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North Carolina on the Eve of Secession:
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Boyd, William Kenneth, 1879-1938.


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(title page) North Carolina on the Eve of Secession
William K. Boyd
Reprinted from the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1910, pages 165-177
12 p.
WASHINGTON
American Historical Association
1912

Call number Cp970.71 B78n c.2 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Reprinted from the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1910, pages 165-177



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NORTH CAROLINA ON THE EVE OF
SECESSION

BY

WILLIAM K. BOYD

Reprinted from the Annual Report of the American Historical Association
for 1910, pages 165-177

WASHINGTON
1912


Page 165

X. NORTH CAROLINA ON THE EVE OF SECESSION.

By WILLIAM K. BOYD,
Professor of History in Trinity College, Durham, N. C.


Page 167

NORTH CAROLINA ON THE EVE OF SECESSION.

By WILLIAM K. BOYD.

        In the great drama of 1860-61 North Carolina had no leading part like that of South Carolina or the far South. The last State except one to ratify the Federal Constitution in 1789, it was also the last except one to join the Confederacy. But a study of conditions within its borders on the eve of secession has a value far greater than this relative place in the movement might suggest. In fact, North Carolina illustrates some phases of southern life too often lost sight of in discussions of sectional issues. To what extent these conditions existed elsewhere and their place in the history of secession are worthy of inquiry, for southern society before 1860 did not conform to one type of thought or action. Secession itself was the result of years of conflict on the hustings, in the press, and in economic development.

        The first of the forces which shaped the attitude of North Carolina toward secession was its social structure. In early days the colony was a refuge for men of small means who sought to improve their fortunes, and in 1860 the small planter was still the chief factor in industrial life.

        There was also a distinct lack of unity in feeling or action among the people; rarely indeed did they rally as one man in any common cause. This was due in part to diversity of racial origins, but much more to sectional influences. River courses and natural elevations of the land produced geographical divisions so distinct that intercourse between them was exceedingly difficult, and the cities of South Carolina and Virginia were for years more important commercial centers for North Carolina than the towns within the State. This sectionalism of nature had also a political character. Up to 1835 the counties east of Raleigh, by virtue of their number, held the balance of power in the legislature, while those to the west had greater resources and grew more rapidly in population. Long after reforms in representation were made the sectional feeling continued and was a potent influence in politics.

        Interacting with sectionalism was the industrial organization. The slave system and its attendant products were never extensively


Page 168

developed except in a group of middle eastern counties. In fact, less than 28 per cent of the families in 1860 held slaves, while the average number of slaves held was 9.6. In strong contrast to the slave-owning class were the nonslaveholders. Their industries included, besides agriculture, two classes of manufacturing: One, factories in which North Carolina ranked next to Virginia and Georgia; the other, domestic arts and hand trades. These latter industries were important because they enabled each plantation or community to be in a large degree economically self-sufficient. The story of the vast number of nonslaveholding whites in the South, their origin, occupations, opinions, and influence, is as yet unwritten. In North Carolina they always had a considerable influence, and by 1860 their protest against certain inequalities produced by the slave system was well under way. Their attitude toward secession has been well stated in the words of Senator Vance: "Seven-tenths of our people owned no slaves at all, and to say the least of it, felt no great and enduring enthusiasm for its [slavery's] preservation, especially when it seemed to them that it was in no danger."1

        1 Quoted from J. A. Sloan, "North Carolina in the war between the States," 105.


        These underlying social conditions--the prevalence of men of moderate means, sectional influences, and the existence of a large nonslaveholding class--were the basis for certain well-defined political characteristics. There was a variety of opinion on every public question, and conservatism was usually nothing more than a failure to unite on one common opinion or program of progress. There was also a prejudice against ideas or movements of alien origin, which along with isolation gave rise to provincialism.

        The attitude toward Federal relations was accordingly strongly particularistic. Expediency rather than patriotism or a national ideal caused the ratification of the Federal Constitution in 1789, and strong States-rights views predominated among all parties and leaders of the early days. Federalism itself was very conservative toward the growth of national powers. Its leaders looked to Madison rather than to Hamilton in organizing the machinery of the central Government. Dissatisfied with the proposed assumption of State debts by the Federal Government, the lower house of the legislature, in 1790, refused to take the oath to support the Constitution which had been prescribed by Congress. In the same year the State court of equity refused to obey a writ of certiorari, calling a case before the Supreme Court of the United States, and the legislature passed a vote of thanks to the judges.2

        2 See H. M. Wagstaff, "State rights and political parties in North Carolina" (Johns Hopkins Studies, Series XXIV), 32-33.


