Thursday, January 31, 2008

Washington Irving, re: the Mecklenburg Declaration

From History of the McDowells and Connections, by John Hugh McDowell, pub. 1918, C. B. Johnston:

[W]hat says our great and beloved author, the first of Americans who gave to his country a character of literature in Europe, and appropriately closed his long and bright career by a Biography of Washington, published in 1857? I speak of Washington Irving, all of whose works are American classics. In the fourth volume 
of this work, speaking of the invasion of North Carolina, which had been assigned to Lord Cornwallis, he says:

    "It was an enterprise in which much difficulty was to be apprehended, both from the character of the people and the country. The original settlers were from various parts, most of them men who had experienced political or religious oppressions, and brought with them a quick sensibility of wrong and a strong appreciation of their rights, and indomitable spirit of freedom and independence. And this part of the state was of a hard Presbyterian stock, the Scotch-Irish, as they were called, having emigrated from Scotland to Ireland, and thence to America, and was said to possess the impulsiveness of the Irishman 
with the large resolution of the Covenanter. The early history of the colony abounds with instances of this spirit among its people. 'They always behaved insolently to their governors,' complains Governor Burrington, in 1731; 'some they have driven out of the country—at other times they set up a government of their own choice, 
supported by men under arms.' It was, in fact, the spirit of popular liberty and self-government which stirred within them, and gave birth to the glorious axiom: the rights of the many against the exactions of the few. It was this spirit that gave rise to the confederacy called the Regulation formed to withstand the abuses of power, and the first blood shed in our country in resistance to arbitrary taxation was at Alamance, in this province, in a conflict between the Regulators and Governor Tryon. Above all, it should never be forgotten that at Mecklenburg in the heart of North Carolina, was culminated the first Declaration of Independence of the British crown upward of a year before a like declaration by Congress." Again: "Cornwallis decamped from Camden and set out for North Carolina. Advancing into the latter province, Cornwallis took post at Charlotte, where he had given rendezvous to Ferguson. Mecklenburg, of which it was the capital, was, the reader may recollect, the 'heady, high-minded' county where the first Declaration of 
Independence had been made; and his lordship, from uncomfortable experience, soon pronounced Charlotte 'the hornet's nest of North Carolina.'
    "Instead of remaining at home and receiving the King's money in exchange for their produce, they (the inhabitants) turned out with their rifles, stationed themselves in covert places, fired upon the foraging parties; convoys of provisions from Camden had to fight their way, and expresses were shot down and their despatches seized."