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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Article from the Boston Gazette concerning opposition to taxes and fees for public officials in North Carolina
No Author
October 21, 1771
Volume 08, Pages 643-648

[From the Boston Gazette of 21st October, 1771, 863.]
[From the Pennsylvania Journal of October 3.]

Messrs. Bradfords,

The following letter came to hand but a few days ago. Though of an old date it contains more particulars than I have yet seen published, therefore hoping the public will receive it through the channel of your paper, I remain

Yours, &c.

Extract of a letter dated July 24, 1771, from a gentleman in NorthCarolina to his friend in New Jersey, respecting the Regulators in Carolina.

“The first cause of the people's uneasiness was from a mistrust that the Clerks, Sheriffs and Lawyers exacted more fees than the law entitled them to, as they sometimes would demand three or four double what was their due, just as they met with men of resolution to deal with. The Sheriffs being the Collectors of the public taxes, it became their duty by law to call on every taxable for his tax, and if he should call a second time then to destrain, for which destraint the law allowed the Sheriffs 2s. 4d., but they by their extortion had made it customary to charge 2s. 4d. for every visit; so that the man who paid his tax, on being asked for it, paid also 2s. 4d. costs therewith. Again, every couple that go to be married by licenses, which

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they are obliged to have, must pay by the law 25s. for them; yet, contrary thereto, no person could obtain licenses from the Clerks under 30s. Again, at the conclusion of the last war a large sum of paper money was struck, to pay off the expenses thereof, which sum was to be sunk by a tax of 4s. per poll, in the term of the years the money was struck for, which tax of 4s. has been continued ever since, notwithstanding the great increase of inhabitants, which caused a suspicion that the officers pocketed the whole of the 4s. tax raised on the new settlers. Again, a few years ago the Treasurer of the province died, and in his house was found a large sum of money, several thousand pounds, indorsed the Public Money, which was all the satisfaction given the Public in respect to that Treasurer's accounts, notwithstanding which the tax continued, and no account being rendered to the people, gave great uneasiness. These, and numberless other instances of the like kind, caused the inhabitants of Rowan, Orange, Anson, and Mecklenburg counties, to send circular letters about four years ago from one to the other, setting forth their grievances, and forming schemes to have the same redressed, on which they unanimously petitioned the Governor and Assembly for to redress their grievances; on receipt of which the Governor gave orders, that all officers who had taken more or larger fees than the law allowed them, should be punished according to law; this pleased the people, and encouraged them to apply to the Justices of the Peace for warrants against their oppressors, knowing of no other mode whereby to recover the monies they had unjustly paid, &c., but the Justices refused to grant them, on which complaints were made to the Grand Juries to find bills against the offenders, but the Juries being carefully made up out of the old Sheriffs' Bums, and other Court Officers, no bills scarcely could be found against the offenders, and where a chance bill was found, the highest fine laid on them was only Six-pence: But on the other hand, if any of the complainants happened to be indicted, be the offence never so trifling, their fines was seldom or never less than £100, which has in fact been the case: Being thus beat they were laughed at, and called fools and asses, &c, &c. Then some of the inhabitants of Orange county met, and concluded that they would pay no more public taxes till a full state of their public accounts was published and a fair settlement made, and under that conclusion bound themselves by an oath to stand by and support each other in this their resolution, as it was clearly their opinion that
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the Public had more money in bank than would pay all their public dues, &c, which resolution was soon adhered to by the other counties. Things then began to be in great confusion; the people refusing to pay caused the Sheriffs to execute, on which a mob would rise, whip the Sheriff, and any other that supported him; after which they frequently petitioned the Governor to interpose in the matter, and cause a fair settlement to be made, to which he turned a deaf ear; this so enraged the people that they stopped several Courts from doing business, by raising into mobs and ordering the Judges not to sit. However, before any Courts were disturbed the Governor raised a large army of men, at the request of one Fanning, Clerk to several of the Courts in the Province, and an Attorney at Law, and stands charged with being the principal oppressor of the poor people, which armed force cost the Province £18,000. These preparations caused the people to take arms; however they never carried their arms into the towns. Great numbers of them went with a petition to the Governor for the purpose aforesaid, on which the Governor told them that if they would bring in their arms, & deliver up such men as he should name to be put to death, that they should then have a settlement on such terms as he should think proper; which offer was refused by the people, and they returned to their habitations, and the Governor disbanded his men. After this another trial for redress in the law ways was made in Orange county, in which they were as unsuccessful as heretofore, which caused a resolution that there should be no Courts held till a settlement, or until their grievances were redressed; whereupon at the General Court at Hillsborough town, in Orange county, a mob came in armed with rawhide whips, and went to the Judge and King's Attorney, who they desired to go home, and guarded them safe to their houses, telling them that they should suffer no damage, and that they might hold Court next day, &c. Their next step was to take the aforesaid Fanning and some other Lawyers out of the Court-house, to whom they gave cow-hide correction very severely; they then went to Fanning's house, which they levelled with the ground, and destroyed the furniture, doing damage to the amount of £1,500; after which they offered Fanning to repair his house and make good all his damage, if he would repay the money he had unjustly taken from them: To which he answered, that he only wanted revenge & revenge he would have &c. After this the General Assembly of the Province was called, and an election ensued, at which Herman Husband and Thomas Parsons
