The Executive Councils of Early North Carolina

Administration

Years

William Drummond

1664 to 1667

Samuel Stephens

1667 to 1670

Peter Carteret

1670 to 1672

John Jenkins

1672 to 1676

Thomas Eastchurch

1677

Thomas Miller

1677

John Harvey

1679 to 1680

Henry Wilkinson

1680

John Jenkins

1680 to 1681

Seth Sothel

1682 to 1689

John Gibbs

1689 to 1690

Thomas Jarvis

1690 to 1694

Thomas Harvey

1694 to 1699

Henderson Walker

1699 to 1703

Robert Daniell

1703 to 1705

Thomas Cary

1705 to 1706

William Glover

1706 to 1710

Thomas Cary

1708 to 1710

Edward Hyde

1710 to 1712

Thomas Pollock

1712 to 1714

Charles Eden

1714 to 1722

Thomas Pollock

1722

William Reed

1722 to 1724

George Burrington

1724 to 1725

Sir Richard Everard

1725 to 1731

Click Here for the Executive Councils during the Royal Period in North Carolina.

In the "Concessions and Agreements" of 1665, which were not put into effect until sometime between October of 1667 and perhaps as late as 1672, the governor was authorized to appoint his Executive Council. But, the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669/1670 gave the appointment of Executive Council members back to the Lords Proprietors. With this latter document, the governor and Executive Council were directed to establish criminal courts, commission all civil officers except for the Secretary and Surveyor General, commission all military officers below Lt. General and all officers to lead military units established by the Assembly. They were to ensure that all courts performed per established laws and to provide for the defense of the colony by erecting garrisons in forts and towns, as created by the Assembly.

The Governor and Executive Council were authorized to grant reprieves in criminal cases, but were required to get approval from the Lords Proprietors on these. They were to issue writs for elections, issue land warrants, muster and train soldiers, to pursue all enemies, and to suppress all rebellions and mutinies - on the sea and on land. And... they were to take care of all other necessary items not contrary to the laws of the colony, and especially not contrary to the established laws of England. These leaders were also responsible for Indian relations.

The Executive Council was also known as the "Grand Council," the "Council of State," and the "upper House of the Assembly." This august group was granted powers to act as the Palatine's Court, the Court of Chancery (equity), and the Court of Claims. The "Grand Council" existed for about two decades. At first, a "quorum" was the Governor plus three (3) Councillors; by 1709 a "quorum" was the Governor plus four (4) Councillors; and by 1723 a "quorum" was the Governor plus a "majority" of all Councillors.

The Fundamental Constitutions required the "Grand Council" to convene at least monthly, and for the various courts that they also comprised to meet at least quarterly. In the 1690s, the Lords Proprietors began issuing instructions to governors and deputy governors to call the "Grand Council" together when they saw fit. Except for the Tuscarora War (1711-1712) the Executive Council averaged meeting only four or five times a year, but during some administrations the Executive Councils met more frequently.

The Fundamental Constitutions allowed each of the Lords Proprietors to "depute a person to act during his absence from Carolina," and his deputy was "to have the same power, to all intents and purposes, as he himself who deputed him," with the exception of confirming Acts of the Assembly and appointing Landgraves and Caciques. Since only a rare few of the Lords Proprietors actually ever came to Carolina, there were quite a few "deputies" in both colonies. This system of Proprietary Deputation prevailed in both colonies from about 1670 to 1724, almost the entire span of the Proprietary rule.

As one might expect, the reality of this approach was very different than the simplicity originally envisioned. The wording of each "deputation" was never fixed and varied widely as time went on. As Lords Proprietors died and their share of Carolina was either inherited by their heir(s) or was sold off to another person or persons. If a share became owned by a minor, then that minor's guardian or trustee was authorized to name a "deputy" to serve on the Executive Council in each colony.

From 1669 to 1682, the Fundamental Constitutions decreed that each deputy could serve no more than four years, but there was no direction provided to fill a vacancy or to remove a deputy who refused to serve. In 1691, the Lords Proprietors decided that the Palatine and any other three (3) of the Lords Proprietors could remove a deputy, but the Governor and three (3) deputies could not do this.

A body styling itself a "Grand Council" was functioning in Albemarle County as early as April of 1672. The Lords Proprietors sent a letter naming eight Councillors - three (3) were certainly deputies, one or two others may have been deputies, and the remainder were merely elected by the freemen. None were of the "nobility" (Landgraves or Caciques) because none of the nobility had been created in Albemarle as yet. Since the Governor and Deputies also sat as the "Palatine's Court," these men could veto actions of the elected Executive Council members and the small House of Burgesses.

As early as 1670, Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle, sent the first "blank deputation" to Gov. Samuel Stephens who was directed to fill Monck's deputy office with a person of his own choosing. From then on, "blank deputations" were often sent to new governors to name their own members of the Executive Council. As one might suspect, this resulted in plenty of problems as time went on.

In 1680, Gov. Henry Wilkinson was given three (3) "blank deputations." Gov. Seth Sothel (and a Lords Proprietor) was issued two "blank deputations." In 1694, five (5) "blank deputations" were provided to Gov. John Archdale for SC and another five (5) "blank deputations" for NC. In 1695, he requested a full set of "blank deputations." Similarly, in 1709, Gov. Edward Tynte was given five (5) "blank deputations" each for SC and NC. Gov. Charles Eden was the last governor to receive any "blank deputations" during his tenure (1714-1722).

