The history of Albemarle as a distinct colony was marked by discontent, tumult, and rebellion. Grievances were real and numerous. The uncertainty as to the terms on which the settlers held their lands; the studied indifference and neglect of the Lords Proprietors; the persistent rumor that Albemarle was to be given over to Sir William Berkeley as sole proprietor; the instability of the proprietary government; the depredations of hostile Indians; the attempts to enforce the navigation acts and to collect the king's customs, — all these things combined to produce dissatisfaction and strife.
Perhaps nothing gave the people more concern than the land question. Ambition to become landowners, as have been stated, was the inducement that had brought most of them to Albemarle. Land was their chief form of wealth and whatever tended to render their holdings insecure produced alarm and unrest. The terms on which they were to hold their lands, the people thought had been determined by the Great Deed of Grant, a document which they held to be "as firm a Grant as the Proprietors own Charter from the Crown." Such was the importance attached to it that the Assembly ordered it to be recorded not only in the office of the secretary of the colony, but also in every precinct in Albemarle, and appointed a special custodian into whose keeping the original itself was committed. This view, however, was not shared by the Lords Proprietors; they held the Great Deed to be a revokable grant which they could annul at will, and from time to time they issued instructions to their governors inconsistent with its provisions. Although the Great Deed fixed quit rents at a farthing per acre, in 1670 the Lords Proprietors instructed Governor Carteret to collect quit rents at the rate of "one halfe penny of lawful English money" per acre; and in 1679, they directed Governor Harvey to fix the amount at a penny. Moreover, the Fundamental Constitutions provided that quit p48 rents for each acre in Carolina should be "as much fine silver" as was in one English penny. It was these frequent changes, doubtless, that gave rise to a rumor, which created widespread apprehension in Albemarle, that the Lords Proprietors "intended to raise the Quitrents to two pence and from two pence to six pence per acre." The people too began to ask whether the Fundamental Constitutions repealed the Great Deed. Apprehension that they might be so interpreted aroused opposition to the Fundamental Constitutions, and some of those who subscribed that document felt it necessary to protest that in so doing they should "not be disanulled" of the rights they enjoyed under the Great Deed. The Lords Proprietors, who could find no record of the Great Deed in their London office, were disposed to deny its existence altogether; but the Albemarle Assembly promptly ordered a certified copy of the original to be sent to them "which convinced the Proprs that it was a firm Grant and they let the dispute drop." To make matters worse, by still further increasing the feeling of insecurity, as late as 1678 the Albemarle planters had never received from the Lords Proprietors any patents for their holdings. Timothy Biggs writing to them declared that the fact people have no assurance of their Lands (for that yet never any Patents have been granted under your Lordships to the Inhabitants) is matter of great discouragement for men of Estate to come amongst us because those already seated there have no assurance of their enjoyment."
This strange oversight probably arose from the indifference which the Lords Proprietors felt toward Albemarle. They had been keenly disappointed at the slow growth of the colony. That the settlers had not quickly pushed across Albemarle Sound, cleared plantations on the Pamlico and the Neuse, and opened communications by land with the Ashley River colony, appeared to them to be evidence of a slothfulness of disposition and disregard of their interests that augured ill for the success of the colony, or for its value to them. This, they frankly declared to the Albemarle Assembly, "has bine the Cause that hitherto we have had noe more Reguard for you as lookinge upon you as a people that neither understood your own nor regarded our Interests." Having spent no money on Albemarle, they considered that they lost nothing by leaving that colony to shift for itself while they devoted their attention and resources to the development of the more promising settlement on Ashley River. p49 To Albemarle, struggling bravely against the forces of nature and the savages of the wilderness, this studied neglect was in itself a grievance, and prominent colonial leaders protested against the injustice of it. Thomas Eastchurch, speaker of the Assembly, informed the Lords Proprietors that enterprising settlers had made several attempts to carry out their wishes, but each time had been frustrated by the Proprietors' own agents who did not want their trade with the Indians disturbed by further settlements among them; and Timothy Biggs, deputy-collector, made bold to tell them that "notwithstanding you have not bene out as yet any thing upon that County in ye Province called Albemarle yet ye Inhabitants have lived and gott Estates under ye Lordps there by their owne Industry and brought it to the capacity of a hopefull Settlement and ere these had it had your Lordps smiles and assistance but a tenth part of what your Southern parts have had It would have beene a Flourishing Settlement." The Lords Proprietors were convinced of their error and in a frank and generous letter to the Assembly unreservedly confessed the injustice they had done the colony.
