NORTH CAROLINA is one of the Southern States of the American republic, and one of the thirteen which originally adopted the federal constitution. It was included in the extensive region granted, in 1584, by Queen Elizabeth, to Sir Walter Raleigh, under the general name of Virginia. Its earliest permanent settlement was commenced about the year 1650, by a company of fugitives from religious persecution in the more northern part of Virginia, who established themselves at a spot near Albemarle Sound. In 1661, another body of English emigrants, from Massachusetts, settled on the shores of Cape Fear River. The colonists suffered many hardships and much trouble for want of a recognized independent representative at the court of the parent country. This they obtained in 1667; but, not far from this date, the province comprehending the country now forming both North and South Carolina had been granted to Lord Clarendon and others, who undertook to introduce a grotesque form of government, prepared for the grantees by the celebrated John Locke. Among the singular features embodied in this constitution were provisions for establishing an hereditary nobility, for vesting the legislative power in a "Parliament," and for the exercise of executive authority by a chief magistrate, to be styled the "Palatine." After trial of this system for a few years, its practical defects became palpable, and it was abandoned in 1693. The colony, however, made but slow progress, having to contend with numerous vexations, not the least of which was the sanguinary hostility of the neighboring savages, by whom, in 1712, a murderous and destructive war was carried on, rendered sadly memorable by the horrible atrocities with which it was attended. In 1729, both the Carolinas were ceded to the king for the sum of £17,500, and by him formed into two distinct colonies, which have ever since remained thus separated, and which now constitute the States of North and South Carolina.
The people of this state, in the early stages of the American revolution, were distinguished for their patriotic devotion to the cause of national independence. They opposed the encroachments of the crown, in 1769, with success, and were among the foremost of the colonists to declare themselves free from all.. foreign control. In May, 1775, a military convention was held in the county of Mecklenburg, which passed a series of resolutions, displaying the spirit, and even embodying some of
the language, of the great Declaration of Independence issued to the world on the 4th of July of the next year. A state constitution was formed in 1776, which, with some amendments, still remains in force. Several severe battles were fought upon the soil of North Carolina in the course of the revolutionary war. The state adopted the federal constitution November 27, 1789, by a majority in convention of 118.
Boundaries and Extent. — North Carolina is bounded north by the State of Virginia, east and south-east by the Atlantic Ocean, south by South Carolina and Georgia, and west by the State of Tennessee. It extends from latitude 33° 50' to 36° 30' north, and lies between 75° 45' and 84° west longitude; is 430 miles in length, and varies in breadth from 20 to 180 miles, and contains about 45,000 square miles.
Government. — The executive and legislative officers are elected by the people, once in two years. The governor cannot serve more than four out of six years. He is assisted by a council of seven members, appointed by the General Assembly. The Senate is limited to 50, and the House of Commons to 120 members. The required qualifications of voters for the latter, besides having arrived at the age of 21, are, a residence in the county one year prior to an election, and the payment of taxes: to be entitled to vote for senator, the possession of 50 acres of land is required in addition. The right of suffrage is denied to all persons of negro blood.
Judiciary. — The judges of the Supreme Courts of law and equity, judges of admiralty, and attorney general, are chosen by the General Assembly in joint ballot. The latter holds office four years, and the judges during good behavior. The Supreme Court holds three sessions per annum, two at Raleigh, and one at Morgantown, the latter for the western part of the state. The sessions continue until all the cases on the docket are either decided or deferred for good cause shown. It has jurisdiction in all cases of law and equity brought by appeal or by the parties. The superior courts of law, and the courts of equity, which have complete equity jurisdiction, hold one session semiannually in every county of the state. About ten counties compose a circuit, of which the state is divided into seven. These are visited alternately by the judges, so as not to preside in the same circuit twice in succession.
Education. — The free school system in North Carolina has not yet attained a very near approximation to that of the New England, Middle, and some of the Western States. In 1840, there were but 632 common schools in the state, and these contained less than 15,000 scholars, while there were more than 56,000 adult white persons unable either to read or write. The census of 1850 shows no better result. There are two colleges, and about 150 minor literary seminaries: the oldest of the former was founded in 1791. Provision for the establishment and maintenance of asylums for the insane, and for the deaf and dumb, has recently been made by the legislature.
Finances. — The net amount of the state debt, arising from the loan of its credit to certain railroad companies, is somewhat short of $3,000,000. The receipts into the treasury, for some few years past, have very considerably exceeded the expenditures.
