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Chapter 13

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of North Carolina

The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York, 1919
Volume II by
William K. Boyd

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 15
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. II
Chapter 14
The Whig Regime; Politics, State and Federal, 1836‑1847

Having traced the origins of the whig and democratic parties and the domestic progress under whig leader­ship, it now remains to review the course of party politics, federal and state, during the same period.

Although the Convention of 1835, by relieving the stress of local sectionalism, made possible the development of state issues, national policies continued to be the center of interest for over a decade. Wrote an anonymous correspondent: "There is no subject connected with the operation of the General Government which does not enlist the zeal of our public and command the attention of those who have leisure to discuss it; whilst the more immediate concerns of the people of North Carolina are widely disregarded, or else noticed in a manner that is even stronger proof of indifference than absolute silence."​1 Yet this unbalanced political interest was not without some benefit. The national issues of the 'thirties and 'forties were vital, involving the disposition of the public domain, the establishment of a fiscal system, the acquisition of new territory, and the extension of slavery. On such questions as these attention was riveted, party division being very close. A new type of leader­ship appeared, in ability and vision of the country's needs comparable only to that of federalism before 1800. Popular understanding of national issues, if judged by local meetings and addresses to the people, was not only more extensive but more intelligent than has been known before or since.

In the presidential election of 1836 Van Buren carried the state by a majority of over 9,000. Apparently the tide had  p264 turned against the whigs. But conditions during his administration were such as to give that party a renewal of strength. In 1837 a financial panic struck the country, forcing the banks of North Carolina to suspend specie payment, and a second wave of depression began in 1839. Van Buren's remedy for the demoralization was the sub-treasury instead of deposits in state banks, the policy of Jackson, or the establishment of a central federal bank, advocated by the whigs. To secure the support of the western states he was willing to grant more liberal terms in the purchase and preemption of public lands. However, bills providing for a sub-treasury and also new terms of land sales were defeated in the spring of 1837.

The policy of the administration came before the people of North Carolina in the congressional election of 1837. The whigs emphasized the land issue, holding that any disposal of the public domain except the distribution of the proceeds of the sales among the states to be unjust. Typical was the opinion of James Graham, candidate in the twelfth district:

During the last year (1836) the sales amounted to the enormous sum of upward twenty million dollars, more than one-half of all the revenue of the United States. * * * Is there a man who has a North Carolina head on his shoulders, or a native North Carolinian's heart in his bosom, who can betray his mother earth, and see her people robbed and plundered annually of her just and equitable share of twenty-four millions of dollars? Shall our venerable parents be stripped of their own property to soothe and to satisfy the murmuring and avaricious wants of their spoiled children? Shall the people of the old states be continually taxed to provide comfortable and sumptuous living for the settler and speculator of the new states? Why did you tax yourselves last fall with the labor of plowing and sowing your grain? Because you expected then and hoped now, in due season, to reap a rich harvest. I verily believe you are as much entitled to your share of the money arising from the sale of the public lands, as you are entitled to the crop now growing which you sowed last autumn.​2

On the other hand the democrats, realizing the interest of the state in distribution, laid much stress on the financial issue, advocating control of the nation's money by the people through the sub-treasury rather than the banks, the creatures  p265 of the money power. Sound reasoning was frequently displaced by an appeal to class prejudice. "No sooner does one of our neighbors turn a bank whig," says an address to the people of Wake County, "than his whole nature becomes transformed — the courtesies and charities of life are frequently sacrificed in blind idolatry to the bank and he deals out curses and insults to the friends of the administration as if he supposed the time had already arrived when none but the followers of the banks had liberty left."3

The election resulted in a whig victory, the party carrying eight of the thirteen congressional districts. The following year the popularity of the legislative policy of 1836 toward internal improvements brought a decisive supremacy in the state elections, Dudley being re-elected governor by more than fourteen thousand majority and both houses of the assembly having safe whig majorities. Thus entrenched, party retaliation was taken for the instruction of Senator Mangum in 1834. Legislative resolutions were adopted, addressed to the democratic senators, Brown and Strange, which condemned the expunging resolutions and urged that they be rescinded, denounced the proposed sub-treasury, and declared the distribution of the proceeds of land sales among the states to be the proper use of the public domain. However, the whigs were careful not to use the terms instruct or instruction, these being a democratic weapon which they had resented and criticized in 1834. The pertinent resolution simply read: "Resolved, That our senators in Congress will represent the wishes of a large majority of the people of this state by voting to carry the foregoing resolutions."4

The attitude of Senators Brown and Strange was interesting. They pointed out the absence of the term instruct and held that instruction was the traditional method of bending the will of senators to that of the legislature; that there was no evidence that the will of the people, formerly expressed in favor of expunging in 1832, had changed, or else an instruction would have been offered; finally, they asked the legislature whether an instruction was intended, but received an  p266 impertinent and indefinite reply. Thereupon they refused to resign until public opinion could be tested at the next meeting of the legislature.​5 Apparently popular sentiment favored the senators, for in 1839 the democrats carried seven of the thirteen congressional districts and in one of these, the fourth, Charles Shepard was re-elected although he had left the whig party.

