Work as imperatively necessary as the impeachment confronted the legislature of 1870. Reform of the government in all departments, the checking of extravagance, the amendment of a sadly defective constitution, and the punishment of official criminals other than the governor remained to be done.
Accordingly, salaries were cut on all sides, those of the adjutant-general and the superintendent of public works being reduced to $300 which virtually destroyed the offices. To strike Ashley, the same thing was proposed for the superintendent of public instruction, but wiser counsel prevailed and the salary was reduced to $1,500. The per diem of members of the legislature was cut to $5 and the fees of county officers were greatly reduced.
The hated Shoffner act was repealed and accompanying this was an act forbidding the existence of secret political societies. Other legislation of importance followed. Contempt of court was defined and the power of the judges limited, residence in the township was required as prerequisite for voting, judges were made strictly liable for refusal to grant and have executed the writ of habeas corpus, burglary and arson were made capital crimes, and the power of appointing state proxies and state directors for the institutions and companies in which the state had an interest was taken from the governor. Under the provisions of this last act the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House appointed full boards, and, the old boards declining to yield, suits were brought to determine the constitutionality of the law. In every case the Supreme Court decided in favor of the old p171 boards on the ground that the legislature could not deprive the governor of any constitutional power.
The impeachment of a number of officials was publicly demanded, but the legislature rather wisely did not wish to cheapen impeachment even if deserved. Judge Watts probably escaped for this reason. Judge Jones, however, was certain of impeachment and only hastened it by making a brutal and murderous assault while drunk upon a negro strumpet in his room. He was indicted and before trial was impeached, only thirteen members, all of them republicans, voting against the resolution. The board of managers was headed by Samuel F. Phillips, the republican leader of the House. Jones was induced by party leaders to resign, but the governor refused to allow him to escape without the consent of the House, which, in order to avoid expense, withdrew the articles. The governor then accepted the resignation.
Abbott's term in the Senate was about to expire and the legislature was much interested in the choice of a successor. Many were mentioned for the place, but Vance most prominently. He was under disabilities but was confident of their removal and demanded the election. M. W. Ransom was his chief competitor and only Vance's great personal popularity won him the caucus nomination, and that only by a majority of two after twenty-seven ballots, and after he had pledged himself to resign if his disabilities were not removed. He was accordingly elected but was denied his seat and his disabilities were not removed. Abbott then laid claim to the seat on the remarkable ground that as Vance was banned, he as the recipient of the next highest vote was elected. The most interesting fact in connection with his claim was that he found two radical members of the Senate committee on elections to agree with him. As time passed and Vance did not resign, opposition to him came to the surface. Finally, a resolution requesting his resignation was introduced and debated at length in the conservative caucus and there defeated. Press demands of the same sort were frequent, and finally, he wrote a public letter claiming that his pledge to resign had been made to his friends alone. He was urged in p172 Washington by democratic senators to retire but still refused and thereby made many enemies.
Constitutional reform was a burning question, and a bill finally passed both houses, by a simple majority vote, submitting to the people the question of a convention which should be restricted by being forbidden to alter the homestead and personal property exemption clauses, to deprive colored persons of their rights, to compensate former owners of slaves, to recognize the war debt, to restore corporal punishment, to abolish public schools, to require an educational or property qualification for suffrage, to change the ratio between poll and property taxes, to pass ordinances of a legislative nature except concerning the public debt and to change in any way the mechanics and laborers' lien and the clauses denying the right of secession and declaring the paramount allegiance of every citizen due to the United States. All changes had to be ratified by the people. When the bill first came before the Senate, Lieutenant-Governor Caldwell claimed that a two‑thirds vote was necessary because the constitution required that majority to call a convention. Precedents in the state were all on the other side when the question was to be referred to the people, and the Senate persisted. By the time the House passed the bill, Caldwell had succeeded Holden and in spite of a former recorded opinion on the other side, after a conference of republican leaders was held, backed by four of the five justices of the Supreme Court who laid aside established precedents for a party purpose and gave an opinion on the subject, he declined to call the election on the ground that the act was not law. The conservatives were deeply angered and at once repassed the bill, altering it so as to ignore the governor and direct the sheriffs to hold the election.