Surface, Soil, &c. — Along the Atlantic coast of the state, through a space of from 50 to 75 miles in breadth, the land is low, level, and swampy, intersected by many streams, which, from the nature of the surface, are neither rapid nor clear. Westwardly, beyond this tract, for a distance of some 40 miles, the land is more hilly and broken, and the soil sandy. Farther on, above the falls of the rivers, the country becomes elevated, and, in some places, mountainous. The highest mountain peak in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, is said to be Black Mountain, in Yancey county, which rises to a height of 6476 feet. There are other prominences, reaching to nearly as great an elevation. The soil in the district bordering on the sea-coast is generally poor, producing naturally no other timber than the pitch pine, from which are procured large quantities of tar, pitch, and turpentine, constituting the chief articles of export from the state. The contiguous and more elevated region is somewhat more productive, though the soil is thin and sandy. The swampy spots are well adapted to the culture of rice. In the uplands, and beyond the mountain ranges, the land is exceedingly fertile. Indian corn grows well in all parts of the state, and cotton is successfully cultivated in many places. The low country, especially on the river borders, produces spontaneously plums, grapes, strawberries, and other fine fruits; it is also well adapted to the growth of rice, the sugar-cane, &c. The table lands at the west yield a fine natural growth of walnut, oak, lime, cherry, and other timber. The pitch pine, of which the low lands produce such large quantities, is generally of a prodigious size, far exceeding the dimensions of this description of timber found in the more northern states. The celebrated Dismal Swamp, 30 miles in length by 10 in width, lies in the northern part of this state, and reaches into Virginia. This tract is covered with a thick growth of pine, cypress, juniper, and oak-trees. There are within the state upwards of two million acres of swampy land, which may be reclaimed and made to produce abundant crops of rice, corn, cotton, and tobacco.
Rivers. — The Chowan and Roanoke, taking their rise in Virginia, flow through a portion of the state into Albemarle Sound. Cape Fear River is the longest which runs entirely within the state, being 280 miles in length, and is navigable, for vessels drawing 11 feet of water, to Wilmington, 40 miles from the sea. The Yadkin is also another considerable stream. They are all, however, subject to obstructions by sand bars at their mouths, owing to their sluggish course through a long distance of low and level country.
Internal Improvements. — There are several railroads and canals in this state, most of which are connected with those of Virginia. One of the railroads extends from Wilmington, 161 miles, to Weldon, on the River Roanoke; another reaches from Raleigh, 85 miles, to Gaston, on the same river. The Dismal Swamp Canal, which commences in Virginia, is extended into North Carolina. A canal of five miles passes round the falls of the Roanoke.
Minerals. — The state contains gold, iron, and other valuable minerals; but the public attention is chiefly directed to the former. The region which is most prolific in gold occupies both sides of the Blue Ridge, in the western part of the state. The mines have been extensively wrought; and, for some years, thousands of persons have been engaged, with varied success, in the business. The ore is found occasionally in veins, sometimes in small lumps, but more frequently in grains or dust. The amount annually obtained has been estimated at some $5,000,000. Only a comparatively small part of this, however, finds its way to the United States mint, or is retained in this country, a considerable portion being transmitted to Europe.
Manufactures. — Coarse fabrics of cotton and of wool are manufactured to some extent, principally for home use. There are numerous furnaces, forges, and smelting houses, for the conversion of the native mineral ores, iron, lead, and gold, into marketable shape. The manufacture of flour is carried on somewhat largely ; and among the remaining commodities manufactured in the state are hats and bonnets, hardware and cutlery, soap and candles, furniture and carriages, leather and saddlery, distilled and fermented liquors, &c.
Indians. — No distinct tribes, and but few scattered families, of the Indian race remain within the limits of North Carolina. As in most of the early settled states, the aboriginal proprietors of the soil have gradually given place to the advancing influences of civilization, and either become extinct, or sought out new hunting-grounds in remote and still unsubdued regions. At the last census, the inhabitants of Indian blood numbered only 710.
Population. — During the 40 years ending in 1830, the population of this state increased very steadily, though showing at each decennial census some differences in the ratio of augmentation. Between the above date and 1840, it remained comparatively stationary; but between the latter year and 1850, had increased from 753,419 to 868,903, about one third of whom are slaves.
Climate. — In some parts of the state, especially in the elevated country at the west, the climate is delightful, and quite healthy. In the low lands, towards the sea-coast, however, it is mostly otherwise, excepting in the winter season. The low and marshy surface engenders unwholesome vapors in the summer and autumn, and, consequently, fevers, agues, and other diseases incident to such localities, frequently prevail.
Religion. — The most numerous religious denominations are the Methodists and Baptists. These generally reside in the low country. At the west, there are many Presbyterians. The Episcopalians and Lutherans have a number of congregations in various parts of the state; and there are also several bodies of Roman Catholics, Moravians, and Quakers.