North Carolina - 1875 Constitutional Convention

The North Carolina General Assembly called for a Convention of the People to again consider more revisions to the 1868 Constitution. The Convention of 1875 - the most recent in North Carolina's history - met for five (5) weeks in the fall of that year. This was a limited convention that had been specifically forbidden to attempt certain actions, such as re-instatement of property qualifications for office-holding or for voting.

This Convention adopted a set of thirty (30) amendments affecting thirty-six (36) sections of the State Constitution. The voters of November 7, 1876 approved these amendments by a vote of 120,158 to 106,554, and the amendments went into effect on January 1, 1877.

The principle effect of these amendments was to restore, in considerable measure, the pre-1868 power of the General Assembly, particularly over the state's courts and local governments. Many later documents of the 1800s and early 1900s often refer to the "Constitution of 1875," however a formal revision of the document never materialized. The 1875 Amendments were simply inserted at the appropriate locations within the 1868 Consititution, and this method of simple insertion continued for almost a century, until 1971.

Using the name "Constitution of 1875" was intended to alleviate the unpopularity of the 1868 Constitution. For many years afterwards, the North Carolina General Assembly referred to the "Constitution As Amended by the Convention of 1875" - even though it was merely the 1868 Constitution with the 1875 amendments folded in. Click Here to view the "unofficial Constitution of 1875" with the amendments folded in.

The Amendments framed by the Convention of 1875 seem to have satisfied most of the need for constitutional change for over a generation. Only four new amendments were submitted by the General Assembly to the voters during the remainder of the nineteenth (19th) century. Three were ratified; one was rejected.

In 1900, the suffrage article was revised to add a literacy test and poll tax requirement for voting, but the latter provision was later repealed in 1920. Ten more amdendments were prepared by a Constitutional Commission and proposed by the General Assembly in 1913, but these were rejected by the voters in 1914.

Over time, the attitude towards the 1868 Constitution slowly evolved from resentment or almost reverence, which resulted in the fact that new amendments became more difficult to obtain. Between 1900 and 1933, voters ratified only fifteen (15) Constitutional Amendments, and they rejected twenty (20) others.

Those that passed included the lengthening of the school term from four (4) to six (6) months; prohibiting legislative charters to private corporations; authorizing special Superior Court Judges; limiting the General Assembly's powers to levy taxes and incur new debt; abolishing the poll tax requirement for voting; and reducing the residence qualification for voters. Amendments designed to restrict the Legislative Branch's power to enact local, private, and special legislation were adopted, but these were subsequently rendered mostly ineffective via judicial interpretation.



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