North Carolina Provincial Congress

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The North Carolina Provincial Congresses were extra-legal unicameral legislative bodies formed in 1774 through 1776 by the people of the Province of North Carolina, independent of the British colonial government.

The five congresses[edit]

First Provincial Congress[edit]

The first such congress met at the Tryon Palace in New Bern, from August 25 to 27, 1774. It was the first such gathering anywhere in the Thirteen Colonies held in defiance of British orders.[1] Its moderator (president) was John Harvey, who was concurrently the last speaker of the colonial House of Burgesses or House of Commons (see North Carolina General Assembly).

This first provincial congress, with 69 delegates from 30 of the then-36 counties, approved the calling of a Continental Congress and elected William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and Richard Caswell as the colony's delegates thereto. The congress also approved a trade boycott to protest British actions against New England.

Second Provincial Congress[edit]

The second congress also met at New Bern, from April 3 to 7, 1775. John Harvey once again served as moderator. The congress met at the same place and almost the same time as the colonial assembly, and had almost exactly the same membership. This infuriated the royal governor Josiah Martin, who dissolved the colonial legislature on April 8 and never called another.

Third Provincial Congress[edit]

The third congress met in Hillsborough, from August 20 to September 10, 1775. Its president was Samuel Johnston (Harvey had recently died). This congress, which included representatives of every county and town, officially established itself as the highest governmental body in the province (British Governor Martin had fled, ending royal government).

To govern North Carolina when the congress was not in session, a 13-member Provincial Council, or Council of Safety, was elected, constituting the first executive body in a North Carolina free of British rule. Cornelius Harnett was elected as the first president of the council. The congress divided the state into 6 military districts for purposes of organizing militia and for determining representation on the Council.

Fourth Provincial Congress[edit]

In the present day, the fourth North Carolina Provincial Congress is sometimes referred to as the "Halifax Assembly." The fourth congress, also presided over by Samuel Johnston, met in Halifax, from April 4 to May 14, 1776. Allen Jones served as vice-president.

This congress passed what became known as the Halifax Resolves, the first "official" endorsement of independence from Great Britain by one of the Thirteen Colonies. Joseph Hewes presented the Halifax Resolves to the Continental Congress on May 27, the same day that Virginia delegates presented similar resolves.

Fifth Provincial Congress[edit]

The fifth and final congress met at Halifax from November 12 to December 23, 1776. Richard Caswell served as president, with Cornelius Harnett as vice-president.

This congress approved the first North Carolina Constitution, along with a "Declaration of Rights." It elected Caswell to serve as acting governor until the province's first General Assembly could meet to elect a governor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ State Library of North Carolina. Information page for Tryon Palace. (Web page)

Further reading[edit]

  • William S. Powell, editor. 2006. Encyclopedia of North Carolina. In one volume. University of North Carolina Press. 1328 pp. pp. 40–41 ("American Revolution" by Alan Lamm) and pp. 917–918 ("Provincial Congresses" by Lindley Butler).
  • William S. Powell. 1988. North Carolina: A History. University of North Carolina Press. 248 pp
  • NC Manual of 1913 by Robert D. W. Connor
  • Lewis, J.D. "Members of the 3rd North Carolina Provincial Congress". The American Revolution in North Carolina. Retrieved April 16, 2019.

External links[edit]