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Chapter 18

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of North Carolina

The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York, 1919
Volume I by
R. D. W. Connor

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 20

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. I
p338
Chapter 19
Downfall of the Royal Government

Soon after his victory at Alamance, Tryon left North Carolina for New York. He was succeeded by Josiah Martin who took the oath of office August 12, 1771. Martin, as Saunders observes, was a man ill calculated to conduct an administration successfully even in ordinary times. Stubborn and tactless, obsequious to those in authority and overbearing to those under authority, he found himself suddenly placed in a position that required almost every quality of mind and character that he did not possess. He was, it is true, an honest man, but he was intolerant and knew nothing of the art of diplomacy. Sincerely devoted to the king, whom he thought it no degradation to regard literally as a master, he had no faith in the sincerity of the Americans when in one breath they declared their loyalty to the Crown and in the next demanded from the Crown a recognition of their constitutional rights. "Insufferably tedious and turgid, * * * his dispatches make the tried reader long for the well-constructed, clear-cut sentences and polished impertinences of Tryon," and show that he was utterly incapable of understanding the people whom he had been sent to govern.1 No worse selection could have been made at that time; the people of North Carolina were in no mood to brook the petty tyranny of a provincial governor, and Martin's personality became one of the chief factors that drove North Carolina headlong into revolution and prepared the colony, first of all the colonies, to take a definite stand for independence.

Their experience with the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts taught the king and ministry the power that lay in a united America, and henceforth they avoided as far as possible such measures as would give the colonies a common grievance upon which they could unite. Their change of policy embraced p339two principles both of which the Americans promptly repudiated. One was the principle of the Declaratory Act. The other was the assumption that the king's instructions to the provincial governors were of higher authority than acts of assemblies and were binding on both assemblies and governors alike. For the next three years these instructions "played an important part in American politics. * * * They came under the king's sign manual, with the privy seal annexed. It was said that officials could not refuse to execute them without giving up the rights of the Crown. A set was not framed to apply to all the colonies alike, but special instructions were sent to each colony as local circumstances dictated. Hence the patriots could not create a general issue on them."2 The Americans at once perceived their danger, and were not to be caught by it; when they came a few years later to adopt a Declaration of Independence, this policy of the king was one of the "facts submitted to a candid world," in justification of their action.

In North Carolina the battle was fought out on a very important local measure involving the jurisdiction of the colonial courts, about which the king issued positive instructions directing the course which the Assembly should pursue. Thus a momentous issue was presented for the consideration of the people's representatives: Should they permit the Assembly to degenerate into a mere machine whose highest function would be to register the will of the Sovereign; or should they maintain it as the Constitution intended it to be, a free, deliberative, law-making body, responsible for its acts only to the people? Upon their answer to this question it is not too much to say hung the fate of their remotest posterity. It should be recorded as one of the chief events in our history that the Assembly had the insight to perceive the issue clearly and the courage to meet it boldly. "Appointed by the people [they declared] to watch over their rights and priviledges, and to guard them from every encroachment of a private and public nature, it becomes our duty and will be our constant endeavour to preserve them secure and inviolate to the present age, and to transmit them unimpaired to posterity. * * * The rules of right and wrong, the limits of the prerogative of the Crown and of priviledges of the people are in the present age well known and ascertained; to exceed either of them is highly unjustifiable."

p340 The point at issue was the "foreign attachment clause" in the court law. British merchants who transacted business in the province through agents without ever being present in person, became in course of time extensive landowners here. The Tryon court law contained a clause empowering the colonial courts to attach this property for debts owed by such merchants to North Carolinians. The merchants objected to the clause, but the king refused to veto the act because by its own provision it was to expire at the end of five years and he expected, when a new bill was framed, to have the clause omitted without interfering with the business of the courts. Accordingly he instructed Governor Martin not to approve any bill containing the attachment clause.

