Maurice Moore (1735-1777)

Written By North Carolina History Project

In 1735, Maurice Moore was born more than likely in Brunswick County.  His father had earned great wealth in South Carolina as a planter along the Lower Cape Fear region yet later moved to Brunswick County, North Carolina.   Although from planter pedigree, Maurice Moore became a lawyer.  His career choice steered him ultimately into career in public service in which he became one of the colony’s leading young political figures.

Throughout Moore’s early career he ascended quickly in provincial politics.  At the age of twenty-two, Moore served in the North Carolina House of Commons for three consecutive years.  From 1760-1761 he served on the Governor’s Council.  After that year he returned to the House of Commons for the years 1762, 1764-1771, and 1773-1774.  He was ultimately appointed to the colony’s Superior Court.

During Moore’s lifetime, a common political debate concerned whether the American colonies had the same constitutional rights as British subjects.  Those who supported these rights, including Moore, looked to the Concessions and Agreement issued by Lord Proprietors in 1665 as evidence.  A major catalyst of American debate and protest formed around the Stamp Act of 1765.  That same year, Judge Moore published a pamphlet, The Justice and Policy of Taxing the American Colonies in Great Britain.  In it, he expressly opposed the Stamp Act and specifically condemned taxation without representation and the concept of virtual representation.  As a result, Governor Tryon stripped Moore of his judicial appointment.  In 1768, Moore was reinstated and remained on the Superior Court until 1773.  

The controversy and citizen unrest over the Stamp Act continued to spread across the state and country.  Governor Martin’s proclamation in defense of the Stamp Act was burned.  A provisional government was put in place with a Council of Safety and subsequent committees of safety for each county and town.  On August 23, 1765, Moore and other prominent political figures, such as William Hooper, Robert Howe, Richard Caswell, and Joseph Hewes, were appointed to a committee to prepare an address.  They put forth the call for people to unite in defense of liberty.  Protests continued until the end of October.  On All Hallows Eve, the Sons of Liberty, including Moore, marched through town with a coffin to portray the death of freedom and Lady Liberty. 

Moore continued to serve in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1771, 1773, and 1774.  It was no surprise that in 1775 he was elected to attend North Carolina’s Third Provincial Congress.  He was elected once again in late 1776 for the Fifth Provincial Congress, but chose to not attend.  He died unexpectedly in 1777.  His son, Alfred Moore, followed in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, and, ultimately, as a Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States of America.