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North Carolina Through Four Centuries

North Carolina Through Four Centuries

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 670
Stable URL:
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  • Book Info
    North Carolina Through Four Centuries
    Book Description:

    This successor to the classic Lefler-NewsomeNorth Carolina: The History of a Southern State, published in 1954, presents a fresh survey history that includes the contemporary scene. Drawing upon recent scholarship, the advice of specialists, and his own knowledge, Powell has created a splendid narrative that makes North Carolina history accessible to both students and general readers. For years to come, this will be the standard college text and an essential reference for home and office.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0446-6
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-xii)
  3. PREFACE (pp. xiii-xvii)
    William S. Powell

    The varied features of the land in North Carolina have had a pronounced effect on its development. The state is usually described as being composed of three regions: the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont Plateau, and the Mountains. Each of these has a distinct history, and only in recent years have social and economic factors created a unifying force sufficient to overcome the differences and divisions long attributed to geographic influences.

    One of the South Atlantic states, North Carolina is bounded on the north by Virginia, on the west by Tennessee, on the south by Georgia and South Carolina, and on...


    When christopher columbus, sailing under the auspices of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Aragon and Castile, made his dramatic voyage to Samana Cay in the Bahamas in 1492, thirty-five-year old King Henry VII had reigned uneasily for seven years in England. Discontent in many parts of his kingdom and suspicion in London kept his attention on domestic affairs. In France the twenty-two-year-old Charles VIII, on the throne for only a year, also faced trouble at home as well as abroad. In Portugal, King John II, forty-seven, had had eleven years to establish himself. Secure at home, he sent out...

  6. 3 A PROPRIETARY COLONY, 1663–1729 (pp. 53-86)

    After the beheading of Charles I in 1649, Parliament and the Cromwells held sway in London. The return of the prince of Wales in 1660 as Charles II was not achieved without great personal sacrifice. This happy occasion for England was the result of much planning, secret negotiating, concealed motives, and the collaboration of hundreds under the leadership of a few. The debt of King Charles II to his friends who had remained in England during the eleven-year interregnum, as well as to those who had fled the country or who upheld the royal cause in the colonies where they...

  7. 4 ROYAL GOVERNMENT (pp. 87-103)

    When north carolina was acquired by the Crown, the people saw no sudden or dramatic change in their government. The offices of governor, Council, Assembly, and courts, as well as other administrative agencies, remained as they had been. The Crown merely took the place of the Lords Proprietors as the immediate source of power. After a little while, however, North Carolinians began to detect a definite change in the efficiency and the spirit of government. A strong executive, capable of sustained policy, succeeded a weak, constantly changing executive and an uncertain policy. This made possible a stability of purpose and...

  8. 5 COLONIAL SOCIETY AND CULTURE, 1729–1776 (pp. 104-130)

    At the beginning of the royal period most people living in North Carolina were of English descent, but the majority of them were nativeborn. Few people looked to England as the mother country except in a political sense. Even the language began to change. Many Indian words were adopted by Americans while a number of Spanish and French words also crept into their vocabulary. On the other hand, Americans often kept older English words that had gone out of fashion in the British Isles—fallfor which the English now useautumn,andyardwhich becamegardenin England, for...


    Land and slaves, as has been indicated, were the chief forms of wealth in colonial and antebellum North Carolina. Towns grew slowly, and—as in all new and undeveloped countries—nearly everyone depended on agriculture in one way or another. In spite of the fact that for a long time land was plentiful and readily available, everything having to do with it was of great interest. Most people were concerned about the size of the grants they might obtain, the accuracy of surveys, the amount and manner of quitrent payments, and laws relating to the disposition of land. These were...


    One of the most important factors in the development of North Carolina has always been sectionalism. Many key events in the state’s history came about because of rivalries and jealousies, first between the northern and southern parts of the colony, next between east and west, and more recently between urban and rural. Contributing to these have been geographic differences, the variety of national origins and religious elements, wide social distinctions, and economic interests.

