The Five Provincial Congresses

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
First Provincial Congress

The first such Congress met at the Tryon Palace in New Bern, North Carolina from Aug. 25-27, 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 assembly, with 71 delegates from 30 of the 36 counties, approved the calling of a continental congress and elected William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and Richard Caswell as the colony's delegates to that congress. The provincial congress also approved a trade boycott to protest British actions against New England.

Second Provincial Congress
The second congress also met at New Bern from April 3-7, 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 the exact same membership. This infuriated royal governor Josiah Martin, who dissolved the assembly on April 8 and never called another.

Third Provincial Congress
The third congress met in Hillsborough, North Carolina from Aug. 20-Sept. 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
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, North Carolina from April 4-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
The fifth and final congress met at Halifax from Nov. 12-Dec. 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.


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Last updated:  March 31, 2017

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