Corresponding Narrative: The Regulators' Movement and the Aftermath
[B. P. R. O. America & West Indies. N. Carolina No. 216.]
Letter from Colonel Spencer to Governor Tryon.
Anson County. 28. April 1768.
As my duty and allegiance to His Maj: my respect to your Excellency's person and sincere attachment to your Administration prompt me to take the earliest opportunity to acquaint you with those matters which deeply concern the happiness of your Administration, the internal peace & security of the Province, and that Trust your Excellency has been pleased to repose in me, I beg leave to mention the unparalleled tumults, Insurrections and Commotions which at present distract this County. There have been for some weeks past frequent rumours of the objections and oppositions of many People in this County and the County of Orange to the Payment of the Taxes now due from them. It is now beyond a doubt that this disaffection has been stirred up and principally promoted in this County by a certain man, who for several Elections past of representatives for this County has constantly set up for a candidate of such Elections, and has been as often disappointed except once, which was some time before the last Division of this County. He seems now to have got to his last shift; and expecting a new writ of Election will soon be sent to his County for chosing another representative, in the room of Mr John Crawford, and being I doubt superior to no degree of meanness that he can think sufficient to effect his Purpose he is bent upon making his last effort in this desperate manner, for carrying his Election. He has not yet appeared openly in the Mob, because as some of them say he fears if he should be elected on that plan, he would be expelled the House. In consequence of such encouragement and instigation a considerable number of transient Persons, New Comers, Desperadoes, and those who have not paid a tax for several years past were prevailed upon to resist the Sheriff in collecting the Taxes upon pretence that several parts of them were unjust. Clamours have been most industriously and maliciously raised against the Members of the Assembly, the Justices of the County and all those who have had any hand in the present taxation. By which means many of the unthinking and unwary have been galled into the scheme of Insurrection, & rebellion, and consequently added to their number till at length matters have been carried to that height that upon Thursday last, the first day of this Term, they came up to the Court House to the number of about forty armed with Clubs and some Fire Arms and before the opening of the Court, took possession of the Court House and soon gave out that no Court should be held there. It grew late in the afternoon and a sufficient number of Justices not appearing to constitute a Court, it became necessary that one Justice should open the Court and adjourn till the next morning—I therefore declared my resolution, as did Mr Medlock and some others to enter the Court House for opening the Court at all Adventures, and I proceeded about half the way from my Office to the Court House door, and was met by some of my Friends, who entreated me to desist for a few minutes till they could inform the Mob of our full determination to fight our way thro' them. Whereupon I was persuaded to return to my Office where I stayed some minutes in infinitely more uneasiness from being entirely out of Action, than I felt in approaching the Mob, who besides their numbers had much the advantage of the Ground, but my friends for that time prevailed and the Mob being told of certain and inevitable Bloodshed if they persisted for that we would actually force our way to the Table and the Bench gave up the point, and we came in & opened the Court without resistance. This unparalleled Arrogance can hardly be accounted for but from a particular stratagem of the intended candidate above mentioned, and the readiness of those that constitute the Mob, to evade the payment of their debts by obstructing the Proceedings at Law. But this morning after the Court had met some time, the Mob appeared in a much larger number than they did the first day of the Court consisting of perhaps a hundred men, and came armed as before mentioned to the Court House Door, made a great deal of noise & uproar, behaved very saucy and arrogant & threatened to come in and take the Magistrates off the Bench. Whereupon I went to the door, & demanded of them what they would have. They told me they came to settle some matters in the County for which they wanted the use of the Court House, I immediately then proceeded to read to them a clause of the Act of Parliament of Geo. 1st against riot and unlawful Assemblies, and procured the Proclamation therein prescribed, to be made for their dispersing themselves &c. They seemed greatly exasperated, and lifted up their clubs and threatened—But as I and some others with me appeared to be on the Defensive they seemed to desist a little, & proposed that a few of their Company should come into the Court House, and in the name of the whole set forth those Grievances, they wanted to have redressed. Accordingly I retired to the Table, for the transaction of the business of my Office, as Clerk of the Court, and after some time some of them came in, and after them came all the rest. They said among other things they desired to know what they were taxed for?
Whereupon I rose up & explained to them the nature of Taxation, and whence the reasonableness and necessity of it was derived. And proceeded to give them an acct of each particular for which they were taxed by the Assembly, and then shewed them the several Articles for which the Court had taxed them, for defraying the Charges of the County. They declared they had nothing against me upon what I had said to them, but were dissatisfied with the several allowances the justices had made for raising the County Tax.
Accordingly one of them having desired to speak with Mr Medlock privately he walked off the Bench, having before declared his intention of firing the first man thro' the Body who should offer to molest him in the execution of his Office as a justice of this Court—By this stratagem the only man was removed from the Bench from whom they expected any desperate resistance. Whereupon they immediately without ceremony took the other justices off the Bench, and entirely obstructed the Proceedings of the Court—They offered no direct insult to me, but told me they did not desire to hurt me, nor my Papers and records. Tho' before that they had signified their design of taking the records from me, and perusing them, till I assured them that not one of them by any means should go out of my possession, but at the Peril of the life of him, that should take them from me. They then proceeded to appoint some Officers among themselves, and held several Debates and Consultations, and among the rest whether they should tear down the Court House and the Gaol. The matter was very warmly debated, pro and con but as some of them chose the Court House should be where it is, and some wanted it moved, they at length agreed to let it stand, and after declaring their resolution to resist the Sheriff in serving any process or collecting of Taxes, Their right to know what Bills were sent to the Grand Jury, and their intention to meet again at the next Court, they marched out and soon after dispersed themselves; But not before (as I am told) they had unanimously chosen Mr Charles Robinson their representative to the General Assembly of this Province in the room of Mr John Crawford without giving your Excellency the trouble of issuing a new Writ of Election on that vacancy. Their Arrogance is insupportable and the whole County is thrown into such confusion that I am at a loss to tell what measures it will be prudent to take on this Occasion—It has been proposed to me to raise the Militia immediately and to quell the rioters by force of Arms, but whether the seeds of Disaffection to the Payment of Taxes are not so generally sowed through the whole County that few can be found to resist the Mob with resolution and sincerity I am at a loss to say. And whether the appointment of a general muster at this juncture of time would not be likely to give the Disaffected an opportunity of being more mischievous and dangerous than otherwise I most humbly submit to your Excellency and should be extremely glad of your advice and direction on this occasion. And as I apprehend the Writ of Election is not yet issued to this County for choosing another representative in the room of Mr Crawford, I beg leave to entreat your Excellcy not by any means to send up the Writ of Election till these unheard of and surprising commotions have at least in some measure subsided.
For if an Election were now at hand it is hard to tell the number of ill consequences that must inevitably follow thereupon. I hope your Excellcy will excuse the freedom and plainness of this letter, & that the peculiar circumstances of the times & the hurry of business I am at present in will apologise for the defects & incorrectness of it. For further particulars I must beg leave to refer your Excellency to Mr Hooper who was present during the extraordinary transactions above related—I am obliged to a number of my friends who have with uncommon firmness and assiduity endeavoured with me to suppress the outrages & violence of the rabble on this occasion particularly Colonel Antho: Hutchins, Mr Medlock, Mr Dunn, Mr Martin and Mr Hooper. I have by some of these Gentlemen's assistance procured a list of names of some of the Mob, subscribed to their Articles of Association & the oath they have thereupon taken which your Excy finds herewith inclosed. I wait with impatience to know what measures your Excy in your wisdom and prudence shall think fit to be taken in this respect.
I am, with the greatest respect, &c.,