White elite feared rule by ‘dregs of society’

“[In the early days of Reconstruction] North Carolina Conservatives harped upon the specter of integration in the new public schools, where white children would ‘take in all the base and lowly instincts of the African.’

“Racial appeals, however, often went hand in hand with revulsion at the prospect of governments controlled by what North Carolina Governor [Jonathan] Worth called ‘the dregs of society.’ Universal suffrage — government by ‘mere numbers,‘ Worth wrote, ‘I regard as undermining civilization.’ Civilization he defined as ‘the possession and protection of property.’ It was clear that such remarks did not apply to blacks alone….

“If North Carolina’s constitution needed revision, Worth and other Democratic leaders preferred a return to the frame of government of 1776, which contained substantial property requirements for voting.”

– From “Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (2002)

 

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