Province of North Carolina

Province of North Carolina was a province of Great Britain that existed in North America from 1712[1](p. 80) to 1776. It was one of the five Southern colonies and one of the thirteen American colonies. The monarch of Great Britain was represented by the Governor of North Carolina, until the colonies declared independence on July 4, 1776.

Province of North Carolina
Province of Great Britain

An orthographic projection of the world, highlighting North Carolina (green).
  Coordinates35.75°N 83.00°W / 35.75; -83.00
  TypeConstitutional monarchy
  MottoQuae Sera Tamen Respexit (Latin)
"Which, though late, looked upon me"
George I
George II
George III
Edward Hyde (first)
Josiah Martin (last)
LegislatureGeneral Assembly
 Upper house
 Lower house
House of Burgesses
Historical eraGeorgian era
 Partition of Carolina
January 24, 1712
July 4, 1776
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Province of Carolina
North Carolina
Today part ofUnited States


"Carolina" is taken from the Latin word for "Charles" (Carolus), honoring King Charles II, and was first named in the 1663 Royal Charter granting to Edward, Earl of Clarendon; George, Duke of Albemarle; William, Lord Craven; John, Lord Berkeley; Anthony, Lord Ashley; Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkeley, and Sir John Colleton the right to settle lands in the present-day U.S. states of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.[2]


The Province of Carolina before and after the split into north and south

King Charles II granted the Charter of Carolina in 1663 for land south of the British Colony of Virginia and north of Spanish Florida. He granted the land to eight lords proprietor, namely Edward, Earl of Clarendon; George, Duke of Albemarle; William, Lord Craven; John, Lord Berkeley; Anthony, Lord Ashley; Sir George Carteret; Sir William Berkeley; and Sir John Colleton.[2] Charles granted the land in return for their financial and political assistance in restoring him to the throne in 1660.[3] The granted lands included all or part of the present-day U.S. states of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.

The northern half of the Province of Carolina differed significantly from the southern half, and transportation and communication were difficult between the two regions, so a separate deputy governor was appointed to administer the northern region in 1691.[4]

The partition of Carolina into the Province of North Carolina and the Province of South Carolina was completed at a meeting of the lords proprietor held at Craven House in London on December 7, 1710,[lower-alpha 1] although the same proprietors continued to control both colonies. The first provincial governor of North Carolina was Edward Hyde. Unrest against the proprietors in South Carolina in 1719 led King George I to directly appoint a governor in that province, whereas the lords proprietor continued to appoint the governor of North Carolina.[1] Both Carolinas became royal colonies in 1729, after the British government had tried for nearly 10 years to locate and buy out seven of the eight lords proprietor. The remaining one-eighth share of the province was retained by members of the Carteret family until 1776, part of the Province of North Carolina known as the Granville District.[6]

In 1755 Benjamin Franklin, the Postmaster-General for the American colonies, appointed James Davis as the first postmaster of North Carolina colony at New Bern.[7] In October of that year the North Carolina Assembly awarded Davis the contract to carry the mail between Wilmington, North Carolina and Suffolk, Virginia.[8]

By the late eighteenth century, the tide of immigration to North Carolina from Virginia and the Province of Pennsylvania began to swell.[9] The Scots-Irish (Ulster Protestants) from present-day Northern Ireland were the largest immigrant group from the British Isles to the colonies before the American Revolution.[10][11][12] Indentured servants, who arrived mostly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, comprised the majority of English settlers prior to the Revolution.[12][13] On the eve of the Revolution, North Carolina was the fastest-growing British colony in North America.

The Granville District

Differences in the settlement patterns of eastern and western North Carolina, or the low country and uplands, affected the political, economic, and social life of the state from the eighteenth until the twentieth century. The small family farms of the Piedmont contrasted sharply with the plantation economy of the coastal region, where wealthy planters grew tobacco and rice with slave labor. The Tidewater in eastern North Carolina was settled chiefly by immigrants from rural England and the Scottish Highlands. The upcountry of western North Carolina was settled chiefly by Scots-Irish, English and German Protestants, and the so-called coheepoor, non-Anglican, independent farmers. During the Revolution, the English and Highland Scots of eastern North Carolina tended to remain loyal to the King because of longstanding business and personal connections with Great Britain. The English, Welsh, Scots-Irish, and German settlers of western North Carolina tended to favor American independence.

