(Culpeper's Rebellion occurred during the 1670s in Pasquotank County, North Carolina.)
Political parties arise. Quite early in the history of Albemarle County, two political parties arose. The governor, Council, and men who owed their positions to the Proprietors or governor made up one party, the prerogative party. They believed that a government as independent of the people as possible would serve the best interests of the colony. Against this group was the popular party, which believed that the will of the people through their representative in the Assembly should determine government actions.
Disagreements between the two parties grew in part because many people had already settled in Albemarle before the Proprietors took over. Resenting any interference from the Proprietors, they often rebelled at what they saw as unfair orders. The colony, in fact, earned the reputation as the most unruly of the English colonies. Long and bitter quarrels arose over the governor's salary, quitrents, taxes, paper money, and many other matters.
The colony suffers from poor government. Neither the Proprietors' actions nor the Assembly's laws helped attract more settlers. In fact, the failure of the Proprietors to set up a strong, stable government was one of the colony's greatest handicaps. Some of its governors were weak and unable to get anything done. Some were dishonest and took advantage of their position for personal gain. The governors failed to preserve order or to protect the people.
...To understand the causes of the rebellion, one needs to know the two political parties in Albemarle. One also needs to know that England had passed several trade laws, called the Navigation Acts. These laws stated that colonial trade goods could only be carried on British and colonial ships. Also, certain goods, including tobacco, could only be shipped to England. If the settlers wanted to ship tobacco to other colonies, they had to pay a duty, or tax on it.
These laws were very unpopular with the people of Albemarle since most of their income came from the sale of tobacco to New England traders. So, in 1672, at the request of the Assembly, the governor went to England to try to convince the Proprietors not to enforce the laws. This effort eventually failed.
While the governor was away, the president of the Council, John Jenkins, became acting governor. Jenkins was a member of the popular party. Although he appointed a collector of the duties on tobacco, he had no intention of making sure that the collector did his job. Jenkins had the backing of George Durant, Albemarle's most influential political leader, as well as that of a newcomer, John Culpeper. Culpeper was a man with a reputation as a troublemaker, and had in fact been ''invited'' to leave Charles Town in southern Carolina. Opposing these three were Thomas Eastchurch, Speaker of the Assembly, and Thomas Miller, both supporters of the Proprietors.
Two factions clash. Jenkins, trying to crush the opposition, had Miller jailed for speaking out against the way the government was being run. Jenkins also tried to keep Eastchurch from getting word to England about what was going on in the colony. Jenkins then tried to disband the Assembly, but it was loyal to Eastchurch . Instead, the Assembly accused Jenkins of wrongdoing and jailed him. Miller, in the meantime, had escaped from jail, and he and Eastchurch went to report to the Proprietors in England.
The Proprietors must have believed their account, because in 1676 they appointed Eastchurch governor and ordered him to halt the illegal trade with New England. At the same time, Miller became secretary and collector of the duties. On the voyage back to Albemarle, their ship called at an island in the West Indies. There Eastchurch met a wealthy widow and delayed his return until he could court and marry her. He sent Miller on ahead with orders to serve as acting governor.
Miller reached the colony and installed himself in most of the various offices. He seized a large quantity of tobacco and goods that had been illegally imported and collected quite a sum in duties. As governor, however, Miller's power apparently went to his head. He meddled in local elections, imposed heavy fines, and jailed several important men.
Matters soon came to a head, and Durant, Culpeper, and their supporters armed themselves, captured Miller, and imprisoned him. After the rebels had arrested other officials, they took over the government. For two years, they governed ably, and the colony enjoyed a period of peace and quiet.
To make their peace with the Proprietors, the colonists sent Culpeper to England with promises to obey the authority of the Proprietors. However, Miller had escaped from jail and gone to England. When Culpeper arrived, he was charged with treason. The Lords Proprietors were afraid that the uprising would make the colony appear to be poorly governed, so one of them, Anthony Ashley Cooper, defended Culpeper at his trial. He was found not guilty of treason. Thus ended Culpeper's Rebellion, one of the first popular uprisings in any of the English colonies.