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Full text of "Addresses at the unveiling of the bust of William A. Graham by the North Carolina Historical Commission in the rotunda of the State Capitol : delivered in the Hall of the House of Representatives, January 12, 1910"

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JANUARY 12. 1910 






William A. Graham 





Delivered in the Hall of the House of 
Representatives, January 12, 1910 




The spirit of a people is the history of a people 
impersonated in the life of a people. If there is 
no history of a people, there is no spirit of a 
people. — Thomas W. Mason. 

The North Carolina Historical Commission 

J. BRYAN GRIMES, Chairman 


W. J. PEELE, Raleigh M. C. S. NOBLE, Chapel Hill 

D. H. HILL, Raleigh THOMAS W. BLOUNT, Roper 

R. D. W. CONNOR, Secretary 


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in 2011 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 


In the rotunda of the Capitol of North Carolina are eight 
niches, designed to hold the busts and statues of eight of the 
eminent sons of the State. Completed nearly three-quarters 
of a century ago, these niches remained empty until 1910, 
silently protesting against the failure of the State to perform 
one of her highest and most important duties, the preserva- 
tion of the memories of the founders and builders of the 

Convinced that the State was unconsciously doing herself 
a serious injustice by her negligence, the North Carolina 
Historical Commission, charged with the duty of preserving 
the history of the State, on October 23, 1907, adopted the 
following resolution : 

"Resolved, That the sum of one thousand dollars be set 
aside out of the funds of the Commission, to be expended 
for a marble bust of William A. Graham, to be set up in one 
of the niches in the rotunda of the State Capitol, and that the 
Secretary be. instructed to have the bust executed in the best 
manner by some reputable sculptor, as soon as possible." 

In accordance with this resolution a contract was made 
with Mr. Frederick W. Ruckstuhl, of New York, who exe- 
cuted the bust and delivered it to the North Carolina His- 
torical Commission in December, 1909. Upon the invita- 
tion of the Historical Commission, Messrs. Frank Nash and 
Thomas W. Mason consented to deliver addresses upon the 
occasion of the unveiling. On the evening of January 12, 
1910, in the Hall of the House of Representatives, in the 
presence of the Governor of North Carolina, the members 
of the State Historical Commission, the members of the Gra- 
ham family, the Grand Lodge of Masons of North Carolina, 
and a large audience, the bust was set up in the northwestern 
niche of the rotunda on the first floor of the Capitol, and 
unveiled by Master William A. Graham, Junior, the Fourth. 
The ceremonies of the occasion consisted in the delivery of 
the addresses printed in this bulletin. 



Chairman of the North Carolina Historical Commission 

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

North Carolinians have been careless in preserving their 
history, and that we have been neglected, and in some cases 
have been misrepresented by historians of the country, has 
been largely our own fault. We must remember that to 
receive proper credits we must keep our own accounts. We 
have been lacking in self-appreciation and wanting in a 
proper State pride, which is to some extent due to the fact 
that we were ignorant of the accomplishments and heroic 
deeds of our own people. 

The North Carolina Historical Commission is collecting 
from every available source data and records pertaining to 
the history of North Carolina, and stimulating and encour- 
aging historical investigation and research in every way in 
its power, and now our history is being more thoroughly 
studied and written than ever before. The State Historical 
Commission believes that one of the most powerful stimu- 
lants in arousing State pride and proper appreciation of our 
own great men is to be found, not merely in recording their 
great deeds, but also in preserving their forms and features 
in marble and in bronze. Inaugurating this movement, 
therefore, the State Historical Commission will unveil this 
evening a marble bust of one of the greatest of Carolinians — 
William A. Graham. 

Accordingly the Commission has invited a scholar and his- 
torian, Mr. Frank Nash, to address you upon the life and 
services of Governor Graham, and Capt. Thomas W. Mason, 
who, as soldier, statesman and orator, is known and beloved 
by all North Carolinians, to speak upon the "Value of His- 
torical Memorials Among a Democratic People." 




" Office is the most natural and proper sphere of a public man's ambi- 
tion, as that in which he can most freely use his powers for the common 
good of his country." — Lord Palmerston. 

Ill recent years it has been the endeavor of some writers to 
strain the facts of history a little in order that JSTorth Caro- 
lina may appear to have been first in some great political, 
or other, movement. This not only makes our State motto 
an hypocrisy, but it has no sound moral basis, is untrue in 
fact, and is foolish from the standpoint of philosophy. That 
she was first at Bethel was an accident ; that she was farthest 
at Gettysburg and last at Appomattox, means daring, but 
steady, courage and staunch unfailing fidelity. Indeed the 
things in which she was last have done her more credit than 
those in which she was first. I do not like to think of her 
as a meretricious, volatile, impulsive figure, but as a noble, 
steadfast one, unadorned (certainly by gewgaws and jim- 
cracks), and like the Mother of the Gracchi pointing to her 
sons as her jewels. Certainly she has a right to be proud of 
them, for, at no time from the days of Glasgow to the days 
of the Carpetbagger and from the days of the Carpetbagger 
to the present, did any of these sons prey upon her. Pecula- 
tion and fraud in public life may have existed elsewhere, 
but not in North Carolina. 

In this paper I try to depict one of those sons as the most 
prominent figure amid the scenes in which he lived and 
worked, and in the company of those who lived and worked 
with him. I want, too, to show what he was and what he 
stood for, as well as what he did, for it is not so much the 
material as it is the spiritual, that gives to men real power 
and renders them immortal. iRot that activity and energy 

8 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

are to be contemned, far from it — slothful in business can 
never be predicated of the truly great and good — but because 
it is the subtle and silent, but pervading, influence of char- 
acter, only, that gives action, force and efficiency for good. 
The story of William A. Graham's life is well worth the 
telling for what he did, but much more for what he was. 
The writer is very conscious that it has not been told ade- 
quately in the following pages. The final word about him 
can not be said until his literary remains are collected and 
published with his correspondence. 


William A. Graham was no less fortunate in the race from 
which he sprang than in his immediate ancestry. The Scotch 
Presbyterians, located in Ireland by James I, and the Eng- 
lish by Cromwell, made that composite race which has been 
for some time known to history as the Scotch-Irish. During 
three or four generations they lived in Ireland among a people 
hostile in faith and differing in language, in ideals, in aims 
and in temperament. The Saxon was the representative of a 
stern, unyielding, but essentially uplifting Calvinism, while 
the Celt was the representative of all the superstition and 
ignorance of an unenlightened Romanism. The one had a 
faith so clear, so earnest, so vital that, in his worship he dis- 
carded nearly all symbol, while the other's faith was so 
obscured by false conceptions that only a sensuous and sym- 
bolic worship could appeal to his inferior nature ; the one, 
even in his superstitions, dealing only with things supernal, 
while the other made to himself gi-aven images, likenesses of 
things in heaven above and in the earth beneath, and bowed 
down to them and worshiped them ; the one industrious and 
thrifty, doing with all his might what his hands found to do, 
the other thriftless, industrious only by fits and starts, con- 
tent, in the midst of degrading poverty, to live among swine 
and fowls ; the one sensitive about his rights, and ready in the 
fear of God to defend them with a calm, cool, unflinching 

William A. Guaham, 9 

courage ; the other, a serf to his lord, a child to his priest, a 
willing servant to his friend and a savage to his foe, his emo- 
tions a sensitive harp that responded to every wind of passion,^ 

What wonder that the contact of two such races should 
result only in an antagonism which manifested itself, on 
occasions, in murders, in riots and in relentless warfare ! 
But all this was to the Saxon a tonic, stimulating his intel- 
lectual, moral and physical development, making him the 
bolder, the more watchful, the more self-reliant. He was a 
minority of the people of Ireland, but it was a militant and 
dominant minority. So little brought in contact with the 
English government was he, that he was fast becoming repub- 
lican in his political ideals. Kings and governors were kings 
and governors to him only so long as they obeyed the laws 
and were faithful to the rights of the people. Otherwise he 
cared nothing for them. His liberty consisted in laws made 
by the consent of the people, and the due execution of those 
laws. He was free not from the law but by the law. So 
these English and Scotch Protestants in Ireland, these Sax- 
ons in Celt -land, were, in their dealings wdth the Irish uncon- 
sciously fitting themselves for their greater work in America. 
It was, so to say, a forty years sojourn in the walderness in 
preparation for the land of Canaan, and they entered that 
land strong; in the holv confidence that, ''the Lord, He it is 
that doth go before thee ; He will be with thee ; He will not 
fail thee, neither forsake thee ; fear not, neither be dismayed." 

Of this sturdy and virile race w^as James Graham, who at 
the age of nineteen years, in 1733, migrated from County 
Down, Ireland, to Berks County, Pennsylvania. He was 
twice married, his second wife being the widow Mary Bar- 
ber, and died in 1763. By the last marriage there were five 
children. In 1768 Mrs. Graham, wdth her children, coming 
by sea to Charleston, S. C, thence across country, located in 
Mecklenburg County, N". C. In 1771 she purchased a tract 

lit must be remembered that the Irish of the 17th century had only reached a stage of 
racial development, through which their Saxon foes had passed 200 years before. So this 
parallel has to do only with such developments, and not at all with racial capabilities. 

10 NoETH Carolina Historical Commission. 

of land containing two hundred acres within three miles of 
the then little harnlet of Charlotte. Most of these Scotch- 
Irish, and there were many of them, migrated from Penn- 
sylvania south in search of fertile lands in a milder climate. 
It is probable that this was Mrs. Graham's motive, induced 
thereto also by the fact that many of her neighbors and 
friends had preceded her. She must have been a woman of 
remarkable courage and strength of character to undertake 
this long, tedious and dangerous journey with six young 
children, the youngest scarcely more than four years of age. 
!No doubt she selected the actual location with a view to the 
religious and educational privileges convenient to it. John 
Frohock, Abraham Alexander and Thomas Polk had already 
laid off the town of Charlotte into 360 half-acre lots, and on 
some of these good, habitable houses had been erected. Eighty 
lots had been sold and must be built upon within three years, 
under pain of forfeiture.^ So with the court-house, prison and 
stocks there, with tradesmen and artisans plying their trades, 
and lawyers locating to practice their profession, Charlotte at 
the time of its incorporation, ]!!^ovember, 1768, must have 
been attracting some attention as a place with a future. 
Many of the settlements about the county, too, were fertile, 
fruitful, well tended farms. The rule, however, was here, as 
it was in all these Scotch-Irish communities, the man to the 
plow, the woman to the distaff and the child to the school, 
Mrs. Graham, though of limited means, after giving her chil- 
dren such instruction as she was capable of doing, sent most 
of them to the best school in this section. Queen's Museum, 
afterwards Liberty Hall. She instilled into all of them a 
love for learning and a desire to acquire knowledge. Her 
sons were among the most prominent men of their time, and 
probably came into public notice at an earlier age than any 
other youths of the county. Her daughters were the heads of 
families whose descendants are known for their virtue and 
intelligence, and have ever been prominent in the communi- 

• State Records of North Carolina, XXIII, 772-3. 

William A. Graham. 11 

ties in which they lived on account of their worth and public 
spirit. She was, herself a faithful Presbyterian, member of 
Sugar Creek church, and her children were noted not only 
for their intelligence and activity in worldly matters, but 
were also earnest supporters of morality and religion.^ 

Her third son, Joseph Graham, was born in Chester 
County, Pennsylvania, October 13th, 1759. He assisted in 
cultivating his mother's farm and attended school in Char- 
lotte. He was distinguished among his fellow-students for 
talents, industry and manly bearing. The mere schooling, 
though, was not the most valuable training that he had at that 
period. In the political ferment of the time, 1768-1776, the 
minds of men were expanding. At every church gathering, at 
every county court, they discussed the power of parliament, 
the rights of the colonies, and how best to preserve those 
rights. These discussions were going on throughout all the 
colonies, making every intelligent man a politician, and caus- 
ing the patriots in the face of threatened danger to draw 
closer together in sympathy, thus paving the way for future 
organization. Patrick Henry, in Virginia, was but giving 
eloquent utterance to the aspirations and hopes and ambitions 
of the people, unexpressed, or inadequately expressed, by 
themselves. He was, in other words, but the mouthpiece of, 
and interpreter for, the people. The intelligent boy or 
youth, standing about in these crowds listening to these dis- 
cussions among his elders, was having his own ideas enlarged, 
his patriotism aroused and his mind trained for his future 
work. Joseph Graham was interested in all these discus- 
sions and attended many of these public meetings. He, as 
a boy in the 16th year of his age, was present at the adoption 
of the Mecklenburg Resolves of May, 1775. Pifty-five years 
later he gives an account of this meeting and testifies that it 
was held on May 20th. At this distance of time, without 
any contemporary record to verify his memory, there are 
errors in his statement which subsequently-discovered records 

1 Graham : Revolutionary Papers of General Joseph Graham, 16. 

12 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

show. In several instances, he mistakes the time of events 
that he undertakes to narrate, but he and others have so com- 
pletely identified May 20th as the date upon which some 
resolutions were adopted, that, in the absence of better evi- 
dence we may assume that a meeting was held on that day, 
in order to take some action upon the news of the Battle of 
Lexington, which, we know, arrived that week, the 20th occur- 
ring on Saturday. And it makes no difference whether they 
met on Friday the 19th and continued the meeting over until 
2 a. m. of the 20th, or met on Saturday morning the 20th, 
so far as the essential fact is concerned, that a meeting was 
held at that time and that certain resolutions were adopted. 
Confining the issue to this essential fact, I have seen nothing 
that contradicts the testimony of the many eye-witnesses on 
that point. We can imagine the excitement and anger 
among these descendants of the bold defenders of London- 
derry and Enniskillen at the news of Lexington, how they 
would hold a public meeting as soon as the crowd could 
gather, how in the anger and excitement of the moment they 
should adopt resolutions, which on calm second thought they 
would realize were premature and unwise. That there were 
two meetings, at least, is perfectly apparent from the fact 
that the papers of which J. McKnitt x\.lexander had the cus- 
tody were resolutions adopted at a public meeting of which 
he was secretary, whereas those of the 31st were adopted at 
a committee meeting, Ephraim Brevard being the secretary 
of that committee. The resolutions of the 31st, too, neces- 
sarily presupposes a previous meeting, or meetings. They 
are not the product of a day or of a week. They were not 
devised by one mind or written by one hand. They show 
calm deliberation, and not emotional excitement or sudden 
anger, such as that provoked by news of the Battle of Lexing- 
ton. It seems to me, with deference, that the modern his- 
torians have taken issue on immaterial facts and have 
obtained a verdict on those issues alone. Captain Jack did 
not take the resolutions of the 20th to Philadelphia ; he did 

William A. Gkaham. 1& 

take those of the 31st. Admitted, because proven. Gover- 
nor Martin sent those of the 31st, and not those of the 20th, 
to London. Admitted, because proven. There was no con- 
temporary record, or allusion to those of the 20th ; there were 
both to those of the 31st. True, also, so far as discovered. 
The resolutions written down from memory by J. McKnitt 
Alexander in 1800, show in their verbiage the influence of 
the Declaration of July 4th, 1776. This, too, is probably 
true. We have been mistaken heretofore in regard to these 
matters, it is true, yet after all, none of them is essential to 
the determination of the true issue — was there a meeting held 
on the 20th with resolutions which amounted to a Declaration 
of Independence adopted ? And to this there are a cloud of 
witnesses. The writer, when not more than half as old as 
was General Graham at this time, was told of General Lee's 
surrender by a lady, while we were near an osage orange 
hedge, and while she was talking a raccoon came from under 
the hedge. If he should live a thousand years he will never 
forget the fact of the coon, the expression of his countenance, 
and his connection with General Lee's surrender, i^ow, the 
news of the Battle of Lexington was to Joseph Graham what 
this coon was to myself — a fact indelibly engraved upon his 
memory. It seems, therefore, reasonably certain, though 
there are many conflicts in the testimony of the various wit- 
nesses, that the resolutions of the 20th were real, but having 
been adopted in a moment of anger and excitement, the sober 
sense of the people prevailed in those of the 31st, and the 
latter were published, while the former were permitted to 
slumber undisturbed, in the possession of Alexander, as a 
folly to be regretted rather than a matter of supreme 

It was amid scenes such as these, among men such as these, 
that young Graham worked and studied and thought, his 
character under the control and guidance of a wise mother, 
developing into an almost perfect type of the noble race to 
which he belonged — bold, self-reliant, earnest. God-fearing. 

14 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

He was eighteen years of age when he took up arms for his 
country and fought valiantly, successfully and faithfully, 
until his services were no longer needed. He was just twenty- 
two years of age at the close of the Revolutionary War. "He 
entered the army as a private, passed through the grades of 
orderly sergeant, quartermaster sergeant, quartermaster, 
adjutant, captain, and major. * * * He commanded in fif- 
teen engagements with wisdom, calmness, courage and success 
to a degree perhaps surpassed by no other officer of the same 
rank. Hundreds who served under his command have tes- 
tified to the upright, faithful, prudent and undaunted man- 
ner in which he discharged the duties of his responsible sta- 
tions. Never was he known to shrink from any toil, however 
painful, or quail before any dangers, however threatening, or 
avoid any privation or sacrifice which might promote his 
country's cause."^ 

The very qualities that made him successful as a soldier — 
courage, alertness, intelligence — made him successful in civil 
life, as legislator, as member of two Constitutional Conven- 
tions, as iron miner and founder. I may not pause over the 
stirring incidents of the military service of this excellent man 
and soldier, nor can I tell more fully of his great usefulness 
to church and state in the quieter w^alks of his civil career. 
Suffice it to say that he loved and served his state and church 
faithfully and well, that in all that concerned their welfare, he 
was not only interested, but active, not only intelligent but 
wise. "His life was a bright and illustrious pattern of domes- 
tic, social and public virtues. Modest, amiable, upright and 
pious, he lived a noble ornament to his country, a faithful 
friend to the church and a rich blessing to his family." In 
1787 he married Miss Isabella Davidson, a daughter of Maj. 
John Davidson, and of a family distinguished alike for intelli- 
gence and patriotism. It was in consequence of this marriage, 
that, forming a business connection with his father-in-law, he 
moved to Lincoln County in 1792, and became an iron founder 

I Revolutionary papers of General Joseph Graham. 

William A. Gkaiiam. 15 

and monger. Mrs. Graham is said to have been the most beau- 
tiful of Major Davidson's handsome daughters, and her char- 
acter corresponded in loveliness and goodness to her personal 
appearance. It was from her that the subject of this sketch 
derived so much of the manly beauty that was one of his 
distinguishing characteristics during his long life. At the 
residence of his father near Vesuvius Furnace in Lincoln 
County, he was born, September 5th, 1804. 

