As has been seen Federal troops entered the state in March. Johnston surrendered in April and Sherman for a time was in command of the state. He was still strongly in favor of the plan of making use of the existing state government in the work of reorganization, a plan in which he almost certainly had had the support of President Lincoln. But he was overruled by the Washington authorities, with what has since been seen to be a lack of judgment, and a fine opportunity for rapid and complete restoration was lost.
In May, General John M. Schofieldº took military command of North Carolina. In a comparatively short time relative quiet came to the state. General Schofield was a man of highest ability and furthermore possessed of a large amount of tact, sympathy and common sense. Immediately he issued proclamations announcing the cessation of hostilities, the freedom of the slaves, and a code for the freedmen. The oath of allegiance was made a prerequisite for a marriage license or for engaging in any business or profession. The towns were soon quiet, but the country was not. Nor were the inhabitants altogether to blame; for the Federal troops did not soon shake off the habits formed during the war, and even after the proclamation of the final cessation of hostilities, the plundering and wanton destruction of property continued, often accompanied by outrage and violence. This, however, was the exception, and not the rule. The disbanded Confederate soldiers, particularly the cavalry, foraged to some extent as they went home. But their opportunities were not so great and sympathy among them, naturally, was greater.
Gen. John Schofield
To put an end to this condition of affairs, General Schofield began the organization of a police force for each county, p57detailing General J. D. Cox for the work in the western part of the state, General Terry for the central, and Generals Hawley and Palmer for the eastern. They were instructed to have bodies of troops visit all portions of the state and arrest marauders. General Schofield also had the oath of allegiance administered to certain magistrates of known Union sympathies and left them in the exercise of their functions. Prompt justice was meted out to offenders, in and out of the army, whenever it was possible, and whenever the troops showed disorganization they were mustered out. Every effort was used to have the restrictions on trade removed, for the commander felt that peace would be more quickly restored when destitution, resulting from the abnormal conditions, was relieved, and the people were employed in their usual occupations. p58He also opposed the rulings of the treasury department in regard to trade.
The delay in making known the policy of the United States government regarding re-organization of the civil government of the state was considered very unfortunate by General Schofield, since he was convinced that the people were well disposed and were ready to make and accept any necessary changes. For the re-organization, he desired the appointment of a military governor who should declare in force the constitution of the state as it existed prior to secession, and appoint officers to serve until the work was completed. An enrolment should then be made of all citizens qualified to vote by state law, after administration of the amnesty oath. A convention should be called and its action submitted to the people. He was anxious to be selected as military governor for the state, provided some such plan as this was adopted, but if negro suffrage was to be included he preferred to have no part in it. General Halleck recommended him for the position, but later withdrew his endorsement on the ground that he could not recommend anyone who had advised Sherman to make the terms which had been proposed with Johnston. General Schofield's measures for pacification and conciliation, meanwhile, were meeting with such success that when he applied for leave, early in June, he said that the presence of troops in the state seemed almost unnecessary. His conduct of affairs met with the hearty approval of his superiors, and, in every way, he deserved and received the cordial gratitude of the people of the state.
General Schofield would have made an ideal provisional governor but the President had other ideas. Early in May he summoned to Washington a number of North Carolinians, including William W. Holden, David L. Swain, B. F. Moore, William Eaton and a number of Holden's friends and supporters. A conference was held by Moore, Swain, and Eaton with the President who showed them the proclamation which had already been prepared for inaugurating the proposed scheme of restoration in North Carolina. Moore vehemently opposed the plan as unconstitutional, urging the President to allow the legislature to meet and call a convention and thus p59preserve the legal continuity of the state government. The President was entirely good-natured but unchangeable. The next day another conference was held with the entire group present. The President requested them to name the provisional governor. Moore, Swain, and Eaton declined to take any part in the proceedings and the others chose Holden who was at once appointed.
President Andrew Johnson
The appointment was one which might have been expected but it was a most unfortunate one. Holden had played fast and loose with all parties, factions, and classes, and had in consequence lost the confidence of nearly every responsible leader of opinion in the state. In addition, he had won the bitter enmity of a very large and influential class. Not less important in determining the character of his administration, p60he was consumed with ambition and was certain to try to use his position for the punishment of his opponents and for contributing to his own advancement. President Johnson formally began his policy of reconstruction on May 29th by issuing a proclamation granting general amnesty and pardon to those who had been engaged in rebellion against the authority of the United States. This restored rights of property except in slaves and except when legal proceedings for confiscation had been instituted. An oath was provided to be taken by all accepting the benefits of the proclamation. Fourteen classes of persons were excepted from the benefits of this proclamation. These included the executive and diplomatic officers of the Confederacy, those who left the service of the United States to aid the Confederacy, the governors of the states in insurrection, all military and naval officers in the Confederate service whose rank was above that of colonel and lieutenant, respectively, and all who voluntarily took part in the war whose taxable property exceeded in value $20,000. Any person belonging to an excepted class could make application to the President for a special pardon, and a promise of liberal executive clemency was extended. The secretary of state was directed to establish rules for the administration of the oath.
