North Carolina in the Civil War

The State Convention of 1865-1866

Delegates Elected to the State Convention

Journal of the State Convention

Ordinances of the State Convention

On May 29, 1865 President Andrew Johnson issued two proclamations designed to bring North Carolina and the other secessionist states back into the Union after the American Civil War. The Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon granted pardons and the "restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves" to all citizens who took an oath of allegiance to support the United States, its laws, and its decrees, including Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

President Johnson's second proclamation appointed William W. Holden provisional governor of North Carolina and outlined the procedure by which the state could establish its loyalty, reorganize its government, and eventually return to the Union.

On August 9th, Governor William W. Holden issued his own proclamation: the election of special delegates would be held on September 21st and the State Convention would convene in Raleigh on October 2nd.
On October 2nd, the State Convention assembled at 12 o'clock noon in the House of Commons chamber in Raleigh and the delegates elected Edwin G. Reade of Person County as their President. James H. Moore was elected Secretary of the Convention, and Richard C. Badger as Assistant Secretary.

Since the North Carolina General Assembly had convened, this Convention continued to meet on two separate occasions. Since they were not the official legislature of the State, they could not pass legislative Acts, but they did pass many Ordinances, which served the same purpose as Acts. The two sessions of the State Convention met:

Session #1 - October 2nd to October 19th in 1865.
Session #2 - May 24th to June 25th in 1866.

Those elected to the State Convention of 1865-66 focused on determining the absolute minimum requirements the president considered necessary for reunion and then debated the exact ways they would implement them. The ordinance that prohibited slavery in North Carolina engendered little argument. Although a few opposed the inclusion of "forever" in the document, it passed unanimously on October 7th. The proposal to declare the 1861 Secession Ordinance "Null and Void" faced more opposition. After a three-day dispute over whether to simply repeal the edict or declare it null and void, the delegates finally passed the original proposal by a vote of 105 to 9.

The longest debate centered around the ordinance "prohibiting the payment of all debts created or incurred in aid of the late rebellion." Many argued that such a repudiation would ruin the state financially and that it was unnecessary for restoration. Not until President Andrew Johnson, in response to a Governor Holden telegram, wired the convention that "every dollar of the debt created to aid the rebellion . . . should be repudiated finally and forever," did the delegates, on October 19th, the last day of the first session, enact the ordinance.

The first session of the State Convention achieved little else. It appointed a committee to receive an address from the state's Freedmen's Convention, which recommended the creation of a commission to prepare a code of laws for former slaves. The constitutional convention also resolved to seek the removal of all black troops from the state. Through its debates and resolutions, then, the 1865 convention set the stage for North Carolina's struggle over the transition from slavery to freedom.

Jonathan Worth was sworn in as Governor on December 15, 1865. His election had been conducted under the auspices of the new (interim) 1865 North Carolina Constitution, which was soon rejected by the U.S. Congress. Governor Worth's major interests was to restore North Carolina to the Union. He was disappointed with the (again) new 1868 Constitution and refused to run for re-election on the Conservative Party ticket in the election of 1868. He did not recognize the legitimacy of that election, which William Woods Holden won. Nevertheless, he wrote to Holden: "I surrender the office to you under what I deem Military duress."
The second session of the State Convention created a proposed new State Constitution, but it was rejected by the people.


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