America and West Indies: Miscellaneous, 1688

Pages 623-626

Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 12 1685-1688 and Addenda 1653-1687. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.

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Miscellaneous, 1688

[1688?] 1,962. ? to Seth Sothell. Your coming to this part of the province encourages us to address you. Our loyalty has kept us patient for many years, under miserable disquietudes and uncertainties, but your presence bids us tell you of them. Our story must needs be long, but we beg you to submit it to the Lords Proprietors. In 1669 the proprietors, by several gracious concessions, encouraged settlers to come to Carolina, and appointed Colonel William Saile Governor, with certain councillors, and drew up certain fundamental constitutions, dated 21 July 1669, as the unalterable form of government for the country. All persons were required to swear to these fundamental institutions before they could take up lands or be admitted to either House of Parliament. To our amazement, we have seen a letter read in Parliament on 14 February 1685, of date 3 March 1687, signed by the proprietors, which utterly denies these constitutions of 1669, so solemnly drawn up. Two of the proprietors, Lord Bath and the Duke of Albemarle, were not concerned with Carolina when the original constitutions were passed. Lord Craven is otherwise employed near the throne, so it is possible that the proprietors do not remember them. In 1671 came out fresh instructions, pointing, apparently, to some fundamental constitutions as yet unseen, and in 1673 Governor Joseph West proposed to the Council, in the name of the proprietors, a new set of constitutions, dated 1 March 1670, for ratification. In 1677 these same constitutions were again submitted to the Council, but were rejected, as all people had sworn to the constitutions of 1669, which, as the proprietors themselves acknowledged, were the terms on which the settlers came to the country. The constitutions of 1 March 1670 were not sent here until February 1673; and the letter of the proprietors that accompanied them shews that they disowned the constitutions of 1669; and there is abundant evidence to show that the proprietors direct the government to be carried on according to the new constitutions.
In 1682 the proprietors sent out another set of fundamental constitutions, dated 12 July 1681, to be henceforth the unalterable form of government, with a letter explaining why these were not issued before; and though they said they did not pretend to alter the fundamental constitutions without consent of the people, yet their instructions limited all civil privileges to those who subscribed to them. The people, remembering their oath to the constitutions of 1669, refused to receive them. We then hear a little later of another fundamental constitution, dated 17 August 1682, to be subscribed to like the rest, but no reason was given for the alteration, except that it was made at the request of the Scots and other considerable persons. Then on 13 September 1683 the proprietors revoked the Governor's power to ratify the constitutions of 1682 in Parliament, nominally to please the Scots, but in reality (as one of the Lords wrote to Sir Richard Kyrle) because the proprietors wished the people to petition for that which certain seditious men had persuaded them to reject. Then came new instructions, dated 12 March 1685, repealing all former instructions, and ordering the third set of fundamental constitutions to be subscribed and practised as unalterable. The Commons protested against this in December 1685, and against all Constitutions but those of 1669. On the 19th November 1685, Parliament, consisting of eight deputies of the proprietors and twenty commoners, met at Charlestown, and twelve of the commoners refused to subscribe to the constitutions of 1682, and were ordered by Governor Joseph Moreton to leave the House. The seven remaining commoners and the deputies then proceeded to enact several laws, against which the excluded members protested. While Mr. Colleton was Governor, a Committee of Parliament was appointed to inspect the fundamental constitutions and suggest alterations; but the work was laid aside in another Parliament, for on the 14th of February 1688 Governor Colleton, in some passion, produced the proprietors' letter of 3 March 1687, and caused it to be read and recorded. Since that the Governor and deputies refuse to act according to the constitutions of 1669, to which the people adhere, and as the Governor insisted that all bills should first pass the Grand Council, nothing was done, and there is at present not a statute law in force in the Colony. On the dissolution of Parliament, some people, mostly ignorant, were moved to petition the Government for martial law, and on 18 March last the Palatine's Court, without advising with the Commissioners of the Grand Council, published certain articles of war, though at the same time keeping open the courts of common law. The Commons earnestly pressed for reasons for such an unusual method of government among a peaceful people, but being refused, they fell back on a protest. The Council was then shifted, lest the protest should be lodged there, and the Secretary also declined to file it. Discontent and disturbance followed, and the ferment would have been serious but for your arrival. It was, of course, asserted that martial law was necessary, because the Commons declined to make laws for the government of the militia and the defence of the country, but it can be proved that the Commons did no such thing, but the contrary. The Governor took advantage of this arbitrary law to take all the Indian trade to himself.
