Charles Eden

Governor of North Carolina Province 1714 to 1722

Charles Eden was the first man appointed by the Lords Proprietors as a "full" Governor for North Carolina - from this time forward, there was no subjugation of the residents "above the Cape Feare" to a governor far away in Charles Town - North Carolina was now "on its own."

Perhaps one of the most colorful Governors of Colonial Carolina, Charles Eden has also proven to be one of the most controversial subjects for many historians.

The circumstantial evidence of his connection with the pirate Blackbeard is truly damaging, however, Eden has been described as a "man of fair ability and amiable disposition and during his administration was generally held in high esteem in the colony".

Yet Williamson says of him, "his administration was checkered by trouble and clouded by disgrace, that he might and should have prevented; and his conduct, when viewed in the most favorable light was very imprudent, though his guilt was not fully established".

Still another state historian says that Eden "was polished, a genial and popular man in social intercourse and soon became trusted and beloved in all portions of the state".

No doubt, this uncertainty of his character tends to give him a more romantic and legendary aspect.

Governor Eden, a representative of a great English family, arrived in North Carolina in 1714 with full powers from the Duke of Beaufort, who was then Palatine. Col. Thomas Pollock had been serving as governor since the death of Hyde in 1712. Eden's official title to be used in the colony was "Charles Eden Esquire, Governor, Captain General, and Admiral".

He came into office with instructions from the Lord Proprietors to discourage much expansion of the settlement. In spite of this he was, to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.

The General Assembly, over with Governor Eden presided in 1715, was destined to instigate many legislative measures for the economic and political progress of the colony. It was during the meeting of this legislative body in 1715 that the first direct tax was levied on the inhabitants of North Carolina, at least so far as any record in existence today shows. This took the dual form of a poll and land tax.

This same 1715 General Assembly definitely established the Church of England (Anglican) in North Carolina. This was, no doubt, brought about to a great extent by the influence of Governor Eden, who was interested in aiding the Church of England in its early struggle for survival.

At this point in time there was a severe lack of Clergymen and missionaries sent out from England by the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel. Thus it was that most of the nine Parishes established in 1715 had to rely entirely upon the services of qualified lay readers.

In a letter of Governor Eden's he states "In most of the parishes they have already established two or three readers who are the most capable persons we can get here. To some they allow per annum thirty pounds, to others twenty pounds and to none less than ten pounds."

During Eden's administration, the colonial legislature also passed what were probably the first "Blue Laws" made in the state. The law makers of 1715 hoped "to prevent the grievous sins of cursing and swearing, to check drunkeness, to enforce Sunday observance and in other ways improve public morality."

To Eden, also fell the problem of the aftermath of the Indian War of 1711-1712. A number of the Tuscarora tribes had begun migrating to New York to join the Iroquoian group. Chief Thomas Blount and his tribe, however, who proved friendly to the colonists during the conflict, remained in Carolina.

At first the government set up a reservation for them between the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.

In 1717 at a meeting of the Assembly under Governor Eden at the town of Queen Anne's Creek (later named Edenton) Blount and his Indians were given a large tract of land to be held forever, north of the Marrotock (Roanoke) River, in present Bertie County. This was the locality known today as "Indian Woods."

By the end of Eden's administration the debt incurred as a result of the Tuscarora War had been reduced to half its original size.

After residing periodically at Bath or the Village of Queen Anne's Creek, according to where his official duties carried him, Governor Eden came to the shores of present Bertie County to build his permanent home. Here he lived the later part of his life, located at the mouth of the Chowan River near Salmon Creek, the place is still known as "Eden House."

Though the actual house disappeared years ago, no doubt it was a residence of style and proportions suitable to a person of Governor Eden's prestige.

To his home on the Bertie Pennisula, the Governor brought his wife, Penelope, and his step-daughter, Penelope Galland (Mrs. Eden's daughter by a previous marriage). Eden House was noted for its "refined society" and "splendid hospitality." Mrs. Eden died in 1716 and was buried there at her home on the Chowan.

