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James Hasell (d. 1785) was the acting governor in the summer of 1771 after William Tryon departed for his new post in New York and while Josiah Martin was delayed due to illness. He served as president of the Council from 1760 to 1775, and in that capacity, performed the duties of acting governor of North Carolina on several occasions. Son of merchant James Hasell, the younger Hasell was originally from Bristol, England. He immigrated to the American colonies where he lived briefly in Philadelphia before settling in New Hanover County prior to 1735.
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Acquiring over 2,000 acres and three Wilmington town lots by the 1740’s, James Hasell was one of the largest landowners in the county. Having served as a justice of the peace since 1739 and having risen to social prominence, Hasell caught the attention of Governor Gabriel Johnston. In 1747 Johnston nominated Hasell to the royal Council; he was seated October 2, 1749, upon the death of Edward Moseley. As a long-time member of the executive council, Hasell held the distinction of having been present at more meetings than any other member, attending 368 meetings. In addition to his dependability, Hasell had a distinguished career on the council, serving several governors who relied upon him and commended him for his advice and unwavering loyalty to the crown. Josiah Martin, in particular, found Hasell to be his most trusted confidant. Hasell was not timid in his leadership. As acting governor in January 1775, he terminated the Assembly due to its perceived revolutionary spirit.
Although he had no formal legal education, James Hasell enjoyed a respectable career on North Carolina’s higher courts. He served several times as chief justice of the General Court, as well as of the supreme and superior courts. He was named chief baron of the Exchequer Court in September 1753, and held that office until the American Revolution, resigning twice, temporarily, for terms as chief justice. Hasell’s hobby was book collecting. During his lifetime he accumulated one of the largest libraries in North Carolina. Many of his books are now in the North Carolina Collection in Chapel Hill.
Robert J. Cain, ed., The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Second Series) Vol. VII (1984)
Elizabeth Moore, Rice, Hasell, Hawks, and Carruthers Families of North Carolina (1966?)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 67-68—sketch by William S. Price Jr.
New Hanover County Wills, North Carolina State Archives