Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Preface to Volume 10 of the Colonial Records of North Carolina
Saunders, William Laurence, 1835-1891
Volume 10

-------------------- page iii --------------------

In less than a week after the Mecklenburg Declaration, the King's Governor in North Carolina had fled from her capital to the guns of a man-of-war; in thirty days from that date a meeting of delegates from the counties in the Cape Fear section was held and an association formed, in which the delegates declaring themselves “justified before God and man in resisting force by force,” bound themselves by every tie of religion and honor to stand ready whenever the Continental or Provincial councils should deem it necessary, to go forth and, if need be, to sacrifice their lives and fortunes to secure their country's freedom and safety; in fifty days a public call was made for the election of delegates to a new Congress to be held at Hillsborough, and as affairs of the last importance would be submitted to it, a large representation of the people was said to be desirable; in sixty days Governor Martin having stopped at Fort Johnston, opposite to which the Cruizer was then lying, Colonel John Ashe at the head of a large body of armed men drove him aboard the Cruizer, dismantled the fort and carried away the guns; in ninety days from the Declaration, in spite of a furious proclamation from Governor Martin, issued from the deck of the Cruizer, forbidding the people to elect members to the new Congress, and offering an ample reward for the arrest and delivery to him of the leaders in sedition, as the assembling of that body, he said, would bring the affairs of the province to a crisis, elections were openly held throughout the entire province, delegates were duly chosen, and the Congress met in open session at the time and place appointed. Everybody understood what was the nature of the affairs to be submitted to the Congress, and appreciated their vital importance, and, as desired, an unprecedentedly large number of delegates was elected to consider them. Two hundred and fourteen delegates were elected in all, one hundred and eighty-four of whom

-------------------- page iv --------------------
were present. Every one of the thirty-five counties, into which the province was then divided, was represented, and every borough town without a single exception. The Congress was in session just twenty days, and was busy enough. Within forty-eight hours after their organization a “test,” solemnly binding the members under the sanction of virtue, honesty and the sacred love of liberty and country, to maintain and support all and every the acts, resolutions and regulations of the Continental and Provincial Congresses, was reported and adopted; and of the one hundred and eighty-four members present, just one hundred and eighty-four signed it. On the fourth day of the session it was agreed to meet North Carolina's share of the expenses of the Continental Government, and a committee was appointed to report a plan of provincial government, rendered necessary, it was said, by reason of “the absence” of Governor Martin. On the fifth day Martin's proclamation forbidding the Congress to meet, was ordered to “be burned by the common hangman.” On that day also a census was ordered to be taken and reported before the 1st November. On the eleventh day it was resolved that the colony be immediately put in a state of defense, and that one thousand regular troops be raised forthwith for the Continental Line. On the seventeenth day an issue of $125,000 in provincial currency was ordered. On the twentieth day, looking forward to a long war with blockaded ports, liberal bounties were offered for the production at home, not merely of munitions of war, but of articles necessary for every-day home life.

By way of putting the colony in a state of defense, six battalions of minute men, one for each district, each battalion to consist of ten companies of fifty men each, were raised, in addition to which the militia was at once re-organized and put on a war footing as far as possible. The troops for the continental line consisted of two regiments of regulars of five hundred men each.

The currency, issued no longer in pounds, but in dollars, it will be noticed, was to be of various denominations, ranging from a quarter of a dollar to ten dollars, and for its redemption a tax of

-------------------- page v --------------------
two shillings on every taxable per annum for nine years, unless the issue should be redeemed in less time, indicating that the population at that time was estimated to be somewhere about three hundred thousand souls.

How far the Congress went in the way of stimulating home productions can be seen from the following list of the bounties they offered:

For every one hundred weight of saltpetre
For first five hundred weight of gunpowder
For first rolling and slitting mill for preparing iron to make nails
For first fifty pairs of cotton cards
For first one hundred pairs woollen cards
For first 25 dozen pins
For first 25,000 needles
For first steel furnace
For first paper mill
For first 25 yards best linen
For first best woollen cloth
For first salt works on the seashore
For first furnace for pig iron and hollow iron

Whatever may have been the case with the Regulators, the Hillsborough Congress was certainly not content with merely tearing down an old government, but resolutely and at once proceeded to build up a new one. Indeed, it may be said almost that a new government had for twelve months past been building itself up. Every county almost had its Safety Committee, and nothing needed to be done, practically, but to provide supervising tribunals. This was done by creating a Committee of Safety of thirteen members for each district, and a central one for the province, called the “Provincial Council,” clothed with ample powers. In its action in this regard, the Congress evidently had in mind the action of the British Parliament in supplanting King James with the Prince of Orange. The Parliament, in order to make a vacancy for William to fill, declared

-------------------- page vi --------------------
that James had “abdicated” the throne, when, in truth, there was nothing further from his intention than that. The Congress at Hillsborough said there was a “silence of the legislative powers of the government,” and ascribed it “to his excellency the Governor refusing to exercise the functions of his office by leaving the Province and retiring on board a man-of-war, without any threats or violence to compel him to such a measure.” The impudence of this is simply sublime. Governor Martin was at the time actually in the province. He had left NewBern, the seat of government, under circumstances that, to say the least, made his departure expedient. The “horrid resolves” of Mecklenburg had been published to the world. He had been denounced as an inciter of slaves to rebellion against their masters, as an enemy of America in general, and of North Carolina in particular, and, indeed, almost as hostis humani generis. Colonel Ashe, with a regiment of Cape Fear men at his back, had forced him to go aboard the Cruizer; and finally his proclamation, denouncing both the election of the delegates and the meeting of the Congress, had, by order of the Congress, been burned by the common hangman. And this is what the Congress called refusing to exercise the functions of his office and leaving the province! A “silence of the legislative powers” of government being thus ascertained, the Congress proceeded to break it with clank of sabres, with the rattle of musketry and the roar of cannon, with horse, foot and dragoons, and for seven years they kept up the racket. To say nothing of its unblushing untruth, nothing can equal the impudence of this performance, perhaps it would be more becoming to say the grim humor of it, save to shower a man with cologne, and then to hang him for smelling sweet!

In spite of all these things, however, Mr. Bancroft, in some of the earlier editions of his History, said the most remarkable subject brought before the Convention was Franklin's plan of a confederacy, and that “the moderating prudence of Johnston” interposed just as it was about to be adopted, and persuaded North Carolina to “forego the honor of being the first to declare for a permanent

-------------------- page vii --------------------
Federal union,” a paragraph that, with its implied reflection, it is gratifying to know he became unwilling to stand by, and omitted in his final edition. It is very true that Franklin's plan of general confederation, sent down by the Congress at Philadelphia for the consideration of that at Hillsborough, in order that instructions might be given the North Carolina delegates in the next Continental Congress, was rejected. This plan, however, as was expressly stated when it was presented, was sent down from Philadelphia, not as having any endorsement from the Continental Congress, or from the North Carolina delegates in that body, but merely for consideration at Hillsborough on its merits solely. After due reflection, each member having been provided with a copy of it, the plan was formally declared to be “not at present eligible,” and not only that, but the delegates to Philadelphia instructed not to consent to any plan of confederation which might be offered in the next Congress, before the same had been approved by the Provincial Congress. Many considerations, doubtless, influenced the Congress in coming to the conclusion that Franklin's plan of confederation was not “eligible,” sufficient, if not chief among them, for a people of the jealous habit of North Carolina, being the fact that under its operation the balance of power would rest unqualifiedly in the Northern colonies, at whose mercy North Carolina would be, if she was a member of such a confederation, as can be seen by reference to the seventh article of the proposed plan, an objection to which Governor Martin expressly refers in one of his dispatches. It seems to have been equally unsatisfactory to the colonies generally, for no single one of them ever endorsed it, and indeed no serious effort was ever made to have it adopted. What was the controlling reason for the rejection of the plan does not appear from our records, but it is by no means surprising that it was rejected, for, as we now well know, it was the fixed habit of our ancestors to scrutinize with very jealous eye any new form of government before putting themselves at its mercy, a habit that doubtless suggested to the Congress the propriety of putting a limitation upon their delegates
-------------------- page viii --------------------
in that regard, and this they did by taking from them the power to bind the province by any form of confederation before approved by themselves, a power they persistently kept in their own hands.

