Outlander and North Carolina
BRAVE THE NEW WORLD
This blog post is very timely as the Regulators are mentioned in the Outlander, STARZ episode 406, Blood of My Blood. Murtagh and Lord John have an exchange about the Regulators and Governor Tryon’s building of what would be come to be known as Tryon Palace in the North Carolina city of New Bern, at the time the capitol of the colony.
The Regulator movement was created to ‘regulate’ the affairs of those residing in the backcountry of the colony of North Carolina. Their grievances were in three areas;
1. Abuses by local officials, 2. Imbalance of power between the eastern and western regions of the colony, and 3. The many differences between those living in the Tidal Plain region of the colony and those living in the back country.
The Regulator grievances were succinctly stated in ‘The Nutbush Address’, “It is not our mode, or form of Government, nor yet the body of our laws, that we are quarreling with, but with the malpractices of the Officers of our County Court, and the abuses which we suffer by those empowered to manage our public affairs.”
Abuses of Power
Local officials such as registrar of deeds, justice of the peace, clerk of the court, sheriff, district and superior court jurors were appointed by the governor with recommendations from justices and county representatives. Local officials were not paid by the government. The fees charged for services were their payment. This led to officials ignoring the the official fee list and charging what they could get away with. Administrative practices were very lax in the 18th century, and local officials could easily take advantage of their offices. This was especially true in the backcountry where counties were large and distant from the colonial government seat. The Sheriff was a very powerful position as they were the tax collectors and conducted elections. Ballots were not secret. Beginning in the 1760s votes were given orally and recorded in election books that could be examined by candidates.
Imbalance of Power
At the time Jamie and Claire have settled in the backcountry, Rowan (where Fraser’s Ridge is located) and Orange counties were growing rapidly yet they only had two representatives per county whereas many of the older, eastern counties had five representatives per county. This led to the backcountry counties placement in the minority position.
Another disadvantage was the establishment of the colonial government in New Bern with the building of ‘Tryon Palace’. The palace was not only the governors residence but also the governmental headquarters. Until the palace was built the government headquarters moved from place to place. A recommendation was made to locate the headquarters in Hillsborough as it was the county seat of Orange county, the fastest growing region of the colony. This recommendation was overruled by the representatives from the Tidal Plains region to keep the power local to the eastern region.
The tax to pay for the palace was resented in the backcountry as it was a poll tax to be paid for by each taxable person in the household and the people in the backcountry would never see the building as their business dealings would never take them to New Bern.
The colony of North Carolina was settled from the north east down the Atlantic coast to the Cape Fear River and then up the Cape Fear into the Piedmont. The Coastal Plain counties were older and populations more established and wealthier than in the Piedmont. The economy in the Tidal Plain was supported by large plantations worked by enslaved people, merchants trading in imports and exports and public officials representing local government. This population were mostly English and of the Anglican faith as that was the official religion of Britain. The backcountry on the other hand was populated by peoples of English, Scots, German and Irish peoples of various Protestant sects and some Catholics. The economy was supported mostly by small hold farmers worked by the owners and their family. Some indentured workers were used. It was rare to have enslaved people working the farms. In most cases merchants were selling items they made such as coopers, blacksmiths and tanners. Bartering was the main means of exchange as there was very little cash in the backcountry.
The Regulators did not have grievances against the Crown. In fact they felt they were loyal to the Crown. They wanted to laws to be applied fairly. They started out with lawful acts to bring attention to their grievances and allow the government to correct the abuses. After years without governmental corrective action the Regulators felt the need for illegal actions.
Outlander Tours NC offers one day tours of Alamance Battleground and Hillsborough where you will hear about the history in relation to the Regulator Movement and Outlander.
On our multi-day tours of North Carolina you can experience the fusion of history with fiction that is Outlander by visiting locations featured in Outlander.