IV. A New Government (Part 2)
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Culpeper's Rebellion
IV. A New Government,
A New Disorder (Part 2)

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About the sixth of December Culpeper went to Chowan precinct and there seized the marshal of the county, Edward Wade, along with his papers. On Culpeper's return Miller's clerk was seized.162 Shortly afterward an armed party from Chowan arrived at Crawford's house with the marshal their prisoner.163

After Miller and other deputies had been held close prisoner for fourteen or fifteen days, they were escorted to Durant's house in several guard boats filled with armed men. There the prisoners were again held close and not permitted to talk to one another. As the prisoners and their escorting guards passed Gillam's ship, three guns were fired as a salute and another three were fired when they arrived at Durant's house.164

The following day a group of armed men headed by Bird found Miller's commissions and other papers as well as the great seal of the county in a box that had been hidden in a tobacco hogshead. The box was returned to Durant's house where it was broken open in the presence of Culpeper, Crawford, and Durant. At the beat of a drum Miller was accused of blasphemy, treason, and other crimes and, at the urging of the crowd, was placed in irons. At this point the stocks and pillory were overturned and thrown into the river.165

The mob then made merry with money belonging to Miller, their merriment made more exuberant with drink provided by Gillam. Gillam later testified that he always tried to attend court days, since so large a gathering of people made sales easier. Gillam also confessed that he did serve drink to his customers at that December 1677 court, and he saw to it that Miller got his share.166 The mob expressed its dislike of the king's proclamations and of the Lords Proprietors' authority. Meanwhile, scouts and parties were being sent throughout the countryside to "Threaten, seize, disarm, imprison, or chase out of ye Country all in authority or office or any else that would not Joyn with ym"167 No specific mention is made of the "pipeing guard" after the arrival of Gillam's ship although it was not effective in protecting Miller against seizure. They were also most likely those members who were being chased out of the country back to Virginia.

Miller and the other prisoners were held at Durant's house for four or five days until Foster arrived with Hudson as his prisoner. On Foster's arrival the sixty to seventy men already gathered there held an election for their assembly of eighteen members. Jenkins, Bird, Crawford, White, and James Blount from the new assembly were then chosen to sit with Richard Foster as a court in the cases of Biggs, who was accused of murder, and John Nixon, another Council member who was accused of treason. Miller, still in irons, was then brought before the court and a jury impaneled from the crowd with Mordslay Bouden, a New England trader, as foreman.168 Miller believed that only four of the jury could read or write.169

Two stories of the actions of this jury emerged from the testimony. Miller, who was most directly concerned, treated the matter somewhat casually. Hudson, on the other hand, delivered a highly colored description of the events. Miller testified that the jury went out with such articles as Culpeper, their chief councillor and scribe, and George Durant, their attorney general, had contrived against Miller. The jury quickly returned, and, as the foreman blurted out in open court, "did what ye sd Culpeper had ordered him to do."170 Grand juries were expected to return either Billa vera (true bill) or Ignoramus (we ignore the bill).171 Hudson's story of these events is that the foreman consulted with Culpeper, their collector, chief scribe and counsellor, about what verdict he should bring in. Culpeper told him that he must "Indoss Billa vera." The jury went out and quickly returned, but the foreman had put down "Bill of Error."' While the court looked on with amazement, Culpeper snatched the paper from the foreman and told the court that it was only a mistake of the foreman, but the foreman said he had done as Culpeper had told him. The bill was then mended and without the jury retiring for a second time, and a true bill rendered. Hudson further testified that this series of events was confirmed to him by Foster and others of the court.172 The representation to the Lords Proprietors made by an unknown person at an unknown time, but which sounds much like the words of Biggs, confirms that Durant altered the verdict of a jury in the case of Thomas Miller.173

Miller later accused the sheriff of being drunk when he gathered a petit jury from the crowd. Another New England trader, Joseph Winslow, was selected as jury foreman, but the proceedings were stopped at that point by the receipt of a proclamation from Governor Eastchurch, who had landed in Virginia eight or nine days earlier. Culpeper, as Miller claimed, "corruptly abbreviated and transcribed [the proclamation] and so by him published to the rabble the originall ... not suffered to bee seen or published to the Inhabitants ... "174

