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Culpeper's Rebellion


CULPEPER'S REBELLION (1677–1679). Beginning in 1677 the thinly populated county of Albemarle, claimed by both Virginia and Carolina and suffering drought and political fears of a coastal aristocracy, broke out in rebellion against the colonial government. Led by John Culpeper, who may have been the brother of Frances Culpeper Stephens Berkeley, wife of the Virginia governor, the rebels aimed to prevent the acting governor Thomas Miller and his hated deputy Thomas Eastchurch from collecting the tobacco duty, a financial burden the rebels believed prevented northern merchants from buying their crops. Seizing the men who supported the proprietors' government of Carolina, the rebels elected a rival assembly and chose a government with Culpeper as customs agent and John Jenkins as military general. This new government tried Miller for treasonous words in an obviously manipulated trial decided by a jury of known smugglers.

Putting down the rebellion was delayed by Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, the Davis-Pate rebellion in Maryland, and the death of Eastchurch as he returned to Albemarle to restore order. After two years of rebel government Culpeper went to England to plead the rebels' case before the king and his council. But Miller, who had escaped custody, met Culpeper there and charged him with treason. With the support of the earl of Shaftesbury, a proprietor of Carolina, Culpeper was found not guilty of treason since he acted on the orders of a properly elected assembly, albeit a rebellious one. Problems in Albemarle County, particularly with Virginia's claims of authority, continued until 1689, when the governor of Albemarle was made a deputy of the Carolina governor. The rebellion was largely the fault of the proprietors, who had little control of the outlying counties and their administration and who were unwilling to draw royal attention to problems, fearing a quo warranto investigation by the Crown.


Rankin, Hugh. Upheaval in Albemarle: The Story of Culpeper's Rebellion, 1675–1689. Raleigh, N.C.: Carolina Charter Ter-centenary Commission, 1962.

———. Rebel of Albemarle: The Story of George Durant. Edited by Jack P. Hailman. Madison, Wis.: J. P. Hailman, 1981.


See alsoAlbemarle Settlements ; North Carolina ; Tobacco Industry .

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