History of The Regulators


source is http://www.fullbooks.com/The-Conquest-of-the-Old-Southwest-The2.html

 

At the session of the Superior Court at Hillsborough, September
22, 1770, an elaborate petition prepared by the Regulators,
demanding unprejudiced juries and the public accounting for taxes
by the sheriffs, was handed to the presiding justice by James
Hunter, a leading Regulator. This justice was our acquaintance,
Judge Richard Henderson, of Granville County, the sole high
officer in the provincial government from the entire western
section of the colony. In this petition occur these trenchant
words: “As we are serious and in good earnest and the cause
respects the whole body of the people it would be loss of time to
enter into arguments on particular points for though there are a
few men who have the gift and art of reasoning, yet every man has
a feeling and knows when he has justice done him as well as the
most learned.” On the following Monday (September 24th), upon
convening of court, some one hundred and fifty Regulators, led by
James Hunter, Herman Husband, Rednap Howell, and others, armed
with clubs, whips, and cudgels, surged into the court-room and
through their spokesman, Jeremiah Fields, presented a statement
of their grievances. “I found myself,” says Judge Henderson,
“under a necessity of attempting to soften and turn away the fury
of these mad people, in the best manner in my power, and as such
could well be, pacify their rage and at the same time preserve
the little remaining dignity of the court.”

During an interim, in which the Regulators retired for
consultation, they fell without warning upon Fanning and gave him
such rough treatment that he narrowly escaped with his life. The
mob, now past control, horsewhipped a number of leading lawyers
and citizens gathered there at court, and treated others, notably
the courtly Mr. Hooper of Boston, “with every mark of contempt
and insult.” Judge Henderson was assured by Fields that no harm
should come to him provided he would conduct the court in
accordance with the behest of the Regulators: namely, that no
lawyer, save the King’s Attorney, should be admitted to the
court, and that the Regulators’ cases should be tried with new
jurors chosen by the Regulators. With the entire little village
terrorized by this campaign of “frightfulness,” and the court
wholly unprotected, Judge Henderson reluctantly acknowledged to
himself that “the power of the judiciary was exhausted.”
Nevertheless, he says, “I made every effort in my power
consistent with my office and the duty the public is entitled to
claim to preserve peace and good order.” Agreeing under duress to
resume the session the following day, the judge ordered an
adjournment. But being unwilling, on mature reflection, to permit
a mockery of the court and a travesty of justice to be staged
under threat and intimidation, he returned that night to his home
in Granville and left the court adjourned in course. Enraged by
the judge’s escape, the Regulators took possession of the court
room the following morning, called over the cases, and in futile
protest against the conditions they were powerless to remedy,
made profane entries which may still be seen on the record:
“Damned rogues,” “Fanning pays cost but loses nothing,” “Negroes
not worth a damn, Cost exceeds the whole,” “Hogan pays and be
damned,” and, in a case of slander, “Nonsense, let them argue for
Ferrell has gone hellward.”

The uprising of these bold and resolute, simple and imperfectly
educated people, which had begun as a constitutional struggle to
secure justice and to prevent their own exploitation by dishonest
lawyers of the county courts, now gave place to open anarchy and
secret incendiarism. In the dead of night, November 12th and
14th, Judge Henderson’s barn, stables, and dwelling house were
fired by the Regulators and went up in flames. Glowing with a
sense of wrong, these misguided people, led on by fanatical
agitators, thus vented their indiscriminate rage, not only upon
their op pressors, but also upon men wholly innocent of injuring
them–men of the stamp of William Hooper, afterward signer of the
Declaration of Independence, Alexander Martin, afterward governor
and United States Senator,,and Richard Henderson, popular
representative of the back country and a firm champion of due
process of law. It is perhaps not surprising in view of these
events that Governor Tryon and the ruling class, lacking a
sympathy broad enough to ensure justice to the oppressed people,
seemed to be chiefly impressed with the fact that a widespread
insurrection was in progress, threatening not only life and
property, but also civil government itself. The governor called
out the militia of the province and led an army of well nigh one
thousand men and officers against the Regulators, who had
assembled at Alamance to the number of two thousand. Tryon stood
firm upon the demands that the people should submit to government
and disperse at a designated hour. The Regulators, on their side,
hoped to secure the reforms they desired by intimidating the
governor with a great display of force. The battle was a tragic
fiasco for the Regulators, who fought bravely, but without
adequate arms or real leadership. With the conclusion of this
desultory action, a fight lasting about two hours (May 16, 1771),
the power of the Regulators was completely broken.”

Among these insurgents there was a remarkable element, an element
whose influence upon the course of American history has been but
imperfectly understood which now looms into prominence as the
vanguard of the army of westward expansion. There were some of
the Regulators who, though law-abiding and conservative, were
deeply imbued with ideas of liberty, personal independence, and
the freedom of the soil. Through the influence of Benjamin
Franklin, with whom one of the leaders of the group, Herman
Husband, was in constant correspondence, the patriotic ideas then
rapidly maturing into revolutionary sentiments furnished the
inspiration to action. As early as 1766, the Sandy Creek leaders,
referred to earlier in this chapter, issued a call to each
neighborhood to send delegates to a gathering for the purpose of
investigating the question “whether the free men of this country
labor under any abuses of power or not.” The close connection
between the Sandy Creek men and the Sons of Liberty is amply
demonstrated in this paper wherein the Sons of Liberty in
connection with the “stamp law” are praised: for “redeeming us
from Tyranny” and for having “withstood the lords in Parliament
in behalf of true liberty.” Upon the records of the Dutchman’s
Creek Church, of “regular” Baptists, at the Forks of the Yadkin,
to which Daniel Boone’s family belonged, may be found this
memorable entry, recognizing the “American Cause” well-nigh a
year before the declaration of independence at Philadelphia: “At
the monthly meeting it was agreed upon concerning the American
Cause, if any of the brethren see cause to join it they have the
liberty to do it without being called to an account by the
church. But whether they join or do not join they should be used
with brotherly love.

 

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