George Burrington

Governor of North Carolina Province 1724 to 1725

Royal Governor of North Carolina Province 1731 to 1734

George Burrington is known as the first "Royal Governor" of North Carolina (his second term in office).

He was first appointed Governor of North Carolina on June 3, 1723, because his father had been active in support of the British government at the accession of King George I. He arrived in North Carolina and took the oath of office on January 15, 1723/24. Burrington was accused of being ignorant and profligate, and on 7 April, 1725, was succeeded by Sir Richard Everard.

His retirement angered him so much that he proceeded to make himself disagreeable to Everard in various ways, and was several times indicted for disorderly conduct, once for knocking loudly on the new governor's door, calling him "a noodle and an ape," and declaring that he was "no more fit to be governor than Sancho Panza."

Burrington did not appear at the time set for his trial, and a nolle prosequi was finally entered by the governor's order. Burrington left the colony, and in 1730, when Everard was removed, the home government, strangely enough, considering his previous experience, sent him out again as governor of North Carolina. However, this second time, he was sent by the Crown.

He arrived the second time in February of 1731, and conducted himself with such a want of prudence as to increase the number of his enemies. Riding across the country one day, and observing that a poor man had built a cabin on his land, the governor ordered his servant to burn the cabin.

Finally, knowing that William Smith, late Chief Justice of the colony, had been sent to England by the Executive Council to complain of him, Burrington left, in April of 1734, ostensibly on a visit to South Carolina, but went immediately to England. Some time after this he engaged in a drunken frolic in London, and was found murdered one morning in St. James's park - he died there in 1734. [Note - some of this writeup is incorrect - such as his drunken frolic and death in 1734 - JDL]

In May 1713, Barren Island (Bald Head) was granted to Landgrave Thomas Smith, and in 1724 Governor George Burrington began to distribute land along the Cape Fear River for colonization. Many of the new settlers came from South Carolina because of the lower taxes in North Carolina. Maurice Moore founded Brunswick Town on his grant on the west bank of the river and by June of 1726, a map of the town was filed with the Secretary of the Province. At this point in time, Brunswick Town was in Craven Precinct.

The next year a ferry was in operation across the river. A letter of Governor Burrington dated 1733 says he sent out Indian Guides and some of his men to mark a road to the middle of this Province from Virginia to Cape Fear River and to discover and view the land lying in those parts until then unknown to the English.

On March 21, 1722/23, the Board of Trade announced that the Crown had approved on February 26, 1722/23 for George Burrington to become the next Governor of North Carolina, as long as he provided the appropriate security.

On June 3, 1723, the Lords Proprietors commissioned George Burrington as the next governor of North Carolina and also issued their instructions to him.

On January 15, 1723/24, George Burrington took the oath as Governor of North Carolina in Edenton.

Maurice Moore undoubtedly had the ear of this man and directed his attention to the potential of the Cape Fear lands, which had been held by the Lords Proprietors and rendered unavailable for settlement. By defying the will of the Lord Proprietors, whose decisions had produced several failed settlements in the Cape Fear region, Gov. Burrington was determined to make this unoccupied property available to settlers.

Maurice Moore and members of his family by both blood and marriage became the recipient of over 90,000 acres of land in Carteret Precinct and Craven Precinct in the Lower Cape Fear Region while Burrington was governor. Roger Moore settled with one hundred slaves on his land adjacent to the Cape Fear River and soon built Orton Plantation.

His brother, Maurice Moore, laid out a town about fifteen miles from Orton and named it Brunswick, in honor of King George I, King of England, (1714-1727) and a member of the German House of Brunswick-Hanover. This quickly became the trading and shipping center for the region and became the county seat in 1729 when New Hanover Precinct was first created.

After migration began from the South Carolina parishes of St. James, Goose Creek and Prince George's, Winyah to the Brunswick Town settlement, brought on by abrupt changes in Proprietary law and encouragement from the Moore family, a dispute arose over who had jurisdiction of the new settlement.

North Carolina pre-empted the dispute on November 27, 1729 in creating New Hanover County, called a precinct prior to 1733. It was described as "bounded to the Northward by the Haulover, (an unidentified location) and Little Inlet, and to the Southward by the Southernmost bounds of the Province."

Presumably the county was bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and extended as far west as the province of North Carolina extended. The name of the county was chosen to honor King George II (1727-1760), as his father was honored before him, as a member of the German House of Hanover.

With the efforts of Moore's group of intermarried landowners, the area of the Cape Fear region grew and settlement increased with their encouragement for relocation in this favorable area. This small group of people, due to the extensive relations by blood and marriage, became known as "the Family." This group included Roger and Maurice Moore, their brother Nathaniel, and men from the Allen, Porter, Moseley, Ashe, and Swann families, as well as others.

They were wealthy and powerful plantation owners; many of them holding seats on the Executive Council or in the House of Burgesses. Their population as a group, although nearly 90% slave, encompassed half of the population of the region. The Family was eventually known not only for the creation of the town of Brunswick and the success of the settlement in areas of commerce and shipping, but also as a direct influence in its demise.

