Born in Maryland in 1724, Herman Husband was a successful farmer and an influential leader during the Regulator Rebellion in pre-Revolutionary North Carolina. Disenchanted with the strict Anglican Church, Husband converted to Presbyterianism and finally to Quakerism before moving to North Carolina.
In 1754, Husband visited Orange County, North Carolina and was greatly impressed. The Piedmont offered an environment conducive to farming, so Husband settled in the Sandy Creek region of Orange County in 1762.
Husband recognized the injustices that his new farming neighbors were suffering from the local officials. Husband’s perspective was that wealthy land owners exploited workers, and farming families struggled to acquire land. In 1766, he co-organized the Sandy Creek Association and emerged as its chief spokesmen. The movement failed after two years, yet allowed farmers the opportunity to be heard.
In 1768, Piedmont farmers reorganized as the “Regulators,” and Husband served as their spokesmen, political thinker, and negotiator. He did so because he understood the farmers’ plight and articulated their demands. Consequently, Royal Governor Tryon continuously attacked Husband publicly and privately, and in 1768 Tryon arrested Husband and Regulator leader William Butler. Husband was soon released, however, and resumed his former role in the rebellion.
In 1769, Husband represented the Piedmont in the legislature. But on December 20, 1770, the Regulator was falsely charged with libel; however, Husband was still expelled from the legislature and on January 31, 1771, Tryon ordered Husbands’ arrest. Sitting in a New Bern jail, Husband eventually learned that the charges of libel were dropped. He was soon released.
Husband recorded the events of the Regulation up to 1768 in An Impartial Relation of the First Rise and Cause of the Recent Differences, published in 1770. The book recounted not only the Regulation but also expressed the beliefs and causes of the rebellion. Husband wrote, “Obedience to just laws, and subjection to slavery, is [sic] two very different things . . . God gave all men a knowledge of their privileges, and a true zeal to maintain them.”
On May 16, 1771, approximately two thousand Regulators confronted Tryon and one thousand soldiers at what became known as the Battle of Alamance. The Regulators were defeated, losing twenty men and almost one hundred wounded. As a Quaker and pacifist, Husband did not participate in the battle. Following the Battle of Alamance, Husband fled to Maryland and eventually made his way to Pennsylvania, where he participated in the Whiskey Rebellion. He lived outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, until his death in June 1795.
Marjolene Kars, Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2002); Mary Elinor Lazenby, Herman Husband: A Story of His Life, 1724-1795 (Washington D.C., 1940); William Edward Fitch, Some Neglected History of North Carolina (New York, 1914); William S. Powell, James K. Huhta, and James J. Franklin eds., The Regulators in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1759-1776 (Raleigh, 1971).
By Richard Carney, North Carolina History Project
See Also:Related Categories: Colonial North Carolina, Revolution Era
Receipt given to Thomas Sitgreaves for assisting in Herman Husbands' 1771 incarceration. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
The construction of Tryon Palace angered Husband and other Regulators, who considered it a waste of tax dollars. Image courtesy of Richard Carney.
Margaret Wake Tryon, wife of one of Husband's political opponents, Royal Governor Tryon. Image courtesy of the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, United Kingdom.