Ridpath's History of the United States
Volume II


Chapter II
North Carolina


The first effort to colonize North Carolina was made by Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1629 an immense tract lying between the thirtieth and the thirty-sixth parallels of latitude was granted by King Charles to Sir Robert Heath. But neither the proprietor nor his successor succeeded in planting a colony. After a useless existence of thirty-three years, the patent was revoked by the English sovereign. The only effect of Sir Robert's charther was to perpetutate the name of Carolina, which had been given to the country by John Ribault in 1562.

The first actual settlement was made by Virginians near the mouth of the Chowan about the year 1651. In 1661 a company of Puritans from New England passed down the coast, entered the mouth of Cape Fear River, purchased lands of the Indians, and established a colony on Oldtown Creek, nearly two hundred miles farther south than any other English settlement. In 1663 Lord Clarendon, General Monk, who was now honored with the title of duke of Albemarle, and seven other noblemen, received at the hands of Charles II, a patent for all the country between the thirty-sixth parallel and the river St. John's, in Florida.

In the same year a civil government was organized by the settlers on the Chowan. William Drummond was chosen governor, and the name of Albemarle County Colony was given to the district bordering on the sound. In 1665 it was found that the settlement was north of the thirty-sixth parallel, and consequently beyond the limits of the province. To remedy this defect the grant was extended on the north to thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, the present boundary of Virginia, and westward to the Pacific. During the same year the little Puritan colony on Cape Fear River was broken up by the Indians; but scarcely had this been done when the site of the settlement, with Thirty-two miles square of the surrounding territory, was purchased by a company of planters from Barbadoes. A new county named Clarendon was laid out, and Sir John Yeamans elected governor of the colony. The proprietors favored the settlement; immigration was rapid; and within a year eight hundred people had settled along the river.

The work of preparing a frame of government for the new province was assigned to Sir Ashley Cooper, afterward earl of Shaftesbury. This brilliant and versatile statesman stands without a peer in the realms of theoretical politics. His visionary plans were put in a form known as The Fundamental Constitutions, or "The Grand Model," which is supposed to have been written by John Locke, the philosopher. This mighty instrument contained one hundred and twenty articles.

This was but the beginning of the imperial scheme which was to stand like a colossus over the huts and pastures along the Cape Fear and Chowan Rivers. The empire of Carolina was divided into vast districts of four hundred and eighty thousand acres each. Political rights were made dependent upon hereditary wealth. The offices were put beyond the reach of the people. There were two grand orders of nobility. There were dukes, earls, and marquises; knights, lords, and esquires; baronial courts, heraldic ceremony, and every sort of feudal nonsense that the human imagination could conceive of. And this was the magnificent constitution which a great statesman had planned for the government of a few colonists who lived on venison and potatoes and paid their debts with tobacco!

But all attempts to establish the pompous scheme of government ended in necessary failure. The settlers of Albemarle and Clarendon had meanwhile learned to govern themselves after the simple manner of pioneers, and they could but regard the model and its authors with disdainful contempt. After twenty years of fruitless effort, Shaftesbury and his associates folded up their grand constitution and concluded that an empire in the pine forests of North Carolina was impossible.

The soil of Clarendon county was little better than a desert. For a while a trade in staves and furs supplied a profitable industry; but when this traffic was exhausted, the colonists began to remove to other settlements. In 1671, Governor Yeamans was transferred to the colony which had been founded in the previous year at the mouth of Ashley River, and before the 1690 the whole county of Clarendon was a second time surrendered to the native tribes. The settlement north of Albemarle Sound was more prosperous, but civil dissension greatly retarded the development of the country.

The humble commerce of the colony was burdened with an odious duty. Every pound of the eight hundred hogsheads of tobacco annually produced was taxed a penny for the benefit of the government. There were at this time less than four thousand people in North Carolina, and yet the traffic of these poor settlers with New England along was so weighed down with duties as to yield an annual revenue of twelve thousand dollars. The governor was a harsh and violent man. A gloomy opposition to the proprietary government pervaded the colony; and when, in 1676, large numbers of refugees from Virginia -- patriots who had fought in Bacon's rebellion -- arrived in the Chowan, the spirit of discontent was kindled into open resistance.

