First in Freedom

Today marks the 235th anniversary of a forgotten, but significant date in American history. On the twelfth of April in 1776, the Fourth Provincial Congress of one colony unanimously passed a measure instructing its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote to declare independence from Great Brittan. With the Halifax Resolves, North Carolina became the first province to allow representatives to vote for separation from the mother country.

The April vote followed two other significant votes in North Carolina. On May 20 of the previous year, representatives in Mecklenburg County signed what was to become known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. There is some controversy over the existence of this document, but the resolutions passed by this committee eleven days later are not disputed. The Mecklenburg Declaration was the first Declaration of Independence from Brittan by a colony, signed more than a year prior to that penned by Mr. Jefferson.

On August 14, 1775, representatives in Tryon County (which at the time covered much of the area west of the Catawba River), met to consider and sign a document to prepare for war. The document says that the actions of British troops at Lexington and Concord, “suggest to us the painful necessity of having recourse to arms in defense of our National freedom and constitutional rights, against all invasions; and at the same time do solemnly engage to take up arms and risk our lives and our fortunes in maintaining the freedom of our country whenever the wisdom and counsel of the Continental Congress or our Provincial Convention shall declare it necessary; and this engagement we will continue in for the preservation of those rights and liberties which the principals of our Constitution and the laws of God, nature and nations have made it our duty to defend.” This was one of, if not the first, formal call to arms in defense of American Liberty. I am a proud descendant of one of the signers of the Tryon Resolves, and representative to the Third Provincial Congress.

These documents predate Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration, by 3, 11 and 14 months. North Carolina’s first stand for liberty, and the price our ancestors were willing to pay was demonstrated by leading the colonies to demand, and arm for, freedom. Esse Quam Videri.

Though lost on many today, May 20, 1775 and April 12, 1776 fly on our flag and are emblazoned in our seal. Each time we see that banner, we should be reminded of our historical role in leading the nation to gain independence and freedom. No other group of citizens can claim our heritage; it is our shoulders to which the current defense of liberty now falls.

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