Regulator movement

Regulator movement,

designation for two groups, one in South Carolina, the other in North Carolina, that tried to effect governmental changes in the 1760s. In South Carolina, the Regulator movement was an organized effort by backcountry settlers to restore law and order and establish institutions of local government. Plagued by roving bands of outlaws and angered by the assembly's failure to provide the western counties with courts and petty officers, the leading planters, supported by small farmers, created (1767) an association to regulate backcountry affairs. They brought criminals to justice and set up courts to resolve legal disputes. The assembly and the governor, recognizing the legitimacy of the grievances, did not attempt to crush the movement. By 1768, order was restored, and the Circuit Court Act of 1769, providing six court districts for the backcountry, led the Regulators to disband. The movement in W North Carolina, with different causes, arose at the same time. Led by small farmers protesting the corruption and extortionate practices of sheriffs and court officials, the Regulators, strongest in Orange, Granville, Halifax, and Anson counties, at first petitioned (1764–65) the assembly to recall its officers. When this failed, they formed (1768) an association pledged to pay only legal taxes and fees and to abide by the will of the majority. They won control of the provincial assembly in 1769, but with Gov. William TryonTryon, William,
1729–88, English colonial governor in North America. After a distinguished army career he was appointed (1764) lieutenant governor of North Carolina and succeeded (1765) Arthur Dobbs as governor.
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, the provincial council, and the courts against them they were unable to secure relief. At first orderly, the Regulators resorted to acts of violence (especially at Hillsboro) after Edmund FanningFanning, Edmund,
1739–1818, American Loyalist in the American Revolution, b. Suffolk co., Long Island, N.Y. He moved to North Carolina, practiced law, held minor political posts, and supported the royal governor, William Tryon.
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, a particularly despised official, was allowed to go unpunished. Those actions alienated large property holders and the clergy from the movement. On May 16, 1771, Tryon's militia completely routed a large body of Regulators in the battle of Alamance Creek. Seven of the leaders were executed, and the movement collapsed. One group of Regulators moved west to Tennessee, where they helped form the Watauga AssociationWatauga Association,
government (1772–75) formed by settlers along the Watauga River in present E Tennessee. Virginians made the first settlements in 1769, and after the collapse of the Regulator movement in North Carolina, citizens from that colony under James Robertson
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, but most of them submitted. Tensions remained, however, between the western farmers and the tidewater aristocracy.

Bibliography

See R. M. Brown, The South Carolina Regulators (1963).

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The Regulator Movement has been described variously as a mob action, a reaction to British tyranny, a sectional confrontation, a class struggle against aristocratic dominance, a manifestation of status anxiety on the part of Western farmers, and an attempt to purge the colonial government of its pervasive corruption.
The magnitude of the dissent as well as the sanguinary nature of the final contest has rendered the Regulator Movement intensely intriguing to historians.
Though not a resident of the colony at the time of Regulation, Williamson represented later the interests of the urban, commercial, coastal aristocracy and doubtless associated the Regulator movement with the Antifederalist agrarianism and Jeffersonianism of the West.
Although sketching the life of Caldwell, Caruthers digressed to devote almost a third of his lengthy biography to the Regulator Movement in what proved the first detailed treatment of the incident.
It remained for others to avow more positively the sectional and socio-economic overtones of the Regulator movement.
Although clearly recognizing the specific, local grievances inherent in the Regulator movement, those historians argued that essential differences between the East or Coastal Plain and the West or Piedmont produced animosity between the two sections.
In fact, Jones shed new light on the origin and character of the Regulator movement by investigating the religious beliefs of Husband, who was the acknowledged spokesman, pamphleteer, and politician for the cause, though he was never an avowed Regulator.