The same day the President issued another proclamation appointing William W. Holden provisional governor of North Carolina. This was the first of a series of similar proclamations for all the Southern states. It was based upon the war power of the President as commander-in‑chief. It gave the provisional governor so appointed power to prescribe the necessary rules for calling and assembling a convention whose delegates should be chosen by the portion of the population that was loyal to the United States at that time when it should be called. This convention was given authority to exercise all powers necessary to restore the state to her constitutional relations with the United States Government, and present such a republican form of government as would entitle the state to the guarantee of the United States against invasion, insurrection, and domestic violence. It was directed to prescribe qualifications for electors and for holders of office. The proclamation p61itself prescribed as qualifications for electors and delegates to the convention that they should have taken the amnesty oath as provided in the President's proclamation, and that they should be voters qualified by the state constitution in force previous to May 20, 1861. All persons in the military and naval service were directed to aid the provisional governor and enjoined from hindering and discouraging the loyal people from organizing a state government. The heads of the various departments were ordered to put into operation the laws of the United States and the district judge was ordered to hold the courts.
On June 12th, Governor Holden issued a proclamation in which summarizing the President's proclamations, he outlined his policy. He announced that he would soon call a convention to provide for carrying out the work of restoration and that in the meantime he would at once appoint provisional state and county officers. He urged the loyal people in the state to take an interest in public affairs, to discourage disloyalty, and to elect to office only the friends of the United States. He devoted some space to bitter denunciation of the Confederate government, congratulating the people upon their deliverance from it. He gave good and kindly advice to the negroes, promising assistance from the Government, and closed with a declaration of "charity for all with malice towards none."
At first the governor moved very slowly and carefully in his work. He was criticised for his delay in calling the convention, but this was scarcely just, since he was overwhelmed with pardon matters, thousands of applications requiring his endorsement. Here, indeed there was room for criticism, since he recommended the pardon of many intense secessionists and advised suspension of pardon in the case of such men as William A. Graham, John M. Morehead, Josiah Turner, John A. Gilmer and many others who had opposed secession with all their power. Later on he kept from pardon certain candidates for the convention whom he wished excluded. In some cases his efforts to prevent pardon were ineffectual.
Under instruction from the President the expenses of the provisional government were paid by the war department. This was fortunate since there was no money in the treasury p62and the mass of the people were destitute. Just before the close of the war, the state owned a large quantity of cotton and rosin and Governor Holden was notified by Secretary Seward that this could be retained. Most of it, however, had already been seized and the treasury department only allowed the state to take the "ungathered debris." Holden appointed Jonathan Worth state treasurer and he succeeded in saving of this an amount that brought $150,000.
By the end of July the governor had appointed more than three thousand magistrates, officers for the counties and towns, judges and solicitors, and directors in the corporations in which the state had an interest. In almost all cases he chose former whigs, and for high position recommended only one democrat, that being Robert P. Dick, whom the President p63appointed district judge but who could not take the iron-clad oath.
The state was full of travellers and newspaper men from the North who sent home highly inaccurate accounts of the conditions which prevailed. According to these, hostility to the United States was rampant, a new rebellion was being planned, and, in the selection of officers, Union men were ignored. Absurd as the reports were, they were credited in the North and were in the main written with the end of misrepresentation in view. Governor Holden was thus attacked on both sides and in this case without justice for in the matter of appointments he certainly displayed no partiality for secessionists. In fact, leaving out of consideration all questions of motive or of his action in some individual cases, his work was well done. He was far less proscriptive than his enemies or even his friends had expected.
On August 8th, he ordered an election of delegates to a convention of the people. Voting and membership were limited to those who had been pardoned. The campaign was quiet as there were no issues. Slavery and secession were alike dead and apparently only the question of the war debt remained as a problem, and concerning this there was little or no discussion. It was generally thought that the matter should not be touched at the time, a view in which the Standard, Holden's paper, agreed. Personal differences arose of course in the campaign and the exclusion of some unpardoned men, notably, William A. Graham, aroused such feeling that many who were qualified to vote refused, claiming that the candidates were dictated.
The convention met in Raleigh on October 2d, and organized by unanimously electing Judge Edwin G. Reade president. The body, composed mainly of former whigs, contained few who had been secessionists, although almost all had submitted quietly to the will of the majority. Quite a number of the members had been connected with the peace party during the war. While not composed of men of first rate ability, or those of wide experience, it nevertheless had a considerable number who had served in the legislature or in previous conventions. All were sincerely anxious to restore the state to its normal p64relations with the Union. The more important leaders in the body were B. F. Moore, Edward Conigland, M. E. Manly, Thomas Settle, George Howard, William Eaton, and Dennis D. Ferebee.
Bartholomew F. Moore
The president, Judge Reade, had been a member of Congress, Confederate senator, Superior Court judge and was at the time a provisional justice of the Supreme Court. In taking the chair he made an eloquent address, looking to speedy reconciliation and union.
In conversation and correspondence, President Johnson had made it clear that he expected of the convention that it should pass ordinances nullifying the ordinance of secession and abolishing slavery and that the first legislature should ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. The convention took up first the secession question. All wanted the matter ended finally since all recognized that the doctrine was dead, but a division appeared as to the means. An influential though small minority desired a simple repeal of the secession ordinance, while the majority desired and insisted upon an ordinance which would declare it null and void from the beginning. A bitter debate arose out of the question but the majority finally enforced its will. The ordinance abolishing slavery caused no such discussion and was passed unanimously. Both were ordered submitted to the people for ratification.
The two great objects of the convention having been accomplished, attention was turned to the reorganization of the state government. The election of state and county officials, members of Congress and of the legislature were provided for, all offices, whose incumbents had taken the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States, were declared vacant, but all laws and official acts since May 20, 1861, not inconsistent with the state and federal constitutions were declared valid as were the acts of the provisional governor and his agents, and all contracts were declared binding, the legislature being instructed to prepare a scale of depreciation of the currency during the whole period of the war. A large number of less important ordinances were passed and the only matter unsettled was that of the state debt.
p65 A committee was appointed to consider the question and it finally recommended that no action be taken at that session. A resolution to repudiate the debt incurred in aid of the war was at once introduced and considerable debate followed. Immediately there was shown to the members a letter to Governor Holden from the state agent in Washington, Dr. R. J. Powell, which quoted every member of the cabinet except Secretary Stanton in statements to the effect that no action be taken at the time. This seemed conclusive as to the opinion of the national administration and the governor, and the resolution was tabled and in general this action seemed acceptable to the press and to the public.
But a surprise was in store for the state and the convention. For some reason Governor Holden changed his opinion. This was probably due to his discovery that the opposition to him had come to a focus in the selection of Jonathan Worth as a candidate for governor. Representing as Worth did the property-owning class, it probably seemed necessary to Holden to make a special appeal to the masses who owned no bonds and would probably welcome repudiation. At any rate, on the day after he learned of the plan to run Worth, he telegraphed the President that the convention had involved itself in a bitter discussion of the debt and that the people were believed to be opposed to paying it, and asking if it should not be repudiated. This false statement of the case was effective. The President at once sent a very strong letter demanding repudiation and the convention, under this influence, adopted an ordinance repudiating the entire debt incurred in aid of the war. The requirement of the President paved the way for the later repudiation of the special tax bonds and was undoubtedly a wise demand at the time from the theoretical standpoint, but it caused terrible hardship. It forced every bank in the state into liquidation and most of them to complete ruin, impoverished thousands of the people on whom prosperity depended, swept away the larger part of the property of the University, and seriously impaired the Literary Fund which supported the public school system. The responsibility for all this, in the minds of the people, rested upon p66Holden and his action was deeply resented. It assured his defeat in the approaching election.
The convention adjourned until May 24, 1866, and the campaign began at once. Holden had been requested by a large minority of the members of the convention to be a candidate and accepted. The opposition to him, after casting about for some time, had, as has been seen, settled upon Worth, a man of much practical ability and of high character. He was reluctant but finally agreed to run.
The campaign which followed was very actively conducted and grew increasingly bitter as time passed. Neither candidate took any open part, but there were twenty-three aspirants for the seven seats in Congress and at least 500 for the 170 seats in the legislature so there was no lack of speakers. The press entered enthusiastically into the battle and the lines began to be drawn here which were to endure for years.
Holden's supporters, with the Standard as a mouthpiece, sought at first to defeat Worth by ridicule, but when his strength became apparent, with some success they attempted to identify him with the original secession element and to intimate that his candidacy amounted to disloyalty and even to an actual defiance of the United States. In the state it was generally known that Worth's Union record was far better than Holden's, but outside the state misunderstanding of the conditions was usual, and even the President was for a time deceived. The most important question in the state was that of restoration to the Union, and the slogan: "William W. Holden and Go Back to the Union or Jonathan Worth and Stay Out of the Union," was highly effective, giving Holden a strength he would not otherwise have had.
Worth's supporters, on the other hand, did not fail to emphasize the political unreliability of Holden and to point out his action in relation to the war debt as an example of it. In time they succeeded in making Holden himself the issue, and the day passed when he, on his own merits, could command a majority of the white men of the state although he now had the support of such men as B. F. Moore, R. S. Donnell, and Bedford Brown. Instrumental in this shift of issue was the Sentinel newspaper edited by W. E. Pell.
William E. Pell
Founder of the Sentinel
When the election came Worth received a majority of almost six thousand. The two ordinances were ratified in a light vote. Of the seven congressmen chosen, all had originally opposed secession and all but two had been whigs. But two had been in the Confederate Congress and only two could take the iron-clad oath required for admission.
The President was much disappointed in the result and, in a letter requesting Holden to continue for a time as provisional governor, frankly said so. Holden took this to mean that Worth's election might not be recognized as valid and he eagerly sought to secure this action by the President.
The legislature met late in November. Thomas Settle was elected speaker of the House and Samuel F. Phillips speaker p68of the Senate. The governor's message emphasized the necessity of immediate ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment and the question was taken up at once. Opposition to the clause giving Congress the power of enforcement was evident and four members of the Senate offered a formal protest against ratification, but both houses voted it by large majorities. Later a declaration that the power of Congress to legislate on the subject of the freedmen was not enlarged was passed.
To offset Holden's charges of disloyalty a series of resolutions was then passed, declaring that the people of the state accepted in good faith the President's terms and that they were loyal to the government of the United States and were ready to make any sacrifice, any concessions consistent with honor and safety, for the restoration of harmony.
Most of the session was spent in filling offices declared vacant by the convention. William A. Graham and John Pool were elected to the Senate, Holden having been privately offered the latter's seat and having refused it. Two members of the Supreme Court were re-elected and Judge Reade replaced Judge Manly. Most of Holden's appointees to the Superior bench were elected as well as several of the solicitors. Almost all the new officials were former whigs, most of the democrats retiring into an obscurity that was to last for some years.
When Congress met the senators and representatives chosen presented themselves at Washington to be sworn in, but were denied admission along with the members from the other late Confederate States. Under the lead of Thaddeus Stevens the contest with the President was joined concerning the question of Reconstruction which was to end only with the entire overthrow of the President's plan.
It was not deemed wise to take up general legislative matters while the status of the state was unsettled and so, after filling all the vacancies and administering the oath of office to Worth, the legislature adjourned until the following February.
On December 23d, in spite of Holden's efforts, Secretary Seward notified him and Worth that in the opinion of the p70President the time had come to end the provisional government, and on December 28th, Governor Worth assumed office.
Throughout the administration of the provisional governor there was constant interference by the military authorities with civil functions. At first there had been no question of distinction between civil and military powers. In a sense the provisional governor was more a military than a civil official. His appointment and authority were based upon the war power of the President and his chief duty was to restore civil government. North Carolina formed a military department at first under General Schofield and later under General Ruger. Still later it became a part of the Department of the South under General Sickles.
As might have been expected conflict soon arose. The first case was when General Ruger ignored an agreement of General Schofield with Governor Holden and forbade the organization of a county police. Later, trouble arose from the presence of ill-disciplined negro troops at a number of places in the state. From the summer of 1865 until September, 1866, they were a serious menace to peace and security, not only from their evil influence upon the freedmen, but also because of their repeated and flagrant crimes, all the perpetrators of which went unwhipped of justice.
It was, however, in relation to the administration of justice by the civil courts that the chief conflicts arose. They first appeared in cases involving freedmen, in which General Ruger asserted the jurisdiction of the military authorities and declined to recognize the civil power. They later appeared in cases affecting white persons alone. The question was carried to the President who declined to interfere, but an agreement was finally reached by which the civil courts had sole jurisdiction of cases affecting white persons and were empowered to bind over for trial and even to lodge in jail persons of color accused of crime. In the final disposition of the latter, as in all other cases involving freedmen, the military power was supreme. But in a number of cases white persons were tried by military commission and the writ of habeas corpus was ignored.
p71 Nor were such cases the only ones in which military law was applied. Newspaper editors were tried and punished for the publication of sentiments distasteful to the conquerors. Corporal punishment by the civil courts was abolished, civil process were checked or forbidden, and the collection of revenue stopped. Nor did these things cease with the close of the provisional government, but lasted throughout the period of presidential restoration.
Several times interference occurred in the collection of taxes. The convention of 1865 levied a tax on all mercantile business for that year. In Wilmington, in January, 1866, General Cook, who was then in command, issued an order restraining the sheriff of New Hanover from collecting the tax from firms trading under a Federal license. This ruling, however, was revoked by General Ruger. In 1866, General J. C. Robinson interfered in the collection of a poll tax in Cumberland and Columbus counties, ordering the sheriffs to refund all collected above $1, as the state had only levied that amount. He was probably ignorant of the fact that the law had a provision for increasing the amount according to the necessities of each county.