William Alexander Graham was the eleventh child and 
youngest son of General Joseph Graham and Isabella David- 
son Graham, his wife. Mrs. Graham died January 15th, 
1808. The eldest sister, Sophia, who afterwards married 
Dr. John Witherspoon, of South Carolina, but was then only 
seventeen years of age, assumed the care of the younger chil- 
dren of the family. She performed the duties with faithful- 
ness, consideration and affection. She was regarded as a typi- 
cal older sister and daughter and was remembered with great 
love and pleasure by those to whom she had given her atten- 
tion and love. Young William was, too, an object of especial 
solicitude and care to his father. He made him his com- 
panion by day and by night, and instilled into him lessons 
of virtue, piety and patriotism. This constant association 
with so excellent a man and so good a Christian as General 
Graham was one of the strongest influences in shaping the 
boy's life. For years he lived the happy, free life of the 
country boy in a household where there was competence if 
not wealth. When he was older he was sent to a neighbor- 
hood school, very much against his will, for he hid under 
a bed and had to be dragged out by the heels. There he ac- 
quired the rudiments of learning. His first school away 
from home was in Mecklenburg County, where he lived with 
his mother's brother, Mr. Robin Davidson. The school- 
house being three miles distant, he rode to it on horseback, 
generally accompanied by James W. Osborne, of Charlotte, 
who, being the younger, rode behind. His uncle became 

16 North Carolina Historical Commissions^ 

very fond of the motherless lad, and the boy reciprocated so 
heartily, that he later named one of his sons for this uncle. 
From this country school he was sent to the Pleasant Re- 
treat Academy at Lincolnton, of which his father was one of 
the trustees. His room-mate was his cousin, Theodore W. 
Brevard, who afterwards became disting:uished in the State 
of Florida, where he held several important offices. Next he 
was sent to the classical school of the Rev. Dr. Muchat at 
Statesville. He was noted for his industry, his thirst for 
knowledge and his aptitude to learn. One who knew him 
well, (Rev. Dr. R. H. Morrison), testified that from his 
childhood he Avas no less remarkable for his high sense of 
honor and truth, than for his exemption from the levities 
and vices common to youth. At this academy he applied 
himself to his studies with the most exemplary diligence. 
Judge Brevard, a classmate, said of him : "He was the only 
boy I ever knew, who would spend his Saturdays in reviewing 
the studies of the week."^ This habit he kept up, too, during 
his subsequent school and college course. When he was four- 
teen or fifteen years of age, he, for a time, probably during 
a vacation, superintended, on the advice of his brother John, 
Spring Hill forge. General Graham was much pleased with 
his work in this capacity, saying that it was one of the most 
successful seasons in the history of the works. His final prep- 
aration for college was obtained at the Hillsboro Academy, 
an uncommonly good classical school. The Rev. John With- 
erspoon had the general supervision of this school, but the 
active teacher was Mr. John Rogers, who had distinguished 
himself in his profession at Wilmington. President Cald- 
well induced them to agi-ee that their institution should be 
preparatory to the University. Members of the faculty could 
participate in the periodical examinations of the pupils, 
and those passing the examinations of the highest classes 
had a right to enter the University on certificate of the faet.^ 

•McGehee: Memorial Oration on Life and Services of William A. Graham. 
2 Battle: History of the University of North Carolina, 283. 

William A, Geaham. 17 

Mr. Rogers had been educated for the Catholic priesthood, 
and for accurate scholarship and capacity as a teacher, had 
few superiors.^ 

Young Graham matriculated at the University in the sum- 
mer of 1820. Says Mr. McGehee in his very admirable 
memorial oration:" "His course throughout his college life 
was admirable in every way. He appreciated the scheme of 
study there established, not only as the best discipline of the 
intellect, but as the best foundation for knowledge in its 
widest sense. He mastered his lessons so perfectly, that each 
lesson became a permanent addition to his stock of knowledge. 
The professors rarely failed to testify by a smile, or some 
other token, their approval of his efficiency. On one occasion 
a professor (Olmstead), who has attained a world-wide rep- 
utation in the field of science, remarked to one of young 
Graham's classmates (John W. Norwood) that his lecture 
on chemistry came back as perfectly from Mr. Graham as he 
had uttered it on the previous day. Some thirty years after, 
the same professor in a letter to Mr. Graham, (then Secre- 
tary of the 3Sravy) says : "It has often been a source of pleas- 
ing reflection to me, that I have been permitted to bear some 
part in fitting you, in early life, for that elevated post of 
honor and usefulness to which Providence has conducted 

His high sense of duty was manifested in his conscien- 
tious deportment under the peculiar form of government 
to which he was then subject. His observance of every law 
and usage of the college was punctilious, while to the fac- 
ulty he was ever scrupulously and conspicuously respectful. 

His extraordinary proficiency was purchased by no labori- 
ous drudgery. The secret of it was to be found in the precept 
which he acted upon through life — "whatsoever thy hand 
findeth to do, do it with thy might." His powers of concen- 
tration were great, his perceptions quick, his memory pow- 

' McGehee: Memorial Oration. 2pages8-9. 



erf 111, prompt and assiduously improved. By the joint force 
of such faculties, he could accomplish much in little time. 
Hence, notwithstanding his exemplary attention to his college 
duties, he devoted much time to general reading. He partic- 
ipated regularly in the debates and other exercises of the 
Literary Society. For all such he prepared himself with 
care; and it is asserted upon the authority of Mr. John \V. 
Norwood — a most competent judge — that his compositions 
were of such excellence that, in a literary point of view, they 
would have challenged comparison with anything done by 
him in after life. 

His engaging manners brought him into pleasant relations 
with all his fellow students. He lived with them upon tenns 
of the frankest and most familiar intercourse. In their most 
athletic sports he never participated, but he was a pleased 
spectator, and evinced by his manner a hearty sympathy 
with their enjoyments. His favorite exercise was walking, 
and those who knew him well will recollect that this con- 
tinued to be his favorite recreation while health was spared 
him. With friends and chosen companions he was cordial 
and easy, and always the life of the circle when met to- 

He graduated in the class of 1824, he being one of the 
four first honor men, the others being Thomas Dews, after- 
wards a very able lawyer, but dying early, Matthias Evans 
Manly, afterwards state senator, judge of the Superior and 
Supreme Courts, elected United States Senator in 1866, but 
not allowed to take his seat, and Edwin D. Sims of Virginia, 
afterwards tutor in the University, and professor in Ran- 
dolph-Macon College and in the University of Alabama. To 
young Graham was assigned the classical oration. It has been 
the privilege of the writer to see this. It is a pleasant and 
orderly resume of the history of the preservation of the clas- 
sics, and an argument for their continued usefulness in the 
training of the mind and their giving breadth to one's cul- 
ture. His style at that early period had not become Individ- 

William A. Graham. 19 

iialistic, but was rather a reflection of his own training at the 
University, so was a little stiff and formal. Other noted 
graduates of 1824 were Daniel B. Baker, judge of the Supe- 
rior Court of Florida ; John Bragg, member of Congress and 
judge of the Superior Court of Alabama ; James W. Bryan, 
strong lawyer, trustee of the University and state senator 
from Craven ; A. J. DeRosset, physician and merchant of 
Wilmington, treasurer of the Dioceses of North and East 
Carolina and often deputy to the general conventions of the 
Episcopal Church; Augustus Moore, judge of the Superior 
Court ; John W. ISTorwood, able lawyer, member of the legis- 
lature and senator from Orange; David Outlaw, member of 
Congress, state solicitor, state senator and delegate to the 
convention of 1836, and Bromfield L. Ridley, chancellor of 

After his graduation he visited his sister, Mrs. Wither- 
spoon, at Lexington, Ky., and while there he made the ac- 
quaintance of John J. Crittenden, and had an opportunity 
to hear him in a great slander case. 

On his return from this tour he began the study of law in 
the office of Judge Ruffin at Hillsboro. The opinion of Judge 
Ruffin as to the proper course to be pursued with a student 
of law was somewhat peculiar. He held that he should have 
little assistance beyond that of having his course of studies 
prescribed. He must, as it were, scale the height alone, by his 
own strength and courage ; availing himself of a guide only 
at points otherwise inaccessible. Young Graham's brother, 
James Graham, in a letter written at this period, made men- 
tion of this opinion, and urged him to adopt the expedient 
resorted to by himself: "When he would not examine me I 
took the liberty of questioning him very frequently, and 
by drawing him into conversation on legal subjects, my own 
ideas were rendered more clear, correct and lasting."' 

We may be sure that the contact of two such minds — the 

1 Battle: History of University, 296. ^McGehee, 10 and 12. 

20 ]^ORTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

one young, ardent and acquisitive — the other mature and vig- 
orous, the mind of a master in his particular calling, could 
result only in good to the younger, whatever the method of 
instruction might be. As a matter of fact young Graham 
came to the bar remarkably well prepared. The points he 
made were substantial and well sustained, and six years 
afterwards he was in the full tide of a successful practice. 
He obtained his county court license at the December term, 
1826, of the Supreme Court, and was sworn in before the 
county court at Hillsboro in February, 1827. His first 
litigated case in that court was at the August term, 1827, 
Charles Allison v, Samuel Madden, Judge ^ash, who had 
recently resigned from the Superior Court bench, appearing 
with him for the plaintiff.^ At the ensuing j^ovember term 
he had two other cases on the trial docket, and three on the 
appearance. He obtained his Superior Court license at the 
December term, 1827, of the Supreme Court, and took the 
oaths at the March term, 1828, of the Superior Court of 
Orange County. His first litigated case was at the same 
term of that court — Doe and John Dunn, executor of William 
Keeling, v. James Keeling; A. D. Murphey and Wiley P. 
Mangum for plaintiff, and Frederick ]^ash and W. A. Gra- 
ham for the defendant." His first case of importance in 
the Superior Court," says Mr. McGehee, 'Svas one which 
from peculiar causes, excited great local iziterest. It involved 
an intricate question of title to land. On the day of trial, 
the court-room was crowded and the bar fully occupied by 
lawyers — many of them men of the highest professional 
eminence. When he came to address the jury, he spoke with 
modesty, but with ease and self-possession. His preparation 
of the case had been thorough, and the argument which he 
delivered is described as admirable, both as to matter and 
manner. When he closed, the Hon. William H. Haywood, 
who had then risen to a high position at the bar, turned to 

• County Court Records. ' Superior Court Records. 

William A. Graham. 21 

a distinguished gentleman, still living, of the same profes- 
sion, and inquired who had prepared the argument which 
Mr. Graham had delivered so handsomely. The answer was, 
'It is all his own,' to which Mr. Haywood replied, 'William 
Gaston could have done it no better.' " 

At the time he determined to locate at Hillsboro, young 
Graham had already spent several years there ; first, as a stu- 
dent at the Hillsboro Academy ; second, as a student of law 
under Judge Ruffin, and third, as practitioner in the county 
court. It was centrally located, convenient to the State capi- 
tal. It was the county seat of a large county, with a popula- 
tion of about 25,000, and there was much litigation. It was 
then, as it had always been, the foster mother of great men. 
There was no town in the State that contained so much that 
was best of the public life of the State, though it had then only 
about four hundred white inhabitants. There was Murphey, 
perhaps the greatest genius in its history ; Ruffin, the greatest 
lawyer and judge ; Mangum, one of its greatest popular ora- 
tors and statesmen ; Norwood, the elder, able lawyer, and up- 
right judge ;" ISTash, whose excellencies as an advocate, said 
Mr. Abraham W. Venable, were equaled by few and surpassed 
by none, attaining later the highest honors of his profession; 
Dr. James Webb, distinguished physician and business man, 
and others too numerous to mention, while Duncan Cameron, 
George E. Badger, William H. Haywood and Bartlett 
Yancey, were intimately associated with the place. Among 
men of his own age, were Richard S. Clinton, Dr. Edmund 
Strudwick and John W. Norwood, his college- and class- 
mate. The pastor of the Presbyterian Church at that time 
was the Rev. John Witherspoon, grandson of the signer, an 
able man, and, though unequal, on occasion eloquent. He 
was afterwards moderator of the Presbyterian General 
Assembly. The rector of the Episcopal Church was the 
Rev. William M. Green, afterwards Bishop of Mississippi 
and chancellor of the University of the South. Mr. Dennis 
Heartt was successfully editing and publishing the Hillsbora 

22 NoKTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

Recorder. The social advantages of the place, too, were very 
great. It was full of cultivated men and women, none very 
wealthy, but all having an abundance of the comforts of 
life and many of its luxuries, and they were hospitable with- 
out stint. This society, though somewhat formal, was wholly 
delightful. !Nor was the competition at the bar so stringent 
as appears on the surface. Judge Norwood was at that 
time on the Superior Court bench, and so continued until 
1836. Judge Ruffin was on the Superior Court bench, re- 
signed that year, 1828, to accept the presidency of the State 
Bank, and the following year was elevated to the Supreme 
Court. Judge Mangum was elected to the Superior Court 
in 1828, and to the United State Senate in 1830. Judge 
Cameron lived out in the country, and presided occasionally 
^over the county court. Judge Murphey's health was failing, 
and he died in February, 1832. Of the visiting lawyers, 
Bartlett Yancey, who did a large business in Orange, died 
in 1828, and to the United States Senate in 1830. Judge 
was left, and he returned to the bench in 1836. There 
is no wonder then that so able a young lawyer as Mr. Gra- 
ham should locate under these favorable conditions at Hills- 
boro. N^or is it any wonder that he should be cordially re- 
ceived there, and in a few years should be at the head of its 
bar, a preeminence which he maintained for forty years. 
Few young men have commenced the practice of the law 
with greater natural and acquired qualifications than had he„ 
In him a remarkably handsome and dignified presence was 
united to the highest character, excellent mental endowments, 
untiring industry, kind, courteous and elegant, rather genial 
manners and thorough conscientiousness. He was fully six 
feet tall, very erect, and had hazel eyes, dark hair and clear- 
cut features. His action in speaking was easy and graceful, 
sometimes warming into energy and force when the subject 
demanded it, and the tones of his voice were mellow, har- 
monious and well modulated. He was ambitious and self- 
reliant, so all that was best in him came at his demand. 

William A. Graham. 23 

Success and complete success to such a character was only 
a matter of time, and one could predict it for him with 
absolute confidence at the outset of his career. 

LEGISLATOR, 1833 TO 1841 

Hillsboro, enfranchised by Governor Tryon in 17Y0, con- 
tinued to be one of the borough towns of the State under 
the Constitution of 1776, and until borough representation 
v/as abolished by the Convention of 1835. The qualifications 
for voters in these towns w^ere: First, possession of a free- 
hold in the town, whether the proposed voter v/as a resident 
or not; second, freedom, coupled with residence in the town 
for twelve months, next before and at the day of election, 
and payment of public taxes. The elections for borough 
members were annual. Mr. Graham represented Hillsboro 
the last three years of its existence. At that time there were 
about 85 qualified voters in the town, and the elections were 
generally close, and conducted amid great excitement with 
the "free use of intoxicants. Though William Norwood, 
Thomas Ruffin, John Scott and Frederick ISTash had at inter- 
vals of time represented it, its member was often some tavern- 
keeper, or one of the lesser lights of its citizens. At Mr. 
Graham's first election he was vigorously opposed. He was 
thereafter, however, elected with little opposition. 

At the time he entered public life, i^Torth Carolina was 
on the whole retrogi-ading. Its soil, moderately fertile, 
yielded remunerative returns only to intelligent and per- 
sistent labor. It contained a great variety of minerals ; gen- 
erally enough in a single locality to attract the adventurous 
prospector, not enough to prevent disappointment to his 
hopes. There was vast wealth in its forests, but there was 
little capital to exploit it, and no accessible market for it. 
Away from the cotton section, in its midland and west, it 
was a country of small farmers, a majority of whom had 
their material wants well supplied from the products of 
their farms, but again there was no adequate market for 

24 JSToRTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

any excess. Without this market, there was no hope that 
they could improve their condition, and without this hope, 
they toiled on, generation after generation, quite often the 
laborious father being followed by the shiftless son. In 
consequence of this occasional retrogression in families, 
there were whole communities, not numerous, or large in 
themselves, scattered here and there throughout this section, 
plague spots upon the body politic, in which the men were 
without God and without hope in the world, and the women 
were without decency and quite frequently without virtue — 
communities, whose fragmentary remains are with us to 
this day, fast disappearing, thank God, under more hopeful 
conditions. The opening of the West, too, with its inviting 
opportunities for the adventurous and bold, was carrying 
away more and more the brawn and sinew of the State. 
Those who owned slaves might, year by year and generation 
after generation, tend their ancestral acres on or within reach 
of the navigable streams of the East, and live in ease and 
comfort while they educated their children, but to the small 
farmer of the West was lacking that contact with the world 
which brings enlightenment and hope, and stimulates am- 
bition and effort. What wonder then that N^orth Carolina 
was retrograding and that the pall of ignorance, instead of 
receding, was extending wider and wider over its people ! 
It is natural that under such narrow conditions the people 
themselves should become narrow, and should think that 
the whole science of government must expend itself on a 
pennywise pound foolish economy, and that the two great 
evils in the world were death and taxation. There are two 
remedies for such a condition that are perfectly obvious to 
us and were no less obvious to the gi*eat men of that period : 
First, bring the people in contact with the world by opening 
highways of trade and commerce through their borders ; 
second, place a free school within reach of every child in 
the State. That was Murphey's program, that was Graham's 
program, that was the program of nearly all the Whigs of 

William A. Graham, 25 

the period. Some talk nowadays of the ante-bellum aris- 
tocracy standing in the way of the people's enlightenment, 
of their progi'ess. Not so. The aristocrats (if I may use 
so false a term to desigiiate the better educated class) were 
the progressives ; the reactionaries, with a few exceptions, 
were the neighborhood political bosses, whose principal stock 
in trade was an attack upon the kid-gloved aristocracy, as 
they dubbed the Whigs of the towns. These Whigs, with 
some notable exceptions, built the railroads of the State. 
They, again with some notable exceptions, 'laid the founda- 
tions of our public school system. In both these enterprises, 
Mr. Graham was a leader. His temperament peculiarly 
fitted him to be a pioneer in this great work. The influence 
and training of his father, and of Dr. Joseph Caldwell, sup- 
plemented by association with Judge Murphey, made internal 
improvements, the education of the people and the preserva- 
tion of the history of the State the three great ends that he set 
himself to secure in his public life. With him it was a calm, 
set purpose, to be worked out through the means and instru- 
mentalities -which the times provided. Those means were 
small, and the instrumentalities often perverse and blind 
and stupid, yet with a self-reliance that came from self- 
knowledge as well as knowledge of the subject, with a self- 
control that prevented any irritation, he pursued his 
ends with a placid, but firm persistence, which was not 
checked by any rebuff nor daunted by any defeat. Through- 
out his legislative career, during his incumbency of the 
gubernatorial ofRce, he wa.s constantly stimulating the 
ambition and State pride of the people by telling them 
of the great deeds of their sires, constantly in season and 
out of season, striving to enlighten them by diffusing the 
blessings of education among them and to arouse them to 
effort and industry by bringing the highways of commerce 
to their doors. Early in life he learned the great lesson, 
that in a democracy, where so many adverse minds are to 
be convinced, the progress of any great reform is necessarily 

26 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

slow, that often it is the work of more than one generation, 
that he and his contemporaries must be content with line 
upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there 
a little, leaving to the future the fruition of their hopes. 
Very, very, often the ideals and aspirations of the great 
men of the past have been realized in the everyday life 
of the commonalty of the present. To them the days that 
were to come are the wisest witnesses. 

In the Legislature of 1833-4 he was placed upon the 
Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Education.^ 
The House of that body was of average ability, its ablest 
members, David Outlaw, D. M. Barringer, W. H. Battle, 
Charles B. Shepard, J. R. J. Daniel, James Seawell, Charles 
Fisher, Daniel W. Courts, and the Speaker, William J. 
Alexander. It was in session fifty-five days including Sun- 
days, enacted 184 laws, only twenty-four of which were pub- 
lic. Nineteen academies or schools, including the predeces- 
sors of Wake Forest College, Guilford College and St. Mary's 
at Raleigh, two libraries, three gold mining companies, one 
manufacturing association and twelve railroad companies 
were incorporated. This indicates the drift of public senti- 
ment at that time. The Bank of the Cape Fear was rechart- 
ered, and the Bank of the State of North Carolina, the Mer- 
chants Bank of New Bern and the Albemarle Bank of Eden- 
ton, were chartered. Mr. Graham was the author of a bill, 
afterwards enacted into a law, which corrected a gross in- 
equality in the criminal laws as then administered, making 
one guilty of grand larceny as infamous upon conviction as 
one convicted of petty larceny.^ He was on a committee 
to inquire into the right of Romulus M. Saunders to con- 
tinue as Attorney-General of the State after having accepted 
a commissionership from the Federal Government on the 
French spoliation claims. He wrote the report in favor of 
Mr, Saunders's right. ^ His argument is based on the word- 
ing of the Constitution of 1776 — "No person in the State 

'House Journal, 142. 2 House Journal, 182. ' House Journal, 252. 