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were chosen by the country party as Members of the House; their enemy, Fanning, was also chosen. When the House met their first step was to expell Husband and Parsons from their seats; Husband they sent to gaol; Parsons, home; They then passed a Riot Act, the substance of which was, That any person or persons, being guilty of any riot, either before or after the publication of this Act, within the jurisdiction of any Court within this province, shall and may be indicted, and when so indicted shall appear & stand trial before the expiration of sixty days; and in case he, she or they do not appear, noticed or not noticed, within the term aforesaid, they shall and are hereby declared to be out-lawed, and shall suffer Death without Benefit of Clergy, &c. and his lands, goods and chattles confiscated and sold at the end of eight days. The publication of this act, together with the account of Husband being in gaol, set the whole country in an uproar, and a great number of men collected and went in a body to take Husband out of gaol, on hearing of which a Court was immediately called, Husband tried, proclaimed an honest man & set at liberty; when he met the people they returned every man to his home. Thus matters lay till March last, at which time the Court was to set at Salisbury, in Rowan county; four or five hundred men collected and armed, marched within two miles of the town, where they halted, and sent a small party into town for Mr. Frohock (Clerk of the Court, Surveyor and Secretary of the Land Office) and some others of the chief men; at which request Frohock and two others went out, on which the people desired them as officers to settle with the inhabitants, and if they had exacted more fees than by law was their due, to return the same to the persons from whom they were exacted: To which Frohock answered, that he well knew the country had suffered much by such oppressive dealings, and that he himself had in some cases taken too much fees, and did then return some fees, &c. on which an agreement was made and bonds entered into, to submit their dispute to seven men then mutually chosen, which men were to meet on the third Tuesday in May, to go over the Court Docquet, and finally settle all the fees thereon, and order the several officers to repay all such sums as should appear to have been paid more than by law they ought to have paid, &c. this gave general satisfaction. Near about the same time a General Court was held at Newbern, at which Court thirty two persons were indicted, under the new Riot-Act, for pulling down Fanning's house, several of whom lived in Orange county, two hundred
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miles distance, and was at home when the house was pulled down, notwithstanding which they were outlawed: However, before the expiration of the term given by the law for them to appear, the Governor marched with a body of 3,000 men, and 7 pieces of artillery, against the rebels as he then stiled them, in order to take those persons who stood indicted, to put a stop to the growing rebellion, and principally to prevent Mr. Frohock from settling with the people agreeable to his bonds, as may appear by his letter to Mr. Frohock at the time he began his march, in which he ordered him not to settle with the people, and also threatened to strip him of his commissions for what he had done; which threatening he in part made good, by taking the Colonel's commission from him. An armed force now marching into the heart of the country, with an angry Governor at their head, threatening destruction to the honest Frohock, destroying wheat fields, cutting down orchards, and burning the houses of every person that Mr. Fanning or any other man in the army should charge with being a rebel, so terrified the people that they run together like sheep chased by a wolfe, till they gathered to the number of about 4,000; and every house that the army found deserted they destroyed, together with the cattle, sheep, hogs, poultry, and everything on the plantation. These are facts notorious. Thus they marched till they crossed Alamance Run, in Orange County, on the 16th of May, 1771, without any opposition: There the 4,000 rebels met them, and sent James Hunter and Benjamin Merril with a petition to the Governor, and orders to treat with his Honour for peace: To which the Governor answered by his Aid de Camp, that the people must come in, deliver up their arms, pay off their taxes, swear to be subject to all the laws of their country, and deliver such men as he should name to be put to death, otherwise there would be bloodshed in one hour and ten minutes. Before the expiration of the time the Aid de Camp returned, and asked if they wanted more time; they answered, Yes: He then promised to get them two hours more, which gave the people great hopes of an accommodation. The army, during this, was marching up, and the people moved off to give them room; and as soon as the Aid de Camp returned, a field piece was fired in the midst of the people, which killed one man, & frightened 3,700 from off the ground, leaving only 300 to settle the matter, who returned the fire briskly for some time, when the Governor hung out a flag, and beat a parley; but they, knowing nothing of the mode of war, continued
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their fire, on which the Governor concluded that they were determined to give no quarter, and again fired on them, which continued about two hours and a quarter, when Hunter and his men fled, and left the field to the Governor. How many of the country were killed is uncertain; however, this we know, that there are but thirty missing: Some say there was but nine killed, and that the Governor lost a great number of men; how that matter is, time only must show. The Governor took some prisoners, of whom he hanged seven: The first man was hanged in the camp, because Mr. Fanning said he helped to pull down his house, when in fact the poor man was not there at the time. Benjamin Merril was one of the number hanged; a man in general esteem for his honesty, integrity, piety, and moral good life. The Governor now calls in the inhabitants by proclamation, declaring that the King's pardon shall be given to all that come in: They immediately go in and comply therewith. He then proceeds, on the 21st of May, (the day that their accounts by their bonds, was to have been settled) to the houses of those people that entered into bonds as above, and destroyed everything that was in his power to destroy by fire and sword, then marched his army back, with orders to punish all such as should be so hardy as to complain; and thus his Honour returned victorious to his place at Newbern.”

“O that my head was water and my eyes a fountain of tears.
That I might weep day and night for the slain of my people.”