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 Your historians narrate that here the first Declaration of Independence was promulgated. It is a simple story, and is briefly told. The patriotic citizens of this county of Mecklenburg, in this grand old State of North Carolina, restless under the yoke of oppression, impatient of the injustice of foreign rule under which they had long suffered, and imbued with the spirit of self-government, assembled together at the court-house over thirteen months before the memorable action of the Continental Congress, with the startling news of the battle of Lexington ringing in their ears, renewing their devotion to the inherent and inalienable rights of man, bravely and solemnly resolved, in substance, that they were a free and independent people, and that the political bands which had bound them to the mother country were dissolved. It was a sublime and heroic action. It was without an example in the history of the world. What a page in the history of these United States of America! One of your later statesmen, and among your greatest, the Hon. William A. Graham, whose memory will be ever cherished, and whose name will be ever honored by the sons of North Carolina, has recorded for all time to come, in his centennial and memorial address at Charlotte in 1875, the thrilling story of that immortal deed. Not only was North Carolina the first colony in which independence was declared, but it is confidently claimed—and history seems to confirm the statement—that here in your State the first blood was spilled in the United States in resistance to the exactions of English rulers, at an engagement between the royal forces and the North Carolina militia, known as ‘Regulators,’ so early as the 16th of May, 1771, at the battle of Alamance. It is not denied that these facts have been questioned. I am well aware that the settled verdicts of history are appealed from in all directions. Historical criticism is making formidable reprisals where the faith of many generations had never wavered. A gentleman in the West questions if the author of the Shakespeare plays and sonnets spelled his name with the correct assortment of letters of the alphabet. Nobody now thinks worse of Bolingbroke for his attainder than of Andrew Johnson for his impeachment. People live and pay taxes who think John Adams was quite right when he coupled Hamilton and Burr as dangers to the republic and its freedom.
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