The struggle began in the Assembly of January, 1773, and during that and the next two sessions was the occasion of one of the best conducted debates in the history of the colonial Assembly. Both sides maintained their positions with ability. The Council acting under instructions declined to pass the Assembly's bill unless it was so amended as to provide that attachment proceedings should be "according to the laws and statutes of England." But the Assembly reminded the Council that in England such proceedings existed by municipal custom, not by statute, and were "so essentially local" in their application "as not to admit of being extended by any analogy to this province." They contended that "to secure a privilege so important the mode of obtaining it should be grounded in certainty, the law positive and express, and nothing left to the exercise of doubt or discretion." They therefore rejected the Council's amendment. After much debate a compromise was effected by the addition of a clause suspending the operation of the act until the king's pleasure could be learned. The Assembly thereupon sent it to their agent in London with instructions to leave no stone unturned to secure the royal signature. He was to say to the king that "so important does this matter appear to this Province that they cannot by any means think of giving it up, * * * choosing rather the misfortune of a temporary deprivation of Laws than to form any system whereby they may be left without remedy on this great point."

To this appeal the king replied by rejecting the bill and instructing Governor Martin to create courts of oyer and terminer by the exercise of the "ever ready prerogative." In March, 1773, therefore, the governor appointed Richard Caswell and Maurice Moore judges to sit with Chief Justice Martin Howard to hold these courts. Thus another element p341of discord was injected into the controversy, for when the Assembly met in December, the governor was compelled to inform them of the "royal disallowance" of the court law, and at the same time to ask for money to meet the expenses of his prerogative courts. The Assembly's refusal was sharp and peremptory. They declared that while "one of the greatest calamities to which any political society can be liable," the suspension of the judicial powers of the government, had befallen the province, and no hope of redress through "the interposition of Government" remained, "yet the misery of such a situation vanishes in competition with a mode of redress exercised by courts unconstitutionally framed; it is the blessed distinction of the British Code of Laws that our civil and criminal Jurisdiction have their foundation in the Laws of the Land, and are regulated by principles as fixt as the Constitution. We humbly conceive that the power of issuing Commissions of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery, delegated by his Majesty to your Excellency, cannot be legally carried into execution without the aid of the Legislature of this Province, and that we cannot consistent with the Justice due to our Constituents make provisions for defraying the expense attending a measure which we do not approve."

The governor and his Council protested, argued, pleaded, and threatened. The Council predicted that unless courts were speedily established the "Province must soon be deserted by its Inhabitants and an end put to its name and political existence," and reproached the House for bringing the colony to this distressed situation "for the sake only of a Comparatively small advantage supposed to lie in a mode of proceeding by attachment, a proceeding unknown both to the Common and Statute Law of the Mother Country." This message drew fire from the House. The issue now involved much more than a mere legal procedure; the independence of the Assembly as a legislative body was at stake. "This House," retorted the Assembly, "ever faithful to the discharge of the important trust reposed in them by the Inhabitants of this Province have in the conduct of every Public Measure, * * * had in view the interest and happiness of our constituents, as the grand object that ought to govern all our determinations. * * * Conscious from our late melancholy experience of the unhappy consequences that attend the extinguishment of the Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction in this Province, We dread the continuance of the calamity and submit still to suffer, only to avoid a greater misfortune. * * * This House for themselves and their constituents heartily acknowledge the p342necessity for Court Laws, and without anticipating the horrors of the desertion of the Inhabitants of this Colony and the extinguishment of its name and political existence, they experience in the present unhappy State of this Province sufficient to induce them to wish a change upon legal constitutional principles. * * * Were the attachment Law as formerly enjoyed by us as small an advantage, compared with that of having Court Laws as you contend it is, the right we possess to that is equal to the rights to a more important object; in the smallest, it [a surrender of the right] is bartering the rights of a people for a present convenience, in a greater it would be the same crime aggravated only by its circumstances. We observe with surprise that a doctrine maintained by a former House of Assembly is now adopted by you, and that you disclose as your opinion that attachments are not known to the Common or Statute Law of England; what then did Government tender to this people in lieu of their former mode, when it proffered to the last Assembly a mode of attachment agreeable to the laws of England?"

Finding appeals to loyalty and threats of punishment equally unavailing, and caught in his inconsistency, the governor determined to send the members home to consult their constituents, and accordingly sent his private secretary to command the House to attend him at the Palace. Knowing well enough what this meant, the House took a parting shot well calculated to ruffle his spirits. A committee was appointed to draw an address to the king, and was instructed "as the most effectual means to promote its success," to request Governor Tryon, "who happily for this Country for many years presided over it, and of whose good intentions to its welfare we feel the fullest convictions," to forward it to his Majesty and support it "with his interest and influence." He was asked to "accept of this important Trust as testimony of the great affection this Colony bears him, and the entire confidence they repose in him." The members of the committee to prepare this address were Harvey, Johnston, Howe, Ashe, Hooper, Hewes, Isaac Edwards and Harnett. After adopting this insulting resolution as much to show their contempt for Martin as their regard for Tryon, the members of the House proceeded to the Palace where they were dismissed. The governor asked them to represent the facts to the people fairly, saying, "I am fully persuaded they know too well their own interests to make such a sacrifice [as the absence of courts entailed], or to approve your conduct. That I may give you opportunity to learn their sentiments, I now, * * * prorogue this Assembly."