The methods used by the authorities commissioned by the proprietors for the imposition of these fundamental constitutions have been so tyrannical as to cause great uneasiness, and keep many from the country. The Lords Proprietors frequently dwell severely on the misdeeds of Indian dealers, but great endeavours have been made before and since their lordships' letters were written to monopolise the Indian trade. Governor James Colleton has been a principal offender. In 1686 again the Spaniards from St. Augustine invaded us, did great destruction, burned one of our people alive, and carried off several more. The whole county resolved upon vengeance, but the late Governor here forbade it, and when a new Governor at St. Augustine sent envoys here to treat about all differences, Governor Colleton did not consult the Commons of the Council, but passed by all the bloody insolencies of the Spaniards, and made a contract for trade with one of the envoys. We do not think the murder of Englishmen and destruction of their property should all be buried for the sake of filthy lucre. The Spanish Governor has never sent back the runaway slaves from hence, and I believe that the Governor and Council have written to the proprietors at large about it. The lesser officers, civil and military, have been put out and in in a most arbitrary fashion, and commoners turned out of the Grand Council for the least unwary word said out of Council. It is easily done, for there are only eight commoners, and as the accused commoner cannot vote, the eight deputies can always carry it against the remaining seven commoners. Several gentlemen have been excluded from all office, unknown to the Lords Proprietors, without any charge being brought against them, and where a charge has been imputed, they have always been ready to clear themselves. A commission was sent to examine witnesses as to some malpractice, but it was addressed to the most guilty parties, who falsified the evidence to their liking. We impute no fault to the Lords Proprietors, who sent the commission, for we believe them to have been ignorant of the matter, nor do they hear of such things except from their private correspondents. Most of the gentlemen, however, do not know the proprietors, and are afraid to write, because they differ in opinion from them in matters of fundamental constitutions, etc., and when they have spoken their minds they have been checked. Letters from the Council have not been believed, or have been misrepresented.
The change of land-grants by patent to grants by indenture has driven away people from the Colony and kept many more from coming to it. Yet the first fundamental constitutions provided for patents. It is not for us to say how the proprietors shall dispose of their own lands, but in a country where there is no mint, surely people may pay their rents in kind, as was the case in England, and is still the case in Scotland. We beg that the conveyance may be altered, so as to make the rent one penny per acre on the value thereof. The value can always be adjusted by Parliament. This would gain the proprietors multitudes of tenants. We think that the deputies and the late Governor wer most unmannerly in not waiting on you after your arrival, though every other gentleman did. We think their words and actions at your first meeting with them were rude and unjust, for they tried to enter a false record about you. We beg you to write to the proprietors an account of their treatment of you, for they will only write an untrue story of it. They have reported sundry strange tales about you. We have no patience to endure the thought of their behaviour in calling out the militia of Charlestown without your order, and publishing the libel charging you with treason, and telling the people that they need not obey you as Governor. This would have put the whole country into blood, had not the justice of your cause been known. We hope you will proceed against them, and we thank you for laving aside so many deputies as you were empowered to reject. We thank you also for calling a Parliament. We shall say nothing about signing the fundamental constitutions again, this paper being a bare narrative of past transactions, but we do not believe that the proprietors intended to alter the laws without consent of the people, except in such matters as solely concerned themselves. We are resolved in the next Parliament to send home two duly accredited persons to treat with the Lords Proprietors as to the affairs of this part of the province. [Col. Entry Bk., Vol. XXI., pp. 150–159.]
[1688?] 1,963. "An account of the several grants and charters for the plantations in America." A very brief summary of the history of the charters of the Colonies in America and the West Indies. from 1615 to 1686. 6½ pp. Undated. [Col. Papers, Vol. LXIII., No. 97.]
1688. 1,964. Returns of shipping and of imports for the ports of New England, for the year 1688. [Col. Entry Bk., Vol. LXIII]
[1688?] 1,965. An abstract of the papers concerning the seizure of the ship belonging to William Vaughan and others, while fishing on the coast of Acadia, by French officers. 2½ pp. [Col. Papers, Vol. LXIII., No. 98.]
1,966. An abstract of the French envoy's answer to the English remonstrance in the above case of the Acadian fishery. Draft, with corrections. 1½ pp. [Col. Papers, Vol. LXIII., No. 99.]