Nathaniel Rice

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His Excellency
Nathaniel Rice
Governor of North Carolina
In office
Monarch George II
Preceded by George Burrington
Succeeded by Gabriel Johnston
In office
Monarch George II
Preceded by Gabriel Johnston
Succeeded by Matthew Rowan (acting)
Personal details
Born 1684
Died 1753
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Anne Gibbs
Mary Bursey

Nathaniel Rice (c. 1684-1753) was a British administrator who served as the Acting Governor of North Carolina in 1734 and from 1752 to 1753.

Early life[edit]

Appointed Agent/Factor at Cape Coast Castle in 1724-26, Nathaniel joined the Royal African Company[1] as part of a three-man team, headed by John Tinker (governor) as Captain-General, to administer the company’s fort and central port of trade in gold, silver and their monopoly over the English slave trade, the fort having been captured by the British in 1664.[2] He returned to England in 1726 to marry Anne Gibbs, sister-in-law of Martin Bladen, a senior figure at the Board of Trade.[3]

North Carolina[edit]

In 1730 Nathaniel Rice was appointed Secretary[4] of the North Carolina Council, a post he commenced in April 1731 at the beginning of George Burrington’s[5] second term as governor.[6] Burrington’s first term as governor in 1724-25 had been marked by aggressive behaviour and quarrelling with his senior councillor who, along with other assembly members had complained to London and got him removed from post.[7] Despite this, he secured a second term as governor through the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle and, during preparations to issue him instructions, Burrington had been asked to produce a list of 12 names to be his councillors but, when he only presented a list of 10, Martin Bladen inserted the names of William Smith (a London lawyer) and Nathaniel Rice (who was now Bladen’s brother-in-law).[8] Bladen had a particular interest in North Carolina, his father-in-law John Gibbs having been governor 1689-90 and he also owned land there; Bladen was hostile to the re-appointment of Burrington and Burrington was hostile to the idea that Bladen’s brother-in-law was now his senior councillor.[9]

Acting Governor[edit]