Such was the part played by the army in North Carolina in civil affairs during the period of presidential restoration. Enough has been shown of the workings of the state government to make it clear that while by degrees much was left to the state authorities, the government was practically military in that the state government performed its functions only through the acquiescence of the military commanders. These commanders, in general, showed themselves to be considerate and animated by a desire for peace and harmony. But they were naturally inclined to disregard points of law which were of importance to a civilian, and when their minds were made up to any course it was practically useless to advance any arguments in opposition. While their interference in civil affairs was deeply resented and sharply, if uselessly, opposed in the state, the officers generally were personally popular in the various communities in which they were stationed.
Probably the most pressing problem which confronted the p72people of the state, short of that of restoration to the Union, was that of the freedmen. Even before hostilities closed, the Federal military authorities were confronted with it and at the close of the war the situation was acute. General Schofield issued a series of regulations for their government and control which were fair but which had little effect.
To meet the difficulty which was of course a general one, the Freedmen's Bureau was established under the war department in March, 1865. Charged with the duty of looking after the interests of the vast hordes of negroes who were at that time following the Federal armies or who had otherwise become a charge upon the Government, it became one of the most important factors in Reconstruction. Created for the purpose of caring for the homeless, destitute, and suffering of the negro race, regarded by many as the wards of the nation, it became by judicious manipulation the most active radical political agency in the South, and because of that fact it has often failed to receive due credit for the good which is actually accomplished.
At the head of it was General Oliver O. Howard and the assistant commissioners for North Carolina were in turn Colonel Eliphalet Whittlesey, General Thomas H. Ruger, General John C. Robinson, Colonel James V. Bomford, and General Nelson A. Miles. The assistant commissioner was given supervision over abandoned land and over all matters relating to refugees and freedmen. The wants of the needy were to be supplied and the freedom of the negroes guaranteed. Other matters coming within his province were the family relations of the freedmen, the settlement of differences and difficulties between the negroes and the whites, assistance to the negroes in securing land, and the removal of prejudice on the part of old masters. This last duty shows very clearly the attitude of the bureau. Stress was also laid upon instruction of the freedmen as to their new duties and responsibilities. The assistant commissioner was subject to military rules, but wide jurisdiction was given him in matters of detail.
The relief of the destitute was one of the most important of the activities of the bureau and vast supplies of food, clothing, and medicines were issued to the destitute of both p73races. The food alone, issued in North Carolina, amounted in value to about $1,500,000. Hospitals were established which handled during the period more than forty thousand patients.
Another activity of the bureau was the attempt to settle freedmen upon abandoned lands. This was soon checked, however, by the President's restoration to the owners of most of the land, a thing which prevented much injustice as the agents of the bureau had shown generally an utter disregard for private property.
Far more important in its effects upon the state as a whole than the relief of the destitute was the relationship which was soon established between labor and the bureau. The witnessing of contracts for labor and their enforcement were undertaken by the bureau with varying results. The proper preparation of contracts was a good thing and a protection to both parties, but in the enforcement of the contracts by subordinate officers the employers were usually treated badly. The trouble here was the main trouble with the bureau; its higher officials were equipped and on the whole good men, while its subordinates were narrow and stupid, or designing and vicious persons who were busily building up a political machine and, in the furtherance of their nefarious schemes, engaged in arousing the negroes against the white people.
To enable the bureau to carry on the enforcement of contracts and otherwise to protect the freedmen, it was given a large judicial power and it at once also came into conflict with the courts. Allusion has already been made to the compromise effected with the civil authorities. But thousands of cases were settled by the bureau.
During the whole period the bureau was actively engaged in promoting the education of the negroes by the support and foundation of schools. By July, 1869, 431 schools were in operation with 439 teachers and 20,227 pupils.
Summing up its work, it is clear that great relief was furnished the destitute and hundreds and probably thousands were kept from starvation. But it undoubtedly encouraged in the freedman a dangerous dependence on the government and thus disorganized labor on which the prosperity of both races depended. In the matter of protection a substantial service p74was rendered by the bureau to the cause of justice to the negroes, but at the same time there was a vast amount of injustice done to white people. Aid of much value in assisting the freedmen to find employment was given, but here again, dependence and distrust of the native white people were encouraged.
Finally, in its educational activities, the bureau was of considerable assistance in encouraging negro education, but, even in this regard, it held out false hopes to the negroes, gave encouragement to false educational ideals which have not yet been entirely replaced by sound ones, and through fanaticism and lack of tact made many enemies for negro education in general.
Gross fraud characterized the management of affairs in North Carolina, a fact which shows the character of the agents. Political activity on the part of agents was very usual and it was of the kind that sought to array race against race. Hostility on the part of the mass of the native whites was to be expected and the feeling was a just one. The bureau had really outlived its usefulness and it was a good thing for both races when it ceased to exist. Certainly there was among white people no regret at its demise and no respect for the departed.
