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The Cary Rebellion

In 1672, George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, visited Albemarle County and established a Quaker meetinghouse. As the years passed, the Quaker element grew in size and influence. By the start of the 18th century, Quakers held most of the important political positions in northern Carolina, which displeased the Anglican minority. In 1702, a new monarch, Queen Anne, took the throne in England. According to custom, oaths of allegiance were required of all royal officeholders in England and the colonies. The Quakers, as a matter of religious principle, refused to take the oath, but did offer to "affirm" their loyalties. The Anglican leaders declined these affirmations and forced the American Quakers from their offices. In 1705, Thomas Cary entered this tense situation in the Carolinas; he had been an Anglican supporter, but switched his allegiance to the Quakers and led them back to power in 1708. The simmering feud boiled over in 1711, when Thomas Hyde arrived as the new governor. Cary refused to yield office and gathered his supporters near his home in Bath at the mouth of the Pamlico River. Over the next few months, the fortunes of the contending parties rose and fell. The turning point came in July 1711 when a company of royal marines was dispatched from a ship in Chesapeake Bay. Cary refused to order his men to fire on royal soldiers; he was captured and sent in chains to England on a charge of treason. His friends soon won his release and he returned to Carolina, living out his days in obscurity. Cary's Rebellion exemplified the inflammatory nature of mixed political and religious passions. The loss of life in the Rebellion was not great, but the disruption paralyzed the colony. Government offices were closed for long periods; policies were reversed, then reversed again. The disruption also took a heavy toll on the economy. Planting schedules were interrupted and crops left untended. In the end, dozens of families were ruined by the Rebellion.