Thomas Cary

Deputy Governor of Carolina Province 1705 to 1706 & President of the Council 1708 to 1710

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 1710, 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 Cary's 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 - in 1668. After settlement had extended somewhat to the south of Albemarle Sound, the Lords Proprietors directed that the name Albemarle County should be confined to the region north of that body of water.

In 1696, Governor John 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 Deputy Governor, did he and his Executive Council erect the settlements south of the sound into Bath County. This was divided into three precincts - Archdale, Pamtecough, and Wickham - while others were later organized, extending as far south as the 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 in 1733.

Thomas Cary, who had been collector of quit-rents for the Lords Proprietors, and who is said to have been concerned in civil troubles in South Carolina, was appointed Deputy Governor in place of Robert Daniell, 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 anyone who should promote his own election, or sit and act as a member of the General 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 John Archdale, induced the Lords Proprietors to suspend Governor Nathaniel Johnson's authority in North Carolina, to remove Deputy Governor Thomas Cary, and empower the Executive Council of the province to choose a new President to govern them.

John Porter, on his return in 1707, called together the Quakers, for a number of whom he had procured Deputations from the Lords Proprietors, and, in the absence of Thomas Cary and the rest of his Executive Council, chose William Glover as their 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. John Porter now called all the members of the Executive Council together, both those who had recently been superseded and those who had not yet been sworn, declared Glover's election illegal, and chose Thomas Cary again in his place. Against this William Glover and Col. Thomas Pollock protested, and in consequence of it the province at once became divided into hostile factions.

Both President William Glover and his rival now issued writs of election, and it was agreed that the General 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 County, and those from Pasquotank and Perquimans precincts in Albemarle County, were his adherents. Edward Moseley, a supporter of Thomas Cary, was chosen Speaker of the House of Burgesses.

On the strength of representations then made by John Porter, the General Assembly voted that the Lords Proprietors had disallowed both of the laws requiring the oaths, though the Quaker members later went through a form of declaration. Thomas Cary was chosen President by this body, but was not recognized by William 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 Lords 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 William 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 Edward 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; William Glover at once retired in his favor; Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia recognized him, and most of the wealthier inhabitants of North Carolina submitted to his government.

Thomas Cary did this at first, but later put himself again at the head of a factious opposition. Edward Hyde called his Executive Council, opened the courts which had been closed during the recent disturbances, and in the summer of 1711 summoned a General 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 Lords Proprietors, and did not take the oaths of office until May of 1712.

The General 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 Thomas Cary had collected and of the deeds of land to the Swiss Palatines which were in his possession. All of Thomas Cary's acts were declared illegal and void, and he and John Porter were ordered to be taken into custody.

But President Edward Hyde was unable either to execute the laws or to bring the prisoners to trial. Thomas Cary soon escaped, declared himself President once again, and prepared with a brigantine and a force of men to attack President Hyde. In this move, which was essentially warlike in its character, Thomas Cary probably had the assistance of only a few of the Quakers. President Hyde and his Executive Council retired to a place of safety and sent an urgent message to Virginia for aid. Governor Alexander Spotswood and his council resolved at first to try mediation.

Therefore they sent John Clayton with two letters to Thomas Cary, 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 Edward Hyde. At first Thomas 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.

John Clayton now returned to Virginia bearing a request for armed assistance. Governor Spotswood ordered out the militia of the southern counties and sent a body of marines from a guard ship into Carolina. But before they reached the Chowan River, Thomas 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. Governor 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 Edward Hyde and his Executive Council, who in the meantime had resumed the unobstructed administration of government of North Carolina.

In November of 1711, Thomas Cary was granted two hearings by the Lords Proprietors, and replied in person and in writing to Governor Edward Hyde's accusations. But the board of Lords 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 offense as possible.

Sorrow was expressed that Edward Hyde had been compelled to resort to force to uphold his government. He was instructed to have Thomas Cary's accounts with the Lords 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.

Click Here for yet another account of Cary's Rebellion.
Click Here for the available information on the Executive Council under Deputy Governor Thomas Cary.
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