This threat at the local whig supremacy, as well as its national significance, gave the election of 1840 unusual interest. In fact the campaign of that year marks a distinct epoch in party methods and tactics. The nominating convention for the selection of state candidates and the formulation of issues was introduced. The whigs were the first in the field. In August 1839, a call was issued by a committee appointed by a caucus of the preceding legislature for a convention which met on November 12th at Raleigh, ten months before the state, and twelve before the federal, elections. It was attended by delegates from twenty western and fourteen eastern counties. John M. Morehead was nominated for governor, preference was expressed for Clay and Tallmadge as candidates for president and vice-president, and two delegates at large were chosen for the national convention of the party. The statement of principles was left to a central committee and its report, written and issued after the convention adjourned, endorsed a federal bank, distribution of the proceeds of land sales among the states, public education, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution; it also strongly condemned the spoils system, the sub-treasury, the protective tariff and federal interference with slavery.​6 The democrats likewise resorted to a convention, which met on January 8, 1840 and had a larger representation from the eastern than from the western counties. Romulus M. Saunders was nominated for governor, Van Buren was approved for the presidency, and resolutions were adopted denouncing the bank and endorsing the sub-treasury. A few days after the convention adjourned the North Carolina Standard came out for Polk for the vice-presidency.

 p267  The ensuing campaign was undoubtedly the most exciting of any since that of 1824. Saunders was an experienced politician, having served three terms in Congress, five years as attorney-general of the state, and the same number on the Superior Court bench. Morehead was just entering the prime of life, an heir of Murphey's ideals for economic and social progress, identified also with the nascent interest in manufactures. The candidates toured the state from March to August, engaging in many joint discussions. Public meetings, parades, and festivities abounded, in which the whigs had a shade the advantage. Not only did their local leaders show better skill in organization, but the emblems of their national campaign, the log cabin and hard cider, made a distinct appeal to the masses. Illustrative were resolutions of the Tippecanoe Club of Raleigh:

"Resolved, That the late attempts of some of the Van Buren delegates to throw contempt upon the humble walks of life, by sneering at William Henry Harrison as the log cabin and hard cider candidate, deserve the condemnation of the people;

"Resolved, That we view with contempt and indignation the efforts which some of the demagogues of the administration are making to induce the people of this and adjoining counties to believe, that the cabin in which we are now assembled was erected in disrespect of the poor, and we do now pronounce such a charge to be wholly false;

"Resolved, That as poor men assisted to build this cabin — as they are not ashamed to claim it as typical of the principles of the poor men who go for the good of the whole people — as it is intended to be an expression of contempt for the sneers of the office holders thrown upon the homes of the poor, we will defend it to the utmost of our ability, and we call upon our fellow citizens everywhere to come to the rescue of the rights of the poor men whose wages and property are to be brought down under the administration to the stand of European despotism."​7

When the national democratic convention failed to nominate  p268 a candidate for the vice-presidency, a second state convention met in Raleigh on July 9th and nominated Richard M. Johnston. The whigs, not to be outdone, held a second convention in October, characterized by the martial organization of delegates, a powerful speech in defense of Harrison by George E. Badger, and the publication of Gaston's "Carolina," which soon became the song of state patriotism. Throughout the campaign the personal records of the candidates, as well as extraneous issues which appealed to the prejudices of the people, were unduly emphasized. The question of abolition was introduced. Morehead was taken to task for favoring a limited negro suffrage in the convention of 1835 and was charged with submitting an anti-slavery memorial in the legislature of 1838, which had been actually introduced by his brother, James Morehead. Harrison, the whig presidential nominee, was also charged with signing a law, when governor of Indiana Territory, which made possible the sale of white men to negro masters. In retaliation the whigs dug up anti-slavery memorials submitted to Congress by Saunders in 1824 on behalf of his Quaker constituents, and pointed out that the Indiana law explicitly prohibited an Indian, negro or mulatto from purchasing a servant except one of his own color, and that Van Buren had refused to reopen the case of a naval officer convicted by negro testimony. Notable also was the habit of the gubernatorial candidates to pitch their language to the standard of the country-side. Tradition relates that Saunders once challenged Morehead thus: "Whar, sir, does the gentleman git his authority for that thar statement? I ask him whar?" Morehead replied by lifting up two books and saying: "In them thar dokiments, sir. That's whar." The appeal to prejudice reached its climax when Charles Manly, in debate with Saunders, made three vital charges against Van Buren, — riding in a splendid carriage, sending to the post office for his mail instead of walking for it, and wearing silk stockings.​8 Local conditions favored the whigs, for in the spring of 1840 the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was completed and in June the Raleigh  p269 and Gaston; both of these, constructed with state aid, seemed to vindicate whig policies, and meetings in celebration of their construction were held in Raleigh and Wilmington, in which whig influences predominated. Perhaps realizing that the tide was turning in favor of the whigs, Brown and Strange on June 30th sent their resignations to Governor Dudley, so injecting the issue of instruction into the campaign. The state elections, which came in August, gave a large whig victory, Morehead carrying forty-one of the six counties with a majority of more than 8,000, and in November Harrison and Tyler carried the state by a majority of 13,141.

