Monday, December 14, 2009

Land Pirates and Tory Capitalism

Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle - with his brother, Henry Pelham and Sir Robert Walpole (the first Prime Minister), they formed a ruling Whig triumvirate that dominated English government for decades... beginning in 1730. In 1731, George Burrington comes back to North Carolina to found Wilmington and oppose the Family control at Brunswick Town. Archaeologists noted in 1998 that Brunswick Town “survived in the minds of North Carolina historians as little more than a historical footnote.”

The Great Seal of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, or as styled in 1663, Magnum Sigillum Carolinœ Dominorum, declared the arguably feudal intent of the proprietors as Domitus cultoribus orbis, “to dominate and conquer the world.” After the Interregnum (1649-1660), monarchy once again found its place in England and cavaliers, or royalists spread across the Empire to settle upon mainland America… especially upon Cape Fear. Tories once again rose aloft their feudal banner to “dominate and conquer the world,” styled as the “Corporation of the Barbadoes Adventurers.” Capitalism well-defined their intentions: to continue the lucrative sugar plantation enterprises of their Caribbean home. Charles II, having regained the English throne and seeking to honor his father’s supporters, granted Carolina to the Lords Proprietors, who received their seal on August 12, 1663.

North Carolina, however, had been long settled even before the Interregnum by Virginians and other interlopers. For years, even before the 1663 charter, Virginian settlers escaped into northern Carolina, later known as the Albemarle Settlement. Albemarle settlers, many of them dissenting Quakers, came to the south side of the Dismal Swamp to evade tax collectors, Anglicans, and, occasionally, the law. Nathaniel Batts became the first recorded settler in what is now North Carolina, having arrived by 1654.

The Caribbean island nations became overpopulated and over-planted. “As Barbadoes decays fast,” Sir John Yeamans, came in 1663 with three shiploads of planters to “conquer” Clarendon, or the modern Lower Cape Fear region. Yeamans, son of the executed royalist Alderman, Robert Yeamans of Bristol, and others purchased thirty-two square miles along the “Charles,” now called the “Cape Fear River” from the Indians for the purpose of erecting this business venture. At the same time, New Englanders under William Hinton came as well (Figures 1-2). Tensions over leadership led to the removal of both parties. Settlement at Cape Fear would wait. Instead, separate settlements would define southern and northern Carolina for decades to come, New Englanders primarily in the Albemarle and Barbadians in Charleston. However, this social split was not well-defined. Normal for capitalistic enterprises, territorial allegiances took second place to financial possibilities. Money, rather than locale became the deciding factor in the Carolinas’ social stratification and Charleston held the upper hand in that financial game.

Duke of Albemarle to Lord Willoughby, August 31, 1663:

Presumes he is not a stranger to his Majesty's grant of the province of Carolina, which the Lords Proprietors have undertaken, to serve his Majesty and his people, and not for their own private interest. There are some persons in Barbadoes who have set forth their desires of beginning a settlement in those parts, which the Duke conceives will be rather advantageous to Willoughby's Government, for it will divert them from planting commodities with which his plantation abounds and put them upon such as the land of Barbados will not produce, and which the King has not yet in his territories, as wine, oil, raisins, currants, rice, silk, &c., as well as corn, meal, flour, beef, and pork, which will in a short time abound in that country.

The Duke of Albemarle, concerned about overproduction in his West Indies colony, enthusiastically recruited settlers for the Carolinas from Barbados. As one of the eight Lords Proprietors for the newly-chartered Carolina colony, Albemarle was most concerned for peopling his new colony with skilled plantation owners and laborers. These aristocratic Barbadians and their large plantations, reputed for large levels of sugar production, would be most inclined toward the quicker profit. As any corporate firm today, they conducted “R & D,” or extensive research to confirm the ideal solutions to their economic problems. From an early date, even before Barbadian settlers arrived, British officials and Proprietors planned for rice production in Carolina, a commodity that would become financially second only to maize, or corn in the Americas.

An ominous side-effect of the Barbadian immigration was the influx of immense numbers of slaves to Carolina. British historian, Mark Govier regards the Royal African Company (RAC) as “part of the social and economic order which chose slavery as the most viable means of generating wealth….” The second incarnation of the RAC, approved by King Charles II on April 22, 1663, historically paralleled the Carolina Charter of 1663. By 1708, only forty-five years later, historians generally agree that slaves outnumbered white colonists in Carolina. Moreover, these slaves came mostly from regions of West Africa where rice production had occurred for centuries. The timing and transplantation was intentional. Removal of skilled agricultural labor from West Africa may have proved beneficial to Carolina planters; however, the general practice eventually proved disastrous for the continent of African. Scholars have argued that the Atlantic Slave Trade “transformed Africa economically, politically, and socially.” Tories began this unique brand of highly profitable and destructive capitalism that fed the heavy slave/rice symbiosis but, economically capable Whigs refined it and proved more effective at it.

Yeamans settled upon “Charles Town,” this time in present-day South Carolina by November 1671, bringing the first slaves from Barbados. Wealthy, aristocratic and mostly Anglican settlers from the West Indies, already experienced planters, poured into the substantial Carolina port of “Charles Town.” Ostentatious planters flourished under the Tory leadership of the Lord Proprietors, later cultivating highly profitable rice, a staple product that replaced sugar (not easily grown in South Carolina).

Shifting, sandy shoals and barrier islands hindered the Albemarle. Not surprisingly, the Outer Banks stalled settlement of northern Carolina, which rapidly filled with social dissidents like Quakers and outlaws. Small, scattered settlements, like Edenton, Bath, and New Bern slowly but, sparsely populated the area. The infamous dangers of those waters prevented heavy settlement through the lack of a viable port. Therefore, the Lords Proprietors favored the southern half, much more capable of providing a profit in naval stores and, later through the “Golden Grain” of rice. These early Carolina settlements formed hundreds of miles apart, diverging even further through the years, with the vast, remote, and neglected Cape Fear region between them.

