The Regulators

Author:   Richard H. Lee


Even as tension between the colonies and Britain was rising, disputes among colonists continued. In western North Carolina, many farmers, known as Regulators, rose up against wealthy lawyers and merchants, who charged excessive fees for legal services and manipulated debt laws. The royal governor needed more than a thousand troops to defeat the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771. In this letter, Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a leader of the patriot cause in Virginia, discusses the North Carolina Regulator movement and Gov. William Tryon’s suppression of it by force.


…you may know, that the Lawyers, bad everywhere, but in Carolina worse than bad, having long abused the people in the most infamous manners at length brought things to such a pass, that a bond of L500 was taken for a single fee in trifling causes, and this bond put in suit and recovered before the business was done for which the fee was paid. Grieved in this manner without being able to obtain redress, the people were at length driven by repeated injuries to do what otherwise they would never have thought of. The Governor himself in his speech to the Assembly acknowledges the grievances and recommends enquiry & redress, but instead of accompanying the redress with an Act of Amnesty…it was at length agreed by the Governor to allow a certain space of time for the Insurgents to consider about laying down their Arms, and that before the allowed time was elapsed, he fell upon the unsuspecting multitudes and made great slaughter with his Cannon….


Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute