Public political meetings used to be much more frequent than they are now. I’m not sure why, maybe someone has done a study of it, or maybe it is just my perception. At the political meetings in the 1860s, men (and women) would meet, someone would be appointed president, someone secretary, and then a resolution committee would be formed. As the committee met, there would be music, and speeches, to entertain the crowd. Once the committee drafted its resolutions, the chair of the committee would report the resolutions, which the crowd would vote upon. The resolutions would then be sent off to the newspaper to be printed. It seems, once Lincoln was elected, meetings become much more frequent. Some were pro Union meetings, some were pro-secession meetings. Some counties had both. Cleveland county had a secession meeting November 12, 1860, in Tarboro a couple of days later, and Wilmington on November 19, 1860.
The Wilmington Resolutions stated that the election of Lincoln, “upon grounds purely sectional… cuts off the last hope of the preservation of the present Union…” “That a Convention of the people of North Carolina, should be called without delay, for the purpose of deliberating upon the best mode of maintaining the dignity and honor of the State…” and that “we consider it the imperative duty of our Legislature, to proceed speedily to enact a law to organize and arm the Militia of the State.”
There were Union meetings in Ashe County in October, Wilkes County on November, Fayetteville around the first of December, Charlotte on December 21, 1860, and in Caldwell County toward the end of the December.
However, don’t let the title “Union meetings” mislead you. The resolutions of the Fayetteville meeting read in part: “Therefore, be it Resolved, That the election of Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of this party, to the Presidency of the United States, should be productive of serious consideration and unceasing vigilance upon the part of the South, and although not in itself cause for the dissolution of the Union, yet any attempt upon his part to carry out the policy of his party, will meet with our most determined resistance. “
As an interesting side note, the meeting in Fayetteville also produced a minority set of resolutions. These resolutions proclaimed that the “repeated acts of aggression on the part of a purely sectional party of the Northern State on the rights of the South… and the election of Abraham Lincoln… requires on the part of the Legislature and people of the State an immediate preparation for the defence of the rights of North Carolina. [Resolved 2nd] That the Constitution of the United States is a compact of sovereign, independent States, and that the right of secessions exist whenever it is necessary to protect the property of persons from legislation, or when there is failure on the part of Congress to recognize and secure to the Southern States their rights under the Constitution.
These meetings continued unabated all over the state throughout the winter months of 1861. We’ll look at that more in the future.