Category Archives: Constitutional History

Orth and Newby. The North Carolina State Constitution

Orth, John V, and Paul Martin Newby. The North Carolina State Constitution. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Because the state constitution was amended to exclude African Americans from voting, constitutional history is relevant to my study. This work is actually an in-depth analysis of North Carolina’s current state constitution, but it does provide some good information about former state constitutions.  Orth and Newby argue that the delegates to the constitutional convention of 1835 essentially replaced class with race as the primary suffrage requirement (3). The 1776 constitution allowed all men to vote, regardless of race, as long as they met the property requirement.  To vote for the state senate, one had to own fifty acres of land; to vote for the house, any man could vote so long as they were a taxpayer (6).  Also important for my study, the authors discuss the “borough town” issue, as the towns of Edenton, New Bern, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Salisbury, Hillsborough, and Halifax each sent a representative to the House separate from the county delegate. This is a good place to start looking for black suffrage, I think. Based on some previous research, free southern blacks tended to reside in cities and towns, so maybe there are references in these towns’ newspapers to black political activity. Orth and Newby also make the interesting point that after being disfranchised, free blacks were still counted as whole persons for representation, though not allowed to vote (15).  By excluding blacks from voting yet still including them in the total number for representation, city whites that usually did not receive support of free African Americans would have an incentive to disfranchise them.