But these were not the only things worthy of note that were done at the Hillsborough Congress. For example: On the very first day of its session the Congress adopted, with some parade, a resolution declaring that the Regulators, “and every one of them,” ought to be protected from every attempt to punish them by any means whatsoever, and that the Congress would to their utmost protect them from any punishment because of the late insurrection, or anything in consequence thereof. The Congress then appointed Maurice Moore, Richard Caswell and the Rev. Mr. Patillo and others a committee to confer with all persons who had religious or political scruples in the premises and to induce them to unite heartily with Congress for the maintenance of the constitutional privileges of America. But what a vast amount of assurance it must have required for Maurice Moore and Caswell and Patillo to attempt to persuade the Regulators that the oaths they had been forced to take at the point of the bayonet after the battle of Alamance were not binding on their consciences! Patillo was one of the Presbyterian divines who, in 1768, united in a pastoral letter to the people of their faith denouncing the Regulators as criminals. Caswell's bayonets had forced the oaths down their throats, and Moore had declared twelve of the Regulators, when on trial before him for being in the battle, to be guilty of treason, and had sentenced them to be hung, and six of them were hung. But for downright assurance perhaps the proceedings of that same Congress in urging Governor Martin's absence as a justification in setting up a rebel government was its equal.

The die was now cast, and North Carolina at last a self-governing commonwealth, whose rights and liberties and privileges her people were ready to defend with their fortunes and their lives, and all this by the most deliberate, well-considered action on the part of that same people, after a campaign of forty days, in which delegates,

-------------------- page ix --------------------
in numbers without a parallel then or since, were elected, nobody being taken by surprise, but everybody knowing that the Assembly of the men thus elected would bring matters to a crisis. And this was done full eight months before the Continental Congress advised the colonies to change the form of their governments. It is worthy of note, too, that both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, following the example of North Carolina, justified the changes they made at subsequent periods by reason of the flight of their Governors. The more the action of this great Hillsborough Congress is studied, and the events immediately preceding, the more wonderful seems the deliberate, well-considered, resolute boldness of our ancestors.

But it is not wise to look at events from our own standpoint alone. Let us see, then, how affairs in North Carolina looked to Royal Governor Martin, as may easily be done, by glancing at his proclamations and dispatches. The outlook was by no means pleasant. Without a man or a gun for attack or defense, he early found himself obliged to send his wife and children to the more loyal clime of New York, and betake his own person aboard a British ship, first a fugitive and then a prisoner, charged with inciting to rebellion the slaves of the East, while his master, the King, was seeking to bring down upon the people the savages of the West, found himself declared an enemy of the province in particular, and of America in general, forbidden communication with the people and actually cut off from all communication with them by the committees, who stopped and examined his correspondence, and who, by their spies and emissaries, kept strict and vigilant watch upon every avenue of communication leading toward him, and, searched, abused and stripped of every paper every one seeking to see him, and who suppressed his proclamations, not suffering them to be published or circulated. He saw congresses, conventions and committees constantly usurping kingly authority, and everywhere supreme and omnipotent, and lawful government everywhere completely annihilated. He saw, too, the people everywhere banding together in associations and binding themselves

-------------------- page x --------------------
under the most solemn and sacred obligations to go forth at the call of continental or provincial authorities, ready to sacrifice their lives and their fortunes in obedience to their edicts; gross invasions and usurpations of the King's lawful prerogative, by the appointment of military officers; the propagation of the most scandalous and monstrous falsehoods about the best of Kings, whose virtues, by universal acknowledgment irradiated, with unexampled lustre, his imperial diadem; a letter signed William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and Richard Caswell, the preposterous enormity of which could not be adequately described or abhorred, he said, the genuine source of foul streams of sedition; the most infamous resolves of a set of people styling themselves a Committee for the County of Mecklenburg, most traitorously declaring the entire dissolution of the laws, government and constitution, and setting up a system of rule and regulation repugnant to the laws and subversive of the King's Government; the treasonable proceedings of an infamous committee at NewBern, at the head of a body of armed men, in seizing and carrying off six pieces of cannon belonging to the King; the overt act of high treason of Colonel John Ashe, and other evil-minded conspirators, who wantonly, in the dead hour of night, set on fire and reduced to ashes all that was combustible in the King's fort, and who, on the next day, returned and burned everything in and around the fort that had escaped the flames the night before; worse than all, the proposition for the Hillsborough Congress, subversive of the whole Constitution, a most daring attempt to stir up unnatural rebellion in the province, and that would bring matters to a crisis; and, worse than all, he saw that Congress actually assemble in the broad, open day-time, and proceed to work in such an extravagant spirit as to bring about all the evil consequences apprehended from it. And sadder still, perhaps, to see, he saw that, in the face of all these enormities, although some were dissatisfied about the distribution of power and command under their new government, the people generally were united on points of opposition to Britain!

-------------------- page xi --------------------

The new Government, with ample powers and a full complement of officers, thus sprung full-grown as it were into being, moved along steadily and did its appointed work regularly. Under its direction the orders given for raising troops were executed with such dispatch that in less than sixty days after the adjournment of the Congress Colonel Howe, with the first Regiment of Regulars, was near Norfolk, in Virginia defending that State against the British under Lord Dunmore. How well our brethren over the Northern line appreciated his services will appear from the following resolution, unanimously adopted on 22d December, 1775, by the Virginia Convention then in session at Williamsburgh, to-wit:

“Resolved unanimously, That the thanks of this convention are justly due to the brave officers, gentlemen volunteers and soldiers of North Carolina, as well as our brethren of that province in general, for their prompt and generous aid in defence of our common rights against the enemies of America and of the British Constitution; and that the president be desired to transmit a copy of this resolution to Colonel Howe.”

Nor was this all. At the same time that we were taking care of ourselves and sending a regiment of Regulars to help the Virginians, we sent 700 militia under Colonels Polk and Rutherford, and 220 Regulars under Colonel Martin to South Carolina, to put down a rising of Tories there, that was too strong for our Southern neighbors to manage by themselves. It will be seen from the above that North Carolina was the first to send troops beyond her borders for the common defense against the British, just as twenty years before she had been the first to send them beyond her own borders for the common defense against the French and Indians. And by a singular coincidence, in both instances she sent troops to Virginia. All this was six months before the Philadelphia Declaration of Independence. Verily the Hillsborough Congress had done its work well. The Continental Congress evidently thought so, for John Penn, one of our delegates there, wrote to General Thomas Person, under date of 14th February, 1776, saying: “I have the pleasure to

-------------------- page xii --------------------
assure you that our Province stands high in the opinion of Congress. The readiness with which you marched to Virginia and South Carolina hath done you great credit.”

