The first legislative body in Carolina assembled in the Albemarle region, near present day Elizabeth City, in the middle of the seventeenth century. As more settlers established themselves in North Carolina, social, political and social disputes rendered government intervention a necessity. The Lord Proprietors, investors who oversaw all Carolina territories, appointed William Drummond governor of the Albemarle region in early 1665. Soon thereafter, Drummond assembled county representatives in order to create guidelines for future assemblies and address colonists’s complaints.
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In January of 1665, the Lords Proprietors ratified a provisional constitution for the Carolina colony, tasking Drummond with the appointment of colony officials in Albemarle. Drummond named a surveyor, secretary, several councilors, and asked colonists to elect district representatives. The first assembly elected a president to act in absence of the governor, to carry out mandated from the proprietors in London. With the task complete, representatives addressed concerns among the colonists.
The most common complaint in the colony was the amount of taxes levied on landowners. The proprietors instructed Drummond to issue free settlers ten-acre tracts of land to increase colonization. Drummond, however, chose to issue fifty-acre parcels, the equivalent of one head right. Every acre would accrue a halfpenny quitrent, or taxes owed to the proprietors for use of their land. Many colonists found the tax excessive, and complained to their representatives. In response, the first assembly gathered near present day Elizabeth City in the spring of 1665. The meeting concluded with representatives drafting a letter to proprietors asking an increase in head rights while lowering the quitrent, in effect extending the same terms to settlers in Carolina that settlers in Virginia already received. In 1668, the proprietors responded favorably in a document known as the Great Deed of Grant, validating the efforts of the first legislative assembly in Carolina.
Lindley S. Butler, “The Governors of Albemarle County,” North Carolina Historical Review (Summer 1969): 280-299
Samuel A. Ashe, History of North Carolina, I (1908)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 107-108—sketch by Herbert R. Paschal
William S. Powell, ed., Ye Countie of Albemarle in Carolina: A Collection of Documents, 1664-1675 (1958)