The arrival of a merchant-ship from Boston and an attempt to enforce the revenue laws furnished the occasion and pretext of an insurrection. The vessel evaded the payment of duty, and was declared a smuggler. But the people flew to arms, seized the governor and six members of his council, overturned the existing order of things, and established a new government of their own. John Culpepper, the leader of the insurgents, was chosen governor; other officers were elected by the people; and for two years the government was administered without the consent of the proprietors.

In 1680 the proprietors sent one Seth Sothel, an infamous rascal, as governor. In crossing the ocean he was captured by a band of pirates, and for three years the colony was saved from his evil presence. At last, in 1683, he arrived in Carolina and began his work, which consisted in oppressing the people and defrauding the proprietors. Cranfield, of New Hampshire; Cornbury, of New York, and Wingfield, of Virginia, were all respectable men in comparison with Sothel, whose sorded passions have made him notorious as the worst colonial governor that ever plundered an American province. After five years of avaricious tyranny, the base, gold-gathering, justice-despising despot was overthrown in an insurrection. Finding himself a prisoner, and fearing the wrath of the defrauded proprietors more than he feared the indignation of the outraged colonists, he begged to be tried by the assembly of the province. The request was granted, and the culprit escaped with a sentence of disfranchisement and a twelve months' exile from North Carolina.

Then followed a period of peace and prosperity. The new governors sent out from time to time were better and more competent men than formerly. The colony began to grow strong in population and resources. The country south of the Roanoke began to be dotted with farms and hamlets. Other settlers came from Virginia and Maryland. Quakers came from New England and the Delaware. A band of French Huguenots came in 1707. A hundred families of German refugees, buffeted with war and persecution, left the banks of the Rhine to find a home on the banks of the Neuse. Peasants from Switzerland came and founded New Berne at the mouth of the River Trent.

In September, 1711, Lawson, the surveyor-general of North Carolina, ascended the Neuse to explore and map the country. The Indians, of whom the Tuscaroras were the leading tribe, were alarmed at the threatened encroachment upon their territory. A band of warriors took Lawson prisoner, led him before their council, condemned him, and burned him to death. On the night of the 22d, companies of savages rose out of the woods, fell upon the scattered settlements, and murdered a hundred and thirty persons. Civil dissension prevented the colonial authorities from adopting vigorous measures of defense. The protection of the people and the punishment of the barbarians were left to the neighboring provinces. Spottswood, governor of Virginia, made some unsuccessful efforts to render assistance, and Colonel Barnwell came from South Carolina with a company of militia and a body of friendly Cherokees, Creeks, and Catawbas.

In September of the next year, while the conflict was yet undecided, the yellow fever broke out in the country south of Pamlico Sound. So dreadful were the ravages of the pestilence that the peninsula was well-nigh swept of its inhabitants. Meanwhile, Colonel James Moore, of South Carolina, had arrived, in command of a regiment of whites and Indians, and the Tuscaroras were pursued to their principal fort on Cotentnea Creek, in Greene county. This place was besieged until the latter part of March, 1713, and was then carried by assault. Eight hundred warriors were taken prisoners. The power of the hostile nation was broken, but the Tuscarora chieftains were divided in council; some were desirous of peace, and some voted to continue the war. This difference of opinion led to a division of the tribe. Those who wished for peace were permitted to settle in a single community in the county of Hyde. Their hostile brethern, seeing that further resistance would be hopeless, determined to leave the country. In the month of June they abandoned their hunting-grounds made sacred by the traditions of their fathers, marched northward and joined their kinsmen in New York, and became the sixth nation of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Thus far the two Carolinas had continued under a common government. In 1729 a final separation was effected between the provinces north and south of Cape Fear River, and a royal governor appointed over each. In spite of the Grand Model and the Tuscarora war, in spite of the threatened Spanish invasion of 1744, the northern colony had greatly prospered. The intellectual development of the people had not been as rapid as the growth in numbers and in wealth. Little attention had been given to questions of religion. There was no minister in the province until 1703. Two years later the first church was built. The first courthouse was erected in 1722, and the printing-press did not begin its work until 1754. But the people were brave and patriotic. They loved their country, and called it the Land of Summer. In the farmhouse and the village, along the banks of the rivers and the borders of the primeval forests, the spirit of liberty pervaded every breast. The love of freedom was intense, and hostility t tyranny a universal passion. In the times of Sothel it was said of the North Carolinians that they would not pay tribute even to Caesar.


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