Regulators’ Advertisement No. 11 – Petition from the Regulators concerning taxes and fees for public officials
Regulators of North Carolina 1768
[B. P. R. O. Am. & W. I. N. C. No. 216.]
REGULATORS’ ADVERTISEMENT No. 11.
Address of the Regulators to Governor Tryon and the Council
May it please your Excellency & your Honours,
At a Committee of the regulators held May 21st 1768, a Committee was appointed to form a petition to be laid before your Excellency and your Honors, wherein among other things it was ordered us to implore the pardon & forgiveness of the Legislature, for whatsoever hath been acted amiss &c. see Paper No. 10. and as a Petition had been already formed we agree to let that stand and in lieu of a better present you with a plain simple narrative of Facts accompanied with and supported by authentic Papers and such as have been from time to time sent to our Officers. This We
humbly conceive will give you a more clear and distinct idea of our grievances and the several causes thereof than anything could be conceived in form of a Petition. As to the other part of our Instructions, which were to implore your Clemency in behalf of the poor oppressed People, we undertake it with innate pleasure, humbly beseeching your Excellency and your Honors and everyone of you graciously to forgive, and pardon not only them, but everyone of Us, anything that by you may be construed as derogatory to His most sacred Majesty’s Prerogative, Person, Crown or Dignity, or in opposition to His Laws, or that may in any wise contribute to the Disquiet, Dissatisfaction, or Infelicity of your Excellency’s Administration whereby to deprive you of that Bliss you promised yourself when appointed by His Majesty to rule over Us. And we assure Gentlemen that neither Disloyalty to the best of Kings nor Disaffection to the wholsomest Constitution now in Being, nor yet Dissatisfaction to your present Legislative Body gave rise to these Commotions wch now make so much noise throughout the Province. Which after you have candidly perused this Paper, together with the concomitant proofs you will easily perceive that those Disturbances had their source in the corrupt and arbitrary Practices of nefarious & designing men who being put into Posts of Profit and Credit among us, and not being satisfied with the legal benefits which arose from the execution of their Offices have been using every artifice, practicing every Fraud, and where these failed threats and menaces were not spared whereby to squeeze and extort from the wretched Poor, who as Colonel Fanning himself observes in the petition he has sent us (if tis his) with their utmost efforts can scarce gain a wretched subsistence for themselves and families—Allowing this to be a truth which it lamentably is, how grievous judge you dear Sirs, must it be for such wretches to have their substance torn from them by those Monsters in iniquity, whose study it is to plunder and oppress them. People can feel Oppression and yet be utterly ignorant how or where to apply for redress. This was absolutely the Case with us, & looking on Colonel Fanning as our fast friend in whom we could confide (in fact the favors we have conferred on him, one would imagine were sufficient to rivit him to our Interest, were he susceptible to gratitude) We applied to him him to screen us, from the many arbitrary and fraudulent impositions we continually groaned under, how far and to what purpose that Gentleman has answered our Expectations, together with the Artifices he practiced to elude our hopes, and evite [shun] the consequences of a Settlement the several Papers wherein are contained the Transactions will more fully inform you. You will likewise perceive that those frequent applications, and the satisfaction we promised ourselves to redound therefrom prevented us from laying our Complaints & grievances sooner at your feet, as being unwilling to give You any trouble, on that score, before we had tried our every effort to accommodate & terminate matters among ourselves. But ’tis our fate to be constrained to give you this trouble, and what we sincerely regret great uneasiness. We therefore humbly beseech you to take our affairs under your serious consideration, and if it appears to you that we have been oppressed to grant us such justice on our Oppressors as to you in your great goodness, candor and wisdom shall seem meet. We shall just add, that we should have given you this Trouble sooner but that we have been so embarrassed by your Officers ever since they understood our resolution to seek you for redress, that we could not bring our affairs to any Conclusion, seeing they have left no stone unturned by the which they hoped to retard our designs. Flattery on one hand, and menaces on the other, have not been spared to deter us, from our Purposes of complaining as may be seen by the Papers marked B. C. D. but when they found all was ineffectual they changed their Battery, and endeavoured by their Emissaries to prevail on or frighten us to sign a Petition marked E. drawn up among themselves, and sent us in a letter marked C. by Mr Ralph McNair You will see how this Petition is calculated entirely to screen themselves and throw the blame on your poor supplicants. We however have sent it you together with all the Papers we have received from them that as it contains some truths however disguised whereby you will plainly discover the deplorable situation of our miserable County, and the reasons in a great measure namely the unequal chances the poor and weak have in contentions with the rich and powerful and as ’tis attested by an enemy you will the readier give it credit—However not longer to trespass on your Patience we shall without further Preface proceed to our promised Detail—
In the year 1766 there appearing a general Discontent in the countenances of the People, & grievous murmurings ensuing the Popular Voice gave out that the demands of Court Officers for Fees of every kind were exorbitant, oppressive and extra-legal. In order therefore to prevent such Frauds if real or if only imaginary to give our Officers an opportunity to still those clamors, by disproving their entity We drew up the Paper No. 1. and Jno Marshall waited on them with Copies of the same at the Inferior Court August Term Mr Thomas Lloyd being present & the purport thereof appearing reasonable to Mr Lloyd he promised to give us a Hearing but altered the day as by Appointment on account of his attendance at the General Assembly. Wherefore in consequence of and encouraged by Mr Lloyd’s approbation Meetings were held in various Neighbourhoods wherein conjunctively was drawn up the Paper No. 2. and nominated 2 or 3. men in each who signed the remainder of their Names, & exposed the same to Public View.