William A. Graham. 27 

shall hold more than one lucrative office at any one time," 
and also upon the fact that the offices were not inconsistent. 
The constitutional prohibition seems upon its face to apply 
only to State offices. Especially is this true when it is re- 
membered that the Federal Government was not in exist- 
ence when the State Constitution was adopted. The Legis- 
lature of 1833-4 adopted the report thus made by Mr. Gra- 
ham, but that of 1834-5, repudiating that view, passed a 
joint resolution that the office of Attorney-General had been 
vacated by Mr. Saunders's acceptance of the Federal Com- 
missionership, and Mr. Saunders, to avoid controversy, but 
protesting against the accuracy of this legal conclusion, re- 
signed as Attorney-General. Mr. Graham adhered to his 
opinion and voted against the resolution. 

He was sent again as representative from Hillsboro to the 
Legislature of 1834-5. By that time the demand for an 
amendment of the Constitution of 1776 had become so in- 
sistent that it could no longer be disregarded with safety 
to the peace and welfare of the State. Mr. Graham sup- 
ported the "convention bill very heartily. During its con- 
sideration he voted against the provision allowing the con- 
vention to submit the election of governor to the free white 
vote of the State,^ though he afterwards voted for the bill 
with this provision in it. This vote was afterwards remem- 
bered to plague him in his canvass with Mr. Hoke for the 
gubernatorial office in 1844. He explained that he was never 
opposed to the provision, but voted against it while the 
House was considering the bill, section by section, because 
he was informed by Mr. Outlaw of Bertie that the easter3i 
members, without whose vote the bill could not become a 
law, would not vote for it with that provision in it, so he 
voted against that to save the bill itself, but afterwards 
finding that the bill could be passed with that provision in 
it, he followed what was his inclination all the time by 
voting for it. To show the attitude of some members of the 

1 House Journal , 1834-5, 220. 

28 NoKTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

House on this provision and others, at first its advocates 
could muster but thirty-five votes, while there were ninety- 
four against it/ On the proposition to submit the election 
of Supreme and Superior Court Judges to the popular vote, 
there were twenty-two ayes to one hundred and three nays.^ 
On the proposition to debar lawyers, pleading under a license, 
from membership in the Legislature, the vote was twenty 
ayes to one hundred and ten nays.^ At this session Mr. 
Graham was again on the Judiciary Committee and was 
Chairman of the Education Committee, In the latter 
capacity he made a report January 3, 1835, on the resources 
of the Literary Fund, and the best means of improving the 
same, and accompanied the same by a bill to authorize the 
Literary Board to sell certain portions of the swamp lands 
belonging to it.* This bill passed the House, but failed in 
the Senate. Mr. Hugh McQueen, of Chatham, at this ses- 
sion also introduced a bill in the Senate, to provide a fund 
for the establishment of free schools. This passed its first 
reading, and was then laid on the table. By joint resolution 
of the General Assembly, however, it was afterwards ordered 
to be appended to, and published with, the laws of the ses- 
sion. The Literary Fund amounted to about $180,000, with 
the hope that it would enlarge at the rate of $15,000 or 
$20,000 per annum, through the sale of swamp lands and 
the receipt of dividends from investment of its capital. This 
sum was wholly inadequate to establish any general system 
of public schools, so the efforts of legislators were directed, 
for the present, wholly toward increasing it. In the state 
of public sentiment, thoy did not dare levy additional taxes. 
Indeed conditions among the people were so wholly adverse 
to increased taxation, that a plan that involved such increase 
would have proven utterly futile. 

On December 29, 1834, Mr. Graham was elected by the 
Legislature a trustee of the Universitv,^ and he continued 

I House Journal, 220. 2 Ibid., 221. 'Ibid., 221. 

<Coon: Public Education in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1790-1840, 
II., 683 et seq. 

'House Journal, 223. 

William A. Graham. 29 

until Ifts death to be actively interested in all of the affairs 
of that institution. An interesting political event occurred 
at this session. Judge Wiley P. Mangum and Bedford Brown 
v^^ere the senators from the State in the Federal Congress. 
Mangum voted for the resolution of censure on Jackson for 
removing the deposits, passed March 28, 1834, and refused to 
vote for Benton's resolution to expunge the censure. The 
Legislature of 1834-5 was Democratic, or pro- Jackson, and 
hence opposed to Mangum. It instructed Mangum and Brown 
to vote for the expunging resolution. While the House was 
considering these instructions, Mr. Graham delivered a 
speech of remarkable power against them. He had just 
passed his thirtieth birthday, yet this speech made him a 
leader of his party, the Whig, only second to Mr. Mangum 
in influence and power. It had so great an effect upon his 
fortunes and is so characteristic, that these alone would 
justify my giving it in full, if space permitted. It, too, 
gives a remarkably clear and just view of the conditions 
as they were in North Carolina at that period, and of the 
political issues that confronted the people. 

Mr. Graham was again member of the House of Commons 
from Hillsboro in the Legislature of 1835-6. Among the 
other able members of that Legislature, were Matthias E. 
Manly, Kenneth Rayner, Thomas L. Clingman and Michael 
Hoke, the first three being Whigs, and the latter a Democrat. 
Mr. Graham was his party's candidate for speaker, but was 
defeated by William H. Haywood, the vote being fifty-four to 
sixty-eight. He was again on the Committee on Education, 
and was chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He intro- 
duced a bill incorporating the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, 
and defended it during all the stages of its enactment into a 
law against a vigorous opposition. It was the first railroad 
built in the State. There was much discussion of the division 
of the proceeds of the sale of public lands by the Federal 
Government among the states, and a resolution was adopted 

1 House Journal, 97. 

30 ISToRTH Carolina Histokical Commission. 

by the Legislature that they ought to be so divided, the vote 
being seventy ayes to fifty-four nays, the division being not 
along party lines, Mr. Graham voting aye. Judge Martin, 
having resigned as one of the judges of the Superior Court, 
Romulus M. Saunders was elected by a vote of ninety-seven 
to succeed him. On the last ballot Mr. Graham received 
sixty votes, and the Register of ]Srovember 22, 1835, com- 
menting on this, says : ''It is due to Mr. Graham to state, 
that though strongly solicited, he refused to suffer his name 
to be put in nomination. Had he consented, he is so de- 
servedly a favorite, that the contest would have been a very 
doubtful one. Mr. Graham is a young man, and the flattering 
vote which he received, under the peculiar circumstances of 
the case, is conclusive evidence of his elevated standing in 
the State." 

The new Constitution, having gone into effect on January 
1, 1836, and boroughs having been thus abolished, Mr. Gra- 
ham was a candidate before the people of Orange County 
in the summer of 1836, to represent that county in the 
Legislature of 1836-7. He, for the first time, canvassed the 
county for internal improvements and for the distribution of 
the land proceeds. He was triumphantly elected, carrying 
with him also, two out of the other Whig candidates for the 
House, Orange being entitled under the new Constitution, 
to four representatives. He, however, ran one hundred and 
twenty-one ahead of his ticket. 

The House was again Democratic by a small majority; 
Haywood received sixty votes for speaker and Graham fifty- 
three.^ He was on the same standing committees as at the 
last session, and was again chairman of the Committee on 
Judiciary.^ He was also chairman of the Committee on the 
Ee^dsed Statutes, which were then to be enacted into a law, 
and looked carefully, painstakingly and ably after their 
progress through the House. He was also chairman of a 
joint committee of both houses on the funds to be received 

» House Journal, 243-4. 2 House Journal, 268. 

William A. Gkaham. 31 

under the Deposit Act of Congress, and as chairman pro tern, 
of the committee made an able and lucid report upon the dis- 
position of that fund, accompanied bj bills to carry the sug- 
gestions of the committee into effect/ In pursuance of the 
act for the distribution of the surplus revenue, nearly $28,- 
000,000 were deposited with the states, by three equal pay- 
ments in January, April and July of 1837. North Caro- 
lina's share was $1,433,757.39. The Graham report con- 
templated an equal division of this fund into two : one, to 
constitute a fund for common schools, and the other, a fund 
for internal improvements. It very strongly reprehended 
the diversion of any portion of this fund to meet ordinary 
State liabilities. The legislation, however, did not follov/ 
this report in its entirety. $100,000 were diverted to the 
payment of the civil contingent expenses of the State Gov- 
ernment, $600,000 were used in purchasing bank stock, 
$200,000 were appropriated to draining swamp lands, and 
$533,757.39 purchased stock in the Wilming-ton and Ualeigh 

The General Assembly of 1835-6 had enacted a law to 
regulate the mode of passing private acts. After the enact- 
ment of this law, the Constitution of 1835 went into effect. 
A new provision was incorporated therein that the General 
Assembly shall not pass any private law, unless it shall be 
made to appear that thirty days notice of application to 
pass such law, shall have been given under such directions 
and in such manner as shall be provided by law. Upon this 
state of things two questions were submitted by the Assem- 
bly of 1836-7 to its Judiciary Committee, of which Mr. 
Graham was Chairman: First, was the Act of 1835 super- 
seded by the Constitution, which went into effect January 
1, 1836, in such way as to render it inoperative upon the 
present and future assemblies, without its reenactment ; sec- 
ond, what is the line of demarkation between public and 
private acts? Mr. Graham replied to these questions in a 

1 Legislative Documents, 1S35-9, No. 15. 

32 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

very able and luminous report. Except as restricted by the 
State and Federal constitutions, the authority of the General 
Assembly to legislate is plenary, and its legislation binds 
its successors until altered or repealed by them. The Act 
of 1835 was obnoxious to no provision of the Constitution 
of 1776, and being in entire accord with the provision of 
the new Constitution, quoted above, it is still in full force 
and effect. Upon this point, among other things, he said : 
''The convention has not only not taken away the power to 
enact such a law, but virtually ordained that it should be 
passed. It is supposed that the right to pass it is derived 
from the amendment, and it could only be passed by a 
Legislature convened under the new Constitution. It must 
be observed, however, that the paragraph of the amendment 
now under discussion, confers no new power on the General 
Assembly, but forbids the exercise of an old one, except on 
certain conditions.. The legislative power of the General 
Assembly extends not merely to the present time and events, 
but may prospectively embrace any future contingencies. 
The law in question might have provided that in the event of 
the adoption of the amendments to the Constitution, advertise- 
ment of application for private acts should be made for thirty 
days, much more, when it was authoritatively announced that 
the amendments had been adopted, might it provide to give 
them practical operation. A wise lawgiver will endeavor as 
well to prevent grievances as to administer remedies for 
them. To have enacted no law in reference to private acts 
at the last session of the Legislature, would have been to 
exclude any private bill from consideration for at least the 
first thirty days of this session. Your committee, therefore, 
deem the passage of the said act to have been both consti- 
tutional and expedient." 

In answer to the second question he said: "On the one 
hand your committee have felt that by a too strict interpre- 
tation of the term, private law, much useful legislation 
might have been prevented at the present session, whilst on 

William A. Gkaham. 33 

the contrary the salutary operation of this section of the Con- 
stitution would be wholly abrogated and annulled, unless the 
General Assembly shall affix a proper construction to this 
term, and insist on its enforcement in every instance. It 
can hardly be supposed that the judiciary branch of the 
government will have either the disposition or authority to 
look beyond the enactments of the Legislature, to ascertain 
whether they were passed with or without legal notice of 
their introduction. This clause of the amended Constitution 
is binding therefore only on the conscience of the legislator, 
and is dependent upon this alone for its observance. Its 
true meaning is for that reason to be sought with greater 
diligence and adhered to with more vigor. * * * In some 
statutes special clauses have been inserted declaring that those 
statutes shall be held and deemed public acts, but this, as your 
committee believe, has been properly construed not to change 
the character of the acts, but merely to determine the manner 
in which they shall be alleged and proved in courts of justice. 
Whether a statute be public or private must depend on its 
nature and object. If those be private, the statute itself can 
not be public, notwithstanding the declaration of the Legis- 
lature to the contrary; nor should the evasion be allowed of 
inserting provisions of a public kind for the mere purpose of 
dispensing with the necessity of advertising, where they do 
not belong to the general scope of the particular bill. The 
general description of public acts is, that they relate to the 
interests of the public at large ; and private, that they relate 
to individuals and their interests only. This vague descrip- 
tion which pervades all the elementary books and has by 
many been mistaken as a definition, aifords but an uncertain 
test for discrimination. Your committee believe that the 
following points are settled by adjudication or by common 
consent, to wit, that all acts are public: 

"1. Which concern all persons generally. 

"2. Which affect the sovereign in any of his rights of 

34 North Carolina IIistoeical Commission. 

sovereignty or property. Hence any act which gives a penalty 
or fine to the State is, on that acconnt, public. 

^'3. Which concern the officers of the State, whether civil 
or military. 

"4. Which concern the Legislature. 

"5. Which relate to trade in general, or the public high- 
ways or navigable rivers. 

"And of the^'^e some are termed public local acts, and 
others public general acts, according to their respective 
spheres of operation. The foregoing summary may not 
embrace all acts of a public nature, but is supported by 
authority so far as it extends, and may be useful in drawing 
the line of distinction. Private acts embrace all those not 
falling within any of the descriptions aforesaid. An attempt 
to define them more particularly is unnecessary. Your com- 
mittee are aware that the precise boundary between public 
and private acts can not in every instance be determined 
by the rules here furnished, but they are gi-atified by the 
reflection that in a great majority of bills there can be no 
question as to their character, and in any particular case 
where difficulty may arise, the foregoing classification may 
be found useful if not decisive. To the wisdom of the 
House it will belong to apply them -with proper discrimi- 
nation, in each case in which the application becomes 

I reproduce this long exti'act, not so much because it is an 
admirable statement of the legal principles involved, as be- 
cause it throws light upon the stage of mental development 
at which he had arrived when he was only thirty-two years of 
age, and also upon his character. This constant sense of the 
eternal fitness of things, this assumption that because power 
is irresponsible, it is the more incumbent upon those who 
exercise it, to exercise it with the utmost circumspection and 
caution, characterized all his utterances and actions through- 
out his whole career. 

While on his way to one of his courts, in 1836, he was 
so injured by an unruly horse, that he was compelled to go 

William A. Gkaham. 35 

North for treatment in the summer of 1837. Before the 
accident, it was understood that he or Judge Mangum 
was to have been the Whig candidate for the Federal 
House of Representatives. Judge Mangum, however, posi- 
tively declined, and insisted that Mr. Graham should be 
nominated, and he was nominated without a dissenting voice. 
He was absent at the Worth until a few days before the 
election. He could make no canvass. Instead he addressed 
an open letter to the voters of the district, in which he dis- 
cussed the issues of the day and offered himself as a candi- 
date for their suffrages. Martin Van Buren had been Presi- 
dent only a few months, and the country was in the throes 
of a severe panic, largely induced by the arbitrary measures 
of his predecessor, General Jackson. Mr. Graham, in this 
letter, thus rapidly describes conditions as they then were : 
"Our public moneys amounting to many million dollars 
have been paid into banks which are unable or unwilling to 
repay the government, and much it is feared will never be re- 
paid at all. Bank notes which constitute by far the largest 
portion of our currency are no longer convertible into specie. 
Exchanges are destroyed, so that it is difficult, if not impossi- 
ble, to make remittances from one part of our country to an- 
other, to carry on the necessary commerce between it and for- 
eign nations. Many of our merchants and other citizens, both 
the judicious and prudent as well as the reckless and specu- 
lating, have suddenly and unexpectedly, both to themselves 
and others, become insolvent. Pecuniary confidence between 
man and man has been greatly abridged, and in many places 
destroyed. The gTeat staple productions of the country 
have fallen in price, and agricultural as well as mechanical 
labor meets with insufficient reward. Our immediate sec- 
tion of the country irom. its interior position, as well as 
other causes, is happily exempt in a gTeat measure from the 
calamities which oppress others ; but no section can long 
escape unless a remedy is speedily applied. Every section 
is interested in the safe-keeping of the public moneys, the 

36 NoETH Carolina Historical Commission. 

soundness of the circulating medium, the facilities of do- 
mestic trade and the prosperity of our foreign commerce." 
His remedy was a national bank, such as that which was 
chartered during the Washington and Madison administra- 
tions. "I believe," said he, "that Congress has the consti- 
tutional power to establish such bank, and I, at present per- 
ceive no measure better calculated to relieve our distresses. 
I am aware of the danger of moneyed power, and if such 
a corporation can not be so restricted as to be incapable of 
wanton injury, either to the public or individuals, it should 
not be allowed. But the legislative power must be lamentably 
impotent if it can not fashion the creation of its own hands 
that it shall be accountable to the law for its conduct and 
thus prevent its abuses." 

And he concludes thus : "It is known to many of you that 
I did not concur in the election of the present chief magis- 
trate, and should a. competitor be presented whom I prefer, 
I probably shall not do so at the next election. I will en- 
deavor, nevertheless, whether in public or private life, to 
do justice to his measures, and should deem myself altogether 
unworthy of your confidence, were I capable of opposing 
or supporting any measure on account of the sources from 
which it springs. My first wish is that the country should 
be well governed, rather that it should be governed by any 
particular set of men." 

The Raleigh Register had the following on his candidacy, 
issue of July 17, 1837: "We do not believe there lives a 
man who can with truth allege aught against the character 
of Mr. Graham. We say of our own knowledge, that he is 
as pure a public man as we ever saw, and if elected, will add 
greatly to the learning, talent and eloquence of the House 
of which he is a member," In the issue of July 31, 1837, 
he is designated as follows : "A man whom even his political 
foes respect for his acquirements, and honor for the irre- 
proachable purity of his private character." 

William A. Graham. 37 

The Standard of July 19, 1837, took a somewhat dif- 
ferent view : '^In him the bank Whigs and Wall street brokers 
will have as warm a friend and as ardent a champion as 
they desire. * * * ^\s to Mr. Graham's private char- 
acter we know nothing and have heard nothing against it. 
He is a man of talents, but he can never be great among 
great men, ^' * * Thongh he may be looked npon as 
estimable as a man, he is dangerous as a politician." 

At almost exactly the same time and in England another 
newspaper writer wrote of Mr. Gladstone: "He is a man of 
very considerable talent, but has nothing approaching to 
genius. His abilities are much more the result of an ex- 
cellent education, and of mature study, than of any prodi- 
gality on the part of nature in the distribution of her mental 
gifts. I have no idea he will ever acquire the reputation 
of a great statesman.^" 

Mr. William Montgomery was elected by 191 majority, 
the only instance in Mr. Graham's long public life in which 
he was defeated in an election before the people of North 

He was again a commoner from Orange County in the 
Legislature of 1838-9, the only Whig elected in that county, 
all his colleagues being Democrats. The House, however, 
was Whig, and he was elected speaker over Michael Hoke, 
the vote being sixty-one to forty-nine. This General Assem- 
bly is distinguished by its enactment of the first comprehen- 
sive school law. Says Mr. Coon" : ''Early in the session of the 
Assembly of 1838-9, Mr. Dockery repeated his resolution 
relative to the establishment of public schools. H. G. Spruill 
presented a resolution and a plan which contemplated divid- 
ing the counties into school districts and holding an election 
in each district on the question of school or no school. The 
district was to be empowered to levy a tax to pay one-half the 
teacher's salary, the other to be paid out of the income of the 

•British Senate, Vol. II, 54. 2 Coon: Public Education in N. C, I, xliii. 

