21st Century

20th Century

19th Century

18th Century

SPRING 1775

MAY 19 – 20, 1775

MAY 31, 1775

JUNE 1775

JULY 7, 1775

JUNE – JULY, 1775

SUMMER 1775

APRIL 12, 1776

JULY 4, 1776

SPRING 1775
The American Colonies are in turmoil. Although wide-spread violence has not yet broken out between the colonists and the British, it is clear that the situation is grave. Colonel Thomas Polk, commanding officer of the Mecklenburg County militia (and great-uncle of future President James K. Polk), orders that each militia elect two members to attend a convention at the log Courthouse (in the center of what is now Trade & Tryon Streets) to discuss the crisis. Twenty-six civic leaders attend. In addition to Polk, among the attendees are nine ruling elders of Presbyterian churches and four graduates of what is now Princeton University. According to the surviving notes of J. M. Alexander, Secretary of the Convention, the purpose of the Convention was: “[T]o adopt measures to extricate themselves from the impending storm & to secure unimpaired their inalienable rights, privileges, & liberties from the dominant grasp of British imposition & tyranny.”

MAY 19 – 20, 1775
The Mecklenburg Convention convenes. On May 19, an express rider brings news of a massacre of colonists by British troops at Lexington. The delegates, strongly anti-British in any event, resolve on a course of immediate secession from the British Crown. As one participant recalled: We smelt and felt the blood & carnage of Lexington, which raised all the passions into fury and revenge.” During that night, in a contentious meeting the Convention draws up, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is unanimously adopted. It is read from the Courthouse steps at noon, May 20, 1775, to the citizens of Mecklenburg County as the first declaration of independence by any civic body in the British colonies.MAY 31, 1775
Having declared independence, the next step was to establish a new code of governance for the County. A Committee of Safety in Charlotte adopts twenty resolves (now known as the “Mecklenburg Resolves”). They are essentially executive bylaws designed to set forth how the County is to be governed, now that it is independent from Great Britain. Captain James Jack, a local merchant, volunteers to carry all resolutions and new laws to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia where they are delivered to Richard Caswell and William Hooper, two of North Carolina’s delegates to the Continental Congress. They are declared premature by the Delegates, who are contemplating some sort of reconciliation with the British Crown. They send Captain Jack back to Charlotte with a letter of support, but the Delegates do not bring the Mecklenburg Declaration or Mecklenburg Resolves before the Congress.

JUNE 1775
The Mecklenburg Resolves are published in at least three newspapers: the North-Carolina Gazette (June 16, 1775); the Cape-Fear Mercury (June 23, 1775) and the South Carolina Gazette (June 13, 1775). Although widely read at the time, the Mecklenburg Resolves are forgotten and later regarded as a myth, until historians rediscover them in 1838 and 1847.

JULY 7, 1775
“This afternoon a man from Mecklenburg, who had been sent from there Express to the Congress in Philadelphia, and was not returning, brought a circular, addressed to Mr. Traugott Bagge; it was signed by Hooper, Hewh, and Caswell, and contained an Encouragement to take up arms, etc. He also brought a Call for a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, to be held on July 20th. We will think over these things, and consider what we must do about them.”

(Moravian Minutes, Salem, North Carolina)

JUNE – JULY, 1775
Returning from Philadelphia, Captain Jack stops in Salem, North Carolina, and speaks with Moravian Traugott Bagge, a merchant, about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. In the German language Moravian archives written in 1783, Bagge writes: “I cannot leave unmentioned at the end of the 1775th year that already in the summer of this year, that is in May, June, or July, the County of Mecklenburg in North Carolina declared itself free and independent of England, and made such arrangements for the administration of the laws among themselves, as later the Continental Congress made for all. This Congress, however, considered the proceedings premature.”

The Moravian archive is not discovered until 1904, establishing demonstrable contemporary evidence of the Mecklenburg Convention. Similarly, in a letter dated June 27, 1775, a Moravian bishop in Salem, North Carolina, reports to his colleagues in Germany: “We had a quiet and blessed month, although around us the unrest increases. In Mecklenburg County, where they have unseated all Magistrates and put Select Men in their places, they are threatening to force people, and us in particular, to sign a Declaration stating whether we hold with the King or with Boston, but we thinking for the present they are only threats.”

SUMMER 1775
The British respond to treason in Mecklenburg County. In a letter of June 30, 1775 to the British Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Dartmouth, North Carolina Royal Governor Josiah Martin writes: “The Resolves of the Committee of Mecklenburg which your Lordship will find in the enclosed Newspaper, surpass all the horrid and treasonable publications that the inflammatory spirits of this Continent have yet produced, and your Lordship may depend its Authors and Abettors will not escape my due notice whenever my hands are sufficiently strengthened to attempt the recovery of the lost authority of Government. A copy of these Resolves I am informed were sent off by express to the Congress at Philadelphia as soon as they were passed in the Committee.”

In August 1775, from a sloop in the Cape Fear river, Governor Martin formally responds to the people of North Carolina: “I have also seen a most infamous publication in the Cape Fear Mercury importing to be resolves of a set of people stiling themselves a Committee of the County of Mecklenburg most traitorously declaring the entire dissolution of the Laws Government and Constitution of this country and setting up a system of rule and regulation repugnant to the Laws and subversive of His Majesty’s Government…”

Later, Colonel Banastre Tarleton of His Majesty’s British Legion will record in his history of the Revolutionary War, that: “It was evident, and it has been frequently mentioned to the King’s officers, that the counties of Mecklenburg and Rohan [Rowan] were more hostile to England than any other in America.” His overall assessment: “The town [Charlotte] and environs abounded with inveterate enemies.”

APRIL 12, 1776
The Provincial Congress of North Carolina authorizes its delegates in Congress to vote for independence – the first such State to do so.

JULY 4, 1776
The National Declaration of Independence
is adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia – fourteen months following the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.