Herman Husband (1724–1795), also known as Harmon Husband, was a farmer, radical, pamphleteer, and preacher. He was born in Cecil County, Maryland and raised as an Anglican. One of the many to be inspired to the Great Awakening after hearing George Whitefield preach, he became disenchanted with his original faith and became a "New Light" Presbyterian and then a Quaker.
Husband was twice elected the North Carolina assembly, being expelled during his second term.
Affiliated with Benjamin Franklin
Moving to Loves Creek in what is now Siler City, North Carolina and later to Sandy Creek in what is now Randolph County in the 1750s, he established himself as a farmer and religious leader. He was later asked to leave the Quaker Meeting and he did so but continued to follow many of their tenets including strict pacifism. Philosophically he was drawn to the wisdom of Ben Franklin. Husband and Franklin kept up a correspondence through John Willcox, a merchant of Cross Creek, now Fayetteville, North Carolina, who went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania twice annually to purchase goods. John Willcox was the son of Thomas Willcox whose paper mill in Concord Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, manufactured paper used by Benjamin Franklin for his publications. Husband was thus in receipt of political pamphlets of a patriotic nature which he reprinted and circulated among his fellow citizens.
In the 1760s, he was involved in the resistance to the corrupt practices of predatory government officials- mainly the lawyers and judges. He was elected to the colony's assembly and spoke out against governmental abuses. His story is reminiscent of that of John Wilkes. He was jailed for speaking out and then set loose when an angry mob of armed backwoods farmers was coming to free him. The resisters organized and began calling themselves "Regulators" because they wanted to regulate the government, that is- to force it to obey the laws. Thus the movement is known as the Regulator Rebellion. Mob action was taken to prevent the worst abuses of the courts.
Husband always denied he was a Regulator, and indeed, as a pacifist he wouldn't take part in violence or threats of violence. But he was a spokesman and a symbol for the resistance. He had several tracts printed the best known being "Shew Yourselves to be Freemen" (1769),"An Impartial Relation of the First and Causes of the Recent Differences in Public Affairs" (1770), and "A Fan For Fanning And A Touchstone For Tryon" (1771). In 1770, Husband was expelled from the state legislature, ostensibly for libel but most likely due to his affiliation with the Regulators.
When the officers of Rowan County, North Carolina agreed to decide the dispute between themselves and the Regulators through a committee of arbitration, Husband was selected to serve on the committee.
Husband accompanied the Regulators on the morning of the Battle of Alamance (May 16, 1771) and sought to bring about an adjustment. Seeing this was impossible, he mounted his horse and rode away, his Quaker principles dictating that he avoid participation in a fight.
A small powderhorn used by Husband's cousin, Harmon Cox, at the Battle of Alamance and later carried by Husband when he fled to Somerset County, Pennsylvania, was donated to the Alamance Battlefield North Carolina State Historical Site by a descendant, Nick Sheedy, in 2008.
After the "rebellion" was crushed at the Battle of Alamance, Husband fled to Maryland under the name "Tuscape Death" and later called himself "Old Quaker". He only openly reclaimed his own name after the American Revolution.
Husband continued his journeys both physical and metaphysical eventually settling in Somerset (Somerset County) in Western Pennsylvania and becoming a millennial preacher as well as a political reformer. He called for progressive taxation, paper money, and, as a proponent of greater participation of common people in government as well as in religion, more democracy. In 1782 he released a pamphlet entitled "Proposals to Amend and Perfect the Policy of the Government of the United States of America" where he argued in favor of smaller legislative districts and legislatures for each county in order to maximize the influence of voters. For the first federal elections in 1788 Husband argued in favor of electing congressmen in districts instead of by the statewide method that was used.
His outspoken nature and reputation for radicalism drew him into the Whiskey Rebellion (1794), where he served as a delegate to the Parkinson's Ferry and Redstone meetings attempting to moderate the violent resistance to the burdensome and hated excise tax on whiskey championed by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. He is also associated with the raising of a liberty pole at Brunerstown (Somerset was previously known as Brunerstown) Square adorned with an ensign proclaiming "Liberty and No Excise".
When federal troops marched over the Allegheny Mountains, ostensibly to put down the revolt, they found no rioters but a lack of provisions which led to theft from local farmers and the ignominious name of the "Watermelon Army". The federal forces rounded up suspects including Husband who was specifically sought after. The detainees were held in miserable conditions and then marched back east for trial. He was tried and condemned to death. Friends interceded to secure Husband's release.
At age 73, Herman Husband's constitution did not fare well under these circumstances. He was imprisoned in Philadelphia for eight months before charges were dropped. He died of illness on his way home in June 1795.
Herman Husband in Fiction
Diana Gabaldon uses Husband as a minor but significant character in her novel, The Fiery Cross (2001).
Inglis Fletcher uses Husband as a major character in her novel, The Wind in the Forest (1957).
- Annual Report of the American Historical Association For The Year 1894, Washington, D.C, Government Printing Office, 1895, pp. 155 - 157.
- "Sandy Creek Baptist Association". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "North Carolina Historical Marker Program". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "Husband's Mill Randolph County". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "Sandy Creek Husband's Mill". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- George Willcox 1988. John Willcox 1728-1793 of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Cumberland County, North Carolina and Chatham County, North Carolina. Historical Research Company. page 27.
- George Willcox 1988. John Willcox 1728-1793 of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Cumberland County, North Carolina and Chatham County, North Carolina. Historical Research Company. pages 1-2.