Before Fort Sumter
Although the events of late February and March could be seen as triumphs for the Unionist cause, the month of April marked the beginning of the decisive swing in the public opinion of North Carolinians. In early April, circumstances still looked fairly bright for North Carolina’s continued participation in the Union, although the papers kept fighting against what they felt was a continued vocal minority of secessionists in the state who still persisted in agitating for separation. In its April 9th edition, the Watchman ran an article very critical of the secessionist movement in the state called, “The Disunion Faction.” (Item 764) In the piece, the paper chastised Governor John W. Ellis and others for their actions. The paper complained that the faction wanted a convention, but did not want the acts of the convention voted on by the people. The people had voted down this proposition on February 28 as unconstitutional, but the secessionists refused to give up and continued to press their agenda despite the clear will of the people. The paper encouraged its readers to remember that the disunionists in the state were trying to violate the Constitution without consulting the people. Here again, the paper clearly made its views on public opinion known. It exhorted what it saw as the majority of North Carolinians to not allow themselves to be driven into secession by the will of a minority.
The Fayetteville Observer, on April 4th, made a similar argument to the Watchman. It argued that secessionists “are determined not to submit to the decision of the People.... You, the people of the state, have once spoken in thunder tones, for the Union, but they ... scorn your voice.” (Item 756) Like the Watchman, the Observer argued that public opinion had not shifted, and certainly the paper’s opinion up to this point had not shifted from the side of the Union. Like the Watchman, it very strongly advocated for what it saw as the majority opinion of the state.
In its April 4th edition, The Standard ran an extremely forceful article stating in no uncertain terms that North Carolina will not leave the Union for any existing causes; however, that caveat -- “existing causes” proved to be prophetic. It stated that "North Carolina will not secede from the Union for existing causes. Nearly all the Union candidates in this State advocated a Convention; if they had opposed it, it would have been voted down by 30,000 majority. We state this as one of the strongest evidences that the State is not disposed at this time to secede.... We Repeat, North Carolina will not secede. Virginia will not secede.... Our disunion friends may as well hang up their fiddles. The people will step to no tune of their playing." (Item 313)
Again like the Watchman and Observer, the Standard made a clear statement on what it believed to be the current public opinion in the state. The paper thought that at this time there was a huge majority still in favor of North Carolina’s remaining in the Union. It further believed that Virginia would also remain loyal to the Union; however, by stating that North Carolina would not secede for any existing reason, the Standard left open the possibility that unforeseen circumstances might occur which would cause the state and its people to reevaluate the need for secession, and just a few days later, South Carolina forced the issue with the bombardment of Fort Sumter.