Ratification in North Carolina
[The radicals] propose to make us drink our own piss and eat our own dung.
--A North Carolinian, writing to Governor Worth in the fall of 1866
The debate on the Fourteenth Amendment in North Carolina can best be understood if it is followed chronologically because the history of the Fourteenth Amendment in North Carolina cannot be understood apart from the history of the state. 1 The two-year debate over the amendment both reflected and shaped that history. The successive political crises in which the amendment became entangled both illuminated and obscured its meaning. The story of the Fourteenth Amendment in North Carolina thus begins not with its submission to the states in June 1866, but a year earlier, with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
Following the collapse of the Confederacy, North Carolina, like other Southern states, acquiesced in what it understood to be the demands of the national government. It adopted an antisecession ordinance. The 1865 state convention organized at President Johnson's direction by William Holden, the provisional governor, promulgated the ordinance, which voters approved on November 9, 1865 by a vote of 20,870 to 1,983. The convention also ratified the antislavery amendment. During the legislative debate over ratification in late November 1865, the House defeated a resolution that would have stated the legislature's understanding that the enforcement clause did not give Congress any power to legislate on behalf of the civil or political rights of freedmen. 2 It passed laws that guaranteed the former slaves certain civil rights. It retained many class, racebased distinctions, however. For example, blacks were given the privilege of suing in court; but they could not testify in altercations between two white men unless both agreed to accept the testimony. Another example of this double