Within a few months of Governor George Burrington being in post, most members of his administration and council complained of his behaviour and William Smith, the Chief Justice, resigned in protest and left for England to complain about the governor to Whitehall officials at the Board of Trade.[10] In Smith’s absence, Nathaniel Rice was appointed President of the Council towards the end of 1731. By the following year Rice, the Attorney General and other members of the Council complained about the Governor’s behaviour to the Duke of Newcastle.[11] The complaints continued to flow in until finally Newcastle, in 1733,[12] announced that Burrington would be replaced by a new governor - who did not arrive in post until the following year. Burrington had to remain in post for many months until his replacement arrived and when Smith returned from England to an enthusiastic reception from the Council, Burrington felt threatened. He removed the seals of office from Nathaniel Rice to prevent him carrying out his duties and then dissolved the council.[13] Meanwhile, on 15 April 1734, when Burrington was in South Carolina,[14] Nathaniel Rice - as next senior councillor - assumed the governorship in his absence. When the governor returned on 17 September 1734 he immediately suspended Rice from office, along with other councillors and alleged that Rice, Smith and Montgomery had attempted to assassinate him.[15] By the end of September, however, Governor Burrington himself had been removed from office again, and a new governor, Gabriel Johnston, had arrived to take charge who immediately reinstated all those councillors Burrington had suspended.[16] Nathaniel Rice worked alongside Governor Johnston throughout his term. Rice was appointed a Commissioner of the Peace of New Hanover Precinct, a member of the General Court and Member of a Board of Commissioners to erect Fort Johnston. Burrington aside, Rice prospered in America where he probably had land acquisitions prior to his arriving in 1731 from his 1725 visit to South Carolina and he had a plantation on the south side of Old Town Creek in New Hanover County (most of the land owned by Nathaniel Rice later fell into newly formed Brunswick County, North Carolina), called ‘Rice’s Plantation’.[17] Numerous land grants indicate he amassed some 6,000 acres of land and 17 slaves. He was a vestryman at St Philip’s Parish Church and was buried in the family vault near his home on 29 January 1753, Wilmington, North Carolina.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Rice married at least twice: On 24 August 1726 he married Anne Gibbs at St Clement Danes Church in London[19] and later married Mary Bursey, his last wife who survived him. He had one surviving son, John Rice,[20] who was appointed Deputy Secretary of the province and also served as Clerk of Craven County, North Carolina. He may have had a second son Martin Rice, born 1729 in Salehurst Sussex, who probably died young. By his son John Rice, he had several grandchildren including grandson, John Rice, who married Abigail Sugg in 1773,[21] was the first Clerk of Wake County, North Carolina, and a member of the North Carolina House of Commons for Wake County in 1777.[22] Granddaughter, Sarah Rice, married John Hawks, architect of Tryon Palace in New Bern, North Carolina.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Political State of Great Britain, Vol XXXII, 1726
  2. ^ The Letterbook of James Abercromby, Colonial Agent, 1751-73
  3. ^ Martin Bladen: A Biography by Karen Proudler ISBN 978-0-9566831-5-1 and Early Yorkshire Bladens by Karen Proudler ISBN 978-0-9566831-6-8
  4. ^ 1730 February. Warrant to appoint Nathaniel Rice as Secretary of North Carolina . Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 3, p76
  5. ^ George Burrington 1685-1759 was the son of John & Mary Burrington. His father was MP for Okehampton in Devon and had influential contacts which he used to secure his son George’s appointment as Governor initially. These included: Peter King (Lord Chancellor), Arthur Onslow (Speaker of the House of Commons) and Sir William Yonge (MP for Honiton in Devon and Secretary for War). Robert Walpole and the Duke of Newcastle were later contacts who helped Burrington secure his second term as Governor of North Carolina. ‘George Burrington: Some time Governor of North Carolina: The “Janus” of Fielding’s Champion’ by Frederick G. Ribble. JSTOR article
  6. ^ Minutes of North Carolina’s Governor’s Council, 3 April 1731, Volume 3, pp215-21
  7. ^ A Strange Incident in George Burrington’s Royal Governorship by William S Price Jr., The North Carolina Historical Review. Volume 51, No. 2 (April, 1974) pp149-158. JSTOR article
  8. ^ Journal of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations 1704-82, Volume 6, p136. William L. Saunders (ed); Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 3, pp85-86 (list of councillors)
  9. ^ A Strange Incident in George Burrington’s Royal Governorship by William S Price Jr., The North Carolina Historical Review. Volume 51, No. 2 (April, 1974) pp149-158. JSTOR article
  10. ^ Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 3, pp232-39
  11. ^ Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 3, pp331-334, 356-368
  12. ^ Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 3, pp437-38
  13. ^ A Strange Incident in George Burrington’s Royal Governorship by William S Price Jr., The North Carolina Historical Review. Volume 51, No. 2 (April, 1974) pp149-158. JSTOR article
  14. ^ Governor George Burrington by Marshall de Lancey (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1896)
  15. ^ ‘Governor George Burrington with an account of his official administrations in the colony of North Carolina 1924-25 and 1731-4’ by Marshall DeLancey Haywood, 1896. Also see Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, 2nd Series, Volume 7, pp310-321
  16. ^ Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 3, pp642-43 and Volume 4, pp1-3
  17. ^ The Two Faces of Dixie: politicians, plantations and slaves by J. Christy Judah, p109
  18. ^ Bibliography: Elizabeth Moore, “The Rice, Hassell, Hawks and Carruthers Families of North Carolina. Bladensburg, MD, 1966
  19. ^ August married Anne Gibbs, St Clement Danes Church, London - Vicar-General Mar. Licence
  20. ^ Transcribed Will of Nathaniel Rice, Craven County Deed Abstracts, Volume I: 1707-1775 (dates of deeds & wills) Deed Books I & 5 (Book 5 mostly wills), Weynette Parks Haun
  21. ^ Marriage of John Rice & Abigail Sugg: Thomas Rice, Bondsman; Peter Uptegroves, Wit., Consent from Joshua Sugg, father of Abigail. Marriages of Wake County, North Carolina 1770-1868, Compiled by Brent H. Holcomb & Indexed by Elizabeth P. Bentley. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1983 Baltimore
  22. ^ Wake: Capital County of North Carolina," by Elizabeth Reid Murray, Volume I, Prehistory through Centennial Capital County Publishing Company Raleigh, North Carolina 1983
  23. ^ Brunswick County, North Carolina Deeds Transcribed by Joseph Sheppard: Brunswick County Deed Book C, Page 45-47 and Page 274; Brunswick County Deed Book D, Page 231

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