At the same time, the Lords Proprietors laid to rest the rumor that they were planning to turn Albemarle over to Sir William Berkeley. Color had evidently been given to this report by their neglect of Albemarle coupled with their great industry in promoting their Ashley River colony. The people of Albemarle would probably have objected to being subjected to any single proprietor; when that proprietor was to be Sir William Berkeley, who was at that very time giving an indication of his true character by his dealings with Bacon's Rebellion, their objection would unquestionably have taken the form of forcible opposition had it become necessary. That they were greatly disturbed by the rumor is certain; the Assembly adopted a remonstrance against the project and dispatched it to England by special messenger. In this matter, if in no other, the Lords Proprietors were able to give their people complete satisfaction. In the first place, they said, it was their purpose to maintain and preserve the people of their colony in all their "English Rights and Liberties"; in the second place, Albemarle was valuable to them in the development of the rest of their province; for these reasons, they assured the Assembly, "wee neither have nor ever will parte with the County of Albemarle to any person whatsoever But will alwayse maintaine our province of Carolina entire as itt is."
p50 Much of the trouble in Albemarle would never have arisen had the Lords Proprietors been able to establish and maintain a strong, stable government, and to place properly qualified men in charge of it. Their failure to establish such a government has already been discussed. As it was, many of the defects in the system could have been greatly minimized had it been administered by men of prudence, ability, and character. But such men were rare. The Lords Proprietors themselves complained that it was "a very difficult matter to gitt a man of worth and trust" to accept the office of governor, and they were generally unfortunate in the men who represented them in that capacity. Some were weak, others ambitious, covetous, and unscrupulous. Constant strife and tumult marked the administrations of Carteret, Jenkins, Miller, Eastchurch, and Sothel. Carteret growing tired of his thankless task abandoned the colony leaving "ye Governmt there in ill order & worse hands." Jenkins was deposed from office by a dominant faction in the General Assembly. Miller after a brief career of misgovernment and crime was overthrown by armed rebels and forced to flee the country. The same rebels met Eastchurch at the Virginia boundary and although he bore a commission from the Lords Proprietors, forbade his entering Albemarle to assume his office. And Sothel, whose career of crime and tyranny was rivaled only by that of Miller, was like Miller driven from power and banished the province. Some of these uprisings were inspired by the righteous indignation of the people against tyranny and oppression; others had no higher origin that personal animosities and factional rivalries. But whatever their inspiration they were all the results of a political system that was too weak and unstable to command either respect or fear.
From such a government the settlers could expect no protection against hostile Indians. Fortunately there was no powerful tribe to contest the possession of the Albemarle region with the whites. There were, however, small tribes who committed many depredations on the settlements and twice in the history of Albemarle made war on them. In 1666 an outbreak of hostilities imperilled the life of the infant settlement, but peace was restored before any great losses were sustained. Nine years later a more serious war broke out with the Chowanoc Indians. When first known to the whites, in 1584‑85, these Indians, then the leading tribe in that region, occupied the territory on both sides of the Meherrin p51 and Nottoway rivers about where they come together to form the Chowan. Although their number had greatly dwindled during the century that followed, they were still formidable when white men first began to erect their cabins along the Chowan. At first they offered no opposition to the coming of the whites, and after the creation of the proprietary entered into a treaty by which they "submitted themselves to the Crown of England under the dominion of the Lords Proprietors." This treaty they faithfully observed until 1675. In the summer of that year the hostile tribes in Virginia, who were endeavoring to stir up a general Indian war against the whites, sent emissaries to induce the Chowanocs to go on the warpath. The Chowanocs were easily persuaded and without warning struck swiftly and effectively in the usual Indian fashion. William Edmundson, the Quaker preacher, writing of his visit to North Carolina in 1676, referring to the beginning of this Indian outbreak, says: "I was moved of the Lord to go to Carolina, and it was perillous travelling, for the Indians were not yet subdued, but did mischief and murdered several. They haunted much in the wilderness between Virginia and Carolina, so that scarce any durst travel that way unarmed. Friends endeavored to dissuade me from going, telling of several who were murdered."