p343 But it was useless for the governor to appeal from the Assembly to the people; it was but an appeal from the teachers to the taught. To send the former back to their constituents was but to send them to gather fresh endorsements and receive renewed support in their contest. When they returned in March, 1774, they told the governor that they had consulted the people, had stated to them candidly the point for which they contended, and had informed them how far the king was disposed to indulge their wishes. "These facts," they declared, "we have represented to them fairly, disdaining any equivocation or reserve that might leave them ignorant of the Conduct we have pursued or the real motives that influenced it. And we have the heartfelt satisfaction to inform your Excellency that they have expressed the warmest approbation of our past proceedings, and have given us positive instructions to persist in our endeavors to obtain the process of Foreign attachments upon the most liberal and ampel footing." To this message the governor replied in one of his few really good papers. He wrote with conflicting feelings for he was compelled to defend an instruction of his master with which he did not entirely sympathize. Passing by the "just exultation" with which the Assembly told him of their constituents' approval of their course, he made an eloquent plea for compromise. But the Assembly stood firm, passed the usual bill with the usual clause, and, declaring that they had pursued every measure to relieve the colony from its distressed condition, sent it to the governor. The governor rejected it. This brought the struggle to an end for the only other Assembly that met in North Carolina under royal rule was in session but four stormy days and did not have time to consider the court law. North Carolina, therefore, remained without courts for the trial of civil causes until after independence was declared. Among the causes recited in the Declaration of Independence to justify that action, was the following: "He [the king] has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers."

The situation in North Carolina was indeed serious. In March, 1773, Josiah Quincy, Jr., of Boston, traveling through the province, noted that but five provincial laws were in force, that no courts were open, that no one could recover a debt except for small sums within the jurisdiction of a magistrate's court, and that offenders escaped with impunity. "The people," he declared, "are in great consternation about the p344matter; what will be the result is problematical."3 Many were disposed to charge the whole trouble to the governor. They did not believe that he had "properly or judiciously explained to the government at home" the necessity for the protection they sought; and they charged to his "spirit of intolerance and impatience" the failure of the Assembly to pass a county court law, "the jurisdiction of which would have been so limited that it could not possibly have operated to the disfavor of any British merchant," and the want of which subjected the people of the province to innumerable inconveniences. But there was no disposition on the part of the leaders of the popular party to shirk their own responsibility. Fortunately they received loyal support from their constituents, who chose rather to bear all the inconveniences of the situation than to surrender the independence of their judiciary. The royal government was thoroughly beaten because the people made anarchy tolerable.

Throughout the colonies, the Whig leaders, as we may now call them, saw through the policy of the king in trying to avoid a general issue, and held many an anxious conference to devise a working plan for united action. One of the most important, as it was one of the most interesting of these conferences, was held between Josiah Quincy, Jr., of Massachusetts, and Robert Howe and Cornelius Harnett, of North Carolina, at the home of the latter on the Cape Fear. Quincy arrived at Brunswick, March 26, and spent the next five days enjoying the hospitality of the Cape Fear patriots. He found William Hill "warmly attached to the cause of American freedom;" William Dry "seemingly warn against the measures of British and continental administration;" William Hooper "apparently in the Whig interest." The night of March 30th he spent at the home of Cornelius Harnett. Here all doubt of his host's political sentiments vanished. "Spent the night," he records, "at Mr. Harnett's, the Samuel Adams of North Carolina (except in point of fortune). Robert Howe, Esq., Harnett and myself made the social triumvirate of the evening. The plan of continental correspondence highly relished, much wished for, and resolved upon as proper to be pursued."4