With no cities and very few towns or villages, the province was rural and thinly populated. Local taverns provided multiple services ranging from strong drink and beds for travelers to meeting rooms for politicians and businessmen. In a world sharply divided along lines of ethnicity, gender, race, and class, the tavern keepers' rum proved a solvent that mixed together all sorts of locals and travelers. The increasing variety of drinks on offer and the emergence of private clubs meeting in the taverns showed that genteel culture was spreading from London to the periphery of the English world.[14] The courthouse was usually the most imposing building in a county. Jails were often an important part of the courthouse but were sometimes built separately. Some county governments built tobacco warehouses to provide a common service for their most important export crop.[15]

Expansion westward began early in the eighteenth century from the provincial seats of power on the coast, particularly after the conclusion of the Tuscarora and Yamasee wars, in which the largest barrier was removed to provincial settlement farther inland. Settlement in large numbers became more feasible over the Appalachian Mountains after the French and Indian War and the accompanying Anglo-Cherokee War, in which the Cherokee and Catawba were effectively neutralized. King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763 in order to stifle potential conflict with Indians in that region, including the Overhill Cherokee. This barred any settlement near the headwaters of any rivers or streams that flowed westward towards the Mississippi River. It included several North Carolina rivers, such as the French Broad and Watauga. This proclamation was not strictly obeyed and was widely detested in North Carolina, but it somewhat delayed migration westward until after the Revolution.[1]

Settlers continued to flow westwards in smaller numbers, despite the prohibition, and several trans-Appalachian settlements were formed. Most prominent was the Watauga Association, formed in 1772 as an independent territory within the bounds of North Carolina which adopted its own written constitution. Notable frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone traveled back and forth across the invisible proclamation line as market hunters, seeking valuable pelts to sell in eastern settlements, and many served as leaders and guides for groups who settled in the Tennessee River valley and the Kentucke County.


The oldest counties were Albemarle County (16641689) and Bath County (16961739). During the period of 1668 to 1774, 32 counties were created. As western counties, such as Anson and Rowan Counties were created, their western borders were not well defined and extended west as far as the Mississippi. Toward the end of this period, the boundaries were more well defined and extended to include the Cherokee lands in the west.[16][17]

Two important maps of the province were produced: one by Edward Moseley in 1733, and another by John Collet in 1770. Moseley was surveyor general of North Carolina in 1710 and from 1723 to 1733. He was also the first provincial treasurer of North Carolina, starting in 1715. Moseley was responsible, with William Byrd, for surveying the boundary between North Carolina and Virginia in 1728. Other maps exist dating to the early period of the Age of Discovery that depict the coastline of the province along with that of South Carolina.[18]

The ports for which there were Customs Agents in the Province of North Carolina included: Bath, Roanoke, Currituck Precinct, Brunswick (Cape Fear), and Beaufort (Topsail Inlet).[19][18]

There were 52 new towns established in the Province of North Carolina between 1729 and 1775. Major towns during this period included: Bath (chartered in 1705), Brunswick (founded after 1726, destroyed during the Revolution), Campbellton (established in 1762), Edenton (chartered in 1712), Halifax (chartered in 1757), Hillsborough (1754), Newbern (settled in 1710, chartered in 1723), Salisbury (chartered in 1753), and Wilmington (founded in 1732, chartered in 1739 or 1740). Each of these nine major towns had a single representative in the North Carolina House of Burgesses in 1775. Campbellton and the town of Cross Creek (established in 1765) were combined in 1783 to form the town of Fayetteville.[20]

Map of Virginia, Maryland, and Carolina (1715) Map of North Carolina (1738) Map of North and South Carolina and Georgia (1752)


King George III, Monarch from 1760 to 1776
Josiah Martin, Governor from 1771 to 1776 (last)

There were two primary branches of government, the governor and his council and the assembly, called the House of Burgesses. All provincial officials were appointed by either the lords proprietor prior to 1728 or The King afterwards. The King received advice for appointment of the governor from the Secretary of State for the Southern Department. The governor was accountable to the Secretary of State and the Board of Trade. The governor was also responsible for commissioning officers and provisioning the provincial militia. Besides the governor, other provincial officials included a secretary, attorney general, surveyor general, the receiver general, Chief Justice, five Customs Collectors for each of the five ports in North Carolina, and a council. The Council advised the governor and also served as the upper house of the legislature. Members of the lower house of the legislature, the House of Burgesses, were elected from precincts (counties after 1736) and from districts (also called boroughs or towns, which were large centers of population).[21][22][23][24][25]

The Governor's Palace, Newbern, seat of both houses of the General Assembly of North Carolina

The eight provincial governors appointed by the King were:

  1. Edward Hyde (1712)
  2. Charles Eden (17141722)
  3. George Burrington (17241725), (17311734)
  4. Sir Richard Everard (17251731)
  5. Gabriel Johnston (17341752)
  6. Arthur Dobbs (17541764)
  7. William Tryon (17641771)
  8. Josiah Martin (17711776)

The last provincial council included the following members:[19]