Also, the first States-rights opinion emanating from the Supreme Court was that of Iredell, a North Carolina Federalist, in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia. But
Page 169

at the crisis raised by the alien and sedition laws, a fear that the Union was in danger and a desire for conciliation prevailed over any manifestations of political theories.1

        1 Wagstaff op. cit., 36-37.


        The nature of the union was not seriously in question again until the controversy over the tariff and nullification. In 1827 the legislature resolved that any increase in the tariff was inexpedient and that "whenever a system is adopted by the General Government which does not equally conserve the interests of all, then the right rests with any State or States to question whether the benefits of the union are not more than counterbalanced by its evils." This manifesto against the tariff was of course ineffectual, and by 1830 it was evident that South Carolina would attempt nullification. The people at large were unprepared to indorse such a radical measure and censured it in many public meetings. But in the legislature of 1830 a strong States-rights faction dominated the senate and rejected resolutions condemning nullification which had passed the house. Two years later, in 1832, as a compromise, both the tariff and nullification were formally censured by the legislature as unconstitutional.2

        2 Wagstaff, op. cit., 49-54.


This action on nullification is significant for two reasons: First, Nathaniel Macon, for years the leader of the old Jeffersonian Democracy, in a letter to a friend definitely expressed his belief in the right of secession. "I have never believed a State could nullify and stay in the Union," he said, "but have always believed that a State might secede when she pleased, provided she would pay her proportion of the public debt; and this right I have considered the best safeguard to public liberty and to public justice that could be desired."3

        3 W. E. Dodd, "Life of Macon," 385.


The nullification debates are also interesting because those who sympathized with South Carolina in 1832 and lived until 1860 favored secession.

        In strong contrast to the particularistic spirit of the early days were the policies of the Whig party, which controlled the State administration from 1836 to 1850. Nowhere did the old-line Whigs of the South leave a finer record than in North Carolina. Broad, constructive ideas and cooperation with the ideals of other sections of the country characterized their leaders. Public schools and State aid to railways at home, the recharter of the second bank of the United States, internal improvements, and a protective tariff by the Federal Government were typical measures advocated by the party. While there were strong States-rights elements in its membership, its most influential leaders regarded the Federal Constitution as something more than a compact among States--rather as the charter of an indestructible union, by which the American people were to be guided through all time. The rise of this new


Page 170

party coincided with local sectional conditions. In contrast to the cotton States the Whigs were most popular in the counties where slavery and its industries did not predominate; these included the western part of the State, a portion of the central region, and the marshy swamp country along the coast. The reason for this popularity was the Whig program of progress, these sections needing internal improvements by State aid. The strength of the Democrats, on the other hand, lay in those counties where slavery, cotton, and tobacco produced a settled, unchanging economic system. It was therefore good policy for each party to choose its candidates in State campaigns from the section in which it was numerically the weaker. Thus an eastern Whig was often nominated for governor to oppose a western Democrat. The custom passed over to the slavery debates, the proslavery leadership in the legislature being frequently given to a western Democrat.

        Such were the underlying social and political conditions in North Carolina when the national controversy over slavery extension was revived, after the Mexican war. Just at that time the supremacy of the Whigs began to wane. In that decline the slavery issue was an important factor, for it caused a serious division of opinion. In the legislature of 1848-49 W. L. Steele, a Whig from the South Carolina line, introduced resolutions in the lower house to the effect that the Territories belonged to the States; that the General Government as the agent of the States could make no laws destructive of the equal rights of the States in the Territories; and that to deprive a citizen of his right to emigrate with his slaves would be unconstitutional. These were almost identical with resolutions which Calhoun had introduced in the Senate of the United States.1

        1 House Journal (North Carolina), Nov. 27; Raleigh Standard, Nov. 27, 1848.


They at once aroused much discussion, which extended beyond legislative halls. Mr. Badger, the ablest constitutional lawyer among the Whigs, had previously declared that Congress had full jurisdiction over slavery in the Territories. Mr. Clingman, Whig Congressman from the mountain district, was now appealed to by members of the legislature and replied that the Wilmot proviso was a violation of the Constitution which would justify resistance by all means in the power of the South.2

        2 Raleigh Register, Feb. 3, 1849. See also Clingman's letter to Foote, Speeches and Writings of T. L. Clingman, p. 231.


In the end the conservative influence was strong enough to force through substitute resolutions, which admitted the main contention, but suggested that the Missouri compromise line be extended into the Territories acquired from Mexico to settle existing controversies, and deprecated any attempt to dissolve the Union.3

