Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Butler Petition

I found a petition in the Archives in a box of Court Records related to old real estate disputes in Orange County. I think the petition refers to the plight of those who came in the 1740's and occupied the lands that John Forster, William Little and John Lovick patented in 1728:

Alston Quarter 1763 small

While the squatters on the Moseley and Conner tracts ended up fighting Samuel Strudwick (successor to Moseley and Conner) over the title to the farms they built, the squatters who occupied the Forster, Little and Lovick Tracts never heard from the British citizens who held nominal title to this land. So when the local Commissioner of Confiscation came along and attempted to sell the nominal title to these lands, the squatters, who by that time had become propsperous and important residents of Orange County, got their most prominent figure, Gen. John Butler, to lead the charge in defending their farms from confiscation:

"To the worshipful Justices of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for the County of Orange:

"The Petition of the subscribers, citizens of the State of North Carolina and Inhabitants of the County of Orange humbly sheweth

"That many and by far the greater part of your petitioner more than forty years ago seated themselves upon the lands which they now occupy in the County of Orange. From the first settlement of them unto this time, your petitioners or those under whom they hold by fair honest and bona fide purchase have had and held quiet and undisturbed possession. That out of the wilderness by the sweat of their brows they have cleared and cultivated many valuable plantations made extensive improvements, erected convenient buildings and flattered themselves that they should without molestation been permitted to enjoy the fruits of their labours. That in this confidence they have bound their views to the soil upon which they have planted themselves and devoid of every other resource of subsistence to be now forced from it would necessarily involve their utter ruin.

"They have been guilty of no conduct in the late war which could mark them for the resentment of Government and subject them to forfeiture. On the contrary they stept forth in an early stage of the war and during the most critical and trying periods have vigorously contended for the liberty and independence of America; they flattered themselves that in common with their fellow citizens they should enjoy the blessings of the late glorious revolution; that they should not be distinguished as sufferers by an event which they had so liberally contributes to bring about. Judge of their astonishment when they were informed that under an ideal and imaginary claim of certain persons now or heretofore resident in the Kingdom of Great Britain, some persons had been induced to conceive that the lands upon which your Petitioners are seated by some one of the confiscation laws of this State were subjected to forfeiture and that the commissioners of confiscation in pursuance of this opinion had advertised them for sale.

"It is by no means necessary at present nor would it come properly before your Worships that your Petitioners should condescend to a detail of their several titles, their well founded pretensions against the claims of all persons. It is sufficient at present to say that their original entry was rightful & peaceable; that it has been sanctioned by grants from government and that they have held a long and undisturbed possesion; That in the course of forty years neither those who are now suggested to be the original patenter by those who are opposed to your Petitioners, nor any others claiming by from or under them have by such, at law or otherwise, attempted to evict your Petitioners.

"Your Petitioners claim the common right of Citizens and if their property is to be drawn into question, they expect that they are not to be denied the constitutional privilege of a trial by Jury. Their possessions individually to the publick are but a small stake, but to themselves it is their all, and surely they are not to be stripped of them upon ideal suspicion or vague conjecture.

"Your Petitioners are well aware that if the Commissioner of Confiscation should proceed to sell that yet it must be left to a court of law to award possession and that this could not take place but upon a full investigation of the titles of your Petitioners. But your Worships will foresee the unavoidable consequences, tis? many suits will be brought as there are purchasers and however well established the title of your petitioners may be in the event the value of many of their plantations will be sunk in other ?am? upon the courts the laws delay and the unavoidable expense attending it.

"Their circumstances they took up to your worships and request you to interfere with the authority derived to you from the eighth section of the Act of Assembly passed at Newbern in the year 1779 and on the eighteenth day of October entitlted an “Act to carry into affect and act passed at Newbern in November in the year 1777 entitled an act for confiscating the property of all such persons as are inimical to the United States and of such persons as shall not within a certain time therein mentioned appear and submit to the State whether they shall be received as citizens thereof and of such persons who shall so appear and shall not be admitted as citizens and for other purposes therein mentioned.

"The clauses to which they refer and which they humbly conceive is apt to their case and was intended to give them relief in circumstances similar to there are as follows: Provided that if it shall appear to the county court that any person hath or pretends to have any right or title in law to any lands tenements or hereditaments monies debts or personal property of any of any of the said persons declared forfeited by this act, such court shall stay all further proceedings thereupon and shall send up a true and exact state[ment] of such claim to the superior court of the district which superior court shall proceed to inquire into the legal right and title of the person so claiming by a Jury in the same manner as suits at common law and such determination when had shall be final and the Clerk of Superior Court chall transmit a copy thereof to the county court wherein the dispute originated which shall proceed according to such determination.

"Your Petitioners humbly hope that you will extend the operation of this law to their relief and make such order as will prevent any further proceedings being had by the Commissioner respecting the premises before the calims of your petitioners shall be heard and decided upon as the law directs.

"And your Petitions as in duty bound will ever pray,

"Eli McDaniel, Richard? Hunter, David Sealy, Robert Sealey, Walter Burnside, James Trousdale, Jane Patin, Archibald Maben, Nathaniel Patterson, Moka? Crawford, Jos. Hodge, George Allen, James Turner, James Truit, William Hodge, William Und????, John Allen, Samuel Shaw, Ephraim Tur???, John McDaniel, John Butler, John Armstrong, John Hamish, William Galbreath, James Cokeley, Richard Scott, John Hodge, Stephen White, John Pattin, Alexander Kirkpatrick, Samuel Pattin, Griffith Thomas, Robert Pattin, John McCrackin, John Baldridge, Nicholas Cane?, Henry Basin, Andrew Mundary? James Dixon, John Galbreath, Anthony Standford, John Basin, Timothy Hughes, Joseph Baker, James McAdams, William Raney, and Daniel Hanley."

No comments:

Post a Comment