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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Minutes of the North Carolina Governor's Council
North Carolina. Council
June 29, 1771
Volume 08, Pages 623-626

[From MS. Records in the Office of Secretary of State.]

At a Council held in the Council Chamber in the Palace at New Bern on Saturday 29th June 1771.
His Excellency the Governor
The Honble James Hasell Esquire
The Honble John Rutherford Esquire
The Honble Robert Palmer Esquire
The Honble Martin Howard Esquire and
The Honble Samuel Cornell
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The Gentlemen of the Council having taken into consideration Sir Nathaniel Duckenfields letter claiming precedency, desired that his letter and their answer thereto may be entered on the Council Journals, praying His Excellency would be pleased to transmit the same to be laid before His Majesty.

Order the said letter and answer be inserted accordingly, and are as follows:

Duckenfield 14th March 1771.


Since I had the pleasure of seeing you I have taken a little pains to consider the distinction you spoke to me about, and the rank which I am intitled to I differ in opinion with your Excellency, and as it is a point undetermined with yourself, I dare say you will not be displeased at my communicating to you in so free a manner the reasons which occurred to me, and determined my opinion that next to your Excellency, I ought to be considered the first Person of Rank in the Province.

Your wanting to fix the Council here, because they compose the upper House of Assembly, upon the same footing with the Lords at Home cannot I think give them Rank superior to myself, for when you consider it you will find the Peers derive their Rank from their several Degrees, and not from their seats in the upper House of Parliament; for if it was from those seats only, that they had a right to Precedency the Roman Catholic Peers would not be intitled to any Rank, nor would the eldest sons of Dukes (for the same reason) precede the Earls, Viscounts and Barons, Your Excellency will further consider that Titles were created expressly to confer dignity and give distinction: and that the appointments of Councellors was for the ease of Governors, and the utility of Government in general, but not intended to convey or communicate rank. Your wishing to have the Council upon a respectable footing is certainly very right; 'tis proper they should be, but at the same time distinction should be given to those who are entitled to it. The custom of their always having been ranked next to your Excellency, cannot be urged as a reason for its being continued—The Reasons I have mentioned have weighed greatly with me, and when your Excellency has considered them, I hope they will have the same effect. Sir Wm. Draper's reasons are likewise known to you, which he did not communicate to me. I followed your instructions in writing to some Friends at

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home, immediately upon my return from New Bern, and hope by your recommendation and their interest to succeed. I hope to see you again before you leave the Province. Please to make my compliments to Mrs Tryon.

I am, Sir
Your most obt humble servant


We return your Excellency our thanks for communicating to us Sir Nathaniel Duckinfield's letter, claiming precedency of the Council, and at the same time cannot forbear expressing our astonishment thereat: We need not take up any time in shewing that Baronets are only Commoners, and consequently enjoy no particular Privileges or Immunities. It will be sufficient to observe, that we are His Majesty's Council of State for this Province, and have a right by virtue of the Royal Instructions to succeed to the Administration, in case of the death or absence of the Governor or Lieutenant Governor, and therefore, of course no person in this Province can stand between the Governor and His Majesty's Council. We besides compose an upper House of Assembly, and the Governor with us constitute a Court of Chancery and a Court of Appeals, the highest judicatures, which of themselves are sufficient to establish the precedency never before disputed in this Province, and submitted to by Old Baronets, as Sir Richard Everard, whose education and good sense never suffered him to dispute so clear a point; add to this, that we have [been] informed that this matter was settled in a dispute of the same kind, and happened in Barbadoes at a Funeral above one hundred years ago, when it was determined by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshall, in favour of the Council against the Baronets, and within these few years a certificate from Joseph Edmonson Esqr, Mowbray Herald, has not only given the Council rank immediately after the Governor, but has even given the Baronets rank only after the Associate Judges, so that we are at a loss to know from whence it is, this Baronet, can have taken it in his head to claim a Precedency so injurious to Government, and contrary to custom and authority. What remains for us at present is to declare that we cannot in Justice to ourselves and our successors, give up our right to the Precedency, being the only advantage we reap for our great expence and trouble in the discharge of our duty. Permit

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us now Sir to acknowledge our obligation to your Excellency, for your support, which it will be always our endeavour to deserve.

We are with the highest regard Sir
Your Excellency's most obedient humble servants,

New Bern, June 29th 1771.

His Excellency informed the Board that Lieutenant Cotton of His Majesty's 31st Regiment of foot was arrived in Town from West Florida with his party on the recruiting service, and had made application for Quarters and Barracks, In consideration whereof His Excellency and Council appoints John Hawks Esqr to hire some uninhabited house that may be commodious for the said recruiting party, and to furnish and provide such victuals, utensils and necessarys as are directed by Act of Parliament.

At His Excellency's desire John Hawks Esqr architect and superintendant of the edifice and Offices erecting at New Bern for the residence of the Governor or Commander in Chief for the time being was ordered into Council and exhibited his accounts by which it appears that he has received from His Excellency for carrying on the said buildings fifteen thousand pounds proclamation money the sums granted by Act of Assembly, And that a Balance now remains in Mr Hawks hands of the sum of £140 14s. 3d. proclamation money, Which is to be expended on the said Buildings and an account rendered thereof to the Commander in Chief for the time being—That a state of the Accounts may be laid before the next General Assembly.

His Excellency acquainted the Board that he had received His Majesty's commands signifyed by the Earl of Hillsborough to repair to New York without loss of time to take upon him the Government of that Province. In conformity thereto he embarks tomorrow leaving His Majestys Commission and Instructions together with the Great Seal with the Honble James Hasell, President of His Majestys Council.