The settlers flew to arms, and for more than a year waged "open war" upon their enemies. Both sides suffered heavy losses. In the midst of the strong the whites received timely aid from Captain Zachariah Gillam, a well-known New England trader, who arrived in Albemarle from London in his armed vessel, the Carolina, with a supply of arms and ammunition. Thus strengthened they pushed the war more vigorously than ever and finally, as the Council said, "by Gods assistance though not without the loss of many men," they "wholly subdued" their formidable foes and drove them from their lands on the Meherrin which were thereupon "resigned into the immediate possession of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina as of their province of Carolina."
Returning from the war against the Indians, the people under the leadership of George Durant, took advantage of their being organized and under arms to demand from the colonial authorities redress of certain grievances growing out of the enforcement of the navigation acts. This was the beginning of that popular uprising which historians have incorrectly p52 called Culpepper's Rebellion. It was occasioned by England's commercial policy. Other causes doubtless accentuated the trouble, but the primary cause was the Navigation Act — "that mischievous statute with which the mother country was busily weaning from itself the affections of its colonies all along the American seaboard."1 The purpose of the Navigation Act "was to foster the development of national strength by an increase of sea power and commerce." As it affected the colonies, it restricted their carrying trade to vessels of English, Irish, and colonial ownership and forbade the shipment of certain articles, including tobacco, elsewhere than to England, Ireland, or some English colony. Experience soon showed, from the British merchant's point of view, that the statute contained one serious defect. It permitted tobacco, which was subject to a heavy duty when imported into England, to be shipped from one colony to another free of duty. Thus the colonial consumer enjoyed a decided advantage over the British consumer. Moreover — and this is where the rub came — when the colonial merchant, evading the Navigation Act, re-shipped to foreign countries tobacco on which he had paid no duty, he was able to undersell his British competitor who was compelled to add to the price which he charged the foreigner the import tax which he himself had paid to the Crown. The Navigation Act was so imperfectly enforced in the colonies, that this competition became a matter of serious concern to British merchants who finally complained to Parliament about it. In 1673, therefore, Parliament came to their relief by passing an act which levied export duties on certain articles when shipped from one colony to another. On tobacco this duty was fixed at a penny a pound which was to be collected by officials of the Crown.
The passage of this act, which was approved by the Lords Proprietors, alarmed the Albemarle planters. Tobacco was their chief article of export; New England was their principal market. Of their yearly crop, amounting to more than a million pounds, but little found its way, or could find its way directly to England. Poor harbors and shifting sands made the navigation of the Carolina waters too difficult and dangerous for large vessels engaged in trans-Atlantic trade, but the lighter draft coastwise ships of the New England traders were not seriously hindered by these obstacles. The trade of Albemarle accordingly was largely controlled by a few enterprising and not overly scrupulous New England skippers. That p53 this was economically bad for Albemarle, the Lords Proprietors understood better than the planters, "itt beinge," they said, "a certaine Beggery to our people of Albemarle if they shall buy goods at 2d hand and soe much dearer than they may bee supply'd from England and with all sell there Tobacco and other Commodities at a lower rate then they could do in England." What the Lords Proprietors did not understand was that Nature, not man, had determined the course of the trade of Albemarle. For instance, in 1676, they directed the governor, "in order to the Incourageinge a Trade with England," to send them an exact account of the depth of water in the several inlets and at places where ships could load and unload "for this has bine soe concealed and uncertainely reported here as if some persons amongst you had joyn'd with some of New England to engross that poore trade you have and Keepe you still under hatches." It was, then, with the expectation that the Navigation Act would destroy this New England monopoly of the Albemarle trade and build up a direct trade between Albemarle and the mother country, that the Lords Proprietors gave it such hearty support. Our historians generally have condemned their policy because they have misunderstood the purpose of the Navigation Act. Had its purpose, and its only result, been "to secure more funds for the deplenished purse of a needy sovereign,"2 it would have received scant sympathy from the Lords Proprietors; it was not to their interest to impoverish their colony for the benefit of the Crown. But the real purpose of the act was not to produce a revenue; it was to establish direct trade relations between the colonies and the mother country, and the Lords Proprietors understood clearly enough the advantages their colony would derive from such relations. It was the hope of securing these advantages for their colony, and not the desire of collecting a revenue for the Crown, that inspired them to take so much interest in enforcing the act of 1673, as, on the other hand, it was the fear of this result that moved the New England traders, and those Albemarle planters who were associated with them, to offer such a vigorous opposition.
