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Wednesday, February 19, 1868

The Convention was called to order on Wednesday at 10 o’clock, Mr. Pres. Cowles in the Chair.

After addressing some ministerial matters, Mr. Watts claimed the floor and commenced his remarks by euologizing the speeches of Messrs. Pool, Laflin, French of Chowan and McDonald of Chatham. Mr. Hood then gave a lengthy speech on suffrage in response to the minority report that raised concerns about extending the right to vote. He said, in part, “It is not surprising, that sleep should depart from their eyes and slumber from their eyelids; that their beds should be a bed of thorns, and their pillow a pillow of thistles. It is not miraculous that their knees should smite one against the other, and the joints of their loins should be loosened, when they imagine they see the hand-writing upon the wall.”

Coverage on suffrage debates differed between the Daily Standard, the official news coverage, and the Daily Sentinel, the “conservative” newspaper that was critical of the convention. (See Day 8, January 22). The remarks of Mr. Ellis were not covered in the Daily Standard. As reported by the Daily Sentinel, Mr. Ellis said “the gentleman from Pasquotank had declared that the right of suffrage was inherent, and if that is so, why are we here in Convention legislating upon this subject? I have listened to threats of hanging men on account of their political sentiments. I have listened to the haranguing of different delegates on this floor for proscribing and hanging intelligent and virtuous gentlemen of our State, to the preferment of an ignorant and inferior race—all to build up a part, vile, tyrannical, and oppressive to the liberties of the people.” Also according to the Daily Sentinel, “Mr. Ellis continued his remarks for some time, entering into a clear and searching argument bearing upon the case.”

Speeches continued for the remainder of the day. When the Convention reconvened at 7:30 p.m. issues of voting continued with speeches on political disabilities.

On motion the Convention adjourned.


Albion Tourgee writes to his wife, Emma during these speeches:

“The suffrage matter is now up and has been for two days and nights and will be for another night and day. I suppose I shall have to make a counterblust [?] before it is over. Every speech thus far has had a strong smell of camp-oil. Mine will be fresh. Just now Dr. Ellis – our shine-bone Delegate – is now repeating the speech of Brook’s of New York in Congress and is instructing us on anatomical and physiological difference between white and black races. A grand Copperhead effort. One would think that no one had every been cognizant of any scientific truth before.”

 

Resources

Ferrell, Joseph, ed., Compilation of the Official Report of the Proceedings of the Convention (Chapel Hill, N.C.: unpublished manuscript 2007). (See day eight for fuller explanation of this resource.)

Tourgée, A. W., & Chautauqua County Historical Society. (1801). Albion W. Tourgee papers, 1801-1924.

 

*The debate and other quotes are close to verbatim from the reported resources with some adjustment to put all comments in first person, present tense.

 

Ann McColl

Ann McColl is an attorney practicing in the field of education law since 1991. She currently serves as co-founder and president of the Innovation Project.