In the fall of the year 1775 a vigorous campaign against the Carolinas was determined upon in England, in deference to the oft repeated and urgent solicitations of the Royal Governors in these provinces. The brunt of it of course fell upon North Carolina, as perhaps was natural, in consequence of Governor Martin's assurances that a large number of people in the province, especially the Scotch and Regulators were ready to take up arms in behalf of the King. The Scotch on the upper Cape Fear were especially cultivated to that end by emissaries of the Crown, some of them officers of the British army, who had for months been among them for that purporse, under the pretext of visiting their friends and kindred. The programme as to North Carolina was that Sir Henry Clinton with a British fleet and seven regiments of Irish Regulars were to be at the mouth of the Cape Fear at the opening of the year 1776, and there to form a junction with the large body of Scotchmen and other, disaffected persons in the interior, who, according to Governor Martin, were impatiently waiting to enlist under the old flag. In furtherance of his part of the plan, on the 10th January, 1776, Governor Martin issued orders for the erection of the King's standard, which “Brigadier General Donald McDonald, of his Majesty's forces for the time being in North Carolina,” proceeded to do at once. The plan was a well digested and formidable one for the subjugation of North Carolina. Its defect was that it made no calculation upon such resistance as it encountered from our new government. By the time, however, General McDonald with his Tories was ready to take up his march down the river to join General Clinton and his Irish regiments, Colonel James Moore of the Second Regiment of Regulars, then at Wilmington, appeared at Cross Creek and began to concentrate troops in McDonald's front. A very brilliant campaign under Colonel Moore, of near a month's duration, ensued, that culminated in the battle of Moore's Creek on the 27th February,

-------------------- page xiii --------------------
1776. The troops that took part in the campaign were drawn from above Greensboro to the westward, and from below NewBern to the east, points some two hundred miles apart. There were mounted men, infantry and artillery engaged in the campaign. The first order issued bore date the 3rd February, and the campaign closed victoriously on the 27th. The immediate field of operations was from Fayetteville to Moore's Creek bridge, some sixty miles up and down the Cape Fear. Our troops actually engaged in the battle numbered about 1,000 men. The enemy were variously reported to be from 1,500 to 3,000 in number. “Fifteen hundred rifles, all of them excellent pieces, 350 guns and shot bags, 150 swords and dirks, two medicine chests immediately from England, one valued at £300 sterling, thirteen sets of wagons with complete sets of horses, a box of Johannes and English guineas, amounting to £15,000 sterling, and 850 common soldiers, were among the trophies of the field.” Bancroft says that “in less than a fortnight more than 9,400 men of North Carolina rose against the enemy, and the coming of Clinton inspired no terror; that North Carolina had men enough of her own to crush the insurrection and guard against invasion; and that as they marched over their piney forests they were persuaded that in their own woods they could win an easy victory over the British Regulars, and that the people spoke more and more of independence; and the Provincial Congress at its impending session was expected to give an authoritative form of the prevailing desires.”

It seems scarcely probable at first glance that North Carolina could have put so large a number of men so quickly into the field in that day, and naturally enough, Mr. Bancroft, in his last edition, modifies the statement made in former editions by saying it was “rumored” that 9,400 was the number. But while this is, doubtless, an overestimate, it is perhaps not as much so as at first glance it might seem. At least, the figures given in the letter of Colonel Purviance of 24th February would indicate that somewhere near 6,000 men were actually on duty at various points, in consequence of the attempted junction between General Clinton and the Highlanders.

-------------------- page xiv --------------------

For this great victory the Provincial Council, then in session, with Cornelius Harnett at its head, on the 4th March, that is to say on the Monday after the fight at Moore's Creek, formally gave thanks as follows:

Resolved, That the thanks of this Council be given to Colo James Moore and all the Brave Officers and Soldiers of every denomination for their late very important services rendered their Country in effectually suppressing the late daring and dangerous insurrection of the Highlanders and Regulators, and that this Resolve be published in the North Carolina Gazette.

And all this was done in a country without a railroad, without a steamboat, without a telegraph, even without mails, and that, too, with as little excitement and confusion, and with as much promptness and ease as if war had been our normal condition. There was not a hitch or a break in any combination or arrangement that was made, but everything went like clock-work. It is wonderful to think of, scarcely credible to us of the present day, who have seen something of war and the difficulties in the way of successful combination, even with modern facilities and under the most favorable circumstances. And all this was done full four months before the Philadelphia Declaration. Is not the testimony it bears conclusive as to the efficiency of the new experiment of self-government in North Carolina? Not a man, or a gun, or a dollar beyond her borders came to her help.

In the Summer of 1776, the Cherokee Indians agreed with the British, that upon the appearance of Sir Peter Parker and his fleet off the Carolina coast, they would fall upon the people on the frontiers of Virginia and the two Carolinas, while Sir Peter Parker and his fleet were to make an attack, or at least a demonstration, from the coast. True to their engagements the Indians, having heard that the British fleet had arrived off Charleston, poured down upon the frontier of South Carolina and massacred every one who fell in their power, without distinction of age or sex. The gallant defense of Sullivan's Island, and the repulse of Sir Peter Parker in the

-------------------- page xv --------------------
harbor of Charleston, prevented further outrages and frustrated for the time, the further execution of the plan agreed upon. It might, however, be put into execution at any time unless the power of the Cherokees was at once effectually broken, and to this end, expeditions were simultaneously sent into the Cherokee country from both the Carolinas and from Virginia. South Carolina sent some 1,150 men under Colonel Williamson; Virginia sent some 1,500 men under Colonel Christian; while North Carolina sent 2,800 men under General Rutherford, besides some three or four hundred under Colonel Williams who united with the forces under Colonel Christian, so that North Carolina sent more men than both the other States put together. The Indians fled before them; all their towns, however, were burned and their cattle killed and all their growing crops destroyed, so that nothing was left either for food or for habitation. The power of the nation was forever broken, and the Cherokees were soon glad to make peace on any terms.

In April, 1775, the British Parliament, in order to punish the colonies for the “disorders that prevailed” in them, passed an act cutting off their trade and commerce with Great Britain and the West Indies, as they said it was “highly unfit that they should enjoy the same privileges and advantages of trade that his Majesty's faithful and obedient subjects enjoyed.” This act, which was to take effect on the 20th July, 1775, was directed by name against each one of the colonies save New York, Georgia and North Carolina, a circumstance that, unexplained, may, perhaps, cause some misapprehension, as to North Carolina, at least. The exclusion of North Carolina from the act of Parliament was as great a surprise within her own borders as elsewhere, and was resented here as an insult and a gross indignity. The Committee at Wilmington, on the 20th July, the day the act was to go into operation, formally and unanimously resolved that the exception of this colony out of the said act was a base and mean artifice to seduce them into a desertion of the common cause of America, and that North Carolina, refusing to accept advantages so insidiously thrown out, would continue to adhere strictly to the plans of the

-------------------- page xvi --------------------
Continental Congress, and thus keep up a perfect unanimity with her sister colonies.

As to the way our exclusion came to be made, we know more than our ancestors, and the facts seem to be about as follows: The Assembly had sent to Messrs. Elmsly and Barker, our agents in London, a petition for presentation to the King, through the usual channels, which they said contained, among other things, “indirect reflections on the Parliament, or the ministry, at least,” and so the agents, in the place of the petition, substituted “a memorial in more decent terms,” and the result was, that when the Restraining Bill was introduced a few days later it did not include North Carolina. Mr. Elmsly, in a letter to Samuel Johnston, under date of 7th April, 1775, giving an account of the matter, says:

“Whether you will thank us for this distinction or not, whether it will not be considered opprobrious instead of honorable, whether Mr. Barker and myself will be censured or not, as having been, in all probability, instrumental in bringing it about, I do not pretend to say. But in our defence, or rather in mine, for it was with much reluctance he consented to suppress the petition, you will take notice that when your memorial was presented we had no idea that such restraining bill was intended; on the other hand, should this exemption be received favorably, give us no credit for it; for had it not been for a tenderness we had for the reputation of your Assembly, as having been long members of it, your petition, exceptionable as it is, should have been presented. ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ But on account of both put together, it was agreed to suppress it and to substitute a memorial in its room, and keep the whole a secret, and I am not sure Mr. Barker would not be dissatisfied if he knew that this matter had been communicated even to you, therefore, I pray, say nothing about it.”

During the first months of the year 1776 the Continental Congress was almost at a standstill, unwilling, indeed, to recede, yet seemingly reluctant to go forward and take the final plunge. Talk about liberty and freedom was plenty enough, but when it came to

-------------------- page xvii --------------------
the irrevocable act of separation and the measures necessary to accomplish it, the Continental Congress, very naturally, perhaps, dallied and dawdled and hesitated. Delegates, too, differed, or they said they differed, as to the next step, some declaring that a declaration of independence ought to come first, others that foreign alliances ought first to be made. The advocates of the latter course said that while it was easy enough to declare independence, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish it by their own unaided efforts. The question of forming foreign alliances therefore became a burning one; to make them was palpable treason; not to make them was failure. The next step unquestionably would put in jeopardy certainly their fortunes and possibly their “sacred” lives as well. At this juncture the matter was brought to the attention of the people in North Carolina.