Another factor concentrated the differences. As colonists in both Carolinas settled further into the backcountry, their hunger for land pressured local Indians who feared the loss of their traditional lands and faced European prejudice from encroaching settlements. War erupted with the Yamassee and Tuscarora, causing a retrenchment of the expansionistic policies of the Lord Proprietors, specifically in the weaker northern half of Carolina. Settlement drew back to Bath and New Bern. As a result, the great possibilities of the Cape Fear region in remote Bath County continued to remain unexploited, while Charleston and nearby Goose Creek plantations flourished.

The British political discontinuity of the early eighteenth century, added to this social isolation and divergence, completes the political chaos. While the Lord Proprietors struggled over settlement issues, economic and political changes took place in England that altered the British political landscape around the globe. The Glorious Revolution brought an end to the power of the monarchy in favor of Parliament; this time, peacefully. Other economic or political changes include the introduction of the Bank of England in 1694, the union of England and Scotland in 1707, and the accession of the German House of Hanover to the British throne in 1714. Through this atmosphere of change, Robert Walpole and the Duke of Newcastle consolidated Whig victories while Tory leaders found their popularity waning. This eventuality had an enormous impact on America.

For Lord Carteret, Lord Proprietor of Carolina and Southern Secretary before Newcastle, “proprietary interests and private rights overrode mercantile principles.” These feudal “private rights” doomed Carteret’s administration amid a rising tide of Whig mercantilism, even as they continually shaped Charleston and the southern half of the royal colony of Carolina. Mercantilism, however, never became the self-sufficient trade loop that England sought. In theory, the Plantation Duty Act of 1673 provided England with suppliers and consumers in the same neat package. British colonies in the West Indies produced sugar and sold that sugar to many non-English destinations. Rum, produced in America from that sugar, shipped to many non-English destinations as well. England, so far away, often never collected the required duties. Tory arrogance in South Carolina soon aggravated English authorities and represented the classic case of divergence between England and America that eventually led to the American Revolution.

Historian Richard S. Dunn tells in his book, Sugar and Slaves, that life in the West Indies was thrilling, larger than life. Colonists expected the unexpected, that “outrageous things would happen to them.” In fact, these Englishmen businessmen “armed themselves with a code of conduct that would never be tolerated at home.”
Historian Stuart O. Stumpf, regarding the land policies of proprietary Carolina, stated that Charleston elites, as their later Brunswick Town sons, “granted large tracts to themselves and their favorites, thus discouraging settlement.” Stumpf wrote of Edward Randolph’s 1694 attack upon the mismanagement of proprietary rule in Carolina. Randolph argued that Carolina should have been placed immediately under royal authority. Carolinians proved to be continuously troublesome for the Lord Proprietors, violating the navigation laws as well as conducting illegal and evocative business practices; customs racketeering, for one. For decades, pirates, encouraged by the chaos of colonial administration roamed the coast, often supported by many avaricious colonial officials. Maurice Moore founded the Brunswick settlement in this chaotic political environment.

February 20, 1701-2, John Berringer and Capt. David Davis executed a bond to Governor Moore for Berringer's proper administration of the estate of Col. Jehu Berringer, late of Barbadoes, deceased. Witness : Edward Moseley. A warrant of appraisement was directed on the same day to Abraham Delaplane, James Beard, Joseph Williams, Robert Mackewn and Thomas Bellamy. Letters of administration granted the same day. (Page 57.)

The Carolina colony deed printed above has so much value to North Carolina history and especially to the Lower Cape Fear. The Davis and Moore families were both immigrants to Brunswick in the 1730s and Col. Jehu Berringer is the real grandfather of Maurice Moore. Berringer’s daughter, Margaret married James Moore (the Governor mentioned here) and her mother, also named Margaret (probably née Margaret Forster), marries Sir John Yeamans, becoming Maurice Moore's step-grandfather.

The relevancy does not end there. Edward Moseley, who came to Charleston from London on the merchant vessel, Joseph sometime after 1697, was only about twenty years old in 1702. He served as a minor court official there between 1701 and 1704 just before coming to the Albemarle and marrying the widow of Governor Henderson Walker in 1705. Note the names “James Beard” and “Thomas Bellamy.” “Capt.” James Beard lives in Bath, North Carolina by 1706 and is the reputed father of “Black” Edward Beard. This is a recent postulation of researcher Kevin Duffus, and others in their revisionist research of the old pirate legend of Black Beard. Moreover, “Black” Sam Bellamy was a friend and role model of the infamous North Carolina pirate. Arguably, that old “Charles Johnson,” or whatever his name was, information needed some revision.

The customary vision of a pirate and a gentleman planter of the early eighteenth century needed drastic revision, as well. The two had much more in common than previously believed. It is also the learned opinion of researchers like Kevin Duffus that pirates like “Black” Edward Beard lived a fairly normal life, compared to other residents.

So, what does this have to do with North Carolina, or Wilmington? Understanding the mindset of these early aristocrats that struggled over colonial control in a wilderness environment, with meager settlements, huge native populations, and harsh shifting sands instead of a deep port is absolutely vital. Englishmen could no longer control the colonies using erratic Tory tactics and officials that went off on their own at a whim. The British Empire faced changing realities. The Brunswick settlement simply came along at the wrong time. Piracy was fading, being cleared from the waters and with it, land pirates who only differed in the tools they used to ply their trade.

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