The Halifax Resolves, a document that advocated the severing of North Carolina’s ties with England and indicated support for independence for all colonies, was the first formal declaration of its kind in America. The capstone of more than a year of county conferences, the Halifax Resolves represented the will of North Carolina against English authority, and signified the shift from rebellion against Britain to a struggle for nationhood.
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As the colonies joined to oppose British legislation such as the Townshend Act and Stamp Act, colonists initially asserted their rights as Englishmen against unfair taxation and exploitation. When events such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773 prompted a British occupation of Massachusetts, however, North Carolina and other colonies began to dissolve ties with England and create new systems of local government.
The process took place in North Carolina during 1775 and 1776, with the Mecklenburg, Pitt, New Hanover and Tryon Resolves. At each of these meetings, town and county leaders met to discuss the impact of British authority on their community and to elect representatives for larger meetings, or provincial congresses. The Fourth Provincial Congress was held in Halifax, North Carolina on April 4, 1776. After settling matters related the colony itself, a committee led by Cornelius Harnett was appointed to draft a document declaring North Carolina’s support for American independence from England. Eight days after the congress convened, the Halifax Resolves were created.
Among other resolutions, the committee absolved all relations with Britain, and appointed Richard Caswell, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, and John Penn to represent North Carolina in the Second Continental Congress, where North Carolina would join other colonies to act upon complaints against England. On April 14, two days after the Halifax Resolves, another committee was assigned to lead North Carolina from a colony into a state, through the creation of a state constitution. The Declaration of Independence would be signed three months later. It long has been a point of state pride that North Carolina became the first colony to commit intentions to paper, and through the Halifax Resolves, struck the first blow for an independent America.
Robert L. Ganyard, Emergence of North Carolina’s Revolutionary State Government (1978)
Samuel Ashe, History of North Carolina, I (1908)
W.C. Allen, History of Halifax County (1918)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina, 965-966—sketch by David A. Norris
Francis Vandeveer Kughler's mural depicting the delegates to the Fourth Provincial Congress at Halifax after having adopted the Halifax Resolves.