    Sectionalism began to develop when the first settlers crossed the Albemarle Sound and moved to the banks of the Pamlico River. The wide expanse of the sound...

  11. 8 A DECADE OF DISPUTE (pp. 160-181)

    If the advisers to King George III had been alert, they would have anticipated the American Revolution. North Carolina might have served as a model from which to learn a valuable lesson. Culpeper’s and Gary’s rebellions and the Regulator uprising all demonstrated that people in the colony would go to great lengths to support a cause they believed in, especially when they were convinced that they had been wronged. Several governors tried to warn the royal advisers. In 1760 Governor Arthur Dobbs mentioned a “rising spirit of independency” in his colony. The Assembly of North Carolina, it was pointed out,...

  12. 9 ATTAINING INDEPENDENCE (pp. 182-206)

    The battle of lexington on 19 April 1775 and the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge on 27 February 1776 inspired those who yearned for independence from Great Britain. Until then the Whigs had indignantly denied that they were actually seeking to break all ties with the mother country.¹ It took something like these military engagements to demonstrate the absurdity of their position. Before 1775 with every expression of opposition to taxation by Parliament, they added a protestation of loyalty to “the best of Kings.”AfterMoore’s Creek Bridge the Whigs could scarcely continue to express loyalty to a sovereign who...

  13. 10 A FREE STATE (pp. 207-227)

    The departure of the armies of Nathanael Greene and Lord Charles Cornwallis left North Carolina at the mercy of many loosely organized, undisciplined bands of armed men. For more than a year they carried on a relentless civil war, and the state was the victim of as much or more pillage, murder, and general disorder as came during Reconstruction after the Civil War. Each side was guilty of abuses and crimes that often served as excuses for merciless retaliation. Gangs of robbers, masquerading as Whigs or Tories, as suited their purposes at the moment, robbed people, burned houses, murdered men,...

  14. 11 A JEFFERSONIAN REPUBLIC (pp. 228-244)

    For more than a year after its refusal to ratify the United States Constitution at Hillsborough, North Carolina remained outside the Union. Only the tiny state of Rhode Island had chosen the same course. Insofar as possible, however, North Carolina complied with the regulations of the national government. Movement of the citizens of other states into North Carolina was not hampered, for example, and customs duties were collected according to the federal schedule. The state, in fact, quite early anticipated becoming a member of the new nation.

    By the end of July 1788 eleven states had ratified the Constitution, and...

  15. 12 A STATE ASLEEP (pp. 245-252)

    During the first half of the nineteenth century North Carolina seemed unaware of much that was going on anywhere, even within its own boundaries. Most people in the eastern section of the state were satisfied with their social, economic, and political conditions. Their voice prevailed in the government, and they were content to do little or nothing for the improvement of the whole state. Citizens in the interior were even more isolated by the lack of roads and other means of communication. They were self-sufficient, producing only what was absolutely necessary and not missing luxuries they had never known. It...

  16. 13 THE VISION OF ARCHIBALD D. MURPHEY (pp. 253-266)

    A small group of North Carolinians who were deeply concerned about the unsavory reputation of their state across the nation between 1815 and 1840 not only eliminated its causes but also set the state on a totally new course. The leaders of this movement included Bartlett Yancey, Joseph Caldwell, Charles Fisher, David L. Swain, William Gaston, John Motley Morehead, and William A. Graham. But foremost was Archibald DeBow Murphey. As a representative of Orange County in the North Carolina Senate from 1812 until 1818, he championed a system of public education, internal improvements, and constitutional reform. Reflecting on events during...

