All Rights Reserved.
Site last updated
26 June, 2013
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
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
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
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
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.]