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Day 17 of the Convention

Saturday, February 1, 1868

The Convention was called to order on Saturday at 11 o’clock, Mr. Pres. Cowles in the Chair. No issues related to public schools were addressed on this day.

On a matter entirely unrelated to the constitution, the Convention took up a petition for divorce. Individual petitions have been brought to the full body since the second week of the session. Mr. Jones, of Washington, read from the Revised Code the law of North Carolina in relation to divorce, three causes set forth: impotency, adultery, or any other just cause—as cruelty, which endangers life. The policy of the State had been against divorce. Mr. Jones said that the more tenacious laws are upon that subject, the better the population. The regulations of other States are regarded as loose—tending, it appeared, to bastardize the issue of marriages. There was no proof of impotency, or adultery or other just cause in this case. But because of incompatibility of temper, these parties call upon this Convention to ignore all precedent. Because a man and woman do not choose to live together, a divorce is to be granted here, and it is set down upon the journal of this Convention, in order to permit each to choose another partner. Why did not they apply to the Courts? The presumption is that, being known too well, they knew that no advantage could be gained there. Why come here? Because the parties believe there is less regard for law here. Mr. Jones moved to postpone the matter indefinitely.

Delegates also discussed a relief ordinance for persons suffering from bankruptcy. This led to comments made by Mr. Tourgee – again – of his interpretation that North Carolina no longer could be recognized as a political entity.   He declared that the “State is dead.” This led to a lengthy discussion of the legal authority of the State during this time. Without any action being taken, 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Ferrell, Joseph, ed., Compilation of the Official Report of the Proceedings of the Convention (Chapel Hill, N.C.: unpublished manuscript 2007).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.) (Note: EdNC has converted quotes back to first person/present tense; descriptions Mr. Jones’ comments on divorce are close to verbatim in how described in the Daily Standard.)

Ann McColl

Ann McColl is an attorney and state constitutional scholar.