  17. 14 THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1835 (pp. 267-281)

    Conservative eastern members of the General Assembly were the predominant cause of the state’s failure to move forward during the first three and a half decades of the nineteenth century. They determined the state’s role in the national government as well, since United States senators were elected by the legislature. The prestige of Nathaniel Macon, a conservative Republican (Democrat) of Warren County, who was Speaker of the United States House of Representatives during most of the administration of President Thomas Jefferson and president pro tempore of the Senate in 1826 and 1827, also influenced political thinking in the state. North...

  18. 15 THE WHIG ERA, 1835–1850 (pp. 282-299)

    Under the revised constitution the people of the west gained an effective voice in the affairs of the state, marking a quarter century of progress. The two-party system that appeared on the eve of the Constitutional Convention of 1835 created a healthy and fruitful competition. For the first fifteen years of this period the Whig party held sway, but in time it became overconfident of its support and the Democrats gained the upper hand. They, too, proved to be capable custodians of the state’s flourishing reputation.

    A handsome new state capitol was completed in 1840 under the direction of architects...

  19. 16 A CHANGE IN MIDSTREAM (pp. 300-307)

    Even though their leaders grew old and less progressive, the Whig party continued its hold on the government of North Carolina. That hold had never been a strong one, however, as the party often won by a close margin. Edward Bishop Dudley’s first election (1836) was by just 4,043 votes. Between 1840 and 1842 John Motley Morehead dropped from a difference of 8,581 to 4,572 over his opponent. William A. Graham, on the other hand, gained in his second campaign, winning by 7,859 (1846) as opposed to 3,153 (1844). Charles Manly in 1848 won by a mere 854 votes. Whig...


    North carolina emerged from the dark years of its Rip Van Winkle sleep, passed through a period of growing awareness of its potential, and enjoyed a brief taste of prosperity and hope for the future before it was led reluctantly into civil war. The changes that occurred in the state must have astounded those who lived through them. Many had seen the coming of steamboats and railroads, telegraph lines, cotton mills, tobacco factories, a few furniture manufacturers, new newspapers whose presses also issued pamphlets and occasionally published books, public schools, denominational colleges, hospitals, asylums, and orphanages serving the people in...

  21. 18 THE COMING OF THE CIVIL WAR (pp. 328-348)

    In 1860 the white population of North Carolina was 629,932. In that year more than 272,000 natives of the state were living elsewhere, whereas fewer than 24,000 people who lived in the state were born somewhere else. There were 361,522 blacks of whom 30,463 were free. Of all the Southern states, only Virginia had more free blacks. In the South as a whole there were 300 owners of 300 or more slaves, undoubtedly millionaires, but only 4 of them were North Carolinians. The census further showed that some 30,000 people were engaged in “commerce, trade, manufacturing, mechanic arts and mining”...

  22. 19 THE CIVIL WAR (pp. 349-379)

    Although the sentiment for secession was far from unanimous in North Carolina, once a decision had been made it was either generally supported or tacitly accepted by the people as the policy of the state. About two dozen men in the lower Cape Fear acted prematurely. On 31 December 1860 some citizens of Wilmington wired Governor John W. Ellis seeking his permission to seize Fort Johnston and Fort Caswell, located on the west side of the Cape Fear River near its mouth on each side of the Elizabeth River. Each fort was occupied by a single United States ordnance sergeant...

  23. 2O A STATE MADE NEW (pp. 380-403)

    When William A. Graham and David L. Swain did not return from their call upon General Sherman by the time expected, Governor Vance on 12 April took a train to the west. He found that President Davis by that time was in Charlotte so he went there to confer with him. Afterward he returned to Greensboro where he announced the surrender of General Johnston at the Bennett farmhouse near Durham and then surrendered himself to a Union general. Informed that there were no orders for his arrest, Vance joined his family in Statesville where friends had provided safety. Two weeks...

