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the town of Charlotte presented a strange scene of excitement. The step proposed to be taken was the great theme of discussion. Grave men deliberated upon it in the privacy of their homes; while their juniors collected in groups at the corners of the streets, to interchange their sentiments with more freedom, and with greater earnestness. When the time arrived for the reassembling of the Convention, the decision at which all had arrived, might have been read in the kindling eye and the firmly-compressed lip. The people had collected in still greater numbers from the surrounding country; and not the least interested among the spectators, were the wives and mothers of many of those who were foremost at this crisis, and who came there to encourage their husbands and sons by their kind words, and to cheer them with their smiles. The resolutions of Dr. Brevard, as amended by the committee, were again read amid the most profound stillness. One universal “aye” was the response of the Convention; and after the adjournment, Colonel Polk, from the court-house steps, read to the intensely-excited crowd that gathered round him, the following resolutions embodying the Declaration of Independence:
THE MECKLENBURG DECLARATION.
“1st. Resolved, That whosoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any way, form, or manner, countenanced the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this country—to America— and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man.
“2d. Resolved, That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the mother country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown, and abjure all political connection, contract, or association, with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties, and inhumanly shed the blood of American patriots at Lexington. “3d. Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing Association, under the control of no power other than that of our God, and the general government of the Congress; to the maintenance of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual coöperation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor. “4th. Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the existence and control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, within this county, we do hereby ordain and appoint as a rule of life, all, each and every of our former laws, wherein, nevertheless, the crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein. “5th. Resolved, That it is further decreed, that all, each and every military officer in this county, is hereby reinstated in his former command and authority,+he acting conformably to these regulations. And that every member present, of this delegation, shall henceforth be a civil officer, viz., a Justice of the Peace, in the character of a ‘Committeeman,’ to issue process, hear and determine all matters of controversy, according to said adopted laws, and to preserve peace, union and harmony, in said county;-and to use every exertion to spread the love of country and fire of freedom throughout America, until a more general and organized government be established in this province.”
Loud cheers and other tokens of approbation followed the public reading of the resolutions by Colonel Polk; and when the people separated to return to their homes, their countenances and their actions indicated that they were well pleased with what had been done.
The authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration was for a long time questioned. The resolutions were published in the Cape Fear Mercury, and were characterized by Governor Martin, in a proclamation issued on the 8th day of August, 1775, as “a most infamous publication, * * * importing to be the 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 of this country, and setting up a system of rule and regulation repugnant to the laws and subversive of His Majesty's government.”* Copies of them were likewise dispatched, by a special messenger, to the delegates of North Carolina in the Continental Congress, who approved of them in sentiment, but thought the step premature, and therefore did not present them to the body of which they were members, as they were requested to do.
Yet, from the local character of these proceedings, they did not attract public attention to as great a degree as they would otherwise have done, and consequently no mention was made of them in the histories of Ramsay and Marshall. Mr. Jefferson, in a letter written in July, 1819, in reply to one received from John Adams referring to an account of the Mecklenburg declaration then recently published, treated the whole matter as a hoax." The publication of this letter, shortly after the decease of the writer, created considerable excitement in North Carolina, and particularly among the descendants of the revolutionary patriots of Mecklenburg county. Measures were finally taken by the legislature of the state to collate and arrange the documents relating to the Mecklenburg declaration, with such other testimony having reference to the subject as might be obtained. These were published under the direction of Governor Stokes, in 1831; and by them, and other publications which have subsequently appeared, the authenticity of the Mecklenburg proceedings is established beyond cavil or doubt.f Mr. Jefferson was certainly mistaken. It can no longer be questioned that the citizens of Mecklenburg county were the first to declare their independence, as the province itself was the first to empower her delegates in Congress “to concur with the delegates of the other colonies in declaring Independency.”f But it is unnecessary to calumniate the memory of Mr. Jefferson in order to render justice to North Carolina, as has been done by one of her writers.' He was in error, honestly so, as the playful tone of his letter to Mr. Adams most conclusively shows. The truth can harm no man; and that will not deprive him of one of his laurels, or detract in aught from his well-earned fame.
* Jones' Defence, p. 185.
* Jefferson's Works, vol. iv. p. 314.
f Mecklenburg Declaration and Accompanying Documents, published under the authority of the General Assembly of North Carolina, Raleigh, 1831; Jones' Defence, p. 294, et seq.; Foote's Sketches, p. 83, et seq.; ibid., p. 204, et seq.
f Journal of the Provincial Congress, (Raleigh, 1831,) p. 12.
§ See Introduction to Jones' Defence.
Among the most active participants in the Mecklenburg proceedings, were THOMAS Polk and EzekiEL Polk, the former of whom resided in the immediate vicinity of Charlotte, and the latter in the neighboring province of South Carolina, just over the border. They, with other prominent and influential men, appeared to take the lead in the movement, and their opinions and their action had great weight with their fellow-citizens.” “Tradition ascribes to Thomas Polk the principal agency in bringing about the Declaration;”f and it is said that an old resident of North Carolina, a Scotchman, being asked if he knew anything in relation to the matter, replied—“Och, aye, TAM Polk declared Independence lang before anybody else l'i
The two Polks were brothers; and the Alexanders, the chairman and clerk of the Mecklenburg meeting, and Dr. Brevard, the author of the resolutions, were their near relatives. Thomas Polk was the great uncle, and Ezekiel Polk the grandfather, of JAMEs K. Polk, the late President of the United States. The founder of the Polk family in America was Robert Polk. His ancestors were of Scotch origin. They were among the colonists who settled in Ireland, and the family name is obviously the Irish corruption of Pollock. Robert Polk was born in Ireland, and was the fifth son of Robert Polk the elder, a native of the same country, who married Magdalen Tusker, the heiress of a considerable estate.
Robert Polk, the younger, married a Miss Gullet, by
* Mecklenburg Declaration and Accompanying Documents, p. 16. f Jones' Defence, p. 295. # Mecklenburg Declaration, &c., p. 26.