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Day 54 of the Convention

Monday, March 16, 1868

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

Article XIII on amendments to the constitution was taken up and passed, yeas – 85, nays – 9. The Article on Suffrage and Eligibility to Office, as amended, was adopted, yeas – 75, nays – 12.

After considering various ordinances and other matters, Mr. Hayes of Halifax introduced the following resolution:

Resolved, That it is the sense of this Convention that inter-marriages and illegal interviews between the races should be discontinued, and the interest and happiness of the two races would be best promoted by the establishment of separate schools.

Without any discussion noted, it was adopted.

The committee appointed to investigate the election of Mr. Durham on February 11 (Day 25 of the Convention) reported that they did not have sufficient evidence to inculpate Mr. Durham. In his lengthy remarks, the Daily Sentinel report Mr. Durham as saying, in part:

I must be allowed to say, in the appointment of the delegates to serve with me on that Committee on investigation, it was the intention of the President to prevent a full and fair investigation, or it was intended as an insult to myself. If the latter, I can only say that I cannot be insulted in any such manner. The relations between one of the members of the Committee (Ashley) and myself were known by the President to be very unpleasant, and he also knew that I had refused from the commencement of the session to recognize the delegate from Wake [Mr. Harris], the other member of the Committee. ..[T] he remarks I have made are only intended to expose the infamous fraud and damnable rascality which prompted those who originated this base attempt to head odium on my character.”

Also according to the Sentinel, the report was recommitted to the Committee to collect all evidence in the matter. 

The Convention adopted the ordinance providing for submitting the constitution to the people and the election for certain officers. The ordinance provides, in part:

“The vote on said Constitution shall be “For the Constitution” and “Against the Constitution.” The said election shall be held at the places and under the regulations to be prescribed by the Commanding General of this military district, and the returns made to him as directed by law.

The officers are for members in the General Assembly and for all state and county officers who are to be elected by the people under this Constitution as well as for Congress. The election is to be held over three days, April 21, 22 and 23 of 1868.

When the Convention reconvened for its evening session at 7:30 p.m., the resolution introduced by Mr. Sweet identified all of the state officers to be included in the election:

STATE AT LARGE

  • Executive

  • One Governor

  • One Lieutenant Governor

  • One Secretary of State

  • One Auditor

  • One Treasurer

  • One Superintendent of Public Works

  • One Superintendent of Public Instruction

  • One Attorney General

  • Judiciary

  • One Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

  • Four Associate Justices of the Supreme Court

  • Twelve Judges of the Superior Court

  • Legislative

  • Fifty State Senators, to be elected in their respective Districts

  • One hundred and twenty members of the House of Representatives, to be elected in their respective Counties

  • Twelve Solicitors, to be elected in their respective Judicial Districts

  • In each County, one Sheriff, one Clerk of the Superior Court, one Surveyor, one Register of Deeds, one Treasurer, and Five Commissioners

  • Seven Representatives in the Congress of the United States, to be elected in their respective Districts.

Then, the work of the Convention – the adoption of a Constitution – came to the floor. Mr. Nicholson the read the entire Constitution. Mr. Heaton offered the resolution that the entire Constitution framed by this Convention be adopted.

Before a vote on the resolution, there were remarks by some delegates, reported here in part*:

Mr. Durham: The Conservatives did not look upon this as a Constitution framed by the free people of North Carolina, but one forced upon them at the point of the bayonet. In the name of the Conservatives on this floor, I ask that the Capitol bell be tolled, while the vote on this is being taken, as the death knell of the liberties of the freedom of the citizens of North Carolina.

Mr. Rodman: I regret the remarks of the gentleman from Cleveland. We have met here and framed a constitution republican in form, and now, as we are about to part, I think the remarks of the gentleman are ungenerous.

We have given every man in the State of North Carolina the right to participate in the government. Delegates upon this floor, whose wounds are fresh, created by the civil war, which we have just gone through, have buried the past and have come up like men and voted to give the ballot to every citizen of North Carolina. I am proud to say that, in my opinion, we have framed a better Constitution than the people have ever lived under. Now, let us put forth all our energies to build up North Carolina in every respect, and more especially to restore friendly and lasting relations among all our people.

These comments were greeted by applause. The vote on the resolution to adopt the entire constitution stood, yeas – 90, nays – 10.

On motion it was ordered the delegates sign the Constitution in the alphabetical order of Counties. Mr. Abbott moved that while the Constitution was being signed by the delegates of the Convention that the capitol bell be rung. The motion was carried.

While the Constitution was being signed by the delegates, Mr. Tourgee moved a recess for fifteen minutes, which motion prevailed. According to the Daily Sentinel, the newspaper that opposed the work of the convention, “a most disgraceful scene ensued. Various Radicals sung ridiculous and absurd songs, and bedlam doings were generally enacted.”

On motion, delegates adopted the following resolution:

Resolved, That the thanks of this Convention are due and are hereby tendered to Hon. C. J. Cowles for the impartiality, and industry, and faithfulness with which he has presided over the deliberations of this body.

The House on motion adjourned to meet at 7 o’clock A.M., Tuesday.

 

Resources

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.

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.