In following the course of this opposition, which finally broke out in open rebellion, we are led into the obscure mazes of colonial politics from which it is difficult at time to extricate ourselves with certainty. To a large extent the revolt against the enforcement of the Navigation Act was but the p54 continuation of a factional strife that had long been waging in Albemarle. In 1673, two parties were contending for supremacy. One led by Thomas Eastchurch controlled the lower house of the General Assembly of which Eastchurch was speaker. Closely allied with him were Timothy Biggs, deputy of the Earl of Craven, and Thomas Miller whose tyranny was the occasion for the outbreak. Of the other party, though John Jenkins, acting governor, was nominally the leader, the real head and front was George Durant who completely dominated the governor. "Of all the factious persons in the Country," declared his opponents, "he was the most active and uncontrollable." Prominent among those who acknowledged his leadership, besides Jenkins, were Valentine Byrd who, it was said, "drew the first sword" in the revolt, and John Culpepper, who, declared his enemies (and he had many of them), was "never in his element but whilst fishing in troubled waters," and who gave his name to the rebellion of 1677. The contest between these two factions had already reached a point of great bitterness when it became intensified by the issues arising out of the efforts to enforce the act of 1673.
In 1675, commissions naming a surveyor and a collector of customs were sent to Governor Jenkins, accompanied by instructions that if the men named were not in the colony he should appoint others in their stead. In these orders the New England skippers trading in Albemarle read the ruin of their business and promptly set on foot a report that, if the duties were collected, they would be compelled to double the price of their wares; "Upon wch the people were very mutinous and reviled & threatened ye Members of the Councell that were for setleing ye sd duty." George Durant and his followers, whose interests lay in maintaining commercial relations with the New England men, supported their cause. As neither the surveyor nor the collector named in the commissions of 1675 was in the province, it became the duty of Governor Jenkins to fill the vacancies. Accordingly he appointed Timothy Biggs surveyor and Valentine Byrd collector. The selection of Biggs was a blind, the selection of Byrd a fraud. The surveyor had nothing to do with the enforcement of the customs act. Control of that office, therefore, was of less importance than control of the collectorship, and the Durant party willingly relinquished it to Biggs, a partisan of the Eastchurch faction, whose selection gave an appearance of good faith to the whole transaction. The selection of Byrd as collector, p55 on the other hand, placed the enforcement of the act in the hands of the party that was interested in nullifying it. Byrd fully met the expectation of his friends; he reduced the whole thing to a farce by deliberately closing his eyes to violations of the law, permitting many hogsheads of tobacco to leave the wharves of Albemarle planters marked as "bait for the New England fishermen."
