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Carolina Charter

the first organic law of what is now North Carolina

King James I of England died in 1625 and was succeeded by Charles I.  King Charles I reigned until 1649, when he was beheaded and England came under the control of Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell.  The Interregnum ended in 1660, when Charles II, the son of the beheaded king, was restored to the throne.

Charles II owed an enormous debt to the men who helped restore the monarchy, so on March 24, 1663, he rewarded eight of them with a grant of land that included what is now North and South Carolina. The eight men were Edward Hyle, 1st Earl of Clarendon; George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle; William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven; John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton; Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury; Sir George Carteret; Sir William Berkeley; and Sir John Colleton. The grant encompassed all of the territory between 31 and 36 north latitude, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean (about 70 miles south of the border of present-day Florida to about 40 miles south of the present northern boundary of North Carolina). A further grant to the Proprietors in 1665 extended the northern boundary 30 minutes, to the present border of North Carolina and Virginia.

map of the lands granted under the 1663 and 1665 charters
map of the lands granted under the 1663 and 1665 charters

In addition to the land, the Carolina Charter granted the Lords Proprietors unprecedented rights of governance. The Proprietors were empowered to make laws, "with the advice, assent, and approbation" of the freemen or their representatives, and to make orders and ordinances without such approval. They could also establish courts; appoint judges and other officials; grant lands; erect towns, seaports, and forts; make war; and create and bestow titles of honor. The Charter also specified that all prospective colonists were to be guaranteed "all liberties, franchises and priviledges of this our kingdom of England" and be able to "possess and enjoy" them "without the least molestation, vexation, trouble or grievance." In addition, religious toleration was to be afforded to those "Who really in their Judgments, and for Conscience sake" could not conform to the ritual and beliefs of the established Church of England.

In 1729 seven of the eight Lords Proprietors (the only exception being Sir George Carteret) sold their shares of Carolina to the crown. Carolina thereby became a royal colony, and remained under royal control until the American Revolution.

first page of the Carolina Charter
first page of the Carolina Charter

The Avalon Project
Encyclopedia of North Carolina
North Carolina Digital History
North Carolina History Project

King James I
King Charles I
King Charles II

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This page was last updated on June 16, 2018.