In 1672, George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, visited Albemarle County and established a Quaker meetinghouse. As the years passed, the Quaker element grew in size and influence. By the start of the 18th century, Quakers held most of the important political positions in northern Carolina, which displeased the Anglican minority.
In 1702, a new monarch, Queen Anne, took the throne in England. According to custom, oaths of allegiance were required of all royal officeholders in England and the colonies. The Quakers, as a matter of religious principle, refused to take the oath, but did offer to "affirm" their loyalties. The Anglican leaders declined these affirmations and forced the American Quakers from their offices.
In 1705, Thomas Cary entered this tense situation in the Carolinas. He had been an Anglican supporter, but switched his allegiance to the Quakers and led them back to power in 1708. The simmering feud boiled over in 1711, when Edward Hyde arrived as the newly-appointed Deputy Governor.
Cary refused to yield office and gathered his supporters near his home in Bath at the mouth of the Pamlico River.
Over the next few months, the fortunes of the contending parties rose and fell. The turning point came in July 1711 when a company of royal marines was dispatched from a ship in Chesapeake Bay. Cary refused to order his men to fire on royal soldiers, therefore, he was captured and sent in chains to England on a charge of treason.
His friends soon won his release and he returned to Carolina, living out his days in obscurity.
Cary's Rebellion exemplified the inflammatory nature of mixed political and religious passions. The loss of life in the Rebellion was not great, but the disruption paralyzed the colony. Government offices were closed for long periods; policies were reversed, then reversed again. The disruption also took a heavy toll on the economy. Planting schedules were interrupted and crops left untended. In the end, dozens of families were ruined by the Rebellion.
Gradually the Albemarle settlements, or Albemarle county in its original sense, expanded into a true province. North of the sound four precincts were formed - Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, and Currituck. After settlement had extended somewhat to the south of Albemarle sound, the proprietors directed that the name Albemarle county should be confined to the region north of that body of water.
Governor Archdale was ordered to erect between Albemarle sound and Cape Fear as many counties as the progress of settlement, encouraged by him, would justify. But not until 1705, when Thomas Cary was acting as deputy governor, did he and his council erect the settlements south of the sound into Bath county. This was divided into three precincts, while others were later organized, extending as far south as Cape Fear river. The precincts of North Carolina were, in fact, counties in the ordinary and modern sense of the term, and they came later to be so called.
Thomas Cary, who had been collector of quitrents for the proprietors, and who is said to have been concerned in civil troubles in South Carolina, was appointed Deputy Governor in place of Robert Daniel, who had just been removed from office.
The new Deputy Governor not only tendered the oaths, but caused an act to be passed which provided that any one who should promote his own election, or sit and act as a member of the assembly, without duly qualifying himself by taking the oath, should be fined £65. So offended were the Quakers at this that in 1706 they sent John Porter to England, who again, with the aid of Archdale, induced the proprietors to suspend Johnson's authority in North Carolina, remove Cary, and empower the council of the province to choose a president.
Porter, on his return in 1707, called together the Quakers, for a number of whom he had procured deputations from the proprietors, and, in the absence of Cary and the rest of the councillors, chose William Glover president. Glover was another churchman, and, declining to be used as a tool by those who placed him in office, insisted as his predecessors had done that the oath should be taken. Porter now called all the members of the council together, both those who had recently been superseded and those who had not yet been sworn, declared Glover's election illegal, and chose Cary in his place. Against this Glover and Colonel Pollock protested, and in consequence of it the province at once became divided into hostile factions.
Both Glover and his rival now issued writs of election, and it was agreed that the assembly to be chosen should decide which was the rightful president. Of the seven precincts, four in Albemarle county and three in Bath county, five chose Cary members. All the members from Bath, and those from Pasquotank and Perquimans precincts in Albemarle, were his adherents. Moseley, a supporter of Cary, was chosen speaker.
On the strength of representations then made by Porter, the assembly voted that the proprietors had disallowed both of the laws requiring the oaths, though the Quaker members later went through a form of declaration. Cary was chosen president by this body, but was not recognized by Glover and his party. In this divided condition, without recognized and legal government, the province remained for two years, 1708 to 1710, and apparently no effort was made by the proprietors or their representatives in South Carolina to pronounce definitely in favor of either party.
Though no hostilities of importance seem to have occurred, some of Glover's leading supporters retired into Virginia rather than live under what they considered an illegal government and amid conditions so unsettled.
In the summer of 1710, Edward Hyde arrived in North Carolina as the deputy of Governor Tynte of the southern province. But the sudden death of the latter had made it impossible for Hyde to procure his commission, and therefore he had to refer for proof of his claims to statements in private letters. But these were convincing; Glover at once retired in his favor; Governor Spotswood of Virginia recognized him, and most of the wealthier inhabitants of North Carolina submitted to his government.
Cary did this at first, but later put himself again at the head of a factious opposition. Hyde called a council, opened the courts which had been closed during the recent disturbances, and in the summer of 1711 summoned an assembly. He was thus organizing what proved in the end to be a legal government, but he was forced to wait nearly a year and a half for his commission as governor from the proprietors, and did not take the oaths of office until May, 1712.
The assembly, which had been elected under influences favorable to an establishment, passed acts requiring that the oaths should be administered and lawful government maintained. It also provided for the recovery of the rents and fees which Cary had collected and of the deeds of land to the Palatines which were in his possession. All of Cary's acts were declared illegal and void, and he, with Porter, was ordered to be taken into custody.
But Hyde was unable either to execute the laws or to bring the prisoners to trial. Cary soon escaped, declared himself president, and prepared with a brigantine and a force of men to attack Hyde. In this move, which was essentially warlike in its character, Cary probably had the assistance of only a few of the Quakers. The governor and his council retired to a place of safety and sent an urgent message to Virginia for aid. Governor Spotswood and his council resolved at first to try mediation.
Therefore they sent John Clayton with two letters to Cary, the one conciliatory in tone, and the other to be delivered only in case he should persist in his rebellion-declaring the purpose of the Virginia government to support Hyde. At first Cary expressed his willingness to confer with his opponent and even named a place. But soon after, whether from fear of foul play or not, he changed his mind, and advanced again to attack the governor.
Clayton now returned to Virginia bearing a request for armed assistance. Spotswood ordered out the militia of the southern counties and sent a body of marines from a guardship into Carolina. But before they reached the Chowan, Cary abandoned forcible resistance and with a few of his associates retired into the Tuscarora country, whence they soon passed into Virginia.
There they declared their purpose of going to England to justify their conduct before the proprietors. Spotswood, as soon as he ascertained by examining them that their only desire was a fair trial, hastened their departure, with such information as he could give about the uprising. Sometime later a preliminary complaint was sent over by Hyde and his council, who in the meantime had resumed the unobstructed administration of government of Albemarle.
In November, 1711, Cary was granted two hearings by the proprietors, and replied in person and in writing to Governor Hyde's accusations. But the board of proprietors was weaker and more indifferent than it had been at the time of the previous rebellion.
The pressure to which it, in connection with all the other colonial proprietors, was being subjected by crown and parliament, reduced the board to impotence in the face of internal disorder. It was content to let disturbances end as they might and with as little offence as possible.
Sorrow was expressed that Hyde had been compelled to resort to force to uphold his government. He was instructed to have Cary's accounts with the proprietors audited, also to make all possible reparation to those who had suffered injury. A full account of the disturbances should be submitted, so that, if the queen should require an answer, it might be given in satisfactory form. Beyond this no action seems to have been taken.
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