Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
Concord Learning Systems


Lords Proprietors and Their Influence on America

[NOTE: Spellings in quoted original text retained.]

From antiquity, rulers have rewarded supporters. Loyalist, friends, family, lovers, sweethearts, slick con men and others have gained high rank, position, money, and emoluments of great worth. As with modern American Presidents, European royalty from 1400 through the 1800's was not immune from such practice.

The discovery of the new world offered tantalizing prospects for monarchs and people with ambition. Rulers sought empire expansion, -- others dreamed of profits, adventure and power.

On 25 March 1584, favor and reward prompted Queen Elizabeth to grant her lover, Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), a Charter to go forth and discover, own, and otherwise benefit from new lands so long as:

"...they shall not bee before planted or inhabited within the limits as aforesaide with the subjects of any Christian Prince being in amitie with us..."

The "Letters-Pattent" allowed Raleigh, who never set foot on North American soil, investment opportunities for expeditions to America so that he could establish a Christian colony for the betterment of man-kind... meaning, of course, his own wallet.

The first British Colony of Roanoke, originally consisting of 100 householders, was founded in 1585, 22 years before Jamestown and 37 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. Historians ignore two important facts. How were these "volunteers" selected to give up their homes and homeland, travel by ship for weeks eating putrid food, and agree to carve homes from a wilderness. Secondly, Sir Richard Greenville, who brought them over, never returned so when Sir Francis Drake arrived 10 months later the pilgrims were in such bad shape that he took the ones who had survived back aboard and left 15 of his crew as a second colony. They were never heard of again. That is a 'lost colony.'

Ol' Walt (Raleigh) didn't let these miserable events deter him. In 1587 another batch of "volunteer" families were brought over. They consisted of 90 men, 17 women and 9 children. They were discovered missing in 1590 and became known as The Lost Colony when in fact they were the SECOND lost colony.

Later, during the 1600's, charters were issued by various monarchs to men and to corporations for different sections of North America: Canada, New England, Pennsylvania (William Penn -- included New Jersey and Delaware), Carolina, and others.

On 24 March 1663 Charles II issued a charter in which the first article read:

"Whereas our right trusty, and right well beloved cousins and counsellors, Edward Earl of Clarendon, our high chancellor of England, and George Duke of Albemarle, master of our horse and captain general of all our forces, our right trusty and well beloved William Lord Craven, John Lord Berkley, our right trusty and well beloved counsellor, Anthony Lord Ashley, chancellor of our exchequer, Sir George Carteret, knight and baronet, vice chamberlain of our household, and our trusty and well beloved Sir William Berkley, knight, and Sir John Colleton, knight and baronet, being excited with a laudable and pious zeal for the propagation of the Christian faith, and the enlargement of our empire and dominions, have humbly besought leave of us, by their industry and charge, to transport and make an ample colony of our subjects, natives of our kingdom of England, and elsewhere within our dominions, unto a certain country hereafter described, in the parts of America not yet cultivated or planted, and only inhabited by some barbarous people, who have no knowledge of Almighty God."

[Sounds like the kickoff for a Presidential campaign.]

The charter described the location of the grant.

"...all that territory or tract of ground, scituate, lying and being within our dominions of America, extending from the north end of the island called Lucke island, which lieth in the southern Virginia seas, and within six and thirty degrees of the northern latitude, and to the west as far as the south seas, and so southerly as far as the river St. Matthias, which bordereth upon the coast of Florida, and within one and thirty degrees of northern latitude, and so west in a direct line as far as the south seas aforesaid;..."

The area described was called the Province of Carolina and covered what is today North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and then westward to include Southern California and all the states in between, then across the Pacific. They apparently knew less about geography than historians have acknowledged because the Charter specifies "...as far as the south seas..." but 31 to 36 degrees latitude would take a traveler to Shanghai, Tokyo, or Korea; not Tahiti, Pago Pago, nor Pitcairn. In fact, had the Lords Proprietors known that the latitudes specified actually are north of Hawaii they would have traded the western end of this domain to the Indians because there is nothing between Los Angeles and Tokyo but salt water.

Anyway, the eight Lords Proprietors named above owned and operated the Province of Carolina in all commercial matters and in some political affairs (immigration, first line of defense, policing.) The Crown retained rights of final approval, after Parliament, for high level appointments (governor), and for approving laws. Again, like today's politicians, the King or Queen was not about to surrender their prerogatives for dispensing favors.

In 1711 Carolina was split in two when South Carolina was established but the notion that territory extended westward to the "south seas" remained. Then in 1729 seven of the eight Lords Proprietors of Carolina sold their interest to King George II thereby converting Carolina from a proprietorship to a Crown Colony. In 1732 George issued a new charter to a corporation for the area which is now Georgia.

Independence and the War of Revolution ended charters in America but some colonies such as North Carolina still claimed land far to the west. In 1784 neighbors across the mountains became disgruntled and North Carolina offered to cede an area of what is now eastern Tennessee to the federal government. The inhabitants retaliated by forming the State of Franklin with John Sevier as governor. The Continental Congress refused to recognize Franklin and when Sevier's term expired in 1788 with no successor, North Carolina resumed control. Then in 1789 North Carolina ratified the new constitution, became part of the United States, and ceded all the territory which is now Tennessee to the new federal government.

The First Charter of Virginia, issued by King James' Letters-Patent on 10 April 1606, limited ownership to the eastern coast (inland "100 English miles") of that Province thereby leaving Northern California, Manchuria and Inner Mongolia free.

According to Daniel Boone's writings,

"It was on the first of May, in the year 1769, that I resigned my domestic happiness for a time, and left my family and peaceable habitation on the Yadkin River [near Mocksville], in North Carolina, to wander through the wilderness of America, in quest of the country of Kentucky..."

He knew he was exploring open territory and that he was beyond the protection of any colonial or English authority.

On June 1, 1796 both Kentucky and Tennessee were admitted to the union as the 15th and 16th states.

Philosophos Historia


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