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The Great Republic by the Master Historians
The "Grand Model" Government
by Bancroft, Hubert H.


[The settlement of the three southern colonies of the United States may be dealt with briefly, as it was attended with no events of special importance. Of these colonies Georgia was not settled until 1732. The consideration of it, therefore, properly belongs to the succeeding section of this work. The provinces of North and South Carolina originally constituted but one. We have already described the early efforts to colonize this region, those of Ribaut at Port Royal and of Raleigh on Roanoke Island. About 1630, Sir Robert Heath was granted a tract embracing the Carolinas, but no settlements were made under the grant. The earliest emigrants came from Virginia about 1650. In 1663 the province of Carolina was granted to Lord Clarendon and seven others. The charter secured religious freedom and a voice in legislation to the people, but retained the main power and privilege in the hands of the proprietaries. In 1660 or 1661 a party of New-Englanders settled on Cape Fear River near Wilmington. The settlement was soon abandoned, on account of Indian hostilities, but a permanent colony was established in the same locality in 1665, by a party of planters from Barbadoes.

The charter of the proprietaries embraced the whole region from Virginia to Florida, and in 1670 a colony was planted on the Ashley River, in the South Carolina region, which was known as the Carteret County Colony, on the site of Old Charleston. Slaves from Barbadoes were soon introduced, Dutch settlers came from New Netherland, then recently taken by the English, and afterwards from Holland, a colony of Huguenot refugees from France was sent out by the King of England, and the new settlement prospered. In 1680 the city of Charleston was founded, and was at once declared the capital of the province. The growth of the settlements in North Carolina was less rapid, many of the colonists removing south, while domestic dissensions retarded prosperity.

The most interesting feature attending the colonization of the province of Carolina, however, was the remarkable system of government devised, at the request of the proprietaries, by the celebrated English philosopher John Locke. Made in the retirement of his study, and based upon conditions of society utterly unlike those of the thinly-settled wilderness of America, Locke's scheme was absurdly unsuited to the purpose designed, while its autocratic character was entirely out of accordance with the democratic sentiments of the settlers. As a strenuous effort, however, was made to carry out the provisions of this magnificently-absurd "Grand Model" of government, we may give its leading features, as epitomized by Hugh Williamson in his "History of North Carolina."]

As it was to be expected that a great and fertile province would become the residence of a numerous and powerful body of people, the lords proprietors thought fit in the infant state of these colonies to establish a permanent form of government. Their object, as they expressed themselves, was "to make the government of Carolina agree, as nearly as possible, to the monarchy of which it was a part, and to avoid erecting a numerous democracy." Lord Ashley, one of the proprietors, who was afterwards created Earl of Shaftesbury, a man of fine talents, was requested by the proprietors to prepare a form of government; but he availed himself of the abilities of John Locke, the celebrated philosopher and metaphysician, who drew up a plan, consisting of one hundred and twenty articles or fundamental constitutions, of which the following are the outlines:

Carolina shall be divided into counties. Each county shall consist of eight signiories, eight baronies, and four precincts. Each precinct shall consist of six colonies. Each signiory, barony, or colony shall consist of twelve thousand acres. The signiories shall be annexed unalienably to the proprietors; the baronies, to the nobility; and the precincts, being three-fifths of the whole, shall remain to the people..

There shall be two orders of nobility, chosen by the proprietors,--viz., landgraves and casiques.

There shall be as many landgraves as counties, and twice as many casiques.

Each landgrave shall hold four baronies, and each casique two baronies.

[From the year 1701 the proprietaries and nobility were to be inalienably hereditary.]

There may be manors, to consist of not less than three thousand acres or more than twelve thousand in one tract or colony.

The lord of every signiory, barony, or manor shall have the power of holding court leet, for trying causes civil or criminal, with appeal to the precinct or county court,

No leet man shall remove from the land of his lord without permission.

There shall be eight supreme courts. The oldest proprietor shall be palatine; and each of the other proprietors shall hold a great office,--viz., the several offices of chancellor, chief justice, constable, admiral, treasurer, high steward, and chamberlain.

[The formation of the courts of the proprietors is here laid down, and the various officers are designated.]

Of the forty-two counsellors, in the several courts, the greater number shall be chosen out of the nobles or the sons of proprietors or nobles.

There shall be a grand council, which is to consist of the palatine, the other seven proprietors, and the forty-two counsellors from the courts of the several proprietors. They shall have the power of making war and peace, etc.

[The formation of the minor courts is then designated.]

No cause of any freeman, civil or criminal, shall be tried in any court, except by a jury of his peers.

Juries are to consist of twelve men, of whom it shall be sufficient that a majority are agreed.

It shall be a base and infamous thing, in any court, to plead for money or reward.

The parliament shall meet once every two years. It shall consist of all the proprietors or their deputies, the land-graves, the casiques, and one commoner from each precinct, chosen by the freeholders in their respective precincts. These four estates shall sit in one room, each man having one vote. .

No matter shall be proposed in parliament that had not previously been prepared and passed by the grand council.

No act shall continue in force longer than to the next biennial meeting of parliament, unless in the mean time it shall have been ratified by the palatine and a quorum of the proprietors.

While a bill is on its passage before the parliament, any proprietor or his deputy may enter his protest against it, as being contrary to any of the fundamental constitutions of government. In which case, after debate, the four orders shall retire to four separate chambers; and if a majority of either of the four estates determines against the bill, it shall not pass. .

The Church of England being deemed the only true orthodox church, no provision shall be made by parliament for any other church. .

No, man above the age of seventeen years, shall have any benefit of the laws, whose name is not recorded as a member of some church or religious profession.

These fundamental and unalterable constitutions were signed by the lords proprietors the first of March, 1669. It would be difficult to account for some of the articles that are contained in this plan of government, except by recurring to the old adage that respects Scylla and Charybdis.

The proprietors, or some of them, had lately smarted under a government that was called republican. They were zealous royalists; and they expected, by the help of a powerful aristocracy, to obviate the return of republican measures; but we are sorry to find among the works of John Locke, who was an advocate for civil and religious liberty, a plan of government that in some articles does not consist with either.

It will readily be perceived that a government to be administered by nobles was not well adapted to a country in which there was not one nobleman. . The lords proprietors, in the mean time, resolved to come as near to the great model as possible. For this purpose, Governor Stevens of Albemarle and Sayle of Carteret were instructed to issue writs requiring the freeholders to elect five persons, who, with five others to be chosen by the proprietors, were to form a grand council for the governor.

The parliament was to be composed of this great council and twenty delegates, who were also to be chosen by the freemen. In the mean time the proprietors made temporary laws for the preservation of good order in the several colonies,--laws that were little respected by men who had not been consulted in forming them.

[Locke's governmental scheme never took root in Carolina. It was a government of theory, not the result of a natural growth, as all persistent government must be, and was utterly unsuited to the conditions of a thinly-settled colony inhabiting a wilderness and composed of persons little disposed to submit to regulations more aristocratic than those from which they had emigrated. The plain and simple laws under which the colonists had previously lived were suited to their circumstances, while the "great model," with its nobles, palatines, and other grand officers, was in ridiculous contrast with the actually existing condition of sparse population, rude cabins, and pioneer habits. A strong effort was made to establish it, but the people effectually resisted, and, after twenty years of contest, Locke's constitution, which had simply kept the country in a state of discord, was voluntarily abrogated by the proprietaries.]

Hugh Williamson

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