38 ]!^OKTH Carolina IIistoeical Commission. 

literary fund. A notable feature of this plan was the sugges- 
tion that every district refusing to establish schools should be 
required to vote on the question every year until they were 
established. The plan submitted by the Literary Board 
recommended the division of the State into 1250 districts, 
estimating the average school population for each district of 
108 children between the ages of five and fifteen; the estab- 
lishment of normal schools after the fashion advocated by 
President Caldwell some years before ; the holding of an elec- 
tion ill each county to determine whether it was willing to levy 
a tax for schools in amount to twice the sum expected from 
the literary fund ; and the appointment of a state superin- 
tendent of public schools. It was estimated by the board that 
the income of the school fund was then about $100,000. 
This amount, added to $200,000 proposed to be raised by 
county taxation, would pay the 1250 teachers each a salary 
of $240 a year. The suggestions of the board were received 
with considerable interest. Bills to carry out its plans were 
introduced in the Senate by William W. Cherry, and in the 
House by Frederick J. Hill. Mr. Cherry's bill did not con- 
template establishing schools until another meeting of the 
Assembly ; Mr. Hill's bill provided for their immediate 
establishment. * * * The net results of the education ef- 
forts of the Assembly of 1838-9 was the passage, on January 
Y, 1839, of a law submitting the question of schools or no 
schools to a vote of the i^eople of several counties in August, 
1839. A favorable vote meant a county tax levy of one 
dollar for each two dollars to be received from the income 
of the literary fund. The schools established were to be 
under the control of five to ten county superintlendents ; 
the whole territory of the county was to be divided into no 
more districts than one for each thirty-six square miles, and 
the first term of the schools in each district was to be con- 
ducted on $20 of county taxation and $40 income from the 
literary fund." 

No member of the Assemblv to(ik a more active interest 

William A. Graham. 39 

in the enactment of this law, than did the speaker, Mr. Gra- 
ham. Fonr out of the nine sections of the original Honse 
bill were in his handwriting, and two of the bills finally 
adopted by the Conference Committee were also in his hand- 
writing.^ It is said to have been adapted from the New 
York law^ on the same subject. 

Mr. Coon very finely says of this act": ''While the school 
law of 1839 was not a very satisfactory measure, it marked 
the beginning of a new era. Individualism was now gradu- 
ally to give way to community spirit ; selfishness and in- 
tolerance, which only desired to be undisturbed, must now 
needs give place to measures devoted to the welfare and up- 
lift of the people ; hatred of taxation for schools must now 
begin to disappear before the davsming of that wiser policy 
that no taxation is oppressive which is used in giving equal 
educational opportunities to all." 

Mr. Graham was reelected a member of the House of Com- 
mons from Orange in 1840. He was accompanied by two 
Whig colleagues to, and Mr. Wiley P. Mangum was senator 
in, the General Assembly of 1840-1. So fair and impartial 
as speaker was he the preceding session that he was reelected 
unanimously at this. The meeting of the Legislature was 
immediately after the triumphant election of Harrison and 
Tyler. The State, falling in line, had given the Whig ticket 
a large majority. The Democratic Legislature of 1835-6 
had instructed the then senators in CongTess, Bedford Brown 
and Wiley P. Mangum, to vote for Benton's expunging reso- 
lution. Mangum, denying the authority of the Legislature to 
instruct him how to vote, voted against that resolution, and 
refused to resign. In the campaign of 1836 he and Brown, 
who took the affirmative of the right of the Legislature to 
instruct, discussed the matter largely before the people of 
the State. The General Assembly, elected that year, was 
Democratic by a very small majority, and Mangum inter- 
preting this as a rebuke of his own course, by the people 

iPub. Ed. in N. C, II, 881 and 890. 2 Ibid, I, xlvii. 

40 North Carolina Historical CoMiMissioisr. 

themselves, resigned and was succeeded by Robert Strange, 
a Democrat. In 1838-9 conditions were reversed. The Ben- 
ton resolution was passed by the Senate January 16, 1837, 
both Brown and Strange voting for it. The General As- 
sembly of 1838-9 was Whig by a substantial majority. Ken- 
neth Rayner, on December 4, 1838, introduced in the House 
of Commons a series of resolutions that in the aggTcgate 
amounted to a condensed but definite statement of the Whig 
faith, the first resolution containing a simple allegation that 
the present senators had not truly represented the people of 
the State in voting for Benton's expunging resolution, and 
the last, being as follows: '^That our senators in CongTess 
will represent the wishes of a majority of the people of the 
State by voting to carry out the foregoing resolutions." There 
is no doubt that these resolutions were drawn up at a confer- 
ence of the Whig leaders, for the Register, in its issue of 
N'ovember 26, 1838, said: ''That course is not to instruct 
them as their party instructed Mangum to do a particular 
act or resign, but to give so decided and unequivocal an ex- 
pression of the opinions of their constituents, that they can 
not disregard it, unless they are determined to set at naught 
the popular will and practically assert their independence 
of it." So every amendment in the House and in the Senate 
was voted down, and the resolution passed the former body, 
without dotting an i or crossing a t, December 25th, and the 
latter, December 27, 1838, in each instance by a strict party 
vote, so far as their essential features were concerned. Sena- 
tors Brown and Strange, protesting that when positive in- 
structions were given them they would either vote as the 
General Assembly commanded them, or resign, by a letter 
to that body, dated December 31, 1838, asked for more au- 
thoritative instructions. These the Legislature never gave. 
Messrs Brown and Strange, still treating these resolutions 
as an expression of opinion on the part of the Legislature, 
which did not concern them, refused to resign until June 

William A. Graham. 41 

30, 1840. Their resignations were accompanied by long 
ex2:)lanations, the gist of which may be found in the follow- 
ing: "My resignation is not prompted by a belief that the 
resolutions imposed on me any such obligation, but from an 
anxious desire to submit my public course to the decision 
of the people of the State, which would have been done 
sooner, if an election had sooner intervened." As I have 
already said, the General Assembly, elected the second Thurs- 
day in August, 1840, was Whig by a large majority. These 
vacancies were to be filled by it at its coming ISTovember ses- 
sion. Bedford Brown's term was to expire March 4, 1841, 
Wiley P. Mangum was elected to fill the unexpired term, 
and also for a full term commencing at that date. Robert 
Strange's term was to expire on March 4, 1843, and William 
A. Graham was, on ISTovember 24, 1840, elected to fill this 
by a vote of ninety-eight for himself and sixty-four for 
Strange. Both candidates were selected by the Whigs 
in . caucus, out of some five or six names. Mr. Mangum 
was at the time the leader of the Whig party in the 
State. By general consent of the Whigs at large he was 
to be Mr. Brown's successor, and he was unanimously 
so named by the caucus. It was a very gTcat and un- 
usual honor that the Whigs conferred on so young a man 
as Mr. Graham to choose him out of five candidates as 
United States Senator, when he was a resident of the same 
county as Mr. Mangum. It is, too, the strongest testi- 
mony to his ability and his private and public worth. His 
selection was received with great satisfaction by the Whigs. 
Said the Register of November 27, 1840: "He is a states- 
man of high order, is a powerful debater, and combined with 
these qualifications has indefatigable application. His vir- 
tues and amiable qualities endear him to all who know him." 
The Democratic comment, however, was rather caustic, on 
his age, his lack of experience and his geographical situation. 

42 NoKTH Carolixa Historical Commission. 


It was the second session of the Twenty-sixth Congress 
that the new senators first attended. Mr. Mangiim wa» 
sworn in on December 9th, and Mr. Graham, December 10, 
1840.^ That Congi'ess was Democratic, both in the House 
and in the Senate. The Senate was composed, then, of the 
ablest men in pnblic life throughout the country. From 
Alabama there were AVilliam R. King and Clement C. Clay ; 
from Delaware, Thomas Clayton ; from New Jersey, Samuel 
L. Southard ; from Kentucky, Henry Clay and John J. 
Crittenden ; from Missouri, Thomas Benton ; from Georgia, 
Wilson Lumpkin ; from New York, Silas Wright and Na- 
thaniel P. Tallmadge ; from Massachusetts, Daniel Webster 
and John Davis ; from South Carolina, John C. Calhoun 
and William C. Preston ; from New Hampshire, Franklin 
Pierce ; from Vermont, Samuel Prentiss, and from Virginia, 
William H. Roane. ■ Martin Van Buren's term as president 
was expiring, and his last annual message was a defense of the 
policy of his administration.^ Especially did he congi*atu- 
late the country that in the midst of the very trying con- 
ditions which confronted it at the outstart, a panic and the 
stoppage of specie payments by the banks and the consequent 
loss of revenue from such a condition, complicated by large 
expenditures in the removal of the eastern Indians, appro- 
priations for which had already been made, every demand 
upon it at home or abroad, had been promptly met. "This 
has been done not only without creating a permanent debt, 
or resort to additional taxation in any form, but in the 
midst of a steadily progressing reduction of existing burdens 
upon the people, leaving still a considerable balance of avail- 
able funds which will remain in the treasury at the end 
of the year. * * * The policy of the Federal Government, 
in extinguishing as rapidly as possible the national debt, and 
subsequently in resisting every temptation to create a new 
one, deserves to be regarded in the same favorable light. 

1 Senate Journal, 1840-1, 22. 2 Senate Journal, 6, et seq. 

William A. Graham. 43 

Coming into office the declared enemy of both (a national 
debt and a national bank), I have earnestly endeavored to 
prevent a resort to either." Mr. Graham was placed on the 
Standing Committee on Revolutionary Claims at this ses- 
sion.^ From that committee, on January 13, 1841, he re- 
ported a bill to cause monuments to be erected in honor of 
Brigadier-Generals Francis Nash and William Davidson, 
favorably.^ He accompanied the bill with a special report 
which was ordered printed. It being his first attendance, 
and at a short session when the Democrats had a majority, he 
does not appear to have taken any part in the larger debates, 
contenting himself with a constant attendance, voting gen- 
erally with his party. 

The Senate of the Twenty-seventh Congress, at the call 
of the President, met in special session on March 4, 1841. 
Mr. Webster, having been nominated as Secretary of State 
by Mr-. Harrison, had resigned and was succeeded by Rufus 
Choate. Levi Woodbury, who had been Secretary of the 
Treasury under Van Buren, appeared as one of the senators 
from Verinont. John J. Crittenden, who had been appointed 
Attorney-General, was succeeded by James T. Morehead. 
John McPhersou Berrien appeared from Georgia, and Rich- 
ard H. Bayard from Delaware. The leaders of the Demo- 
crats were Thomas H. Benton, William R. King, James 
Buchanan, Silas Wright and Levi Woodbury ; of the Whigs, 
Henry Clay, Thomas Clayton, Samuel Prentiss, William C. 
Rives and Wiley P. Mangum. The AYhigs had a majority of 
seven. This, however, was merely an executive session to 
confirm the nominations of the new president, Harrison. 
The new cabinet was : Daniel Webster, Secretary of State ; 
Thomas Ewing, Secretary of the Treasury ; John Bell, Secre- 
tary of War ; George E. Badger, Secretary of the ISTavy ; 
John J. Crittenden, Attorney-General, and Caleb Grainger, 
Postmaster-General — a very able company of counselors. 
At Mr. Clav's sua:gestion. President Harrison called the 

1 Senate Journal, 23. = ggnate Journal, 101. 

44 IToRTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

Twenty-seventh CongTess to meet in extra session on May 
31, 1841. Unfortunately for the country and fatally for 
the Whig party, Mr. Harrison died, after a short illness, 
on April 4, 1841, and was succeeded by John Tyler, the 
Vice-President, a Democrat, misplaced in the Whig party, to 
the confusion and dismay of all who wished it well. The 
extra session began at the time appointed, the House being 
also Whig by nearly fifty majority. The progTam of the 
Whigs as announced by their leader, Mr. Clay, was:^ 

1. The repeal of the sub-treasury law. 

2. The incorporation of a bank ada])ted to the wants of 
the people. 

3. The provision of an adequate revenue (there was a 
deficit at the time, estimated, of $14,000,000), by the impo- 
sition of tariif duties, and a temporary loan. 

4. The passage of the necessary appropriations. 

5. The prospective distribution of the proceeds of public 
land sales. 

6. Some modification of the banking system of the Dis- 
trict of Columbia. 

Of the general legislation involved in this program, all 
was frustrated by the veto of President Tyler, except the 
repeal of the sub-treasury law and the temporary loan. 

The chairmen of the standing committees of the Senate 
were chosen by the ballot of the senators. Mr. Graham was 
elected chairman of the Committee on Claims,^ a very im- 
portant position for so new and so young a senator. He 
was also a member of the Committee on Revolutionary 
Claims,^ and was appointed a member of a select com- 
mittee on so much of the President's message as related to 
a uniform currency, and a suitable fiscal agent, by Mr. South- 
ard, president pro tem. of the Senate.* Remembering that 
one of the greatest evils of the times was the wholly inade- 
quate currency system, this was one of the most important 

> Senate Journal, 1841, 24. * Senate Journal, 18. ' Senate Journal, 20. «Senate 
Journal, 20. 

William A. Gkaham. 45 

committees of the Congress, and it was composed of very 
able senators, — Mr. Clay, chairman ; Mr. Choate, Mr. 
Wright, Mr. Berrien, Mr. King, Mr. Talhnadge, Mr. Bay- 
ard, Mr. Graham and Mr. Huntington. As above said, how- 
ever, all the measures of this committee were made futile by 
the veto of the President. 

At the second session of the Twenty-seventh Congress, 
Mr. Graham was continued as chairman of the Committee 
on Claims, but was transferred from the Committee on 
Revolutionary Claims to that on Pensions.^ He presided 
over the Senate as president pro tempore on February lY, 
1842." He was appointed second on the special Committee 
on Retrenchment, on February 28th.^ On March 31st* Mr. 
Clay retired from the Senate, and was succeeded by his 
friend and follower, John J. Crittenden, who, with all the 
rest of the original cabinet except Mr. Webster, had resigned 
the preceding September. ''I want rest," wrote Mr. Clay, 
'^aijd my private affairs want attention. jSTevertheless I would 
make any personal sacrifice, if by remaining here I could 
do any good ; but my belief is, I can effect nothing, and per- 
haps my absence may remove an obstacle to something being 
done by others." 

As I have said, the administration of Mr. Van Buren had 
left to the administration of Mr. Tyler an inheritance of 
debt, and the compromise tariff measure of 1833, working 
automatically, had reduced the revenues below the necessary 
expenses of the government. There was an annually increas- 
ing deficit. The special session of 1841 had authorized a 
temporary loan of $12,000,000, to tide over immediate 
embarrassments. Coupled with that measure was one re- 
quiring the distribution of the proceeds of the sale of public 
lands among the states, this distribution, however, to be sus- 
pended whenever the necessities of the treasury required an 
increase of the tariff duties above the twenty per cent fixed 
by the compromise of 1833. To raise the duties above this 

1 Senate Journal, 1841-2, 22. 2 Senate Journal, 173. 3 Senate Journal, 188. « Senate 
Journal, 262. 

46 XoETH Cakolina Historical Commission. 

twenty per cent level was absolutely necessary to secure an 
adequate revenue for the expenses of the government. Thus 
any further distribution of these funds among the states 
could not be made. Indeed such was the condition of the 
treasury, that Congress was compelled at the ensuing session 
to extend the loan of 1841 and add $5,000,000 thereto. The 
Democrats wished to devote the proceeds of the sale of the 
public lands to the gradual liquidation of this temporary 
loan. This the Whigs opposed, and, having a majority, de- 
feated. It was while the bill authorizing this loan was pend- 
ing that Mr. Graham made his first set speech, April 13, 
1842. He first shows that during the four years of the Van 
Buren administration, the expenses of the government ex- 
ceeded its revenue by $31,000,000 ; that this deficit was re- 
duced to $5,500,000, by the application of $26,000,000 of 
extraordinary funds, $17,000,000 of surplus at the begin- 
ning of the administration, $9,000,000 of which should have 
been the fourth installment of the deposit ■of land pro- 
ceeds with the states, and $9,000,000 were received from 
debts due the United States, principally for the sale of its 
stock in the late Bank of the United States ; that they not 
only diverted this capital to the payment of the ordinary 
expenses of the government, but they were compelled to 
borrow $5,500,000 more by the issue of treasury notes to 
meet their extravagant expenditures, and this legacy of debt 
they have left to the Tyler administration. ''To meet this 
deficiency, what have we ? Instead of surplus, we have debt. 
Instead of extraordinary means falling in, we have a daily 
increasing charge of interest. Instead of a tariff of forty 
per cent, we have one nearly approaching 20 per cent, and 
that upon little more than half the imports. What then is 
to be done? * * * Mr. President, our whole duty in 
this emergency seems to be comprehended in three propo- 
sitions : 

"1. Borrow such sum, upon the best terms we can obtain. 

William A. Graham. 47 

as will relieve our present necessities, and save the public 
honor from disgrace. 

"2. Reduce our expenses to the lowest point which is con- 
sistent with an efficient public service. 

"3. Levy such duties upon imports as are necessary for an 
economical administration of the government, and no more." 

The Democrats had suggested that the Tyler administra- 
tion could relieve itself of all its financial difficulties by de- 
manding the return of the $28,000,000 of land proceeds al- 
ready distributed among the states. Mr. Graham proceeds 
in a calm, courteous and well-reasoned argument to show- 
that such extraordinary funds were not to be devoted to the 
ordinary expenses of the government, according to the scheme 
of the Constitution itself, even if thev could surmount the 
impracticableness and injustice of the scheme of taking back 
from the states the money w^hich had been so recently de- 
posited with them. "I have said, Mr. President, that the 
authors of the Constitution did not rely upon the public 
lands as a means for the ordinary maintenance of govern- 
ment, and, in my humble opinion, to eifectuate their design 
to make this a government of limited powx^rs, confined to 
comparatively few objects, it ought to be restricted to those 
modes of supply pointed out in the Constitution. All history 
will verify the fact, that those nations have been most re- 
markable for purity and correctness of administration, for 
the strictest accountability of public agents, and have longest 
preserved their liberties, who have kept their ruling powers 
constantly dependent upon the contributions, direct or in- 
direct, annually levied upon the people. As a certain writer 
has remarked, 'They who would trample on their rights are 
restrained by the want of their money.' This general truth 
applies with tenfold force to a government like that of the 
United States, far distant from the great mass of the people 
whom it aifects, and so complicated in its structure and so 
diversified in its operations, that, to keep up a minute know!- 

48 North Carolina Historical CoMMissioi«r. 

edge of its details of administration, federal politics must 
be made, to a great extent, an exclusive profession. That 
period of our history, when peculation and embezzlement 
were most rife, when the responsibility of pul)lic officers was 
least rigid, when salaries were unregulated and the gains 
in many offices were almost what their holders desired, and 
when appropriations were most extravagant, was the period 
which I have reviewed in the first part of these remarks 
(Van Buren's administration), when revenue was not re- 
dundant but grossly deficient, but there were surpluses and 
extraordinary means in your coffers, which the administra- 
tion had nothing to do with, but to expand. Think you, 
sir, that in any other state of the treasury, a district attorney 
would have been allowed to receive emoluments gi'eater, by 
more than one-half, than the salary of the President of the 
United States— greater according to his own declaration 
when about to leave office, 'than any citizen of a free re- 
public ought to receive' ; that marshals, collectors of customs 
and postmasters, would have been permitted, like Roman 
proconsuls, to enrich themselves to immense fortunes out 
of the offices created for public benefit alone, and oftentimes, 
by like instances of official abuses — abuses to which no cor- 
rective was applied until the third of March, 1841, the very 
last day of the late administration, when a clause was in- 
serted in the appropriation bill — a kind of bequest to pious 
uses upon the deathbed repentance, spoken of by the sena- 
tor from South Carolina (Mr. Preston), restraining the com- 
pensation of these functionaries to $0,000 per annum, for 
the future." 

