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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Preface to Volume 19 of the State Records of North Carolina
Clark, Walter, 1846-1924
November 01, 1901
Volume 19


This volume of the State Records contains the Journals of the Senate for the sessions of April, 1782, and April, 1783, and October, 1784; and the Journals of the House for the sessions of April, 1783, of April, 1784, and October, 1784.

There is also a list of the members of the House given for the sessions from 1777 to 1782, and an Appendix, which gives Tryon’s Journal of March, 1771, Council Journal 1781, the correspondence between General Joseph Graham and Judge Murphey, and other matters.

These proceedings of the Assembly indicate the work that engaged the attention of the public men during that interesting period. The State was then emerging from the struggle for independence and was putting on the garb of peace. Efforts to raise and equip armies of defense now gave place to endeavors for public advancement.

The subdivision of the larger counties and the establishment of county-seats, with court-houses and jails, and the laying off of public roads, and the building of bridges claimed particular attention. Not only had the population rapidly increased east of the mountains, but the settlement beyond the Alleghanies now became of great public interest.

Governor Alexander Martin had succeeded the unfortunate Burke, who died soon after his retirement; and with skill and wisdom he directed public thought into new channels and sought out substantial lines of progress in dealing with State affairs. That he was the leading influence in North Carolina at that period hardly admits of question: and the Legislature seems to have been enthusiastic in honoring him. The ceremony of investing him with the powers of government on his first election was grand and imposing. He was brought before the Assembly and in a eulogistic address the Bill of

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Rights and the State Constitution were committed to his keeping, and he was presented with a sword of State and duly proclaimed Captain-General, and Commander-in-Chief, and Governor over the State of North Carolina; of which all the good and liege people of the same are to take notice and govern themselves accordingly.

The office of Governor was then magnified; and in his administration of Governor Martin did not detract from its importance. His addresses to the Assembly were on a high plane and he pressed upon the Assembly the necessity of public education and advanced views in regard to government and public concerns.

In those days, it incidentally appears that not merely did the Speakers were gowns, but the Clerks of the Houses also.

The inconveniences of having no fixed seat of government and no sufficient accommodations for the Assembly were early felt. Members were so dilatory in attending that a proposition was made to impose a severe penalty on those who absented themselves from the sessions.

At Hillsboro, where the Assembly found it most convenient to sit, the church, as well as the court-house, was used for legislative purposes. As early as 1783 efforts were made to fix a permanent seat of government: and with the view to locating at Hillsboro, a post route was established between that town and Richmond: and the printingoffice was directed to be removed to that place: and some of the public offices were to be opened there: but New Bern and Tarboro and Smithfield and Fayetteville were too strong and too hopeful of future greatness to allow Hillsboro to bear off the honors. It was not until a decade later that Raleigh was founded.

Towards the end of the war, when the State had been invaded and the Tory element stimulated by the presence of the British army, the State had become a general scene of turmoil and internecine strife. Then the patriots recovered their dominion and the Tory element was largely subdued; and numerous arrests were made for treason

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and the jails were filled with culprits. There were many trials for treason, followed by many executions, but still the prisons were crowded with those who had been obtained. On the other hand a considerable number of patriot citizens had been seized by the British and the Loyalists and had been carried into captivity at Charleston; others had found safety in taking a British parole. At length, when the desire for vengeance had been somewhat slacked, Governor Martin proposed a more merciful policy, and that executions should cease, and there should be amnesty and pardon; and those in arrest should be exchanged for our citizens held at Charleston. His recommendation prevailed, and as the fullness of independence dawned the horrors of the civil war passed away.

As early as 1784 efforts were made to amend the Articles of Confederation, especially in regard to the Finances, to the control of Commerce, and the imposition of Tariff Duties. North Carolina seems to have been ready to concur in all needed remedial measures. She took a broad and liberal view and her spirit was eminently patriotic. But for a time we had our local tariff, imposed our own duties and regulated our commerce with the outside world: our public men dealing with these questions with intelligence and good sense.

In this volume we are likewise able to print a very interesting document, being “The Journal of the Expedition” against the Regulators that culminated in the battle of Alamance. That expedition was composed of a detachment gathered in some of the Eastern counties; and its course as it marched to Alamance is given for each day in this Journal, which also contains a graphic account of the battle of Alamance, and then of the subsequent proceedings of the Governor’s forces.

It is a blot on the character of Governor Tryon that he so willingly undertook that expedition. It seems to be apparent that by pursuing a different policy the troubles and grievances of which the Regulators complained could have been eased and quieted. The Regulators

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of Rowan compared their differences with those officers who agreed to submit all causes of complaint to a local board of arbitrators; and if Governor Tryon had been willing for such a settlement, doubtless the Regulators in all the counties would have followed that example, and the interior of the Province would have been pacified without any martial display on the part of the Governor, and without the expenditure of money or the loss of a single drop of blood.

The proceedings of the Council of State 1781 are interesting and the correspondence between Judge Murphey and General Graham and Hon. Allen J. Davie and others is especially so. The statement furnished by Colonel Davie of the number of men raised by North Carolina during the Revolution, while apparently incomplete, is of great value. It attests the activity of the North Carolina authorities and bears witness to the readiness with which our militia responded to calls to aid a sister State. But more valuable still are the contributions to history made by General Graham. His account of the movements, covered by his statement, is marked by a high degree of intelligence and conveys a clear view of the situation in the southwestern part of the State. From it one realizes how difficult was the undertaking of the Whig leaders to maintain government and to marshal the necessary forces to secure independence.

It is to be greatly regretted that other such intelligent participants in the great work—men like General Graham—had not addressed themselves to the task of perpetuating the records of their operations. Even the partial view we obtain of the action in North Carolina, however, enables us to appreciate the fine conduct of our Whig population; and we can note with satisfaction that neither the State to the north of us, nor the State to the south of us, displayed so much zeal, so much constancy, so much endurance, or so much patriotic ardor as the men of the Old North State. The story of their heroic exertions deserves to be treasured in the memory of posterity.

Walter Clark

Raleigh, N. C.,
1 Nov., 1901.