A furious campaign followed. Most of the important republican leaders in former years had taken the conservative position, but they now declared the act invalid, defended the existing constitution, and threatened a new reconstruction of the state if the constitution was tampered with. President Grant even sent Attorney-General Akerman down to give warning of this. A number of republicans, however, including Nathaniel Boyden, who had now succeeded Thomas Settle p173 on the Supreme Court, favored the call. There was really every reason for a change and the conservatives continued to appeal to reason with perfectly sound arguments on the need of reform, and the necessity of economy, but the republicans beat the bushes with threats of a new reconstruction and warnings that the homestead would be lost, the colored people deprived of their new rights, and the state made bankrupt by the expense. Federal officials threatened violators of the revenue laws and those suspected of membership in the Ku Klux. Needless to say, the latter arguments were most effective, and the convention was defeated by more than 9,000 majority.
When the legislature met in the fall of 1871 amendment by legislative action was undertaken and a bill for that purpose received the necessary three‑fifths of each house. It provided for striking out the provisions relating to the state debt, the township system, the state census, the code commission, the superintendent of public works, and for the reduction of the number of Superior and Supreme Court judges, for a biennial election of members of the legislature and biennial sessions with compensation of $300 for the entire term and 10 cents mileage, for placing county government in the hands of the legislature, and for a prohibition of holding a plurality of offices. The suggestions mentioned above were also included.
Much of the time of the session was given to the matter of the debt but no agreement could be reached, the views of the members being widely at variance. Some wanted flat repudiation and very few desired the payment of the whole debt.
Just before the close of the session, Vance, under great pressure and very unwillingly, resigned and Ransom was elected. Only then did the Senate committee report unfavorably upon Abbott's claim to the seat. A little later Vance's disabilities were removed.
Matthew W. Ransom
In the meantime, the Ku Klux had once more come to the front. After their operations had ceased in the central part of the state, a period of activity began in several western counties, but chiefly in Cleveland and Rutherford. The Invisible Empire there had degenerated until it bore little resemblance to the original. It served to cover partisan political p174 activity, private vengeance, sheer lawlessness without further motive, and, even in a number of cases, the activities of certain republicans in violation of the United States internal revenue laws in relation to the distillation of whiskey. One of these was for a time county chief of Rutherford. Three raids in Rutherford in 1871 attracted public attention, though the most important — the whipping of Aaron Biggarstaff — was really part of a typical neighborhood feud. J. M. Justice, a republican lawyer and a member of the Legislature was whipped and ordered to abstain from politics, and the office of the Rutherford Star, a republican paper, was wrecked.
In December, 1870, President Grant, in reply to a Senate resolution, sent a message on the subject of the Ku Klux in North Carolina, accompanying it with a mass of documents. p175 A special committee was appointed and examined fifty-three witnesses, thirty-three of whom were republicans and twenty conservatives. A large part of the testimony was hearsay, but from it, or rather with it, the majority succeeded in producing a report which declared the existence of the Ku Klux organization, composed of democrats, with a political purpose which it carried out by violence, at the same time protecting its members from punishment by secrecy and perjury, and that, in consequence, the authorities of the state were unable to secure to its citizens life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The minority framed a strong dissenting report in which they denounced the investigation as a conspiracy to restore republican rule in North Carolina — which in a sense it was — after it had been repudiated by the people. They did not deny the existence of the Ku Klux organizations but declared them a natural result of Reconstruction.
On March 23, 1871, the President sent a message to Congress on the subject of the Ku Klux and in response to his recommendation an act to enforce the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment became law in April. This act, in which, as Professor Burgess says, "Congress simply threw to the winds the constitutional distribution of powers between the states and the United States Government in respect to civil liberty, crime and punishment," ignored the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment gave Congress power only against state action, and provided for the arrest, trial, and punishment of individuals by the Federal courts, and made all persons depriving another of rights under the Constitution liable to the party injured in heavy damages. It prescribed penalties for conspiring against the United States or for the hindrance of any of its laws. Penalties were imposed for going upon the highways in disguise with the intent to hinder anyone in the exercise of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The President was authorized to take such measures as he might deem best to suppress the trouble, and was given power, when the civil authority was powerless to perform its functions, to proclaim any portion of a state or the entire state in a condition of insurrection and to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.
p176 Before the passage of this act, a joint committee was appointed and began a prolonged investigation designed to furnish material for the republican party. The results of the investigation were reported to the next session of Congress in thirteen volumes. Of it, William Garrott Brown says, "From these volumes, he who lives long enough to read it all, may learn much that is true, but not important; much that is important, if true; and somewhat that is both true and important." Nineteen witnesses were examined for North Carolina, of whom nine were republicans, including three carpet-baggers and two negroes. The most notable witness was William L. Saunders, head of the Invisible Empire, who appeared before the committee and declined to answer any question relating to the Ku Klux. He was bullied and threatened, but stood steadfast and quietly defiant until the end, when he was dismissed without any action being taken against him, though his case was referred to the Senate for action.
