"New rules, part of a set of British laws called the Navigation Acts, dictated that all colonial trade was required to be carried in English ships, while all European goods destined for the colonies had to be first landed in England.
Certain items, such as tobacco shipped from Carolina, could land only in England. In addition, heavy customs duties had to be paid on the tobacco once it entered British ports. This effectively cut off the New England market, one of Carolina’s prime trading partners.
Carolina planters did not wish to be forced into paying expensive customs duties and were unhappy with the fact that they were no longer allowed to trade with other foreign countries. To circumvent the Navigation Acts, Carolina merchants began smuggling.
The New England coastal traders opened a profitable illegal trade with the Carolina planters. Tobacco was carried by sloop to Boston. From there it was transported to heavy ships bound for Scotland, Ireland, Holland, France, and Spain.
England quickly caught on to the fact that they were losing valuable customs revenue and retaliated by passing the Plantation Duty Act in 1673. This act stated that colonial ships leaving port had to pay customs duties prior to sailing. Parliament appointed customs officials in Carolina to collect the duties.
The Carolina planters were outraged. They felt that they should be able to trade with whomever they pleased.
In 1675 or the following year, George Durant went to London and presented his party's views. He protested against conditions then existing in Carolina and warned of trouble to come. His comments were ignored.
However, he was informed that there would be a new governor for Carolina named Thomas Eastchurch. Eastchurch would enforce the collection of the customs duties and the rules of the Plantation Duty Act. Durant told the Lords that he would revolt before he would support Eastchurch and that he refused to allow the appointment!
These were strong words for a colonial settler and they reveal much concerning Durant's important role in Carolina politics. Durant promptly sailed back to Carolina aboard Zachariah Gilliam's 5-gun ship The Carolina.
On the first Saturday of December, 1677, Captain Zachariah Gilliam sailed into Albemarle Sound. On board was George Durant and in the hold was a large amount of firearms, ammunition, and swords. Gilliam's response to authorities, when questioned about the nature of his cargo, was that it was to be sold to white settlers for defense against the Indians.
Gilliam, a native of Boston, had been in the Carolina trade since 1674 and was firmly allied with the planters. Upon dropping anchor, Captain Gilliam went ashore to tender his papers to the customs collector named Miller. The captain's papers were seized and his boat crew placed in confinement.
Among Gilliam's papers was his passenger list. After discovering that George Durant was a passenger aboard The Carolina, Miller armed himself with a brace of pistols and rowed out to the ship at about eleven o' clock at night. Stepping on deck, he thrust his cocked pistols into Durant's chest and "in an insolent Hectoring manner," arrested him as a "Traytour."
The crew onboard quickly overpowered him. For the next two hours he was kept confined aboard ship. During this time, several planters came out to the ship for a hurried conference with Durant. The plan of action was quickly laid.
The rebellion that would become known as Culpeper's Rebellion, was to begin in earnest at first light. It is now seen as one of the earliest uprisings against the British Crown in the New World.
Furnished with muskets and cutlasses from Gilliam's ship, the rebels rounded up and imprisoned English Officials at Durant's plantation. Timothy Biggs later recalled that Durant's home was often the site of rebel meetings and considered "their usual rendezvous."
|Illustration of Miller imprisoned after Culpeper's Rebellion from an 1890 history book.|
Durant had called a new Assembly and his supporters included nearly all of the leading planters. A trial was begun to convict Thomas Miller and his supporters of "several odious crymes, including blasphemy and treason." Not only was Miller "clapt in irons," but he was allowed no communication with anyone and was treated in what he claimed was "a cruell and barbarous manner shut up from all society."
For a short time, peace reigned in the area and merchant business flourished." (1) ...to be continued...
- (1) Deborah Barclift, The Descendants of William Bartlett Website (Website link was not active in August 2004)
- History of Perquimans County