RALEIGH — When North Carolina legislators conduct a rare business session Tuesday in the old state Capitol, they will highlight one of this state’s key contributions to American independence. That’s the assessment of the N.C. History Project’s founding director.
“April 12 marks the 235th anniversary of the Halifax Resolves, a North Carolina resolution that served as a forerunner of the U.S. Declaration of Independence,” said Dr. Troy Kickler, who has spent much of the past year discussing Revolution-era North Carolina history in presentations across the state. “The Halifax Resolves demonstrate the important role North Carolina played in transforming thirteen British colonies into the original United States of America.”
“Although North Carolina delegates at the Continental Congress were aware of public opinion in North Carolina, they knew that no action should be taken without the approval and the direct instructions from the North Carolina Provincial Congress,” Kickler added. “The Halifax Resolves empowered delegates from North Carolina to declare independence.”
“The Resolves directed North Carolina to declare independence, to join with other colonies in similar endeavors, and to reserve the right of North Carolina to create a Constitution,” according to the N.C. History Project encyclopedia entry. “The Provincial Congress unanimously adopted the Halifax Resolves.”
“A copy of the Halifax Resolves was printed subsequently in periodicals across the American colonies, and it was read aloud at a meeting of the Continental Congress,” the entry continues. “Within a few weeks, many other colonies had drafted similar resolutions declaring their independence from Britain.”
Less than three months after the Halifax Resolves, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence that Americans still celebrate each July 4. “It’s a good example of an American bottom-up approach to declaring independence from Great Britain and the federal nature of the Declaration of Independence,” Kickler said.
“The Halifax Resolves was a harbinger, influencing other colonial assemblies to draft similar resolutions and ultimately cooperate in composing the Declaration of Independence,” Kickler added. “The document’s importance is still remembered. The current North Carolina state flag includes the date that the Resolves were passed, and now legislators plan to break from their normal meeting schedule for a session in the State Capitol highlighting the resolution’s 235th anniversary.”
In another nod to history, the N.C. Senate is likely to vote during its Capitol session to pardon William Holden, the Republican governor impeached, convicted, and removed from office in 1871 because of his efforts to battle the Ku Klux Klan. The NorthCarolinaHistory.org encyclopedia also documents Holden’s ordeal.
“By recognizing the anniversary of the Halifax Resolves and considering a pardon of Gov. Holden, state lawmakers demonstrate the continuing importance of North Carolina history,” Kickler said. “This state has a rich historical heritage. Perhaps Tuesday’s events will prompt more people to dig into the details of that history.”
People interested in North Carolina’s role in the American Revolution and in the development of the U.S. Constitution can look for an upcoming workshop in their area. Kickler and Dr. Michael Sanera, a political scientist and Director of Research at the John Locke Foundation, co-host a Citizen’s Constitutional Workshop titled “What the Founders and State Ratification Conventions Can Teach Us Today.”
Kickler and Sanera have scheduled workshops from the mountains to the coast. Upcoming presentations are posted at JohnLocke.org/events.