Page images
[ocr errors]

Of the P E O P L E of
In the Year 1719.

HE Lords Proprietors of Carolina being at this Time soliciting His Majesty for the Restitution of their Government of South-Carolina, from whose Authority the Inhabitants revolted in the Year 1719, and humbly besought His Majesty to take them under his own immediate Government and Protection; I could not help thinking this a proper Juncture to acquaint the World how those People came to take such extraordinary Measures, as those they did, has the Appearance of to them who are not acquainted with the Springs and Motives which agitated and push'd them on to such violent Proceedings. And being furnish’d with proper Materials, the Original Papers, and an Eye-Witness to most that then pas'd in that Province, I can answer for the Truth of the Facts hereafter related: and as the Continuance of the Government of that Province under the Crown is of the greatest Consequence, not only to the Province itself, but to all the Settlements in NorthAmerica, to which it is a Frontier; I hope it will not be thought an impertinent Work to acquaint the Publick with an Affair, which altho' so remote, is . so great Importance.

[ocr errors]

But before I proceed to Particulars, it will be necessary to give the Reader a short View of the Nature of the Settlement and Government of that Province, and of the Accidents and Contingencies that first gave the people a Dislike to the Lords Proprietors; and which, by degrees, so far irritated them, that they at last resolv’d to be no longer subject to their Government.

This Province was first settled at the Charge and Expence of several Persons of Quality, to whom King Charles II. granted it by Charter, soon after his Restoration; and a Scheme was then by them drawn, for the forming and settling the Legislature, and for encouraging Settlers to go over: It will be sufficient only to mention here, that by their Charter, they had Power given them to call an Assembly of the Freemen of the Province, or their Delegates, and with them, either by themselves or their lawful Deputies, to enact and make Laws, not repugnant to the Laws of England; and it had been usual with them, to appoint a Governor and seven Deputies, called the Council, the first of which (the Governor) represented the Palatine, and the others the rest of the Lords Proprietors, respectively, and were called the Upper House of Assembly: Thus the Laws were pass'd, and the Country govern'd for upwards of Fifty Years; when, after some Years lintercourse and Dealing between the Inhabitants and several Nations of the Indians, with whom they Traded, as they now do for several Thousand Pounds a Year, the said Indians unanimously agreed to destroy the whole Settlement, by murdering and cutting to pieces all the Inhabitants, on a Day they had agreed on; and altho’ some private Intimations were given the People of this their Design, it was totally disbeliev'd; so that on that certain Day, in the Year 1715, they killed all, or most of the Traders that were with them in their Towns; and going among the Plantations murder'd all who could not fly from their cruelty, and burned their Houses. The Occasion of this Conspiracy, which was so universal, that all the Indians were concerned in it, except a small Clan or two that lived amongst the Settlements, insomuch that they amounted to between Eight and Ten Thousand Men, was attributed to some ill Usage they had receiv'd from the Traders, who are not (generally) Men of the best Morals; and that, no doubt of it, might give some Cause to their Discontents; to which may be added the great Debts they owed the Inhabitants, which it is said amounted to near 10,000l. Sterling, with the Goods then amongst them; all which they seiz'd and made their own, and never paid their Debts, but cancell'd them, by murdering their Creditors.

In this War near 400 of the Inhabitants were destroy'd, with many Houses and Slaves, and great numbers of Cattle, especially to the Southward near Port-Royal, from whence the Inhabitants were entirely drove, and sorced into the Settlements near Charles Town. - This Town being fortified, they there had Time to think what to do; and not mustering above 1200 Men, they sent to Virginia and the neighbouring Colonies for Assistance; and for want of Money, of which they have very little in the Country, they formed Bills of Credit, to pass Current in all Payments, of which we shall have Occasion to speak hereafter. This their necessary Defence brought the Publick in Debt near 80,000l. and intail'd great Annual Charges upon them, to maintain Garrisons, which they were forced to keep at great Expences. In this very great Extremity, they sent Agents to England with an Account of their deplorable State, and to beg Assistance from their Proprietors: But not having very great Expectations from them, as .."; rightly imagining they would not be brought to expend their English Estates, to support much more precarious ones in America, their Agents were directed to lay a State of their Circumstances before her then Majesty Queen Anne, and to beg the Assistance of the Crown. Their Agents soon sent them an Account, that they found a Disposition in Her Majesty to send them Relief, and to protect them; but that the Objection was, they were a Proprietory Government; and it was the Opinion of the then Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, that if the Queen was at the Expence of Protecting, and Relieving the Province, the Government thereof should be in the Crown. This first contracted in the Inhabitants in general, an Opinion of their being very unhappy in living under a Government that could not protect them; the Effects of which were also worse, since it hinder'd the Crown from doing what they (the Pro"o. not do themselves. The Publick Emergencies had occasion'd the Stamping the aforesaid Sum of 80,000l. in Bills of Credit, to pay their Soldiers, and other Charges the Country was forced to be at; and it was Enacted by the Assembly,They should be Current in all Payments between Man and Man... But the precarious State the Province was in by the Indian War, and the Danger it was exposed to, by being a Frontier, to the French and Spaniards, gave the Merchants in England who Traded thither, and to whom the Inhabitants were considerably Indebted, so great an Alarm, that they writ to their Correspondents, to make them Returns at any Rate, for fear of losing the Whole.