In the meantime the affairs of Albemarle were going from bad to worse. Factional feuds grew more and more bitter, and each party when in power carried things with a high hand. Conspiring with John Culpepper, Jenkins attempted to use his official power to destroy their personal enemy, Thomas Miller, whom he had arrested and thrown into prison; while John Willoughby, a justice of the General Court and an adherent of the Durant faction, arrogantly asserting that his "court was the court of courts and the jury of juries," peremptorily denied to Thomas Eastchurch the right of appeal from his decision to the Lords Proprietors. The Assembly party in turn, under the leadership of Eastchurch, were quite as arbitrary. Accusing Jenkins of "several misdemeanors," they deposed him from office, without any pretence of legal right, and threw him into prison. Hastening to justify their action, they drew up a statement of their proceedings and dispatched it, together with a petition for redress of grievances, to the Lords Proprietors by Miller who, at the command of Sir William Berkeley, had been acquitted of the charges against him and released. Miller arrived in England in the summer of 1676 where he met Eastchurch who had gone thither to seek redress of his own grievances.
The Lords Proprietors, greatly perplexed over the situation in their colony, and sincerely desirous of promoting its interests, conferred freely with Eastchurch and Miller. Both impressed them favorably. Eastchurch seemed to be not only "a gentleman of a very good family," but also "a very discreet and worthy man," and much concerned for the "prosperity and wellfaire" of Albemarle. As he was speaker of the Assembly, and Miller the bearer of important dispatches from the Assembly, the Lords Proprietors naturally looked upon them as representatives of the people and argued that if anybody could straighten out the tangled affairs of Albemarle, Eastchurch and Miller were the men. Accordingly they appointed Eastchurch governor and procured the appointment of Miller as collector feeling confident that both p56 appointments would be acceptable to the people of Albemarle and taken as evidence of their solicitude for their colony.
Eastchurch and Miller sailed for Carolina in the summer of 1677. Coming by way of the West Indies, their ship touched at the island of Nevis where Eastchurch "lighting upon a woman yt was a considerable fortune took hold of the oppertunity [and] marryed her," and sent Miller on to Albemarle with a commission as president of the Council to "settle affayres against his coming." Although Eastchurch exceeded his authority in appointing Miller president of the Council, nevertheless Miller was quietly received by the people who submitted without question to his authority both as collector and as acting-governor. As collector he discharged his duties with zeal, demanding an accounting from Byrd, his predecessor, appointing deputies, among them Timothy Biggs, and making "a very considerable progress" in collecting the king's customs. By his own statement, his collections amounted to "the value of above £8,000 sterling." But as governor, Miller showed himself totally unfit to exercise the power and responsibility with which he had been entrusted. His enemies, omitting "many hainous matters," charged him with corruption, vindictiveness, and tyranny; and the Lords Proprietors were compelled to admit that he "did many extravagant things, making strange limitations for ye choyce of ye Parliamt gitting powr in his hands of laying fynes, wch tis to be feared he neither did nor meant to use moderately sending out strange warrants to bring some of ye most considerable men of ye Country alive or dead before him, setting a sume of money upon their heads." To support his tyranny, he organized and armed a band of his partisans upon pretense of their being for defence against the Indians; and by this "pipeing guard," as it was called, not only kept the people in terror but also imposed a heavy debt on the already bankrupt colony. Consequently, wrote the Lords Proprietors, Miller soon "lost his reputation & interest amongst ye people."
By the beginning of winter the people were in a rebellious frame of mind, and only an overt act and a leader were needed to produce an explosion. Both came soon enough. On December 1, 1677, the Carolina, "a very pretty vessell of some force," Captain Zachariah Gillam in command, arrived from England and cast anchor in Pasquotank River. Gillam had scarcely stepped ashore when Miller arrested him on a charge of having violated the Navigation Act and held him to p57 bail in £1,000 sterling. Here was the overt act; and Gillam shrewdly took advantage of it. He threatened to weigh anchor and carry his cargo out of the country, but the people, aroused to action by the prospect of losing such an opportunity for trade, beset him with entreaties to stay, pledging their support against the governor. The leader too was at hand, for on board the Carolina, returning from London, was George Durant. While in London, Durant had heard with astonishment of the appointment of his enemy, Eastchurch, as governor and had boldly "declared to some of ye Proprs that Eastchurch should not be Governor & threatened to revolt." News of his threat had probably preceded him to Albemarle; at any rate, in his presence Miller scented danger and determined to forestall it. At midnight of the day of Durant's arrival, Miller forced his way into the cabin of the Carolina, armed "with a brace of pistolls," and "presenting one of them cockt to Mr Geo. Durants breast & wth his other hand arrested him as a Traytour."