Armed men were sent north to oppose Eastchurch and to prevent him from entering the county. Miller and the other prisoners were sent to separate places of confinement where they were allowed no writing materials. Culpeper was appointed collector. The assembly and court were broken up and went to their homes. Some, however, stopped aboard Gillam's ship where they were entertained to the firing of several of the ship's guns. Foster, Crawford and Culpeper were seen to go aboard in a boat with Gillam, who shortly thereafter "opened store and traded with ye Insurrectors chiefly."175 It was this armed opposition to Eastchurch, the governor appointed by the Lords Proprietors, that should have been punished, but the point was never stressed in the subsequent court proceedings.

In the newly found deposition by Gillam we find the remarkable statement that at Miller's trial Durant approached Gillam with the request that he do what he could to try to prevent some members of the court from demanding Miller's death. Durant reported that he had already spent some time on his own trying to prevent such action until after they had heard from the Lords Proprietors.176 This statement, if true, would do much to reduce the impression previously held of the strong political power of George Durant in Albemarle County.

Four or five weeks later Eastchurch died in Virginia. This event may be considered the thermidor of the Rebellion since from that time the government settled down and armed action, other than guarding the prisoners, was not required. On receipt of notice of Eastchurch's death the Albemarle County Assembly was called into session to meet at Jenkins' house. Gillam, Culpeper, Durant, John Willoughby, Foster, James Blount, and Crawford were present. This assembly decreed that a loghouse ten or eleven feet square be built to imprison Miller and that he should have no writing materials nor should any friends be allowed to visit him.177

Biggs was also placed in custody but escaped a short time later. Miller said in his affidavit that when the rebels found that Biggs had escaped from prison, they sent two agents, John Willoughby and George Durant, to England to present their side of the story to the Lords Proprietors.178 The evidence for this is missing and it probably did not happen since Durant did not leave for England until May 1678. The newly found deposition of a crew member on that voyage makes no mention of Willoughby.179

John Culpeper was not a key figure in the new government, since his only documented position was that of collector. Not even Miller in his later testimony in England spoke of Culpeper holding any other position except those associated with the events surrounding the first few days after his overthrow. Biggs did not mention Culpeper in his January 1677/78 narrative.180 Culpeper seems to have been a man capable of using his pen to good effect, but even his fellow conspirators were unwilling to give him a senior position in the new government.

The assignment of the name "Culpeper's Rebellion" appears first in George Chalmers' 1780 work Political Annals where he writes of "Culpepper's rebellion" despite the position of the Lords Proprietors that no rebellion had occurred since Miller was not legally the governor.181 Chalmers may have used this name since only Culpeper was ever tried in connection with this disturbance. He may not have been aware of the 1681 suit brought in Chancery Court by Durant against Miller, Summers, and Leech. Later authors added the capital letter to 'rebellion.' John Hill Wheeler in his 1851 Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851 is the first writer found to have capitalized 'Rebellion,' but then only in the index.182 Francis L. Hawks in his History of North Carolina mentions "George Durant, who countenanced Culpepper's rebellion".183 William L. Saunders in his preface to the first volume of The Colonial Records of North Carolina, published in 1886, is the first writer found to use the full term 'Culpeper Rebellion' in his text as he says "In 1677 began the Culpeper Rebellion, so-called."184 Thereafter, the term "Culpeper's Rebellion" is used in most histories which discuss the event. The authenticity of the printed records, and Saunders' clear dislike of the English and all connected with them may have given undue authority to Saunders' acceptance of this mistaken name for the event.