In North Carolina Judge Logan had become greatly excited and had asked the President for Federal soldiers. The answer had naturally been that any such request must come from the governor. After the Biggarstaff affair, at his request, the governor obtained Federal troops. When the Justice raid occurred he declined to hold court in Cleveland County, although the sheriff came for him with an escort and the solicitor, W. P. Bynum, also a republican, assured him there was no danger. A short time later, recovering from his fears in most suspicious haste, he began to issue bench warrants upon suspicion, and a large number of persons were arrested and confined in jail and denied trial or bail. With the passage of the Ku Klux act by Congress the United States deputy marshals became active and over one hundred persons were arrested by them, many without warrant, a number imprisoned without hearing or bail, and the rest examined before Nathan Scoggins, the United States commissioner, a recent republican acquisition and a man of evil life and character. That he was later removed from office for accepting bribes proves this, for bribe-taking in itself by a Federal official in North p177 Carolina in the '70s carried no stigma. It was regarded merely as a customary and accepted prerequisite of office.
The officer most active in making arrests was Joseph G. Hester, another person of ill-fame, who was later to become notorious for his activities in Alabama. Like Scoggins, he had been a Ku Klux. Every possible indignity was heaped upon the prisoners who were almost starved in filthy prisons. Twenty-two were kept in jail and seventy-one bound over to court. Judge Bond of the United States Circuit Court refused to try them in June because he wanted a packed jury. This was secured through Samuel F. Phillips, now assistant district attorney, and the prisoners were tried at Raleigh in September. Forty persons were indicted for participation in the Justice and Biggarstaff raids. The indictments of eight were dropped, eleven were acquitted, twenty-seven were convicted, and the cases of the others continued. The cases, through the partisan activity of the governor, Judge Bond, who presided, and Samuel F. Phillips, who prosecuted, assumed a political character. The chief efforts of the prosecution were directed to securing the conviction of Randolph Shotwell who, as an editor in Asheville and in Rutherfordton, had been a source of much discomfort to the republicans. When it is remembered that criticism of the republican party was announced by S. F. Phillips in the trial to be an attack upon the United States Government, it can readily be seen that to secure Shotwell's removal from political life was in the eyes of the prosecution an act of the highest patriotism and altogether proper for "loyal" men. Shotwell was county chief of the Ku Klux in Rutherford County, having assumed the position at the request of a number of leading men in the hope of checking the movement. He had never been on a raid or ordered one and had sought to prevent the raid on Justice and on the Star office, but had been utterly unable to control the men, many of them entirely unknown to him, who were bent upon carrying out their plan. Most of his witnesses were out of the state and he knew that any others he might summon would at once be made parties defendant in the same case. Many of those who were tried upon the same indictment were seen by him then for the first time. Relying upon p178 his innocence, he stood his trial without much fear of conviction. The false evidence against him had been carefully prepared, and, upon it, he was convicted and sentenced to a fine of $5,000 and six years' imprisonment in Albany. As soon as sentence was passed upon him, he was tied with ropes in the presence of the court and carried in that condition through the streets of Raleigh, not because two any fear of his escape, but simply to humiliate him and for the effect it would have upon the public. He was repeatedly offered pardon if he would implicate any leading conservative, but he of course refused and remained in prison for three years, at the end of which time he was pardoned.
