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LIFE

OF

JAMES K. POLK.

CHAPTER I.

Thomas Jefferson.—Declaration of American Independence.—Origin of the Movement.—Early Settlers of North Carolina-Character—The Mecklenburg Resolutions. – The Polk Family.—Their History. — Patriotic Conduct during the Revolution

ON the southwestern slope of Monticello, in the midst

of the native forest hallowed by associations which have protected it from the faggot and the axe, and where the soft winds that disturb its solemn stillness murmur ceaselessly of the storied past,-there stands a plain granite obelisk, looking forth over the fair land, which he, who reposes there in the silence of death, loved with the affection of a son, and whose institutions he regarded with peculiar veneration. No heraldic blazonry may be witnessed there, none of the sculptured pomp of woe. All is simple, chaste, appropriate—yet impressive. Read the few lines graven upon this humble memento, in remembrance of one who asked no nobler monument —The inscription, in brief but eloquent words, relates a whole chapter, and that the brightest and the proudest in the life of him whose memory is thus consecrated.— “Here lies buried, THOMAs JEFFERson,”—so runs the record, “Author of the Declaration of Independence l’’ This is not merely the assertion of a claim to the authorship of that memorable document, which can perish only with the nation that it called into existence ; but it is also an important historical fact, and one of which the party directly concerned, and those interested in his memory, have just right to be proud. It is, as it were, the impartial judgment of the recording Muse. As such, it will live in the history, and be perpetuated in the traditions, of the American people. But neither the Sage of Monticello, nor his most ardent admirer, ever claimed that he was the sole originator of the great movement to which the Declaration of '76 gave form and substance. Its germs were planted in ten thousand hearts, long before the resolutions of Patrick Henry concerning the Stamp Act were offered, or his eloquent voice had sounded the alarm ; its hopes and its impulses throbbed in ten thousand bosoms long before the chimes of the old State-house bell in Philadelphia proclaimed “liberty throughout this land, unto all the inhabitants thereof;” and they only waited “the hour and the man” to call them into action, and give them expression. Occasions were not wanting, when the intolerance of oppression, and the stern resistance to tyranny, which were characteristic of the colonists, found utterance in something more than mere words and protestations. Such were the opposition of Massachusetts, in 1680, to the commercial restrictions; the refusal to surrender the charter of Connecticut to Sir Edmund Andros; the

EARLY INHABITANTS OF NORTH CAROLINA. 19

public sympathy evinced in New York, in behalf of
those who were prosecuted for libels on Governor Cosby;
Bacon’s rebellion in Virginia; and the repeated efforts
made in the Carolinas to resist the oppressions of the
proprietaries. At a later day, as the time approached for
the general outbreak, its foreboding thunders were heard
not only among the hills of New England, but they were
echoed amid the leafy forests and luxuriant savannas of
the sunny South; and when the signal of war was given
at Lexington, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, in far-
distant North Carolina, assembled in Convention, and
were the first solemnly and deliberately to proclaim their
independence of the British crown.
The first settlers and inhabitants of North Carolina
had conceived a strong “passion for representative
government;” they were opposed, alike from prejudice
and from principle, to excessive taxation, to commercial
monopolies and restrictions, and to any abridgment of
their political liberties. They were men “who had
been led to the choice of their residence from a hatred
of restraint, and had lost themselves among the Woods in
search of independence. Are there any who doubt man’s
capacity for self-government, let them study the history
of North Carolina; its inhabitants were restless and
turbulent in their imperfect submission to a government
imposed on them from abroad; the administration of the
colony was firm, humane, and tranquil, when they were
left to take care of themselves. Any government but
one of their own institution was oppressive.”

*Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. ii., p. 158.

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We cannot wonder that such was the character of the founders of this colony, when we inquire into their origin. They were the descendants and kinsmen of the Scottish Covenanters; of the men who, at all times opposed to the exercise of arbitrary authority, resisted the tyrannous measures of Charles I., and set Cromwell at defiance; of the Seceders of 1741 and 1843, who would not consent to allow the right of patronage, or permit the civil power to interfere in the affairs of the Church endeared to them by the associations of infancy, and the recollections of age. They sprung, in great part, from the Scottish colonists who emigrated to Ireland under the auspices of James I., and settled there to disseminate the reformed religion, “for conscience sake.”

From Ireland, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians journey

ed across the Atlantic, in search of the freedom in mat

ters of religion which had been denied to them at home. Pilgrims in quest of “a faith’s pure shrine,”—where he who ministered in holy things should be the faithful and devoted servant of his God, and not the miserable dependent on royal favor, they braved persecution and danger, the perils of the sea and of the land, to erect their standard and practice their creed, unquestioned of man, amid the solitudes of the Western World. Not in vain were these trials undergone, or these perils encountered. Their patient endurance was rewarded by the discovery of the object which they earnestly longed to secure. They planted the groves and the orchards, whose rich fruitage has blessed and cheered their posterity.

“They have left unstained what there they found,-
Freedom to worship God!”

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