The "plan of continental correspondence" was, of course original with neither Quincy nor Harnett. Samuel Adams had already put a system of provincial correspondence into operation p345in Massachusetts; and a few days before Quincy arrived in North Carolina, but too late for the news to have reached Wilmington, the Virginia Assembly had issued a circular letter proposing to the other assemblies the organization of a system of inter-colonial committees to carry on a "continental correspondence." During the summer several of the colonies adopted the plan. The decision of North Carolina had been practically settled at Wilmington in March, but as the Assembly was not to meet until December, no official action was taken until then. On the second day of the session, John Harvey, the speaker, laid the Virginia resolutions, together with the resolutions and endorsements of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware, before the House; and Howe, Harnett and Johnston were appointed a committee to draw an answer which they were to report to the House. In their report they recommended hearty concurrence in the "spirited resolves" of the Virginia Assembly, particularly "in the measure proposed for appointing Corresponding Committees in every Colony, by which such Harmony and communication will be established among them, that they will at all times be ready to exert their united efforts * * * to preserve their just rights and Liberties * * * which appear of late to be so systematically invaded;" and they nominated as a Standing Committee of Correspondence and Enquiry" for North Carolina John Harvey, Robert Howe, Cornelius Harnett, William Hooper, Richard Caswell, Edward Vail, John Ashe, Joseph Hewes, and Samuel Johnston. It was to be the particular business of this committee "to obtain the most early and authentic intelligence of all such Acts and resolutions of the British Parliament, or proceedings of Administration as may relate to or effect the British Colonies in America and to keep up and maintain a correspondence and communication with our Sister Colonies respecting these important considerations," and to report their proceedings to the Assembly. The work of this committee bore good fruit, for the members brought to their task a truly national spirit in dealing with continental affairs. To use a modern political term, they adopted a platform in which they declared that the inhabitants of North Carolina "ought to consider themselves interested in the cause of the town of Boston as the cause of America in general;" that they would "concur with and co-operate in such measures as may be concerted and agreed on by their Sister Colonies" for resisting the measures of the British ministry, and that in order to promote "conformity and unanimity in the Councils of America," a Continental Congress was absolutely p346necessary." The significance of this system of committees was soon apparent. Indeed, as John Fiske declares, it "was nothing less than the beginning of the American union. * * * It only remained for the various inter-colonial committees to assemble together, and there would be a congress speaking in the name of the continent."5

In the meantime came the Boston Tea Party, followed promptly by the four "intolerable acts" which closed the port of Boston, annulled the charter of Massachusetts, authorized the transportation beyond sea for trial of persons accused of crime, and legalized the quartering of troops on the people of Massachusetts. These acts aroused the whole continent and led to the call for a Continental Congress. The suggestion for such a congress found instant favor. It was intended, following the precedent established with the Stamp Act Congress, that the delegates should be chosen by the assemblies. When Governor Martin learned of these plans, he determined to prevent North Carolina's being represented by refusing to convene the Assembly until too late for them to elect delegates. Tryon had successfully adopted this expedient to prevent the election of delegates to the Stamp Act Congress, but Martin lacked a good deal of having Tryon's tact and political shrewdness, nor did he enjoy the personal popularity which had enabled Tryon to meet successfully many delicate situations. Besides the popular party was now organized for resistance and its leaders were not the kind of men to be caught twice in the same trap. Accordingly when Martin's private secretary communicated the governor's determination to Speaker Harvey, Harvey flew into a rage, exclaiming, "In that case the people will hold a convention independent of the governor!"

On April 5, 1774, Samuel Johnston wrote to William Hooper: "Colonel Harvey and myself lodged last night with Colonel [Edward] Buncombe, and as we sat up very late the conversation turned on Continental and provincial affairs. Colonel Harvey said during the night, that Mr. Biggleston told him, that the Governor did not intend to convene another Assembly until he saw some chance of a better one than the last; and that he told the Secretary that then the people would convene one themselves. He was in a very violent mood, and declared he was for assembling a convention independent of the Governor, and urged upon us to co-operate with him. He says he will lead the way, and will issue handbills under his own name, and that the committee of correspondence ought to go to work p347at once. As for my own part, I do not know what better can be done. Without Courts to sustain the property and to exercise the talents of the Country, and the people alarmed and dissatisfied, we must do something to save ourselves. Colonel Harvey said he had mentioned the matter only to Willie Jones of Halifax, whom he had met the day before, and that he thought well of it, and promised to exert himself in its favor. I beg your friendly counsel and advice on the subject, and hope you will speak of it to Mr. Harnett and Colonel Ashe, or any other such men."

