Tuesday, March 17, 1868
Final Day of the Convention
The President not making his appearance at the appointed hour of 7 o’clock A.M., Gen. Abbott was called to the Chair.
Mr. Hayes of Halifax then called up the following resolution:
Resolved, That one printed copy of the new Constitution be sent to the Secretary of State of the United States, one copy to each of the heads of the Departments of the United States, one to each member of Congress, and one to the General Commanding the armies of the United States.
The Convention took care of various business. Upon return from recess, Loud calls were made for a speech from Gen. Mills. His comments were met with great applause. Amidst much cheering, Gen. Littlefield was called out. According to the official reporter, “he made an inimitable speech, full of pathos and side splitting fun, sang a patriotic song [the Republicans present joining in the chorus] and closed with proposing three cheers for the Constitution, which were given with a hearty good will.”
Many other speeches were given with applause and cheers. Among them was Mr. Heaton who said, in part*:
I came here with forebodings, but the Constitution here framed commended itself to every patriotic man in the Union. I congratulate the Convention on its splendid work. The spirit of progress and enterprise has been lifted from its grave, and would now walk in the paths of North Carolina. [Applause.] I feel the solemnity of this parting hour. Should any delegate here return to this chamber when vacant, and all the happy faces gone, I would feel “like one who trod some banquet hall deserted.”
In response to the resolution passed the day prior, thanking the President for his impartiality and faithful discharge of this duty, President Cowles said in part:
Delegates:—The resolution offered last evening and adopted, and which was so flattering in its terms, excited in me the warmest emotion of satisfaction and I was unable to respond as my feelings prompted.
The time for final adjournment is rapidly approaching, and though it is a moment for which we have looked eagerly, it must needs be a sad one, in that it breaks up and sunders many ties that have knit us together while associated, as we have been, in a common labor to restore our beloved State to its relations to the Federal Government; to give our State a Free Constitution.
We break up this circle to return to wives, children and friends, bearing in our hands the charter of their liberties—a Constitution guaranteeing liberty, ensuring justice, and conferring the means to knowledge on all, the high as well as the lowly man.
This is the work you have labored, for nine weeks, to perfect and the verdict of the people will go up from the polls, saying “Well done thou good and faithful servant,” and the work of your heads and hands will become the organic law of the land by the decisive endorsement of the masses.
The hands upon the dial yonder (pointing to the clock) admonish that our time is up. Delegates, fellow-citizens, friends! The Constitutional Convention of North Carolina stands adjourned according to a resolution of your adoption.
It was 12 o’clock – the appointed time for adjournment. However there was more business to conduct and more speeches to be made and the adjournment resolution was rescinded and the hour for adjournment put at 1 o’clock.
Among the speeches was an exchange from Mr. Tourgee and Mr. Durham, who often had sharp differences of opinion:
Mr. Tourgee: Mr. Chairman, it is fitting that I should say something at this time. As one of the youngest members of this Convention, I desire to say that if in the heat of debate I have said anything that has wounded the feelings of any member, that I forgot it as soon as it was over. And now, when we are about to part, I call upon the Conservatives of this Convention to meet us half way.
Mr. Durham: The Conservatives reciprocate the sentiments uttered by the gentleman from Guilford. [Applause.]
As the time for adjournment drew near, Mr. Hayes of Halifax said,
“Mr. President, I have one more motion to make, and that is this: That this Convention before its adjournment, endorse the sentiments of the people of this State, by giving Gen. Grant three cheers for the next President.” Three cheers were given with much zest.
Having completed its work of preparing a constitution to submit to the people and having resolved many other affairs of the state, on motion of Gen. Abbott, 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.