Revolutions require dress rehearsals. These rehearsals solidify cause, commitment and command – the three necessary ingredients for every revolution. Without all three ingredients, you don’t get a revolt so much as just plain riots, or uprisings – violence that blows off the steam of oppression for just a little while before being brutally crushed. For America’s revolution, the dress rehearsal was not the French and Indian War, but the War of the Regulation.
The War of Regulation took place from 1765 to 1771 in North and South Carolina. In both states the Regulators were primarily farmers, though the South Carolinians were of the elite class of monied plantation owners.
In North Carolina, Regulators sought relief from the corrupt Royal Governor Tryon and a number of his officials. In South Carolina, perhaps the only time in that state’s history, Regulators wanted more and stronger Royal governance to protect the people from groups of men who preyed on the landed gentry and caused trouble with the Creek Nation.
North Carolina’s Regulators attack the Royal Court, and caused significant mischief that eventually ended with the Battle of Alamance. The North Carolina Militia and Governor Tryon took 13 prisoners and hung 7 of them following the battle.
In South Carolina, the regulators’ “…primary aim was to protect themselves and their assets from bandits, their secondary purpose was to get courts, churches and schools established in their quickly growing communities. The only court in the colony was in Charleston, through which all legal documentation had to go. The inland settlers had the sympathy of the coastal elite, but the circuit court act, which would establish the jails, courts, sheriffs and 14 judicial districts, was held up by a dispute with the Parliament of Great Britain concerning the tenure of judges.”
When the American Revolution began a few years later, the North Carolinians reversed their role and became Tories or Neutrals while the Royal North Carolina Militia went over to the rebels.
In South Carolinians the Crown-loving Regulators became rebels. Maybe it was too many oysters out of season. Throughout this war, in both its instances, one sees the 3 C’s” cause, commitment and command.
There was a unifying cause for each side: ineffective governance – whether of a predatory nature or simply absent. For each set of Regulators, there was demonstrable commitment to serve for the duration of conflict. Then there was command.
Command is not defined as a cult of personality, or a supreme leader without whom everyone collapses, such as Spartacus. Command in this case means means the infrastructure of command: men who are developed into leaders, and the subordinate officers and NCO who keep the infantry pressing forward in the face of death. This war was long term, violent but not overly bloody, and the leaders grew into their roles. The War of Regulation was America’s dress rehearsal for revolution.