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21 A F R E S H S T A R T s POLITICAL conditions stabilizedso did many other aspects of life in the state. The Conservatives—or Democrats, asthey came to be called in the mid-i87os—remained concerned about retaining control of both state and local government. There wasalingering 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 the people. It wasrejected in a referendumthe next yearby avote of 95,252 to 86,007. The Conservatives seized their next opportunity to revise the constitution, this time by the legislative method which required that any proposed amendment be passed at two successive sessions and then approved by the people. During the legislative session of 1870-72 nearly three dozen amendments were considered; eight of them were submitted to a referendum of the people who approved them by a wide margin. Henceforth the legislature would meet ever)' two years instead of annually, and it again had control of the University of North Carolina. Several new offices created in 1868 were also abolished. The Constitution Amended In 1875 the General Assemblycalled a constitutional convention, asit had the authority' to do under the 1868 document. In the balloting for delegates 95,191 Republicans voted, followed closely by 95,037 Conservatives—a difference of a mere 154. The delegates elected included 58 Conservatives, 58Republicans, and 3 Independents. One of the Independents, Dr. Edward Ransom of Tyrrell County, was nominated for president of the convention by the Conservatives; after thirteen tie votes, Ransom voted for himselfand was elected. Republicans wanted to adjourn the convention to prevent their party's loss of power in the state, but Ransom's vote foiled their efforts. This convention, in session for five weeks in the fall, adopted thirty amendments which were approved by a vote of 120,159 to 106,554 on 7 November 1876, 404 A 405 A Fresh Start to become effective on iJanuary 1877. Among other provisions, theycalled for the creation of a Department of Agriculture; abandoned the simple and uniform court system created in 1868, and gavethe legislature authority to determine the jurisdiction of courts inferior to the North Carolina Supreme Court; denied the vote to those guilty ofcertain crimes; implemented aone-year residencyrequirement for voting; required "non-discriminatory" racial segregation in public schools; authorized the legislature to revise or abolish the form and power of county and township government; and simplified the method of amending the constitution. Marriages between whites and blackswere prohibited, and secret political organizations were forbidden. Some of these amendments clearly increased the power of the legislative branch of government, giving it considerable authority over local affairs and enabling the Democratic party to regain virtual control of the state. The party considered local control to be essential—especially in some of the eastern counties with large black populations and in western counties heavily populated by Republicans. The amendments also gave the legislature extensive authority in those counties with a relativelylow number of blacks. In either case, insofar as local control of municipal and county government was concerned, this was a backward step. Conservatives Return to Power as Democrats To regain complete control of the government, however, the Conservatives hoped to elect the governor in 1876. National victoriesin 1874 gavethe Democrats control of Congress, and the changes made in North Carolina's constitution in 1875 lent credence to predictions that they would "sweep the state." Politicians hit upon three themes to emphasize: Radical Reconstruction, alleged domination by blacks, and the necessity for white supremacy. Each issue appealed to many voters and forced the Republican party into a defensive position. To succeed , the Conservatives needed the support of the national Democratic party, so they gaveup the name "Conservative" under which they had operated since the middle years of the war.The designation, after all, was merelycosmetic, one that had been comfortable for cooperating Whigs, who would have been less likely to support "Democrats." The campaign of 1876 was one of the most dramatic ever witnessed in North Carolina. It pitted the popular Zebulon B. Vanceagainst Thomas Settle of Rockingham County, a highly qualified and experienced political leader and judge, prewar Democrat, Confederate veteran, and one of the founders of the Republican party. Settle...


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