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Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History: Electronic Edition.

Johnson, Guion Griffis, 1900- 1989


Table of Contents


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           EVERY ONE acquainted with the mass of our people knows that many of them cannot read, and a still greater number read with such difficulty that it is of little profit or pleasure," declared Professor William Hooper of the University of North Carolina, addressing the Pittsborough Literary Society in 1835. "The bulk of our population may be called an unreading people. They are too busy to read, and that is not the channel by which they have been in the habit of receiving knowledge." 1

This description, true in 1835, was also true in 1860 and for many years thereafter. It was the rock upon which many a newspaper had been wrecked, the source of anguish for many a literary aspirant. Yet North Carolina had boasted since colonial days of a few who were fond of letters; and, as the years passed, the State began to point to the gradual accumulation of a native literature. During the last two decades of the ante-bellum period there was such a dipping into the inkpot that newspapers thought the State was experiencing a real intellectual awakening.


           The type of writing which most vitally touched the daily lives of the people was the casual literature which issued from the local presses--the broadside, almanacs, and pamphlets. The broadside, the earliest form of news printing, was a single sheet of paper printed on only one side. Local poets, ballad writers, and composers of "spiritual hymns," often printed their compositions in this manner, peddling them on the village streets and in the country at a penny or so a copy. Political parties, religious societies, reform organizations, and private individuals also used the broadside, and it was from these sheets, distributed without cost, that many of those who could read obtained their knowledge and passed it on to others less fortunate.

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           The most popular printed matter which issued from the antebellum press was the almanac. It was commonly known as the poor man's Bible, for the almanac told the farmer when to plant and to harvest his crops, how to doctor his family, and how to raise his stock. In 1810 three almanacs were being printed in Raleigh: Gales' North-Carolina Almanack, Henderson's Almanack, and Boylan's Almanack. After Turner and Hughes opened the North Carolina Book Store in Raleigh in 1826, they soon began the publication of what proved to be one of the most widely circulated almanacs of the ante-bellum period. A popular almanac published in Western North Carolina was John C. Blum's Farmer's and Planter's Almanac, begun in Salem as early as 1829. 2

Occasionally a private individual would publish an almanac of his own as a money-making or publicity scheme. One of the best of these efforts was the North-Carolina Register and the United States Calendar which the Reverend Colin McIver brought out in 1823. The North Carolina Temperance Almanac of 1828 was an attempt to promote the temperance movement among the yeomanry of the State.

           Gales' North-Carolina Almanack for 1818 was a diminutive thirty-six-page pamphlet for which John Beasley, astronomer of Wake County, had calculated the weather, the cycles of the moon, and the eclipses. The almanac sold for 10 cents a copy, 75 cents a dozen copies, or $40 a thousand. Postmasters, storekeepers, and peddlers distributed them throughout the country. The edition for 1818 contained brief articles on fall ploughing, on the cultivation of red clover, on the use of plaster of Paris, on cheap manure, and on religion. It gave "valuable hints to a young tradesman," a "family lecture," "miscellaneous receipts," "medical receipts," anecdotes, and instructions on "how to break ill news." It also gave a list of the members of the General Assembly, the names of the judges, and the time of the sitting of the Federal, Supreme, Superior, and County courts. Interspersed throughout were brief historical notes listed by years from 1798 to 1812.

           The cheapest method of getting into permanent form a political address, an essay, a biography, a sermon, or a historical narrative was to engage the local printer to publish it as a pamphlet.

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Hundreds of such pamphlets appeared in North Carolina especially after 1835. The Southern Literary Messenger of Virginia, upon receiving two pamphlets containing addresses delivered in North Carolina in 1839, wrote: "Literature of this character, has indeed become a plentiful commodity on our table, . . . Such addresses do not generally circulate extensively, and attract the attention of but few others than those in whom local attachments may excite an interest." 3

           Local though they were, these pamphlets are a valuable index to the literature, the political and social theory, the scientific advancement, and the cultural development of the ante-bellum period. Among the pamphlets which excited more than a temporary interest or a local public were Joseph Caldwell's Numbers of Carlton, published in 1828, and his Letters on Popular Education in 1832; William Gaston's Address to the literary societies of the University of North Carolina in 1832; George Davis' Early Men and Times of the Cape Fear in 1855; Dr. Charles E. Johnson's Address before the Medical Society of North Carolina in 1852; Romulus M. Saunders' Address in 1852 before the literary societies of Wake Forest in defense of the Mecklenburg Resolves of May 20, 1775; Memoir of Elisha Mitchell in 1858; and William Hooper's 'Tis Fifty Years Since delivered as a commencement address at the University of North Carolina in 1859.

           A great many addresses which might have been printed to the benefit of succeeding generations were lost as soon as uttered. It has often been said that the oration was the highest type of literary effort developed in the ante-bellum South. In 1884 Professor George Tayloe Winston, lamenting North Carolina's lack of taste for literature, declared that, while the people of the State would not read a literary magazine or encourage the publication of a scholarly book, they would "travel many miles to be present at court and listen to the oratory of the lawyer and the wisdom of the judge"; they would "at any time leave their usual business and devote one or two days to hearing a joint discussion between two political orators"; and they would listen all day to pulpit oratory. "Excepting a few large cities, it is doubtful whether finer specimens of genuine, moving eloquence in sermons and in prayers have been uttered anywhere in America, than

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before the uneducated, unliterary audiences that have attended the Southern and Western Camp-meetings." 4

           Among the leading orators 5

of the period were John Stanly who was at the height of his career at the opening of the century, called at that time "the most accomplished orator of the State"; Archibald D. Murphey whose speech in the case of Burrow v. Worth has "never been surpassed in the forensic displays of the State"; William Gaston whose spontaneity, fluency, and literary ease have scarcely been equalled in the history of the State; George E. Badger upon whom, it was said, Gaston's cloak fell at his death; Willie P. Mangum, quick in debate and fluent in expression; B. F. Moore, the "father of the North Carolina Bar"; James K. Polk who was born and educated in North Carolina although he spent most of his life in Tennessee, often called the "Napoleon of the Stump"; Henry W. Miller, "a distinguished orator and eminent lawyer"; William A. Graham, a facile speaker and social thinker far in advance of his times; Robert Strange who, like Graham, was critical of the social institutions of his time; Duncan K. McRae, often referred to as "the best popular speaker" of the late fifties and "a gentleman of cultivation and genius"; and Z. B. Vance who was beginning his career as the period closed.


           Every printing shop which was equipped to do pamphlet work could also print a book, although not all had the equipment with which to do expert binding. Some books printed in North Carolina were sometimes sent to South Carolina, Virginia, or to the North for a cloth or leather binding, but many books were both printed and bound at a local shop. Indeed, the first issue of the North Carolina press, except for the publication of the journals of the House of Burgesses for 1749 and 1750, was a volume called A Collection of All the Public Acts of Assembly, of the Province of North Carolina: now in Force and Use, printed at New Bern by James Davis in 1751. 6

The following year Davis printed another

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edition of this work which became popularly known as the Yellow Jacket because the leather used for the binding had been imperfectly tanned and soon became yellow. Books other than those pertaining to law and the administration of justice were also being printed in the State prior to the nineteenth century. James Davis had printed in 1753 A Collection of many Christian Experiences, Sentences, and several Places of Scripture Improved for Clement Hall; in 1778 Rudiments of the Latin Tongue for Thomas Ruddiman and Dyche's Spelling Book. In Wilmington James Adams had printed The Plain Planter's Family Assistant for Henry Pattillo in 1787 and Sermons by the same author in 1788; in Edenton Hodge and Wills had printed Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North-Carolina in 1789; and in Halifax Abraham Hodge had printed A Geographical Chatecism for Henry Pattillo in 1796.

           Late in 1800, the North-Carolina Minerva was advertising John Haywood's The Duty and Office of Justice of the Peace and of Sheriffs, Coroners, Constables "just published and for sale at this office--price three dollars," and the Edenton Gazette office had just published James Iredell's Revisal of the Laws of North-Carolina. In 1804 Joseph Gales published his wife's novel, Matilda Berkley, or Family Anecdotes. As other presses were established in Raleigh, they, too, advertised for book work. The Southern Weekly Post of June 4, 1853, said of the Supreme Court Reports published at the Standard office, "The typographical execution of the volume is much superior to any of the preceding volumes, and is another evidence of the fact that book-work may be done as well in Raleigh as it can be executed at the North." In 1833 John H. DeCarteret established the Raleigh Book-Bindery and kept it in operation throughout the period. 7

In 1860 J. J. Chaplin also had a book bindery in Raleigh. 8

           No sooner had Dennis Heartt begun his Hillsborough Recorder in 1820 than he advertised that he was prepared to "execute" book work "promptly and correctly." In Fayetteville Edward J. Hale's Observer office did a brisk business and his bookstore helped to market the products of his press. In Wilmington

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J. J. Tyack advertised himself in 1844 as being an expert bookbinder: "Having removed my work shop over the store of Mr. Wm. Thompson, on Market St., I shall, as heretofore, carry on the business in all its various branches, Morocco, Russian Calf, and Sheep skin bindings. Old Books rebound. All orders from the country executed and forwarded with the least possible delay." 9 In New Bern W. S. Hall was prepared in 1848 "to bind books in the neatest, cheapest, and most expeditious manner." 10

           The newspaper office with presses wet and the bookbinder with leather, glue, and gilded ink awaited eagerly the arrival of an author with manuscript in his hand and money in his pocket. The books which issued from North Carolina presses alone would make a long list, most of them slender volumes scarcely more than pamphlets. A great many authors, however, sent their manuscripts North for publication where they usually could get the work done cheaper and, as many thought, better.


