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Carolina, Fundamental Constitutions of


CAROLINA, FUNDAMENTAL CONSTITUTIONS OF, drafted in 1669, reflected the Crown's attempts to establish a highly traditional social order in the American colonies and to undermine the considerable power of the existing General Assembly. While maintaining the right to religious liberty, the document regulated the proprietary colonies according to the legally established Church of England and placed control in the hands of gentry. It called for a manorial system in which serfs would be bound to land controlled by nobility and established a palatine's court composed of eight proprietors. The oldest lord proprietor in residence would be governor.

In North Carolina, which was settled primarily by poor farmers who had migrated from Virginia, the Fundamental Constitutions proved unenforceable. Settlers refused to live on manors and chose instead to manage their own small farms. Led by John Culpeper, farmers rebelled against taxes on their tobacco and annual quit-rents; in 1677 they deposed the governor and forced the proprietors to abandon most of their land claims.

In South Carolina the Fundamental Constitutions fared no better. There, too, colonists refused to accept either the established laws or the quitrents and chose instead to forge their own economic system, dependent on enslaved African labor from Barbados. Slaves were used to raise cattle and food crops for trade with the West Indies. The Fundamental Constitutions were revised into obsolescence by the close of the seventeenth century.


Craven, Wesley Frank. The Colonies in Transition, 1660–1713. New York: Harper and Row, 1968.

Kammen, Michael. Deputyes & Libertyes: The Origins of Representative Government in Colonial America. New York: Knopf, 1969.

Leslie J.Lindenauer

See alsoChurch of England in the Colonies ; Feudalism .

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