  24. 21 A FRESH START (pp. 404-421)

    As political conditions stabilized so did many other aspects of life in the state. The Conservatives—or Democrats, as they came to be called in the mid-i87os—remained concerned about retaining control of both state and local government. There was a lingering uneasiness that small farmers, both white and black, who had many problems in common, might unite and pose a threat to the “elite,” as the older native political leaders later were known. In 1870, after the Conservative party took control of the General Assembly, a proposal to call a convention to revise the state constitution was submitted to...

  25. 22 A TIME OF READJUSTMENT (pp. 422-442)

    The creation of numerous small farms was one of the most obvious legacies of the Civil War. As a primarily rural state, North Carolina continued for many decades to be concerned with the resultant problems. Farmers themselves, of course, felt that the buyers of their cotton, tobacco, corn, and other crops took advantage of them, because at harvest time they had to accept whatever the buyer offered. The opening of new land in the West as well as increased production in Canada, Australia, South America, and elsewhere contributed to lower agricultural prices worldwide. Financial depression in the 1870s and 1890s...


    Looking forward to the twentieth century, many of the state’s political leaders began to speak of the “Dawn of a New Day.” As the nineteenth century drew to a close, changes in the law concerning voting eligibility, including, of course, the grandfather clause effective only until 1 December 1908, ensured the election of a majority of Democrats, thereby setting a pattern in the General Assembly that would remain unbroken for more than a century. For almost seventy-five years, although only Democratic governors were elected, it became customary that they alternate geographically with one coming from the western part of the...


    When Angus W. McLean succeeded Cameron Morrison as governor in 1925, many North Carolinians, except farmers, were enjoying a period of rising prosperity. The state was laying the foundation for what would soon become one of the best highway systems in the nation. The University of North Carolina and the state-maintained colleges were receiving more generous support than ever, and the private and church-related colleges were also flourishing. The munificent Duke Endowment was providing support not only for the newly created Duke University, but also for Davidson College and Johnson C. Smith University, many hospitals and orphanages, and to aid...


    North carolina was one of the last states to feel the full effects of the depression, and it was one of the first to enjoy a return to normalcy. Tobacco prices were good in 1937 and brought farmers $154 million. Textile plants had begun to receive orders by the summer of 1938 and many were operating full-time. Although cotton prices were low, food crops were beginning to contribute significantly to farm income as a result of diversification. In cash received from all crops, North Carolina stood third in the nation. Poultry raising, cattle, and dairying were becoming increasingly important. During...

  29. 26 A NEW FACE FOR THE STATE (pp. 517-552)

    Following both the Civil War and World War I, which together lasted less than half a dozen years, great changes took place in North Carolina. Among them, after 1865, were freedom for over 300,000 people previously held in slavery, a new system of agricultural labor, and a modified state constitution with sweeping changes in government. After 1918, over the objections of the General Assembly, women won the right to vote; people started to question the ideals and beliefs of the older generation; and automobiles in larger numbers appeared on newly paved highways, while tractors began to replace mules in the...

  30. 27 THE STATE LOOKS TO THE FUTURE (pp. 553-560)

    North carolinians on a number of occasions, especially when the present was not particularly promising, have looked to the future. The Roanoke colonists of the 1580s took a great risk in leaving England for a different kind of life in the New World wilderness, and as it turned out most of them paid with their lives. In the 1670s those who took matters into their own hands at the time of Culpeper’s Rebellion obtained the reforms they sought and so did those who drew up the Halifax Resolves and who cast their lot with John Harvey, Cornelius Harnett, and other...

  31. APPENDIX A British Monarchs during Exploration, Settlement, and the Colonial Period (pp. 563-563)
  32. APPENDIX B Chief Executives of North Carolina (pp. 564-568)
  33. APPENDIX C North Carolina Countries (pp. 569-571)
  34. APPENDIX D Population of North Carolina (pp. 572-573)
  35. APPENDIX E Sites of Meetings of the Legislature (pp. 574-574)
  36. APPENDIX F Chronology (pp. 575-592)
  37. FURTHER READING (pp. 593-616)
  38. INDEX (pp. 617-652)