Carolina Under the Lords Proprietors' Rule

5th House of Burgesses - 1677

On November 21, 1676, the Lords Proprietors commissioned Thomas Eastchurch as the next Governor of Albemarle County. They also commissioned him as governor of the new lands along the Pamlico River and the Neuse River. On the same date they issued their instructions to him.

However, Thomas Eastchurch sailed with Thomas Miller from England to Nevis, where Eastchurch met and married a fairly wealthy lady. He chose to remain in Nevis for a while longer and provided Miller with a commission to serve as President of the Executive Council until his arrival and gave him "very full and ample powers."

Eastchurch later proceeded to the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, where he died later in 1677 - never assuming the reins over Albemarle.

On 9 July 1677, Thomas Miller landed in Albemarle County and assumed the President of the Executive Council and Acting Governor while Thomas Eastchurch was still in Nevis. Some historians claim that Miller was met with resistance, but one of Miller's deputy collectors, Timothy Biggs, confirmed that "all people haveing quietly submitted... & the New England Men complied in payeing their duty."

President Thomas Miller called a meeting of the General Assembly, whose power the Lords Proprietors had confirmed until the new elections scheduled for September under the Fundamental Constitutions could be held. The representatives from Currituck Precinct declined to appear at the scheduled assembly meeting, claiming the press of business, but Miller proceeded with the meeting and presented the Lords Proprietors' instructions, commissions, and orders which he had brought from London and from Eastchurch. Prior to adjourning, the General Assembly appointed a court to begin clearing cases, some of which had been pending for three or four years.

As the time for elections approached, President Miller obtained the consent of the appointed Deputies to issue the necessary writs for the election of representatives to the House of Burgesses. President Miller's instructions that accompanied the writs, however, called for new election procedures requiring the use of ballots and specifically excluded certain persons who opposed Miller. Even though some of those whom Miller had excluded were elected anyway, Miller's supporters would not allow them to serve.

This led to considerable dissension among the inhabitants. The accepted representatives of the House of Burgesses met with the appointed Lords Proprietors' Deputies and President Miller (the Upper House), and they elected Thomas Cullen Speaker. This General Assembly set a tax levy to cover the cost of the recent Indian wars, and since there had been no levy for the two preceding years, it was high. In addition to "omitting many hainous matters" President Miller was later accused in a remonstrance drawn up by Culpeper of denying free elections of an Assembly, cheating the country of 130,000 pounds of tobacco, and raising the levy to 250 pounds of tobacco more than it otherwise would have been to pay for his "pipeing guard."

This General Assembly allegedly met in September of 1677, specific dates not currently known.

In early December of 1677, President Thomas Miller was seized and imprisoned by the group soon to be known as starting Culpeper's Rebellion. Later in December of 1677, the new leaders mandated that a new election be held to elect new representatives for the House of Burgesses.

At the election many spoke out against Landgraves and Cassiques, positions of nobility under Carolina's Fundamental Constitutions. Richard Foster stopped this treasonous outcry, and with yet one more cry of derision against the Lords Proprietors, the crowd began to choose their burgesses. Following their selection, the electors instructed the new burgesses that they should absolutely insist on free trade for tobacco so that it could be sold anywhere without payment of duty to the king. Miller was also denounced for cheating the country of 135,000 pounds of tobacco now held for the king but which the people thought should belong to them.

Jenkins, Bird, Crawford, White, and James Blount from the new assembly were then chosen to sit with Richard Foster as a court in the cases of Timothy Biggs, who was accused of murder, and John Nixon, another council member who was accused of treason. Thomas Miller, still in irons, was then brought before the court and a jury impaneled from the crowd with Mordslay Bouden, a New England trader, as foreman. Miller believed that only four of the jury could read or write.

The assembly and court were broken up and went to their homes.

Between August and November of 1679, Thomas Miller escaped from custody with the assistance of several of his friends, including Timothy Biggs and Henry Hudson. Miller and Hudson went to England to inform the Lords Proprietors of the events taking place in Albemarle County.

Election District

Delegate*

Chowan Precinct
Currituck Precinct
Pasquotank Precinct
Perquimans Precinct

Enoch Billings

Valentine Bird

James Blount

Henry Bonner

Caleb Calloway

William Crawford

Thomas Cullen**

Thomas Jarvis

John Jenkins

William Jennings

Francis Jones

Alexander Lillington

Christopher Nich

Samuel Pricklove

Richard Sanders

William Sears

Anthony Slocum

William Therrill

John Vernham

Patrick White
* The names have survived history, but which precinct they represented has not.
** Thomas Cullen was elected Speaker of the House. He represented Chowan Precinct.
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