The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

Bookmark and Share

        Without some reference to this alma mater, the University of North Carolina, a book of reminiscenses of eminent North Carolinians would be incomplete.

        When we consider the extended list of her alumni, who have risen to eminence and to become ornaments of their native land, both at home and in other States; so many of that band of graduates have become laurel crowned and honored in every sphere of life's duties, that their alma mater cannot but feel elated with much of the same pride, which the poet says, swelled the breasts of the mother of the gods on Mount Olympus, as she looked upon her children.

                         See all her progeny, illustrious sight!
                         Behold and count them as they rise to sight,
                         She sees around her in the blest abode,
                         A hundred sons, and every son a god!

        Therefore, I have extracted from a published address of the late Hon. William H. Battle, delivered June, 1865, the following reminiscences:

        It is the boast of our State that in its organic law, provision is made for the instruction of her youth in all useful learning. By the 41st section of the Constitution it is declared: "That a school or schools shall be established by the legislature for the convenient instruction of youth, with such salaries to the masters, paid by the public, as may enable them to instruct at low prices; and all useful learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted in one or more universities." The merit of those who adopted this wise provision cannot be duly appreciated, without adverting for a moment to the time at, and the circumstances under which it was made. The war of the Revolution had but fairly commenced, and the Declaration of Independence had only a few months before been promulgated, when a convention of the people met at the town of Halifax for the purpose of preparing a constitution or form of government for the State. The country was poor, the people generally but slightly educated, and the war then raging was of doubtful issue, yet the members of the convention were resolved that their posterity should enjoy the advantages of education which had been denied to the most of them. There can be no doubt that a large majority of those members had been instructed only in the plain rules of reading, writing and arithmetic, but destitute as they were of book learning, they had, in the business of social and political life, improved their mental faculties, and had thereby educated themselves to a due appreciation of the rights and privileges to which, as free men, they were entitled. A few, and but a few of them, were men who had been more favored by fortune, and were well instructed in all the branches of a classical and scientific education. Prominent among these were Richard Caswell, Thomas Burke, John Ashe, Samuel Ashe, Abner Nash, David Caldwell, Joseph Hewes, Thomas Jones, Allen Jones, Willie Jones, Cornelius Harnett, Archibald McLaine and Waightstill Avery. Richard Caswell was president of the convention, and Thomas Burke was chairman of the committee on the constitution. They were both eminent lawyers, and it is to them and their enlightened compeers that we are indebted to that section of the constitution from which have emanated our University, our Colleges and our noble system of Common Schools. The constitution was ratified the 18th day of December, 1776, and the war ceased by a definite treaty of peace which secured our independence in September, 1783; but was not until the year 1789 that the financial condition of the State justified the legislature in making the necessary expenditures for the foundation of a University. In that year the charter of this institution was granted, and among the patriotic and enlightened members who advocated it, no one stood more conspicuous than Gen'l William R. Davie. Of his efforts on that occasion, the late Judge Murphey,
Page 337 of 471
Index - Contents
Featured Books & CD-ROMS