Viva La Revolution!
Whether your Charlotte roots run deep or you are brand new to the Queen City, it is extremely important that we all know about May 20th...
It is not just the start of another awesome weekend in the Carolinas, but also the 248th anniversary of liberty! Maybe you thought that was best celebrated on July 4, but more than a year ahead of Thomas Jefferson's better known Declaration to King George in 1776, a group over 25 freedom loving citizens in the Charlotte-area made the earliest action of kicking out the crown with the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775!
Helping us graciously ring in "Meck Dec Day" are two patriots and co-founders of The May 20th Society, Charles Jonas and Scott Syfert. Thanks to their efforts to revive the memory of this tradition we can spend Friday firing off muskets and shouting "huzzah!"
Buckle up for a red-blooded, flag waving history lesson ahead:
What is The May 20th Society?
The goal of the Society is to revive the knowledge and understanding of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and its celebration. The Meck Dec was a significant piece of American history where the citizens of Mecklenburg County, upon hearing of the massacre of Lexington and Concord, met through the night of May 19 and emerged on May 20th with a specific and concrete declaration that the American people were free from the bondage from a far away and disengaged and oppressive King.
What makes the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence worth celebrating?
The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is worth celebrating for a powerful reason. We as Americans had risked everything, including lives, to venture across an ocean and had risen up to demand that our lives, our property and our rights could no longer be taken or ignored or destroyed. That we were a free people to set our own direction and lives moving forward. It was a document a year before its time as it preceded the more famous Jefferson version in 1776. This is critically important because this simple declaration has been celebrated throughout our region's history and the attitude that surrounds it - freedom.
It was a reflection of Charlotte's spirit as seen in demand for states right in the 1800's, innovation throughout history, desegregation of schools in the 1900's, etc. It is an expression of individual rights, freedoms, and norms that supersede powerful and overbearing governments far from our homes.
For the better part of the last 50 years, Charlotte has been a booming city of transients and transplants, how might "Meck Dec. Day" be a way of connecting those from elsewhere to their new home in Queen City?
People born in Charlotte and who have moved here are curious why this small Southern town has risen up to become such a major force in our country. The Meck Dec is an example of the attitude that attracts people from all backgrounds across the nation to relocate to Charlotte and celebrate the revolutionary spirit that is the foundation of our community. We have never allowed others to dictate our future and our lives and our economic freedom and spirit We didn't in May of 1775 and we dont today:
The Meck Dec is a symbol of “Why Charlotte?”
Why are we a beacon for those seeking opportunity?
Why are we a place to cultivate and celebrate growth and opportunity and a bright future?
I believe it is because we have always been that place and it was established in May of 1775 where we stopped time and shocked the world by declaring that a King and his oppressive laws we no longer welcomed here in the New World.
If Charles and Scott don’t have you pumped and ready to charge at redcoats, dive into the full list of events below to get yourself armed and ready to take on Meck Dec Day:
- On May 19, 1775 delegates from nine Mecklenburg militia companies met in Charlotte to hear the news of British regulars firing on colonials at Lexington and Concord.
- More than 25 civic leaders approved and adopted five resolutions to separate themselves from British Crown, known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence
- The five resolutions were read to a large crowd from the Charlotte courthouse steps at high noon on May 20, 1775 (full text here)
- We "dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the Mother country" and declare ourselves "a free and independent people."
- The Mecklenburg Declaration predates the more infamous Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson in June of 1776 by more than a year!
- By May 31, 1775 the Mecklenburg leaders met to revise and adopt a total of 21 resolutions known as the Mecklenburg Resolves
- In June of 1775 Militia Captain James Jack set off for Philadelphia with both documents to lay them before the Second Continental Congress.
- Despite riding 1100 miles at the risk of being hanged for treason, and nearly being arrested, Jack arrived at a Continental Congress that was attempting to reconcile with the King of England, rather than declare independence.
- Between 1775-1819 regular celebrations of the Mecklenburg Declaration were held locally, but largely forgotten nationally.
- Some 36 years later, Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander was asked by the NC Assembly to write a report based on his late father's records from the May 20th meeting.
- The report as published in 1819 was seen by ex-President John Adams and sent to known bitter rival and fellow ex-President Thomas Jefferson claiming his 1776 Declaration copied the phrasing of the Meck Dec to which Jefferson called “spurious”.
- Although still debated, newspapers found in 1831 and 1847 that were printed in 1775, support the fact that Mecklenburg County was the first political organization to declare independence from the Crown of England on May 31, 1775 if not on May 20, 1775.
- The centennial celebration in 1875 brought 40,000 people on special trains to Charlotte, then a small southern town of 6,000 residents
- Four sitting presidents have attended Meck Dec Day celebrations, usually held at "the square" of Trade and Tryon in Uptown Charlotte
- Annual celebrations have been held since 1995 thanks to the efforts of the Mecklenburg Historical Association as well as support from the May 20th Society
Thanks to Charles Jonas, Scott Syfert and all the available resources provided by the Mecklenburg Historical Association and the May 20th Society.