        3 Laws of North Carolina, 1848-49, p. 237.



Page 171

        Thus in 1848-49 a cleavage was begun among the Whigs on the subject of slavery. The next year the Democrats carried the State elections on the issue of manhood suffrage in the choice of State senators. On the Democracy lay the duty of shaping the State's policy toward the slavery problem. The compromise of 1850 had just been passed when the legislature met in November. The abolitionists of the North were lifting their voices against the fugitive-slave law, while the radicals at the South proposed to repudiate the entire compromise even at the cost of secession. A joint committee on slavery was appointed. Its report advised acquiescence in the compromise of 1850, but retaliation in the future if slavery in the District of Columbia or the interstate slave trade were restricted, the fugitive-slave law changed, or a slave State refused admission to the Union, and recommended an ad valorem tax on merchandise imported from the nonslaveholding States to offset the agitation against the fugitive-slave law. The minority of the committee recommended a manifesto defending the right of secession, to be added to these resolutions.1

        1 House Docs. 54 and 55 in North Carolina legislature. Doc. of 1850-51.


The center of debate on these reports was the senate, for there the margin between the Whigs and Democrats was very small. In the end resolves of the minority, looking toward secession, were rejected and those of the majority were considerably revised in the interest of conservatism.2

        2 Standard, Jan. 15, proceedings of the legislature, and Senate doc. 95 in North Carolina Leg Docs. of 1850-51.


This was due to a division among the Democrats, a sane, sensible group joining with the Whigs to adopt the revised resolutions.3

        3 It is interesting to note that the leader of the conservative Democrats was W. N. Edwards, speaker of the senate, and, in 1861, president of the secession convention.


As radicalism was checked in the senate the fight in the house was dropped. Thus early was the Democracy, as well as Whiggery, divided into radical and conservative factions.

        The right of secession, rejected in the legislature, was presented to the people in the congressional campaigns of 1851. In the third district George W. Caldwell, Democrat, elaborated and defended the right of withdrawal from the Union, while his Whig opponent, Alfred Dockery, went so far as to declare that if South Carolina or even North Carolina should attempt secession he would vote for an appropriation to keep the offending State within the Union.4

        4 Standard, June 28 and July 5, 1851.


Likewise, in the eighth district, Edward Stanley took a similar position while opposing Thomas Ruffin, a secession Democrat.5

        5 Standard, July 16, 1851.


In the mountain district Clingman, a Whig with a secession bias, was opposed by B. S. Gaither, a Union Whig, and made conciliatory explanations of his previous radical speeches. The result was that
Page 172

the Whigs, although they had lost the State elections of the previous year, carried five of the nine congressional districts.1

        1 The districts carried were the second, third, fourth, eighth, and ninth.


        Thus secession as a remedy for the South was repudiated in the legislature and rebuked by the people. But a strong, active State-rights minority had appeared during the controversy. Its leaders were ready to insist at all times on the full southern position in regard to slavery and to recommend secession as a right, if not a practical remedy. The story of secession in North Carolina is really the process by which this minority kept its idea before the public and by which the logic of events reenforced argument until an inevitable choice between the Union or the Confederacy was forced upon the people in 1861.

        The radical spirit next asserted itself during the controversy over the Kansas-Nebraska bill. Equal rights in the Union or independence out of it was the ultimatum of the Raleigh Standard, the leading Democratic journal; but radical resolutions in the legislature of 1854 were defeated.2

        2 Standard, Nov. 15, 1854; House Journal, 1853-54, pp. 59, 290.


In the campaign of 1856, however, the extremists made considerable headway in popular agitation. The Standard declared that the Union could not survive the election of Fremont, and Clingman, who had left the Whig Party in 1852, advised resistance in the case of a Republican victory.3

        3 Standard, Oct. 4; Fayetteville Observer, Oct. 18, 1856.


To what extent public feeling was aroused is well illustrated by the case of Prof. Benjamin Hedrick, of the State University. A North Carolinian, a graduate of the university, he had studied at Harvard, and had returned to his alma mater as professor of chemistry. His early impressions of the evils of slavery were strengthened by his residence in the North. During the presidential campaign he stated, in reply to a direct question, that he expected to vote for Fremont. This information spread from the college community to the newspapers. The Raleigh Standard declared that the schools of the State should be purged of black Republicans. Against advice, Prof. Hedrick published a statement of his antislavery views. Thereupon the students burned him in effigy, the faculty passed resolutions repudiating the heresy among them, and the executive committee of the trustees met and declared his power of service at an end. As Mr. Hedrick did not resign, and the attacks in the newspapers continued, the executive committee in a second meeting declared his chair vacant. A few days later Prof. Hedrick visited Salisbury to attend an educational convention. His presence became known; a mob collected, burned his effigy before his eyes, and forced him to leave town.4

