On May 28, 1754, 22-year-old British Lieutenant Colonel by the name of George Washington, attacked a French and Indian scouting party in southwestern Pennsylvania, igniting the French and Indian War. The war between Great Britain and France lasted until 1763 and cost the British government millions of pounds, throwing them into severe debt.
In 1764, British Parliament passed the Sugar Act and Currency Act in a desperate effort to raise revenue to pay off their heavy debt. All sugar and related products including molasses and rum were taxed. Under the Currency Act, the colonies were barred from printing their own paper money. The British kept a tight control on all gold and silver in the colonies and with the Currency Act in effect, many colonists turned to bartering.
On March 22, 1765, the British Parliament enacted the Stamp Act in an attempt to extract enough tax money from the American colonies to help alleviate some of the heavy debt incurred during the French and Indian War. The Stamp Act was also part of King George III’s plan to enforce British rule over the colonies, but it ignited numerous protests in the colonies, especially in Boston.
On March 24, 1765, just two days after passing the Stamp Act, Parliament passed the Quartering Act. It was costing the British government a lot of money to maintain troops in the colonies and since they were already in heavy debt, they decided to force the colonists to quarter (provide room and board) for British troops. This was also met with protests from the colonists.
In October 1765, under heavy protests from the colonies, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, but still needed a way to pay off their debts.
In 1767, Parliament passed the Townsend Revenue Acts, forcing colonists to pay taxes on paint, paper, oil, lead, glass and tea. Once again the colonists protested and boycotted the British goods that required them to pay a tax. By 1770, all aspects of the Townsend Revenue Acts were repealed except for the tax on tea.
On March 5, 1770, tension over British rule and unfair taxation led to violence in Boston, known as the Boston Massacre. British troops stationed in Boston were confronted by angry citizens and supposedly an accidental shot ignited a short skirmish which left 4 patriots dead (a fifth died several days later from his wounds) and three others received serious wounds. Some believe that these five deaths were the first casualties in the American Revolution.
On April 27, 1773, British parliament again tried to extort tax money from the colonists with the passage of the Tea Act. It didn’t impose any new taxes on English tea, but it did give the British East India Tea Company exclusive rights to the importation and selling of tea in the colonies. The British government didn’t expect the Tea Act to anger the American colonists since it didn’t impose any new taxes, but they were wrong. The colonists were angered by the Tea Act because of the monopoly given to the British East India Tea Company.
On December 16, 1773, colonial anger over the Tea Act led a group of colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians, to raid several ships belonging to the British East India Tea Company. They boarded the three ships and proceeded to destroy 92,000 pounds of tea, throwing much of it into Boston harbor.
On April 19, 1775, British troops and Minutemen from the Boston area faced off on the common green in Lexington, Massachusetts. Realizing they were outnumbered 10 to 1, the Minutemen began to withdraw when a shot rang out. No one knows who fired that shot, but it has been named the ‘shot heard around the world’ as it ignited the beginning of the Revolutionary War. When the skirmish was over, the Minutemen suffered 8 dead and 10 wounded. The British suffered one injury.
News of what happened in Lexington spread like wildfire throughout the American colonies. The call for open rebellion and independence was echoed from New Hampshire to Georgia. When that news reached the residents of Charlotte and surrounding Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, they banded together to declare their independence from Great Britain.
Legend has it that on May 20, 1775, the citizens gathered together in Charlotte and drafted a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The ‘Meck Dec’ allegedly contained 5 resolutions and was signed by the people. However, there is no historical evidence of the Mecklenburg Declaration existing until the document was published by the Raleigh Register in 1819. Some believe the document was real while many do not. Yet, the date of May 20, 1775 has long been ingrained in North Carolina history and is proudly displayed as part of the state seal.
On this date, May 31, 1775, as abundant evidence supports, the Mecklenburg Committee of Safety did gather and draft the Mecklenburg Resolves, spelling out 20 resolutions declaring their independence from British rule. It opens up with:
Whereas by an Address presented to his Majesty by both Houses of Parliament in February last, the American Colonies are declared to be in a State of actual Rebelion, we conceive that all Laws and Commissions confirmed by, or derived from the Authority of the King or Parliament, are annulled and vacated, and the former civil Constitution of these Colinies for the present wholly suspended. To provide in some Degree for the Exigencies of the County in the present alarming Period, we deem it proper and necessary to pass the following Resolves, viz.
1- That all Commissions, civil and military, heretofore granted by the Crown, to be exercised in these Colonies, are null and void, and the Constitution of each particular Colony wholly suspended.
2- That the Provincial Congress of each Province, under the Direction of the Great Continental Congress, is invested with all legislative and executive Powers within their respective Provinces; and that no other Legislative or Executive does or can exist, at this time, in any of these Colonies.
3- As all former Laws are now suspended in this Province, and the Congress have not yet provided others, we judge it necessary, for the better Preservation of good Order, to form certain Rules and Regulations for the internal Government of this County, until Laws shall be provided for us by the Congress.
The Mecklenburg Resolves were signed and then sent on to the North Carolina delegation at the First Continental Congress, however, they were never read to the full delegation.
Rhode Islanders like to lay claim as being the first colony to declare independence from Great Britain on May 4, 1776, in all actuality, the residents of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina were the real ones to first declare their independence on this day in 1775.
Sources for the above includes: The Mecklenburg Resolves; Mecklenburg Resolves; Mecklenburg Resolutions Reject the Power of the British in North Carolina; The Mecklenburg Declaration – History; The Mecklenburg Declaration: The Present Status of the Question; Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence; Today, May 28, 1754: British Officer George Washington Launches French and Indian War [VIDEO]; Today, March 22, 1765: British Actions Set Path Towards American Rebellion and Independence [VIDEO]; Today, March 24, 1765: British Parliament Passes Quartering Act; Today, March 5, 1770: The Boston Massacre [VIDEO]; Today, April 27, 1773: British Parliament Passes Tea Act; Today, May 4, 1776: First American Colony to Declare Independence from Great Britain; Today, April 19, 1775: The Shot Heard Around the World Was Fired.