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John M. Morehead

The whigs proceeded to consolidate their power. Partisan use of the state patronage, begun in 1836, was continued. Two democratic solicitors were replaced by whigs, a whig attorney general, Hugh McQuean, was elected, and also two circuit judges; — thus the entire judicial machinery of the state was whig. The unexpired terms of Strange and Brown were filled by Mangum and William A. Graham, the former being also elected to serve a full term. Nor were the national  p270 councillors of the party unmindful of the redemption of their state from Jackson-Van Buren influence. George E. Badger was appointed Secretary of the Navy and when Mr. Southard of New Jersey resigned from the Senate in 1842, Mangum was chosen president pro tem of that body in his stead. Graham also was elected chairman of the Senate Committee on Claims, a distinct honor for a first term and for a man of thirty-eight years. When Mangum became presiding officer of the Senate, Graham also took his place on the finance committee. In 1841 the whigs carried eight of the thirteen congressional districts.

However there were clouds in the political sky. The eastern whigs were disgruntled because the two senators should be from the west, in fact from the same county, Orange. Far and wide there was discontent over the election of Graham, one of the younger party leaders, as yet comparatively unknown. Mangum also had been on both sides of nearly every national issue. The fact is, there were two well defined wings of the party; the federal whigs, allies of Henry Clay, led by Gaston, Badger, Lewis Williams and Graham — and republican whigs, led by Mangum, William B. Shepard, John Owen and Governor Dudley, who were openly opportunists regarding Clay's American System. In the senatorial election the issue of the national bank was a cause of division. The legislature, however, adopted a resolution declaring that a national bank was constitutional and favoring the organization of such an institution. But whig security was short lived. In Congress Clay's program met the determined opposition of Tyler. Two bills chartering the Fiscal Bank of the United States, which received the undivided support of the whig delegation from North Carolina, were vetoed in the summer of 1841. Thereupon Badger, like all the cabinet officers except Webster, resigned on the ground that the President had placed him in a false position by approving the second bill and so leading him to solicit influence for it.​9 Tyler's action was taken up in a whig caucus in which resolutions censuring his course, introduced by Mangum, were adopted.

 p271  In the matter of national revenue there was also a party division. The compromise tariff of 1833, which provided for an automatic reduction of duties, had by 1841 reduced revenue below expenditures. Hence a loan was authorized, the beginning of the modern bonded debt of the United States, and also a distribution law, providing that the proceeds of land sales should not be distributed whenever the needs of the treasury required an increase of the tariff about twenty percent. The tariff met with the approval of Mangum and Graham and of five of the whig congressmen. However, when a permanent tariff was enacted in 1842 the vote of the North Carolina senators and congressmen was reversed, not so much from a change in principle but because Tyler forced the exclusion of distribution from the tariff act. In fact Graham certainly would, and Mangum might, have voted for the measure if their votes had been necessary for its passage. Behind the policy of the whigs was a new sentiment favorable to protection, due to a nascent industrialism in the state and also a feeling that foreign cotton might invade the American market. Governor Morehead in his address to the legislature of 1842 voiced the protectionist sentiment as follows:

All agree that duties may be imposed to raise Revenue, but some contend that they can be imposed for no other object. If this latter doctrine be true, then are we shorn of some of the most important prerogatives of a sovereign people — then may we be subjected to the most abject commercial slavery. If it be admitted that Europe can pour into our country the excessive productions of her pauper labor, whenever she chooses, and can exclude our productions from her markets, or tax them so high as to be ruinous to us, and that we have no power to protect ourselves against the influx of the one, or, to counteract the oppressive exclusions, or heavy exactions of the other — then, indeed, we are in a helpless condition.