The great Demand for the Commodities of the Country that this necessarily occasion'd, together with the Scarcity of them by the Peoples being taken from their Labour to defend themselves, and there being no other way of paying their Debts to the Merchants in England but by the Produce of the Country, the Money being National, having no Intrinsick Value in it; all these things concurr'd to raise the Price of the Rice, Pitch and Tar, and other Productions, to such a height, that the Bill that was made for Twenty Shillings, would not purchase what was worth intrinsically more than a Half a Crown. From whence it follow'd, that those who had Money owing them on Bond or otherwise before the War, and who must have been paid in Gold or Silver, or its Value, if those Bills had not been made Current in all Payments, by their being so, lost Seven Eighths of their Money: These Losses sell chiefly on the Merchants and such of the Inhabitants of Charles Town as were Money’d Men; and, on the contrary, the Planters, who were their Debtors, were the Gainers.

This so very great a Loss salling upon the Merchants (tho' I do truly believe it was not foreseen by the People) made very great Clamours in England, from them, who applied to the Lords Proprietors for Redress, and desired that a Stop might be put to the Increase of that sort of Currency, and that some Way might be found for the calling-in, and sinking what was then Current of them. In this Condition and thus Circumstanced, Mr. Johnson found the People on his Arrival, who was appointed Governor by the Lords Proprietors Commission dated 30th of April 1717; and agreeable to an Act of Parliament in that Case provided, he was Approv'd of by His MAJESTY, under his Sign Manual.

At his first coming, he applied himself to the Assembly, to call-in those Bills, which had brought so great Inconveniencies upon themselves, as well as on the Traders; and in Justice and Honour, (he told them) they ought to make good; and so far prevail'd on them, that altho’ there were great Contentions in the Assembly, between the Planting and the Mercantile Interest; altho' the Annual Expences of the Country were then very great, the Indian War with some Nations still continuing, Coast very much infested with Pyrates, who had several times block'd up the Harbour for several Weeks together, and taken all the Ships coming in or going out, which had put the Country to great Expences; they having fitted out Vessels twice, and taken two of them, one commanded by Major Steed Bounett, in Cape-Fear River, and the other by Worley, off the Bar of Charles Town; in which last Expedition Mr. Johnson went himself in Person : I say, notwithstanding they then labour'd under these Difficulties, they passed an Act for Sinking and Paying off all their Paper Credit in three Years, by a Tax on Lands and Negroes, which gave a general Satisfaction. It will be necessary here to make a Digression, to inform the Reader, that at the first Settling the Country, before it was divided into Parishes, the whole Lower House of Assembly were chosen at Charles Town, and were Representatives of the whole Province; which Custom had continued after the Country was laid out in Parishes, until about a Year before Mr. Johnson arriv'd : When in the Government of Mr. Daniel, who was left Deputy Governour by Mr. Craven when he came for England, they pass'd a Law for Regulating the Elections for Members of the Assembly; wherein amongst other Things it was Enacted, That every Parish should send a certain Number of Representatives, 36 in all, and that they should be Balloted for at their respective Parish-Churches, or some other Place convenient, on a Day to be mention'd in the Writs, which were to be directed to the Church-Wardens, and they to make Return of the Elected Members: and of this Act, the People were very fond; finding it gave them a greater Freedom of Election, and was more easy to them than going out of their respective Countries to Charles Town; at which Elections, there had been very often great Tumults; and besides, that it came nearer the Methods used in England. On the other hand, as it pleased the Generality of the People, because of the Freedom it gave them in their Choice, it was sure to displease two of the Lords Proprietors Principal Officers; their Chief Justice and Receiver General Mr. Trott, and Mr. Rhett his Brother in Law; who by the former Method of Electing at Charles Town, had used to have a great Sway in the Elections, which they thought would be lessen’d by this new method; and therefore they did what they could to obstruct the Passing the Bill, which they failed in; but so represented it to the Lords Proprietors with whom they had always too much interest, either for their Lordships or the Peoples Good, that just at the Juncture when they had been at the aforesaid great Expence to drive the Pyrates off their Coast, that they were mightily pleas'd with Mr. Johnson for exposing his own Person in that Expedition against them, had pass'd the Law for sinking their paper Currency, and were contriving to pay for their Expeditions against the Pyrates, and their other contingent Debts, and they were never observ'd to be in so good a Disposition towards the Proprietors, but were doing every Thing that could be ask'd of

« PreviousContinue »