           The subject which engaged most authors was that of religion. This is partly true because the minister was usually the best equipped person in the community to write and because religion played a dominant role in the life of the educated man. Even a busy lawyer and officeholder, such as George E. Badger, could take time to write an essay on religion 11

or a "plain citizen," such as William T. Bain, Letters and Meditations on Religion and Other Subjects.

           The first important religious work published in the nineteenth century was A Concise History of the Kehukee Baptist Association written by the Reverend Lemuel Burkitt and the Reverend Jesse Read and published in 1803 by Abraham Hodge of Halifax. In 1834 Joseph Biggs reprinted the history and brought it down to date. In 1805 William Glendenning of Raleigh, who had already published his Autobiography in Philadelphia in 1795, published in Raleigh an edition of Sermons by the Reverend Devereux Jarratt of Virginia, and The Dying Thoughts of the Reverend Richard Baxter. For the next twenty years, the State was flooded with religious sermons and argumentative religious essays, for this

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was a period of controversy and reorganization. 12 Many of the important writings of this period were issued as pamphlets, among them the works of James O'Kelly, Paul and David Henkel, William C. Davis, Lemuel Burkitt, and Thomas Meredith.

           Among the volumes of sermons and theology published may be listed Sermons, Chiefly of a Practical Nature which Joseph Gales published in 1821 in memory of his son-in-law, the Reverend Anthony Forster; the Work of Bishop Ravenscroft which the Episcopal Bible, Common Prayer Book, Tract, and Missionary Society of North Carolina published in 1830; Twelve College Sermons by the Reverend Charles F. Deems, published in 1846, and his Home-Altar in 1850; and the works of that prolific writer, R. B. C. Howell, especially his Terms of Christian Communion, which ran through several editions in this country and in England, and his The Deaconship, which had at least six editions.

           The Concise History of The Kehukee Association was the only sizable work on religious history to appear until the forties. In 1843 Robert B. Drane wrote a brief account of the Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Historical Notices of St. James' Parish, Wilmington; in 1844 William Henry Foote published his valuable history of the Presbyterian Church, Sketches of North Carolina; in 1849 John Paris wrote the first history of Methodism, History of the Methodist Protestant Church; in 1852 the Reverend N. Summerbell published in Raleigh A History of the Christian Church; in 1857 Bishop Reichel published The Moravians in North Carolina and in 1859 George W. Purefoy his History of the Sandy Creek Association. Notable pamphlets are S. C. Alexander's An Historical Address Delivered at the Dedication of Back Creek Church of 1857; Neill McKay's A Centenary Sermon and Banks' Centennial Sermon, both delivered before the Presbytery of Fayetteville at Bluff Church in 1858. One of the most valuable of these works on religious history was Foote's Sketches of North Carolina, a lengthy volume containing not only the history of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina but copies of church documents and considerable reference to the historical development of the State itself. When the Reverend Eli W. Caruthers wrote his Sketch of the Life and Character of the Rev. David Caldwell in

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1842 he interwove the Revolutionary history of the State with the biography of the minister. Of the same character was his Old North State, first published in 1854. T. C. Anderson included in his Life of Rev. George Donnell, published in 1858, an essay on the influence of the Scotch-Irish in American history.


           A large part of the literary effort of the ante-bellum period was directed toward the production of historical narratives and the collection of historical documents. Hugh Williamson, a native of Pennsylvania who lived in Edenton from the time of the American Revolution to 1793, a physician and man of letters, was the first to produce a history of the State. His two-volume work published in 1812 deals with the period from 1584 to 1786, but it was more an exposition of his theory of the effect of climate upon the course of history than it was an accurate story of the development of North Carolina. In 1787 he had contributed a series of articles to the American Museum on the economic defects in the United States under the title of "Letters of Sylvius" and in 1811 had published his Observations on the Climate in Different Parts of America.

           The next history of North Carolina, another two-volume work, was published in New Orleans in 1829 from the pen of Francois Xavier Martin. The author, a French refugee, had come to North Carolina and settled at New Bern where he opened a printery and continued to live until he moved to Louisiana in 1809. He published, beginning in 1791, a series of legal works, among them his Decisions of the Superior Courts of North Carolina in 1797 and his Revisal of the Laws of North Carolina in 1804, and reprinted volumes of novels, such as Lord Rivers and Stephanie de Bourbon. He wrote a History of North Carolina, an inaccurate compilation rather than a well-ordered narrative, after his removal to Louisiana.

           Before the appearance of Martin's history, the State had been aroused to an interest in its past by Wirt's statement in his Life of Patrick Henry that this Virginian "gave the first impulse to the ball of Revolution." There had been a tradition in North Carolina that Cornelius Harnett's committees of correspondence

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and the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence had played a part in getting the ball underway in the South. If the biography had been published a few years earlier, such a statement might have passed unnoticed, but at this time North Carolina was breaking away from Virginia's political leadership and such a remark was salt in an open wound. In 1819 the Raleigh Register published an account of a meeting which was supposed to have been held in Charlotte on May 20, 1775, and a copy of the resolutions, said to have been passed at that time, declaring independence from Great Britain. In 1825 Charlotte began the custom of having an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion and North Carolina as a whole began to look upon the Mecklenburg Declaration with a glow of state pride.