In the meantime, in preparation for the elections of 1872, the operations of the deputy marshals, more lawless still by far than those of the Ku Klux and more dangerous to the spirit of free institutions, continued without cessation. Arrest without warrant, imprisonment without a hearing and with bail denied, were characteristic of their activities. D. S. Ramsour, a student at Wake Forest College, was arrested while attending a meeting of his literary society and dragged out forcibly, not because the time was particularly suitable, but because the officers had waited, knowing that it would attract attention and increase fear. Josiah Turner, who was an attorney at law, advised several persons, arrested without warrant and without cause, to indict the marshal. He was at once arrested on charge of obstructing the officers of the law in the discharge of their duties, and, through the efforts of republican politicians, notably S. F. Phillips, his trial was refused for several years. Dr. Brinton Smith, a Northern clergyman who was at the head of a negro school in Raleigh, was indicted for conspiracy under the Ku Klux Act because he told one of his students who was under age that he was not entitled to vote. The case was dismissed a year later without trial. Against many Ku Klux in the West were indictments for violation of the internal revenue laws. These were dismissed if a promise was made to give evidence against the Ku Klux. W. F. Henderson, the assessor of internal revenue, offered freedom to anyone who would give evidence implicating J. M. Leach, who in 1870, had defeated him for p179 Congress. Hundreds of persons were imprisoned at one time or another, many of whom were treated with great cruelty, and all the safeguards of liberty disappeared. The Federal courts became instruments of oppression and wrong and have never since been popular in the state. The chief purpose of it all was political, although the officers reaped a rich harvest from frees and from the bribes which they did not refuse, provided always that they were large enough. In pursuance of the plan, when the fears of the public had been sufficiently aroused, there came the promise of immunity on condition of support of the republican ticket at the next election. At the spring term of the Federal court in Raleigh in 1872, over fourteen hundred persons were indicted under the Ku Klux Act, of whom only six were tried. Between that time and the election, the activity of the officers continued. As soon as the campaign was over, the arrests stopped, and in February, 1873, the United States marshal ordered the suspension of the processes. During 1873, all the prisoners in Albany were pardoned. The Ku Klux organization had long since disappeared never to reappear, but the republicans made its existence an issue in many campaigns thereafter and skillfully attempted to intimidate by threats of renewed Federal activity.
The campaign of 1872 was made interesting not only by the desire of the conservatives to complete the redemption of the state, but also by the fact that North Carolina was the first state to hold a state election and was thus for once of great importance in a national election. Throughout the campaign the state was full of party leaders of both sides from all over the Union, including two members of the cabinet.
The republicans nominated Governor Caldwell over Thomas Settle who was the candidate of the Holden wing of the party and who also had the backing of the President. The republican convention and the campaign were notable for the activity of Federal office-holders who were henceforth until 1912, with two brief intervals to control the destinies of the party. The platform denounced the Ku Klux and the proposed p180 constitutional amendments and declared for general amnesty.
The conservatives had a difficult time finding a candidate. The leaders and the people alike wanted Vance who, however, declined to run, doubtless aware of what sort of methods would be used against him, and also because he wanted to be elected to the United States Senate by the coming legislature. Finally A. S. Merrimon was urged to take the nomination. Unwilling, he was told that it a party necessity and was promised that if defeated he should succeed Pool in the Senate. He then accepted and was nominated.
A joint canvass was arranged but Caldwell was no match for Merrimon on the stump, and after one speech he declined to continue it. The conservative campaign went swimmingly in spite of a lack of warmth at the democratic endorsement of Greeley for President. But the republicans were furnished almost unlimited funds and the officials of the departments of justice and of the treasury, vastly increased in number for the purpose, were very active. Probably there was never in any other state such wholesale political activity and interference by Federal officials, with the full approval of the administration, as marked this campaign in North Carolina. United States commissioners issued blank warrants to deputy marshals who used them for campaign purposes or for blackmail. Just before election three thousand persons were under arrest by the Federal authorities and most of them were promised complete immunity if they voted right. The expenses of the Federal Court jumped from about $5,000 for the year to $250,000. Bribery and intimidation were relied on in the west where illicit distilling and the Ku Klux gave pretexts. In the East, reliance was placed on the heavy negro vote, and, in order to strengthen this negroes were imported into the state in large numbers just before the election from adjoining states. Nine hundred were also sent from Washington, a majority of whom were in the Government employ.
These things all had their effect, and, while Merrimon's election seemed assured at first, after a week of doubt, due to the holding back of returns in a number of republican counties, it was apparent that on the face of the returns Caldwell p181 had a majority of about 1,900. The conservatives, however, again carried the legislature.
With the loss of the state ticket, the conservatives lost heart and Grant carried the state in November by a majority of almost twenty-five thousand, the conservatives electing five and the republicans three members of Congress.