On the 14th of February, Mr. Penn, one of the delegates to the Continental Congress, wrote to Thomas Person, a member of the Provincial Council, saying:

“Matters are drawing to a crisis. They seem determined to persevere, and are forming alliances against us. Must we not do something of the like nature? Can we hope to carry on a war without having trade or commerce somewhere? Can we ever pay any taxes without it? Will our paper money depreciate if we go on emitting? These are serious things, and require your consideration. The consequence of making alliances is, perhaps, a total separation with Britain, and without something of that sort we may not be able to procure what is necessary for our defense. ∗ ∗ ∗ If you find it necessary that the convention should meet sooner than May, let us know of it, as I wish to return at that time.”

On the 3d of March the Provincial Council, Thomas Person being one of its members, ordered the next session of Congress to be held at Halifax on the 2d April. On Thursday, the 4th, the provincial delegates met. On the evening of Sunday, 7th April, the Philadelphia delegates reached Halifax. On Monday, the 8th, Messrs. Cornelius Harnett, Allen Jones, Thomas Burke, Abner Nash, John Kinchen, Thomas Person and Thomas Jones were appointed a

-------------------- page xviii --------------------
special committee to take into consideration “the usurpations and violences attempted and committed by the King and Parliament of Britain against America, and the further measures to be taken for frustrating the same, and for the better defence of the province.” The committee was an exceptionally strong one, every member of it having a notable record, unless it be Mr. Kinchen, of Orange, about whom not much is now known, save that he was a lawyer and lived in Hillsborough. The fact, however, that he was put upon that committee is strong proof that he was a strong man, for it was a committee upon which there was no room for mere figure heads. On Friday morning, the 12th, the committee reported that in their opinion the House should enter into the following resolve, to-wit:

“Resolved, That the delegates for this colony in the Continental Congress be empowered to concur with the delegates of the other colonies in declaring Independency, and forming foreign alliances, reserving to this colony the sole and exclusive right of forming a constitution and laws for this colony, and for appointing delegates from time to time (under the direction of a general representation thereof) to meet the delegates of the other colonies for such purposes as shall be hereafter pointed out.”

And thereupon, as the Journal of the Congress states, the resolution was unanimously adopted.

This was the first authoritative, explicit declaration, by more than a month, by any colony in favor of full, final separation from Britain, and the first like expression on the vexed question of forming foreign alliances. It is in commemoration of this fact that our State flag bears upon its field the legend, “12th April, 1776.”

North Carolina, already an independent sovereignty under a government of her own creation, was more solicitous about continuing the separation between herself and the mother country than about any order of precedence in the ways and means leading thereto. In order, however, that there might be no doubt in the premises, her Congress covered the whole ground by declaring

-------------------- page xix --------------------
not merely for independence, but in a plain, manly way for the only means in sight of making it good.

But there were more difficult problems before the Congress than any involved in the question of “independency and foreign alliances,” for as to that, the people were of one mind, and quite ready to declare it whenever notified that the time had come to make it expedient to do so. As to the constitution, however, they were not of one mind, and it was quite true, as Governor Martin said, that while they were generally united as against Great Britain there were differences of opinion as to the distribution of power and command under the new government. Shortly after the Congress met, in April, 1776, a committee was appointed to prepare and report a constitution. But the attempt to form a constitution soon developed material differences in the views of the Congress. The differences were not greater, perhaps, than were to be expected among men on any subject at a period when general thought had so recently been directed to it that time had not been afforded to apply to mere speculation and theory the usually needed correction of practical experience. It must be remembered, too, that when the Congress met, democrats of all shades were mere theorists, without any practical experience. A portion, a minority, however, of the Congress favored a strong government, a representative republicanism, so to speak, modeled as nearly as possible upon that of Great Britain. Another portion, more advanced in pure democracy, perhaps, favored a simpler form of government, and one more directly responsible to the people. Of the first, Samuel Johnston and Allen Jones were, perhaps, the most conspicuous leaders, and to the second belonged Richard Caswell, Willie Jones, Thomas Person and a majority of the Congress. That the majority was with Caswell and Willie Jones is apparent from the fact that just then for the Provincial Council, with Samuel Johnston at its head, the Congress substituted a Council of Safety, with Willie Jones for its chief. The little difference in the powers of the two bodies, no greater, indeed, than that in their names, makes it apparent that the change

-------------------- page xx --------------------
was made for the purpose of securing a government whose personnel should be in accord with the majority of the Congress. One of the questions that perplexed patriots in that day in America generally, one too, that was keenly contested, was whether the legislative power should be vested in a single body or in a Senate and House of Representatives. On the one side it was said that the great lawmaking power should be “so near the people as to be an image of their thoughts and wishes, so numerous as to appear to every voter his direct counterpart, so frequently renewed as to insure swift responsibility,” and this, it was thought, at first at least, by very many, would be best met by a single House of Representatives. This view had the weight inseparable from the sanction of Benjamin Franklin's great name, while the opposing one had that of John Adams. Franklin held that as the will of the nation was one and indivisible such should be the charactor of the body that declared it. Pennsylvania and Georgia framed their constitutions, in the first instance, upon this principle. Other provinces, on the other hand, because attached to the double system, or, perhaps, more conservative, possibly, divided the law-making branch of the government into two houses, intending each to be a check upon the other. The tendency to pure democracy, in this regard, at least, was early abandoned in North Carolina, as in the first draft of a constitution submitted to the Congress, in April, 1776, it was expressly provided that the law-making power should be confined to two houses, that is to say, a Senate and House of Commons.

Other questions were, whether the chief officers of the new State should be chosen by the people directly, or in some other mode, and what were to be the lengths of terms for which they were to be elected. Another question that caused much bitterness was that relating to the election of magistrates, who, under the proposed system, would constitute the County Courts. It does not appear, however, that there was any material difference in the Congress as to the mode of electing the higher judges or as to their tenure of office. Perhaps, and naturally enough, the experience of the colony under

-------------------- page xxi --------------------
Royal rule had brought our ancestors to be of one mind on this point.

Much heat was evolved by some of these differences. Some of the provisions of the proposed constitution indeed gave such umbrage to Samuel Johnston, at the outset, that he declared it would be impossible for him to take part in the execution of it; but Mr. Johnston, as was well known, had been faithful to the province as against Great Britain and, as was well known also, was as honest and true as he was able and obstinate, and so the patient majority, with generous forbearance wisely gave him time for the better judgment that is sure to come from calm reflection and sober sound thought, with such men.

The result of it all was that in the wise conservatism, for which our ancestors were specially noted in that day, it was deemed expedient to postpone the formation of the permanent constitution to a new Congress to be chosen for that especial purpose. A constitution could have been adopted as easily by the Congress of April, 1776, as by that of December, had it chosen to do so; the majority, however, preferred, in deference to the feelings of the minority, not to exercise the power it possessed. How great was the reward for such a generous exercise of wise conservatism the sequel shows.

On the 9th of August, 1776, the Council of Safety being in session, among other resolutions on various subjects, passed one recommending to the good people of this State to pay the greatest attention to the elections to be held, on the 15th of October ensuing, for delegates to represent them in the new Congress, and to have particularly in view the important consideration that it would be the business of the delegates then chosen, not only to make laws for the good of government, but also to form a constitution for the State; that this last as it would be the corner-stone of all law, so it ought to be fixed and permanent, and that according as it was well or ill ordered, it would tend, in the first degree, to promote the happiness or misery of the State.

-------------------- page xxii --------------------

At the election, Samuel Johnston, a candidate for the Congress, from the county of Chowan, was defeated. The contest was a very bitter one, and waged especially it was said against Mr. Johnston. Mr. Johnston's party friends were very angry at the result, which they were pleased to attribute, as much to outside interference, as to home prejudice; they especially resented as an act of unfair partisanship the resolution above referred to. At least this is the statement made by Mr. Jones in his “Defence of North Carolina.” It is difficult to understand, however, how a resolution so brief, so innocent in itself, and so exceedingly appropriate to the occasion, could be construed into an act of partisanship; but Mr. Jones was himself a partisan in this regard, and his extravagance, certainly of language and possibly of statement also, make it impossible to follow him without question.

