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Over the July 4 holiday we experienced the traditional red-white-and-blue salutes to our nation, along with tributes paid the patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence. The 56 delegates to the Continental Congress were well-educated, wealthy and influential in their respective colonies. Among them were three from North Carolina: Joseph Hewes, a merchant and justice of the peace from Edenton; John Penn, a farmer from Island Creek in Granville County; and William Hooper, a lawyer from New Hanover County.

Many hours were spent in 1775-76 debating, but, after lengthy deliberation, they affixed their names to the Declaration of Independence. I found myself wondering whether I would have signed it. Would you have taken such a momentous step? They were committing treason against the most powerful monarch of the most powerful country then known, effectively signing their own death warrants.

Tom Campbell has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program “NC SPIN” that aired 22 ½ years. Contact him at

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