Academic journal article South Carolina Historical Magazine

Farming Dissenters: The Regulator Movement in Piedmont North Carolina

Academic journal article South Carolina Historical Magazine

Farming Dissenters: The Regulator Movement in Piedmont North Carolina

Article excerpt

Farming Dissenters: The Regulator Movement in Piedmont North Carolina. By Carole Watterson Troxler. (Raleigh: Office of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 2011). Pp. xiii, 221; $15, paperback.)

Scholars have long been fascinated with the social eruptions emanating from the backcountry of North Carolina in the late colonial period. Calling themselves "Regulators," disgruntled Euro-American colonists resisted control by the eastern-dominated legislature and corrupt, exploitative local officials, whom they viewed as agents of the powerful planters, merchants, and lawyers on the coast. The Regulator movement came to a head at the Battle of Alamance on May 6,1771, when Governor William Tryon's militia soundly defeated the rebellious western settlers.

Historians of the colonial and revolutionary South have tended to interpret the North Carolina Regulation as a precursor to the American Revolution, and Carole Watterson Troxler, emerita professor of history at Elon University, does little to upend this historiographical trend in Farming Dissenters: The Regulator Movement in Piedmont North Carolina. But by arguing that the Regulation came from the cultural heritage of theologians such as John Calvin and George Fox, Troxler deepens our understanding of the movement and its cultural origins, especially in a chapter entitled "A Century's Legacy: Dissenter Religious Culture as a Carrier of Political Expectations." Troxler places the movement in a broad Atlantic context in which similar "repercussions of political tension over religious issues were played out in the 1700s throughout the British Isles and in North America" (p. 38). She asserts that North Carolina's unrest was connected to "the experiences and values of the dissenter tradition," and both "religious culture" and "yeoman pride and political participation" linked the Regulators to long-standing precedence (p. 33). In this way, the roots of the Regulation were not particular to North Carolina.

The most significant arguments in Farming Dissenters do not stem from broad contextualization, but instead are found when Troxler moves to the hyper-local. Herman Husband, who became the voice of the disaffected during the Regulator movement, began his time in North Carolina as a speculator in the northern Granville District, selling lands to religious dissenters near where he had settled on the Haw and Deep Rivers. Husband has long been interpreted either as the villain of the Regulation (in older historiography) or a radical hero (in newer literature). …

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