As we all try to survive another season of Droughtlander, it’s time to occupy ourselves with a little American Colonial history that not many outside of North Carolina know: The War of the Regulation. It will be a key factor in action in the upcoming season. For a great background on the upcoming season start reading up on your North Carolina history.
In the book, “The Fiery Cross”, by Diana Gabaldon, Jamie Fraser is asked to muster a militia and help Gov. Tryon put down a rebellious group calling themselves The Regulators. Claire hears details from a patient, Mr. Goodwin, about his friend Mr. Fanning, and a riot that broke out in Hillsborough. The Regulators created a riot so fierce that Fanning’s home was destroyed, and Goodwin was injured in coming to his aid.
In Outlander Season 4, we are reintroduced to fan favorite Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, who has suffered under indentured servitude for 12 years. Upon being released he and many others that were brought to the colonies had to make it on their own in the New World. Many could not afford a ship fare to return to their homeland, or feared doing so. While Murtagh suffered servitude, he was lucky and was able to set himself up as a smithy. However he, and many like him, would be subjected to unfair treatment in the form of over taxation in fees. It’s not a new concept with the British Empire, and all colonies fell under British Empire’s exploitation of people and of rich resources from the lands, heavily taxing the colonists for returned finished goods such as cloth and tea. However, it wasn’t just goods that were taxed, it was legal representation.
In the series Outlander’s 4th season, Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is one of leaders of the group calling themselves The Regulation, or Regulators. There were members in several regional areas, and loosely formed groups with acting leaders. This movement was composed of farmers and anyone else trying to do business living in the burgeoning times, many of whom had lost their property or livelihood due to excessive fees. The chief complaint was over fees for legal representation and taxation. There was no equal representation with due process in the local regions unless they had money for the excessive fees. Colonists wanted a standardization of any fees, and to see them published, not changed on a whim.
The Stamp Act was created to tax duty on newspapers, legal documents, and commercial documents. In 1766 it was repealed and encouraged colonists to take up against other injustices in the colonies.
Standing Up to Political Corruption
There were several factors that played into the forming of the cause and subsequent rising. Population growth pushed at occupants currently in place in 1760-65 North Carolina and crop failure made it impossible to pay any form of taxes on land for the poorer landowners inland for paying off loans with creditors against crops. The rich plantation owners had access to the rivers and larger crops to sell, access to water, slaves for labor, and transport. Then there was corruption of local sheriffs who squeezed colonists for money. Local courts had control over the regions, with officials often corruptible themselves. The colonists considered these regional boroughs to all be corrupt. The colony of North Carolina found itself essentially dealing with a class war.
One early protest, “The Nutbush Address”, was given by George Sims, a school master in 1765. It was given in Nutbush, later Williamsboro, North Carolina. He was persuaded to publish the speech. The speech denounced abuse of power by local officials and the excessive fees they charged. It protested malpractice of laws in the region. He addressed the deeds of a local clerk, a Mr. Benton, and later was jailed and sued by Benton.
- Farmer would be taken to court by a creditor
- Court fees were twice as much as the debt
- Farmer must obtain lawyer (fees) file in Court (fees) pay a sheriff’s fee
- Fees were not standardized
Three years later, the Regulators would use the arguments in this address to further heir cause, outlining their rebellion.
Next: Edmund Fanning and The Hillsborough Riots