Monday, January 27, 1868
The Convention was called to order on Monday at 11 o’clock, Mr. Pres. Cowles in the Chair.
There were several actions and debates related to education.
Mr. Legg proposed a resolution to provide separate schools for children of African descent and that money be appropriated for support of schools equally according to number. This was referred to the Committee on Education.
Mr. Pierson offered a resolution that a plan be devised for admitting children of every race endowed with rights of citizenship to public charitable institutions. This was referred to the Committee on Punishments, Penal Institutions & Public Charities. (Note that Mr. Tourgee had proposed expansion of this committee to include public charities earlier in the session – see Days 8 and 9)
A report of the committee on the Executive Department was taken up and read, section by section. Section One provides for an Executive Department to consist of a Governor, a Lieutenant-Governor, a Secretary of State, an Auditor, a Treasurer, a Superintendent of Public Works, a Superintendent of Public Instruction, and an Attorney-General, all for two-year terms. After all sections were read, delegates engaged in a lengthy debate. The following are excerpts from the debate1:
Mr. Durham: These are new offices— unknown to the people of North Carolina. These innovations follow others already made. Offices have been established by this Convention, contrary to the customs of the State. Pay is increased without precedent, and I regarded all of these things as successive strides of the great despotism, which I believed that the Republican party, as it is called, intended to establish over this country. The new officers, who will be partizans (sic), are to be paid out of the pockets of the people. Why is it they are now created? Why were they not created by the Convention of 1865 and 1866, when the talent of this State was assembled here? But this Convention comes here, and not even knowing where the money to pay their own per diem is to come from, creates these new offices.
Mr. Rodman: I favor the creation of the offices as reported by the committee, because I deem them necessary. In case the Governor died or was unable to discharge his duties, then the Lieutenant Governor would take his place. There would be no additional cost to the State. The Secretary of State was no new office. The Treasurer was the same, while Auditor was another name for Comptroller. When it was remembered how largely North Carolina was interested in public works, how much money had been wasted and squandered, and in how many hands the direction of them was confided, every man must feel the necessity of an honest, faithful Superintendent. So also the State had for a long time had a Superintendent of Common Schools. This was another name merely for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Now, of all times, was no time to hesitate, but to favor everything looking towards a wise system of education. Any State that neglected education, swerved from the path of greatness and prosperity. And in North Carolina, both classes must be educated, for only education, combined with labor, would elevate her to the proper rank among the other States.
Mr. French, of Chowan: The gentleman objects to the office of superintendent of education. Well, sir, the education of the children of North Carolina is an “innovation.” The men who formerly occupied these seats didn’t care much for the education of the children of the poor. By the takers of the last census which give us educational facts, I learn that North Carolina of her white populations over twenty-one years of age had 73,566 citizens who could not read and write— and of her entire population, over that age, 368,971, or more than a third of her population. Well, innovation as it is, we are going to wipe out this disgrace, and give every child, black or white, the privilege of a free school. He tells us the “Statesmen” of the State are not here. Alas! the Statesmen of North Carolina are dead— and have left no sons. The patriots of North Carolina in 1775 announced in the famous Mecklenburg resolutions the great doctrines of liberty and equality which are the fundamental doctrines of this Convention, and are to be brought back into the organic law of the State.
This debate will continue tomorrow.
On motion the Convention adjourned.
Ferrell, Joseph, ed., Compilation of the Official Report of the Proceedings of the Convention (Chapel Hill, N.C.: unpublished manuscript 2007). (See day 8 for fuller explanation of this resource.)
- For EdNC, the debate excerpts are derived from Mr. Ferrell’s resource and returned to first person/ present tense where it seems appropriate. ↩