Given power to govern Carolina by the Charter of 1663 (above), the Lords Proprietors ratified An Act Concerning Marriages in 1669. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
In 1663, when the Lords Proprietors obtained Carolina from King Charles II, they encouraged settlement and extended the Laws of England to their North American possession. During the late 1660s and early 1670s, most newcomers settled the northeastern corner of Carolina--the Albemarle region. Settlers wishing to marry soon experienced a problem: only ministers of the Church of England were entitled to perform the rite of marriage and few visited or settled in Carolina.
As a result, the Assembly of Albemarle in 1669 discussed the need to authorize civil officers to perform marriage ceremonies. Opponents thought such provisions fostered immorality. Proponents of the new law were in the majority, however, and on January 20, 1670, the Lords Proprietors ratified and confirmed the new law. For the first time, civil authorities performed marriages, but they did so only if the county had no minister.
Although An Act Concerning Marriages (1669) made it easier for North Carolinians to marry and thereby alleviated colonists’ fears of spreading immorality and illegitimate births, the law created another problem by not providing a provision for divorce.
Below is a transcription of An Act Concerning Marriages (1669):
Forasmuch as there may be divers people that are minded to be joined together in the holy state of Wedlock and for that there is noe minister as yet in this County by whom the said Partyes may be joyned in Wedlock according to the rites and customs of our native Country the Kingdome of England that none may be hindred from this soe necessary a worke for the preservation of Mankind and setlement of this County it is enacted And be it enacted by the Pallatine and the Lords Proprietors of Carolina by and with the advice and consent of the Present Grand Assembly and authority thereof that any two persons desiring to be joyned together in the holy state of matrimony takeing three or fower of their Neighbours along with them and repairing to the Governor or any one of the Councell before him declaring that they doe joyne together in the holy state of Wedlock And doe accept one the other for man and wife; and the said Governor or Councellor before whom such act is performed giveing Certificate thereof and the said Certificate being registered in the Secrytary’s Office or by the Register of the Precinct or in such other Office as shall hereafter for that use be provided It shall be deemed a Lawfull Marriage and the parties violating this Marriage shall be punishable as if they had binn marryed by a minister according to the rites and Customs of England.
William L. Saunders, ed., The Colonial Records of North Carolina, Vol. I – 1662 to 1712 (Raleigh, 1886; reprint, 1993).
By Lazar "Larry" Odzak, State Archives, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
See Also:Related Categories: Religion, Political Documents, Colonial North Carolina