live mean, lye hard, but they do the best for me they can. I could methodize my duty, so to give satisfaction equal to the people, and easier to myself as I now become acquainted with the situation of the people, of which I could attain but imperfect accounts, I have found fifty families where they told me there was not Ten, should your Excellency see proper to grant me the favor, which the people ask of Induction, and I have so much respect to your character, as a Gentleman, and your Dignity as a Governor not to tell you an untruth, when I assure you it is the general desire and I also join with them in asking the favor. What prevails with me is, if I quit, it will discourage them so that the Church of England may not for many years be established, if ever, as the power of the opposers will be strengthened, the growing generation will be seduced, and carried away into some Sect or other, so become the worst Subjects, and there is some shew of latent embers which may in time become a dangerous fire, proceeding from a Northern influence though artfully and secretly covered at present, which the People should be secured against, and a jealous Eye to watch and discover the proceeding. Its being a delightful Climate and in which I have my Health extremely well is the only personal satisfaction which I can prove. For from fraud on the one hand. which I cannot oppose without being contentious, and the poverty of the people as to money on the other, have not made for Marriages, the only Fees I have, Ten Dollars.—Many of the Magistrates taking the liberty to Marry, and say they will, and that they have an equal right with any Clergyman, for who are they.

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I entirely submit it to your Excellency's superior judgment and goodness, and shall cheerfully acquiesce in what you shall be pleased to determine, and though the second List, or Nominal Vestry, in the Eye of the Law may be only Apocryphal, yet as to the Members of the Church of England giving their approbation of your humble Servant I doubt not it will appear as a good Testimonium, And in point, being the representative Body of the Church here, as to the interest of your Excellency's Letter, And if Induction is thought proper to be given your Excellency may be of Opinion, it could not be that the Commission be directed to them as a Vestry, but to the Sheriff. I beg leave to observe as there is no ordinary, or Archdeacon to whom the Induction can be directed, and in England where they —— have no Jurisdiction, the Induction is always by the Sheriff as to the King's free chapels. There being no Select Vestry at Common Law, the whole Body of the Householders are a Vestry, and if it was essential a Select Vestry to give a legality to the Induction, they cannot by a deceitful act prevent the execution of the right of the Crown. It is a maxim even in Equity, He that will have Equity must do Equity. But with the Sheriff I would beg leave to say might not the second List be added by their names in the Commission without noticing them as a Vestry, and the power given either to the Sheriff, or to any two or three of them of such Induction. This would prevent ill success in the execution from double dealing, too common a practice here, though masked under pretence of a sincere zeal for your service.

I am now on the county Line, and forward this by the way of Hillsborough, where the post comes every fortnight. Your Excellency's commands to me under cover directed to Mr Cook, Col: Fanning or Mr Nash would come to my hand; all arts will be used to intercept, or secrete anything of this sort, if suspected, which makes me so particular, blushing for fear of the imputation of impurtinence. But I am sensible of your Excellency's great avocations to more material affairs, and was desirous of perplexing your thoughts as little as might be.

I assure your Excellency I entirely submit to your determination, I have spent a long time here without the satisfaction of my family, and should wish to be at some certainty now, either as to stay or leave while I have the fall before me, and I have not, neither shall I write to England, as to the state of the church, and what I am doing, though they may censure me as indolent and remiss until

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the affair is settled.—Your Excellency may depend on my gratitude expressed by a faithful discharge of my duty, if honored with an Induction, but be assured your pleasure herein is mine, and I shall always acknowledge myself Sincerely to be,

Your Excellency's most dutiful &c.