Everyone in the state recognized that action looking to a settlement of the status of the negroes must be taken without delay. It was demanded by considerations of the most vital importance. The position of the free negroes in North Carolina previous to the war was different from that in most of the other Southern states. The same was true after general emancipation had taken place. By a decision rendered by Judge Gaston in 1838 the inhabitants of the state were declared to form two classes, citizens and aliens. Slaves, from their condition, belonged to the latter class, but free persons of color formed part of the former class. By emancipation, therefore, citizenship was immediately conferred upon some three hundred thousand persons who had hitherto been "aliens through the disability of slavery." Free negroes hitherto had been, like other citizens, entitled to the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, to trial by jury, to own property, p75even in slaves, to prosecute and defend suits in courts of justice, and, as incident to this, to make affidavits for a continuance and to prove by their own oaths, even against white persons, accounts for labor to the amount of $60. But the free negroes had been accustomed to the exercise of their liberties and were limited in number. When the end of the war brought general emancipation, the fear naturally arose that the freedmen, newly endowed with citizenship, would be unprepared for its rights without special limitations. The question thus arose as to what changes would have to be made to enable this new class of citizens to enter upon their rights, and, at the same time, their duties, without disturbance and injury to the body politic. To decide this question, the convention had authorized a commission to be appointed by the provisional governor, and Governor Holden had appointed B. F. Moore, W. S. Mason, and R. S. Donnell, who at once began their work.
They presented their report to the General Assembly in January, 1866. It was an able and elaborate discussion of the whole subject with a proposed scheme of legislation, based on the recognized citizenship of the freedmen. They advised the repeal of all laws which affected specially the colored race, and the re-enacting of such as were necessary. The main bill which they recommended, and which was passed with a few minor changes, defined as persons of color negroes and their issue to the fourth generation, even when one parent was white in each generation. They were declared entitled to the same rights and privileges and subject to the same disabilities as free persons of color prior to general emancipation. They were also declared entitled to the same privileges as white persons in suits and proceedings at law and in equity. The law of apprenticeship was altered so as to apply to both races alike, with the one exception, that in the case of the negroes, former owners had a preference over all other persons. The marriage of former slaves was made valid, and provision was made for registration. Marriage between white and colored persons was forbidden, and a penalty provided for issuing license in such cases and for performing the ceremony. All contracts, where one or more of the parties were colored, for property of the value of $10 or more, were p76void, unless put in writing, signed by the parties, and witnessed by a white person who could read and write. Persons of color were declared competent witnesses in all cases at law or in equity where the rights or property of persons of color were involved, and also in pleas of the state where the offense was alleged to have been committed against a person of color. In other cases their testimony was admissible by consent. This was not to go into effect until jurisdiction in affairs relating to the freedmen should be left to the state courts. All criminal laws were changed so as to apply alike to both races, and the punishment was made the same except in the case of an assault with intent to commit rape upon a white woman. When the assault was committed by a person of color it was a capital offense; otherwise it was an aggravated assault and punishable under the common law by fine and imprisonment. A special court of wardens for the colored poor was authorized for each county.
The report met with considerable opposition for there was a general feeling against giving the negroes the right to testify but finally the bill passed. At the same time the commission secured the passage of acts providing punishment for a considerable number of offenses, common among the negroes but operating on both races alike.
The system adopted was eminently just and was notable among the so‑called "Black Codes." It failed, however, to win the approval of officials of the Freedmen's Bureau who would not surrender their jurisdiction over the freedmen. For this reason the convention, when it reassembled, abolished all discriminations.
The social and economic condition of the freedmen during 1865 and 1866 was one that might well excite pity. Their first instinct upon emancipation had naturally been to move about and put their freedom to a test. This test was frequently made by a change of name, residence, employment, and wife. Town life, with its excitement, furnished an almost irresistible attraction, and only the presence of troops was necessary to render it completely so. Freedom, in their minds, meant freedom not only from slavery but from work, with a continuation of their former freedom from responsibility. p77Refusal to work resulted naturally in want of the necessaries of life, and sickness and destitution were general in the towns. In the country matters were somewhat better. There the demoralization of those that remained was not so great and support was more easily obtained by labor or dishonesty. Crime increased greatly as time went by. The newspapers in almost every issue, had accounts of violence and crime committed by freedmen, and, in most cases, these went unpunished. The bureau agents, either from intention or inability, accomplished little to remedy the condition of affairs. In many instances it was impossible for the farmers to keep the smaller live stock with any degree of security, and even horses and cattle were frequently stolen. The large number of wandering negroes increased the difficulty of bringing the offenders to justice.