After escaping from confinement in Albemarle County Biggs, appeared before the Lords Proprietors in April 1678 and proposed that they send a vessel with eight or ten guns to put down the rebellion. This proposal was put on the calendar of the king and Privy Council but was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the Lords Proprietors.185 At this time the English government was trying to decide if it should go to war with France in support of the Dutch. During the spring peace negotiations resolved that issue, but the government was quickly embroiled in consideration of paying off the army. Lord Shaftesbury, the senior proprietor at the time, was leading the opposition party and probably had little time for concerns in Albemarle County.186

In September 1678 Biggs received from customs officials a commission as comptroller and surveyor general of customs in Albemarle County, and by February 1678/79 he was back in Albemarle County attempting to exercise that commission.187 Culpeper took exception to Biggs trying to take upon himself all functions of the king's affairs including entering and clearing vessels since the latter task was that of the collector. Culpeper tore down the notice to this effect which Biggs had posted and put up a notice of his own addressed to all inhabitants of Albemarle County and stating that he would seize and bring to trial anyone who attempted to clear their vessels through Biggs.188 In addition to Biggs attempting to assume all the king's affairs in the colony, he was accused by Attorney-General George Durant of helping Miller to escape. Threats against Biggs continued, and he again fled through Virginia to England.189

On 5 February 1678/9 the Lords Proprietors appointed John Harvey president of the Grand Council to act as governor of Albemaarle County until the arrival of Seth Sothell, a proprietor who had been sent to be governor but was captured en route by Algerian pirates and was still their prisoner. The instructions given Harvey were much the same as those sent to previous governors.190 From the spring 1672 departure of Governor Carteret until the arrival of the commission of president of the Grand Council for John Harvey in 1679, the Lords Proprietors were not in control of Albemarle County either in theory or in practice. Even after 1679 they had but little control since those who had been in power following the overthrow of Miller managed to acquire many of the positions in the new government.

Robert Holden, recently appointed collector of customs, arrived in Albemarle County in the summer of 1679 after a stop in Boston. During his Boston visit Holden determined that collection of customs in Albemarle County were being handled by "one Mr. Culpeper" and that they "were never more infatuated, cheated and exhausted."191

Between August and November, 1679, Miller escaped from custody with the assistance of several of his friends, including Biggs and Henry Hudson. Miller and Hudson went to England to inform the Lords Proprietors of the events taking place in Albemarle County.192 Shaftesbury had just lost a fight on the Exclusion Act in the House of Lords and was probably not interested in further offending the king.193 Initially the Lords Proprietors supported the testimony of Miller and Hudson, but as additional information became available, King Charles II ordered the Lords Proprietors to appear before the Lords of the Committee of Trade and Foreign Plantations and to bring with them a copy of their charter. Since the Virginia charter had been revoked following a similar procedure, the Lords Proprietors looked very carefully at all of the information available to them before responding.

Miller's complaints, however, were sufficient to cause the Privy Council to issue on 19 December 1679 an arrest order for John Culpeper, who was then aboard a ship at Downes, a protected rendezvous for ships off the English east coast of Kent near Deal. He was arrested at Downes before the ship could depart for Albemarle County and imprisoned in Newgate. By an 11 February 1679/80 order of the Privy Council, Culpeper was charged with treason after he had acknowledged the facts before the Committee of Trade and Plantations.194 Despite a Habeas Corpus bill passed by the Parliament in April 1679 which required that prisoners be given a speedy trial,195 Culpeper was held in prison until his 20 November 1680 treason trial. The response of the Lords Proprietors to the king's order for more information was delivered in an address by Lord Shaftesbury who stated that Miller "without any legall authority gott possession of the government."196 This statement and the rest of Shaftesbury's testimony resulted in the acquittal of Culpeper on charges of rebellion, despite Culpeper's previous acknowledgment of the facts and the testimony against him by Miller, Hudson, Brockwell, Summers, and John Taylor.197

Later documentation on John Culpeper appears only in brief court records for minor legal actions between 1683 and 1691. He died in Albemarle County sometime between 11 June 1691 and February 1693/94.198

(To Next Chapter)

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162Rankin, 38; Deposition of Edward Wade, 22 August 1679 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:249. (Return)

163Affidavit of Thomas Miller, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:280. (Return)

164Ibid.; Affidavit of Peter Brockwell, 16 February 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:299. (Return)

165Affidavit of Thomas Miller, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:281; Affidavit of Peter Brockwell, 16 February 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:299. (Return)

166"At the Committee of Trade & Plantations in the Council Chamber at Whitehall Thursday ye 19th of Febry 1679/80" in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:300; "Answer of Capt. Gillam Read the 19th of Febry 1679-80" in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:295. (Return)

167Affidavit of Thomas Miller, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:281; Affidavit of Peter Brockwell, 16 February 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:299. (Return)