Much interest was aroused in the senatorial election. Although Merrimon had been promised the seat by the party leaders, Vance was a candidate and by a persistent campaign had succeeded in pledging a majority of the conservative members before the legislature met. A number who favored Merrimon therefore refused to regard the caucus nomination as binding. The republicans, in the meantime made the offer p182 that if Pool were re-elected Federal amnesty for the Ku Klux would be proclaimed and liberal appropriations would be made for internal improvements in the state. Threats of the arrest of members of the legislature were also made as an inducement.
When the election came eighteen conservatives, in spite of the caucus nomination, voted for Merrimon. A deadlock ensued and after six days Vance and Merrimon both withdrew with the understanding that a third person should be chosen. The conservative caucus met and again nominated Vance, and on the next day the republicans, abandoning Pool, voted solidly for Merrimon, who, still supported by the bolters, was elected. The conservatives were very angry and the elated republicans sought to promote discord by an effort to create the impression that Merrimon had been bought and would act with the republicans. Merrimon, who had been entirely unaware of the plan, by his course in the Senate, soon dispelled any doubt as to his fealty to his own party.
Augustus S. Merrimon
The bill for the amendment of the constitution, passed by the preceding session, came up and was divided into separate bills, eight of which were adopted. Those passed provided for striking out the clause requiring the legislature to levy a tax to pay interest on the public debt, for omitting the census, for abolishing the code commission and the office of superintendent of public works, for placing the trustees of the University under the legislature, for extending the $300 exemption to all property, for making Federal and state officers ineligible to the legislature, and for biennial sessions of the legislature. They were then submitted to the people and ratified at a special election in August. A bill was passed extending amnesty to any person who had committed any crime except rape, deliberate and wilful murder, arson, or burglary, while a member of the Heroes of America, Loyal Union League, Red Strings, Constitutional Union Guard, White Brotherhood, Invisible Empire, Ku Klux Klan, North Carolina State Troops, North Carolina Militia, Jay Hawkers, or any other association, whether secret, political, or otherwise, in obedience to the commands and decrees of such organization, provided the offense was committed prior to September p183 1, 1871. The first of a large number of attempts to relieve Holden of the disability imposed by the judgment of the court of impeachment was unsuccessful.
In 1874 the conservatives again carried the state with large majorities, electing a two‑thirds majority in both houses of the legislature, the superintendent of public instruction, five of the eight judges chosen, seven members of Congress and nine solicitors.
The Senate of 1874
The legislature was chiefly notable for its passage of a bill calling a constitutional convention. Few conservatives had differed as to the need of one, but there was much doubt as to its expediency and widespread fear of Federal interference. There was also fear that the homestead provision might in some way be eliminated in spite of restrictions. Party leaders in Washington, through Ransom, advised against it. But the state leaders in the main were determined to have p184 one called and after President Grant had assured a member of the legislature that he would not interfere, the bill was passed, largely through the work of William L. Saunders, editor of the Wilmington Journal, who divides with Josiah Turner the honor of redeeming the State.
The convention was restricted as follows: The oath required for the members upon organization and the act itself prohibited any interference with the homestead provision, the laborers' and mechanics' lien, the rights of married women, the ratio between poll and property taxes, any provision for compensation for slaves, for paying the war debt, for restoring imprisonment for debt, for educational or property qualifications for voting, and for vacating any office before its term expired. It was also forbidden to pass any ordinance of a legislative nature except for submitting its work to the people for ratification.
With the passage of the convention bill the conservatives began to see the end of the long struggle for supremacy and for reform. So confident were they of complete victory that they relaxed their vigilance with rather disastrous results. The adjournment of the legislature was the signal for the campaign to commence, and in it the republicans, quietly, but none the less effectively, proved that the party in North Carolina was neither dead nor sleeping.
The republicans immediately took a stand against the convention. The final policy of the party was summed up in a pledge made by a majority of its candidates to adjourn as soon as the convention was organized. This was opposed by two such notable men as Chief Justice Pearson and Judge Rodman, the latter himself an independent candidate for the convention.
The republicans devoted most of their time to condemnation of the legislature for calling a convention and to painting lurid pictures of what the conservatives would do if they secured a majority. The party, however, was divided upon the question, and a number of prominent members were frankly in favor of the convention.