On May 31, 1842, Mr. Mangum was elected president 
pro tern, of the Senate in the place of Mr. Southard, of 
ISTew Jersey, who had resigned, thus making a vacancy on 
the Finance Committee.^ Mr. Graham was appointed to 
fill this vacancy.^ A question about which there was much 
discussion at this session was the redistricting of the country 

1 Senate Journal, 1841-2, 366. 2 Ibid, 377. 

William A. Graham. 49 

according to the census of 1840. The Democrats were in 
favor of leaving the matter of electing members of the House 
of Representatives by districts or by a general ticket to the 
legislatures of the various states. Mr. Graham v^as in favor 
of Congress determining this question for itself and of its re- 
quiring the legislatures to lay off contiguous districts con- 
taining a certain number (70,680) of voters, thus in effect 
prohibiting the election of representatives by general ticket. 
On June 3, 1842, he made a very able speech sustaining this 
view. He discusses it, first, from the standpoint of expedi- 
ency and, second, from the standpoint of its constitutionality. 
In concluding the latter branch of the discussion, he said: 
''But we are told we have no power to pass this law, because 
we can not enforce its execution by penal sanctions ; and an 
urgent appeal is made to us by the senator from Kew Hamp- 
shire (Mr. Woodbury) to know whether an armed force or 
a writ of mandamus is to be sent to the state legislatures to 
compel them to lay off the districts. ISTo, sir, neither. ]N^o 
one ever conceived the idea of compelling a free legislative 
assembly to do, or not to do, anything by physical force, 
or the precept of a court of justice. The crime of omission 
or commission in their constitutional duty, like that of 
parenticide among the Athenians, is provided with no legal 
sanction, but left to the oaths and consciences of men, to an 
accountability to public opinion, and to that constituency 
whose rights have been outraged or neglected. The preserv- 
ation of this government greatly depends on the faithful 
fulfillment of the duties imposed by the Constitution on the 
state legislatures. If a majority of them shall fail to elect 
senators (as one has done), if five or six of those in the 
largest states shall fail to make regulations for choosing 
electors of president and vice-president, in conformity to the 
laws of Congress, the IJuion would be as effectually dissolved 
as if we who are sent to the legislative halls of the capitol 
should obstinately refuse to attend in our places and pass 

50 XoKTH Cakolixa Histoeical Commission. 

the laws annually necessary for the support of the govern- 
ment. It is faith, honor, conscience, and not the hangman's 
whip, on which at last rest the blessings of this noblest human 
institution which has ever been devised for the security, the 
welfare and the happiness of man. The duties of the states, 
under our Constitution, are not to be determined by their 
liability to punishment, but by the covenants into which they 
entered by that instrument." 

At this session of Congress a tariff bill was passed.^ It 
represented fairly the Whig idea of a tariff, i. e. for revenue 
with incidental protection. The President had already stated 
his objection to a bilP that contained a provision continuing 
the distribution of the public land sales. Mr. Graham was 
with the Democrats in nearly all the reductions proposed 
by them during the consideration of the bill, and voted 
against it on its third and final reading. He was very 
earnestly in favor of continuing the distribution of the pro- 
ceeds of the sale of public lands, and this bill being a sur- 
render to the President on this subject, he could not vote for 
it without stultifying his o^vn record. Compared with the 
present it was an exceedingly moderate protection measure, 
not averaging more than thirty per cent. Moderate, however, 
as protection was at that period, he, being a southerner, was 
even more moderate. He said himself in his letter accept- 
ing the Whig nomination for governor, December 18, 1843: 
''I have no hesitation in saying, that whilst I think the govern- 
ment should collect the least amount of money, which may be 
necessary for an efficient public service, in laying duties to 
raise such sum, I would incidentally afford protection to 
American interests, w^hen they were deemed of sufficient im- 
portance to deserve it, as well as counteract the effects of 
restrictive regulations on our trade by foreign nations 
wherever it should appear expedient to do so. * * * I 
did not vote for the tariff now existing. Some of its duties 
were higher than I approved, but in the vacant condition of 

'Senate Journal, 1841, 251. 2 Ibid, 643. 

William A. Gkaham. 51 

the treasury, I would not have withheld from it my support 
had an amendment which I offered, proposing a distribution 
of the proceeds of the public lands among the states, been 
incorporated in the bill." 

At the third session of the Twenty-seventh Congress, 
1842-3, he was again Chairman of the Committee on Claims, 
second on the Committee on Finance, and second on the 
Special Committee on Retrenchment. 

When it is remembered that Mr, Graham w^as only thirty- 
eight years and five months old when his term as United 
States Senator expired in March, 1843, and consider the 
influential position he had taken in that august body, we 
need no stronger evidence of his ability, his faithfulness 
and his industry. The functions of the chairman of the 
Committee on Claims, at that time when there was no court 
of claims, were very much like that of a chancellor presid- 
ing over a court of equity. Many important matters were 
presented to that committee while Mr. Graham was chair- 
man, matters which involved the reading and digesting of a 
great mass" of written evidence, the application of the prin- 
ciples of law and of justice to the case under consideration, 
and finally the rendering of the written opinion in such form 
as to carry conviction to the minds of the great lawyers and 
eminent statesmen, who constituted the body to which the 
report was made. ISTone of his reports was perfunctory, and 
some of them show such industrious mastery of detail, such 
capacity for sifting out the strong from the weak, the true 
from the false, from a great mass of conflicting, or obscure, 
or false testimony, such clearness in statement of conclu- 
sions of fact and enunciation of legal and constitutional 
principles applicable to them, that we are convinced he would 
have made a great chancellor as well as a great senator, if 
fair opportunity had presented itself.^ 

The Legislature elected in North Carolina, in 1842, was 
largely Democratic in both branches. Mr. Romulus M. 

1 See his Report, Harris-Farrow Claim, 3 Senate Doc, 27th Con., 3d Session, No. 157. 

52 KoRTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

Saunders and Mr. Bedford Brown, both Democrats, were 
candidates to succeed Mr. Graham, and divided the votes of 
that party between them, while the Whigs voted to a man 
for Mr. Graham. On December 20, 1842, Mr. Graham's 
name was withdrawn from the ballotting, and the next day 
Mr. William H. Haywood, Jr., was elected senator. Says 
the Raleigh Register of December 23, 1842 : "The elevation 
of this gentleman over the head of all of the leaders of the 
genuine Democracy is a strong exhibition of political leger- 
demain, in which, however, we believe he, himself, had no 
hand. (As a matter of fact he was not in Raleigh at the 
time.) * * * At the beginning of the session, Judge 
Saunders was taken up as a representative of the Calhoun 
wing of the party, while the Hon. Bedford Brown, being 
the beau ideal of pure locofocoism, was the nucleus about 
which the elements of Van Burenism rallied. It was in vain 
that caucus after caucus was held. The friends of Saunders, 
regarding his success as a matter of vital importance to Mr. 
Calhoun, would not give way, though in a minority. On the 
other hand, many of Brown's friends at an early period de- 
clared that they would prefer Mr. Graham to Judge Saunders, 
and some of them affirmed that in no event could they be 
brought to the support of any man tainted with nullification." 
After Mr. Graham's withdrawal on the 19th, the Whigs 
had no candidate, but voted, some for Saunders, and others, 
scattering. When the Democrats, however, centered upon 
Mr. Haywood, they again voted as a body for him, the final 
ballot standing Haywood ninety-five and Graham sixty-nine, 
with two scattering. 


At the end of his term of service in the United States 
Senate, Mr. Graham returned to the practice of the law at 
Hillsboro. But the people of jSTorth Carolina were not ml- 
ling that he should remain long out of their service. 

The Whigs throughout the State, while they were intensely 

William A. Graham. 53 

indiguaiit at what they regarded as Mr. Tyler's treason to 
their party, were not discouraged by it. They turned as 
one man to Mr. Clay, as their candidate for the presi- 
dency in 1844, and to Mr. Graham as their candidate for 
governor. The Whig State Convention was held in Raleigh 
December 7, 1843, and Mr. Graham was unanimously and 
with great enthusiasm chosen as its candidate for governor. 
It was with some sacrifice of his financial interests that he 
accepted this nomination. He said in his letter of accept- 
ance, December 18, 1843: "But, however gratifying to an 
honorable pride, your communication awakens feelings also 
of a different character. It breaks in upon my plans of 
life, my professional and agricultural pursuits, and demands 
a sacrifice of interests which can not well be spared from my 
family. I had therefore most earnestly and anxiously hoped 
that the choice of the convention would have fallen on some 
one of those able and virtuous citizens, whose names have 
been connected with this subject and whose disinterestedness 
and zeal in the Whig cause, is only equaled by their devotion 
to its principles. Nevertheless, with my conceptions of duty 
(however much I had wished it otherwise) I have no alter- 
native but to accept the nomination. Without stronger rea- 
sons than any I have to urge, I could not hold any other per- 
son justified in refusing a call from such a source, to lend 
his name and his efforts to the support of principles, which, 
I verily believe, lie at the foundation of the enduring pros- 
perity and happiness of the country."^ 

Mr. Graham's opponent was a personal friend and fellow 
county-man, Michael Hoke, of Lincoln. Mr. Hoke was 
young (only thirty-four years of age), ardent and able. He 
was considered the most promising of the younger Democrats 
of the State, had great personal magnetism, was a fine de- 
bater and universally popular. He was a man of irreproach- 
able character and had a great deal of humor, but it was a 

1 Note. — He was urged very strongly by Senator Mangum and Mr. James W. Osborne 
not to accept this nomination, that his proper place was in the U. S. Senate, and this 
would prevent his being considered for that place. 

54 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

kindly, genial humor that left little sting behind it. His 
death, on September 9, 1844, from a fever contracted in the 
eastern part of the State during this campaign, was a gTeat 
loss to the State, and it was deplored scarcely less by his 
political opponents than by his party associates. The cam- 
paign was arduous, the candidates occasionally meeting in 
joint discussion. Graham, more learned, more experienced, 
calmer, more dignified and impressive ; Hoke, more nimble, 
quicker, brighter and more entertaining. The Graham-Hoke 
campaign was long spoken of in the State in very much the 
same terms that we speak of the Vance-Settle campaign of 
1876, as one of the most remarkable in the history of the 
State. Mr. Graham was elected by 3,153 majority. 

Here is a contemporary estimate of Mr. Graham which I 
give. It is that of a political follower, but allowing some- 
thing for natural partiality and exaggeration, its essential 
features present him very near as he was: '^Governor Gra- 
ham dignifies and adorns everything he touches. Such grace, 
such elegance, such ease, such candor and so much placid 
eloquence, were never seen before concentrated in one man. 
He can not fail to acquire the attention of his audience, and 
when acquired, he keeps it chained with a magic spell. We 
have seen speakers who seemed as if they snatched the very 
lightnings and thunders of heaven to assist them in over- 
powering the senses and arousing the passions of their 
hearers ; we have seen those who appeared to make the very 
walls laugh with ancedote and the air boisterous with mirth ; 
we have seen those whose plain, matter-of-fact statements fell 
with convincing force upon the judgTiient, but in so cold and 
formal a manner that, although we were compelled to ac- 
knowledge the force of the argument and the solidity of the 
facts, we could not forget the repulsive manner of the 
speaker ; but never have we seen so due a degree of the excel- 
lences of a public speaker united in one man as in Governor 
Graham. He is possessed of a lofty dignity without haughti- 
ness, ease without affectation, talent without vanitv, and 

William A. GKAHA:\r. ■ 55 

principles which have the respect of even those who enter- 
tain others." Of course the tone of this is exaggerated, but 
after all it is simply truth somewhat colored. Governor 
Graham had a very fine and noble presence. He was at this 
time the handsomest man in public life in North Carolina. 
The tones of his voice were mellow and harmonious, and, 
though not strong, well modulated. His action was free, 
easy and graceful, on occasion warming into energy. His 
matter was carefully arranged so as to give his argument 
the effect of cumulation. He was fair in statement, and 
perfectly honest and sincere in the positions he took. His 
public addresses, though always orderly arranged, are never 
closely reasoned. He knew the danger of the logical short 
cut in dealing with public questions. Its beauty and force 
could be appreciated only by the initiated, and such were 
not his fellow-citizens whom he was addressing. He very 
seldom dealt in sophistry. Indeed so practical a mind as his 
could rarely do so. In short the matter of his public speeches 
was interesting and instructive, while his manner was always 

On January 1, 1845, he was installed as governor, the 
oaths of office being administered by the Chief Justice, 
Ruffin, in the Commons Hall, in the presence of both houses. 
He then delivered his inaugural address. After a merely 
cursory glance at the relations of the State to the Federal 
Government, in which he condemned the practice of devoting 
so much of our public discussions to Federal topics, he con- 
fines himself to the problems which were to confront him in 
his coming administration. ''That these important concerns 
of the nation should be objects of constant observation and 
active vigilance is to be expected and desired; but that they 
should be so to the exclusion of those immediate interests 
which come to our homes and our firesides, and which are 
wisely retained under state jurisdiction, is a misfortune to 
be deprecated. If we glory in the name of American citizens, 
it should be with feelings akin to filial afi^cction and ffrati- 

56 ISToKTH Carolina Histokical Commission. 

tude, that we remember we are North Carolinians ; and that 
the preservation and prosperity of our system and its ability 
to secure the permanent and habitual attachment of the 
people, depend quite as much, nay much more, upon an en- 
lightened policy and a correct administration in the state 
governments than in that of the union. * - * ]^orth 
Carolina, possessing a soil, upon the average not above the 
medium grade of fertility, but yielding fruitful returns to 
patient toil in our generally salubrious climate ; excluded by 
the nature of our sea coast from any enlarged share in the 
commerce of the world, her people have been inured to self- 
reliance, industry and economy. The natural fruits of this 
situation have been personal independence, unostentatious 
self-respect, habits in general of morality, obedience to the 
law, fidelity to engagements, public and private, frugality 
in expenditures and loyalty to the government, the offspring 
of the simple manners and honest and manly character of its 
citizens." He then proceeds to show the necessity for con- 
tinued efforts to provide an adequate common school system, 
and the means for creating an adequate market for the pro- 
ducts of the people: ''If we can not, without too great a 
loss of profits, send our staples to existing markets, we must 
endeavor to bring a market nearer to them, by inducing 
capital to come to the State, by utilizing local capital in the 
establishment of various industries for which the State could 
provide so much raw material, by the building of more rail- 
roads and better local highways. Our country must be made 
to hold out the hope and expectation of acquiring the means 
of comfortable livelihood and a reasonable accumulation, or 
its population can not be expected to remain, nor its resources 
to increase. While labor is the true foundation of national 
wealth, it may be, much aided in its efforts by the kind and 
upholding hand of government." He concludes thus: "In 
our past history we have gained a high character for the 
virtues of honesty and fidelity. Thus far our escutcheon 
is unstained, the public faith has been kept, the public honor 

William A. Gkaham. 57 

is inviolate. And whatever tests may await us in the future, 
let us fervently unite our invocations to that good Providence. 
who has so signally upheld and preserved us heretofore, that 
our beloved North Carolina may still be permitted to walk 
in her integrity, the object of our loyalty and pride, as she 
is the home of our hearts and affections." 

The Register of January 8, 1845, commented on this ad- 
dress as follows: "We have never seen a larger or more 
intelligent assemblage on a similar occasion in our State ; 
and we can say without disparagement to others that the ad- 
dress of Governor Graham on the occasion was decidedly the 
best inaugural we have ever heard, or have ever seen from 
any of the state executives of the union. It speaks the words 
of truth and soberness to our sister states and counsels our 
own in a language of the soundest wisdom." 

One of the iirst problems with which Governor Graham 
had to deal was the foreclosure of the State's mortgage on the 
Raleigh & Gaston Railroad. The building of railroads was, 
of course, a new thing in ITorth Carolina. The lack of ex- 
perience in such work, as usual, wrought its own penalty. 
It cost more than it should, and was operated badly — ex- 
pensively and inefficiently. The State had made itself liable 
as surety on $787,000 of its bonds. The company had failed 
to pay even the annual interest on these bonds, and the 
State was forced to pay both interest and a part of the prin- 
cipal. Legal proceedings were instituted for the foreclosure 
of all the mortgages on all of the property of that company 
at the Spring term, 1845, of the Wake County Court of 
Equity. But owing to the resistance made by the company, 
and the decision of the Superior Court in their favor, an 
appeal was rendered necessary to the Supreme Court, and 
the decree of foreclosure was postponed to the fall term of 
that year. The cost of the road was $1,500,000, and it 
brought at the foreclosure sale, on the bid of the State, 
through Governor Graham, $363,000. 

The Le2,"islature of 1844-5, also, made it the dutv of the 

58 NoETH Carolina Histosical Co:mmission'. 

Governor to collect the memorials of the Revolutionary his- 
tory of the State. In pursuance of this, Governor Graham 
wrote to Judge Francis Xavier Martin, of Louisiana, on 
February 8, 1845: "Presuming that your researches when 
engaged in writing the history of the State put you in pos- 
session of many of the letters of these early governors (Cas- 
well, Nash and Burke), as well as other documents of great 
interest to our people, I have to request as a special favor 
to I^orth Carolina that you will be kind enough to communi- 
cate to me any of our public documents of the description 
desired, which may be under your control ; or that you will 
inform me as early as your convenience will permit, where 
copies of them may be procured." But Judge Martin, as he 
wrote Governor Graham on March 29, 1845, had collected 
no material so late as the administrations of early governors. 
He corresponded also with Miss Mary Burke, the only sur- 
viving child of Governor Burke, and it was by her consent 
that the Burke papers, then in the possession of Dr. James 
Webb, of Hillsboro, were turned over to Governor Swain. 
On March 5, 1845, he issued a circular letter to the people 
of the State, reciting the resolution of the Legislature and 
giving in detail the public documents already discovered in 
the capitol and describing those missing and desired, and 
requesting them to cooperate with him in the preservation of 
the memorials of the Revolutionary period. The early part 
of his first administration, too, was much occupied with the 
preliminaries to the establishment of a school in Raleigh for 
the deaf, dumb and blind. 

He met his first Legislature in I^ovember, 184G, with an 
elaborate and very able message, dealing largely with the 
finances of the State. The average expenditure for the ordi- 
nary support of the government at that time was $67,500 
per annum. At the same time the income from ordinary 
sources of revenue averaged $83,000, the excess of which, 
over and above ordinary expenses, was devoted to the account 
of rebuildino" the capitol. interest on the State's debt until 

William A. Graham, 59 

it was liquidated in full and to liabilities of the railroad 
companies. After showing that the income could be largely 
increased by an adequate assessment of the lands and polls 
in the State (there had been no reassessment of lands in ten 
years), he proceeds: '^l^o valuation can continue to be a 
just criterion of worth for any considerable period, and a 
reassessment should be provided for once at least in five 
years, if it be not annually. By adopting these measures of 
fairness and justice, to collect what is now imposed without 
increase of taxes, it may reasonably be expected that the 
public revenue from present sources, now equal to about 
$86,000, may be raised to $100,000 per annum." He then 
recommends a specific tax upon pleasure carriages, gold 
watches kept for use and other articles of luxury, to go into 
operation at once, and to continue in force until the ex- 
piration of the next session of the General Assembly. ''In 
advising therefore but a temporary provision for extra tax- 
ation, I am influenced by the consideration, that possibly 
it may not longer be required, rather than a fear of any 
aversion of our constituents to contribute whatever may be 
needed to redeem the public obligations, however incautiously 
or unfortunately entered into. The odious doctrine that a 
State may refuse or postpone the fulfillment of contracts 
guaranteed by her public faith and sovereign honor, has no 
resting place in all our borders, and I am yet to hear of a 
single exception to the unanimity of our people upon this 

There were at the time many railroad schemes. Among 
others were two proposed railroads into South Carolina, one 
from Wilmington, which was by this Legislature incorpo- 
rated as the Wilmington and Manchester, and one from 
Fayetteville. Governor Graham, while not opposing these 
projects, was very much in favor of a railroad from Fay- 
etteville to Salisbury or Charlotte, and thence into South 
Carolina. And the Legislature did grant a charter to the 
Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad. 

