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The title of Lords Proprietor was a position akin to head landlord or overseer of a territory. It was not a title of peerage or nobility, although was occasionally hereditary. Lords Proprietor oversaw a territory on behalf of a higher sovereign; for example the Isle of Mann and Isles of Scilly are ruled by a Lord Proprietor on behalf of the Queen.note 1
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There were eight Lords Proprietor of the Province of Carolina. By 1729, when seven of their descendants, all but the heir of Carteret, had sold their shares to the Crown, the province had been split into two provinces: North Carolina and South Carolina.
- George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608–1670)
- Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (1609–1674)
- John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton (1602–1678)
- William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven (1608–1697)
- Sir George Carteret (c. 1610–1680)
- Sir William Berkeley (1605–1677)
- Sir John Colleton, 1st Baronet (1608–1666)
- Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (1621–1683).
In 1629, King Charles I of England granted Sir Robert Heath (the attorney general) the southern half of the English land in the New World between 36 degrees and 31 degrees north latitude from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The land was named “Province of Carolina” or land of Charles. This area included what is now known as North Carolina and South Carolina. Sir Robert’s attempts at settlement failed and in 1645, during the English Civil War, he was stripped of all of his possessions as a Royalist supporter of the King. The first permanent settlers in Carolina came from Virginia. In 1663, eight members of the English nobility received a charter from King Charles II to establish the colony of Carolina. These men were known as the Lords Proprietors of Carolina and were the ruling landlords of the colony.1 They were the Earl of Clarendon (high chancellor of England), the Duke of Albemarle (master of the King’s horse and captain of his forces), Lord William Craven, Lord John Berkeley, Lord Anthony Ashley (chancellor of the King’s exchequer), Sir George Carteret (knight and baronet and vice-chamberlain of the King’s household), William Berkeley (knight) and Sir John Colleton (knight and baronet).
The proprietors divided Carolina into three sections: Albemarle in the north and Clarendon and Craven in the south. The settlers arrived in 1670 and set up the first permanent settlement in Albemarle. The Lords Proprietor were anxious to secure Carolina against Spanish attacks from San Augustin in Florida, and to do so, they needed to attract more colonists. The Lords Proprietor offered English settlers inducements consisting of religious toleration, political representation in an assembly that had power over public taxes, exemption from quitrents and large grants of land. The Lords allowed settlers of any religion, except atheists. The Lords also had a generous headright system whereby they granted one hundred and fifty acres of land to each member of a family. They postponed collection of quitrents, amounting to half a pence per acre per year, until 1689. An indentured male servant who served his term received his freedom dues from his master and a grant of one hundred acres from the Lords Proprietor. In order to attract planters with capital to invest, the Lords Proprietor also gave the owner and master the one hundred and fifty acre headright for every slave imported to the Colony. These incentives drew 6,600 colonists to the colony by 1700 compared with only 1,500 in the Spanish colony of Florida. Carolina attracted English settlers, French Protestants (Huguenots) and other colonists from Barbados and the West Indies.
The first government in Carolina began in Albemarle Country in 1664 when William Drummond was appointed as the governor. Clarendon County was dissolved in 1667. Proprietary authority was weaker near the Virginian border. The Lords Proprietor established a North Carolina with its own assembly and deputy governor. In 1712, the division of Carolina into North and South was completed with the elevation of the deputy governor to governor of North Carolina.2
The Lords Proprietor failed to protect the settlers when enemies attacked or threatened the Colony. For example, during Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713), the colonists drove French and Spanish forces away from Charlestown. Again, between 1715 and 1718, the colonists defended themselves against attacks by the Yamasee Indians and pirates. During these times of conflict, the colonists received little or no help from the proprietors. The elite group of settlers in Carolina, former West Indians known as the Goose Creek Men, grew increasingly frustrated with the Lords Proprietor because they meddled in politics but failed to defend the colony against Spanish and Native American attacks.