The assault on Durant was the signal for revolt. Byrd, Culpepper, and other leaders hastened aboard the Carolina where, in conference with Durant, they planned to overthrow Miller and seize the government. About forty "Pasquotankians," armed by Gillam from the Carolina, rallied to their support and surrounding Miller's house, made him a prisoner, seized the tobacco he had collected on the king's account, and took possession of the public records. They then dispatched armed parties throughout the colony to arrest other officials, among whom was Deputy-Collector Biggs, and issued a "Remonstrance," or an appeal for support to "all the Rest of the County of Albemarle." They had arrested Miller and seized the public records, they declared, "that thereby the Countrey may have a free parlemt & that from them their aggrievances may be sent home to the Lords"; and they urged the people to choose representatives to an Assembly which should meet at once at Durant's house. To Durant's plantation, therefore, the victorious rebels with their prisoners proceeded by water, and as the little flotilla which bore them to the place of rendezvous dropped down the Pasquotank River, the Carolina, lying at anchor off Crawford's wharf, exultantly flung her flags and pennons to the breeze and fired a triumphant salvo from her great guns.
The appeal of the rebels to the people met with a ready response, and from all parts of Albemarle armed men flocked to Durant's plantation. Among Miller's effects the rebels p58 had found the Great Seal of the province, the use of which gave color of authority to their acts, and while Gillam kept the crowd in a good humor by a free distribution of rum and whiskey which he had brought from the Carolina, Durant and other leaders proceeded to organize a government. First of all, the Assembly consisting of eighteen delegates chosen by the people, met and elected five of their members who, together with Richard Foster, who alone of the Lords Proprietors' deputies had adhered to the rebels, were to form the Council. Before this Council Miller and the other prisoners were brought for trial. In all their proceedings, the rebels scrupulously observed the usual legal forms. Culpepper was appointed clerk, indictments were presented and true bills returned with due formality. They were proceeding to impanel a petit jury when a bomb was suddenly thrown into their camp. This was nothing less than a message from Eastchurch who, with his bride, had arrived in Virginia and learning of the situation in Albemarle, had sent his proclamation which, as Miller feelingly said, came "at ye very nicke of tyme," commanding the rebels to disperse and abandon their illegal proceedings. This sudden turn of affairs presented a serious question to the rebels. Whatever justification they may have had for revolt against Miller, they could not charge Eastchurch with tyranny and oppression, nor could they deny his legal title and authority as governor, for he bore a commission from the Lords Proprietors. Nevertheless, resolved to carry their revolt through to a successful issue, they hastily "clapt Miller in irons," declared that if Eastchurch attempted to come to Albemarle "they would serve him ye same sauce," and sent an armed force to the Virginia border to prevent his entering the province. Eastchurch appealed to the governor of Virginia for military aid which was readily promised him, but his sudden death before assistance could be given removed all danger to the Albemarle rebels from that quarter.
Now that the rebels had a free hand, prudence characterized their conduct. They dropt the proceedings against Miller and the other deposed officials; convened a free Assembly, organized courts, and conducted the government "by their owne authority & according to their owne modell." To secure funds for the support of the government, the Assembly appointed Culpepper collector and instructed him to take possession of the revenues which Miller had collected. The colony had quieted down and everything was running smoothly when p59 the escape of Timothy Biggs and his flight to England, brought sharply to the attention of the rebels the necessity of having their case properly presented to the Lords Proprietors. The Assembly, therefore, commissioned Culpepper to go to England to assure the Lords Proprietors of their allegiance, but at the same time to "insist very highly for right against Miller." They denied the authority neither of the Proprietors nor of the Crown, and did not regard their conduct as rebellion. The Lords Proprietors, for reasons to be explained, were willing to accept this view, and Culpepper was on the point of returning to Albemarle in triumph, when the situation took a sudden and more serious turn.