Harvey's bold and revolutionary proposition fell upon willing ears. The popular leaders gave it their united support. The Committee of Correspondence declared that if the governor carried out his determination they would "endeavor in some other manner to collect the Representatives of the people." Maturer consideration, however, led to the conclusion that the call for such a convention had better come from the people themselves. Accordingly the movement was launched at Wilmington, July 21, by a great mass meeting attended by men from all the Cape Fear counties. William Hooper was called to the chair. The meeting declared it "highly expedient" that a provincial congress independent of the governor be held and invited the several counties of the province to send delegates to it. This call met with prompt and cordial response. Rowan, Craven, Pitt, Johnston, Granville, Anson, and Chowan counties led the way. In those counties popular meetings were promptly held, patriotic resolutions adopted, and delegates elected to the proposed congress. Through all these resolutions ran the spirit of liberty and union. The Wilmington meeting favored action "in concert with the other Colonies." Anson County thought that North Carolina ought to act "in union with the rest of the Colonies." Rowan County struck the highest note in a resolution declaring it to be "the Duty and Interest of all the American Colonies, firmly to unite in an indissoluble Union and Association." All the meetings endorsed the proposed Continental Congress. Thirty-six counties and towns joined in the movement by choosing delegates to meet in a provincial congress at New Bern, August 25, 1774.

These proceedings produced consternation at the Governor's Palace. Hastily calling his Council in session, the governor represented the situation to them as exceedingly grave and likely "to draw His Majesty's displeasure on this Province," and sought advice as to "the measures most proper to be taken, to discourage or prevent these Assemblies of the p348People." The Council after taking a whole day "maturely to consider the Subject," could think of nothing better than a proclamation which the governor gravely issued, August 13th. He not only directed that the people should hold no further county meetings, but "more particularly that they do forbear to attend, and do prevent as far in them lies, the meeting of certain Deputies, said to be appointed to be held at New Bern on the 25th Instant." One of Josiah Martin's most glaring faults as a ruler was his utter lack of sense of humor; he took his resounding proclamation in dead earnest and was greatly perturbed to find that nobody else shared this view with him. On August 25th, he again called his Council together, notified them that many of the delegates had come to New Bern for the Congress, and asked their advice whether he could take "any further measures" to prevent their meeting; and was gravely informed that it was the Council's "unanimous opinion that no other steps could be properly taken at this juncture."

When the Congress met on August 25th, seventy-one delegates answered the roll call. Among its members were John Campbell, John Ashe, and Richard Caswell, former speakers of the Assembly; William Hooper and Joseph Hewes, soon to become immortalized as signers of the Declaration of Independence; Samuel Johnston and Abner Nash who, like Caswell, were destined to become governors of North Carolina; but on none of these eminent men did the Congress fix its choice when it came to select its presiding officer. The thoughts of all centered at once upon one man, John Harvey, father of the Congress, who was its unanimous choice as moderator.

The man thus called to preside over the most revolutionary body that ever met in North Carolina, had been for a decade the undisputed leader of the popular party in the province. Then in his fiftieth year, he had been in public life ever since reaching his majority. In 1746 he entered the Assembly as a representative from Perquimans County, just in time to become involved in the representation controversy that marked the closing years of Governor Johnston's administration. Sympathizing fully with the views of the northern counties, he refused during the next eight years to sit in an Assembly which he believed to be unconstitutionally organized; but when the controversy was ended and the victory won, he again appeared in his seat which he continuously occupied during the remaining twenty-one years of his life. Out of his first experience in public life, Harvey brought an intense hostility p349to government by prerogative that made him during the rest of his career the colony's most aggressive champion of constitutional representative government. He held that the charter upon which the colonial government was founded was a compact between sovereign and people which neither could rightfully violate. He insisted that no number less than a majority could legally be counted a quorum of the Assembly because it had been so fixed by the charter. He upheld the dignity of the Assembly as a law-making body and utterly repudiated the doctrine that its highest function was to register the will of the Crown. He maintained that no power on earth could constitutionally levy taxes on the people of North Carolina except their representatives in the General Assembly and rejected the theory that they were represented in the British Parliament. The sincerity of his convictions, the fearlessness and ability with which he maintained them, gradually won for him the foremost place in the councils of his party and led to his election in 1765 to the speakership of the Assembly. That place of leadership he held, except for one Assembly which ill health prevented his attending, until his death in 1775. During that decade he was the acknowledged leader of that remarkable group of North Carolina statesmen who prevented the triumph of the ministerial policy in North Carolina, swung the colony into line with the other colonies in the continental movement toward union, reduced the royal government to impotency, organized a provincial government independent of the Crown, inaugurated the Revolution and led the way to independence. Throughout these great movements, Harvey's leadership was characterized by clearness of vision that appealed to men's judgment, firmness of purpose that inspired their confidence, and boldness of action that stirred their imagination and aroused their enthusiasm. Such were the qualities that led his associates in one of the ablest assemblages of our history to make him their unanimous choice for their presiding officer.

