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4. About the year 1735, or shortly thereafter, the emigrants from Ireland “sought the wilds of America by two avenues; the one, by the Delaware River, whose chief port was Philadelphia, and the other by a more southern landing, the port of Charleston, South Carolina. Those landing at the southern port, immediately sought the fertile forests of the upper country, approaching North Carolina on one side, and Georgia on the other; and not being very particular about boundaries, extended southward at pleasure, while, on the north, they were checked by a counter tide of emigration. Those who landed on the Delaware, after the desirable lands east of the Alleghanies, in Pennsylvania, were occupied, turned their course southward, and were speedily on the Catawba : passing on, they met the southern tide, and the stream turned westward, to the wilderness long known as ‘Beyond the JMountains;’ now, as Tennessee. These two streams, from the same original fountain, Ireland, meeting and intermingling in this new soil, preserve the characteristic difference; the one, possessing some of the air and manner of Pennsylvania; and the other, of Charleston. These are the Puritans, the Roundheads of the South, the Blue-stockings of all countries; men that settled the wilderness on principle, and for principle’s sake; that built churches from principle, and fought for liberty of person and conscience, as their acquisition, and the birthright of their children.” From what has been said, it must not be inferred, that the inhabitants of North Carolina, during the Revolution, were, to a man, devoted to the Whig cause,_that there were no Loyalists among them. That was not the case. North Carolina differed not in this respect from her sister colonies; and the remarks of Judge Marshall, with reference to the citizens of the Southern States generally, are particularly applicable to her population. “Being almost equally divided,” he says, “between the two . contending parties, reciprocal injuries had gradually sharpened their resentments against each other, and had armed neighbor against neighbor, until it became a war of extermination. As the parties alternately triumphed, opportunities were alternately given for the exercise of their vindictive passions.” In the lower counties of North Carolina, within the atmosphere of the provincial court, nearly all the inhabitants were infected with loyalty, while in the upper counties there was as great a preponderance of Whigs. Between the two parties, or factions, a fierce and unrelenting warfare was incessantly waged. Occupied as they were with enemies at home, the Whigs of North Carolina were therefore unable to spare many of their number for service in distant sections of the Confederacy; and it cannot, in justice, be mentioned to their reproach, that they remained at home, to protect their wives and children, their property and their firesides, from their infuriated opponents. In the mountain district of North Carolina, the seeds of independence were early sown, and they soon germinated and ripened for the harvest. In this remote region there were thousands of spectators, who watched
* Foote's Sketches of North Carolina, p. 188.
with eager anxiety the progress of the controversy in the Eastern provinces. The Boston Port Bill, and the act for restricting the commerce of the colonies, though North Carolina, with New York, was excepted from the provisions of the latter,”—were not viewed with indifference. Frequent public meetings were held in Mecklenburg county, then embracing the present county of Cabarrus, in the spring of 1775, at which the tyrannical measures of the British government were freely discussed. Those who participated in these discussions were sober, reflecting men; moderate in speech and prudent in counSel, yet firm as their native hills, and whose patriotism was as real and as pure as the virgin gold that slept undisturbed beneath them. As the result of their deliberations, it was finally agreed “that THOMAS Polk, Colonel of the militia, long a surveyor in the province, frequently a member of the Colonial Assembly, well known and well acquainted in the surrounding counties, a man of great excellence and merited popularity, should be empowered to call a convention of the representatives of the people, whenever it should appear advisable. It was also agreed that these representatives should be chosen from the militia districts, by the people themselves; and that when assembled for counsel and debate, their decision should be binding on
* This exception was made, partly because the provincial assemblies of New York and North Carolina had not yet officially recognized the measures of resistance adopted in the other colonies, and partly through the intercession of Governor Tryon, of New York, formerly the governor of North Carolina.-See Jones’ Defence of the Revolutionary History of North Carolina, p 152, et seq.
the inhabitants of Mecklenburg.” The proclamation of Governor Martin, the last royal governor, dissolving the last provincial assembly that met in North Carolina, because its members could not be rendered subservient to his wishes, which was issued on the 8th of April, and the consequent excitement, seemed to present the emergency contemplated by the citizens of Mecklenburg. Accordingly, Colonel Polk issued his summons calling upon the committee-men to assemble in Charlotte, the county town, on the 19th day of May, 1775. Promptly obeying the call, between twenty and thirty of the most respectable and influential citizens of Mecklenburg, being the delegates chosen in the several districts, met in council at the appointed time. The occasion, also, called together a large concourse of citizens, who did not directly participate in the proceedings, although heartily concurring in them. Of this convention Abraham Alexander was made chairman, and John McKnitt Alexander officiated as clerk. After the organization was completed, papers, brought by express that day, were read in the presence of the assembled multitude, announcing that the first blood of the Rovolution had been shed at Lexington. The effect of this announcement was electrical. Every pulse throbbed high with patriotism, every heart swelled with honest indignation. One general cry was raised in favor of declaring themselves forever independent of a government that paid no heed to their just complaints, and sought to chastise them into submission. Resolutions tantamount to a declaration of independence, pre
pared by Dr. Ephraim Brevard, were then read to the * Foote's Sketches, p. 34.
Convention, and referred to a committee consisting of their author and William Kennon, Esq., and the Rev. Hezekiah James Balch, for revision. Eloquent speeches were also made by the members of the committee and other gentlemen. All the speakers concurred in expressing the opinion, that independence was both desirable and necessary; but in the course of the animated discussion, a serious difficulty was suggested. After the defeat of the “Regulators” by Governor Tryon, on Alamance creek, in 1771, the inhabitants of that section of the colony had been forced to take the oath of allegiance to the King of Great Britain; and the question was now asked, how could they absolve themselves from that allegiance 3 Various replies were made to this inquiry; some scouting at the idea, and others insisting that allegiance and protection were reciprocal, and when the latter was withdrawn, allegiance ceased. At last one of the speakers carried his audience with him, by pointing to a green tree standing near the Courthouse, in which they were assembled, and at the same time saying—“If I am sworn to do a thing as long as the leaves continue on that tree, I am bound by that oath as long as the leaves continue. But when the leaves fall, I am released from that obligation.” But it was not thought advisable hastily to come to a determination. One night was therefore given for further reflection and consultation, and the Convention adjourned till the following day at noon. All that night long, and during the following morning,
* Foote's Sketches, p. 37.