Miller having escaped from prison had hastened to London and laid his case before the king in Council. Inasmuch as Miller in his capacity as collector, was a crown official, his arrest and removal from office, the appointment of Culpepper in his stead, and the seizure of the customs, were offences against the royal authority which the crown officials were not willing to overlook. The Privy Council accordingly ordered that Culpepper be held without bail in England pending a full investigation of the affair; and directed the Lords Proprietors to present a complete account of the rebellion in Albemarle together "with an authentick Copy of their Charter." Apprehensive that this might mean a suit to void their charter for failure to maintain an orderly government in their colony, the Lords Proprietors were anxious to minimize the rebellion as much as possible. Accordingly, though compelled to admit the fact of rebellion, they enlarged upon the crimes of Miller and his lack of authority to administer the government. They could not, however, gloss over the resistance to the king's collector, and the seizure of the king's revenues, for Culpepper acknowledged the facts and threw himself upon the mercy of the king. But the commissioners of customs urged "that no favor may be shewed him unless he make or procure satisfaction for the Customs seized and embeseled by him," and recommended that he be arrested and brought to trail for embezzlement and treason. Thereupon the Lords Proprietors came to his rescue on the first charge, by agreeing "to procure by their authority and influence in Carolina" a satisfactory settlement of the debt; and Shaftesbury, undoubtedly with the sanction of his associates, successfully defended him against the charge of treason on the plea that at the time of the rebellion there was no legal government in Albemarle.
p60 On the whole, the Lords Proprietors met this crisis in their affairs wisely. Amid the clamor of contending factions, they found it impossible to discriminate between truth and falsehood, to distinguish the innocent from the guilty, to pronounce judgment with impartial justice; and as they were much more eager to restore peace and the reign of law in their province than they were to punish those who had disturbed its repose, they declined to follow the advice of Biggs and Miller who urged them to employ force in suppressing the rebellion; and they found an excuse if not a justification for the conduct of the rebels not only in the crimes and tyranny of Miller, but also in the fact that he had attempted to act as governor "without any legall authority." Considering the disorders in Albemarle the result of factions, they were desirous of finding a governor who was not a partisan of either side, and possessed the character and position to command the respect of both. Such a man they thought they had in Seth Sothel who had recently a Lord Proprietor by the purchase of Clarendon's interest. His associates thought him "a sober, moderate man," "no way concerned in the factions and animosityes" of Albemarle, and possessed of the ability to "settle all things well" in their turbulent colony; and as he was willing to undertake the task, they appointed him governor and at the same time procured his appointment as collector. But on his way to Carolina, Sothel was captured and held to ransom by Algerian pirates.
Pending Sothel's release, the Lords Proprietors commissioned John Harvey governor and the commissioners of the customs appointed Robert Holden collector. Both were satisfactory to the people of Albemarle who "Quyetly and cherefully obeyed" them. After a brief official life, Harvey died in office, and the Council selected John Jenkins as his successor. In this selection the Lords Proprietors acquiesced. It was a clear victory for the Durant party, now completely in the ascendancy. "Although Jenkins had the title [of governor]" the other faction truthfully asserted, "yet in fact Durant governed and used Jenkins but as his property." It was fortunate for the colony that this was so. The Durant party was the only group in that colony strong enough to administer a government successfully and to assure order, and George Durant, its leader, possessed many of the qualities of statesmanship. Under his leadership, order was restored, the laws were enforced, the king's customs were collected "without any disturbance p61 from the people," a tax was levied on the colony to refund the revenues seized and used by the rebels "in the tyme of the disorders"; and the Assembly passed an act of oblivion covering offenses committed during the rebellion. Miller, Biggs, and their followers complained bitterly of the conduct of the government and endeavored to stir up resistance to it, but the people had had enough of strife, and the Lords Proprietors were wearied with factious complaints. They stood squarely behind the constituted authorities in their colony, with the result that in November, 1680, they were able to report that in Albemarle "all things are in quyet and his Majtyes Customes quyetly paid by the People."
