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Day 7 of the Convention

Tuesday, January 21, 1868

The Convention was called to order on Tuesday at 11 o’clock, Mr. Pres. Cowles in the Chair.

A number of resolutions were introduced, including one by Mr. Harris of wake, instructing the Committee on Education to inquire into the disposition of the Common School Fund since May 20, 1861, and what legislation may now be expedient. Presumably, this is referring to the Literary Fund that was the source of state funds for education before the Civil War.

The lengthiest discussion was in regard to an ordinance introduced by Mr. Tourgee. This was to limit the costs of court. In support of his ordinance, Mr. Tourgee stated:

I regret to have to use so strong a word as oppression, but I have known instances where innocent men had been tried and not found guilty, but had been made to pay costs to such an extent as to impoverish them. This was oppression to a degree which could be scarcely overstated, and my ordinance is intended to prevent it. There was an instance of a gentleman on this floor who had been prosecuted but not convicted, and yet was burdened by enormous costs. In the County of Guilford there was an instance of a man who was prosecuted, was acquitted, and yet had to pay costs for his defense to the amount of $2,500. In the hands of designing men such laws were most oppressive and should be remedied. It was also against the true policy of a free State. If a man is found guilty, let him pay the costs, but if innocent his prosecutor should be made to pay them. Else citizens would be impoverished hereafter as heretofore by the tribunals of the country in the effort to obtain justice. The evil must be struck at in the root. This ordinance, even if the power of legislation was not conceded, would place the Convention on the side of the right if passed, and show to the world that this new State was determined to do justice by every man.

The ordinance was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

In addressing unfinished business, a resolution by Mr. Hood of Cumberland in regard to the per diem was taken up. Mr. Hood had proposed $6 per day to delegates and $10 to President – mileage 20 cents. Mr. Rich moved to increase the amount to $8 and $12, respectively. In the ensuing debate, Mr. Galloway agreed with Mr. Hood, stating that he “was not weak-kneed” and had the true interests of his people at heart. After considerable discussion and without reaching a decision, on motion the Convention adjourned.

Ann McColl

Ann McColl is an attorney and state constitutional scholar.