In expectation therefore of a Meeting, and a satisfactory settlement as a consequence thereof, about twelve men went to MrMaddock’s Mill on Eno River, the place appointed, where waiting until late in the day, and no Officers appearing we made a motion to disperse but at the instance of Mr Maddocks, we waited until he could dispatch a lad to Hillsborough to inform himself of the reasons of the Officers non appearance as he had frequently discoursed with them on the Subject, who had all signified their intentions to meet the People, particularly Mr Lloyd who had said nothing but death or sickness should prevent him. In about an hour the Messenger returned and brought word they would all instantly be on the spot, but quite contrary to our expectation Mr James Watson came alone and brought a Paper marked (A) which he said Colonel Fanning had drawn up, but said Colonel Fanning had not given him any Orders to show it, and then cavilled at a word in our Paper (vizt) Judiciously and said that the Colonel with the others, had been preparing to meet us some time since but on observing the aforesaid Term in our Paper No. 2. they declined it as the word denoted we intended to set up a Jurisdiction among ourselves, to the which he must be subject and therefore he rejected our purposes as looking more like an Insurrection than a Settlement besides he could not brook the meanness of being summoned to a Mill, the Court House appearing to him, a more suitable place. To both which frivolous objections, we replied that as to the Term in question we were no Criticks that as to the Term in question We knew not how many different Constructions it might bear but as to ourselves we meant no more by it than wisely, soberly and carefully to examine the matter in hand—That with respect to the Court House we had no right to appoint a convention there but to the Mill we had, having first obtained the Owner’s leave to that purpose—However in order to remove all objections as we were conscious to ourselves that what we aimed at was just and legal, we drew up the Paper No. 3, couched as we conceived in such Terms, as would remove all further remora [delay] to our designs. And Mr Watson himself after perusing the same, declared in his opinion it was reasonable, just and legal. And on our presenting Mr Watson with a Transcript of the same he engaged his honor to present our Officers with the same which we think he did accordingly. For in the ensuing Court Colonel Fanning read a prolix Instrument in Court to the Justices in contrariety to our designs of which he vaunted and asserted he had served us with Copies thereof but we declare, no such Paper ever came into our hands. Sheriffs &c. encouraged as we imagine by the imperious Carriage of their Superiors began now to assume airs, threatening us behind our backs, which Menaces working on the imbecility of some, and the Pusilanimity of others, caused the Association at that time to be laid aside. Nevertheless some of the Commonalty endeavoured to be heard at Court about paying 2s. more for recording Deeds, than was paid in any other County, but they were silenced. The Sheriffs now grew very arbitrary, insulting the Populace and making such Distresses, as are seldom known—Double, Treble, nay even Quadruple the value of the Tax or debt was frequently distrained, and such their seizures hurried away to Hillsborough, there to be disposed of, and so iniquitous were they in these Practises, that by taking contrary roads or some other indirect Methods the Effects could never be recovered, altho’ they were followed with the money in a few hours after, nor could we ever learn that they returned any Overplus. For better information we refer you to the grievances proved &c. And early last Spring Mr Harris our High Sheriff published the Advertisement marked (F) in consequence whereof the People who lived in Mr Harris’ Vicinity convened, and paid off at 8.4. taking receipts. But Colonel Fanning ariving just after gave out that the Taxes were 10.8. This heithened the rising Discontent, and inflamed the minds of the People, notwithstanding Numbers paid the 10.8. but disputed the Authority of the Act, cited in the Advertisement—When at a Meeting in Deep river for payment of Taxes John Wood Deputy Sheriff being then present, being questioned about the Act confidently persisted in the affirmative. Upon which William Moffit on examining the Laws, no such Act could be found, Wood now finding his knavery was detected, no less confidently denied the Advertisement to be Harris’s. This unprecedented Effrontery, convinced the Spectators that there was Knavery, and Collusion and judging all was of a piece, formed themselves into Bodies under the denomination of Regulators, in Order to oppose if practicable the torrent of violence and oppression, and drew up the Paper No. (4) subscribing, swearing or declaring to the same under various Chiefs. And now the former Application, coming afresh into every one’s Memory, and being still desirous to accommodate matters, without coming to a rupture, drew up the Paper No. (5.) and two of the new formed Regulators, waited on our Officers with Copies of the same, but without receiving any satisfaction—Whereupon a second Deputation was ordered to be sent with Copies of No. (6) but before they could set off, one of the Regulators going to Hillsboro on some private business, had the mare he rode on seized for his Levy. Whereupon the Regulators assembled and went down in order to recover