The Congress remained in session but three days. In a series of spirited and clear-cut resolutions it gave expressions to the American views on questions in dispute with the mother country; denounced the several acts aimed at Massachusetts and Boston; declared that the people of Massachusetts had "distinguished themselves in a manly support of the rights of America in general"; endorsed the proposal for a Continental Congress to which it elected William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and Richard Caswell delegates; pledged the honor of p350the province in support of whatever measures the Continental Congress might recommend to the colonies; adopted a non-importation agreement and provided for its execution. John Harvey was authorized to call another Congress whenever he deemed it necessary.

No more significant step had ever been taken in North Carolina than the successful meeting of this Congress. It revealed the people to themselves. Said the freeholders of Pitt County: "As the Constitutional Assembly of this Colony are prevented from exercising their right of providing for the security of the liberties of the people, that right again reverts to the people as the foundation from whence all power and legislation flow." The Congress was a practical demonstration of how the people might exercise this right. They began to understand that there was no peculiar power in the writs and proclamations of a royal governor. They themselves could elect delegates and organize legislatures without the intervention of the king's authority, and this was a long step toward independence.

This Congress and every county meeting held in North Carolina in the summer of 1774, had re-echoed the cry, then ringing throughout America, that Boston was suffering in the common cause, and the people of North Carolina by their generous contributions to the stricken city showed that it was no mere rhetorical expression. From the counties along the coast, and even from as far in the back country as Anson County, provisions poured into New Bern, Wilmington, and Edenton to be shipped free of all freight and other charges to the suffering poor of the New England metropolis. At their meeting on August 18, 1774, the freeholders of Anson County appointed a committee "to open and promote a subscription for contributing toward the relief of those indigent Inhabitants of the Town of Boston" whom the Boston Port Bill had "deprived of the means of subsisting themselves." Pitt County followed the example and loaded a ship with supplies for the relief of "the poor of Boston." From Craven also sailed a vessel bound for Salem with a cargo of corn, peas and pork "for the relief of the distressed inhabitants of Boston." At Wilmington a subscription was opened "for the Relief of the poor Artizans and Labourers" of Boston, and the committee in charge was able to declare with pride, "we have reason to congratulate ourselves upon the generous contributions of the Inhabitants which has put it in our power to load a vessel with provisions which will sail this week for the port of Salem." From Edenton, too, sailed in September, p3511774, the sloop Penelope carrying a cargo of 2,096 bushels of corn, 22 barrels of flour, and 17 barrels of pork, which John Harvey and Joseph Hewes had collected from the inhabitants of two or three counties in the neighborhood of Edenton." "I hope to be able to send another cargo this winter, for the same charitable purpose," wrote Harvey to the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence, "as the American inhabitants of this colony entertain a just sense of the suffering of our brethren in Boston, and have yet hopes that when the united determinations of the continent reach the royal ear, they will have redress from the cruel, unjust, illegal and oppressive late acts of the British Parliament."

Foiled in his purpose to hold North Carolina aloof from the Continental Congress, Governor Martin determined to make the best of a bad situation and summoned the Assembly to meet him at New Bern, April 4, 1775. John Harvey immediately called a congress to meet at the same place on April 3d. It was a wise precaution, for the Assembly sat only at the pleasure of the governor who would certainly dissolve it at the first manifestation of disloyalty. The leaders of the popular party intended that the same individuals should compose both bodies and with few exceptions this plan was carefully carried into execution. Martin was furious and denounced Harvey's action in two resounding proclamations. The Congress replied by electing Harvey moderator, the Assembly by electing him speaker. The governor roundly scored both bodies, and both bodies roundly scored the governor. It was indeed a pretty situation. One set of men composed two assemblies — one constitutional, sitting by authority of the royal governor, and in obedience of his writ; the other extra-constitutional, sitting in defiance of his authority, and in direct disobedience of his command. The governor impotently demanded that the Assembly join him in denouncing and dispersing the Congress, composed largely of the same men whose aid he solicited. The two bodies met in the same hall, the Congress at 9 o'clock A.M., the Assembly at 10, and were presided over by the same man. "When the governor's private secretary was announced at the door, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, Mr. Moderator Harvey * * * would become Mr. Speaker Harvey * * * and gravely receive his Excellency's message."6