           It is no wonder that patriotic North Carolinians became militant when an edition of Thomas Jefferson's works in 1829 was found to contain a letter from Jefferson to John Adams expressing the opinion that the Declaration of May 20 was not authentic. The Legislature took up the matter and appointed a committee "to examine, collate, and arrange" the evidence. The report of 1830 defended Charlotte's claim to priority and the Legislature ordered the publication of two pamphlets which never appeared, the one to contain a copy of the Mecklenburg Declaration, certificates testifying to circumstances attending the Declaration, and the proceedings of the Cumberland Association; the other to contain a reprint of the Journal of the Provincial Assembly held at Halifax in 1776. 13

In 1834 Joseph Seawell Jones, familiarly known as Shocco, published his spirited, A Defence of the Revolutionary History of the State of North Carolina from the Aspersions of Mr. Jefferson. His Memorials of North Carolina, which appeared in 1838, a collection of historical essays, renewed the controversy and this time attacked Washington Irving.

           Late in the same year, December 18, 1838, the National Intelligencer published an account of other resolutions, less radical than those of May 20, which were passed at Charlotte on May 31, 1775, a copy of which Peter Force had found in the Massachusetts Spy. This gave a new angle to the controversy. In June, 1839, the Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond declared editorially

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that the question had been forever settled, but in the next issue "C. L. H." let it be known that the question would never be settled in North Carolina unless it was agreed that there also had been a declaration on May 20.

           This controversy greatly stimulated interest in the collection and preservation of historical documents and the production of state histories and biographies. Archibald D. Murphey, who brilliantly but ineffectually had striven to give the State a system of internal improvements and of public education, also conceived the idea of writing a political, economic, and social history of North Carolina. In 1826 the General Assembly granted him authority to raise a sum by lottery to publish the history which he had already outlined in some detail. The lottery failed, and Murphey's own slender income, together with his declining health, made the writing impossible except for an introduction and some notes on the Indian tribes of the State; but he did begin the collection of documentary material and he aroused interest in the preservation of historical data. Largely through Murphey's influence, the Legislature of 1826 made its first request to obtain permission from the Board of Trade and Plantations in London for copies of materials relating to colonial North Carolina.

           In 1833 "Y. S. R.," through the columns of the Harbinger, called for a meeting in Raleigh during the sitting of the Legislature to organize a state historical association to preserve historical material and publish it in pamphlet form. Other newspapers joined in the call but the meeting failed for want of a leader. Nevertheless, the Harbinger continued to urge the preservation of historical documents as long as it continued publication. Eleven years later, President Swain took up the idea and organized the North Carolina Historical Society at the University. Swain at once began the collection of documents and soon gathered a valuable amount of material, some of which was unfortunately lost after his death.

           Largely as a result of the interest aroused when the State published in 1843 the "Index to Colonial Documents Relative to North Carolina," obtained as a result of the request of 1826 and printed through the influence of John H. Wheeler, the Legislature of 1848 authorized the governor to spend $1,000 for copying North Carolina records in England. The governor asked President Swain

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to take charge of the copying as agent for the State; and, under his direction, the work was delayed until he could ascertain more definitely the magnitude of the undertaking. In 1858 he and the Reverend Francis L. Hawks, whose assistance he had obtained, asked the Legislature for permission to prepare for the State a documentary history of North Carolina, saying that George Bancroft had offered to give them access to his entire collection of papers bearing on the history of the State. The Legislature approved the plan and copying had actually begun when the Civil War caused the pen to be put aside. It was not until 1886 that the plan was carried out and the result was the Colonial and State Records in thirty-one volumes.

           In the meantime, two State histories and several historical biographies had appeared. In 1851 Colonel John H. Wheeler, former State treasurer, published his Historical Sketches of North Carolina in two volumes, attempting to treat the history of the State from 1584 to the year of publication. By the end of the year, almost the whole of the edition of 10,000 copies had been exhausted, and Wheeler wrote to Calvin H. Wiley, "The evidences of a new vitality are awakening around us." 14

The history, however, was generally criticised for its inaccuracies and its political bias. 15

           Of a far different caliber was Francis L. Hawks's two-volume history of North Carolina which Edward J. Hale published in 1857 and 1858. 16

The work brought the historical narrative only to the close of the proprietary period in 1730, but, unlike his predecessors, Hawks had attempted to write an unbiased history of the colonial period, including social and economic data as well as stories of war and politics. Hawks had studied law under Judge Gaston and had been a reporter of the North Carolina Supreme Court, but he decided to become a clergyman and in 1829 left the State for New Haven where he began his services in the Episcopal Church. He had already written several other books when his History of North Carolina appeared. He spent most of the remaining years of his life in New York, but North Carolina always boasted of him as one of her most distinguished sons.