In 1719, the South Carolina assembly sent a petition to England requesting that the proprietors be replaced with Crown administration. King George I appointed royal governors for North and South Carolina, converting the colony’s status to that of a royal colony (England ruled the colony but allowed the people self-government). In 1729, the Crown bought out seven of the eight of the Lords Proprietor for £22,500, approximately the amount they had spent on the colony. The eighth proprietor, John Carteret, Lord Granville, refused to sell and retained title to the lands and quitrents in the northern third of North Carolina.3
When the Crown purchased the proprietors' interests in 1729, their successors proved to be:
- Albemarle: in trust for Henry Somerset, 3rd Duke of Beaufort and his brother, then Lord Charles Somerset
- Clarendon: James Bertie (1674–1735)
- Berkeley: Joseph Blake of the province of South Carolina
- Craven: William Craven, 3rd Baron Craven (1700–1739)
- Carteret: John Carteret, Baron Carteret (1690–1763), governor of the kingdom of Ireland, who retained his interest*
- William Berkeley: Henry Bertie (1675–1735) and Mary Danson, widow, of St Andrews Holborn, and Elizabeth Moor, widow, of London
- Colleton: Sir John Colleton of Exmouth, Devon
- Shaftesbury: † in trust for John Cotton of East Barnet, Middlesex
† Some of these 1729 interests had been acquired not by inheritance but by purchase.
* The Carteret interest continued until Independence when the Crown paid compensation for the Carteret loss.
In the Province of New Jersey, there were two proprietary lordships:
- August 1665–14 January 1680: Sir George Carteret (c. 1610–1680)
- January 1680 – 1682 : 8 Proprietors
- 1682–1688 : 24 Proprietors (1st time)
- 1692–April 1703: 24 Proprietors (2nd time)
- August 1665–18 March 1674: John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton (1602–1678)
- 18 March 1674–February 1675: Edward Byllynge (1st time) (died 1687)
jointly with John Fenwick (1618–1683)
- February 1675–September 1683: Trusteeship
- September 1683 – 1687: Edward Byllynge (2nd time) (s.a.)
- February 1687 – 1688: Daniel Coxe (c. 1640–1730)
- 1692–April 1703: 12 Proprietors
In 1664, the English gained control of New Jersey from the Dutch. King Charles II granted the country to his brother, the Duke of York. In turn, the Duke sold the colony to two of his friends, Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. The area was named “New Jersey” after Sir Carteret’s home island of Jersey in the English Channel.4 The grant gave them the power of government in the colony. Berkeley and Carteret, however, established a constitution and gave freemen the right to elect an Assembly. A tax could not be levied without the Assembly’s approval. The Governor was appointed by the Lords Proprietor and was allowed to select his own Council, which constituted the upper branch of the Legislature. The new colony attracted many settlers because Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret sold the land to the colonists at low prices and allowed them political and religious freedoms.
The Dutch re-conquered the area in 1673 but then surrendered to the English in 1674. Lord John Berkeley sold his half of New Jersey to Edward Byllynge and John Fenwick. In 1676, Carteret and Fenwick negotiated a division of the province into two sections: East Jersey which was held by Carteret and West Jersey which was held by Fenwick. Sir George Carteret died in 1680. His property was left to Trustees who put East Jersey up for sale in a public auction. In 1682, the property was sold to William Penn and eleven associates who each sold half of their share to twelve others, forming an association of twenty-four proprietors.5 This body became known as the Board of Proprietors of East Jersey. This board exercised government control, which eventually led to many conflicts within the colony. In 1702, East and West Jersey surrendered the right to government to the English Crown under Queen Anne.6
Two documents remain with the Lords Proprietors original seal kept intact.
In the 1690s, the Lords Proprietors were keen to implement their plan for a colonial aristocracy (an attempt to stabilize Carolina politics). One document is a grant or patent issued by the Lords Proprietors of South Carolina in 1699. It was issued to an Englishman named John Wyche, a relative of the chief Proprietor, giving him the status of Landgrave with the right to claim 48,000 acres (190 km2) of land in a certain region. John Wyche was appointed as the Secretary to the Province and served in this role in the colony for a short period of six months before he received another appointment in Hamburg. Some of the documents relate to Wyche’s activity in the colony. His successor to the Secretary position was John Wilmot. After a revolt against the Lords Proprietors in 1719, the colony came under royal control. This change in power was formalized by an Act of the English parliament in 1729 called “An Agreement with Seven of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, for the Surrender of their Title and Interest in that Province”.