Unhappily this state of affairs was destined to be of short duration. In 1683, Seth Sothel, who had been released from captivity, arrived in Albemarle bearing a commission as governor. John Fiske is guilty of no exaggeration when he says of Sothel: "In five years of misrule over Albemarle he proved himself one of the dirtiest knaves that ever held office in America."3 As a Lord Proprietor, he considered himself above the law. He disregarded the instructions of the Lords Proprietors; appointed deputies illegally and "refused to suffer any to act as Deputy who had deputations under the hand and seale of the Proprs"; and acted "contrary to all the fundamental Constitutions." He had been in office but a short time when he received a sharp reprimand from his associates, who informed him that no man could "claime any power in Carolina but by virtue of them [Fundamental Constitutions] for no proptor single by virture of our patents hath any right to the Governmt or to exercise any Jurisdiction there unless Impowered by the rest." Complaints soon began to pour in upon them from the people charging Sothel with corruption, robbery, and tyranny. He withheld from subordinate officials and put into his own pocket the perquisites of their offices. He accepted bribes from criminals. He seized without ceremony and appropriated to his own use whatever pleased his fancy, whether a plantation, a negro slave, a cow, or a pewter dish; and if the owner had the effrontery to object he locked him up. He arrested and imprisoned two traders arriving in Albemarle on pretense of their being pirates, although both produced proper clearance papers showing them to be lawful traders, threw them into prison, and seized their goods. One of them died in prison p62 leaving a will naming Thomas Pollock as executor; but Sothel refused to admit the will to probate, and when Pollock threatened to appeal to the Lords Proprietors, he "Imprisoned him without showing him any reason or permitting him to see a copy of his mittimus." George Durant indignantly denounced such unlawful proceedings, whereupon Sothel threw him into prison and confiscated his whole estate "without any process or collor of law and converted the same to yor [his] owne use."
The people of Albemarle endured Sothel's tyranny until 1688. Then doubtless inspired by the Revolution in England they rose against the tyrant, deposed him from office, and prepared to pack him off to England for trial. But Sothel, who feared the wrath of his associates more than the vengeance of the colonists, begged that he might be tried by the General Assembly of Albemarle. He felt sure that the Assembly, though it might remove him from office, would not venture to impose a prison sentence, and in this he calculated correctly. The Assembly found him guilty, banished him from the province for one year, and declared him forever incapable of holding office in Albemarle. The prudence of the Assembly brought its reward. The Lords Proprietors, worn out with the everlasting strife and disorders in their colony, were at first inclined to censure the Assembly, and veto its proceedings, which they declared to be "prejudicial to the prerogative of the Crown and the honor and dignity of the proptors"; but afterward, becoming convinced of Sothel's guilt, they removed him from office and wrote to the people of their colony: "Wee were extremely troubled when wee heard of the sufferings of the Inhabitants of North Carolina by the arbitrary proceedings of Mr. Seth Sothel which unjust and Illegal actions wee abhor and have taken the best care wee can to prevent such for the future And that all men may have right done them who have suffered by him."
Seth Sothel was the last governor of Albemarle; his successor, Philip Ludwell, was commissioned "Governor of that part of our Province of Carolina that lyes north and east of Cape feare." In the letter to the Assembly, quoted above, the attentive reader will have observed that the Lords Proprietors referred to the people of that region as the "Inhabitants of North Carolina." The phrase is significant. It indicates not only the growth and expansion of Albemarle, but also points to a change in the policy of the Lords Proprietors. They had abandoned their original plan of erecting several separate and distinct governments in their province; henceforth there were p63 to be but two — one, of which the Ashley River settlement was the nucleus, was to be the colony of South Carolina; the other, developing out of Albemarle, was to be North Carolina. With the expulsion of Sothel, therefore, the history of Albemarle ends and the history of North Carolina as such begins.
1 Fiske: Old Virginia and Her Neighbours, Vol. II, p280.
2 Ashe: History of North Carolina, Vol. I, p113.
3 Old Virginia and Her Neighbours, Vol. II, p286.
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