* * * * * * *

That the General Government has power to impose duties for the protection of American industry, against European industry, and to counteract foreign legislation hostile to our interests, I think cannot admit of a doubt. When the states became independent, they had the power unquestionably. All their powers to impose duties they transferred to the General Government by the adoption of the Constitution. Then they ceased to have the power and if the General Government has it not, then the power is extinct. Is there an American willing to admit this?

 p272  While these matters engaged Congress, the state elections of 1842 occurred. Local as well as national issues were involved. The trustees of the Literary Fund had gone to the aid of the Raleigh and Gaston Railway when the road was unable to pay interest on its bonds, and this action it was believed was really in the interest of the banks, which held the bonds. The proscriptive policy of Morehead's administration was held up in contrast to the liberal attitude toward democrats by Dudley. The democratic state convention, which held one session in Raleigh in January, 1842, and another in Salisbury on May 20, condemned the recent measures of Congress, charged gross extravagance, notably the funeral expenses for President Harrison, denounced the state banks for not resuming specie payments and for declaring dividends when suspension was in force, and nominated Louis D. Henry of Cumberland County for governor. The whig convention, which met in April, renominated Morehead for governor, repudiated Tyler, and declared Henry Clay the choice of the party for the presidential nomination in 1844. The campaign was somewhat similar to that of 1840, lacking, however, the stress of the presidential issue and the intensive organization of the whigs so evident in that campaign. Henry and Morehead began a series of joint debates which made a great impression, for both were skilled in the kind of oratory and the type of argument which appealed to the masses. Notable was their opening debate in Cumberland County. The policy of the state banks being one of the subjects under discussion, Mr. Henry charged Governor Morehead with being largely interested in the banks and being heavily indebted to them. These points he drove home with bitter invective, denunciation, and eloquence. When Morehead rose to reply, his friends thought that all was lost, for the Governor "reviewed the history of the banks; spoke, at length, of the independence of one who was so fortunate as to be largely interested in them; depicted the horrible and woeful condition of one so vastly indebted to them as he was represented to be by his competitor; as he advanced and culminated in drawing this dreadful picture, his friends, believing that his condition, were more deeply depressed and looked like they desired to slink away to  p273 hiding places — but when he reached the climax of his friends' despair and his enemies' joy, seeming to rise higher than was his wont, pausing — it was an awful pause — and casting his eyes around upon his whole audience, he proudly — as none but he could — and defiantly explained: 'I have not a single dollar's interest in the Banks — I owe them not one copper cent!' What a change in the crowd! His friends looked as joyously as a mother to whom a babe has been restored unharmed. * * * He then carried everything before him. Henry and his friends never rallied, nor did he over that discussion during the campaign."10

On account of poor health Henry dropped out of the campaign in May but the North Carolina Standard filled its columns with pertinent argument in a style more virile than had been known. Morehead was re-elected, but the democrats carried the legislature.

Factionalism at once appeared among the ranks of the democrats. The cause was the choice of a senator to succeed the unexpired term which Graham had filled since 1841. Bedford Brown, desiring vindication on account of his resignation in 1840, was the stronger candidate, but Saunders desired reward for his race against Morehead. The personal rivalry was complicated by the question of national leader­ship. Brown favored Van Buren for the presidential nomination in 1844 and letters in his interest were sent to the state by Jackson, Silas Wright, and Thomas H. Benton, while Saunders leaned toward Calhoun. A legislative caucus was held in which Brown led on four ballots, but Saunders would not admit defeat. The rivalry was then carried into the formal election. The whigs, by voting for Graham, caused a deadlock, but finally on the ninth ballot the names of Brown and Saunders were withdrawn and William H. Haywood, a democrat whose course was always marked by a degree of independence, was elected. To humble Mangum a series of resolutions were adopted which asserted the right of instructing senators and the duty of senators to be guided thereby, denounced the tariff of 1842 as "unwise in policy, dangerous to public  p274 liberty, and a perversion of that constitutional government which was framed and adopted for the protection and security of all," demanded the repeal of the new federal bankruptcy law, and also the refunding of a fine imposed on Andrew Jackson by Judge Hall during the War of 1812.​11 The census of 1840 having made a new apportionment necessary, new congressional and electoral districts were erected. Concerning these the whigs charged a gerrymander. In the congressional election of 1843 the democrats carried five of the nine districts.

For economic and social progress, the legislature did nothing, although Governor Morehead made a number of recommendations. Instead it indulged very freely in criticism of whig policies. The committee on internal improvements condemned state aid as it existed, but trustees of the Literary Fund were allowed to invest $50,000 in redeeming the bonds of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad. An investigation of the loans made by the Literary Fund disclosed the fact that of $108,955 loaned, $97,469 were in the hands of forty-seven whig borrowers, the total number of borrowers being fifty-five. The banks came in for vigorous criticism. In May, 1837, they had been forced to a suspension of specie payments by similar action of institutions in other states. They resumed payment in August, 1838, but again suspended specie payment in October, 1839, and finally resumed payment in 1842. During this period of suspension loans were contracted and exchange was at a premium. In the legislature of 1840 Hoke, a democrat, started an investigation and a bill prohibiting banks to collect debts when specie was refused was barely defeated. However, after resumption the banks contracted their note issues, so continuing the resentment of the debtor class. Moreover, among the twenty-one directors of the Bank of the State and the Bank of the Cape Fear, in which the state held stock, only one was a democrat. What an excellent chance for a partisan attack! Hence one of the democratic slogans on the hustings in the summer of 1842 was, "Down with the banks, up with the people." Naturally the democratic legislature was flooded with a series of bank bills. The trend of these was to  p275 threaten any future suspension with a forfeiture of charter, fine, or tax on bank notes, to limit exchange rates, and to prohibit any bank from accepting in payment of debts any notes except its own. Most important was a relief bill authorizing the issue of $1,000,000 in treasury notes, to be loaned to the people on land mortgages at six percent. These measures were generally opposed by the whig members, who pointed out the unconstitutionality of treasury notes and the possible violation of the bank charters. Most decisive was the threat of the Bank of the State to go into liquidation in case the relief bill was adopted.​12 In the end wiser counsels prevailed and no action was taken. The discussion however showed definitely that the whig party was lined up with the established financial system and that the democrats pandered to the proletariat.