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           With the appearance in Sparks's Library of American Biography of a brief sketch of General William R. Davie, written by Professor F. M. Hubbard of the University, readers abroad began to wonder why North Carolina had not made more of her public men. "Certainly there are many more whom North Carolina may boast of, and memoirs of whom would make her own name more illustrious," was an opinion expressed in the Southern Literary Messenger of August, 1848. "We may mention Richard Caswell, of whom the elder Adams said that in the darkest hours of the Revolution, the whig leaders in Congress looked always with hope and reliance to Caswell,--Governor Thomas Burke, whose history has some touches of romance, Governor Samuel Johnston, a strong-minded, inflexible, honest man,--James Iredell, a justice of the United States Supreme Court, than whom this country has seen few men more learned in the law, of more commanding eloquence, or more gentleman-like accomplishments, and Cornelius Harnett, 'the Samuel Adams of the South.' These are a few only of the noble spirits who have adorned her annals;--and when we speak of later times, what State might not be proud to remember among her sons, Ravenscroft and Gaston?"

           The Literary Messenger might also have mentioned Nathaniel Macon whose biography Edward R. Cotten had published in 1840 as a eulogy to the man. In 1844, however, when a North Carolinian, Lemuel Sawyer, brought out the first biography of that enigmatic Virginian, John Randolph, the Literary Messenger pronounced it "a false, scandalous, and malicious libel." 17

Sawyer published his own biography in 1849, an account so revealing that it also might have been considered a scandalous libel had it been written by another. In 1847 "a late member of Congress" edited the autobiography of another North Carolinian whose work the State was reluctant to claim. Under the title of the Life and Opinions of Julius Melbourn, the volume told the strange story of a mulatto slave whom "the widow Melbourne" of Raleigh reared gently, educated, emancipated, and endowed with property sufficient to make him independent. In 1855 Harriott W. Warner published the Autobiography of Charles Caldwell, the life of a native of Mecklenburg County, who later was a professor in the medical school of Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky.

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           In 1851 Calvin H. Wiley published his North-Carolina Reader as the first of a series of textbooks prepared for use in the public schools. It was "a work designed to familiarize the minds of the young with the character, history, and resources of their own well-favored father-land." It contained a brief history of the discovery, settlement, and progress of the State; political and oratorical exercises, some of which were written by North Carolinians; and chronological and historical tables. When Wiley became superintendent of public schools in 1853, he turned over the textbook work to Professor F. M. Hubbard of the University of North Carolina who edited two volumes in the series.

           Other textbooks had been prepared by North Carolina teachers before this. It is likely that successful teachers in the private schools occasionally published textbooks at a local printery for the use of their pupils, most of which, having but a local patronage, have been lost. Brantley York, for instance, published his English Grammar at the office of the Salisbury Watchman in 1855 and his Common School Grammar at the office of the Spirit of the Age in 1860. Textbooks written by college professors usually had a wider circulation. Notable among the list are Joseph Caldwell's Compendious System of Elementary Geometry, 1822, James Phillips's Elements of the Conic Section, 1828, Denison Olmsted's An Introduction to Natural Philosophy, 1835, Elisha Mitchell's Elements of Geology, 1842, and Charles Phillips's A Manual of Plane and Spherical Trigonometry, 1857.

           Many books of a miscellaneous nature were also written by North Carolinians during the ante-bellum period. Like the textbooks and pamphlets they had but a local circulation and were soon lost to succeeding generations. Occasionally one of them appears at a bookseller's shop in a distant state or is discovered in a garret amid the accumulation of generations of hoarding. In 1819 Joseph Gales published for George W. Jeffreys, the Farmer's Own Book, a Series of Essays on Agriculture and Rural Affairs. There is record of Dr. Matthias E. Sawyer's having written in Edenton Fevers of Eastern North Carolina about 1825. 18

In 1845 Thomas Jefferson Green, a native of Warren County who was in Texas at the time of its struggle for independence, published his Journal of

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the Texian Expedition Against Mier. In 1849 James W. Mahoney published his Cherokee Physician, or Indian Guide to Health at the office of the Asheville Messenger. In 1859 Henry E. Colton published his Mountain Scenery.