Every effort was made to frighten the people into giving a republican majority. The press gave daily assurance that, p185 if the conservatives controlled the convention, it would levy a tax to pay for the slaves; that townships would be abolish and county courts restored; that Jefferson Davis would be made president of the University with a salary of 410,000; that the public schools would be abolished; and even that there was grave danger of secession. The Raleigh Constitution summarized the chief arguments against the convention as follows:
Convention means Revolution.
Convention means the Whipping Post and Pillory.
Convention means Imprisonment for Debt.
Convention means War.
Convention means Apprentice laws, which is one of the worst features of Slavery.
Convention means Ruin.
Convention means poll-tax qualification for voting.
The conservatives injected the negro question into the campaign with considerable effect. The increasing claims of the negroes had attracted unfavorable notice and in several districts almost all of the Federal officers were negroes. In the East there were also many negro county officers.
The conservatives were so certain of success that the rank and file were apathetic. The election was quiet and for many days thereafter the result was in doubt, both sides, alternately claiming a majority. In Robeson County there was a contest. On the day of election William R. Cox, the conservative state chairman had telegraphed "As you love the State hold Robeson." There indeed was the pivotal point. The conservative candidates received certificates of election, but the republican candidate sued for a mandamus. Judge Settle, before whom the case was argued, ruled himself without jurisdiction and the question was left for the convention to settle and its organization was therefore of vital importance to each side.
W. R. Cox's Famous Telegram to Robeson County in 1875
The final returns showed that the election had been closer than any other in the history of the state, the total vote of conservative candidates being 95,037, while that of the republican candidates was 95,191. The race issue was intensified p187 by the fact that the negroes voted solidly against the convention. As a result the conservative policy entered upon a new era which is best described in the following editorial notice:
This paper in the future is in favor of drawing the line between the white and black regardless of the consequences. Let the line be drawn. Are you in favor of the white man's government? This will be the only question in the future.
Let the watchword be hereafter — Stick to your color! It is useless to attempt to reason with ignorant negroes. The election clearly demonstrates that fact.
The convention met on September 5th. A conservative member, William A. Graham, had died since election and there were present fifty-eight conservatives, the same number of republicans, and three independents. When the delegates were sworn in, objections were raised in the case of those from Robeson. Judge Settle, who called the convention to order, then directed them to stand aside, whereupon objection was at once made to six others, five of whom were republicans, and all were made to stand aside. At the close of the roll, however, all were sworn in.
The test of strength came with the election of a presiding officer. The republicans nominated Oliver H. Dockery and the conservatives shrewdly nominated Edward Ransom, formerly a republican, but at the time an independent with visible leanings toward the conservative party. He declined but was voted for. The other independents divided and there was a deadlock. After thirteen ballots Ransom broke this by voting for himself and was elected. A resolution to adjourn sine die was then defeated by the narrow margin of two votes and throughout the entire session the margin was so close that no conservative dared leave the hall a moment without being paired, for fear the republicans would carry out their plan.
The convention was in session thirty-one days and because of the close division the conservatives were able to make only a few changes, thirty in all out of a much larger number proposed. Sixteen were adopted unanimously and only four by a strict party vote. As this unanimity would indicate, the changes were all important. In brief they follow:
In the Bill of Rights, a new clause authorized the legislature p188 to forbid the carrying of concealed weapons. Another declared secret political societies dangerous to the liberties of a free people, and that they should not be tolerated.
In the legislative department, some changes were made. The time of meeting was changed from the third Monday in November to the first Monday in January. The apportionment of each house was stricken out. The terms of the members were made to begin at the time of election and the per diem was fixed at $4 for a period not to exceed sixty days and the mileage was fixed at 10 cents. In the event of an extra session, compensation could continue for twenty days only.
Very small changes were made in the executive department, the direction to the legislature to establish a department of agriculture and statistics being the most important.
Quite a number of important changes were made in the judicial department. The number of Supreme Court justices was reduced from five to three and of Superior Court judges from twelve to nine. All were to be chosen by the people on a general ticket for a term of eight years, but it was left within the power of the legislature to return to election by district and to increase the number of districts and judges. The principle of rotation of the judges was adopted. The legislature was given power to alter and distribute the judicial power among the courts inferior to the Supreme Court, and to provide for the election of judges. In this way control of the justices of the peace was gained by the legislature. It was also provided that any judge might be removed from office by a two‑thirds vote of both houses of the legislature for mental or physical incapacity.
