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Partial Views and Private Interest: Corruption and Politics in Colonial North Carolina, 1754-1760

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Stroud, Jason. “Partial Views and Private Interest: Corruption and Politics in Colonial North Carolina, 1754-1760.” (Under the direction of Dr. Holly Brewer.)

Under the governorship of Arthur Dobbs (r.1754-1763) colonial North Carolina witnessed a number of serious political debates that culminated in an effort by opposition political leaders to unseat the governor. This thesis examines the role of political corruption, both as a practice and a discourse, in these debates. It argues that the rhetoric of corruption was largely driven by anxieties about the ability of corrupt practices, especially patronage, to cement political ties among the colony‟s elites on the one hand and to enable the governor to fill the colony’s posts with pliant factors on the other. These anxieties stemmed from both eighteenth century political thought and realities in North Carolina, a society largely held together by personal connections. Three political events are considered—Arthur Dobbs’s removal of James Murray and John Rutherford from the executive council, the dispute over a Parliamentary grant to the colony, and civic disturbances in the Granville District. Most studies of these disputes have focused on Arthur Dobbs‟s attempts to crush the political factions that assembled in opposition to his leadership and the exercise of royal prerogative in the colony. By emphasizing the intensely personal political environment of colonial North Carolina, this thesis argues that the discourse of political corruption used in these political contests was used by both the governor and his adversaries in support of and in opposition to executive power. It further argues that corrupt practice and discourse were severely destabilizing forces in colonial North Carolina, and contrasts the rhetoric of mid-century politics with that used by the Regulators against corruption more than a decade later.

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