Fanning, Edmund

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Fanning, Edmund

FANNING, EDMUND. (1739–1818). Loyalist leader. New York. Born on Long Island on 24 April 1739 and graduated with honors from Yale in 1757, he moved to Hillsboro, North Carolina, and was admitted to the local bar in 1762. He rose quickly to local prominence, serving in the assembly and becoming a colonel of militia and a favorite of Governor William Tryon, as well as the storm center of the subsequent Regulator movement. Among the frontier settlements of western North Carolina, Fanning emerged as the symbol of the corruption and political dominance of the eastern elite.

On 8 April 1768 the Regulators fired shots into Fanning's house. In May he arrested two of their leaders but prudently released them when the mob threatened to raid the jail. A show of force by Tryon restored order temporarily, but violence again flared up, and in the election of 1769 Fanning lost his seat in the assembly. Tryon then created the borough of Hillsboro to give Fanning a safe seat. On 24 September 1770 a mob of Regulators broke up the session of the superior court at Hillsboro, dragged Fanning from the courthouse, and whipped him. The next day they ran him out of town and destroyed the fine house they maintained he had built from money extorted in official fees.

After the Battle of Alamance put a finish to the Regulator movement, Fanning followed Tryon to his new post as governor of New York in 1771 and became his private secretary. Although unable to get compensation from the North Carolina legislature for the loss of his property, Fanning received a number of large land grants in the Mohawk Valley and the Green Mountains, as well as several lucrative offices in New York before the war, among them the post of surveyor general in 1774. That same year Oxford University awarded him an honorary law doctorate. An ardent Loyalist when the Revolution broke out, he raised Fanning's Regiment, officially known as the King's American Regiment but also called the Associated Refugees. He was given the rank of colonel in 1776. Fanning's Regiment earned a reputation for fierce fighting and the cruel treatment of prisoners as they conducted a series of coastal raids against New England. In 1779 he captured New Haven but ordered his men not to burn the town for fear of damaging Yale.

Twice wounded during the war and all of his property confiscated, Fanning moved to Nova Scotia in 1783. Fanning placed the worth of his land at more than £17,000 and requested full compensation; he received £4,447. In September 1783 he became councillor and lieutenant governor of that province, and in 1786 he assumed the office of lieutenant governor of Prince Edward Island (at that time called St. John's Island). However, his predecessor, Walter Patterson, who was to return to London to answer charges of corruption, refused to give up his office and leave the island until 1788, creating a political controversy that lasted the rest of his term in office. Meanwhile, Fanning had been made a colonel in the British army in December 1782, and in April 1808 he was promoted to full general. His resignation as lieutenant governor was effective in July 1805. In 1813 he moved to London, where he died on 28 February 1818.

SEE ALSO King's Amreican Regiment of Foot: Regulators.

                       revised by Michael Bellesiles