The Lords Proprietors' Grant and Seal, 1699

Donated by James P. Barrow, '62.

This remarkable document is a grant or patent from the Lords Proprietors of South Carolina, dated 1699. It was issued to an Englishman named John Wyche (a relative of the then-Palatine or chief Proprietor), and conferred on him the status of Landgrave, with the right to claim 48,000 acres of land between Cape Fear and the Savannah River. In the late 1690's, the Lords Proprietors were anxious to implement their elaborate scheme for a colonial landed aristocracy, in an attempt to stabilize Carolina politics. The Grant was written in Latin, but an English translation was subsequently made.

 

The grant is engrossed on vellum, with the Great Seal of the Proprietors still attached. It is one of only two such 17th century documents known to survive with their seal (the other, from1672, is at the S.C. Department of Archives and History).

 

Wyche (or Wich), a Cambridge graduate, was also appointed Secretary to the Province, but came to Carolina for only a short period of about six months, in 1700-1701, before receiving another appointment, as British envoy to Hamburg. Some of the additional documents with the grant relate to his activity there. His successor as Secretary, John Wilmot, initially tried to assume Wyche's land-rights also, though the Proprietors reasserted Wyche's patent in 1707.

 

Following the revolt against the Lords Proprietors' government in 1719, the colony came under direct royal control. The change was formalized by an Act of the British parliament in 1729, "an Agreement with Seven of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, for the Surrender of their Title and Interest in that Province." A pristine copy of this Act was also donated with the 1699 grant.

 

The story of the Wyche land-claims is filled out with further documents in which, following the 1729 Act, the next generation of the family, Cyril, petitioned the Privy Council in London for an endorsement of his rights under the 1699 grant, a claim that the Council disallowed.

The library is grateful to Prof. Robert Weir, Department of History, and Charles H. Lesser, of the S.C. Department of Archives & History, for their examination of the Wyche grant and associated documents. For further background on Wyche and South Carolina in the period of the Lords Proprietors, see Charles H. Lesser, South Carolina Begins: the Records of a Proprietary Colony, 1663-1721 (1995), esp. pp. 150-152.

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