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Day 51 of the Convention

Thursday, March 12, 1868

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

Mr. Ashley introduced the following resolution, which was unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That this Convention will adjourn on Tuesday, the 17th, at 12M.

Mr. Hood, chairman of the Committee on Relief From Political Disability, made the report identifying by county all individuals recommended for removal of political disabilities by petition to Congress. Mr. Tourgee, one of the committee members, moved that the report be received and adopted and that the committee be authorized to consider names that may be presented hereafter and prepare a supplemental report.

A heated exchange then ensued between Mr. Durham and Mr. Tourgee, where they said in part*:

Mr. Durham: It is the grandest fraud yet attempted to be perpetrated upon the people of North Carolina.

Mr. Tourgee: I ask Mr. Durham, do you mean any reflection upon the committee?

Mr. Durham: I will answer the gentleman at my own leisure.

Mr. Tourgee:   I demand an answer from the gentleman.

Mr. Durham: I will answer the gentleman when I get ready.

Mr. Tourgee: I call the gentleman to order. His remarks are insulting to the House. I desire the Secretary to take the words down uttered by the gentleman. 

Mr. Durham: I do not care for the Secretary of the House either. 

Mr. Durham: I hope you will pass this report. I dare you to do it. You are afraid of the honest people of North Carolina. You had better be. Five years from today, your own party in the Western part of the State will repudiate your own action. It is a burning shame, to recommend such men as are upon this report and leave out the names of seventy-five men in Cleveland county, who are among the best men in that county. You may adopt this report. I defy you to do it. Today you refuse to recommend such men as Governors Vance and Graham for removal of disabilities, because you know that if such men are allowed to vote, the small fry cannot succeed politically.

Mr. Tourgee: Before I heard the gentleman from Cleveland, I was in favor of recommending the removal of disabilities of the Conservatives, but now I am in favor of the report. The Conservatives have not made much honor for themselves here, and certainly no power.

Various amendments were considered, including to seek removal of political disabilities from all North Carolinians. These amendments lost and the report was adopted as it came from the committee. 

Mr. Mann then offered a preamble and resolutions regarding the efforts and achievements of the Convention. In what began as a procedural disagreement quickly blew into a much larger confrontation.

Mr. Harris, of Wake, moved the previous question on the resolutions. The President decided the delegate from Wake out of order. Mr. Harris appealed from the decision of the President. The President decided the appeal out of order, and ordered the delegate to sit down.

Mr. Tourgee seconded the appeal. The President decided Mr. Tourgee out of Order.

Mr. Tourgee appealed from the decision of the President. The President ordered Mr. Tourgee to take his seat. Mr. Tourgee resumed his seat, but immediately arose and again appealed from the President. 

The President ordered the Sergeant-at-arms to arrest and bring Mr. Tourgee before the bar of the House.

According to the Daily Sentinel, “Mr. Rich moved that Mr. Tourgee be reprimanded, and the Chair was about to commence the censure when Mr. Tourgee insisted that he had a right to be heard, either in person or through counsel. The Chair stated the grounds of offence. Mr. Tourgee was then allowed to make his defense, which he did at some length.” 

Mr. Rodman offered the following resolution:

RESOLVED, That the delegate from Guilford, arrested by the order of the President, be discharged, and the Convention proceed to the business before it.

Mr. Hood moved to amend by inserting the word “unlawfully” between the words “Guilford” and “arrested,” so as to make the resolution read “unlawfully arrested.”

The resolution as amended was adopted.

Mr. Tourgee was released from arrest and resumed his seat, amid applause from the House.

When the Convention reassembled for its evening session at 7:30 p.m., it took up the Report of the Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Provisions. In this second reading, debate returned to issues of universal amnesty. With minor amendments it passed its second reading by a vote yeas – 62, nays – 8. 

On motion, the Convention adjourned. 

On this day, Mr. Tourgee writes to his wife, Emma, about the day’s proceedings. The resolution he speaks of is from March 9. His letter states, in part:

My Dear Wife:

We had loud time today. “Daddy” Cowles, undertook to browbeat me and prevent my having my rights. He was mad over my resolution of yesterday. He had me arrested and brought before the bar of the House. The Convention released me by an almost unanimous vote, only one voting against it, from “unlawful arrest” as the Resolution phrased it, and greeted my return to my seat with such applause as we have not had here before.

Yours Truly

A.W. Tourgee



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.)

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 and state constitutional scholar.