The Lords Proprietors Sell Carolina to the Crown

1719 to 1729 

Since the beginnings of the colony, the Lords Proprietors sowed the seeds for discontent in Carolina. They made promises that they could not keep, and in some cases never intended to keep. In 1665, they issued their "Concessions and Agreements," yet in 1669, they issued the "Fundamental Constitutions," which they claimed did not seriously change the earlier Concessions and Agreements, but this was not completely honest.

At first they offered land almost for free, then they demanded quit-rents that were higher than originally announced. Most of the men the Lords Proprietors sent over as Governors had never held any office, much less a demanding office as an executive over a very imperfect colonial government. Then, the Lords Proprietors instructed the colonists to establish laws and courts, but reserved the right to appeal or annul any law they did not like.

On December 7, 1710 the Lords Proprietors agreed that North Carolina and South Carolina should have separate governors and therefore separate governments, and they agreed to get Crown approval for this idea. On July 11, 1711, the Board of Trade agreed to present this idea to the Crown and they petitoned Queen Anne to give her assent and approval of Edward Hyde to become the first full governor of North Carolina. On July 30, 1711, the Crown approved of Edward Hyde with the stipulation that he provide a £1,000 security for his office. From this time onward, all new governors for both North Carolina and South Carolina were approved by the Crown.

To make matters much worse, as time went on, many of the Lords Proprietors lost interest in their colony and refused to expend the necessary money to ensure success. After two significant Indian wars - the Tuscarora War in North Carolina and the Yamassee War in South Carolina - the colonists requested financial assistance in rebuilding, yet the Lords Proprietors refused. Their solution was to again increase quitrents to pay for needed infrastructure.

The Lords Proprietors, for instance, wanted quit-rents paid in sterling, but many in the Albemarle region could only pay with marketable commodities. Before 1715, agents seized land for nonpayment of taxes, but in 1715 the North Carolina House of Burgesses disallowed agents from assessing seized property and allowed commodities as payment. Needless to say, quit-rents were no longer profitable for the Lords Proprietors, for the tax went strictly to paying a growing number of bureaucrats.

Soon afterwards the Lords Proprietors provided yet another great offense to the colonists by vetoing a number of popular laws which had been enacted by the Commons House of Assembly in South Carolina. The most important was one changing the method of election for the members of the Commons House of Assembly, so that instead of being chosen altogether at Charles Town they should be elected by the voters in the various districts of the province.

This veto seemed to be intended to secure the continued domination of a little group of politicians in Charles Town, and led finally to armed resistance. In 1719, the colonists of South Carolina assembled in arms and called upon their governor, Robert Johnson, to renounce the Lords Proprietors and assume the government in the name of the Crown. This Gov. Robert Johnson loyally refused to do. He was, therefore, set aside and James Moore, Jr. elected governor in his place, with the understanding that he was to hold office on behalf of the King. In 1721, all succeeding governors of South Carolina were appointed by the Crown, even though the Lords Proprietors protested because in their minds they still "owned" all of Carolina, and not the Crown.

Interestingly, the colonists of North Carolina made a point to contact the Lords Proprietors and inform them that they did not agree with South Carolina and made it clear that they preferred not to be placed under the Crown.

However, several of the Lords Proprietors began asserting that their two colonies across the ocean were simply becoming a burden and causing much more trouble than they were worth. Between 1719 and 1727, there is little documentation available to clearly show the progression of changing ownership of the two Carolinas, except the following:

On June 4, 1720, one of the current Lords Proprietors, Maurice Ashley sent a letter to Elizabeth Blake (the mother of Joseph Blake, Jr., a minor, and one of the young Lords Proprietors) informing her that "we have had a Proposall made to us with respect to Carolina, of so much advantage to the Proprietors that my single share may amount to Thirty Thousand Pound." Although this proposal was not accepted at this point in time, it is clear that as early as 1720 both sides were already posturing for the Crown to take over Carolina.

There is plenty of other information showing how disfunctional things became in both provinces during this timeframe, and there is plenty of information available indicating that advisors of the Crown were becoming more and more interested in getting the Lords Proprietors out of the picture.

This all changed on May 31, 1727, when the Lords Proprietors petitioned King George I (who died soon thereafter on June 11th) "praying that he will take supreme sovereignty of Carolina in his hands." Five months later, on October 12, 1727, the Lords Proprietors sent a long letter to King George II outlining all their known reasons why the king should take over Carolina into his own hands and not send a provisional governor.

On March 5, 1727/8, the Lords Proprietors again petitioned King George II "praying he will accept absolute and entire surrender of their interest in Carolina," and that they in turn be paid £2,500 each for their shares.

On July 11, 1728, negotiations between the Lords Proprietors and the Crown concluded and the colonists were notified by December 12, 1728. For all intents and purposes, the rule of the Lords Proprietors ended on July 11, 1728.

Sometime before June 1, 1729, an Act of Parliament was passed "establishing an agreement with seven of the Lords Proprietors for the surrender of their title." Formal deed surrender was made on June 1, 1729 by owners of six shares, and on September 29, 1729 by the four owners of the seventh share.

At the time that the Crown purchased Carolina, the following names were included as "owners" - and therefore, Lords Proprietors - even though some of their claims were not necessarily appropriate at this point in time due to sales and contesting claims:

- Sir John Colleton, 3rd Baronet
- Henry Somerset, 3rd Duke of Beaufort, Charles Noel Somerset (later 4th Duke of Beaufort), by Doddington Greville, trustee
- Mary Archdale Danson
- Edward Bertie
- Alexius Clayton
- Samuel Horsey
- Henry Smith
- Ann Amy Trott / Nicholas Trott
- Elizabeth Amy Moore
- James Bertie
- Henry Bertie
- Joseph Blake, Jr., by Samuel Wragg, his attorney
- John Cotton, by Archibald Hutcheson, trustee
- William Craven, 3rd Baron Craven

John Carteret, 2nd Baronet Carteret and later 2nd Earl of Granville did not convey his share to the Crown. He retained ownership of a sixty-mile-wide strip of land in North Carolina adjoining the Virginia boundary, which became known as the Granville District. This district was the site of many disputes from 1729 until the American Revolutionary War. The land was subsequently seized by the North Carolina revolutionary government.


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