        4 For a biographical sketch of Mr. Hedrick see J. S. Bassett, "Antislavery leaders of North Carolina." (Johns Hopkins Studies, Ser. XVI, no. 6). The documents bearing on his relations with the university may be found in the James Sprunt Historical Publication for Jauuary, 1911.



Page 173

        While the excitement over Prof. Hedrick was at its height, another event atracted the attention of the public. This was the visit of Gov. Wise, of Virginia, and Gov. Adams, of South Carolina, to Raleigh on October 13. Gov. Jenkins, of Georgia, was expected but did not come. The aim of this meeting of governors was officially announced to be a visit to the State fair; but the gentlemen left Raleigh before the fair opened. According to well-established tradition they were invited to North Carolina to consult with Gov. Bragg about plans for action in case Fremont was elected. What agreement, if any, was reached is not known. The irony of history is that Fremont, the persona non grata in all this excitement, had been mentioned as a presidential possibility for the Democracy in 1855 by F. P. Blair, who suggested that a Fremont boom be launched in North Carolina.1

        1 Letter of Blair to Bedford Brown, of North Carolina. Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society, Ser. VI, p. 86.


        Three years later the radical spirit made still greater headway among the people. The John Brown raid at Harpers Ferry aroused a feeling of resistance. The existing military organizations offered their services to Gov. Wise, of Virginia, and new ones were formed. The council of state, the advisory body of the governor, adopted resolutions which threatened secession unless slave property was better protected. The radical spirit was active for months after the death of Brown in the arrest of suspected abolitionists, and the inspection of the mails to detect antislavery literature. The use of Helper's "Impending Crisis" in the campaign of 1860 made the book ubiquitous in North Carolina and to own a copy was virtually a political crime.2

        2 Standard, passim.


        But slavery and State rights were not the only questions before the Democratic Party from 1850 to 1860, and no discussion of secession would be complete without mention of two issues, primarily domestic, which diverted attention from the national slavery controversy. First of these was that of public lands in the West. In 1852 Henry Bennett, of New York, introduced into Congress a bill which proposed to distribute the remaining public lands among the States to be used for internal improvements and other local needs. This was a Whig measure, but it appealed to the southern Democrats for two reasons: First, it allowed the slave States to profit by the western expansion of the nation; and second, the proceeds from the lands might be used to reduce the State debts incurred by the construction of railways and other works of progress. Consequently, in the congressional election of 1853 the distribution issue was raised in North Carolina by three Democrats who bolted party lines. In the third district Duncan McRae, who announced himself as an independent candidate favoring the measure, was eliminated by an appointment as consul to Paris. Immediately his place was taken by W. F. Leak, who opposed William S. Ashe, the regular Democratic nominee. In


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the second district W. C. Loftin adopted distribution and opposed Thomas Ruffin, regular Democrat. In both these districts the regular candidates were elected, but in the seventh district, where a large Whig constituency existed, the division of Democrats (A. W. Venable favoring and A. M. Lewis opposing distribution), enabled the Whigs to elect Sion H. Rogers.1

        1 For details of the campaign see the Raleigh Standard for July and August, 1853. Two newspapers supported the independent Democrats. These were the Democratic Free Press, of Wilmington, and the North Carolina Statesman, of Raleigh. Edward Cantwell was the editor of the latter, and was perhaps connected with the Wilmington paper. I have not been able to find any copies of either paper.


Later, in 1858, distribution became a Statewide problem. Mr. McRae, who had returned from Paris, announced himself as independent candidate for governor on the issue. The Whigs, who had abandoned their party organization in 1856, made no nomination, and the Raleigh Register, their principal organ, advised all Whigs to support McRae in preference to Ellis, the Democratic candidate. Mr. McRae, however, failed to swing the Whig vote, and in his debates with Mr. Ellis he was outgeneraled, and so he was defeated by a large vote.2

        2 In the 1858 campaign W. F. Leake announced himself an independent candidate for governor, but withdrew in favor of McRae, Wilmington Journal, Jan. 22, 1858. McRae's letter announcing his candidacy is given in the Standard, Feb. 3, 1858. During the campaign McRae and Ellis had a personal encounter at Beaufort. An interesting phase of the distribution movement was the argument that it was more important than the slavery issue, Standard, Jan. 27, 1858.


