The Regulators of North Carolina: Outraged Opressors
The history of colonial North Carolina is bombarded with frequent strife and
turmoil. The people of North Carolina, because of a lack in supervision fromOrder now
the British monarchy, learned to possess an independent spirit. The colony remained
isolated from the rest of the country because of several geographical
conditions such as poor harbors, the abscence of navigable rivers, numerous
swamps, and bad road conditions. Due to these conditions, communities
throughout North Carolina became widely seperated. The colony was initially
set up by the Lords Proprietors, an English founding company that helped
finance early American exploration.
When North Carolina was freed from
British proprietorship, the Granville family, descendants from the original
Lords Proprietors, con-tinued to hold their land rights. This area, which
became known as the "Granville District," was the scene of many disputes over
land grants, taxes, British support, and a great deal of lesser issues.
Settlers in the back country (Piedmont) felt particularly oppressed by the laws
drawn up by an assembly largely composed of eastern landowners. "Local"
officials in many counties, particularly in the western segment of the back
country were not local men at all, but friends of the royal governor, William
Tryon. These so-called "friends" often collected higher fees than authorized
by the law while obtaining tax money or divided a single service into many
services and charged fees for each. Lawyers who followed the judges around
the colony also fell into the same habit.
The citizens of Anson, Orange, and Granville counties were the first to make
themselves heard. In 1764, this band of citizens, referred to as the "mob," created a
number of local disturbances until Governor Arthur Dobbs passed a proclomation
forbidding the collection of illegal fees, the practice that the people complained of the
most. Their protests were calmed only temporarily. However, the efects of the new
law wore off soon enough and sheriffs and other county officers returned to
their old dishonest practices. Citizens complained largely in part because
money was so scarce; local trading was almost limited to barter. Often,
property was seized and resold, and citizens felt that their property was
being sold to a friend of an official for much less than its true value (1).
People among the Granville District were anxious to revolt and needed only a
leader to provide the spark that led to the fire of the War of Regulation. A
man named Hermon Husband became actively involved and was referred to as a
leader several times, despite the fact that he was often nothing more than an
agitator. Husband reprinted patriotic flyers with messages dealing with
taxation withour representation hoping that citizens would call for reform.
However, at no time during the Regulation was there an actual leader (2).
Orange County was an early center of Regulator activity. Colonel Edmund
Fanning, holder of numerous offices in the county including the prominent Clerk
of the Recorder””””s Court at Hillsborough, became a prime target along with
Royal Governor William Tryon, who took office in 1765.
Tryon was hated
because he aimed to use taxes to build Tryon Palace in New Bern, a very
costly residence for himself, as well as the seat for the colony””””s
government. The Regulators, "who named themselves after a group of country
reformists in South Carolina (3)" shortly after Tryon””””s announcement to build
the palace, had no sympathy with the governor””””s desire for a fancy residence.
The War of Regulation was not limited to Orange County. Outbreaks of
violence during the collection of taxes in Anson County and several riots
throughout the Granville District were sure signs of what was to come.
A group of men, apparently enthusiastic over the success of the Sons of
Liberty in resisting the Stamp Act, called citizens together to determine
whether they were being treated justly or not. Edmund Fanning denounced this
Little was accomplished at the meeting, but this is where the
Regulators proclaimed themselves as a radical political group (4).
Minor oppositions continued to occur until the spring of 1768 when the sheriff of
Orange County announced he would be collecting taxes at certain areas of the
colony only, and if colonists did not pay at these particular locations a
charge would be incurred. This occured at about the same time Tryon gave
word about the construction of Tryon Palace. This was very inconvenient for
the sttlers for two reasons. The widely scattered population made it
difficult to arrive at these tax stations. Lack of money .