John Ashe, then Speaker of the House of the Colonial Assembly, boldly proclaimed to the Royal Governor, surrounded by his satraps, that "he would resist the execution of the act to death!"
It was here occurred a scene which excels in daring any event of the age; and which leaves the Boston Tea Party a secondary legend in point of courage and patriotism.
In the year 1766, an English sloop-of-war, (the "Diligence") is seen entering the harbor. "The meteor flag of England" flaunts proudly from her mast, and her cannon, loaded and ready, frowned upon the devoted town. She sails gracefully into the harbor, and drops her anchor. Governor Tryon, anxiously expecting her, announces her arrival by a proclamation dated 6th January, 1766, and the reception of stamps, and directs "all persons authorized to distribute stamps to apply to the commander."
But other eyes than Tryon's were watching. Colonel Hugh Waddell forthwith sent from Brunswick a messenger to Ashe, announcing the arrival of the "Diligence" with stamps; he immediately repairs to Brunswick. Now comes the tug of war. Will the arrogant Tryon, with his armed men, triumph; or will the daring Ashe
Beard the Douglas in his castle?
Will he and Waddell commit acts that are treason, and will send them to prison and death?
They felt the importance and the peril of the occasion. Like the ancient Romans they felt
Gods! can a Roman Senate long debate
Which of the two to choose, liberty or death?
No, let us rise at once, and at the head
Of our remaining legions, gird on our swords
And charge home upon him.
They with force prevent the landing of any one from the ship; and intimidating the commander, seizing the ship's boat, brought it on shore, mounted it on a cart, raised on it a flag, and marched in triumph to the residence of the Governor at Wilmington. The whole town was wild with excitement, and was illuminated at night. The next morning Colonel Ashe, at the head of a crowd of people, went to the house of the Governor and demanded the Stamp-master, (William Houston,) who had fled to the Governor for safety. The Governor refuses to deliver him up, and forthwith preparations are made to surround and burn the house, in which was the Governor, Stamp-master and others. Terrified, although a practiced soldier, the Governor yields, and Houston is delivered up. They do no act of bloodshed; but firmly conduct Houston to the Market-house, where he makes a solemn pledge in writing "never to receive any stamped paper which may arrive from England, nor officiate in any way in the distribution of stamps in the Province of North Carolina."
Three loud cheers ascend to Heaven, and ring says Davis, "through the old market place, and the Stamp Act is dead in North Carolina." This was more than ten years before the Declaration of Independence, and more than nine before the battle of Lexington, and nearly eight years before the Boston Tea Party, which was in the night, and by men in disguise, and upon the harmless carriers of freight. History has blazoned this act of Boston to the world, but the act of the people of the Cape Fear was far more daring; done in open day by men of character, with arms in their hands, under the King's flag; and who has heard of it? Who remembers it? Who tells it? "When," concludes the eloquent address of Mr. Davis, from which I am proud to copy, "will history do justice to North Carolina? Never until some faithful and loving son of her own shall gird up his loins to the task, and with unwearied industry and unflinching devotion to the honor of his dear old mother, narrate the virtues and valor of her sons.
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