Under the head of suffrage and eligibility to office, the residence required for voting in any county was changed from sixty to ninety days. All persons convicted of a felony or infamous crime were debarred.
Other important changes were those giving the General Assembly full power over county government, including justices of the peace, setting aside for the school fund the proceeds from all fines and forfeitures, giving authority to the state government to farm out convicts, providing that a call p189 for a constitutional convention must be submitted to the people, while amendment by the legislature was simplified by a provision that it might be done without the concurrence of the succeeding legislature. Marriage between a white person and a negro to the third generation inclusive was prohibited, and separate schools for the races were required. It was also provided that none of the amendments adopted should have the effect of vacating any office.
Probably the most important change, judged by results, was that which gave the legislature control of county government. It caused undoubtedly great injury to the principle of local self-government but it also carried hope and light into the darkness of the black counties.
Constitutional reform secured, the conservatives turned their attention to the state officers and with 1876 came the final redemption of the state after a campaign never equalled in the state in its spirit and vivid interest. The democrats, as the conservatives now frankly called themselves, nominated Vance for governor and Thomas J. Jarvis for lieutenant-governor. The republicans, encouraged by their gain, as shown in the election of delegates to the convention, prepared for a vigorous campaign. Once more the carpet-baggers were prominent in party affairs. This is to be explained, not by their having regained the love of their fellow republicans but by the fact that the party machinery was in the hands of Federal office-holders, where it was to continue for many years, and carpet-baggers were particularly favored by the Federal government. As proof of this the following facts are interesting. Two of the internal revenue collectors, ten of the thirty-six deputy collectors, seven of the forty-seven gaugers, nine of the one hundred storekeepers, two of the four registers in bankruptcy, thirteen of the thirty United States commissioners, one marshal, the postmaster at Wilmington, the postmaster at Goldsboro, and the pension agent at Raleigh were carpet-baggers. The republican executive committee in 1876 had a carpet-bagger for chairman and eight of the members were office-holders, most of them in the Federal service, and the other four had recently been so. The presence of the negroes is partially to be explained by a marked race division p190 in the party caused in part by a growing recognition among the white republicans of what negro rule meant, and in part by a growing demand of the negroes for office for themselves since they furnished the votes.
The convention unanimously nominated Thomas Settle, who was Grant's candidate, Oliver H. Dockery, who had been a prominent candidate, having bowed to the inevitable and withdrawn. W. A. Smith was selected for lieutenant-governor.
In the campaign the race issue was dominant, the democrats finding it an effective reply to the "bloody shirt" waving of the republicans. That it was a real issue as well is indicated by the large number of negroes nominated for office in the East and the control of public affairs already exerted by them there with consequent misgovernment and corruption.
Between Vance and Settle a joint debate was arranged, and together they canvassed a large part of the state, speaking in sixty-four counties before they separated to continue the campaign alone. In this latter part each made twelve speeches. It was Vance's first campaign since his enviable record as war governor had been made, and the people poured out in immense throngs to hear him.
Many of Vance's friends feared that he would have a difficult time on the stump with Settle who was an opponent worthy of him in character, ability, and charm of personality. But this was not the case. Settle undoubtedly forced him to put forward the best that was in him and often the reasoning element of Vance's friends were disappointed in his speeches, but there could be no question of his success with the people. As a popular orator and debater there had never been his equal before in North Carolina, and Aycock, since, has alone approached him. Settle was magnetic, eloquent and a powerful debater, but he was at a disadvantage throughout the campaign on account of Vance's personal popularity, and because a majority of the white people of the state were intensely aroused against the republican party. Of course there were heated moments, neither losing any opportunity to attempt to put his opponent on the defensive or to make him p191 lose his temper, but the debate in the main was on a high plane and echoes of it can still be heard in the state. It marked a return to the political methods of an older and better day and it was a hopeful and healthy sign that such a campaign could be conducted and, better still, that its spirit, generally speaking, should have been so admirable. At the end of it, the two competitors parted as warm friends, and each had won new laurels. The debates were powerful and instructive in spite of the constant references to each other's record. Not only state issues were discussed but national questions were debated at length.
The election was a complete victory for the democrats who elected state and national tickets, every candidate for Congress but one, and carried the legislature with a large majority. The cause of peace, order, and good government had triumphed. Righteousness, by righteous methods, had at last prevailed and Reconstruction in North Carolina was ended.
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History of NC
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