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Political life in North Carolina in the 1770s


Fayetteville
Fayetteville

During the revolution, North Carolina was called on to help defeat the Cherokee, who sided with the British, and to suppress Loyalists. It also raised a militia containing thousands of men and supplied ten regiments for the rebels’ Continental Army. An attempted invasion by British forces was repelled by North Carolinians and Virginians at Kings Mountain, in South Carolina near the North Carolina border, on October 7, 1780, and a second attempt was stopped at Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. British General Charles Cornwallis won the battle at Guilford Courthouse, but his forces were so weakened that he withdrew to Wilmington, from which he ultimately moved north to Yorktown, Virginia. After his surrender at Yorktown in October, the last of the British forces evacuated Wilmington in November and the military phase of the revolution was ended in North Carolina.

During the revolution, when Congress sought to unify the newly established states and to strengthen the central government by proposing the Articles of Confederation, the North Carolina legislature ratified the articles unanimously.

The state’s delegation to the Constitutional Convention, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1787, did not contribute extensively to the writing of the new Constitution of the United States. Hugh Williamson was the most active of the five delegates, making frequent speeches and motions and suggesting the six-year term for senators. Although North Carolina was the fourth largest state in population, its delegation voted with the small states in favor of a senate in which all were represented equally.

A convention met in Hillsboro on July 21, 1788, to vote on the Constitution but declined to ratify it. Instead, it adopted a resolution requesting several amendments and a bill of rights. The new government of the United States was organized, with North Carolina left out as an independent nation.

Statehood


North Carolina’s status was uncomfortable for its citizens. A second convention, meeting at Fayetteville, ratified the Constitution on November 21, 1789, and thus North Carolina became the 12th state to enter the Union. In 1790 the state’s western lands, which had been annexed in 1777, were ceded to the federal government; this territory later became the state of Tennessee. Between the implementation of the state’s constitution in 1776 and its modification by a constitutional convention in 1835, North Carolina had 27 governors. Few of them were able to enhance the power of the chief executive significantly. The judicial branch was more successful in acquiring power and prestige. In the case of Bayard v. Singleton, 1787, this court handed down the first decision under a written constitution in the United States declaring a legislative act unconstitutional.

Later, superior court judges began to function as supreme court judges, and they did so until 1818, when a separate supreme court was created. The legislative branch had great power but used it in limited ways. Exigencies of the revolution prompted the legislature to issue large quantities of paper money, levy taxes, and borrow money.

After the war the state’s economy was so depressed that the legislature declined to create the public school system required by the constitution, although it incorporated many private academies. In 1789 it chartered the University of North Carolina, which in 1795 became the first state university to open in the United States. Wake County had been agreed upon by the Hillsboro Convention of 1788 as the site for the capital. In 1794 the legislature began meeting in the new city of Raleigh. "North Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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