Corresponding Narrative: The Regulators' Movement and the Aftermath
Brunswick May 1768.
The Contents of your letter of the 28th of last month delivered by Mr Hooper gave me real Concern. The Proclamation now transmitted to you, requiring the Rioters to disperse, and return to a dutiful obedience to the Laws of their Country, will I flatter myself have its desired and proper effect. As the authority I herewith give you, to raise the Anson Regiment of Militia as occasion may require, will enable you to apprehend and secure the Ringleaders and Principals of the late Disturbance till they can be brought to trial as well as to repel any future attempts, to disturb the order of Government, or Indignities that may be offered to the Magistrates of your County, particularly while in the execution of their Office. The rules and Oath of the Insurgents, Copies of which you sent me are both of the same complexion, the first without Consistency, the latter without Validity. The most solemn Oaths derive their existence in Law. They are not otherwise binding than as they are legal. The above Oath therefore that was taken to renounce obedience to the Constitutional Laws of their Country, saps the foundation on which solemn Obligations must rest, consequently falls of itself to the Ground and discharges the Parties from any Obligations to it, being rash, inconsistent and illegal.
If the Anson People labour under any real Grievances let them present them in a Petition to the General Assembly, or to me singly, if within my Power of relief in either case, I am persuaded they will experience a proportionable redress to every Grievance that is founded in Equity and Reason.
I am much obliged to you for the favorable Terms in which you express your regard and attachment to my administration, which can be only happy and honorable, but as it is intimately connected with the credit of the Province, and the prosperity of its inhabitants—It is true I do not form my Opinion of the whole, from a few Incendiaries who are more desperate perhaps in their Fortunes than in their Courage. But it is to my great astonishment that such men should run away with the understanding of the many, who upon the least cool reflection must discover the delusion, and the madness of such conduct and behaviour. As ardently as I wish the distractions which threaten the peace of this Country may be properly terminated, the authors of them may be certain, I feel too powerful a concern for the honour of His Majesty's Government, and the general Good of His subjects here to stand a calm spectator, and suffer the most dissolute part of the inhabitants of this Province to pay off their Public Taxes by Insurrections.
As you are well acquainted with the nature of Taxation I shall only observe that it is the indispensable Lot of Mankind who live in Society, to give a part of their Property to that Government which affords them a secure and quiet enjoyment of the remainder. Thereupon whoever refuses to pay such part which the Occasions of Government may require, forfeits his title of Protection from it and leaves his Family and Property at the Will of his lawless Associates, & himself at the mercy of the Laws of his Country, which can never want vigor and force sufficient to support its dignity and efficacy.
This contagion and disaffection has spread from Anson to Orange County. My Secretary Mr Edwards has been at Hillsborough, where by the firmness and active conduct of Colonel Fanning, his Officers and a few men, together with the Assurance made the Rioters by Mr Edwards that I should be ready to hearken to any real imposition or distress they might labour under, they dispersed themselves with a resolution to state their Grievances to me by Petition. If it is possible to come at the Person you acquaint me avoids appearing publicly with the rioters tho' a Leader in their Councils I wish Justice might be extended towards him—I had much rather bring that man to the Tribunal of His Country who gives a stab unseen than an humble Person who openly confronts the Dangers to which he exposes himself.
The assistance you have already experienced from the Gentlemen you mention is very agreeable to me; I desire you will present my Compliments and thanks to these Gentlemen for their endeavours to prevent the insults that were offered to them in their Public character. I trust if they are again put to the like Trial they will with your Assistance and the Powers you are now vested with be able both to repel and resent such indignities—
If you should have occasion to apply to me for further aid your Dispatches will find me at Hillsborough the latter end of next month.
I am, &c.