Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

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Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

MECKLENBURG DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. On 31 May 1775 a committee met at Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and drew up twenty resolutions for the North Carolina delegation to present to the Continental Congress. They stated—among other things—that all laws and commissions derived from royal or Parliamentary authority were suspended and that all legislative or executive power henceforth should come from the Provisional Congress of each colony under the Continental Congress. Although adopted, the resolutions never were presented to Congress. In 1819 the Raleigh Register printed what was claimed to be a document that the Charlotte committeemen had adopted on 20 May 1775, in which they declared themselves "a free and independent people" and which contained other phrases later made famous in the Declaration of Independence.

Before his death in 1826, Thomas Jefferson rejected the "Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence" as spurious. Nonetheless, for many years it was believed, primarily by people in North Carolina, that the Mecklenburg document had inspired the real Declaration of Independence. No written copy of the document was found until 1847, when a copy of a Charleston newspaper of 16 June 1775 was discovered to contain the full text of the twenty resolutions adopted 31 May 1775. The word "independence" was not mentioned. The explanation appears to be this: The records of the 31 May proceedings were destroyed by a fire in 1800; the version printed in 1819 was from memory—including that of the North Carolina iron manufacturer Joseph Graham, who had been fifteen years old at the time—and was embellished with phrases taken from the real Declaration of Independence. All evidence to the contrary has not prevented people from insisting on the veracity of the fraudulent document and posting it on web sites. These two documents, the real Resolves of 31 May and the contrived "Declaration" of 20 May, and their dates are often confused. For instance, the state of North Carolina still features the date of the fictional document on its seal and flag.

SEE ALSO Graham, Joseph.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hoyt, William Henry. The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence: A Study of Evidence Showing that the Alleged Early Declaration of Independence by Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 20th, 1775, Is Spurious. (1907). New York: Da Capo Press, 1972.

                          revised by Michael Bellesiles