On the whole the legislature accomplished nothing for the improvement of the state save the incorporation of ten academies and two manufacturing companies. However the democrats carried the congressional elections of 1843, electing five of the nine congressmen. A celebrated incident of the campaign was the visit of Stanly, whig, to Nash County, a democratic stronghold. He had been informed that he would not be allowed to speak. When he arose to address his audience he said, "I realize that I am facing the unterrified democracy of Nash County, but I want you to know and to bear witness that I face you unterrified." Here is the origin of the political phrase, "unterrified democracy." A great democratic gain occurred in 1843 when William W. Holden assumed the editor­ship of the North Carolina Standard. Born in poverty, he became a printer's devil in the office of Dennis Heartt at Hillsboro. Later he removed to Raleigh and was employed in the office of the Star, a whig paper. Through the influence of James B. Shepard he now took charge of the Standard and as editor manifested a power of satire and ridicule, and made such an appeal to the masses that he won the bitter hatred of his former party associates. His defection was denounced as the action of a "little renegade deserter, who is so late from the ranks of Whiggery, that the very Turpentine of their Log  p276 Cabins which he got on him while creeping like an Old Coon through the logs of which they were built, is still sticking to his fur."13

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William W. Holden

The campaign of 1844, a year for presidential as well as state elections, now became the center of interest. In their state convention, which met in December 1843, the whigs again committed themselves to Clay for the presidential nomination, declared that a national bank should be established, endorsed distribution, and favored a tariff which in addition to raising revenue would counteract the restrictions imposed on the trade of the United States by foreign nations and "incidentally afford just protection to American industry." William A.  p277 Graham was nominated for governor. The democratic convention met a week later. Again the western counties were slightly represented, only nine sending delegates. The platform condemned a national bank, approved state banks on specie capital regulated by the legislature, endorsed a tariff for revenue only and also the veto power of the president, and favored the return of Jackson's fine. Michael Hoke, like Graham a native of Lincoln County, was nominated for governor.

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William A. Graham

The most notable event of the campaign was Henry Clay's visit to the state in April, 1844. Arriving at Wilmington on April 11, his tour partook of a nonpartisan gala occasion, Clay himself asserting, "I come not as a political gladiator, but as an American citizen. I take the hand of one party as cordially as I do another, for we all are American citizens. I place country far above all parties." The feature of this visit was his entertainment at Raleigh, which lasted a week. The city was thronged with visitors as never before, among the prominent guests being William G. Brownlow of Tennessee and B. W. Leigh of Virginia. Though the occasion was avowedly nonpartisan, Clay's address at Raleigh was an exposition of whig principles, a plea for tariff for revenue with incidental protection, sound money through a bank of the United States, and distribution. Toward the end of his visit he penned his famous letter of April 17 against the immediate annexation of Texas, declaring such action without the consent of Mexico would be a measure "compromising the character of the nation, involving us certainly in a war with Mexico and probably with foreign powers, dangerous to the integrity of the Union, inexpedient in the present financial condition of the country and not called for by any general expression of public opinion." The effect of the letter on Clay's political fortunes is well known. Evidently his policy was influenced by sentiment in North Carolina; neither political party had made any official pronouncement on the Texas question but Badger, Stanly and Morehead concurred in the view taken in the letter.​14 However the North Carolina Standard under Holden's  p278 editor­ship, a week before Clay's visit, had come out for annexation, so foreshadowing the action of the national democratic convention.15

In the whig national convention the North Carolina delegates naturally supported Clay, who was nominated. But the democrats were at sea. A majority of the North Carolina delegation was opposed to Van Buren, and Romulus M. Saunders moved the adoption of the two‑thirds rule which assured the rejection of Van Buren. The preference of Holden and Saunders was for Calhoun, but they were in a hopeless minority. The official ballots showed the delegation divided, principally between Cass and Johnston, until the eleventh ballot, when the entire delegation went for Polk.

