The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, dated May 20, 1775, is believed by many (especially in Mecklenburg County) to be the first declaration of independence from Great Britain. But some doubt its authenticity because no known copy exists.
According to the May 20th Society, a non-profit organization established to honor the Mecklenburg Declaration, the document is very real. They say a rider brought news of the massacre of colonists by British troops in Lexington. That night, the Mecklenburg Convention drew up the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which was read from the courthouse steps on May 20, 1775. Having declared their independence, the next meeting was set up to establish a new code of governance, the Mecklenburg Resolves.
The Mecklenburg Resolves were published just 11 days later in June of 1775 and set up basic tents for self-governance. These and other regional resolutions led to the Halifax Resolves, which the other date on the state flag, April 12, 1776, refers. The Halifax Resolves voiced North Carolinians’ support for the independence of all the American colonies.
Captain James Jack, a local tavern owner, volunteered to carry the two documents, Mecklenburg Declaration and Mecklenburg Resolves, to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and deliver them to the North Carolina delegates. While met with support, no official action was taken, and Jack was sent back to Charlotte.
The legend of the declaration and of Captain James Jack’s ride to Philadelphia lives on. To this day, whether based on fact or fiction, the date of May 20, 1775 continues to fly on the North Carolina state flag.
N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby published a video featuring the story of Mecklenburg Declaration and the date of May 20, 1775.