But if the North Carolina constitution-makers of 1776 were theorists only, in mere matters of democracy, upon the vital points of government in general they had well defined views that had come to them from practical experience, that were, so to speak, the harvest of their long colonial seed-time. Chief among these, were: 1st, that the people, each and every one of them, had certain unalienable rights that no government could abridge or take away, and that these rights ought to be set forth in plain, unmistakable terms in the fundamental law; 2d, that the legislative and judicial departments ought to be emancipated from control by the executive. The legislature they inclined naturally enough, perhaps, to magnify unduly, having long felt it to be their only protection from oppression, and their judiciary, too, they were determined should no longer be subject to the whim or caprice of a governor; and if dependent at all should, like the legislature, be dependent on the people. Other points were minor points, upon which public thought had not yet crystalized. So that while differences might arise as to these last, there was perhaps unanimity enough on really vital principles, a state of things that made compromises not very difficult among earnest patriots. And so, in spite of all the heat envolved from time

-------------------- page xxiii --------------------
to time; in spite of the defeat of Mr. Johnston, and the bitterness it was said to have provoked in the bosoms of his friends, an accommodation was reached, some how or other, before the Congress met, so that when it did meet, the leading man of the minority proposed for its President the leading man of the majority, and from that time harmony prevailed far beyond anything that could have been expected; even Mr. Johnston, who was present, on other business, it was said, and in constant consultation with the Congress, no longer declared his inability to take part in the new government, but contented himself with saying, that while none of the new constitutions were good, ours would perhaps “do as well as that adopted by any other colony.” He was not pleased however.

The new Congress met, and, on motion of Allen Jones, Caswell was made President, and straightway a committee appointed to report a bill of rights and State constitution. After some three weeks' consideration the committee reported, and the bill of rights was adopted, so far as appears, without any change, on the 17th of December. On the next day the constitution was read, paragraph by paragraph, amended, though in what way does not appear, and at once passed. The committee that drafted the bill of rights and constitution consisted of Richard Caswell, Thomas Person, Allen Jones, John Ashe, Abner Nash, Willie Jones, Thomas Jones, Simon Bright, Christopher Neale, Samuel Ashe, William Haywood, Griffith Rutherford, Henry Abbott, Luke Sumner, Thomas Respess, Jr., Archibald McLaine, Isaiah Hogan, and Hezekiah Alexander. Under the new constitution the Government consisted of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The executive was stripped of much of the power exercised by colonial governors, being deprived of the veto power, and all power over the legislature. Indeed, but little power of any sort was left to him. With the legislature it was different, as to it was given, in general terms, authority to do everything that was not specially prohibited to it. It met on a day fixed by law, and adjourned at its own will and not that of the Governor. The minority of each house could adjourn from day to day,

-------------------- page xxiv --------------------
and prorogations were no longer in order. The old trouble about “the quorum” was cut up by the roots, by an express provision that no business should be done in either house without the presence of a majority of its members. In addition to the law-making power, the legislature was entrusted with the election of all the principal officers, from the Governor down. It was composed of two houses, the Senate, or Upper House, chosen by freeholders, and the Commons, or Lower House, chosen by general suffrage. One great difficulty in this regard all along had been to provide some safeguard against usurpation of power by the legislature. That finally adopted seems to have been in accordance with, if not in consequence of, a suggestion of Samuel Johnston, who, on this point, was certainly with the popular current, that the only check on the representatives of the people in a democracy, was the people themselves, and that, as a consequence, elections should be frequent. And so all elections, save those for the Secretary of State and the Judges, whether by the people or the Legislature, were annual. Popular elections, however, whether frequent or unfrequent, do not seem to have found as much favor in those days in North Carolina as in modern times, the only elections of that sort under the new constitution being those for members of the Assembly. To the judicial branch, as to the executive, comparatively little power was apparently given, as the right of that branch of the government to nullify the action of the legislature by declaring it unconstitutional, had not then been evolved, its discovery, or invention, as the case may be, being of a later date. The Judges, however, were given life-tenures, and thus made independent, and paid by fixed salaries and not fees in cases depending before them, as in colonial days.

By the provision giving to each county one member in the Upper House and two members in the Lower House, the great old-time inequality in legislative representation, was done away with, in a measure, so that the Albemarle counties no longer sent five members while other counties sent only two. The adjustment, however, was not entirely equitable, for although some of the counties contained only

-------------------- page xxv --------------------
some 4,000 people, others had as many as 15,000. The representation from the smallest county was equal to that of the largest.

Another provision, most conspicuous, perhaps, by reason of its entire absence from the constitution, was one directing the mode of taxation. It will be remembered that in colonial days there was no property tax, but only a poll-tax, and that this worked hardly in the interior counties. That the omission of a provision for a property tax, was not accidental, was evident from the fact that three members of the committee that reported the constitution were especially and particularly instructed to procure a provision for a property tax, and their failure to do so was doubtless in consequence of one of the many compromises found necessary to be made in framing a constitution that would be agreed to. It was asking more, perhaps of the East, that a provision for a property tax should be inserted in the constitution, than the members from that section were willing to concede, and so the whole question was left open for the arbitrament of the future, by no means an unwise thing at times. To one familiar with the history of North Carolina it is easy to see that colonial experience dictated most of these changes.

But in spite of Mr. Johnston's opinion that none of the constitutions of that day could be good, most of them seemed to work well enough in practice. Especially was this the case with ours, for it proved so satisfactory that it was allowed to remain without any change whatever for fifty-nine years. Of the declaration of rights it is perhaps sufficient to say that of its twelve clauses for the protection of individual rights eleven were embodied in the first ten amendments to the Federal Constitution.

How circumstances do alter cases. In 1775 and 1776, when slavery prevailed more or less in every colony and Royal governors sought to create servile wars as a means of subjugation, it was with one consent denounced as a sufficient justification for separation from Great Britain. In the late war between the States, to say nothing of the John Brown raid, it was thought perfectly right and proper for the President of the Northern States to issue a proclamation

-------------------- page xxvi --------------------
declaring all the slaves to be free and putting them into military service. There were then no slaves, or comparatively none, in the Northern States. That a servile war did not follow the emancipation proclamation was certainly not owing to the Federal authorities, but to the good sense and kindly feeling of the slaves themselves If the Royal governors were so far wrong in 1775, how could the Northern States' authorities be right in 1862?

The history of the Watauga settlement set forth in the petition of the peopie there for recognition as a part of the body politic of North Carolina is of peculiar interest, as it was the beginning of what is now the great State of Tennessee. Promptly recognizing their claim to be citizens of North Carolina, the Council ordered elections to be held there for delegates to the Congress to frame the State Constitution, and delegates were accordingly elected and took their seats as members of the Congress and participated in the great work of framing our constitution.

Historians usually speak of the men who fought at Moore's Creek under McDonald as the Scotch and Regulators, creating the impression, whether intentionally or not, that they were in nearly, if not quite, equal proportions. The facts, however, seem scarcely to justify this assumption. Governor Martin, however, in his report, says nothing about the Regulators, but speaks of them as “the Highlanders and about one hundred of the country people.” Colonel Purviance says there were “not 200 of the old Regulators among them.” From the list of the prisoners, too, reported to the Congress at Halifax, it would seem that there were only two companies that could by any means be credited to the Regulators. Nor must it be assumed that all who were in the expedition to Moore's Creek from Orange and Guilford were Regulators, for old Parson Micklejohn was caught red-handed, and certainly he was not one of the Regulators, but one of Tryon's right-hand men against them, turning loose upon them the thunders of the church, while his chief employed all the weapons known to carnal warfare in his day.

-------------------- page xxvii --------------------
Certainly, from the records at this time, at least, it would seem that the doubts of those who hesitate to accept the statement that the great body of the Regulators became Tories have some foundation.

