Brian Martsolf (bigbrian_nc) wrote,
Brian Martsolf

May 20, 1775 Independence Day? Maybe not

One day, when I was in Epcot in between sets of the Voices of Liberty I went over to the Counter service place in the American Adventure Pavilion to grab a bit to eat, and I took a good look at this placard on the wall done in the style of a colonial flag. Well this flag is a little odd in that these flags would seem to be ones the colonies might have used during their struggles for Independence, yet it is hard to imagine that this would have been around at that time, you see the date of May 20, 1775 refers to something known as "The Mecklenberg Decleration of Independence" Quoting from Dan Morrills Charlotte History site:

It was not until 1819, forty-four years after the alleged signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, when Virginia and Massachusetts were arguing over which of the two states had been first to break with Great Britain, that U.S. Senator Nathanial Macon and William Davidson , the latter representing the Mecklenburg County district in the U.S. House of Representatives, put forth the astounding claim that the Scots-Irish of North Carolina were the first to declare their independence.   Thomas Jefferson dismissed it as a hoax "until positive and solemn proof of its authenticity shall be produced."

      Even its staunchest defenders admitted that no copy of the actual document existed.    "Nearly all of my father's papers," declared a son of John McKnitt Alexander , "were burned in the spring of 1800."  A document was supplied, but it was John McKnitt Alexander's account of what transpired in May 1775, not the actual Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence itself.  To bolster their case, supporters of the so-called "Meck Dec" interviewed several signers, all of whom had attained advanced age by the time they were asked to search their memories.  These elderly gentlemen, mostly Presbyterians,  all agreed that they had attended a meeting in May 1775 but could not recall the exact date.  William Polk, son of Thomas Polk, published a pamphlet containing these testimonials and declared the matter settled.  In 1825, a large crowd gathered in Charlotte on the 50th anniversary of the alleged signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and heard it read by Reverend Humphrey Hunter of the Presbyterian Church.  What further proof could one want?

     Trouble for the backers of the "Meck Dec" surfaced in 1838.  An archivist uncovered an article in the July 12, 1775, issue of a Massachusetts newspaper that reproduced a series of resolutions that had reportedly been drawn up in Charlotte on May 31, 1775. Unlike the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, the Mecklenburg Resolves expressed the hope that the exercise of independent authority by officials of Mecklenburg County would end if Great Britain would "resign its unjust and arbitrary pretensions with respect to America."  This was a remarkable display of defiance, but it was not an unequivocal pronouncement that the people of Mecklenburg County were "free and independent."  Any doubt about the authenticity of the Mecklenburg Resolves disappeared in 1847, when scholars found the entire text published in the South Carolina Gazette of June 13, 1775.  No such contemporary verification of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence has ever come to light.  

     The fact that the leaders of Mecklenburg County backed a conditional separation from British rule just eleven days after they allegedly declared their independence seems oxymoronic.  Also, none of the participants who was interviewed years after the dramatic events of May 1775 made any mention of the Mecklenburg Resolves.  One cannot help but wonder whether these aged men remembered the meeting where the Mecklenburg Resolves was signed, not the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

So being that the Meck Dec was not really known at the time of the American Revolution it would seem this flag is from a later time than that. The hornets nest design would seem to stem from October 1780 when after suffering a number of losses in this area Cornwallis was forced to retreat from this area and the British refed to the region as "A Hornets Nest of rebellion"
I did find another referance to this flag design near the bottom of this page:

North Carolina’s 1st Historical Flag: The “Hornet’s Nest Flag”

First North Carolina flagAfter being driven out by fierce opposition of Charlotte’s & Mecklenburg’s citizens to British occupation in 1780 during the American Revolutionary War British General Cornwallis wrote that “Charlotte Town was a hornet’s nest of rebellion.” The date “May 20, 1775” reflects the date that the citizens of Mecklenburg declared independence from Britain… more than a year before the Continental Congress in Philadelphia declared independence from Britain.

"The first flag of North Carolina… was white and bore a hornet’s nest and the date May 20, 1775…” (page 627: Preble, George Henry. Origin and History of the American Flag…Fourth Edition 1894, First Edition 1872 Boston.

Still this flag would seem to be pretty obscure and I bet the folks who brought these flag style plaques to this counter service restauraunt in Epcot certainly dug deep for some interesting details. You can hear a bit more about this, if you wish by listening to this weeks "Your Ear to The World" podcast Episode 37


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