Chronicles of America 

Locke's Fundamental Constitutions

John Locke, who wrote the "Essay Concerning Human Understanding", wrote also, with Ashley at his side, "The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, in number a Hundred and Twenty, agreed upon by the Palatine and Lords Proprietors, to remain the sacred and unalterable form and Rule of government of Carolina forever."

"Forever" is a long word with oft times a short history. The Lords Proprietors have left their names upon the maps of North and South Carolina. There are Albemarle Sound and the Ashley and Cooper rivers, Clarendon, Hyde, Carteret, Craven, and Colleton Counties. But their Fundamental Constitutions, "in number a hundred and twenty," written by Locke in 1669, are almost all as dead as the leaves of the Carolina forest falling in the autumn of that year.

The grant included that territory settled by Roger Green and his men. Among the Proprietors sat Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia, the only lord of Carolina actually upon American ground. Following instructions from his seven fellows Berkeley now declared this region separated from Virginia and attached to Carolina. He christened it Albemarle. Strangely enough, he sent as Governor that Scotchman, William Drummond, whom some years later he would hang. Drummond should have a Council of six and an Assembly of freemen that might inaugurate legislation having to do with local matters but must submit its acts to the Proprietaries for veto or approval. This was the settlement in Carolina of Albemarle, back country to Virginia, gatherer thence of many that were hardy and sound, many that were unfortunate, and many that were shiftless and untamed. An uncouth nurse of a turbulent democracy was Albemarle.

Cape Fear, far down the deeply frayed coast, seemed a proper place to which to send a colony. The intrusive Massachusetts men were gone. But "gentlemen and merchants" of Barbados were interested. It is a far cry from Barbados to the Carolina shore, but so is it a far cry from England. Many royalists had fled to Barbados during the old troubles, so that its English population was considerable. A number may have welcomed the chance to leave their small island for the immense continent; and an English trading port as far south as Cape Fear must have had a general appeal. So, in 1665, came Englishmen from Barbados and made, up the Cape Fear River, a settlement which they named Clarendon, with John Yeamans of Barbados as Governor. But the colony did not prosper. There arose the typical colonial troubles -- sickness, dissensions, improvidence, quarrels with the aborigines. Nor was the site the best obtainable. The settlers finally abandoned the place and scattered to various points along the northern coast.

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