Governor Gabriel Johnston's request to repeal the Biennal act 18 October 1736


Gabriel Johnston served as governor of North Carolina from 1733 to 1752. Compared with the usual tenure, his term was a long one. Soon alter assuming office, Johnston found the Biennial Act of 1715 a particular annoyance, in part because it obviously reduced the power of the governor and in part because of practical considerations. The Governor addressed his request for its repeal to the Board of Trade.

I sent your Lordships the only Copies of our Laws I could procure last December with such remarks as my bad state of health would then permit me to make. I did venture at that time to desire you to advise His Majesty to repeal as soon as possible the Biennial Law and to order that no Precinct should on any Pretence whatsoever be Represented by more than two members and to discharge me from consenting to Erect any new Precinct without His Majestys permission. I am still confirmed in my Opinion of this matter, and I am satisfied we never shall have a Reason[able] Assembly while this Act subsists. I have by this Conveyance sent an attested Copy of the said Biennial Law and shall only observe

  1. That it is highly unreasonable that any Assembly should presume to meet without His Majestys Writt, and therefore I dissolved them when they mett last.
  2. The six Precincts in the County of Albemarle have in each five Members making thirty, and the number of People in it is I am sure not fifteen thousand, which is by much too large a Representa tion.
  3. The whole lower House by this means consists of forty six and it is impossible to pick out in the whole Province so many fitt to do business.
  4. The greatest objection is that there must be a new election every two years which is too short a time to settle a Country which has been so long in confusion, and men of sense who sincerely mean the Publick good are so much afraid of the next Elections that they are obliged to go in with the majority whose Ignorance and want of education makes them obstruct everything for the good of the Country even so much as the Building of Churches or erecting of schools or endeavouring to maintain a direct Trade to Great Britain.
If your Lordships approve of this I beg no time may be lost but I may have this Repealed by the way of Virginia and South Carolina by June next at farthest and the Governors of these Provinces may have orders to forward it. This one thing would contribute to the quiet and settlement of this Country more than I am able to Express. . .