        No sooner was distribution of public lands disposed of than another question threatened the supremacy of the Democratic party. This was the inequality in the revenue system. By the constitution of 1835 slaves were taxed as polls only, with the exemption of all under 12 and over 50. The unit of the poll tax was the land tax on 300 acres. Two inequalities resulted: First, a discrimination against the landholders, for the landed property in 1859 was valued at less than the slave property, but yielded a larger revenue. Thus the men of small means were not encouraged to buy land or increase their real estate. The second discrimination was against the mechanics. Their tools and implements were taxed $10 per thousand, while on the mature slave, worth at least $1,000, the poll tax was only 50 cents. Here was an issue which might arraign the nonslaveholding class against the slave owners. It was raised in 1858 by Moses A. Bledsoe, of Raleigh, who introduced a resolution in the State senate looking to the ad valorem taxation of all property, including land and slaves. The resolution was followed by bills for an amendment to the constitution, but they failed. Defeated in the legislature, Mr. Bledsoe turned to agitation. He organized the Raleigh Workingmen's Association, the aim of which was to secure revenue reform. As the strength of the Democracy lay in the large slaveholding counties, there was no hope for ad valorem in the dominant party. But the counties where slavery was not the exclusive basis of industry had always been Whig by tradition. So in 1860 the Whigs revived


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their party organization, adopted the ad valorem issue, and nominated a candidate for governor. The campaign was a vigorous one. The friends of ad valorem had the better of the argument, but two influences defeated them. One was their failure to provide for the exemption of any property, so that the Democrats claimed that tin cups, crockery, and household goods would be taxed in detail, and thus ridiculed the ad valorem issue; the other influence against the Whigs was the strength which the national campaign gave the Democracy. Democratic defeat, it was claimed, would weaken the unity of the South at the time of greatest peril. But the majority of Ellis, the Democratic candidate, in August, 1860, was 10,000 less than in 1858, though the vote polled was unusually large. History should not be made the basis of prophecy of what might have been; nevertheless one can not but see in the ad valorem campaign the beginning of a revolt against slavery as a political and an economic influence, a movement among the people which was contemporary with the radicalism of Helper's "Impending Crisis."1

        1 See "Ad valorem slave taxation in North Carolina" (Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society, series V) and Wagstaff, "State rights and political parties in North Carolina," 109-113.)


        While the issues of public lands and ad valorem were agitating the Democracy, a serious factional cleavage developed. The most effective leader in the party was William W. Holden, editor of the Raleigh Standard. To him more than any other one man was due the supremacy over the Whigs. But he was a man of the people and had little in common with the more aristocratic leaders of his party. In 1858 he was candidate for the nomination for governor. Undoubtedly he was the choice of the rank and file, but in the party convention he was defeated by John W. Ellis, a representative of the slaveholding aristocracy. Mr. Holden accepted his defeat gracefully. But soon he became a candidate for the United States Senate. Again he was defeated. The bitterness of this personal rivalry spread to the rank and file, and there were intimations of the organization of a new party. The rupture between Mr. Holden and the other leaders had a direct bearing on the secession movement. His rivals were men of extreme States' rights views. He himself had openly defended the doctrine of secession. But from 1858 to 1860 his radicalism became less pronounced, and after the Charleston convention he allied himself with the conservative members of his party and resisted with all his might the tide of secession.2

        2 See "The Democratic convention of 1858," in Charlotte Observer, May 3, 1908.


        Thus, on the eve of the presidential election of 1860, the supremacy of the Democratic Party, which had dominated North Carolina for 10 years, was threatened by factionalism, by the rise of new issues,, and by the revival of the Whig organization. The presidential campaign emphasized another serious danger to the party's unity namely, the division between the radical States'-rights Democrats,


Page 176

who were in sympathy with the influences which led to secession, and the Union Democrats, who believed in the constitutional right of secession, but opposed its application.