60 IJ^ORTH Carolina Histokical Commission. 

At that time our common school system was in its infancy, 
only $95,578 being distributed by the State for its support. 
Governor Graham recommended that the office of Commis- 
sioner of Common Schools be created, and that it be filled 
by one charged with the superintendence of the system 
throughout the State, and devoting his whole time and at- 
tention in imparting to it vigor and usefulness. ''The sub- 
ject is of sufficient weight, especially in the infantile stage 
of these institutions, to engage the best talents and most 
exalted patriotism of the country." 

In May, 1840, the President, Polk, called for one regi- 
ment of volunteer infantry, to be enrolled and held in readi- 
ness to aid in the prosecution of the existing war with the 
Republic of Mexico. Governor Graham, in response, issued 
his proclamation, and with a most commendable prompti- 
tude, said he, more than three times the number required 
tendered thieir service. Capt. S. L. Fremont, the army of- 
ficer appointed by the Federal Government to muster this 
regiment into service, wrote, after he had performed this 
service and was leaving the State: "Public men may differ 
about the justice of the war, but the good people of the Old 
ISTorth State have shown that in a foreign war, they know 
no party but their country, and no country but their own." 
Governor Graham's attitude toward the Mexican War was 
that held by most of the leading Whigs of the period, i. e. 
it was unnecessary, if not criminal, and was brought on not 
by the annexation of Texas, but by President Polk's pre- 
cipitancy in sending General Taylor to take possession of the 
territory in dispute between the State of Texas and the 
Republic of Mexico. War being flagrant, however, every- 
thing must be done to make the arms of the United States 

To some degree Mr. Graham's first term as governor was 
devoted to carrying out the plans of the previous adminis- 
tration (Morehead's) or that had been inaugurated by the 
General Assembly of 1844-5, such as, for instance, saving 

William A. Geaham. 61 

the State harmless from the bankruptcy of the Raleigh and 
Gaston Railroad and the Clubfoot and Harlows Creek Canal, 
and directing the settlement of the accounts between the 
State and insolvent purchasers of the Cherokee lauds and 
their bondsmen. In all these matters he demonstrated his 
very superior ability as an administrator. Especially was 
this the case in his management of the Raleigh and Gaston 
Railroad. Had it not been for a fire in February, 1848, by 
which the machine shops and engine house were destroyed 
and its stationary engine and four locomotives were seriously 
damaged, it would in the course of a few years have been 
made a profitable investment. There had been occasional 
discussions of amendment to our penal code which would 
moderate in harshness and provide a penitentiary for a cer- 
tain class of offenders from 1791 on, notably so in 1817 and 
in 1822, but nothing definite had been done until the Gen- 
eral Assembly of 1841-5. The governor was directed to 
secure statistics from states in which the penitentiary system 
then prevailed and submit the same to the people before an 
election to be held under the Act. Governor Graham, 
through an extensive correspondence, did collect the data 
desired and published the same in the newspapers of the 
State in the early summer of 1846. Under the act, the 
question of a penitentiary or no penitentiary was submitted 
to the joeople at the time of the election for goveruor in 
August of that year. The election seems to have gone by 
default against any change, the vote for it being very small. 
So satisfactory to his own party and to the people of the 
State was his first term as governor, that in January, 1846, 
Governor Graham w^as nominated for a second, by a largely 
attended and very enthusiastic Whig convention, and the 
following August was reelected by a great majority (7,850), 
over his Democratic opponent, James B. Shepard. Mr. 
Shepard was a man of fine ability and w^as a good speaker, 
but he had inherited wealth, so was disinclined to the drudg- 
ery of politics and of the bar. His candidacy and canvass 

62 NoETH Carolina Historical Commission. 

against so popular and efficient a governor as Mr. Graham 
was, of course, a forlorn hope. Mr. Graham, had, by this 
time, become unquestionably the leader of the Whig party 
in the State. He practically dictated the policy of that 
party. I do not use the term dictate in an offensive sense, 
for he was too courteous a gentleman and too wise a public 
man ever to assume a dictatorial manner. His knowledge 
of the people was so extensive and so accurate, that his party 
associates had the utmost confidence in the soundness of his 
judgment in all matters of policy, and so almost invariably 
adopted his views after a conference, or if on rare occasions 
they overruled him, had cause to regret it, as subsequent 
events showed their wisdom. As a party leader, it is quite 
probable that he was never excelled by any man in the his- 
tory of the State. 

In the General Assembly of 1848-9, the two parties were 
tied in both House and Senate, so a compromise was made 
by which R. B. Gilliam, Whig, was elected Speaker of the 
House and Calvin Graves, Democrat, was elected Speaker of 
the Senate. The principal subjects for consideration by this 
Legislature were the establishment of a State Hospital for 
the Insane at Raleigh, the disposition of the Raleigh and 
Gaston Railroad and the charter of the I^orth Carolina Rail- 
road. Governor Graham gives his views at large on all these 
topics in his last biennial message. He concludes his recom- 
mendation of a State Hospital as follows "A distinguished 
person of the gentler sex,^ who has devoted much of her life 
to the pious duty of pleading the cause of the lunatic before 
States and communities, has recently traversed a considerable 
part of this State in search of information respecting these 
unfortunates among us, and will probably ask leave to pre- 
sent their cause to you at an early day. I can not too ear- 
nestly commend the cause itself, or the disinterested benevo- 
lence of its advocate." 

There is no more dramatic incident in the history of the 
State than Miss Dix's appeal to this Legislature, Mr, Dob- 

1 Dorothea L. Dix. 

William A. Gkaha.m. 63 

bins's great speech, and the passage of the act on January 
29th, 1849, but it is without the scope of this paper. 

Governor Graham's views in regard to the disposition of 
the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad were so interwoven with 
those on the charter of the North Carolina Railroad, that I 
discuss them together. He said in his message that there 
were only three modes of disposing of the former road: 1st, 
a resale to existing stockholders by compromise of the suits 
now pending, if suitable terms be offered ; 2d, retain it as a 
permanent property of the State after repairing it in the best 
manner ; and, 3d, to unite it with another work through the 
interior of the State. The last was the plan which he 
urged very forcibly upon the Legislature in his regular mes- 
sage and in two special messages sent to the Senate. His 
idea was to fill in the missing link between Raleigh and 
Columbia, S. C, in the great chain of railways from I^ew 
York to N'ew Orleans by incorporating and building a rail- 
road to be called the I^orth Carolina Railroad, from Raleigh 
to Salisbury, and thence on to Charlotte, where it would con- 
nect with 'the Charlotte and Columbia road, already char- 
tered and then being built. The details of his plan may be 
summarized thus : Private individuals to subscribe $500,000. 
As soon as the Board of Internal Improvements should be 
satisfied that these subscriptions were in good faith and sol- 
vent, the suits then pending against delinquent subscribers 
to the stock of the Raleigh and Gaston road should abate, the 
new corporation was to be formed and the State to convey that 
road to it. He estimated that the cost of the new road would 
be not more than $2,500,000, and of this the State was to 
assume half, but the conveyance of the Raleigh and Gaston 
road was to be in lieu of $500,000 of the State's subscrip- 
tion. The $500,000, subscribed privately as above said, were 
to be used first in putting the Raleigh and Gaston road in 
thorough repair and good condition, and the balance was to 
be expended in building the new road toward Salisbury from 
Raleigh. He estimated that there would be about forty miles 

64 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

thus completed. After so much of the work should be done, 
then the State was to advance such further sum as might be 
necessary to complete the road, the amount paid by the State, 
however, to be always in equal proportion to those paid by 
private stockholders. His scheme also comprehended the 
building later a railroad from Raleigh to Goldsboro and 
one from some point east of the Yadkin to Fayetteville, and 
still later one from Goldsboro to Beaufort. As is well known 
this scheme was not adopted in its entirety. As a matter of 
fact, it was only through many concessions and compromises 
in the face of very determined opposition that the North 
Carolina Railroad was chartered. The Democratic speaker 
of the Senate, Calvin Graves, fully aware of the conse- 
quences of his act, committed political suicide when he broke 
the tie in the Senate in favor of the railroad. Governor 
Graham supported this measure sincerely, though it was 
some modification of his own. He is said to have drawn the 
whole bill, which was introduced in the Senate by Mr. Wil- 
liam S. Ashe, of New Hanover, and was certainly the author 
of section 45 to the end of the act. (Laws 1849-9, chapter 
82.) If any one could be said to have been the father of the 
North Carolina Railroad, where there were so many taking 
an active and efficient part in its inception, certainly it was 
Governor Graham. Ground was broken for the new railroad 
by Calvin Graves in the presence of a large crowd at Greens- 
boro, on July 11th, 1851. Governor Graham was then in 
Washington City, as Secretary of the Navy, so could not 
attend this meeting, but he wrote a letter, which was read to 
the assembly and from which I extract the following: "To 
the friends of this enterprise, with whom I have been proud 
to cooperate in the darkest hours of its fate, as well as to all 
the good citizens of the State, who shall participate in the 
celebration of its happy commencement, I offer my hearty 
congratulations and good wishes. * * * I look forward to 
the day of its final completion, as a time of deliverance not 
merely from the shackles of commercial bondage, but from 

William A. Graham, 65 

the domiuioii of prejudice and error, which, however hon- 
estly entertained, have been the bane of our prosperity." 

There were three measures that he repeatedly urged upon 
both of his Legislatures, but in vain : 1st, the appointment 
of a state commissioner of education ; 2d, the abolition of 
the jurisdiction of county courts over pleas ; and, 3d, a more 
modern and more efficient system for the maintenance of 
public roads. 

This summary of the leading events and measures of Gov- 
ernor Graham's two administrations shows how wise and 
practical he was in dealing with the affairs of the State. 
Adopting a phrase of his own, ''he devoted himself to those 
noble studies, by which States are made prosperous and their 
people happy," and the knowledge thus acquired he applied 
wisely to the service of his native State. His messages, 
addresses and other state papers were systematically ar- 
ranged, businesslike and practical, indicating hard, intelli- 
gent, apprehending and appreciative labor. Their style was 
pellucid, flowing and attractive, yet dignified and impressive 
In the weight of their matter, in the orderliness of its 
arrangement and in the attractiveness of their vehicle, they 
compare well with the state papers of any man at any period. 


At the end of his last term as Governor, in January, 1849, 
Mr. Graham returned to the practice of his profession at 
Hillsboro and in the adjoining counties. 

General Taylor was inaugurated as President in March of 
that year. The end of the Mexican War, with the cession of 
a vast territory to the United States, presented many serious 
problems to the Taylor administration. That, however, 
which assumed an exceedingly threatening aspect and ab- 
sorbed most painfully the attention of the whole country, was 
what was and should l>e the legal and constitutional status 
of slavery in the newly acquired territory. The i^orth, 
speaking generally, was determined that there should be no 

66 j^oRTH Carolij^a Historical Commission. 

extension of slave territory, while the South, standing npon 
its clear rights under the Constitution, was equally deter- 
mined that the new territory should be open to settlement by 
slaveholders if they so desired, without any interference 
with their slave property. iNTever in the history of this 
country has there appeared in the Senate of the United 
States so splendid an array of talent, of statesmanship and 
ardent patriotism as in the Senate of the Thirty-first Congress 
at its first session, yet never was there so plain an illustration 
of the futility of all the wisdom of the wisest of men when set 
in opposition to that march of events, which is controlled only 
by the infinite wisdom of Providence. These wise men could 
bring about a compromise which could postpone for a 
moment the final catastrophe, — that is all. 

Mr. Graham was a very much interested and sympathetic 
observer of all the events which led up to Mr. Clay's famous 
compromise, and was in frequent communication with the 
senators from I^orth Carolina, Messrs. Badger and Mangmm. 
He, himself, supported that measure without reserve. In 
the summer of 1849, President Taylor offered him his choice 
of the missions to Russia and to Spain. Fortunately for his 
State and country, he had no inclination to a foreign appoint- 
ment. On July 4th, 1850, the President was much exposed 
to a hot sun, and contracted a fever from which he died on 
the 9th. The Vice-President, Millard Fillmore, qualified 
the next day as President. It has been the habit to speak 
of Mr. Fillmore as a man of only moderate ability, domi- 
nated and controlled by his very able and experienced cabi- 
net. The truth is, he had already as chairman of the Ways 
and Means (then also Appropriations) Committee of the 
Twenty-seventh CongTess, shown his unusual ability as a 
practical, conservative, laborious legislator. Without being at 
all brilliant, he had in full measure the capacity for labor, for 
calm, sane, unimpassioned investigation, and for firm, con- 
sistent action, when once his course of action had been deter- 
mined upon. He was a man of high character and indubi- 

William A. Graham. 6Y 

table patriotism. Had not the majority of both Houses of 
Congress been adverse to him during the less than three years 
of his administration, that administration would have been 
noted for its constructive statesmanship. Many useful and 
salutary measures advocated by him were disregarded by 
CongTess, but his administration has to its credit cheap post- 
age, the extension of the Capitol, the Perry Expedition, the 
exploration of the Amazon and, to some extent, (he and his 
advisers being in sympathy with it, whereas General Taylor 
was lukewarm, if not opposed to it), the compromise of 1850. 

Soon after General Taylor's death his cabinet resigned. 
Mr. Fillmore selected as their successors : Daniel Webster, 
Secretary of State ; Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treas- 
ury; Charles M. Conrad, Secretary of War; William A. 
Graham, Secretary of the iJ^avy ; James A. Pearce, Secretary 
of the Interior ; i^Tathan K. Hall, Postmaster-General, and 
John J. Crittenden, Attorney-General. 

To this important office, Mr, Graham, though compara- 
tively a young man, only 46 years of age, came in the full 
maturity of his powers. His diligence in mastering detail, 
his capacity for labor, his accessibility and courtesy to com- 
petent advisers and his sound and well-balanced judgment, 
soon made him an exceptionally efficient secretary. The 
measures with which he was especially identified were four : 

1st. Reorganization of the coast survey, making it more 
practical and useful. 

2d. Reorganization of the personnel of the navy, providing 
for the retirement of officers, etc. 

3d. The exploration of the Amazon. 

4th. The expedition to Japan. 

On the first of these measures Mr. Benton commented as 
follows in a letter to him, dated Pebruary 19th, 1851: "T 
have just read a second time your report on the coast survey 
subject. I consider it one of the most perfect reports I ever 
read — a model of a business report, and one which should 
carry conviction to every candid, inquiring mind. I deem 

68 !N^OKTH Cakolina Historical Commission. 

it one of the largest reforms, both in an economical and 
administrative point of view, which the state of our affairs 
admits of."^ 

A gentleman, still living and who has a very accurate 
memory, reports a conversation had with Com. M. F. Maury 
long after this period, in which he spoke in the highest terms 
of Secretary Graham's efficiency, and his own sense of grati- 
tude to him for giving him opportunities to set out on his 
own distinguished career. 

On the second of these measures, Mr. McGehee, (Memorial 
Oration, pages 25-6) quotes a letter of another distinguished 
senator : "You had a new field opened to you, and well and 
ably have you occupied every portion of it. The report is 
to be properly characterized by a bold originality of con- 
ception and a fearlessness of responsibility too rare in that 
class of state papers. You have had to grapple with a sys- 
tem built up by a series of abuses, and to use the knife — that 
fearful and unpopular instrument — somewhat unsparingly. 
If I do not greatly err, it will give you more reputation in 
the country than anything you have heretofore produced 
before the public." The third great measure of his secre- 
taryship was the exploration of the valley of the Amazon by 
Lieutenants Herndon and Gibbon. This was suggested by 
Lieut. M. F. Maury. Seeing the importance of this venture, 
both as adding to the world's knowledge of that remote and 
little kno^vn country, as well as the possibilities for trade 
with its inhabitants, Secretary Graham readily adopted the 
suggestion. His letter of instruction to Lieutenant Hern- 
don, February 15th, 1851, is characterized by that famil- 
iarity with the details of the project and that clearness as 
well as largeness of view which are found in all his impor- 
tant papers. 

Of all the great measures with which he was identified as 
cabinet official, that which was most fruitful in results was 
the Perry Expedition to Japan. There had been many dis- 

J McGehee, 26. 

William A. Graham. 69 

asters among the fishing vessels of the United States on the 
uncharted, or insufficiently charted, seas of the northeast 
coast of Asia. A fishing vessel had been cast away on the 
coast of Formosa, and all its survivors had been massacred. 
Another vessel had been wrecked off the coast of Japan, and 
the fifteen survivors had been cast into prison and treated 
with great cruelty. The settlement of the Oregon boundary 
dispute, the cession of California by Mexico, the discovery 
of gold there and the completion of the Panama Railroad, 
had aroused the people of the United States to the promising 
aspect of trade on the Pacific coast and to the far East. 
Japan was at that period one of the hermit nations of the 
world. As early as December, 1850, Commodore Perry 
suggested to Secretary Graham the project of an expedition 
to Japan. Mr. Graham, at once impressed with the hope- 
fulness of the scheme and its far-reaching consequences if 
successful, encouraged the commodore to confer confiden- 
tially with Mr. Aspinwall, of iTew York, who had experience 
in trade to the East and had recently completed the Panama 
Railroad, and certain mariners in Boston, and collect such 
facts and statistics as might throw light upon the subject, 
and report to him. At this time the discussion was kept 
from the public, because it was feared that England or 
Erance might forestall this country, if information of these 
proposals should reach either of those powers. Mr. Graham, 
upon receipt of the information desired, seems to have laid 
the matter before the cabinet, but without their coming to 
any definite conclusion at that time. Soon after it was the 
fortune of an American vessel to rescue a number of Jap- 
anese in the Pacific about six hundred miles from Japan, and 
to bring them into the port of San Erancisco. The admin- 
istration, upon hearing of this, quickly realized its import- 
ance as giving an opportunity to establish friendly relations 
with Japan. Preparations were immediately made to return 
these Japanese to their home on a man-of-war, which, leaving 
San Erancisco, was to join the Eastern Squadron at Macao 

70 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

or Hong Kong. Meantime Com. John H. Aulick was dis- 
patched, with additional vessels, to take command of the 
Eastern Squadron, bearing with him from President Fill- 
more a letter to the Emperor of Japan. The instructions to 
Aulick, May 31st, 1851, drawn by Secretary Graham, do 
not on their face contemplate a special mission to Japan. 
When the shipwrecked Japanese reached their home escorted 
by the American war vessels, the natives refused to permit 
them to land, or to supply the American vessels with food or 
water. Early in the year 1852, no doubt under the urging 
of Commodore Perry and Mr. Graham, the plans of the 
administration underwent a change. It was then deter- 
mined that Perry should be given the command of the East- 
ern Squadron and that he should go with very considerable 
reenforcement of vessels upon a special mission to Japan. 
He was commissioned on March 21th, 1852, preparations 
were begam immediately to fit out his squadron, and he 
sailed on ISTovember 24th, 1852, Aulick having in the mean- 
time, July 10th, been relieved of the command of the East- 
ern Squadron. The results of this expedition are before the 
world. There can be no doubt that Governor Graham was 
the prime mover, in the cabinet, of this epoch-making 

His services as Secretary of the Xavy showed the country 
that lie was a fine administrator as well as an able statesman, 
as much master of detail, as he was capable of taking whole 
views of great public questions. The Whig l^ational Con- 
vention met in June, 1852. President Fillmore, who was 
supported very earnestly by Mr. Graham and who, accord- 
ing to all the rules of the game, should have been nominated, 
led on the first ballot, but Mr. Clay, who was still all- 
powerful, threw his influence to General Scott, and nomi- 
nated him. Mr. Graham was nominated for the Vice- 
Presidency on the second ballot, receiving 232 votes against 
52 for Bates, of Missouri. 

