The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

In this State of the public mind, Col. Polk issued his notice to the committee-men, two from each Captain’s district, as previously agreed upon, to assemble in Charlotte on the 19th of May, 1775, to consult for the common good, and inaugurate such measures as would conduce to that desirable end. The notice of the appointed meeting spread rapidly through the county, and all classes of citizens, intuitively, as it were, partook of the general enthusiasm, and felt the importance of the approaching convention. On the appointed day, an immense concourse of people, consisting of gray-haired sires, and vigorous youths from all parts of the county, assembled in the town of Charlotte, then containing about twenty-five houses, all anxious to know the result of that ever-memorable occasion. After assembling in the court house, Abraham Alexander, a venerable citizen and magistrate of the county, and former member of the Legislature was made chairman; and John McKnitt Alexander, assisted by Dr. Ephraim Brevard, Secretaries, all men of business habits, and of great popularity. A full, free and animated discussion upon the exciting topics of the day then ensued, in which Dr. Ephraim Brevard, a finished scholar; Col. William Kennon, an eminent lawyer of Salisbury, and Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch, a distinguished Presbyterian preacher, were the chief speakers. During the session of the convention, an express messenger arrived, bearing the news of the wanton and cruel shedding of blood at Lexington on the 19th of April, just one month proceeding. This intelligence served to increase the general patriotic ardor, and the assembly, as with one voice, cried out, “Let us be independent. Let us declare our independence, and defend it with our lives and fortunes.” The speakers said, his Majesty’s proclamation had declared them out of the protection of the British Crown, and they ought, therefore, to declare themselves out of his protection, and be independent of his government. A committee consisting of Dr. Brevard, Col. Kennon, and the Rev. Mr. Balch, was then appointed to prepare resolutions suitable to the occasion. The excitement of the people continued to increase, and the deliberations of the convention, including the framing of by-laws, and regulations by which it should be governed, as a standing committee, were not completed until after midnight, showing the great interest which every one felt, and that a solemn crisis had arrived which demanded firm and united action for the common defense. Upon the return of the committee, the chairman proceeded to submit the resolutions of independence to the vote of the convention. All was silence and stillness around (“intentique ora tenebant”). The question was then put, “Are you all agreed.” The response was one universal “aye,” not one dissenting voice in that immense assemblage. It was then agreed that the proceedings should be read to the whole multitude. Accordingly at noon, on the 20th of May, 1775, Colonel Thomas Polk ascended the steps of the old court house, and read, in clear and distinct tones, the following patriotic resolutions, constituting,

The Mecklenburg Declaration Of Independence

“”Resolved”, 1. That whoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any way, form or manner, countenanced the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this country, to America, and to the inherent, and inalienable rights of man.

“”Resolved”, 2. That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg county, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the mother country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown and abjure all political connection, contract, or association with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties, and inhumanly shed the blood of American patriots at Lexington.

“”Resolved”, 3. That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be a sovereign, and self-governing association, under the control of no power, other than that of our God, and the general government of the congress; to the maintenance of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.

“”Resolved”, 4. That, as we acknowledge the existence and control of no law, or legal officer, civil or military, within this county, we do hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, each, and every one of our former laws; wherein, nevertheless, the crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein.

“”Resolved”, 5 That, it is also further decreed that all, each, and every military officer in this county is hereby retained in his former command and authority, he acting conformably to these regulations. And that every member present of this delegation shall henceforth be a civil officer, viz.: a justice of the peace, in the character of a committeeman, to issue process, hear and determine all matters of controversy, according to said adopted laws; and to preserve peace, union and harmony in said county; and to use every exertion to spread the love of country, and fire of freedom throughout America, until a more general and organized government be established in this province.”

After the reading of these resolutions, a voice from the crowd called out for “three cheers,” and soon the welkin rang with corresponding shouts of applause. The resolutions were read again and again during the day to different parties, desirous of retaining in their memories sentiments of patriotism so congenial to their feelings.

A copy of the proceedings of the convention was then drawn off, and sent by express to the members of congress from North Carolina, at that time in session at Philadelphia. Captain James Jack, a worthy and intelligent citizen of Charlotte, was chosen as the bearer; and in a few days afterward, set out “on horse-back” in the performance of his patriotic mission. Of his journeyings, and “perilous adventures” through a country, much of it infested with Tories, we know but little. Having faithfully performed the duties of his important trust, by delivering the resolutions into the hands of the North Carolina Delegation at Philadelphia (Caswell, Hooper and Hews,) he returned to his home in Charlotte. He reported that our own Delegation, and several members of Congress, manifested their entire approbation of the earnest zeal and patriotism of the Mecklenburg citizens, but deemed it premature to lay their resolutions before their body, as they still entertained some hopes of reconciliation with the mother country.

A copy of the foregoing resolutions were also transmitted to the Provincial Congress, at Hillsboro, and laid before that body on the 25th of August, 1775, but for the same prudential reasons as just stated, they declined taking any immediate action.

It has been deemed proper to present this summarized statement of the circumstances leading to the Mecklenburg Convention of the 19th and 20th of May, 1775, as a source of reference for those who have no other history of the transaction before them. For a more extended account of its proceedings, the reader is referred to the pamphlet published by State authority in 1831, and to the exhaustive treatise of the late Ex-Governor Graham on the authenticity of the Mecklenburg resolutions, with notices of the principal actors and witnesses on that ever-memorable occasion.

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