Neither body accomplished much. The Congress declared p352the right of the people themselves, or through their representatives, to assemble and petition the throne for redress of grievances, and concluded, therefore, that "the Governor's Proclamation issued to forbid this meeting, and his Proclamation afterwards, commanding this meeting to disperse, are illegal and an infringement of our just rights, and therefore ought to be disregarded as wanton and Arbitrary Exertions of power." The Continental Association adopted by the Continental Congress was approved, signed, and recommended to the people of the province; Hooper, Hewes, and Caswell were thanked for their services in the Continental Congress and re-elected; and John Harvey, or in the event of his death Samuel Johnston, was authorized to call another congress whenever he considered it necessary.

The Assembly had time only to organize and exchange messages with the governor when it, too, came to an end. Its first offense was the election of Harvey as speaker. His election was a bitter pill to the governor and he winced at having to take it, but held his peace. He wrote to Lord Dartmouth, secretary of state for the colonies, that he had hoped the Assembly after hearing what he had to say would secede from the Congress, although he knew many of its members were also members of the Congress, "and this hope," he added, "together with my desire to lay no difficulty in the way of the public business, induced me on the next day to admit the election of Mr. Harvey, who was chosen speaker of the Assembly, and presented by the House for my approbation. Indeed to say the truth, my Lord, it was a measure to which I submitted upon these principles not without repugnance even after I found the Council unanimously of opinion that it would not be expedient to give a new handle of discontent to the Assembly by rejecting its choice if it should fall as was expected upon Mr. Harvey, for I considered his guilt of too conspicuous a nature to be passed over with neglect. The manner however of my admitting him I believe sufficiently testified my disapprobation of his conduct while it marked my respect to the election of the House." The following day the Assembly again offended by inviting the delegates to the Congress who were not also members of the Assembly to join in the latter's deliberations. The governor promptly issued his proclamation forbidding this unhallowed union, which was read to the Assembly by the sheriff of Craven County. "Well, you have read it," exclaimed James Coor, member from Craven, "and now you can take it back to the governor"; and except for this contemptuous exclamation p353no notice was taken of it. "Not a man obeyed it," wrote Martin, who thus far had succeeded in keeping his temper admirably. But on the fourth day of the session the Assembly adopted resolutions approving the Continental Association, thanking the delegates to the Continental Congress for their services, and endorsing their re-election. This was more than Martin had bargained for; his wrath boiled over, and on April 8, 1774, he issued his proclamation putting an end to the last Assembly that ever met in North Carolina at the call of a royal governor.

In a letter to Lord Dartmouth describing these events, Martin wrote: "I am bound in conscience and duty to add, My Lord, that Government is here as absolutely prostrate as impotent, and that nothing but the shadow of it is left. * * * I must further say, too, my Lord, that it is my serious opinion which I communicate with the last degree of concern that unless effectual measures such as British Spirit may dictate are speedily taken there will not long remain a trace of Britain's dominion over these Colonies." Before this dispatch had found its way to its pigeon hole in the Colonial Office, Martin was a fugitive from the Governor's Palace seeking protection from the guns of Fort Johnston, revolutionary conventions and committees were in full control throughout the province, in every community companies of rebels were organizing, arming, and drilling for war, and British rule was at an end forever in North Carolina.


The Author's Notes:

1 Saunders: Prefatory Notes to Colonial Records of North Carolina, Vol. IX, p. iv.

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2 Frothingham: The Rise of the Republic of the United States, p252.

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3 Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jr., p117 et seq.

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4 Memoir, p120.

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5 The American Revolution, Vol. I, p81.

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6 Saunders: Prefatory Notes to Colonial Records of North Carolina, Vol. IX, p. xxxiv.


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