           Any list of North Carolina ante-bellum authors is incomplete without the name of Hinton Rowan Helper. His Impending Crisis of the South was the best-known book in the United States in 1860 and had a wide circulation in Europe. 19

It is a notable fact, however, that his worst reputation was at home. When a New York paper said of The Impending Crisis in 1860, "Every man who mingles at all in society feels the necessity of being familiar with its contents," the Fayetteville Observer retorted, "We do not at all agree to this. We could not be tempted to read a line of it. We never have read, much less would we publish a line of it. Silent contempt is the right way to treat such an effusion of a thief." 20 Daniel R. Goodloe's Manual of Southern Sentiment of 1858 had much the same notoriety in North Carolina. The Leisure Hour called the work "a Black Republican concern got up for incendiary and inflamatory purposes." 21


           North Carolina authors also produced several admirable examples of ante-bellum wit. Hamilton C. Jones's "Cousin Sally Dillard," which first appeared in the columns of Jones's Carolina Watchman, was known throughout the country. One night, when Jones was attending a theater in Baltimore, word was passed around that he was in the audience. The audience repeatedly called for his appearance on the stage until he finally went up. As he recited "Cousin Sally Dillard," his admirers "laughed, cried, roared, screamed, beat the benches, encored, and finally broke up in a row." 22

Jones was also the author of "The Quarter Race in Kentucky, or Col. Jones' Fight," which Burton included in his Cyclopaedia of Wit and Humor of 1858. William Swaim of the Greensborough Patriot also had a wide reputation for wit with which he filled many a column of his newspaper. Both David and James Fulton of the Wilmington Journal used "felicitous pens." "Cross Cut Saws and Sawing Generally" which appeared in the

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Journal in April, 1858, is an excellent example of the Fulton humor. Occasionally, an anonymous correspondent contributed a humorous article to the Raleigh Register, notably "A Warren County Nigger" in October, 1858. Late in 1858 Life as It Is, or the Writings of Our Mose appeared from the press of the Live Giraffe in Raleigh. It was a collection of letters written in North Carolina "poor-white" dialect by John C. Bunting. The Giraffe modestly called the book "the most amusing work that has been issued in half a century." In 1859 H. E. Taliaferro's Fisher's River (North Carolina) Scenes and Characters appeared, and Harper's Monthly Magazine pronounced it "one of the half dozen clever books of American character and humor." 23 Born in Surry County, North Carolina, Taliaferro was, at the time of writing the book, "an esteemed Alabama Clergyman." Another North Carolina humorist who did his work in Alabama was Johnson Jones Hooper whose Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs was known throughout the country. His Widow Rugby's Husband was less popular, but North Carolina newspapers were ready to agree that Hooper had conferred honor upon his native State by his "quips and quiddities." 24


           The fiction writers and poets of the State did not enjoy the fame which the humorists did. Mrs. Joseph Gales' Matilda Berkley which appeared in 1804 was a romantic novel of English life. While in Washington as a member of Congress, Lemuel Sawyer wrote two plays, Blackbeard, a comedy which was published in 1824, and The Wreck of Honor, a tragedy. About this time Caroline Hentz, later a prolific novelist, was a young matron in Chapel Hill where her husband was a professor in the University. Here she wrote verse and plays and gathered material which she was later to use in her novels. Lovel's Folly contains several characters drawn from Chapel Hill life. Robert Strange, a North Carolinian and a lawyer by profession, also put into fiction the characters and social problems which he observed in everyday life. In 1839 his Eoneguski, a story of Cherokee Indian life, appeared, but it was so critical of the white man's treatment of the Indian that it was suppressed. 25

Calvin H. Wiley's Alamance

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published in 1847 and his Roanoke in 1849 were better known, Roanoke having been pirated in England under the title of Adventures of Old Dan Tucker. In 1859 Mrs. Mary Mason published a book for children, A Wreath from the Woods of North Carolina, and in 1860 Sarah J. C. Whittlesey who had just won two prizes in the short story contest conducted by the Greensboro Times, published a volume of prose novelettes, The Stranger's Stratagem.

           In 1854 Mary Bayard Clarke, a native of Raleigh, edited a two volume anthology of North Carolina poetry which she called Wood-Notes. The work contained 182 poems by 60 authors. Among the best known of these poems was Mrs. Clarke's own "Triumph of Spring" which she had first published in the Southern Literary Messenger under the name of Tenella; H. S. Ellenwood's "Marriage of the Sun and Moon," first published in the Raleigh Register and widely copied in other newspapers of the country; William Gaston's "The Old North State"; Philo Henderson's "The Flower of Catawba"; Abraham Forrest Morehead's "The Hills of Dan"; and "Swannanoa" by an unknown poet.