Wilkinson was ordered to only replace those causing disquiet. Sothel was told the same, but since he was also a Lords Proprietor, he ignored those orders, and furthermore, he never informed the other Lords Proprietors in London who he appointed. By 1715, the Lords Proprietors were deferring almost exclusively to the governors to select their Executive Council members.

Thomas Pollock was a deputy of the Carterets and gave the impression that the relationship was a personal one. Quaker Lords Proprietors - John Archdale and John Danson - chose fellow Quakers to be their deputies.

In 1711, the NC General Assembly passed a statute on how vacant deputations were handled. However, subsequent governors essentially ignored this statute and refilled vacancies as they deemed appropriate. The 1711 General Assembly also passed a statute on what the Executive Council should do in case the governor should die or leave the colony - they were to do what they had been doing since the beginning - they would elect a "President" of the Executive Council to lead them until a new governor was appointed by the Lords Proprietors and arrived in the colony to take the oath of office.

In 1712, the adult Lords Proprietors decreed that William Glover was now the deputy for Sir John Colleton, a minor.

In 1718, there were so many defects in the "deputational system" that the Lords Proprietors changed it. They sent direction to Gov. Charles Eden to revoke all existing deputations and to select ten new Councillors - as was the apparent custom in all other colonies. For some strange reason, Gov. Eden did not comply, and things continued as they were. During his long illness at the end of his tenure, the Executive Council met only nine (9) times in the final two years of Gov. Eden's tenure.

In 1723, the instructions and commission to Gov. George Burrington ended the deputational system. He was authorized a full Executive Council of twelve (12) members and new procedures were established to fill vacancies and when it was appropriate to suspend existing members:

- Governor, with consent of a majority of the Executive Council, could suspend or remove a Councillor for dereliction of duty or committing a crime, set forth in writing only.
- Governor alone could fill a vacancy created by death, absence from the colony, or dismissal/suspension by the Executive Council; consent of the other Executive Council members was not required.
- Blank deputations were abolished.

During his short first term during the Lords Proprietors' rule, Gov. George Burrington met with his Executive Council twenty-two (22) times.

In 1725, the instructions and commission to Gov. Richard Everard removed the governor's authority to appoint his Executive Council members without any scrutiny; he must now have the consent of the majority of the other members of the Executive Council. During the last bitter years of Gov. Everard's term, the Executive Council only met to issue land grants and transacted very little other business.

The Executive Council members (deputies, etc.) were not paid for their services until 1718, yet they did receive a small stipend for travel and lodging. However, all Executive Council members were exempt from military service and from work related to erecting roads and bridges. Executive Council members soon held multiple other offices such as Secretary, Surveyor General, Chief Justice, and Customs Collector - all paying a salary plus travel expenses.

During the period of the Lords Proprietors, each governor convened his Executive Council where it suited him. In the early years when everyone lived in Albemarle County, these met at the homes of prominent men in the area. In 1724, a Council Chamber was erected in Edenton, but it was not always used. Later, as the colony grew southward, Gov. Gabriel Johnston convened his Executive Council all across the colony, sometimes meeting where it was "most inconvenient" for those Executive Council members he did not like.

The Crown purchased Carolina from seven (7) of the eight (8) Lords Proprietors in 1728/1729, but their first involvement in the selection of the Executive Council formally began with the appointment of George Burrington as governor again, and his taking of the oath of office in Edenton on February 25, 1731. The Crown appointed the Board of Trade as its manager for all things in Carolina, and this group appointed most of Burrington's Councillors from existing members already in the province. Burrington was allowed to name a few, but some never left London, and he had to live with those already in the colony.

During the Royal Period (1729 to 1775), the Executive Council continued to serve as the "upper House" in the General Assembly, to participate in the Court of Chancery (equity), to issue writs for elections and to convene each Assembly, and many of the same duties as before. The primary differences were in the process for selecting new members of the Executive Council and a few powers of the Governor and the Executive Council were modified or abolished. Vacancies were filled by the Board of Trade. If the number fell below seven (7), the governor was authorized to appoint just enough new members to reach that number.

Each governor was faced with certain issues that demanded his attention, and most also required the attention of his Executive Council. During some administrations, the governor and Executive Council got along quite well, and the colony ran fairly smoothly. However, this was not the case for the greatest portion of the time. In most cases, the governor and his Executive Council were at odds with each other, and in many instances there were even "open hostilities" between them.

The following links provides the known members of each Executive Council and summarizes the issues they faced in performing their civic duties during the Proprietary Period in what became North Carolina. Not all names are currently known, and not all issues can be completely described. But, there should be enough for you to get a good feel for how the "leaders" of North Carolina met their obligations.

Most of the information in this section comes from "Records of the Executive Council 1664-1734," "Records of the Executive Council 1734-1754," and "Records of the Executive Council 1755-1775," edited by Robert J. Cain, and published by the North Carolina State Archives between 1984 and 1994. These excellent books provide great details on almost every meeting of this long-standing group. Only summaries are provided in this website.

 
 


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