To add to the difficulty of settling the problem of the negro, outside influences were brought to bear. Petitions to the President were circulated asking for equal political privileges with the white people. Series of meetings were held at various towns and later a convention met in Raleigh at which appeared some of the negroes who were to become prominent later, notably J. W. Hood, a carpet-bagger from Connecticut, and James H. Harris and A. H. Galloway, natives who had been educated in the North. These leaders were looking to suffrage but the time was not regarded as ripe and they contented themselves with a well-written request to the constitutional convention for protection and education.
The question of negro suffrage was already under discussion. Alfred M. Waddell, of Wilmington, in August, 1865, in a speech to the negroes, advocated it for those qualified. The Sentinel, a little later, while opposed, opened its columns to a strong series of unsigned articles written by Victor C. Barringer in advocacy of negro suffrage. The interesting fact in connection with the discussion was the absence of strong feeling. Of opposition there was a great deal, but so conservative a man as D. L. Swain favored restricted suffrage for the lower house for the freedmen under certain circumstances. The only bitterness of opposition came from the Standard, again edited by Holden, and the group of men who, p78now favoring very severe restrictions upon the freedmen, were later, under the leadership of Holden, to organize in North Carolina the republican party upon the foundation of unrestricted negro suffrage.
Upon the inauguration of Governor Worth, Holden, as has been said, resumed editorial control of the Standard which soon became an opposition paper, not only as regarded state politics, but in national matters as well. In the spring of 1866 abuse of the radicals had ceased and by the summer Holden was definitely aligned with them in opposition to the President's policy. In state affairs he was increasingly bitter, asserting that traitors were in control of the government and declaring open war upon them.
About this time the convention met in adjourned session and undertook to revise the constitution, in spite of the opposition of a considerable number of members who doubted its authority for such work. In June the work was completed and the new constitution was submitted for ratification. It was in form and arrangement largely the work of B. F. Moore. It was a more compact instrument than the original and had several changes of importance. The basis of representation for the House of Commons was changed to white population, the office of lieutenant-governor was established, and the qualifications for office-holding were somewhat altered. No one could be governor or lieutenant-governor unless he had been for twenty years a citizen of the United States and five years a resident of the state, and possessed land in fee to the value of $2,000. The freehold qualification of senators and members of the House of Commons were changed and five years' residence was required. Suffrage and office-holding were limited to white persons.
There was but little opposition to the constitution itself and it would doubtless have been ratified but for the feeling that the convention was lacking in authority to alter the fundamental law in a general way. A letter, written by Judge Ruffin to Edward Conigland and published without signature, which strongly emphasized this point turned the tide against ratification and it was rejected by a majority of less than two thousand.
p79 In June, Governor Worth, who had favored ratification, announced himself a candidate for re-election. Holden knew that he could not himself win, but he was determined on a contest in order to maintain the lines of party cleavage. Already there were developing within the state the beginnings of party division. The supporters of the President sent delegates to the National Union convention in Philadelphia in August, and in the Southern Unionist convention which met in the same place two weeks later there was a considerable body of men who claimed North Carolina as home although only two were natives. One of these had left the state in 1842. Four were of the type soon to be known as carpet-baggers, including Albion W. Tourgee and Byron Laflin who were to win imperishable notoriety by their later leadership in evil. The former was particularly active in the convention and was vehement in his demand for negro suffrage.
With the meeting of this convention stimulus was found for action at home by the opponents of the President's policy. Inspired by Northern men preliminary local meetings were held and a state convention met in Raleigh in September which endorsed the proposed Fourteenth Amendment, censured the Worth administration, declared that only the unmistakably loyal should hold office in North Carolina, and nominated Alfred Dockery for governor. Holden addressed the body in favor of the congressional plan but still opposed negro suffrage. Here began, in fact but not in name, the republican party in North Carolina.
O. H. Dockery
Dockery declined the nomination while expressing sympathy with the views of the convention, but Holden advised the opposition to vote for him regardless of his wishes. In a spiritless campaign in which the Fourteenth Amendment was the only important issue Worth was elected by a large majority.
Like its predecessor, the legislature was composed largely of old whigs. It displaced John Pool as United States senator-elect, because of his public declaration that he had sought and accepted office during the war only in order to injure the Confederate cause, and elected Judge M. E. Manly in his place. Holden now openly opposed the Fourteenth Amendment p81as not sufficiently stringent against traitors and went to Washington to urge further action by Congress.