Many things, possibly, strike the student of our records with surprise, but none, perhaps, more than the ignorance of our delegates to the Continental Congress for near twelve months after their first appointment as to the advanced state of feeling among their constituents on the great questions then pending. Among other things that contributed to this result, doubtless, was the infrequent communication between North Carolina and Philadelphia, the lack of newspapers to gather and print the news of current events, and a want of appreciation of the intelligence and patriotism of the people, and an undue impatience of zeal, perhaps. But whatever the cause, our delegates seemed not to realize that any advance had been made in public sentiment after they left the province, and comparing their constituents at a former date with the people immediately under their observation at Philadelphia at a later one they thought them laggards. It must be remembered, too, that while neither of our delegates was a native all of them were from the coast-line settlements of the East. Hooper, then of Wilmington, had not been in the province ten years when he was sent to Philadelphia, and a part, at least, of that time he spent among the Scotch on the Upper Cape Fear. Neither Caswell from Dobbs, nor Hewes from Chowan county was a native, though Caswell had been much longer resident here than either Hooper or Hewes. The latter was a plain man of business at Edenton, of local importance and local acquaintance, who had just come into public notice, and whose life was more or less clouded by the death of his fiancee, to whom he was devotedly attached. Caswell, a Marylander by birth, had, within less than twelve months before his appointment as a delegate, been a judge under a purely prerogative appointment by Governor Martin, which for the time, at least, made him unpopular. Under Tryon, Martin's predecessor, he had been his staunch supporter and a special

-------------------- page xxviii --------------------
favorite. From their letters and addresses one would think the people of North Carolina were laggards at the start in the race for freedom, who constantly needed to be urged on by the people at Philadelphia. Happily our records show such a different state of things that the wonder now is how it was possible for those gentlemen to be so ill informed.

For example, on the 19th June, 1775, our three delegates in Philadelphia, Richard Caswell, Joseph Hewes and William Hooper, united in an address in which they said the people of North Carolina alone, in all America, were “supine and careless” amid the stirring events taking place around them; and then, as if to arouse them from their lethargy, reminded them of the efforts to raise the negroes and to turn the Indians loose upon the frontiers; pointed out the hopelessness of any good to come from their exclusion from the British Restraining Act, and urged them to organize the militia, and look well after the gunpowder in the province, all of which was very handsomely put, and would have been very patriotic and very appropriate if it had been true. The statement, however, was not true. The truth is, as our records plainly show:

1. That the people were aware of the efforts to excite the negroes to insurrection, and had taken such precautions in the premises that when an extended insurrection was attempted a few weeks later, it was promptly suppressed before any mischief was done.

2. That the people were well aware also of the threatened Indian troubles, and on the 1st June the Committee in Rowan County, that then covered the Indian frontier, ordered the purchase of powder and lead for the use of the militia, that they might be “provided against the incursions of the Indians on the frontier, that seemed then probable.”

3. That the people had not the least expectation of any benefit from their exclusion from the British Restraining Act, as they had not the least expectation to allow it to operate here. On the contrary they constantly avowed an unalterable purpose to stand by the other colonies in every event, and regarded the insidious attempt to

-------------------- page xxix --------------------
detach them from the common cause as an insult and an indignity. The delegates, however, were as ignorant of the causes of the exclusion of North Carolina from the operation of the Restraining Act, as they were of its possible effect upon our people. Messrs. Elmsly and Barker, our agents in London, who unwittingly brought about the exclusion, had a better appreciation of the temper of our people, for when they found what they had done they were extremely solicitous that their handiwork in bringing about the result should be kept a profound secret, nothing being further from their intention than such a result.

4. That the organization of the militia was well looked after, and the best possible provision made for supplies of ammunition. The Rowan militia companies were live, active organizations as early as 23d September, 1774, and as early as 5th January, 1775, the Committee at Wilmington was openly seizing all the powder within its reach. Before the 10th March the people in Brunswick and New Hanover met and chose field officers for a regiment, and Colonel Howe was drilling men in Brunswick; after which Colonel Ashe, who had thrown up a commission under Martin and accepted one from the people, appeared in Wilmington at the head of some 400 or 500 armed men, “threatening with military execution” those who refused to sign the Association. In Mecklenburg County the militia was organized under Committee rule on 31st May, and orders were that day issued by the Committee for them to arm and “hold themselves in readiness” for such service as might be required of them by the province or by the County Committee, and to that end, that powder and lead be at once purchased. In Rowan, all that was needed for active service in the field was a supply of ammunition for which we have already seen orders were at once issued. On the 8th June the militia in Craven County were being organized. Meanwhile, the signing of associations “binding the people to be prepared with arms to array themselves in companies” had progressed so far that on the 16th June Governor Martin issued a formal proclamation from Fort Johnston forbidding it any longer to be done.

-------------------- page xxx --------------------

Doubtless if our records had been more generally preserved the array of testimony would be much fuller, but even as it is we have covered nearly the entire State. Unfortunately for us, in many respects, our ancestors were careless about their records, so careless, indeed, that we have been obliged to supply many missing links very largely by copies from the British Public Record Office in London, sometimes by copies from original documents transmitted from time to time by the governors, but ofttimes by copies from publications in one of the two newspapers then printed in the province. Certainly a scant supply. Especially is this true as to county meetings.

On 8th July, near three weeks after the address was issued, Hewes and Hooper were still uninformed of events in North Carolina, and consequently still unhappy. Just then they were “alarmed,” as Hewes wrote to Johnston, by the contents of the intercepted letter from General Gage to Governor Martin, and that from Martin to Henry White, of New York. They feared North Carolina might not maintain a bold front in the face of the dangers that threatened her. Caswell, it seems, was not there. Hewes, in his letter, went over the familiar ground about negro insurrections, Indian incursions, and the like. Not content with this, he and Hooper, under the influence of the fresh alarm, prevailed upon the Presbyterian ministers at Philadelphia “to write to the congregations and ministers of their sect in North Carolina,” to set their brethren right in North Carolina, and “applied to the Dutch Lutherans and Calvinists to do the same for their sect.”

Meanwhile, before Hewes's letter was well out of Philadelphia, the call for the Hillsborough Convention to meet on the 20th August had been issued. The people for weeks had been clamoring for one at an earlier day. The clamor began with Governor Martin's flight in May, if not before. The Committee at Wilmington on 13th July wrote to Mr. Moderator Johnston, who then had control of the matter, saying: “Our people are continually clamoring for a Provincial Convention. They hope everything from its immediate session, fear everything from its delay. We join our wishes to those of the people, and

-------------------- page xxxi --------------------
adjure you, by your love of your country, to call a Provincial Convention at an early day, so shall the minds of the people be calmed and proper measures (tho' late) be taken to apply remedys to all our political inconveniences. We think it necessary to apprize you that the general opinion of this part of the country is that a number of men should be raised and kept in pay for the defence of the country. This can only be done by a convention, and that convention alone can fall upon a proper mode of paying them.” Could a people be called careless and supine who were clamoring for the immediate call of a convention to raise a standing army at their own expense? In the matter of calling the convention, Mr. Johnston was in a dilemma. Any convention would be composed very largely of members of the Assembly, and Martin had ordered an Assembly to meet in NewBern on 14th July, while the April convention had ordered the next convention to meet in Hillsborough. It would not do to call a convention at Hillsborough while the Assembly was in session at NewBern, and Johnston had no authority to change the place of meeting from Hillsborough to NewBern. And so, as we have said, he was in a dilemma. This much in justice to Mr. Johnston, and with all the delay, only some four months elapsed between the adjournment of the last convention at NewBern and the opening of that at Hillsborough, time well spent, if, indeed, time were needed, in bringing our people to one mind as to the mode of taking into their own hands the sceptre Martin was no longer able to wield.

