Halifax Resolves

Written By Kellie Slappey

The Halifax Resolves is the name later given to a resolution adopted by the Fourth Provincial Congress of the Province of North Carolina on April 12, 1776.  The resolution was a forerunner of the United States Declaration of Independence.

On February 1776, the first battle of the War for American Independence in North Carolina occurred at Moore’s Creek Bridge.  There, North Carolina Whigs, led by Richard Caswell, soundly defeated the North Carolina Loyalists.

The Patriot victory was fresh on the minds of the members of the Fourth Provincial Congress when they reconvened on April 4, 1776, in Halifax, North Carolina. Independence from Britain seemed imminent to all present.  Colonel Robert Howe remarked to the assembly: “Independence seems to be the word; I know of not one dissenting voice.”

Within a few days the Provincial Congress created a committee to explore further measures that should be taken to defend the colony against King George III and the British, as well as preserve the state of the colony.  Cornelius Harnett, Allen Jones, Thomas Burke, and Abner Nash were all appointed as acting members on the committee; it met for the first time on April 8.

Four days later, on April 12, the committee submitted the Halifax Resolves to the Provincial Congress for its consideration. The Resolves directed North Carolina to declare independence, to join with other colonies in similar endeavors, and to reserve the right of North Carolina to create a Constitution. The Provincial Congress unanimously adopted the Halifax Resolves, and a copy was sent to the North Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress, Joseph Hewes.

A copy of the Halifax Resolves was printed subsequently in periodicals across the American colonies, and it was read aloud at a meeting of the Continental Congress. Within a few weeks many other colonies had drafted similar resolutions declaring their independence from Britain.

On June 7, delegates to the Continental Congress from North Carolina and Virginia motioned that the colonies should unite and be free and independent States. The motion was received and on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was submitted and approved by the delegates.

The Halifax Resolves was a harbinger, influencing other colonial assemblies to draft similar resolutions and ultimately cooperate in composing the Declaration of Independence. The document’s importance is still remembered.  The current North Carolina state flag includes the date that the Resolves were passed, April 12, 1776.  And every year on April 12, the Historic Halifax State Historic Site celebrates Halifax Day.