First Wednesdays – “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist…”

As described in an earlier blog post, Provisional Governor William W. Holden had convened a convention composed of “properly pardoned” delegates to fulfill a number of obligations necessary to complete President Andrew Johnson’s requirements for reentry into the United States. First, the convention had to reject the ordnance of secession that was passed in May 1861, and to pass a resolution to abolish slavery within the boundaries of Tar Heel state. Once those benchmarks were completed, the citizens had to elect a new governor and legislative body to recompose state government in North Carolina. Then the citizens of the state had to vote their approval of the rejection of the secession ordnance and resolution supporting the abolition of slavery.

President Johnson also requested that North Carolina repudiate its war debt and that issue again inflamed the old political rivalries within the state. The majority of convention was now against the repudiation of the war debt and also opposed the candidacy of William W. Holden as governor. Despite this opposition, Holden moved forward with his campaign to win the office of chief executive of the state. Those opposed to debt repudiation chose Jonathan Worth, the current State Treasurer, who also was opposed to wiping away the enormous war debt that had been accumulated by the state during the war. In addition, there were twenty-three candidates vying to win seven United States congressional seats within the state, and over 500 contenders to the 170 seats available in both State House and Senate. By the end of November 1865, Worth was elected to office by a count of 31,643 votes, well over the 25,704 votes supporting Holden. The voters also agreed with the earlier actions of the Convention of 1865 by approving the rejection of the secession ordnance and the resolution on the abolition of slavery.

On 29 November 1865, a resolution was introduced to approve the Thirteen Amendment of the United States Constitution to federally recognize the abolition of slavery throughout the United States. A number of legislators in the State House of Commons feared that their approval of the amendment would allow the U. S. Congress to regulate civil rights within the state. Other members of the State House realized that failure to support the amendment would likely mean continue federal control over the state. In the end, the State House approved the amendment 100 to 4. In the State Senate, a similar debate ensued over federal involvement in civil rights, expansion of the powers of the U. S. Congress, and the potential for continued federal control over the state. However, on 4 December 1865, the State Senate formally approved the Thirteen Amendment to abolish slavery. Some eleven days later, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed and slavery was officially abolished in the United States.


Please join us at the State Capitol on December 4th to observe this important anniversary. The State Archives of North Carolina will be displaying North Carolina’s Copy of the Thirteenth Amendment for the day. Please see below for more information:



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