The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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by a Provincial Council, of which Harnett was chairman, and de facto the Governor of the State, at a period when the affairs of the Government demanded the utmost prudence and sagacity. He was elected a member of the Colonial Congress that met at Halifax on the 4th April, 1776; Chairman of the Committee to Consider the Usurpations of the English King and Parliament. He presented resolutions directing the delegates from North Carolina in the Continental Congress to unite in declaring independence. This was unanimously adopted on 12th April, 1776, more than a month before the celebrated resolutions of Virginia. No one has ever heard of this forward step of "poor, pensive North Carolina," while the act of Virginia has been sounded by every tongue, and recorded on every page of her history.

        Mr. Harnett was of the Colonial Congress that met at Halifax on 12th November, 1776, which formed the Constitution of the State, and with Samuel Ashe, Waightstill Avery, Thomas Burke, Richard Caswell, Hews, Willie and Thomas Jones, and others, was a committee on this important subject.

        In 1777, 1778 and 1779, Mr. Harnett was a member of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. His letters which are extant breathe the spirit of a patriot, and prove him to have been a faithful and devoted public servant.*

        * Life and Letters of Cornelius Harnett, compiled by Gov. Swain; Uni. Mag., Feb., 1861.

        Notes relative to Cornelius Harnett; by Archibald McLaine Hooper.

These letters also reflect much light on the condition of the country and the proceedings of the Continental Congress during this eventful period.

        He returned home to North Carolina, and when, in 1781, the British forces, under Sir James Craig, occupied Wilmington, he was taken prisoner at the house of his friend Colonel Spicer.

        From his delicate health and his distinguished character, he was admitted to parole. He submitted to the inevitable with dignity and philosophy. But broken in spirits, health and fortune, he died in captivity on his birthday, 20th April, 1781.

        He lies buried in the northeast corner of the grave yard of St. James Church, Wilmington, with this inscription:

                         Cornelius Harnett,
                         Died 20th April, 1781.
                         Aged 58.
                         Slave to no sect, he took no private road,
                         But looked through nature up to nature's God.

        A worthy name of a worthy community.

        He is described by his biographer, Mr. Hooper, as being delicate rather than stout in person; about 5 feet 9 inches high; hazel eyes and light brown hair; small but symmetrical features, and graceful figure. Easy in his manners; affable and courteous; with a fine taste for letters, and a genius for music, he was at times a fascinating and always an agreeable companion.

        The capital of Harnett presents the honored name of Lillington.

        John Alexander Lillington was the son of Colonel George Lillington, who settled on the Island of Barbadoes, and was a member of the Royal Council in 1698.

        His grandfather, Major Alexander Lillington, emigrated from Barbadoes to the county of Albemarle, with his family.

        On the north side of the tomb of Governor Henderson Walker, five miles below Edenton,*

        * Lossing's Field Book, II, 586.

is inscribed the following:

                         Here lyes ye body of
                         George Lillington.
                         Son of Major Alexander Lillington,
                         who died in ye 15 year of his age
                         Anno 1706.

        The oldest public record in the State is a commission issued to George Durant, Alexander Lillington, and others, to hold the precinct Courts in Berkeley Precinct.*

        * Davis, IV; Wheeler, I, 34.

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