Looking back, even after this long lapse of time, it can scarcely fail to provoke a feeling of irritation that our delegates, from any cause, should have done such great injustice to their constituents, our ancestors, men who were superbly grand in their courage when, in 1774, they responded so promptly to the first call to inaugurate a system of popular government that, in less than thirty days from the drying of the ink upon it, delegates to the convention thus called, the first purely popular assemblage that was ever called or that ever met in America, were formally elected and ready to meet at the time and place appointed; men who were grander still when,

-------------------- page xxxii --------------------
six months later, they sent their second convention to show such bold and contemptuous defiance to Royal authority; men who were yet still grander when, another six months having passed, they sent their third convention, in unprecedentedly large numbers, to enable them to take the entire government into their own hands, many months before any other colony dared to do so; men who were yet even grander still, if possible, when, another six months having elapsed, and seeing differences and hot blood, perhaps, among good men upon minor points, as it were, where only harmony and kindly feeling ought to prevail, in their magnificent self-control and rare equipoise, generously put off for another six months the making of the permanent constitution, in order that they might come to one mind after sober, serious reflection. Even at this late day, we say, it makes the blood hot to know that such men were misrepresented and mistrusted by their delegates. But neither of their delegates was a native, and neither they nor their ancestors had been taught in the schools in which the North Carolinians of an older date had learned the lessons of practical republicanism.

Our records bear us out in the declaration that from sheer ignorance alone could have arisen a fear that either the Scotch-Irish or the German population of Central and Western North Carolina were less patriotic, less intelligent or less courageous than their brethren of English descent in the coast-line settlements of the East. Yet it was as to these very people especially that our delegates had their doubts. The Philadelphia Presbyterian Pastoral, in its very opening sentence, tells “the ministers and Presbyterian congregations in North Carolina” that the Philadelphia folks were very much hurt “to hear that they were somehow led aside from the cause of freedom and liberty.” How strange it sounds, and how absurd to hear the people of Mecklenburg and Rowan called laggards in the cause of freedom and liberty! The Philadelphia folks, however, were not to blame for the pastoral, but Messrs. Hooper and Hewes, who prevailed upon them to write it But, then, neither of the delegates was

-------------------- page xxxiii --------------------
a Western man, neither of them a native, and neither of them a Presbyterian.

But “many men of many minds,” as the old saying goes. Hooper and Hewes, in Philadelphia, felt gloomy and despondent because they feared the outlook was unfavorable for the success of the great cause to which, heart and soul, they were devoted. Martin, on the other hand, on the ground, felt gloomy and despondent because the outlook, as he saw it, was bad for royal rule. And how different, too, the people of North Carolina appeared to John Harvey on the one side, and Caswell and Hewes and Hooper on the other. Harvey's grand, instantaneous reply that “then the people would call an assembly themselves,” showed his perfect confidence in them, while the utterances of our delegates showed their want of it. And Harvey was right, and Caswell and Hewes and Hooper were not the only men in North Carolina prepared to do or die in defence of the cause.

The delegates were all from the East, as we have seen, one from the northern, one from the middle, and one from the southern section of it. With the power the Eastern counties then exercised in all legislative bodies in North Carolina, how the West could be excluded from representation by what may be called, perhaps, the accustomed sectional combination, is easily seen. Certainly it was not for want of suitable men that no delegates was chosen from the West. The mere mention of the names of such men as Thomas Person, of Granville; Thomas Hart, John Kinchen, Francis Nash and Thomas Burke, of Orange; Alexander and Francis Martin, of Guilford; Waightstill A very, McKnitt Alexander and Ephraim Brevard, of Mecklenburg; Samuel Spencer, of Anson; James Macay, Samuel Young and William Kennon, of Rowan, makes the suggestion absurd. But political wrongs, like others, usually avenge themselves, and so for this unreasonable, unfair exclusion of a Western man from the delegation, the State suffered in reputation.

The exclusion, we know, caused trouble and disaffection at the time, as well it might, for, as our records show, it gave rise to the

-------------------- page xxxiv --------------------
expressed hope on the part of the friends of the King, a vain hope, however, as the event proved, that the Western counties would manifest their disapprobation in a material, practical way. Instead, however, of sulking in their tents the Western people continued, as they began, active, zealous workers in the cause of freedom and liberty, and in time they had their reward. Time proves all things, and it needed not much time after the struggle for freedom and for independence began, to show what was the worth and what was the temper of the people of the Center and the West. How patriotic the feeling among them was, and how thoroughly united they were, is apparent from the fact that in spite of all the threats and all the inducements held out to them, “not more than a hundred people of the country” could be enlisted under the King's banner in February, 1776, the rest being “Highlanders,” new-comers, not yet incorporated into the body politic, in sentiment, at least, of North Carolina.

Why delegates were chosen from the East, rather than from the West, may, as we have seen, be understood, but why in the East, where there were so many natives fully competent, among the earliest and most pronounced advocates of all popular measures, none should be chosen is, to say the least, a matter for surprise. On the Cape Fear there was John Ashe, a man of mature age, for years Speaker of the Assembly and a leader in all popular measures, whether supported by arms or by argument; Harnett, the younger a great civilian and a recognized popular leader; Howe, another popular leader and one of the most brilliant men ever born on North Carolina soil, a brilliant speaker, an incomparable writer, and a great soldier; James Moore, another great soldier, cut off in his prime, all men of education and political experience.

On the Roanoke and the Albemarle there were four of the same name, all distinguished for their patriotism and their zeal in the cause of their country, Willie Jones, of Halifax; Allen Jones, of Northampton; Thomas Jones, of Chowan, and Joseph Jones, of Pasquotank, of whose services our records are full; and then, too, there was Samuel Johnston, who, though he was not a native, had

-------------------- page xxxv --------------------
come here so young, and had lived here so long, that, as he said, he had become imbued with all the feelings and prejudices of a native; there was Benbury, too, while of Harveys and Blounts there was no lack in the Albemarle, who, with Coor and Cogdell on the Neuse, and Simpson and a Haywood or two on the Pamlico, and Campbell and Dawson of Bertie were, to say the least, the equals in every respect of Hewes.

But so it was; the East and the West were no nearer unified in 1774 than they were in 1771. Hooper, Hewes and Caswell had not ceased to regard the Regulators, who, with their sympathizers, covered well-nigh every constable's district in the Center and West, as red-handed traitors. In less than twelve months, however, the Convention stood before them, hat in hand, as it were, and when Caswell resigned his place as delegate to take that of Treasurer, appointed John Penn, the countyman and personal friend of the noted Regulator Thomas Person, in his stead, and in less than two years only one of the three delegates was from the East.

Verily by the time the Convention met at Hillsborough, the world of Hooper and Hewes and Caswell had moved, for they were all there. Light had broken in upon their darkened horizon, and no more Philadelphia pastorals and no more desponding addresses were given to the public. And verily that Hillsborough Convention was the dawn of a new era in many ways in North Carolina, conspicuous among them being a due appreciation by the East of the worth and numbers of the people of the West, and, in consequence, the beginning of a genuine fraternal feeling for them.

War is not always altogether bad in its consequences. It was worth much trial and tribulation, much sorrow and suffering to bring about a genuine fraternal feeling between the hitherto indifferent and unacquainted sections of the province. And so, calamitous as was our late war, it brought about a more thorough and cordial unification of the various sections in the State, than probably would have been reached in a full century, if then; a result that

-------------------- page xxxvi --------------------
is worth more than tongue can tell or money compute to those who love North Carolina.

After all said and done, however, it must be remembered that Hewes and Hooper were both professed advocates of all popular measures as Governor Martin reported, and possibly what was true of Hooper, as said by a great admirer, was true of all of them, that though sometimes desponding there was never any wavering. It must be remembered, too, that “independency” and democracy were not in that day as nearly convertible terms as may now be supposed; that, in fact, to many patriots, democracy did not seem to be a necessary or even a desirable consequence of independence and separation from England, and that to these, confidence in the masses was a plant of truly slow growth. Hooper, for example, like Johnston, though an early and a staunch patriot, was, perhaps, never a democrat, while the people of the Center and West were both patriots and democrats, as democracy went in those days. Doubtless, however, democracy to-day has a much more advanced signification than it had some hundred years ago and more, throughout America.


