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16 A CHANGE IN MIDSTREAM VEN 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 8,581to 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 candidates for president of the United States in 1840 and 1844 carried North Carolina by a somewhat larger margin than did the gubernatorial candidates, and in 1848 approximately the same number of Whigs voted for the Whig presidential candidate asusually did, but many abandoned the party when Manly ran for governor. The Democrats Prevail on Suffrage Issue Progressive young men began to join the Democrats and to change its program . In favor ofgreater support for both railroads and education, they hoped to find that party's platform to their liking. They also realized that the requirements for voting were still the same ones implemented by the Provincial Congress of December 1776 and that the state constitution was still restrictivein that respect. One of the most active and effective of these new leaders wasWilliam Woods Holden. In 1843,at age twenty-five, he became editor of the North Carolina Standard, a Raleigh newspaper. A brilliant journalist, Holden soon made it the leading paper in the state aswell asone of the most attractive. He appears to have adopted some of his ideasfor design and layout from publications using the printing techniques and new fonts of type developed at William D. Cooke's school for the deaf and dumb. Coming from very humble origins in Orange County, Holden stood up for the "common people." As a means of taking control awayfrom the Whig party, he urged the Democratic party to adopt a program that would appeal to a great many North Carolinians. Having been in power for fifteen years, Whigs were 300 Evccn, 301 A Change in Midstream growing more inattentive to the needs and desires of the mass of people. The Democrats, however, had difficulty persuading able men to run for governor because the Whigs, it was assumed, would alwayswin. In 1848 the Democratic convention nominated David S. Reid, an attorney, a militia officer, and aformer member of the General Assembly; at the time, he was completing his second term in Congress. Holden and Robert P. Dick, a prominent leader of the party, urged Reid to run, but he—as others beforehim—proved to be areluctant candidate . Holden wasabout to publish Reid's letter declining the nomination when some other party leadersaskedhim to delayabit. In the meantime they set about to change Reid's mind. Although the party's platform said nothing about broadening the suffrage, Reid brought it up. In replyingto the request of party leadersthat hereconsider his decision, hesaid: "Gentlemen, this nomination wasnot sought byme, and it has been my purpose for a long time if I should be a candidate for a state office before the people, to broach one issue, which I deem very important. What I mean isthat the state constitution shall be so amended that allvoters for a member of the House of Commons shall be allowed to vote for Senators." The party wasfarfrom unanimous on this question, but Reid had made this declaration for himself. At a political meeting in Beaufort when both Reid and Charles Manly, the Whig candidate, were on the platform, Reid again spoke out in favor of manhood suffrage. Manly hesitated to commit himself and asked for a day to think it over.The next day, before a political gatheringin New Bern, Manly said that he was opposed to broadening the suffrage. His statement marked the beginning of the end of the Whig party. It divided the Whigs, and eventually the question of permitting slavery in new territories destroyed the party. Throughout the campaign of 1848, Manly consistently belittled Reid's proposal , referringto it as"political claptrap" and nothing more than an attempt by an office-hungry party to seekvotes. Merelychanging the suffrage requirements for the senate, Manly pointed out, would have little effect so long as property qualifications remained for officeholding. Anything as serious as this ought to grow out...


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MARC Record
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