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7 S E C T I O N A L C O N T R O V E R S I E S I N T H E C O L O N Y NE OFTHE MOST important factors in the development of North Carolina has always been sectionalism. Many key events in the state's history came about because of rivalries and jealousies, first between the northern and southern parts of the colony, next between east and west, and more recently between urban and rural. Contributing to these have been geographic differences, the variety of national origins and religious elements, wide social distinctions, and economic interests. Sectionalism began to develop when the first settlers crossed the Albemarle Sound and moved to the banks of the Pamlico River. The wide expanse of the sound isolated the two parts of the colony, and, as people acquired land in the Cape Fear region, there wasa wilderness of swamps and sandy barrens to divide them. The Neuse and Cape Fear sections were deeply interested in the issues raised over blank patents, most of which were held in those sections. They were quite willingto givethe governor atax listin exchangefor his recognition oftheir right to land held under them. Albemarle in many ways was still dependent economically on Virginia, but the Cape Fear section had its own outlet to the commerce ofthe world and wasrelativelyindependent. Asaresult, royal instructions or action by the Assembly that pleased one section might be considered intolerable by the other. Personal ambitions and local rivalries marked these differences. The Albemarle counties enjoyed the right to send five delegates each to the Assembly , but the Neuse and Cape Fear counties were permitted only two each. This grew out of the fact that old Albemarle County's assembly had consisted of twenty members, and when the county wasdivided into four precincts eachwas allowed five delegates. Perhaps to retain its majority in the Assembly the old counties authorized only two assemblymen for newly created counties, with two exceptions. Bertieand Tyrrell,created in 1722 and 1729, wereinitially allowed five each; in 1746, however, their representation was reduced to three and four, respectively. Thereafter,aslong aspossible, the Albemarlesection used its political power to monopolize the speakership and other offices that the legislature 143 o 14-4North Carolina through Four Centuries controlled. As other sections increased in importance, they naturally resented this political inequality. In time New Bern grew ambitious to become the capital , a goal supported by the Cape Fear. The Albemarle versus the Cape Fear These conditions prevailed when Governor Gabriel Johnston took up the quitrent fight about 1736. The southern counties were ready to revolt because of Albemarle's refusal to come to terms concerning the seat of government. They also were irritated by the apparent willingness of the northern counties to sacrifice all other interests to uphold their position in the quitrent controversy. In June 1746, when the Albemarle continued to defeatproposals to make New Bern the capital, the popular part}', composed of longtime residents who felt no loyalty to the governor and his appointees, split into two factions. Johnston sawin this an opportunity to serve his own objectives. Making common cause with the southern members, he prorogued the Assembly to meet in November at Wilmington. The Albemarle members declared that they would never attend a session there. Since they composed a majority of the Assembly, or House of Commons as the lower house was occasionally called,1 they naturallyexpected that no session would convene. But they reasoned without consulting their Cape Fear hosts, because they could not believe that SamuelSwann, John Starkey, and other southern leaders, just for the sake of a petty sectional advantage (and at the urging of a royal governor), would surrender one of the fundamental principles of the popular party—that no number less than a majority should be considered a quorum of the house. Yet this isjust what the southern faction did. On 18 November 1746, with only fifteen members attending out of atotal of fifty-four, SpeakerSwann declared a quorum present and notified the governor that the house wasready for business. The businesswas cut and dried. Only two bills were considered. One combined two subjects: the first part made New Bern the capital, satisfying the southern members; and the second part regulated the General Court, satisfying the governor. The second bill probably pleased both the governor and the members present asit reduced the representation of the Albemarle counties from five to two delegates each. Johnston quickly...


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