the mare, armed with clubs, staves &c and cloven muskets—When a Gentleman coming to Colonel Fanning’s door with his Pistols, threatened to fire among us, but a piece being presented at him, he incontinently withdrew, upon which some heated unruly spirits fired 4 or 5 pieces into the roof of the Colonel’s House making 2 or 3 holes in the roof and breaking two panes of Glass in the dormer windows above, then having secured the mare, they rode off without doing further damage. On this being convinced in our Judgments, that our proceedings were inadequate & would greatly contribute to your Excellency’s dissatisfaction by embarrassing your Administration Resolved to proceed on our first plan vizt: Petitioning your Excellency & Honors, for redress, See Paper No. 4, Seeing it was denied us from every other quarter, and satisfied we should find it in that source of wisdom, justice and Lenity. And this step too was resolved on, by our whole Body, in pursuance whereof a Convention was held, in order to carry those salutary Purposes into execution. The Paper No. 6 being delivered to Mr McEljohn our Rector while in Town, about the Mare desiring him to deliver it to the Officers in our names. Which he accordingly did. For shortly after he came up among us with a verbal message, as he said from our Officers, and by their Orders, to the following effect vizt: That if the Regulators would nominate any Number of reasonable men to meet them the 11th day of May at Hillsborough they would give them a settlemt: At the same time MrMcEljohn drew up a Paper, which was signed by some private Regulators see No. 7. but signifying withal that if the Majority dissented therefrom it should be void, which Paper was objected to first because it insinuated, a falsity, as tho’ we intended violence, whereas in fact no such thing was designed, whatever private Papers might be handed about by particular Persons—2ldy It was objected to meet at the Town as we had intimation they were fortifying that place, in order as we apprehend, to secure us in Gaol, as soon as they had us in their Power, & that this was their design will appear by the Sequel. Nevertheless we determined to give them a Settlement in conformity to their message by Mr McEljohn, and greatly pleased with the happy prospect of having our differences so speedily terminated we convened April 30th in order to appoint proper Persons as Settlers, Where we drew up the Paper No. 8. and appointed the men therein specified Ordering one of our Body to notify the same to our Officers and drew up and signed the Paper No. 9. lest the Officers by again deceiving us might put us to further trouble which should that be the case it might be ready. Thus stood Affairs when on Monday morning May 2nd we were alarmed at the astonishing news that Colo Fanning at the head of 27. armed men consisting chiefly of Sheriffs Bombs Tavern Keepers, and Officers after travelling all night, were arrived by break of day on Sandy Creek, and had made prisoners Mr Hermon Husbands & Mr Wm Butler the former a Gentleman that had never joined the Regulators, had never been concerned in any tumults, and whose only crime, was his being active in trying to bring on the intended settlement. This extraordinary step of the Colonel’s alarmed the whole County, Regulators or Anteregulators, all were unanimous in the recovery of the Prisoners; many who had till then opposed, the prevailing measures, now went down with the foremost, as judging none were now safe, whether active, passive or neutral, but being arrived near the Town, we there met your Excellency’s private Secretary Mr Edwards, with your Excellency’s gracious Proclamation requiring us on sight thereof to disperse, and on acquainting you with our Grievances, you would graciously take our case into consideration and redress them where found real, and where only imaginary kindly excuse the trouble in compassion to our ignorance, instantly on hearing these glad tidings we dispersed accordingly, and greatly emboldened by your Excellency’s gracious Declaration, and by an agreement with Colonel Fanning to leave our case to the Arbitrament of your Excellency and Honours, we convened again May 21st in order to consult such further Measures, as might facilitate our first designs. See No. 4. the result of which we now lay, at your Excellency’s and Honors feet for your inspection—We humbly beg leave to observe on some of Colo Fannings strange conduct, that on the very day he set off for Sandy Creek, he directed Letters to 3. of the Regulators inviting them to Hillsborough, and promising them all imaginable satisfaction, one of which directed to Jacob Fudge we send herewith for your Perusal—And now Gentlemen you see We have sent without reserve or disguise, our whole Proceeding in this affair, having concealed nothing whether for or against us, and as you are chosen by the contending Parties to arbitrate the difference, and as we on our parts, are fully determined to abide by your decision, we humbly hope, naked Truth, and native Ignorance will poise the super-excellent Flourishes, and consummate Declarations of our powerful Adversary, & relying on your benignity and Justice we humbly beg leave to subscribe Ourselves your poor oppressed Supplicants and very humble obsequious Servants.
Signed in behalf and by Order of the Regulators by us the Committee—
To His Excellency Wm Tryon Esqre our Governor & to the honble the Members of His Majesty’s Council for the Province of North Carolina.