Secession and the exhilaration of war preparations gave the North Carolina Confederate party--composed mainly of former Democrats and a few secessionist Whigs--firm command of state affairs during the early war months. Considering themselves largely responsible for the creation of the new nation, throughout the war they supported the Davis administration as far as conscience would permit, often deferring their state rights convictions to the centralism radiating from Richmond. They never fully accepted the professions of loyalty to the Confederacy that their political opponents, the Conservatives, constantly reiterated.
The Conservative party had originally consisted mainly of old Whigs and Unionists. After failing to block a secession movement which they blamed on northern abolitionists and southern fools they avowed themselves to be completely loyal Confederates and expected to be treated as such. They differed from the Confederate party in that they refused to countenance war measures that threatened the rights of individuals or states. Conservatives spoke of their opponents as "Destructives," not as a criticism of their former secessionism but of their apparent willingness to accept a military despotism for the sake of victory.
The year 1861 ended with only a few bubbles of discord disturbing the surface of the new found political harmony. Some disgruntled Conservatives complained of being denied the honors of office, and one of them wrote "I have not seen it as you have, but I know well enough the proscriptive, unscrupulous & corrupt policy of the dominant party, of which you speak."1 They were probably partly right, but as yet grounds for genuine political division had not developed, as evidenced by the uncontroversial nature of the congressional elections that took place in the fall.
But politics soon reverted to normal, reborn out of the war measures____________________