William Tryon (1729-January 27, 1788), royal governor of both
North Carolina and New York, served the two colonies during
times of controversy and conflict. Tryon was born in Surrey,
England, to Charles Tryon and the former Lady Mary Shirley.
Though not formally educated, Tryon advanced militarily and
politically by virtue of being wellborn and well married. A
professional soldier, he was first commissioned as a lieutenant in
1751 and rose erratically through the ranks thereafter. William
Tryon married Margaret Wake on December 26, 1757. Together
they had two children. Their daughter Margaret died in England,
unmarried, at age thirty, and their son died in infancy in North
Tryon was related by marriage to Lord Hillsborough, Lord of Trade
and Plantations. It is likely that Hillsborough was behind Tryon’s
appointment as lieutenant governor of North Carolina in 1764
when Arthur Dobbs requested retirement from the governorship.
Tryon, his wife, and young daughter arrived in the colony in
October 1764. He assumed the duties of governor on March 28,
1765, upon Dobbs’ death, and received his commission within a
Tryon’s first political challenge was the Stamp Act crisis, which
erupted in October 1765 in North Carolina. Sympathetic with the
colonists, Tryon understood that the tax would cause great
hardship in the colony’s cash-poor economy, but in deference to
the crown required the taxes be paid. Through organized
resistance, North Carolinians avoided paying the tax until the act
was repealed effective May 1, 1766.
"Illustration of Tryon Palace--1770" from Powell, Emma H. New
Bern, North Carolina Founded by De Graffenried in 1710: Colonial
New Bern, New Bern of To Day, 1905.Tryon erroneously believed
that the colonists would not object to a tax levied to erect a capitol
and governor’s residence. The assembly appropriated funds and
authorized Tryon to oversee the project, which quickly exceeded
the budget. Some North Carolinians felt that injustices in the
colony, including the tax for “Tryon’s Palace,” corrupt officials, and
lack of representation for the backcountry, needed regulation.
They therefore formed a resistance group known as the
Regulators. After several defiant incidents, a special session of
the assembly was called which caused only further agitation.
Tryon organized and led militia into the backcountry in 1768 and
1771, defeating the Regulators on May 16, 1771, in the Battle of
Alamance. Following the battle, the governor offered pardons to
all who agreed to take the oath of allegiance, with a few named
exceptions. Ultimately, six leaders were hanged and the rank and
file were pardoned.
While on the expedition in the backcountry in 1771, Tryon was
notified of his transfer to the governorship of New York.
Subsequently, he lost the majority of his personal effects and
papers in a fire at his New York residence. Throughout the
Revolution, Tryon maneuvered for military position, attaining Major
General. Feeling underemployed in America, Tryon asked to be
excused from the civil governorship and allowed to return to
England, which he did in 1780. He continued to pursue military
promotions there, reaching Lieutenant General. Tryon died on
January 27, 1788, and is buried at St. Mary’s Church, Middlesex,
Fulton County Living