The contest for state officers centered around the debates between Graham and Hoke; the former was "more learned, more experienced, calmer, more dignified and more impressive," the latter "more nimble, quicker, brighter, and more entertaining."​16 Hoke defended and Graham opposed, the annexation of Texas. The democrats sought to arouse the  p279 interest of the common man in the question by pointing out the opportunity for the renter to buy property upon the removal of the slave holders to the southwest. On the other hand the whig central committee issued a confidential circular urging a full vote since a "powerful and united effort is being made to carry this state for Texas and Disunion."​17 Journalistic activity was also a feature of the campaign. In June Loring, editor of the Star, deserted the democrats and established a campaign sheet, The Independent, in the interest of Clay. The editorials of the Standard displayed a sting of sarcasm and ridicule. An example was the following:

" 'Gaps in chickens may be easily cured by giving them small crumbs of bread impregnated with a little soft soap; once or twice is sufficient.' — Raleigh Star.

"And gaps in coons may be easily cured by giving them small doses of Polk juice in little soft pieces of Clay. This physic will cure them by killing them out-right; once will do."

But the climax was reached when the following burlesque on the leading whigs appeared, the most piquant attack of the campaign:

"For Salt River. The substantial packet schooner 'Scavenger' will sail by order of the people of the United States for the head waters of Salt River during the month of November. She carries out as a passenger the Honorable Henry Clay who, after having sought office at the hands of the said people for more than twenty years, has at length received the appointment of Collector of Customs at head waters of said river, at which point it is expected he will prove in his official capacity, that high tariffs make cheap goods. He will carry out a strong corps of surveyors, tide waiters, bum bailiffs, etc.; and as the country is new and unsettled, it is thought that these officers will find constant employment. The following appointments have already been made: Surveyors, Millard Fillmore, of New York, and General Markle, of Pennsylvania; Berrien, of Georgia, and Morehead, of North Carolina. Tide waiters, Stanly, Cherry, and Palmer of North Carolina, and Pleasants, of Virginia. Bumb Boat Women, Messrs. Mangum  p280 and Badger, of North Carolina. These last appointments are considered peculiarly appropriate. Mr. Mangum, it is thought, will sing three times a day a song of thankfulness for having been delivered from Mr. Edwards, of Virginia, while Mr. B. will serve as a beacon by standing at the mouth of Old Salt every night with a mammoth cigar in his mouth. The collector, it is presumed, will permit him to while away the long hours by untiring threats of 'Revolution' to intimidate the bats and owls."​18

Stung by such reflections, the Fayetteville Observer issued a number of denunciations of the Standard's policies. The results of the election were a whig victory, Graham defeating Hoke by 3,151 and Clay winning over Polk by 3,390, the latter vote being remarkable as Kentucky and Tennessee were the only other Southern states giving Clay a majority. The democrats however were elated over the victory of Polk, seeing in it a triumph of policies temporarily rejected by the state. But the new administration did not have smooth sailing. Not only were the whigs bitter in their opposition but disaffection appeared among the democratic leaders.

First of all the foreign policy provoked criticism. The election being taken as the nation's approval of the annexation of Texas, the matter was taken up in the Senate in the last months of Tyler's administration. Involved with it was the perplexing problem of slavery extension. For this Senator Haywood offered a solution in a bill annexing Texas, with the consent of the Republic of Texas, as a territory, and setting aside its land north of latitude 34° as a part of the Territory of Nebraska, in which slavery would be prohibited.​19 The bill making no progress, the author threw his support to the Benton bills, one of which embodied the joint resolution by which Texas finally became a part of the Union. To the last the North Carolina whigs were opposed to annexation. In the legislature of 1844 they introduced in the House of Commons a resolution approving annexation if it could be accomplished without compromising the rights, interests, and honor of the Union, but it was defeated. Senator Mangum and the entire  p281 whig delegation in Congress from the state voted against the resolution of annexation.

More delicate was the Oregon question. The democratic platform having demanded reoccupation, Polk asked Congress to terminate joint occupation with England, after an offer of the line of 49° as a boundary between the two nations had been rejected. At once the expansionists replied with the slogan, "54° 40′ or fight." The President, however, with his eye on Mexico was not unwilling to compromise, and let the facts be known. The first inkling to the public that such a policy would satisfy the administration was a speech by Senator Haywood on March 4 and 5, 1846. In it he declared that the honor of the nation was committed to compromise before Polk's election, that reoccupation could only mean the territory south of 49°, for north of it there were no American settlers, and that his own state was opposed to radical expansion and he must follow its wishes rather than the democratic convention of 1844, which had no right to bind the party. At these views the Northern democrats were incensed. Hannegan of Indiana remarked that if Senator Haywood had correctly represented Polk, then "James K. Polk has spoken words of falsehood and with the tongue of a serpent." Senator Allen charged that Haywood, having attained the confidence of the administration, was attempting to drive him from the chairman­ship of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Polk, on being questioned, evaded all responsibility by denying that Haywood was authorized to speak for him. But the speech was evidently inspired, since the line 49° was finally adopted as a compromise.