           The muse had early been making foot-prints in North Carolina, for every newspaper in the State encouraged the production of local poetry. Reference has already been made to the fact that a poem appeared in almost every issue of a newspaper that went to press. In 1836 the Salem Chronicle declared that "The Wagoner," a poem then popular among the newspapers of the country, had been composed for the 1830 edition of the Farmers' and Planters' Almanac published at that office. Beginning with the forties, the poet's corner came to be filled more and more by local scribes. The literary newspapers considered the encouragement of poetry to be their special province. "If we are not mistaken," wrote the Leisure Hour of April 8, 1858, when introducing a local poet, "the reader will agree with us that the following poem is musical in its versification, and poetical in its sentiment." More frequently, however, an editor wrote in a different vein of the poetry offered him: "The Lines sent us for publication by Phillip Moon are reluctantly but most respectfully declined," or "The poem on 'First Love' is rather irregular for publication. The writer is perhaps unaccustomed to blank verse, and must devote a little more study to that species of composition." 26

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           Volumes of poetry by North Carolinians began to appear early in the century. In 1807 William Hill Brown published his Ira and Isabella. In 1810 William Boylan's Minerva office published A Collection of Various Pieces of Poetry for James Gay. In 1812 R. T. Daniel's Selections of Hymns and Spiritual Songs appeared, and in 1816 Joseph Gales published a book of poetry for Thomas Caldwell. 27

Robert Potter published his Head of Medusa, "a mock-heroic poem founded on fact," in 1827; and James Osbourn, his A Spiritual Poem on Animated Graves in 1829. In 1829 there appeared The Hope of Liberty, a small volume written by George Moses Horton, a Chatham County Negro then living in Chapel Hill; and in 1845, his Poetical Works. Late in 1839 the Star office published Attempts at Rhyming by "An Old Field Teacher" which exhibited greater talent than the author modestly claimed, and in 1840 Triumph of Peace by Charles F. Deems. Books of poetry by North Carolinians now became more frequent. Among the best known were Sarah J. C. Whittlesey's Heart Drops from Memory's Urn, William Henry Rhodes' The Indian Gallows, and Adolphus W. Mangum's Myrtle Leaves.

           In 1853 the "Vicar of Wake," writing in the Southern Weekly Post on poets and poetry, said that he often "had the boldness and professional audacity . . . to claim that North Carolina had produced poets, whose curse it was that they were produced here. That it would have been a blessing to their reputations, and they would enjoy that great distinction of being quotable, if they had been 'broughten up and educated' in some more favored colony of Parnassus." The Vicar, however, thought that all would agree, upon reading Mrs. Clarke's "Triumph of Spring," that at last "there is a poet in North Carolina." 28

           It was not until 1866 that a volume of Mrs. Clarke's poetry appeared, Mosses from a Rolling Stone; or, the Idle Moments of a Busy Woman. Mrs. Mary Ayer Miller of Fayetteville, who wrote under the name of "Luola," Mrs. Susan J. Hancock of New Bern, and Mrs. Cornelia Phillips Spencer of Chapel Hill were also writing verses for publication in the fifties. 29

Theophilus H. Hill's Hester and Other Poems appeared in 1861.

           "One of the strings which a certain class of writers and speakers

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delight to strike," wrote the New York Journal of Commerce late in 1859, "is that which gives back the sound that 'the South has no literature.' . . . American literature, like our common country, has been slowly and surely built up, and neither one nor the other can be cried down or destroyed by either Northern or Southern denouncers." 30 North Carolina was frequently pointed out as being the most barren state in the vast literary waste of the South. North Carolina had no poet such as Paul Hamilton Hayne, no fiction writer such as William Gilmore Simms, no agricultural journal such as the Farmers' Register of Virginia, no periodical such as the Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond, but the State had a self-conscious literary group striving to produce.


           A reputation for torpidity attached itself to the State soon after the formation of the Union. By 1820, after the westward movement had taken its first great toll of population from North Carolina, public speakers and writers began to lament the low rank into which the State was rapidly sinking. "It is a mortifying reflection to every one possessed of State pride," wrote "Aristides" in the Western Carolinian of November 14, 1820, "that in the scale of importance in the federal Union North Carolina ranks so low." The "vivifying spirit of emulation" which promotes "the expansion of moral excellence, developes the physical powers, spurs industry, and enforces esteem and admiration abroad" had been gradually dying away until it had given place to "vegetative indolence." He hoped, however, that the increase of seminaries of learning and of newspaper presses would ultimately produce a change for the better. Nine years later "A North Carolinian" was writhing under the "unjust and illiberal sentiment" of the State which prevailed in the Union: "We have been represented as deficient in moral, physical and intellectual resources, and indeed in every thing necessary to ensure prosperity at home and respectability abroad." 31

           By this time the name of Rip Van Winkle had fastened itself upon the State and North Carolina was familiarly known to the press of the country as Old Rip. "Some prejudiced persons affect to believe" that North Carolina is "a second Nazareth, out of

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which no good can come," wrote a correspondent of the Star of July 14, 1831. The North Carolina Standard called North Carolina a "squeez'd orange--her rich substance is extracted by, and goes to minister to the wealth and luxury of her neighbors on either hand; after which the rind is thrown aside, and the fruit pronounced bad!" The Standard was of the opinion that "four-fifths of her productions find a market in other states. Nearly all the cotton produced in her rich south-western counties, is hauled to the nearest market in South Carolina, and goes to swell the exports of that State. And we have no doubt, that at least three-fourths of the cotton put down . . . to the credit of Virginia was actually grown in North Carolina; and nearly every cask of our tobacco, is taken to and sold in Virginia, and contributes towards giving the exports of our neighbors a respectable appearance on paper." 32

