Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Mecklenburg Declaration - May 20, 1775

Today is somewhat of a holiday in Charlotte, North Carolina. We don’t take the day off, but we do recall, with ceremony and remembrance, the events of May 20, 1775 and the document affectionately called the “Meck Dec.” It seems that on that long ago day, over a year before the Declaration of Independence was released in Philadelphia, the residents of Charlotte declared themselves to be free of British rule.

They did it right where the heart of downtown Charlotte sits today; at the courthouse which was then located at Tryon and Trade Streets. What was once an old Indian trading post and trail is now home to Bank of America and several other major banks.
The Mecklenburg Declaration was the product of a local citizen’s committee, which; having taken the measure of the people in the area; then decided to declare their Independence from Britain. This decision was reached after news of the Battle at Lexington and Concord; over 1 month earlier; reached Charlotte in late May. Some people still dispute the claim, and the first mention of it cannot be found in newspapers or broadsides until about 1819. There is however, a document known as the Mecklenburg Resolves, which was released to the public on May 31, 1775.

The resolves were a rather radical set of proposals set forth by the citizens as an approach to the problems the colonies were having with King George III, but did not go so far as to call for breaking away from the “mother country.” The text was published in the newspapers of the time, but the original was misplaced; or hidden; until 1838.

Some people believe that the myth of the Mecklenburg Declaration began as an attempt to recreate the Resolves. Since this was done by memory, perhaps the authors remembered the document as having called for independence, but the rediscovery of the original Resolves proved that to be a false assumption. And still another group argues that both documents were real.

The Resolves were taken to the Continental Congress via Captain James Jack who rode to Philadelphia with them on horseback. The Congressional Delegation from North Carolina; Richard Caswell, William Hooper, and Joseph Hewes; made the decision that it was too early to call for a separation between the colonies and the mother country. Captain Jack returned home and then the document disappeared for several decades.

No matter what the truth is, it is apparent that Charlotte; which was named in honor of King George’s wife; proved to be the “hornet’s nest” that the British dubbed it to be.

Here are the original Resolves;

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

2. Resolved, 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 innocent blood of American patriots at Lexington.

3. Resolved, 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 cooperation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.

4. Resolved, That as we now 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 of our former laws - where, nevertheless, the Crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein.

5. Resolved, That it is also further decreed, that all, each and every military officer in this County, is hereby reinstated to 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 'Committee-man,' to issue process, hear and determine all matters of controversy, according to said adopted laws, and to preserve peace, and 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.

Here is a list of the signers as recalled in 1819;

1. Abraham Alexander
2. Adam Alexander
3. Charles Alexander
4. Ezra Alexander
5. Hezekiah Alexander
6. John McKnitt Alexander
7. Waightstill Avery
8. Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch
9. Richard Barry
10. Dr. Ephraim Brevard
11. Maj. John Davidson
12. Henry Downs
13. John Flenneken
14. John Foard
15. William Graham
16. James Harris
17. Robert Harris
18. Robert Irwin
19. William Kennon
20. Matthew McClure
21. Neil Morrison
22. Duncan Ochiltree
23. Benjamin Patton
24. John Phifer
25. Col. Thomas Polk
26. John Queary
27. David Reese
28. Zacheus Wilson, Sr.

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