The committee, appointed to consider the amendment, reported with only one dissenting vote against ratification, on the ground that a large number of unrelated questions were submitted together, without any opportunity of choice between them, and that it was submitted in an unconstitutional manner since eleven Southern states were denied representation in Congress. The first section was opposed because it was so vague in regard to the "privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States" that the right of a state to regulate its own internal affairs might be destroyed. The objection to the second section was that it impaired the right of the individual states to regulate the suffrage and that it would be the pretext of constant intermeddling by the Federal courts in state affairs. The principle of the new basis of representation was attacked as was the penalty for restriction of the suffrage as inconsistent with the theory of the political system of the United States. The third section was opposed as an unfair attempt to punish a particular class of Southern men in whom the people had confidence. The fourth section was declared unnecessary and the fifth section was denounced as opening the way for unlimited congressional interference. Finally, the committee asked what guarantee the state had, even if the amendment was ratified, that nothing more would be required.
The report represented very fairly opinion in the state and it was adopted with two dissenting votes in the Senate and fifteen in the House. The resolution of rejection was then adopted with one dissenting vote in the Senate and ten in the House.
Immediately a number of the opposition went to Washington to join Holden and Pool who were in conference with the radical leaders. At the request of these North Carolinians, Thaddeus Stevens introduced on December 13th, a bill for the reconstruction of North Carolina which had been prepared by them, and which, after reciting the facts of secession, war, and presidential restoration in a biased fashion, and after calling attention to the duty of Congress to preserve p82a republican form of government, provided that on May 20, 1867, a convention of loyal citizens of the "district formerly comprising the State of North Carolina" should meet in Raleigh to prepare a constitution which after ratification should be submitted to Congress for approval. All who could read or write or who owned $100 worth of real estate could vote and no person who had formerly had the right to vote could be disfranchised. An "iron-clad" oath which would have excluded all persons who had been loyal to the Confederate cause was provided for office-holders. This bill was referred and died in committee. The proposed oath was later offered by Stevens as prerequisite for voting.
In the meantime the state administration was not idle. A commission was appointed to go to Washington to investigate the situation. At first hopeful they soon saw that Congress would win and with Governor Orr, of South Carolina, Governor Parsons, of Alabama, Governor Marvin, of Florida, Judge James of Arkansas, and some of the members of Congress, they prepared a compromise in the form of an amendment to replace the one already proposed. It added a section declaring the Union perpetual, dropped the one imposing disabilities, retained the connection of apportionment of representation and suffrage, and limited the power of the states to impose property and intelligence qualifications. A part of the plan was an amendment to each state constitution, extending the franchise.
The plan excited no enthusiasm in North Carolina. It probably would have passed but for the feeling that it was impossible to do anything but save self-respect. A bill calling a constitutional convention was passed but lacked the required majority. A resolution proposing a national constitutional convention passed with opposition from the extreme radicals. The debates were stormy, and while the radicals were in a minority they would cause infinite trouble. They had traveled rapidly an interesting but circuitous path. First the supporters of the President, they had lauded him to the skies, praised his policy, and denounced the radicals in Congress. They had bitterly opposed, not only negro suffrage but every attempt to recognize the citizenship of the negro, and to give him p83ordinary civil rights, such as the right to sue in the courts or even to allow him to testify in his own behalf. Ousted from control of state affairs, they had held the ear of the President for a time, but had finally come to oppose him and all he stood for and to favor Congress and finally to accept the Fourteenth Amendment. They now took the last step. On December 26, 1866, Holden wrote the Albany Evening Journal, taking strong ground for negro suffrage and saying, in conclusion, "The rebel leaders, who are controlling these States, are totally regardless of political duty, and totally bent on mischief. You must govern them, or they will at last again govern you." And on January 1, 1867, at a meeting of the negroes in the African Church in Raleigh, he declared himself in favor of unqualified negro suffrage, and introduced a resolution requesting Congress to reorganize the state government on the basis of "loyal white and black suffrage." For the future, or as long as he was in political life, he promoted negro suffrage as violently as he had opposed it in the past. He at once commenced the preparation of petitions to Congress praying that negro suffrage might be established, and circulated them among both black and white.
Beginning now, with the new year, there followed a campaign based, as similar ones before, on the supposed alarming conditions in the state. The life and property of all Union men were declared in extreme danger, unless Congress should interfere at once in their behalf. Those conducting the campaign hinted at severe measures, and Holden said that he regretted that the property of about five hundred persons in each state had not been confiscated, and that eight or ten of the leaders in each state had not been executed. Later he said that confiscation was a possibility, and even a probability. Already many of his followers were demanding it in the hope that they would profit thereby.
The whole state was excited and uneasy. Doubt as to the outcome of the struggle between the President and Congress had almost entirely disappeared, and the only question was how far Congress would go in the destruction of the institutions of the Southern state. In the West, A. H. Jones was leading in an effort to secure from Congress the division p84of the state, so that the Union men of that section could protect themselves from the "rebels" of the East. In this turmoil and excitement, the news came of the passage of the reconstruction acts and the establishment of the military government.
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Hamilton et al.
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