The documents include information about Wyche’s land-claims and the petition of the Cyril family for an endorsement of their rights under the 1699 grant (a claim that the Privy Council in London disallowed). The grant was originally written in Latin and is engrossed on vellum with the Great Seal of the Proprietors attached. This seal and document is one of two such 17th-century documents to survive with the seal intact.7
1. Sir Robert Heath’s Patent 5 Charles I, October 30, 16298
In this patent King Charles I of England gave Sir Robert Hearth, the attorney general, property in the New World.
2. A Declaration and Proposals of the Lord Proprietor of Carolina, August 25- September 4, 16639
This charter issued by King Charles II of England proposed the formation of the Lords Proprietor and gave the lands of Carolina to the eight proprietors: the Earl of Clarendon, Duke of Albemarle, Lord Craven, Lord Berkeley, Lord Ashley, Sir George Carteret, William Berkeley and Sir John Colleton. This declaration gave the proprietors the power to protect their colony, the right to settle the colony, freedom of religion and one hundred acres of land for each man.
3. Charter of Carolina- March 24, 166310
This charter outlined how the eight proprietors should rule Carolina. It gave the land to the proprietors, allowed for patronage, gave the proprietors absolute power in the colony, gave the colony’s government the right to make laws, authorized the authority to make ordinances, gave instructions to defend the colony against enemies, outlined trade regulations, gave the proprietors building rights in the colony, allowed for an army and allowed the practice of religion conformed to the Church of England.
4. The Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey, to and With All and Every the Adventures and All Such as Shall Settle or Plant There- 1664 11
This document outlines the distribution of power in New Jersey by the Lords Proprietors. The document includes the role Governor of the province, the right for the Governor to choose six counsellors, the role of the Chief of Secretary, the role of the Surveyor General and the colonists’ duty as subjects of the King of England.
5. A Declaration of the True Intent and Meaning of us the Lords Proprietors, and Explanation of There Concessions Made to the Adventures and Planters of New Caesarea or New Jersey- 1672 12
This declaration outlines the rules for the General Assembly and the Governor.
6. His Royal Highness’s Grant to the Lords Proprietors, Sir George Carteret, 29 July 167413
This document from King Charles II of England, reiterates Sir George Carteret’s claim to his land in America as laid out by the original patents.
Headright system- Each settler received a single headright (grant of land) for himself or herself.14
Quitrents- a fixed rent payable to a feudal superior in commutation of services15
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- Other examples where lords is used to indicate that the persons concerned are the topmost of their kind (but unlikely to be noble): (England) Lords Commissioners (in ordinary language simply Lords) of the Admiralty, of the Treasury ; Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal. Also Lords Justices (of Ireland) : the Commissioners to whom, in the early 18th century, the viceregal authority was entrusted. (Scotland) Lords of the Congregation, Lords of Daily Council, Lords of Justiciary, Lords of Police, Lords of Regality, Lords of Session Lords of the Articles
- "South Carolina". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- Gundersen, Joan R. "Colonial Life in America". World Book Student. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- Taylor, Alan (2002). American Colonies. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 224–226.
- Clemens, Paul G. E., and Grant Saff. "New Jersey". World Book Student. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- "The Oldest Land Company- How The East Jersey Board of Proprietors Was Founded". The New York Times. January 17, 1882. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- "The Lords Proprietors of New Jersey". The New York Times. May 16, 1877. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- "The Lords Proprietors' Grant and Seal, 1699". University of South Carolina Libraries. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- "Sir Robert Heath's Patent 5 Charles 1st; October 30, 1629". The Avalon Project. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- "A Declaration and Proposals of the Lord Proprietor of Carolina, Aug. 25- Sept. 4, 1663". The Avalon Project. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- "Charter of Carolina- March 24, 1663". The Avalon Project. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- "The Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey, to and With All and Every the Adventures and All Such as Shall Settle of Plant There- 1664". Avalon Project. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- "A Declaration of the True Intent and Meaning of us the Lord Proprietors, and Explanation of There Concessions Made to the Adventures and Planters of New Caesarea or New Jersey- 1672". The Avalon Project. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- "His Royal Highness’s Grant to the Lords Proprietors, Sir George Carteret, 29th July, 1674". The Avalon Project. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- Brinkley, Alan (2008). The Unfinished Nation. New York: McGraw Hill.
- "Quitrents". Miriam Webster. Retrieved May 26, 2011.