Justice Newby Takes Audience on Historical Journey
Summary Date: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Written By: Carolyn Alford - Daily News Staff
A state Supreme Court justice took a local audience on an historical journey recently that focused on the state Constitution.
“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear,” North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby told the audience gathered at the old Courthouse Wednesday evening. Newby, of Raleigh, was invited to speak by District Court Judge Charles Henry and the Onslow County Bar Association as part of the educational series celebrating the 225th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention.
Newby began with a few humorous stories and then delved into the chronology of events in North Carolina before and after the May 1787 Constitutional Convention that impacted national events.
“Words have meaning,” Newby said. “We need to look back at the things going on and who we are as people in North Carolina. We were fierce individualists because we believed that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Newby went back as far as 1765 to 1771 to the Regulators Movement when citizens took up arms against corrupt sheriffs and other officials for excessive taxing. Although the movement was unsuccessful, it “planted the seeds of self-government,” Newby said, and is considered to be the precursor of the Revolution.
The Mecklenburg Resolves were a set of radical resolutions passed on May 20, 1775, that were a precursor to the Declaration of Independence and is still displayed on the top of the North Carolina flag. The Halifax Resolves were then adopted by Fourth Provincial Congress of North Carolina on April 17, 1776, as part of a movement in the colonies that advocated for the Declaration of Independence. The date of the Halifax Resolves are displayed on the bottom of the state flag.
In 1776, the General Assembly adopted the first state Constitution, which contained 25 declarations of individual liberty safeguards such as freedom to assemble, press, worship, due process, habeas corpus, militia and election.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, Governor Tryon was a loyalist who was taxing the people to raise money to build the governor’s mansion, Tryon Palace. It was controversial and Tryon suppressed the regulators who fought against the taxation. Tryon left the state for New York and the property was sold to Samuel Cornell and the money used to pay the expenses of the five North Carolina delegates to the Constitutional Convention, about whom Newby spoke.
North Carolina was the only state to not ratify the Constitution at the July 21, 1788, state Constitutional Convention. The state convention drafted a Declaration of Rights as an amendment to the Constitution. A year later, North Carolina was the 12th state to ratify the Constitution but again added the Declaration of Rights adopted the previous year.
“We believed that we have inalienable rights just because we are human,” Newby said.
The educational series celebrating the 225th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention will continue May 22 in this newspaper with articles about the North Carolina delegates written by Onslow County high school students.
Do you know of an attorney or law firm that has been active in the community or has made significant charitable contributions? The outreach section of the NCBA website is designed to highlight these efforts. Contact Amber Smith, Assistant Director of Communications for Community Outreach and Social Media for the NCBA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.