Who is Joseph Hewes? Examine the kind of thoughts he had for colonial resistance.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Born originally in New Jersey, Joseph Hewes made his home in North Carolina. Originally a businessman and leader of the community, Hewes served as North Carolina's delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774. Hewes struggled to make sense of the Colonial independence issue. Hewes was not as passionate as Patrick Henry regarding resistance.  At the same time, he was not as "articulate as Adams" and could not "write like Jefferson."  Like many of the Founding Fathers, Hewes was a commercial success and sought to look at the issue from the lens of commercial activity, something that sees war and militaristic conflict as a disruption of commerce.  One of Hewes's most important contributions to the cause of Independence and an action that showed his beliefs regarding it was how he listened to the discourse.  Hewes demonstrated the formative tenets of American democracy in how he sought to understand the debate.  He made up his mind after hearing multiple voices on the issue of Colonial freedom and resistance.  Adams recalled how Hewes cast the deciding vote in the Continental Congress towards advocacy for independence:

For many days the majority depended on Mr. Hewes of North Carolina. While a member one day was speaking, and reading documents from all the colonies, to prove that public opinion, the general sense of all, was in favor of the measure, when he came to North Carolina and produced letters and public proceedings which demonstrated that the majority in that colony were in favor of it, Mr. Hewes, who had hitherto constantly voted against it, started suddenly upright, and lifting both hands to heaven as if he had been in a trance, cried out: 'It is done! and I will abide by it.'

In this, Hewes demonstrated his thoughts on the issue.  The measure was decided through listening, careful deliberation, and understanding how discourse reveals true understanding about the need for colonial resistance. 

From this position, Hewes also served on the Committees of Correspondence.  Hewes  was dedicated to spreading the word to the other colonies about the need for Colonial resistance and independence. He demonstrated a particular belief about the need for freedom when he suggested that the a major purpose of the Committee should be to "State the rights of the colonies in general, the several instances in which these rights are violated or infringed, and the means most proper to be pursued for obtaining a restoration of them."  Hewes's work in this regard shows that he possessed distinct thoughts about how the pressing need for solidarity and communication amongst the Colonies regarding the battle for independence.  Communicating this through written form was one act of resistance that he embraced.

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laurto's profile pic

laurto | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Joseph Hewes was a member of the Colonial Assembly of North America, a member of Committee of Correspondence, and a member of the Provincial Assembly. He was elected to the Continental Congress. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Hewes also served the Congress as the Secretary of the Naval Affairs Committee. He was known as a tireless worker in committee and was a leading expert on maritime concerns.

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