The democratic financial policy included the sub-treasury and the reduction of the tariff. The former was provided for in August, 1846, without disagreement among the North Carolina democrats. The readjustment of the tariff however proved more difficult. In 1843 a bill to reduce rates had been submitted by Mr. McKay, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and congressman from the Fifth North Carolina District, but it was rejected. Then in 1846 came the Walker Tariff. With difficulty it passed the House, among the opponents being the three whig congressmen from the state,  p282 Barringer, Dockery, and James Graham. In the Senate the outlook was less promising on account of the opposition of two democrats, Jarnegan of Tennessee, and Haywood. When Polk appealed to the latter for support of the bill his reply was, "I would rather die than to vote for it."​20 Finally Senator Haywood, realizing that his convictions and those of his party were in conflict, resigned on July 25, and the Senate passed the bill by a majority only a few days later. In "An Address to People of North Carolina" he gave five reasons for his opposition, viz.: that the bill was different from the bill of 1843 which had helped win the democratic victory of 1844, that it would result in a deficit on account of the Mexican War, that it did not give industries time to readjust from  p283 existing to new schedules, that the whole financial program of the party should go into force gradually, and that the prevailing conception of a tariff in North Carolina was that of revenue with incidental protection, to which the Walker Bill did not conform.​21 Therefore for the sake of party harmony and because he did not endorse the interpretation of tariff policy in the legislative instructions of 1842, he resigned. His action was praised by the whigs and condemned by the democrats. The Standard declared Senator Haywood to be "an apostate deserter who never will be able in the course of the longest life to expiate one hundred part of the political transgression which he has this day committed."22


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William H. Haywood

So far the democratic disaffection was limited to Senator Haywood; but in the matter of the public lands a real breach was threatened. The policy of distribution was of distinct interest to North Carolina, for thereby funds might be secured for local internal improvements. But to this policy the national democracy was opposed, standing, in contrast, for lower prices and more liberal terms to the purchases of public lands. Hence the graduation bill of 1846 was received with apathy by five North Carolina democrats, H. S. Clark, Reid, Daniel, Dobbin, and Biggs. Through the personal influence of the administration the first four voted for the measure on its last reading, but Biggs was absent; all had been among the nays on the previous votes.23

Such was the federal background for state politics in 1846, a year of state elections. The party conventions met early in January. The whigs adopted resolutions in favor of a tariff for revenue with incidental protection and distribution of the proceeds of public land sales, condemned the sub-treasury, and recommended Governor Graham for re-election. The democrats endorsed the national administration and nominated Green W. Caldwell of Mecklenburg for governor. Their convention also marked a step in party organization, for the first time voting being by counties rather than individuals, and a democratic state committee replacing the previous central  p284 committee. In the campaign the democrats were handicapped by a division within their ranks. Caldwell declined the nomination. An aspirant for his place was Walter F. Leake of Richmond County, who was approved by democratic meetings in Anson, Union, Montgomery, Mecklenburg, Lincoln, and Catawba counties. But the democratic state committee asserted itself by nominating James B. Shepard of Raleigh. Mr. Leake however remained in the race until May, when the state committee, after examining the claims submitted by both candidates, decided in favor of Shepard. A feature of the campaign was the democratic attack on the whig policy toward internal improvements, notably the price paid by the state at the foreclosure of the Raleigh and Gaston mortgage. During the summer occurred the defection of Haywood and the threatened breach over distribution. It was not surprising therefore that the election, which occurred in August, disclosed another whig triumph, Graham being re-elected by a majority of 7,859. Commenting on the result the Standard said: "Federalism with its lawyers and banks and corporations and merchants to sustain it, has won the day and now we suppose the Whigs will have Railroads, Turn-pikes, and state indebtedness and high taxes to the heart's content. So be it."​24 The legislature of 1846 repealed the congressional district law of 1842 and created new districts, to which action the democrats applied the term "raynermander," from Kenneth Rayner who introduced the bill. The result was a whig victory in the congressional elections of 1847, the party carrying six of the nine districts. In 1846, also Mangum was re-elected United States Senator and Badger, another whig, replaced Haywood.

It was during the state campaign of 1846 that the Mexican war opened. At once the question of its origin and also its conduct became matters of party controversy. The whigs were loud in their criticism. The legislative candidates of the party in Johnston County issued a circular denouncing the war and demanding peace. Governor Graham in his message of November 17, 1846, criticized the executive policy which  p285 resulted in the war and said: "It still remains a momentous question, under our institutions, whether Congress can be superseded in the power to make war and the authority given to the executive only to effectuate the will of the legislature, can be used to determine and settle the policy of the country in matters of boundary or any other." In the legislature the whigs prefixed to a resolution appropriating money for volunteers a preamble declaring that the war was caused by executive action. It was carried in the Senate by a majority of one but was rejected in the Commons by a majority of three. Early in 1847 a series of public meetings was held denouncing the war and demanding peace. The Raleigh Register urged the election of whig congressmen as a means of hastening an end of the conflict.​25 A similar attitude was taken by leading whig representatives at Washington. Senator Mangum in 1846 was among those who doubted that a state of war existed by action of the Mexican government and therefore objected to military appropriation bill. In 1848 four of the North Carolina congressmen, Barringer, Clingman, Donnell, and Shepperd, voted for the Ashmun amendment to the Hudson peace resolution, which declared the war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President. Senator Badger voted against confirmation of the treaty of peace because it added territory to the United States and thereby gave new life to the slavery issue.

