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12 A S T A T E A S L E E P URING THE FIRST HALF of the nineteenth century North Carolina seemed unaware of much that wasgoing 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 wasabsolutely necessaryand not missingluxuries they had neverknown. It seldom crossed their minds that the government might take steps to improve their lot in life. When people from other states became aware of conditions in North Carolina, they began to refer to it as the "Rip Van Winkle State." The State's Dismal Outlook In 1819 a North Carolina lawyerand legislator, Archibald DeBow Murphey, observed that throughout the nation the War of 1812 had brought "admittance to liberal ideas"; however, he asserted, this wascertainly not true of his own state, for no state in the Union at that time waslessreceptive to liberal ideas than North Carolina. Earlier, in 1786, a traveler who journeyed from Edenton to Charlotte had said that no state had done aslittle asNorth Carolina to promote education, science, and the arts. The mass of people, he found, were "in a state of mental degradation." Murphey pointed out that in 1792 only three schools in the state offered the basic elements of a classical education that would prepare a student for higher education. In 1826, the semicentennialyearof the Declaration of Independence , Governor Hutchins G. Burton told state lawmakers that many people believed it was more difficult to obtain a primary education in North Carolina then than it had been in 1776. One reason for these inadequacies was the failure of the type of school the members of the Fifth Provincial Congress seem to have had in mind when they wrote the Forty-first Article of the state constitution (requiring that the legislaD 24-S 24-6 North Carolina through Four Centuries ture establish "a School or Schools") in 1776. They relied on local academies, 42 of which had been chartered by 1800. By1835,135 more had been added to the list with at least one in each county except Ashe, Columbus, and Person. The academy was primarily a boys' institution; of the 177 chartered before 1835, only 13 admitted girls. Fewprospered because the legislaturedeclined to extend stateaid to enable the masters"to instruct atlowPrices," asthe constitution directed. An academy could be created only through local initiative,just as local interest was needed to maintain the building, employ ateacher,plan aprogram, and in many cases provideconvenient accommodations for childrenwho lived too faraway to walk to daily classes. Although the charter might require free tuition for a limited number of poor scholars, many needy families were too proud to take advantage ofthis opportunity. The burden oftuition made the academy available only to those of at least moderate means. In 1810 Thomas Henderson, editor of a Raleigh newspaper, The Star, adopted a new means of gathering data from abroad spectrum of people. He prepared an interesting questionnaire which he sent to leading citizens in each county, and from their replies he reported on conditions in the state. For example, before the University of North Carolina opened in Chapel Hill, he knew of no one who had left Edgecombe County to attend college or an academy. A third of the people in the county could not read, and only about half the men and a third of the women could write. Out of a population of over 8,000, only 108 subscribed to a newspaper. From Caswell County it was reported that fewer than half the people could "read, write and cypher," and "many of the inferior class of society appear more depraved than ever." There was only one academy in the county, where between 1805 and 1810 enrollment dropped from 65 to 38. Henderson's informant, Bartlett Yancey, admitted that his native county had never been distinguished for itsgreat men, but he seemed to take perverse pride in the fact that it had alarge number "entitled to the rank ofmediocrity." He also found satisfaction in the fact that everyone then living in the county was a native, and that "we have no spreeing Irishmen, revolutionizing Frenchmen, or speculating Scotchmen among us...


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