ISTever was a weaker nomination made for an exalted office 

William A. Gkaham. 71 

by any party than that of General Scott by the Whigs. He 
was an able and virtuous man, but many of the salient fea- 
tures of his character approached so near being ridiculous in 
themselves and lent themselves so readily to caricature, that 
his candidacy, though a tragedy to the Whig party, became 
a comedy to a large majority of his fellow-citizens. There 
was defection, too, among the Whigs of the South, because 
he was thought to be tainted with frec-soilism, and among the 
Whigs of the North, because he was thought to be under 
Southern influence. The result, of course, was foredoomed. 
He received only 42 out of a total of 296 electoral votes. 

Whatever expression of dissatisfaction there may have 
been at the head of the ticket, there was none at the nomina- 
tion of Governor Graham. His personal worth, his ability 
and his usefulness were freely admitted by every one. In 
Pennsylvania, however, party capital was made against him 
on account of his votes on the Whig tariff bill of 1842. He 
generally voted with the Democrats for lower rates when the 
measure was up in the Senate and against the bill, when com- 
pleted, because provision for the distribution of the proceeds 
of the sales of public lands was omitted. Notwithstanding 
the evident failure of the Scott campaigii, Pierce and King 
carried the State of North Carolina by only 603 majority. 
This, under the discouraging conditions for that party then 
existing in the State, was a Whig victory, or rather a Gra- 
ham victory, for it was his popularity and influence only 
that reduced the Democratic majority of a few months before 
of 5,564 to 603. The disintegration of the Whig party, the 
symptoms of which were very marked in most of the other 
States, had also begim in North Carolina. David S. Eeid, 
Democrat, had been elected Governor in 1850. Renomi- 
nated by his party in 1852, he and the very eloquent and 
accomplished John Kerr, the candidate of the Whigs, had 
canvassed the State on Governor Reid's proposition to 
remove the freehold qualification from voters for State Sena- 
tors, and in August of that vear Governor Peid had been 

72 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

reelected by the largely increased majority stated above. 
This free suffrage program was not alone in nndermining 
the Whig strength in the State, for voters were coming more 
and more to realize that the only safety for slavery was the 
continued ascendancy of the Democratic party in national 

Governor Graham seems to have had no substantial objec- 
tion to the extension of the suffrage. He was so much absent 
from the State after the subject was introduced in the Gen- 
eral Assembly of 1850, that he gave the matter only casual 
consideration until 1853. Then he was opposed, not so much 
to the policy as to the method of incorporating it in our 
fundamental law. "A constitution of government for a 
free people," said he, ''is a complicated machine, like a steam 
engine or the human frame. It consists of various parts 
adjusted to one harmonious whole. * * * In other and 
more familiar language, it is a system of checks and bal- 
ances, one article of which would not have been inserted 
without another on kindred subjects, and one of which can 
not be removed without carrying with it others, or deranging 
and destroying the balance of the whole." He happily illus- 
trated this idea, as follows : "It might be supposed by a 
superficial observer that the human hand would be improved 
by cutting off the lingers to equal lengths, and the operation 
would be so simple that any child who could handle an ax 
could perform it. And yet we know that the curtailment of 
an extremity would wound nerves and blood vessels connect- 
ing with the brain and heart, the very vitals of the system." 
The freehold qualification for voters for Senators was incor- 
porated in the Constitution of 1776 and retained in that of 
1835, as a measure of protection to the landed interest against 
those who owned no land, yet as free men voted for members 
of the House of Commons and so were represented there. 
Land was much the more valuable part of the possessions of 
the citizens of the State who lived in its midland and its 
west, whereas slaves constituted a large part of the wealth of 

William A. Gkaham. 73 

the east. By a compromise between these conflicting inter- 
ests, the land was given this measure of protection in return 
for that given slave property by forbidding any other taxa- 
tion than the poll tax, (the same as that of the whites), on all 
slaves between twelve and fifty years of age, — much less than 
this property would yield if taxed ad valorem, as land was. 
Yet the Democrats proposed to strike down the protection to 
land, while leaving slave property still protected, and pay- 
ing an inadequate tax. He, then, met the plan to enact the 
suffrage amendment only, by a bill to submit to the people 
the question of a convention to amend the Constitution, not 
only in this regard, but in others where it required amend- 
ment.^ As a sort of forlorn hope that he might stem the 
tide setting so strongly against the Whig party, he was 
elected to the Senate from Orange County in 185-i. On 
December 14th of that year he made a very able speech in 
the Senate elaborating the above ideas. That the Democrats, 
themselves, split a few years later on the question of ad 
valorem taxation of slaves, and were finally forced to adopt 
it as a party measure, is very strong evidence of Governor 
Graham's political acumen. 

The immediate effect upon the South of the compromise of 
1850, was quieting. The love of the Union, that had been 
weakened by the agitation which induced that measure, 
became once more an active principle in that section. The 
failure of some States in the Korth to enforce, or permit 
to be enforced, in their borders, the fugitive slave law, 
(the only thing which they yielded in the so-called com- 
promise), in good faith, the Kansas-!N"ebraska agitation and 
the Dred Scott decision, however, soon aroused both Xorth 
and South as they had never been aroused before. It 
became daily more and more evident that Mr. Seward's 
irrepressible conflict was not an oratorical exaggeration, but 
a stern reality. Men, wise men, patriotic men, continued 
in the midst of the turmoil to cry peace, when there was no 
peace and could be no peace. We, from the vantage ground 

> Senate Journal, 1834, 70. 

74 NoKTH Carolina Historical CoMiiissiox. 

of the present looking back upon the past, can only M^onder 
that the final catastrophe was postponed so long. That it 
was, is due in large degree to the wisdom and moderation and 
patriotism of the dwindling band of "Whig leaders in the 
South and of their sympathizers in the ISTorth. There is 
something very admirable in the character and pathetic in 
the history of the Old Line Whigs of the South. In politics 
they were conservative, but in all that concerned the indus- 
trial interests of the country they were progressives. They 
were as incorruptible as a Roman senator in the palmiest 
days of Rome. Their public life was as clean and immacu- 
late and as far above suspicion as Csesar would have had his 
wife. To them patriotism was more than a sentiment, it 
was almost a passion. To them the Federal Constitution 
was not a compact, but the great charter of an indestructible 
Union, the repository of the political wisdom of the ages, by 
which America was to be made great and kept great through- 
out all time. Patriotism to them, then, assumed a twofold 
aspect — love for their native State and love for the Union. 
This blinded them to that fact of facts, which is written all 
across the history of the period immediately preceding the 
Civil War, namely, that it was either slavery or the Union. 
There was no other alternative. If slavery was to continue, 
then the Union must go ; if the Union was to continue, then 
slavery must go. The vision of the secessionist was clearer. 
He saw that he could not long hold on to his slave property 
in the Union, so he prepared himself to hold on to it out of 
the Union. To him, to use the sharp and cutting charac- 
terization of Henry A. W^ise, there were only three parties — 
the Whites, the Blacks and the Mulattoes: the Whites, the 
secessionists ; the Blacks, the Republican party ISTorth ; and 
the Mulattoes, the union men of the South. It was the day 
of the extremist. Events moved too rapidly for the moder- 
ates. They could not stem the tide ; they must move with it 
or be overwhelmed. It was a choice between loves, and, in 
agony of soul, they chose the greater, their homes, their fire- 

William A. Graham. 75 

sides and their neighbors, and ever after their faces were to 
the foe. Governor Graham was one of the wisest and noblest 
of the moderates. He loved the Union scarcely less than he 
did his native State. He thought the southern agitator only 
less to blame than the northern abolitionist. He condemned 
secession with all the earnestness of his nature, not only as a 
political heresy, but as essentially suicidal to the best inter- 
ests of the South. So strong was his position before the 
country at large, so great was the confidence in his ability, 
his moderation, his probity and his patriotism that he was 
supported by ITorth CaroJina, Georgia and several district 
delegates for the nomination for the presidency by the Con- 
stitutional Union party in 1860, and after the popular elec- 
tion of Mr. Lincoln in the fall of that year, the ISTew York 
and Pennsylvania electors were strongly urged to cast their 
ballots for him in the electoral college, as the only means 
to avert the impending dissolution of the Union. 

Even after the secession of South Carolina and the Gulf 
States, Union sentiment in North Carolina continued very 
strong. Governor Graham could see no reason for secession, 
(or revolution, as he preferred to call it), in the bare fact 
of Mr. Lincoln's election. He regarded the strong expres- 
sions of the campaign used by Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Seward and 
others, (i. e., that the government could not endure half slave 
and half free, that the question was whether freemen should 
cultivate the fields of the ISTorth or slaves those of the South, 
etc.), as mere oratorical exaggeration, rhetoric of the hustings 
on which they were convassing for free-soil votes. He, there- 
fore, very consistently opposed the calling of a convention 
in February, 1861, and his course therein was sustained 
by a majority of the people of the State. After Mr. Lin- 
coln's inauguration, he hoped that he might let the seven 
"erring sisters go in peace," that he would convene Congress 
in extra session, acknowledge the independence of these 
States, grant guarantees to the other slave States, which had 
adhered to the Union, that slaverv would not be interfered 

76 I^OKTH Caroli]N"a Historical Commission. 

with within their borders, and thus miaintain a happy and 
contented Union of twenty-seven States, instead of precipi- 
tating the country into a bloody and destructive civil war. 
This seems to have been Mr. Lincoln's program at the time he 
offered a seat in his Cabinet to Mr. John A. Gilmer, but 
later, his views no doubt modified as well by the current of 
events as by the urging of more bloody-minded advisers, he 
adopted what historians now call the bolder policy; he called 
for troops to crush the rebellion, as he called it. Thencefor- 
ward Governor Graham saw clearly that there was no other 
alternative but civil war, and that l^orth Carolina must take 
part with the other Southern States. He had no illusions 
about its extent. He knew that it was to be long drawn 
out, destructive and agonizing, with the South's only hope a 
desire for peace at the Korth, or interference from abroad. 
He was sent as a delegate from Orange County to the seces- 
sion convention of May, 1861, and after strenuous efforts to 
change its phraseology so as to make it an appeal to the ulti- 
mate right of revolution, instead of to the constitutional 
theory of secession, he, with all other members, signed the 
secession ordinance, after it had been adopted by the 


Governor Graham's training, his temperament and his 
habit of thought, would necessarily make him a moderate in 
any acute crisis, so though he sincerely desired the success 
of the arms of the Confederacy, (he devoted five of his seven 
sons to the cause, all that were old enough to bear arms), he 
was in opposition to its government. In the State Legisla- 
ture, in 1863-4, when he was Senator from Orange, in the 
State Convention and in the Senate of the Confederate 
States, he uniformly opposed all propositions to abridge the 
freedom of the press or of speech, to suspend the privilege of 
the writ of habeas corpus, to substitute military for civil 
tribunals, or otherwise impair the common rights of the 
people. The disastrous defeats of Vicksburg and Gettys- 

William A. Geaham. 77 

burg, and the consequent declension of the fortunes of the 
Confederacy, made the people of North Carolina turn more 
and more to the original union men. Governor Graham 
was elected to the Confederate States Senate by a more than 
three-fourths majority in February, 1864, and took his seat 
in May of that year. At this session he, in conjunction with 
other members of CongTess, labored to procure the opening 
of negotiations looking to peace, but unsuccessfully. For 
the same object he labored at the ensuing session, and the 
Hampton Roads Conference was, to some extent, due to his 
counsels. After the failure of that conference, he insisted 
that a new commission should be sent without limitation of 
powers ; for the independence of the Southern States it was 
evident was not attainable, and if the administration scrupled 
to treat on the basis of the annihilation of their o^vn govern- 
ment, that commission might, nevertheless, ascertain what 
terms would be yielded by the United States to the States 
concerned, and communicate the same to them for their 
action ; but his exertions in this behalf were of none effect. 
When he became satisfied that it was the fixed purpose of 
the administration to make the recognition of independence 
the basis of any peace, he lost no time in counseling the Gov- 
ernor of ISTorth Carolina (Vance) to interpose promtly for 
the termination of the war. The rapidity of military opera- 
tions on the part of the troops of the United States did not 
allow adequate time to render such interposition effective, 
had Governor Vance been complaisant, as he was not, 
and it is perhaps fortunate that such was the fact and that 
the war closed when and in the manner it did. Had the 
State intervened at this, or some former period, the disaster 
to the cause would have been imputed solely to that reason, 
and ill blood and angry feeling, crimination and recrimina- 
tion, would have been the consequence. As it is all are con- 
vinced that the result is to be ascribed to the exhausted 
resources of the country and its entire inability longer to 
maintain the struggle against such fearful odds. There was 

78 North Carolina Historical, Commission. 

left, therefore, no jealousy or controversy among States or 
individuals, but a general disposition to submit as to a decree 
of fate. This is, substantially, Governor Graham's own 
account of these transactions in his petition to Andrew John- 
son for pardon, dated Kaleigh, July 25th, 1865/ His 
course shows his calm, unimpassioned wisdom in the midst 
of the most exciting circumstances in a very remarkable 
light. If his course at the end of the war, set out above, 
was erroneous, it was a virtuous error, founded upon the 
highest of motives, the desire to stop the further eifusion 
of blood and to save the people of his own State from the 
horrors which marked the course of General Sherman's army 
through the other states of the South ; this too when there 
was not the slightest hope for a successful issue to the con- 

He was elected to the United States Senate by the Gen- 
eral Assembly of 1866, but was not allowed to take his seat. 
For the remainder of his life he was a loved and trusted 
adviser and leader of the people, without being allowed to 
serve them in any public office, for rancorous politicians in 
J^orth Carolina prevented the removal of his disabilities 
before his health had failed — a very marked instance of the 
small things of this world confounding the great. 

In 1867 George Peabody established a fund of $2,100,000, 
increased in 1869 to $3,500,000, to be devoted to education 
in the Southern states. This fund was placed under the 
control of fifteen trustees, of whom Robert C. Winthrop of 
Massachusetts was chairman, and they were to meet annually. 
At the suggestion of Mr. Winthrop, Governor Graham was 
selected by Mr. Peabody as one of the original trustees. 
Among his associates in the management of this fund were, 
besides Mr. Winthrop, Hamilton Fish, General Grant, Ad- 
miral Farragut, Bishop Mcllvaine, of Ohio, W. M. Evarts 
and William C. Rives, and later, to fill vacancies. Bishop 
Whipple, A. H. H. Stuart and Chief Justice Waite. 

1 See also hia letters in Spencer's "Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina," 
pp. 112-120. 

WiLLiAj.1 A. Gkaham. 79 

Governor Graham was wholly in sympathy with the at- 
tempt to reorganize as a political force the better element 
among the white voters of the State, regardless of their 
former political affiliations. He was one of the fathers of 
the Conservative-Democratic party — a flexible and convenient 
designation, which could be reversed in Democratic com- 
munities, while it remained steadfast in Whig. He presided 
over the political convention that met in Raleigh, February 
6, 1868, and made a notable speech defining his position, 
and later canvassed the State for Ashe against Holden. 

He recognized fully the brutal folly, if not criminality, 
of the reconstruction program of Congress ; he was opposed 
to negro suffrage, because he knew the negro was not fitted 
for the ballot, yet he believed in strict obedience to the law 
and a patient biding the time when the extent of the evil 
should, itself, work its owii remedy in the awakening of 
the public conscience l^orth, and the arousing of the people 
of the South to the necessity for firm, consistent, united 
action against the vandals and corruptionists who were prey- 
ing upon them. He condemned the Ku Klux organization, 
not only as unwise, but as criminal, as a resort to extra-legal 
remedies, that could be justified by no concatenation of cir- 
cumstances. Applying Bacon's definition of revenge, a 
species of wild justice, to their deeds, he did not hesitate 
in his great speech as leading counsel for the managers in 
the impeachment trial of Governor Holden, to describe the 
hanging of Wyatt Outlaw "as an atrocious act of assassina- 
tion." It is difficult, if not impossible, for human wisdom to 
devise a formula beforehand, that will fit abnormal and un- 
foreseen conditions, which may arise in the future. In this 
assertion. Governor Graham was applying this formula in all 
its damning quality, disregarding the abnormal conditions 
which rendered it not strictly applicable. But this illustrates 
his remarkable moral courage. ISTever in his long public life 
did he hesitate to do or say anything, which he thought wise 
or true, on account of any supposed bad consequences to 

80 x^ORTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

His health commenced to fail the latter part of 1872, and 
ill 1873 it was apparent to his physicians that he was suffer- 
ing from a heart disease that might end his life at any time. 
In 1874 he was selected by Virginia as one of the arbitrators 
between that State and Maryland. He concurred fully with 
the public sentiment in Korth Carolina, which enabled the 
Legislature of 1874-5 to call a convention to amend the Con- 
stitution of 1868. He thought that Constitution too cumber- 
some, too minute in its provisions and too restrictive upon 
the Legislature while placing too much patronage in the 
hands of the governor. Orange County elected him its dele- 
gate to the convention of 1875, but on August 11, 1875, 
while at Saratoga Springs, New York, in the performance 
of his duty as one of the arbitrators of the boundary dispute, 
he expired in the 71st year of his age. 

"The intelligence of his death was transmitted by tele- 
graph to every part of the country. All the great journals 
responded with leading articles expressive of the national 
bereavement."^ In Xorth Carolina all the people grieved 
at the death of its greatest and most honored citizen. At 
the border of the State his remains were met by many of its 
prominent men, and escorted to Raleigh where they lay in 
state in the rotunda of the Capitol, guarded by state and 
national troops, for hours as they were viewed by crowds. 
Late that afternoon they were conveyed to Hillsboro, attended 
by the militia and special g-uards of honor from the towns 
of the State, where they lay in state at his own house until 
the noon of Sunday, August 15th, when funeral services 
were held over them at the Presbyterian Church, and in the 
presence of an enormous concourse, collected from many 
counties. They were interred in the graveyard of that church. 

There has lived in N^orth Carolina no public man, whose 
life was a greater force for good than was that of Governor 
Graham. It was, and is, an exemplification of all the vir- 
tues that a public man should have — intelligence, industry, 

iMcGehee, 75. 

William A. Geaham. 81 

courage, unselfisliiiess, devotion to the public welfare and to 
duty. Ingrained into his nature too was that respect for 
religion, without which no man can be good, as well as a 
definite faith in Christ, not only as a great moral teacher, 
but as the Redeemer of mankind. He was a Presbyterian 
by inheritance and by choice, though for reasons satisfactory 
to himself, he did not enroll himself as a member of that 
church. During the last few years of his life (the writer, 
as a boy had personal knowledge of this), no one in the com- 
munity in which he lived, ever spoke of him without the 
very tones and inflection of his voice showing the deep 
respect and admiration and regard he had for him. The 
feeling with which a ISTorth Carolina Episcopalian thirty 
years ago spoke of Bishop Atkinson, more nearly expresses 
the regard of the people of Hillsboro and Orange County 
for Governor Graham, at that period, than anything else. 
He was endowed by nature with an excellent mind, and a 
noble and very handsome presence. His mind was assidu- 
ously cultivated and trained. He had the religious and 
moral instincts by inheritance, and these gTcw and strength- 
ened in the environment in which his life was placed. He 
had no bad habits as a boy, none as a youth and none as a 
man. Instead the habits of thrift, of industry and thorough- 
ness became a second nature to him. He was ambitious, but 
it was with a guided and controlled ambition, which sought 
place and power for larger spheres of usefulness. All these 
when he came to face the world enabled him to conquer a 
place for himself second to no JSTorth Carolinian. Judge 
Murphey was a gi-eater genius, but he was not so practical ; 
Judge Badger had greater intellectual endowments, but he 
was not so industrious ; Judge Mangum was a greater popular 
orator, but he was self indulgent ; Judge Ruffin was a greater 
lawyer, but his life ran in a narrower channel ; Judge Gas- 
ton was a greater lawyer and orator, and as pure in heart 
and life and conduct as he, but he was not ambitious. 