168Mordecay Bowden was the name cited by Henry Hudson. See affidavit of Henry Hudson, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:273. (Return)

169Affidavit of Thomas Miller, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:281; Instructions for our Governor of the County of Albemarle in the Province of Carolina [1667] in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:173. (Return)

170Affidavit of Thomas Miller January 31, 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:282. (Return)

171Spindel, 37. (Return)

172Affidavit of Henry Hudson January 31, 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:274. (Return)

173"Representation to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina Concerning the Rebellion in that Country, to be made use of in Further Examinations," in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:258. (Return)

174Ibid.; Affidavit of Thomas Miller, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:282. (Return)

175Ibid.; Affidavit of Henry Hudson, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:274. (Return)

176Gillam, Deposition. (Return)

177Brockwell, Deposition. In his comprehensive study of the use of log houses in early America, Harold Shurtleff called this one of the first known log houses. He also surmised that this type construction was used as a prison since it would only be a very enterprising prisoner who could escape through those solid walls. Harold R. Shurtleff, ed. The Log Cabin Myth: A Study of the Early Dwellings of the English Colonists in North America, with an introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1967), 161. (Return)

178Ibid.; Affidavit of Thomas Miller, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:282. (Return)

179Brockwell, Deposition. (Return)

180Biggs, Narrative. (Return)

181George Chalmers, Political Annals of the Present United Colonies, from Their Settlement to the Peace of 1763: Compiled Chiefly from Records, and Authorised often by the Inserting of State-Papers Book II, (London: Unknown, 1780; reprint, New York: Burt Franklin, 1968), 80. (Return)

182John Hill Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851: Compiled from Original Records, Official Documents, and Traditional Statements with Biographical Sketches of Her Distinguished Statesmen, Jurists, Lawyers, Soldiers, Divines, Etc., Vol 1 (Philadelphia: Unknown, 1851; reprint, Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1964), index 473. (Return)

183Hawks, 2:487. (Return)

184William L. Saunders, Prefatory Notes to the Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh: Josephus Daniels, 1887), 22. (Return)

185Letter of Timothy Biggs to the Lords Proprietors, August 15, 1679, in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:247-248. (Return)

186Haley, 442-452. (Return)

187Mattie Erma E. Parker, "Timothy Biggs," in Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 1, ed. William S. Powell (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 154. (Return)

188Culpeper's declaration against Timothy Biggs, 25 February 1678/79 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:242; Affidavit of John Taylor, 31 January 1679/80 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:277. (Return)

189Parker, "Timothy Biggs,", 154. (Return)

190"Instructions to John Hearvey Esqre Precident and the Councell of the Conty of Albemarle in the Province of Carolina," 5 Feb 1678/79 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:235-239. (Return)

191Robert Holden letter to Commissioners of Customs, 10 June 1679 in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:245. (Return)

192Statement by George Durant, November 1679, in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:316. (Return)

193Haley, 602. (Return)

194Privy Council orders of 19 December 1679, 4 February 1679/80, and 11 February 1679/80 in W. L. Grant and James Munro, eds. Acts of the Privy Council of England, Colonial Series, Vol I. (London: His Majesty's Stationary Office, 1908; reprint, Newdeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1966), 875, 881, 883; "At the Committee of Trade & Plantations at the Council Chamber at Whitehall Saturday the 8th of Febry 1679/80" in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:285. (Return)

195Haley, 510; Hill, 229. (Return)

196"Answer of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina Read the 20 Nov. 1680" in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1:326. (Return)

197Record of court case of Anthony Brockhos, New York City Merchant, vs. Patrick Henley and his wife Sarah, executrix of the last will and testament of John Culpeper, 30 January 1695/96 in Parker, Higher-Court Records, 244; Receipt of goods by Sarah Culpeper in behalf of her husband John Culpeper, 11 June 1691 in Parker, Higher-Court Records, 245. (Return)

198Privy Council order of 7 April 1680, in Grant, 887; "At the Committee of Trade & Plantations at the Council Chamber at Whitehall Saturday the 8th of Febry 1679/80" in Saunders, Colonial Records, 1: 285. (Return)

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