Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Day 44 of the Convention

Wednesday, March 4, 1868

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

The report of the committee on privileges and election in regard to the the contested seat of Mr. Williams of Sampson was accepted. (See initial coverage on February 8, Day 23 of the Convention). The report found that Mr. Lorenzo Hall received 164 more votes and was entitled to the seat now occupied by Mr. Williams.

Mr. Holt of Orange offered a resolution regarding the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It provided a resolution to inquire whether “W.W. Holden had any complicity with John Wilkes Booth, in that horror of horrors, that crime of crimes, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.” According to the Daily Sentinel, the Convention refused to have the resolution read and it was returned to Mr. Holt.

There was brief discussion again of an immigration office in New York to encourage migration to North Carolina.

The convention then took up the majority and minority report on provisions for the constitution in the finance section. Mr. Abbott, Chairman of the Finance Committee, then addressed the Convention in a lengthy speech regarding the importance of a finance policy. Mr. Abbot said, in part*:

I consider this report one of the most important which has claimed, or which will claim the attention of this Convention. In my judgment, upon the financial policy adopted by the State will depend, more than upon any single thing, our culture future, because nothing can succeed without this. This report contains an embodiment of principles which, if adopted, and carried out, cannot fail to restore the prosperity of the State and promote its rapid growth and development. The report contains three fundamental ideas.

  1. The first is that of equitable taxation. This is so just, so republican, and its propriety so self-evident, that it is unnecessary to say a single word further on the subject.
  1. The second idea is that of a capitation tax, the proceeds of which are to be devoted to the purposes of education. This, too, is so wise a provision, tending in this equitable and proper manner to diffuse among the masses of the people the blessings of education and intelligence, that it is unnecessary to dwell upon this point. Occupying such a position as North Carolina does, with so large a population, until recently deprived of these blessings, and now so greatly needing them I take it that no man will question the wisdom of the provision contained in this article.
  1. The third and great idea is that contained in the 4th section, (and in the amendment introduced by the delegate from Guilford [Mr. Tourgee] to which I most cordially assent,) the re-establishment of the State credit and its maintenance in the future. This is a subject about which I trust there may also be no diversity of opinion. But it is one of such vast importance to all the material interests of the State, and is so identified with its future weal or woe, that I shall devote to its consideration the balance of my future remarks.

Among the many remarks made by other delegates, some focused on funding for schools.  The majority report provided:

SEC. 2. The proceeds of the State and County capitation tax shall be applied to the purposes of Education and the support of the poor.

The minority report provided:

SECTION 1. The capitation or poll-tax shall be levied only by the General Assembly on males between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five years. It shall be equal throughout the State, and shall not exceed the sum of one dollar for any one year; and all funds arising therefrom shall be appropriated exclusively to the support of free schools.

Those comments follow*:

Mr. Colgrove: The people would be much better pleased, if their poll tax went for educational purposes.

Mr. Pool: Poll tax should be appropriated to educational purposes solely.

Mr. Parker: A majority of the people are not able to pay anything. Capitation tax should be appropriated solely to school purposes.

Mr. Welker: If it was to be divided among the poor and schools, the poor would get it first. Let us have some provisions for schools. 

Mr. Graham, of Orange: I would like to see taxes raised from one race applied to their education.            

Mr. French, of Chowan: I move to add, “but in no one year shall more than 25 per cent thereof be applied to the latter purpose.” [This section applies to appropriations for poor, 25 per cent of capitation tax, and the balance for educational purposes.]


[SEC. 2. The proceeds of the State and County capitation tax shall be applied to the purposes of Education and the support of the poor, but in no one year shall more than 25 per cent thereof be appropriated to the latter purpose.]**

Mr. Tourgee: I move to amend by striking out all after “education” in the amendment just accepted.

[SEC. 2. The proceeds of the State and County capitation tax shall be applied to the purposes of Education and the support of the poor, but in no one year shall more than 25 per cent thereof be appropriated to the latter purpose.]

Mr. Hood: Provision should be made here for the support of the poor. Otherwise, the argument would be that property would be taxed to support indigent colored people.

Mr. Tourgee: The poor would be provided for out of the property tax, under my amendment.

Mr. Abbott: The section as it stands, the Legislature could authorize the counties to divide the tax between the poor and schools.

Mr. Tourgee’s amendment lost, and the section adopted.

Other provisions were read, and adopted with some amendments.

When the Convention reconvened for its evening session at 7:30 p.m. it further discussed the ordinance regarding debt.

Mr. Colgrove’s resolution to limit speeches to ten minutes was put and lost.

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.)


*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.

** As provided by Joseph Ferrell.

Ann McColl

Ann McColl is an attorney and state constitutional scholar.