The landholdings of these men encompassed nearly all desirable acreage in the area, and because of the extensive plantation system which had been established, acquisition of land by those outside of the Family was increasingly difficult. This pattern of ownership became the source of bitter controversy as opportunity for increased settlement of the area relied solely on the sale of land by members of the Family.

One of the most vocal complainants over the Family's landholdings came from the former Proprietary governor, George Burrington, who had also been appointed as the first Royal Governor of North Carolina later, in 1731. His quarrel with the Family concerned his personal land holdings and a claim that his own holdings while both parcels were under this members control, had devalued in his absence from the colony, while a Family member's holdings had increased several fold.

Within his efforts to fight the power of these few land holding men with whom he now had his grievance, Gov. George Burrington extended his anger to encompass the entire Family. This tore the lower Cape Fear region into political factions with the Governor and his followers on one side with the Crown as their support, and the Family with its wealth and influence on the other.

His primary concern was with the lack of control over registration of land holdings and the immense power the Family held over a vast majority of cultivatable land in the region. Toward the end of his tenure as Royal Governor, Gov. Burrington tried to persuade the General Assembly to pass a law requiring all men to register their land holdings. When this failed he vocally blamed the Family, widening the rift between the factions even further.

In 1731, George Burrington became the first Royal Governor of North Carolina. His commission and instructions were dated April 29, 1730. He was also appointed Vice Admiral on May 2, 1730. More instructions were issued to him on December 14, 1730. He arrived in Edenton and took the oaths of office on February 25, 1731.

His instructions in regard to the Church are voluminous and indicate a purpose to provide for an Establishment. North Carolina, along with the other American provinces, had already been put under the ecclesiastical control of the Bishop of London.

Gov. Burrington had the right of collation, and was instructed to "permit a liberty of conscience to all persons (except papists) so as they be contented with a quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same, not giving offence or scandal to the government."

He was directed to see that the "book of common prayer as by law established" be read each Sunday and holiday, and "the blessed sacrament administered according to the rites of the Church of England." He was to see to it that "a competent maintenance be assigned to the minister of each orthodox church;" that "a convenient house be built at the common charge for each minister," and that there be "a competent proportion of land assigned him for a glebe and exercise of his industry."

The governor was not to prefer any minister to any benefice without a certificate from the Bishop of London "of his being conformable to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England and of good life and conversation." No minister was to preach or to administer the sacrament in any "orthodox church" "without being in due orders."

People with pressing business in England would (more often than not) sail across the seas rather than risk losing their letters (since there was no direct mail service in the early 1700's). In 1729, George Burrington sailed to England, intent on becoming the first Royal Governor. Burrington recived his commission in January of 1730, but he would have to wait nearly a year for his instructions.
Despite Beaufort's well-laid plans, the town grew little in its early years. North Carolina Gov. George Burrington wrote in 1731 that Beaufort had acquired "little success & scarce any inhabitants." A French visitor in 1765 found Beaufort "a Small village not above 12 houses." The "inhabitants seem miserable, they are very lasy and Indolent, they live mostly on fish and oisters, which they have in great plenty."
1732 - First "Royal" Governor, George Burrington, was a favorite of Bertie Countians (although considered arbitrary and paranoid by many citizens of the state). His chief accomplishment was clearing a road from Virginia to Cape Fear, which soon became part of the King's Highway from Boston to Charles Town, SC.

Running into opposition of his enforcement of Royal decrees which included the use of proclamation money (value set by the Crown), he simply dismissed the General Assembly and didn't call it again for two years!

On March 16, 1732, Governor George Burrington recommended that Bertie County be separated, but the new county, Edgecombe, was not officially recognized by legislation until 1741. Tarboro, Edgecombe's county seat, had its name first appear on a 1770 map as "Tarrburg." The small town was chartered in 1760 as Tarborough.
Gov. George Burrington served in the North Carolina Militia from 1731 to 1734, but he had little use or respect for the militia and did nothing to train, equip, or muster it.
In May of 1732, Governor George Burrington and his Executive Council sitting at Edenton heard a “Petition of the south side of Roanoke River, Fishing Creek, and places adjacent,” praying to have a new precinct erected on the south side of Roanoke river extending as far up as the mouth of Conocanara Creek. The petition was favorably acted on and the precinct formed and named Edgecombe. In October of the same year, the limits of Edgecombe precinct were more clearly defined so far as the portion bordering the Roanoke river was concerned. The eastern point was to be the Rainbow Banks, which is about two miles below the town of Hamilton, and the northern and western to be the southern line of Virginia.

Two members of the governor's Executive Council, Nathaniel Rice and John Baptista Ashe, protested against the formation of new precincts by the governor and his Executive Council without the concurrence of the popular branch of the Assembly as being in derogation of its rights. The governor and the other members were equally as determined as those two for the formation of the new precinct. So two memorials went to the Board of Trade in London, one from Ashe and Rice and another from the governor and his Executive Council, each memorial setting forth the reasons for and against the erection of the precinct, and each referring to the other in no complimentary terms. From that time, for about ten years, the contention was kept up as to the legality of the Act of the Executive Council, and Edgecombe Precinct was a name only, its representatives being denied seats in the General Assembly most of that timeframe.

Click Here for information about the Executive Councils under Gov. George Burrington.
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