During this period, the waters of the Carolina Coast became the habitate of pirates, who preyed upon ships sailing between the colonies, the West Indies and England. One of the most noted of these buccaneers was Edward Teach, known as "Blackbeard." Teach was evidently a familiar figure to certain people in the colony, particularly at Bath, where also lived Governor Eden's Secretary of the Colony, Tobias Knight.

In 1717, by proclamation of King George I, all pirates, who within a limited time surrendered themselves to any colonial governor were pardoned. Thus Blackbeard and some of his men surrendered to Governor Eden. It was only a short time, however, before Blackbeard was back at his old trade of plundering ships.

Eden and the Colonial Government, apparently took little interest in attempting to bring Teach to justice, or else they were quite unprepared to meet with the situation. When the pirate's ship was finally captured and Blackbeard killed near Ocracoke Inlet in November 1718, it was by a ship outfitted by Virginia and commanded by Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy.

Part of Blackbeard's loot was found in a barn owned by Tobias Knight, the Secretary of the Colony. The men most eager in pursuing the investigation of Teach's connections in the Colony were Edward Mosely and Maurice Moore, leaders of the Popular Party.

As Henderson says "this made it possible for Governor Eden, in spite of the evidence produced, to attribute ulterior partisan motives to the investigators. The Governor exonerated Knight and at the same time raised an issue to divert attention from the primary question. Governor Spotswood was exceeding his authority, Eden argued, when he sent an armed force into North Carolina and when after the battle at Ocracoke Inlet he sided in tracing the stolen goods."

Mosely and Moore, however, continued the investigation regardless of this official interference. They obtained access to Public Records by breaking into the house where they were kept. As a result the men were fined. Mosely then cast direct insinuations at Governor Eden by declaring that "the Governor could raise an armed posse to arrest honest men, though he could not raise a similar force to apprehend Teach, a noted pirate."

For this, Eden had Mosely brought up to trial for "seditious utterance" under an act passed by the Assembly of 1715. Mosely was found guilty and prohibited from holding public office for a period of three years. This feud between Eden and Mosely had reached such proportions that it overshadowed and obliterated the original investigation into the Governor's official family and its relationship with Teach.

To this day no definite proof has been uncovered as to the connection between Eden and the pirate, Blackbeard. Tradition says that in Bath there was a tunnel cut from the river to the Governor's house, by which Blackbeard smuggled in his captured goods. There is a like tradition that a similar tunnel existed at "Eden House". That these tunnels did exist is quite probable, because a number of homes built during those early colonial days along the rivers did have such tunnels as a secret escape from hostile Indians, such as the John Rolfe home on the James River in Virginia.

In 1718, Charles Eden was made a Landgrave of Carolina. This was a hereditary nobility provided for in the Fundelmental Constitutions, written for the Colony by John Locke. According to the Constitutions there were to be the same number of Landgraves as there were counties in the Colony. Eden and Von Graffenreid, however, were the only persons in the Colony to achieve this distinction.

During Eden's administration, William Maule of Bertie County was the Surveyor General of the Province. For every survey of land there was due the Governor the sum of two shillings and six pence for each purchase right. In 1720, Eden brought into the General Court a complaint against Maule. It seems that Maule was authorized to make these collections, but had not turned the money over to Governor Eden for a number of years. Maule had married the Governor's step-daughter, Penelope Galland.

The hostility between Eden and Maule over the complaint of 1720 is probably shown in Governor Eden's will. In it he makes no mention of his step-daughter, Penelope Galland Maule, but speaks only of his niece, Mrs. Margaret Pough and his friends, John Holloway, David Richardson, James Henderson and John Lovick.

Governor Eden died in 1722.

He had steered the colony through a long, peaceful and prosperous administration. He was buried at his home "Eden House" on the shores of Bertie County. The stone which marked his grave had the following inscription: "Here lyes ye body of Charles Eden, Esq., who governed the Province eight years to the great satisfaction of the Lord Proprietors and ye ease and happiness of ye people. He brought the county into a flourishing condition and died much lamented, March ye 26, 1722, aetatis 49."

         
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