  • Samuel Cornell
  • William Dry
  • George Mercer (Lieutenant Governor)
  • James Hasell (Chief Baron of the Exchequer, Acting Governor in 1771)
  • Martin Howard (Chief Justice)
  • Alexander McCulloch
  • Robert Palmer
  • John Rutherfurd (Receiver General)
  • Lewis Henry De Rosset
  • John Sampson
  • Samuel Strudwick (Clerk)
  • Thomas McGuire (Attorney General)

Governor Martin issued a proclamation on April 8, 1775, dissolving the General Assembly after they presented a resolve endorsing the Continental Congress that was to be held in Philadelphia. The provincial council met for the last time onboard HMS Cruizer in the Cape Fear River on July 18, 1775, they believed that the "deluded people of this Province" would see their error and return to their allegiance to the King.[19]

The Court Act of 1746 established a supreme court, initially known as the General Court, which sat twice a year at Newbern, consisting of a Chief Justice and three Associate Justices. The 14 chief justices of the Supreme Court appointed by the King included the following:[26]

Incumbent Tenure Notes
Took office Left office
Christopher Gale17031731interrupted by Tobias Knight and Frederick Jones
William Smith1 Apr 17311731left for England
John Palin173118 Oct 1732
William Little18 Oct 17321734died 1734
Daniel Hanmer1734
William Smith1740on return from England, died 1740
John Montgomery1740
Edward Moseley17441749
Enoch Hall1749
Eleazer Allen1749
James Hasellname also spelled Hazel or Hazell
Peter Henley1758died 1758
Charles Berry17601766committed suicide, 1766
Martin Howard17671775Loyalist, forced to leave
1773–1777 No Courts held


Historical population
Source: 1720–1760;[27] 1770[28]


  1. The Craven House at Drury Lane in London was named after William, Lord Craven. The five story house was demolished in 1809.[5]


  • Powell, William S. (2000). Powell, William S. (ed.). Dictionary of North Carolina biography. Vol. II. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-67013. - Alternative link to Davis biography
  • Lee, James Melvin (1923). History of American journalism. Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company. (Alternative publication)
  1. Hugh T. Lefler and William S. Powell (1973). Colonial North Carolina: A History. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. ISBN 9780684135366.
  2. Poore, Ben. Perley, ed. (1877). The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the United States, Volume II. Washington: Government Printing Office. pp. 1382–1390. OCLC 958743486 via Internet Archive.
  3. Danforth Prince (March 10, 2011). Frommer's The Carolinas and Georgia. John Wiley & Sons. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-118-03341-8. Archived from the original on April 27, 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  4. Lawson, John (1709). A New Voyage to Carolina. London. pp. 239–254. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  5. Wheatley, Cunningham (1891). London Past and Present. Vol. 1. London: John Murray. p. 472. OCLC 832579536. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  6. Mitchell, Thornton W. (2006). William S. Powell (ed.). Granville Grant and District, Encyclopedia of North Carolina. UNC Press.
  7. Lee, 1923, pp. 53-54
  8. Powell, 2000, pp. 34-35
  9. Bishir, Catherine (2005). North Carolina Architecture. UNC Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-8078-5624-6.
  10. David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, 1986
  11. "Table 3a. Persons Who Reported a Single Ancestry Group for Regions, Divisions and States: 1980" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 30, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  12. "Table 1. Type of Ancestry Response for Regions, Divisions and States: 1980" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  13. "Indentured Servitude in Colonial America"
  14. Daniel B. Thorp, "Taverns and tavern culture on the southern colonial frontier," Journal of Southern History, Nov 1996, Vol. 62#4 pp. 661–88
  15. Alan D. Watson, "County Buildings and Other Public Structures in Colonial North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review, Oct 2005, Vol. 82 Issue 4, pp. 427–463,
  16. Richard A. Stephenson and William S. Powell. "Maps". North Carolina Government & Heritage Library. Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
  17. Medley, Mary Louise (1976). Anson County Historical Association (ed.). History of Anson County, North Carolina, 1750-1976. Heritage Printer, Inc., Charlotte, North Carolina. ISBN 9780806347554. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  18. "New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina". Archived from the original on October 23, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  19. Lewis, J.D. "Josiah Martin's Executive Council". Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  20. Lewis, J.D. "27th House of Burgesses". Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  21. "Overview of the Colonial Period". NCPEDIA. Archived from the original on October 23, 2019. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  22. Lewis, J.D. "House of Burgesses of North Carolina". Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  23. Lewis, J.D. "Executive Councils of Royal Governors". Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  24. Lewis, J.D. "The Royal Colony Governors". Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  25. Robinson, Blackwell P. (1963). The Five Royal Governors of North Carolina 1729-1775.
  26. "History of the Supreme Court of North Carolina" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 21, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  27. Purvis, Thomas L. (1999). Balkin, Richard (ed.). Colonial America to 1763. New York: Facts on File. pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-0816025275.
  28. "Colonial and Pre-Federal Statistics" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. p. 1168.

Further reading

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