In 1869, the last of the three Reconstruction Amendments had been proposed to Congress, which seemed to elaborate upon civil liberties for African Americans as well as the restrictions on prejudiced and unlawful treatment of these citizens. With the country now fully restored under newly-elected President Grant, state legislatures were operating independently on most issues and the federal government pushed further on racial equality. With the proposed amendment, authors of The Wilmington Journal claimed the South “already have the negro suffrage which it [the amendment] embodies.” (Item #2827) The article continued to explain the partisan attachment to the amendment, and how the ratification of the amendment would result in “forty thousand negro votes to the Radicals.” (Item #2827)
By this point, race seemed to have forfeited its influence on North Carolina legislation, with the partisanship issue truly dominating public debates. On the surface, the federal government appeared satisfied with North Carolina’s progress that it need not delve into the social and cultural tendencies of the state. Instead, assuming that Reconstruction had achieved its goals in North Carolina, even less federal supervision was extended to the state, which allowed citizens not in agreement with the amendments to exert superiority over less educated and financially unstable blacks. Focusing again on The Wilmington Journal, writers used the platform of racial equality to mobilize whites across the state to delay the federal authority exhibited in North Carolina. Writers within The Wilmington Journal warned the “thirty thousand majority, which will probably be increased to forty thousand” that “the white men of North Carolina will indeed be recreant to their race and inimical to their best interests if they do not defeat the base schemes for negro equality, political and civil, which the emissaries of Radicalism are attempting to force upon us.” (Item #2714) Clearly, some cities in North Carolina differed in ideology, and with that, their news sources warranted appropriate national sentiment in racial and political matters from its citizenry. Without a definite commitment to political parties, North Carolinian citizens struggled to form personal opinions, especially considering how biased certain newspapers’ publications appeared in context. What I mean by this, is that editors of North Carolinian newspapers decided what they wanted to publish, keeping stories about racial equality and an acceptance of Reconstruction at a minimum in order not to taint their commitment to the state of North Carolina and their position regarding restoration.
One of the most troubling aspects of the research process was that The Western Democrat, one of the primary sources often consulted in this argument that would change its name to The Charlotte Democrat in 1870, offered not even one electronic copy of an issue dating from 1869 and 1870. These two years played essential roles in the shaping of North Carolina public opinion, as the third and final Reconstruction Amendment had included the most radical sentiments in advocating racial equality. Moreover, 1870 marked the five year anniversary of the war, and already citizens had started to regress toward traditional practices like racial subjugation and discrimination. In The Wilmington Journal, authors admit that “it seems that we [North Carolinians] are never to have peace in North Carolina unless at the price of perfect submission to the will of men placed over us by fraud.” (Item #2828) It is made obvious the resentment that certain North Carolinians possess in spite of the Union and its far reaching control over the judicial systems of the South. Taking aim at Albion Tourgée, an esteemed radical individualist who struggled immensely in his fight for racial equality for African Americans, the article demanded his dismissal from his respective judicial district in order to “restore peace and harmony” in the public’s confidence in the North Carolina courts. (Item #2828) This lack of confidence in the courts stemmed from the judicial system’s unbiased position in racial cases, where more often than not the offense was much less severe than the intended punishment. (Item#2830) Nonetheless, North Carolinians continued to publicly blame others for North Carolina’s failures instead of confronting the serious economic and cultural problems their state endured.