Another thing that will perhaps surprise the student of our history, is the rare control in which our ancestors held themselves in the perilous excitement that possessed them in the years just previous to the adoption of their State Constitution. From the day on which Harvey boldly announced that the people would call an Assembly themselves, scarce a month passed that did not witness some palpable progress, some tangible step in advance toward the overthrow of British rule and the establishment of popular government in its stead. And yet, with all this steady, positive advance, every step forward was so deliberately taken that there was never any desire even, to take one backward.

The Convention of August, 1774, while it was the first body of its kind ever assembled in America, and while it certainly showed grit enough and to spare, showed deliberation also, for although it met

-------------------- page xxxvii --------------------
in ample time, it did not meet until some four months had elapsed after the necessity for it to meet had been presented to the people.

The Convention of April, 1775, the Mecklenburg Declaration of 20th May, and the action of the NewBern Committee on the morning of the 23d, in the matter of the dismounted guns, it must be admitted, showed, possibly, more audacity than deliberation. But then, the two latter events occurred just after American blood had been spilled on American soil by a ruthless British soldiery.

The Hillsborough Congress, in its meeting as well as in its action, was thoroughly characteristic. There was no haste, indeed there was delay, as it seemed to many, in its call, and yet it met only some four months after the April Convention adjourned, quick enough, it would seem to us, and yet too slow, it would seem, for the impatient souls of that day. The whole ground of disruption, new government, peace and war was gone over in the space of twenty days. The matter of arranging a new home government was disposed of in a week, but when a plan for a new outside government, in the place of the one just gotten rid of, was proposed under auspices that would have been most enticing to a people who had lost their heads, so to speak, in their zeal for separation from Britain, it was at once laid aside to give time to provide each member with a copy for serious individual examination and consideration. This, of itself, was no light task, as the manuscript consisted of four pages of closely written foolscap, of large size, and one hundred and eighty-four members had to be supplied in a very small village where clerical labor was scarce. The result was that the Congress not only voted the plan “ineligible,” but, seeing for the first time the possibility that North Carolina might be carried into an unsuitable confederation by her delegates at Philadelphia, proceeded to strip them, in so many words, of the power to do so. So, too, while providing a home government, they made only a temporary one, knowing full well that a permanent one was a work of time, by no means to be gone into lightly or unadvisedly.

-------------------- page xxxviii --------------------

Six months later, at Halifax, they set about the task with abundant resolution, but seeing the differences it engendered and having time to spare, they deliberately postponed the matter for another six months. Meanwhile, the time having come for it, they passed inside of four days a resolution for “independency and foreign aliances,” thereby placing North Carolina in the very forefront of the colonies on that most vital question at that most critical time. Surely so much calm deliberation was never so judiciously mingled with such ready, bold action, on such an important occasion.

And this wise conservatism, this moderating influence had its origin, strange to say, in an omnipotent majority, that was fully conscious of power. There was a minority, however, of high character and decided views, conspicuous among whom was Samuel Johnston. Mr. Johnston was a good man and true, but obstinately fixed in his opinions, and one who, when thwarted, would sulk in his tent and talk indiscreetly. Allen Jones was another good man and true, but unlike Johnston, in that he never soured and never sulked, but kept straight on to the end, always at work for the cause somewhere, either in camp or council. Over such men as these the majority sought no personal triumph, no personal victory. All the triumph they sought was that of the great cause in which the minority, as the majority well knew, were also thoroughly enlisted; and so they did not press them, but gave them time; but while thus forbearing they were none the less resolute and determined, and tightened their grip on the temporary government. The feeling was doubtless quite warm, indeed it has been said that without democracy independence would have had no attraction for Willie Jones and Thomas Person, and it might have been easily retorted, and with no more truth, that with it independence had no attraction for Johnston and Allen Jones. The moderation of Willie Jones and Person in their treatment of the minority generally, and in the make-up of the Constitution especially, shows that neither side, perhaps, went to the extremes, that historians and partisans of a later generation would have us believe.

-------------------- page xxxix --------------------

The truth is, that being as deliberate and self-contained as they were resolute and determined, when it was necessary to take the lead, they went to the forefront unhesitatingly, but recognizing that different temperaments make men travel at different gaits, they, at other times, purposely held back the main body, for the slower of thought and slower of gait to catch up, so that the entire province, in one united column, might reach the great goal for which they had set out, in close order and without any straggling. And so, too, having always in view the ultimate success of their cause, they cheerfully subordinated all temporary considerations to that end, and in order to secure unity in essentials, willingly tolerated differences in non-essentials. In a word, they were always ready to act or not to act, as the exigency of the occasion demanded, to further the great cause, and this, too, without a single reporter or historian and with only two weekly newspapers in all the province to herald to the world what they did or what they refused to do. Their self-control was admirable.


But the repulse of the British at Charleston on the 28th June, 1776, deserves more than a passing notice here, for that brilliant result was accomplished, in part, at least, by North Carolina Troops, for there, as generally elsewhere, a full proportion of the troops engaged were North Carolinians Brigadier Generals Moore and Howe were there with the first regiment of North Carolina Regulars, under Colonel Francis Nash, and the second under Colonel Alexander Martin.

General Charles Lee, who was chief in command, highly complimented them to the President of the Virginia Convention, saying that he knew not which corps he had the greatest reason to be pleased with, Muhlenberg's Virginians or the North Carolina troops, both being regulars. The point of this compliment was, first, that it was written to a Virginian, and second, that of all the Virginia regiments, Muhlenberg's was ‘the most complete, the best armed, best

-------------------- page xl --------------------
clothed and best equipped.”1 In a report to General Washington General Lee speaks of them as “admirable soldiers.”

And yet, with all this high praise, it is said the commanding General failed to do full justice to the North Carolinians, especially to Lieutenant Colonel Clark, of the First North Carolina Regulars, who, with some two hundred men, was assigned to the duty of defending the rear approaches to the fort.

And so we have another instance of the efficiency of the temporary government established at Hillsborough. In a short twelve months it sent troops once to the help of Virginia and twice to that of South Carolina, fought the battle of Moore's Creek, and sent some 3,000 men against the Cherokees. Within the year it put near 10,000 men into service in the field, certainly a very large proportion of its fighting population in so short a time.


And now the self-imposed task, begun some eleven years ago, is finished. All that I care to say is that I have done the best I could that coming generations might be able to learn what manner of men their ancestors were, and this I have done without reward or the hope of reward, other than the hope that I might contribute something to rescue the fair fame and good name of North Carolina from the clutches of ignorance. Our records are now before the world, and any man who chooses may see for himself the character of the people who made them. As for myself, when I search these North Carolina scriptures and read the story of her hundred years' struggle with the mother country for Constitutional Government and the no less wonderful story of her hundred years' struggle with the savage Indian for very life, both culminating in her first great revolution; and then coming down to her second great revolution, when I remember how the old State bared her bosom to that mighty storm, how she sent her sons to the field, until both the cradle and the grave were robbed of their just rights; how devotedly those sons

-------------------- page xli --------------------
stood before shot and shell and the deadly bullet, so that their bones whitened every battle-field; when I remember how heroically she endured every privation, until starvation was at her very doors, and until raiment was as scarce as food, and with what fortitude she met defeat, when, after Appomattox, all seemed lost, save honor; especially, when I remember how, in the darkest of all hours, rallying once more to the struggle for Constitutional Government, she enlisted for the war of Reconstruction, fought it out to the end, finally wresting glorious victory from the very jaws of disastrous defeat, I bow my head in gratitude and say as our great Confederate commander, the immortal Lee, said, when, watching the brilliant fight some of our regiments were making, at a critical time in one of his great battles, he exclaimed in the fullness of his heart,

“God bless old North Carolina.”


The Editor begs leave again to render his sincere acknowledgments to his Excellency Governor Fowle, and to Major S. M. Finger, Superintendent of Public Instruction, for their continued cordial and highly appreciated co-operation in this publication. To Captain S. A. Ashe for much very valuable assistance rendered in many ways and at many times, he is sincerely grateful, as also to a young friend who promises to do credit to North Carolina as well as to himself, Collier Cobb, Esq., late of Harvard College.

W. L. Saunders.


1 Bancroft.