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Regulators of North Carolina (1765-1771)

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The War of the Regulation (or the Regulator Movement) was a North and South Carolina uprising, lasting from about 1765 to 1771, in which citizens took up arms against corrupt colonial officials. Though unsuccessful, some historians consider it a catalyst to the American Revolutionary War.

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Herman Husband became one of the unofficial leaders of the Regulators. Husband was from Maryland, born into a Quaker family. One of the major flaws in Husband's campaign was he tried to invite good relations with the eastern regions of North Carolina, mostly unaffected by local sheriffs. Husband retained very little control over the Regulators, who generally went against his policies of winning over public sentiment and committed acts of minor violence at regular intervals.

Another Regulator leader was James Hunter. He refused to take command of the Regulators after Husband's departure before the Battle of Alamance.

Captain Benjamin Merrill had about 300 men under his control and would have assumed control over military leadership after James Hunter, but he was unable to serve in the Battle of Alamance.

Participants in the Battle of Alamance


Governor Arthur Dobbs, who authored popular works such as "Trade and Improvement of H'elend" and "Captain Middleton's Defense," served as the Royal Governor of North Carolina until his death in 1765.

William Tryon then assumed the position. Tryon had an extremely lavish home built in 1770 in New Bern (now known as Tryon Palace), which became one of the main points of resentment for the Regulators, who were already paying substantial taxes. William (The Regulator) Butler was quoted as saying "We are determined not to pay the Tax for the next three years, for the Edifice or Governor's House, nor will we pay for it." Governor Josiah Martin succeeded Governor Tryon in office just after the end of the rebellion. His policies eased the burden on former Regulators and allowed them to be assimilated back into society.

Edmund Fanning was the main opposition to the Regulators. A graduate of Yale College, he was generally regarded by his friends as well disciplined and firm. He held many political offices in Orange County. He was once found guilty of embezzling money (along with Francis Nash) but was fined only one cent per charge.


From A People's History of the American Revolution by Howard Zinn:

In North Carolina, a powerful movement of white farmers was organized against wealthy and corrupt officials in the period from 1766 to 1771, exactly those years when, in the cities of the Northeast, agitation was growing against the British, crowding out class issues. The movement in North Carolina was called the Regulator movement, and it consisted, says Marvin L. Michael Kay, a specialist in the history of that movement, of "class-conscious white farmers in the west who attempted to democratize local government in their respective counties." The Regulators referred to themselves as "poor Industrious peasants," as "labourers," "the wretched poor," "oppressed" by "rich and powerful . . . designing Monsters."

The Regulators saw that a combination of wealth and political power ruled North Carolina, and denounced those officials "whose highest Study is the promotion of their wealth." They resented the tax system, which was especially burdensome on the poor, and the combination of merchants and lawyers who worked in the courts to collect debts from the harassed farmers. In the western counties where the movement developed, only a small percentage of the households had slaves, and 41 percent of these were concentrated, to take one sample western county, in less than 2 percent of the households. The Regulators did not represent servants or slaves, but they did speak for small owners, squatters, and tenants. ....


Many Regulators moved further west into places such as Tennessee, notably establishing both the Watauga Association at Sycamore Shoals (1772) in present day Elizabethton, Tennessee, the first independent white republic on American soil, and the State of Franklin (1784), another short-lived republic that failed to join the Union of the United States.