           In 1840 the State was still "poor North Carolina." In the preceding decade, the State's population had increased by only two per cent. A system of public education had just been adopted and a program of railroad construction had but recently been started. Five years later, however, the national papers began to sound a new note. "Those who fail to see and appreciate the enterprize and talents of 'Old Rip'," wrote the Danville, Virginia, Reporter, "must themselves be sound asleep." 33

By 1850 economic and social progress was well underway. The State was conscious of a growing power. Instead of grovelling in humiliation as they had done for the past thirty years, the State's public men and its press began to demand respect from abroad. The Fayetteville Observer expressed this new spirit in its issue of April 10, 1849, denouncing the "national injustice to North Carolina" in politics:

           Back of this aggressive spirit which could point with pride to "the first state university in the Union"; "the best public school system in the South"; "the most elegant state capitol in the country"; more than a million dollars invested in manufacturing; a press which had almost doubled its numbers in the fifties; "a climate more salubrious than that of any other state in the Union"; "a soil as plentiful and varied in its agricultural and mineral stores as any in the world"; "a steady, sober, industrious, population," there was a tense localism which forty years of humiliation had produced.

           When North Carolina was slow in taking a stand upon a public issue, public men and the press came to the defense with resounding words. "This slowness of expression has been usually attributed to some peculiarity in the people themselves, involving the imputation of Boeotian stupidity or phlegmatic indifference," declaimed Robert Strange at a Southern Rights Convention in Wilmington. "Never was there greater error. In no part of the Union are the pulsations of the heart warmer, or the operations of the intellect more active, than among the people of this State." 34

The sight of a piece of tweed manufactured at the Rock Island Factory in Mecklenburg County was enough to make "our North Carolina blood boil with ecstacy." "Hurra for Old 'Tar River!'" shouted the Auburn, Alabama, Gazette, at that time edited by a North Carolinian. "The State begins to rank with the foremost. The foxes have been killed out, the brandy drank up, all ugly 'gals' have married, and the State has become as independent as a 'wood sawyer'." 35

           Fiction writers and poets took up the strain. Calvin H. Wiley stated the chief purpose of the North-Carolina Reader to be "the encouragement of a feeling of self-dependence, and the enlistment of a popular sentiment in behalf of the State, and of its institutions." Mrs. Clarke spurred on native writers with the words:

Come rouse you! ye poets of North Carolina,
My State is my theme and I seek not a finer,
I sing in its praise, and I bid ye all follow,
'Till we wake up the echoes of "Old Sleepy Hollow."

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Come show to his scorners "Old Rip" is awakening,
His sleep like the cloud of the morning is breaking;
That the years of his slumber, at last have gone by,
And the rainbow of promise illumines the sky.

           There were those in North Carolina in the fifties who lamented the rise of this spirit of localism and predicted that the time would come when it would confound the State. But the voice of protest was feeble. It was easily cried down with rousing words: "... the State may have faults, but surely it is an ungrateful task, and smacks little of patriotism or filial reverence, for a son of North Carolina to tell the State that she is desolate and uninviting, sterile and hopelessly poor, and bed-ridden." 36

           North Carolina had so long been taunted as the Boeotia of America, it is little wonder that the State became boastful when prosperity gradually came in the late forties. In the years of humiliation, scorners had overlooked the natural barriers to the State's commerce. They had overlooked the extent of territory and the sparseness of population, the geographical disadvantages which prevented a speedy interchange of sentiment between one section and another and retarded the building of large commercial cities.

           North Carolina was a village state and, consequently, even to the close of the period, a provincial one. The State had always had a small educated class but the chasm between it and the yeomanry had always been deep. The people were jealous of their personal rights. Long after the Jeffersonian spirit had been discarded by the political leaders of the country, the yeoman on his little farm still clung to his "personal liberties." Here, a farmer exhausted his thunder against a general Thanksgiving Day because it was recommended by the Legislature and the Executive of the State. There, another was out with all his side arms against a general superintendent for the public school system. They saw in these measures a fatal blow to the personal liberties of the people.

           These were the prejudices which swayed the vote for legislators and retarded social reform. It took sixty years of agitation to obtain a law requiring the licensing of medical practitioners but not even seventy years of agitation obtained a penitentiary for the State's criminal class. More than sixty years after the constitutional

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mandate in behalf of free instruction for the poor, the State obtained a system of public education. After almost fifty years of agitation the State established a hospital for the insane, but the poor laws remained practically unchanged for almost a hundred and seventy-five years.

           After three decades of abasement, the State was again taking its place among the leaders of the nation. Its educated men and business leaders had goaded a poverty-ridden people to tax themselves for public improvements, public education, and social reform. The glimmer of an enlightened self-interest was broadening up toward morning. But the dawn brought war.

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