        The first event which revealed this phase of party crisis was the Democratic convention at Charleston. The North Carolina delegation, in which the Union Democrats had a majority, was one of the determining influences in that historic meeting. It was the hope of Mr. Yancey and his followers to win the border States to their program. They therefore gave the chairmanship of the committee on platform to W. W. Avery, a radical States'-Rights Democrat of North Carolina. But the Union delegates refused to take any part officially in any of the caucuses held by the cotton States leaders. When the debate on the platform was held the delegation as a whole was in sympathy with neither the northern Democrats nor those of the far South, but favored simply the reaffirmation of the Cincinnati platform of 1856. When it was evident that the minority platform would be adopted, the protest of two North Carolina delegates caused the rejection of a clause referring the question of slavery in Territories to the Supreme Court. When the report as a whole was finally passed, the North Carolinians refused to follow the cotton States in withdrawing from the convention. This action preserved the party organization, for, if North Carolina had withdrawn, Virginia, Tennessee, and the border States would have followed, and the Democratic party would have disintegrated.1

        1 Standard, May 9, 1860; for experiences of Mr. Holden at Charleston, see also "Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society," series III, pp. 59-62.


        One result of the Charleston convention was to strengthen the feeling in favor of Douglas in North Carolina. Four of the ten electors expressed themselves favorable to his nomination between the Charleston and the Baltimore conventions, while the Standard was outspoken for him.2

        2 These electors were A. M. Scales, J. R. McLean, Thomas W. Keen, and Ed. G. Haywood. Standard, June 13, 1860 (account of meeting in Rockingham County).


Mr. Douglas also had personal ties with leading Democrats of the State.3

        3 Mr. Douglas's wife by his first marriage was Miss Martin, a member of a North Carolina family very prominent in State politics.


But the events at Baltimore checked the Douglas sentiment. All of the North Carolina delegates except three withdrew from the convention, and only one of these took any part in its further work. Still, there was some hope for Douglas. Two of the electors resigned from the Breckinridge ticket and accepted similar positions on the Douglas ticket. There was also a demand, evidently by the friends of Douglas, that a party convention be called in the State to decide for whom the electors should vote.4

        4 Thomas W. Keen and Henry Miller were the electors who resigned, Standard, passim.


The State executive committee met to consider this demand, but decided not to call the convention.5

        5 Standard, July 11, 1860.


Thereupon the Standard proposed that the electors vote for either Breckinridge or Douglas, according to the
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chances of either to defeat Lincoln.1

        1 Standard, July 18, 1860.


But as time passed the feeling grew that Breckinridge was the stronger of the two Democratic candidates. Thereupon a group of Douglas men called a State convention at Raleigh, put up electors, and started a campaign newspaper.2

        2 Robert P. Dick was the leader of this movement. The meeting was held on August 30. The campaign paper was called The National Democrat. Its editor was Quenten Busbee.


Forced to decide between Douglas and Breckinridge, the Standard turned to the latter. The Douglas campaign was ineffective, his vote in the State less than 3,000.

        In contrast to the division and uncertainty among the Democrats was the sense of patriotism among the Whigs. The appeal to the Union and the Constitution struck a responsive chord among the people, and the large Whig vote in the State elections was an encouragement to all genuine lovers of the Union. The principal feature of the Whig campaign was a series of mass meetings in October. The greatest of these was held in Salisbury. It was attended by delegates from all sections of the State. The number of people in the mammoth procession was 3,600, while the total attendance was estimated at 6,000 or 8,000. The chief address was by Zebulon B. Vance, who held the audience spellbound by his oratory for two hours during a cold, dismal rain.3

        3 Raleigh Register, Oct. 17, 1860.


The prevailing sentiment was to rebuke the seceders of the South and the abolitionists of the North, and to rally in one great effort to save the Union and the Constitution.

        As the election approached the motives which shaped the cast of ballots were conflicting. The Whig appeal to the Union and the Constitution found a response in the conservatism of the people and was in line with the trend away from sectional issues to domestic problems. On the other hand, to defeat Lincoln seemed imperative to preserve the dignity, if not the rights, of the South; and for this duty Breckinridge was undoubtedly the most promising candidate. The results showed a Democratic majority very similar to that in the State election; but the majority of Breckinridge over both Bell and Douglas was only 848.4

        4 Breckinridge, 48,539; Bell, 44,990; Douglas, 2,701.


Since many Union Democrats cast their votes for Breckinridge as the only hope of defeating Lincoln, his small majority was really a rebuke to the radical State-rights influences which had nominated him. That rebuke to radicalism was repeated in February, 1861, when in an election for a convention on Federal relations, the people chose a majority of Union delegates and also voted that the convention should not meet. Not until President Lincoln's requisition on the State for troops after the firing on Fort Sumter did secession triumph in North Carolina; and then because the only alternative was that of fighting against the South.