With such a political background it is not surprising that partizan­ship and discontent characterized the state's relation to the military conduct of the war. In May, 1846, President Polk called on Governor Graham to raise a regiment of volunteers, consisting of ten companies and field officers, approximately 1,000 men. More than three times the number asked for responded, most of whom were from the region west of Raleigh. The ten companies chosen were drawn by lot; the company officers were chosen by the volunteers and the field officers were appointed by the governor. This policy was somewhat at variance with the tradition of the state militia, in which the field officers were chosen by the commissioned  p286 officers. Democratic criticism was afforded an outlet when Governor Graham announced as field officers Robert Payne of Edenton (Colonel), John A. Fagg (Lieutenant Colonel), both anti-war whigs, and Stokes of Surry, a democrat and a West Pointer (Major).​a If the election had been left to the company commanders their choice for Colonel would undoubtedly have been Louis D. Wilson of Edgecombe. But he was a democrat of political ability and ambition. However he finally received an appointment in the army of the United States and died of yellow fever in Mexico. In December the regiment was formally called into federal service. The terms were that each soldier and officer should furnish his own clothing, for which an allowance of $3.50 per month was given with an advance for six months, and that mileage should be computed at 50 cents for each twenty miles to Wilmington and Charlotte, the places of mustering. All the companies except one from Rowan refused these terms. A new organization was necessary, secured by an appeal of the governor to the military officers of the counties. In addition two companies were organized for the regular army of the United States, which were attached to the Twelfth Infantry. The legislature rallied to the cause by appropriating $10,000 for equipment and authorizing the governor to spend $10,000 additional at his discretion. Yet discontent did not vanish. The mustering officers being tardy in reaching the state, a number of desertions occurred. At length in March, 1847, the companies left for their destination in Mexico. There the regiment of volunteers added nothing to the fair name of the state. Colonel Payne proved to be vain and incompetent. A crisis was reached in September, 1847. A wooden horse which he used in meting out discipline was raided and broken to pieces by Virginia troops. When they made a second raid to destroy the debris, Colonel Payne fired, killing one and wounding others. Thereupon all the officers in his regiment requested his resignation. The matter being referred to General Wool, that officer dismissed Lieutenants Pender and Singletary. A number of officers again submitted their resignations, but General Wool pacified them and the two dismissed lieutenants on appeal to the War Department were reinstated. Although the state  p287 troops had no part in any of the leading battles of the war, a number of North Carolinians in the regular army gained distinction and experience which prepared them for their part in the larger War of Secession, notably Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Braxton Bragg, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James G. Martin, and Joseph Lane.

The Author's Notes:

1 "Mentor," North Carolina Standard, Dec. 6, 1837.

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2 Raleigh Register, May 2, 1837, Cf. Address of A. Rencher, April 11, and of Lewis Williams, March 28.

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3 North Carolina Standard, Aug. 9, 1837.

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4 Laws of N. C., 1838, p81.

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5 Cong. Globe, 25th Cong., 3rd Sess., VII.116.

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6 Hamilton, Party Politics in North Carolina, p56.

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7 Raleigh Register, July 28, 1840.

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8 Hamilton, Party Politics in North Carolina, 1835‑1860 (James Sprunt Hist. Publication), pp61‑63.

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9 Raleigh Star, Sept. 29, 1841.

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10 W. L. Scott, In Memoriam, Hon. John M. Morehead, p54.

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11 Laws of North Carolina, 1842‑3, p113.

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12 Address of Whig Members, Raleigh Register, May 16, 19, 1843.

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13 Raleigh Register, July 4, 1843.

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14 Clay to Crittenden, April 17, 1844 (Crittenden MSS.).

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15 April 3, 1844.

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16 Nash, Wm. A. Graham, p541 (Bulletin 7, N. C. Hist. Comm.).

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17 Standard, July 15, 1846.

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18 Standard, Oct. 30, 1844.

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19 Cong. Globe, 28 Cong., 2d Sess., Appendix, p154.

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20 Polk, Diary, July 23, 1846.

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21 Raleigh Register, Aug. 25, 1846.

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22 July 29, 1846.

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23 Raleigh Register, July 21, 1846.

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24 Aug. 19, 1846.

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25 Register, July 30, 1847.

Thayer's Note:

a If Stokes was "a West Pointer", he was not a graduate. The only graduate by that last name before 1860 was not from North Carolina, and did not serve in the Mexican War, being a civilian at the time.

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