82 JiToKTH Carolina Histoeical Commission. 

Yet if the capacity for taking pains should be the test for 
one's gi'eatness, Governor Graham was greater than any of 
these. He was many sided, and a gTeat deal of his work 
remains, and there is none of it that is not far above the 
average. He is entitled to very high rank as a lawyer, as a 
public speaker, as a statesman and as a writer, and the high- 
est rank as a faithful, as a thorough and as a conscientious 
public official. There was never a more diligent and faith- 
ful legislator, never a more diligent and faithful governor. 

He labored, day and night, in little things, 
ISTo less than large, for the loved country's sake. 
With patient hands that plodded while others slept, 
* * -x- * * * * 

Doing each day the best he might, with vision 
Firm fixed above, kept pure by pure intent. 

His addresses on subjects connected with the history of 
North Carolina, have the same qualities of accuracy and 
thoroughness that all his work has, and his memorial orations 
on Murphey, Badger and Ruffin are classics in their per- 
fection of form and taste, and in their combination of ease 
and grace with accuracy, strength and dignity. 

On June 8, 1836, he married Susannah Sarah, daughter of 
John Washington, Esq., of ]^ew Bern, and by her had ten 
children. She was a lady of rare beauty and accomplish- 
ments, and the union brought to him as much of happiness 
as it is the lot of man to know. Mrs. Graham survived her 
husband fifteen years, and their descendants, as well said 
Governor Kitchin, "in the State to-day, represent the highest 
type of culture, patriotism and citizenship in the records 
of both their private and their public life, having the same 
devotion to their country and fidelity to their country's call 
as the illustrious William A. Graham." 

As a fitting close to this paper, I give the estimates of 
Governor Graham by others, most capable judges, residents 

William A. Gkaham. 83 

of other States and associates with him in the management 
of the Peabody Fund. In the resolutions reported by Mr. 
W. M. Evarts, and evidently written by him, occur the 
following : 

''The distinguished public character of Governor Graham, 
and his strong hold upon the confidence of the people of the 
North and of the South alike, have been of the greatest value 
and importance to this board in securing the sympathy and 
cooperation of men of credit and of influence in the country, 
in furtherance of the beneficial system of education at the 
South which Mr. Peabody's munificent endowment has so 
greatly aided in developing. That our personal intercourse 
with Governor Graham, in the discharge of our common 
duties, has shown to us his admirable qualities of mind and 
character ; and we lament his loss, as of a near friend 
and associate, as well as an eminent public servant and 

Hon. John H. Clifford, of Massachusetts, wrote : "I 
should to bear my testimony to his thorough fidelity, 
his manly frankness and his amiable temper, which had made 
him one of the most agreeable, as he was one of the most 
useful, members of the board." 

Said the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, of the same State: 
"He has held, as you all know, many distinguished offices in 
the service of his State and country. In all these relations 
he had won for himself a widespread reputation and regard, 
which any man, iS^orth or South, might have envied. I knew 
him intimately, and have always cherished his friendship as 
one of the privileges of my Washington life. * * * JSTo one 
of us has been more punctual in his attendance on our meet- 
ings, or has exhibited a more earnest and intelligent interest 
in all our proceedings, while his digmified and genial presence 
has given him a warm hold on all our hearts." 

Said Mr. A. H. H. Stuart, of Virginia : "He possessed a 
sound and vigorous intellect, which enabled him to grapple 
with the most difficult questions ; and he was singularly free 

84 NoETH Carolina Historical Commission. 

from all those influences of passion and excitement, which too 
often disturb the judgment. His views of every subject 
were clear, calm and well considered. He possessed that 
happy balance of the intellectual faculties, which is the 
parent of wisdom. Although he has for more than forty 
years occupied a prominent position in public life, and has 
filled many important offices during times of high party 
excitement, no man has ever ventured to question the integ- 
rity of his motives or conduct ; and up to the hour of his 
death he enjoyed the unlimited confidence of all who had the 
happiness to know him. * * * I have rarely met a wiser 
man, and never a better man, than William A. Graham." 



Ladies and Gentlenwn: 

Our Historical Commission presents to our beloved State 
at this hour the marble form of William Alexander Graham, 
that it may stand forever under the dome of our Capitol, 

One who is worthy to speak of him, his townsman and his 
peer,^ has just now told us of this servant of the people, with 
the simplicity and beauty of unadorned truth, the story of his 
life and service. JSTor does this story delight us less because 
it is a familiar part of our later history. I^ot a few of us 
have seen this majestic man moving among us and leading 
us along the higher walks of life. We saw him as he came 
out from the storm of war between the N^orth and the South, 
serene, undaunted, pointing the way of peace and safety 
and honor. 

It all seems clear enough to us now. We look back along 
the way we have come, and we do not see now how we could 
have gone any other way. But we are forgetting how dark 
it was. l^ever, in all history, did thicker darkness descend 
upon a people, and so suddenly. A President had been slain ; 
another, his successor, stood before us impeached, distrusted 
and despised by those who had placed him in office. Our 
State governments were dismantled and our States became 
military provinces. Our leading citizens were in prison or 
their rights of citizenship denied them. Our emancipated 
slaves were appealing to us, as never before, to care for them 
in their new relation to us. Our wasted fields and homes 
remained to us, only to remind us of our former estate and 
our wretched poverty. The soldiers of the blue and the gTay 
looked into each other's faces, aghast at the ruin thev had 

» Mr. Frank Nash, of Hillsboro. 

86 I^ORTH Carolina Historical Commission. 

wrought, willing and ready to be friends, while the founda- 
tions of the Union shook beneath their feet with a tremor 
more ominous than the shock of battle. One false step, and 
the ruined South with blinded rage might pull down the 
pillars of our government in the very strength of its agony. 
We have called these dark days our era of reconstruction. 
History will be true if it shall write above this chapter, as its 
title, the words of Thomas de Celano's hymn of the judg- 
ment, "Dies irse, dies ilia." 

In these dark days, this servant of the people of whom we 
are thinking now, with love and gratitude, was of those who 
saved us and led us along the way we have come. He was 
of those who have given their lives to the service of the 
people. He was of those who loved the Union of these States, 
and who gave to it its hold upon our hearts. He was of 
those who led its navies into far distant seas and made its 
flag, not the ensign of a world power of conquest, but a mis- 
sion of peace and good will to men. He was of those who 
sought always to compose the quarrel of the sections that its 
angry contentions might not drive us apart, and he was of 
those who loved our Old i>[orth State with an unspeakable 
love, as the apple of his eye. Gaston's hymn of devotion 
rang through his heart always. It was the refrain of his 
life and the inheritance of his blood from Mecklenburg. 
And so it was that when he heard the voice calling him which 
he had heeded always as the voice of his own mother, not 
doubting, he led his sons, one by one, to the altar of sacrifice, 
and bowed his own good, gray head under the burdens that 
were laid upon him. 

Can we ever think unmoved of these men of the South 
who turned, with sorrowing hearts, from the old flag to the 
defense of their homes ? Is there a heart so hard that it does 
not burn with sympathy, when Lee is bidding good-bye to his 
old regiment and coming home to Virginia ? He had grown 
old in the service which he adorned as few have done and 
which honored him above all others. What power could 

William A. Gkaham. 87 

break the tics that bound him? We know that no political 
creed, no party faction moved him. It was the spirit of the 
South ; the voice of Virginia calling him to her, and he could 
not disobey. Like him was he, whose lineaments the divin- 
ity of art has now shaped for us, with unerring finger, and 
whose heroic spirit speaks to us again from the heart of the 
everlasting rock, lighted by the genius of the true artist^ 
whose soul it has inspired. 

These men of the South differed in their political creeds 
as the billows, but in their sense of duty, each to his own 
State, they were one as the sea. They were pleading with 
each other earnestly and anxiously for the cause of the Union 
when the war burst upon them. In no school of politics had 
they ever learned that a State could be coerced and the Union 
maintained by force. They could not bear to see their neigh- 
bors trampled under foot, and they took up arms. All party 
lines were forgotten. They were no longer Whigs or Demo- 
crats, but henceforth they were the men of the South. What 
followed we know. 

They suffered defeat in battle, but here and everywhere, 
fair women and brave men listen with warm hearts to the 
story of the part they acted under the stars and bars. ]^ot 
the ISTorth only, but the world now knows the moral of their 
endeavor. Their peerless captain has taken his place in our 
Pantheon at Washington. The name of their honored Presi- 
dent, who suffered in their stead as none other could suffer, 
has been recarved upon our national tablets. In town and 
village and neighborhood, the image of their brother in arms, 
in stone, or bronze, with silent lips, invokes the homage of 
him who passes by and gives assurance to his living comrades 
that they shall never be forgotten. Their struggle has ended. 
Let us believe and be thankful that in the providence of God 
it has ended well and with honor and good to us all. 

And so, too, has ended our era of reconstruction. We 
have rebuilt our Union, and we pray that, when the rain 

iMr. F. W. Ruckstuhl, sculptor, formerly of Alsace, Germany, present address: The 
Arts Club, New York. 

88 KoRTH CAROLiisrA Historical Commission. 

descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat 
upon it, it may not fall, for it is founded upon a rock. Slav- 
ery no longer mars our structure. 

Once before, in our earlier history, we had our era of 
reconstruction. It began four years after the treaty of Paris 
of the 20th of January, 1783, which declared the thirteen 
original States "to be free, sovereign and independent." It 
lasted until our own State, last of them but one, entered the 
Union, November 21st, 1789. It was then that the great 
convention assembled at Philadelphia on May 25th, 1787, 
which was presided over by Washington, and which, on Sep- 
tember 17th, 1787, presented our first Constitution to these 
thirteen States for their acceptance, declaring its purpose 
"to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure 
domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, pro- 
mote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty 
to ourselves and our posterity." It was then that Madison 
and Hamilton and Jay put forth those wonderful arguments, 
urging its acceptance, which have become a text-book of our 
constitutional law. It was then that our people, assembled 
in convention at Hillsboro, in the Presbyterian Church, on 
July 21st, 1788, hesitated, halted and adjourned, without 
accepting the Constitution, demanding further and fuller 
safeguards of liberty. It was then that, in response to this 
demand, these safeguards were given and the ten amendments 
were written into our first Constitution. And it was then 
that our people assembled again in convention, at Fayette- 
ville, adopted the Constitution, entered the Union and our 
first era of reconstruction ended. 

This is all very famiilar learning. So, too, the air that 
fills our lungs and gives us life is very familiar. But we 
ought to repeat this familiar learning, because it expresses 
that spirit of independence Avhich first declared itself in 
Mecklenburg, in May, 1775, and again in Halifax, in April, 
1776, and which has been always the inspiration of the 
higher life of our people. We ought to repeat it, that he who 

William A. Graham, 89 

may write of us in the war between the North and South 
may know us and our motives ; and how it was that these 
men of the South, who loved the Union, yet sought to form 
a Confederacy of their own ; and when they could not, have 
striven, as never men strove before, to rebuild our walls and 
to form again a more perfect Union of these States. It 
ought to be repeated that he who writes of us may understand 
how it is that these men of the South, who rejoice in the 
growth and strength of our national government and who will 
uphold the honor of our flag in peace and in war, are yet 
sensitive to any encroachment of Federal power upon the 
rights of the State ; and that this sensitive regard is a sen- 
timent of political virtue and the safest guardian of our 
form of government. 

It is well for us that we have begTin a closer study of the 
forces which have been moving and are still moving the life 
of our people ; that in the midst of our industry, thrilling us 
with the enthusiasm of its progress, our thoughts are turning 
to the higher things of life ; that our women and men of let- 
ters have associated themselves to re-read and re-write our 
history ; that they have moved our General Assembly to 
institute our Historical Commission, as a part of our higher 
education ; that it may find and preserve the records which 
mark our progress and point out to us those who have been 
leading and are still leading us along the pathway of ser- 
vice and of honor and whom we ought to follow. It is well 
for us that our Historical Commission, in this high service, 
has reminded us that the niches provided in our capitol for 
our good and faithful servants who are worthy of them are 
still empty ; and that in all our midst we, as a people, have 
placed but one statue of our illustrious dead. It is well for 
us to be reminded that in our educational progress, great as it 
is, we have left far behind this school of higher learning. 
Who of us, coming northward into our capitol grounds and 
looking into the face of Washington, is not lifted up into a 
higher realm of thought and patriotism ? Or who of us. 

90 North Carolina Historical Commission. 

coining westward and looking into the face of Vance, does 
not love our State with a deeper love ? Or who of us, com- 
ing eastward and looking into the face of the Confederate 
soldier, does not feel that it is beautiful to die for one's 
country ? Or who of us, looking into the face of our brave 
sailor lad, Bagley, standing midway between the Father of 
our Country and the soldier of the Confederacy, does not 
rejoice that we, too, have reconsecrated the flag of the stars 
and stripes ? 

IsTor is this school of higher learning only a school of art, 
or of ancestral worship, or of State pride, or of polite letters ; 
nor will our Historical Commission be content only to sweep 
the dust from our records and to clear away the moss that 
has gathered upon our gravestones. This it will do, but 
more. In its best service, it will minister to the spirit of our 
people ; that which brought us together about our first shrines 
of worship ; that which was ours when we were building these 
States into the fabric of our Union ; that which drew us 
together in the gTcat contest of the North and the South ; 
and that which will be needed more and more as our minis- 
try to the beauty and strength and worldwide beneficence of 
our republic. It is not idle boast or foolish pride to say that 
the South will grow great and strong in numbers and in 
riches, and that the men of the South will yet take the places 
which they ought to take in directing the course of our 
National Government and in preserving the life of our 
republic. Let us prepare ourselves for our ministry and our 
duty. Let us be full-panoplied and armed with the sword 
of the spirit of our people ; and let it be stainless like the 
sword Excalibur of King Arthur ; aye, let it be stainless like 
the sword of Robert E. Lee. 

What is the spirit of a people ? May we not answer : 
the spirit of a people is the history of a people impersonated 
in the life of a people. If there is no history of a people, 
there is no spirit of a people. 

It has been asked, Can Africa be civilized ? Whv not ? 

William A. Graham. 91 

Because, in all that vast, dark continent, with rich soil and 
teeming- millions, save along the shores of the Mediterranean, 
there is neither history, nor tradition, nor a memorial stone 
to tell where some gTeat deed was done. There is no his- 
tory of the people and no spirit of the people upon which to 
build their social structure. All effort in their behalf has 
been in vain. They are still naked, and the lion of the 
jungle is the ruler of their land. The spirit of England, 
carrying her drum-beat around the world, is the story and 
the song, not of Briton only, but of adventurous Saxon and 
Dane, and Boman and ITorman ; the great composite race 
fitted to sweep over every sea and to rule under every sky. 
The spirit of China is the history of a people who have built 
about themselves a wall, over which others must climb to be 
their neighbors. The spirit of our people is the history of 
a people from whose loins has sprung our ever widening 
confederacy of States ; who have instituted forms of govern- 
ment based upon the consent of the governed, kindly and 
gentle and easy to be entreated, but firm and strong to pro- 
vide for the common defense and to promote the general wel- 
fare and fitted, as we believe, to become the final form and 
pattern of all nations. 

What saved us in our dark era of reconstruction ? It was 
the memory of Moore's Creek Bridge, of Kings Mountain, 
of Guilford Court House, and of later fields yet red with 
blood ; it was the memory of those who had subdued our for- 
ests and tilled our fields; of those who had written and 
administered our laws ; of those who had founded and fos- 
tered our schools ; of those who had built our churches and 
kept alive our love of God and our neighbor ; these memories, 
rekindling the spirit of our people, saved us. Our history 
was still our own ; its light was still upon our pathway. 
After the din of arms had ceased, our laws were no longer 
silent ; the plow moved in the furrow ; we rebuilt our work- 
shops and reopened our schools; we restored our fields and 
homes and our altars of worship ; we took our emancipated 

92 North Caeolina Historical Commission. 

slave by the hand, and taught him his duty to the State, and 
how to share with us our history and our spirit. And thus 
we moved forward with our ministry and our duty, until the 
world wonders how, from the ashes of war, we have grown 
so great. We have won our victories of peace with the 
sword of the spirit of our people. 

And of such spirit was he who comes to his place in our 
capitol to-day, first of his peers because he was their most 
flawless type; because he was of the best in the life of our 
older Union, and of our brave young Confederacy, and of 
our later and more perfect Union ; because the history of our 
people was impersonated in his full and rounded life. In all 
the movement of that full life there was no false note to mar 
its harmony. Among all her sons there is no clearer ideal 
of our mother State than he whom we now lift up before us 
that we may follow where he leads. 

And they, too, will come apace and with cheerful accord 
to their places at his side ; his co-workers, who have kept the 
spirit of our people unbroken and unspoiled through bad for- 
tune and good fortune alike. 

Let them gather to our capitol, these good and faithful 
servants of our people, seeing whom, enraptured with the 
story of their lives, our children's children shall cry out 
"We can make our lives sublime !" 





Your Excellency: 

This evening marks a new departure in historical activi- 
ties in North Carolina. The Historical Commission, in 
addition to the work of collecting and preserving the histori- 
cal records of North Carolina, is endeavoring to arouse our 
people to the necessity of erecting memorials to great men 
and great events in our history. To the traveler or visitor 
here, there must be a feeling of disappointment when he 
enters our capitol. There are nowhere visible reminders of 
those men who have made our history and brought fame and 
glory to North Carolina — our State builders. Among his- 
torians, scholars and sight-seers accustomed to read the his- 
tory and study the life of other States and nations in monu- 
ments and" marble busts, the absence of such memorials inva- 
riably provokes comment. 

In this rotunda are eight empty niches that misrepresent 
our State, as it leaves the impression that we have had no 
sons sufficiently great to be commemorated in marble or 

Eealizing the injustice that the State does itself and appre- 
ciating the importance of such memorials, the Historical 
Commission, as agent for the State, has had executed a bust 
of that great North Carolinian, who it believes most perfectly 
typifies the highest ideals of democratic citizenship — William 
A. Graham. And I have the honor to present to the State of 
North Carolina this bust of that great Carolinian whose 
character was as spotless and clean as the Carrara marble 
from which this image is carved. 

We trust this is but a beginning and that the people of 
North Carolina will soon show enough appreciation of her 
other great sons to fill the other seven niches in this rotunda. 

94 North Carolina Historical Commission. 


Mr. Chairman: 

With all others in this magnificent audience, I listened 
with great interest to the appropriate addresses of the gifted 
historian from Orange and the distinguished orator from 
iSTorthampton, delivered in the Hall of the House of Repre- 
sentatives, and we have now heard with pleasure your own 
eloquent words of presentation. 

I congratulate you and through you the Historical Com- 
mission upon the excellence of your choice for the first bust 
for this rotunda of our capitol. I share with you the hope 
that other similar occasions shall soon follow when other busts 
of our gi'eat Carolinians shall take their places in the other 

If the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to 
the third and fourth generation, I am happy to believe that 
there is truth in its counterpart, and that the virtues of the 
fathers are likewise visited upon the children to the third 
and fourth generation. No family in our commonwealth, 
through so long a period, through so many generations, has 
rendered the State more significant, faithful, honorable and 
effective service than the Graham family. From the Revo- 
lutionary period to this good day, its part in our military and 
civil life has been nobly performed. Its members, repre- 
senting the highest type of cultured and patriotic citizenship, 
worthily exemplify in their records, in both public and pri- 
vate life, Governor Graham's illustrious devotion to the State, 
and with dignity rejoice in his useful and eminent career. 
Their race is not yet run, and their pledges to fortune and 
futurity are all that worthy veneration for ancestry, moral 
integrity, intellectual strength, and love of right, purity and 
country can suggest. 

Mr. Chairman, it is with pleasure that in behalf of North 
Carolina, I accept from the Historical Commission this mar- 
ble bust of Governor William Alexander Graham. Permit 
me to express the hope that the selections for the remaining 
niches will be as wiselv and as fittinfflv made as this one.