On this day in 1834: Just down the street from the Capitol, Rep. Robert Potter of Granville County loses $2,800 in a card game. Pulling a pistol and a knife, he pockets the pot and exits.
A week later, Potter will be expelled for reflecting discredit on the legislature.
Previously, however, his colleagues had been more tolerant of Potter’s misdeeds. He had been in jail for castrating two men — an aging minister and a 16-year-old — for carrying on with Potter’s wife while he was in Raleigh. Gov. David Swain issued a pardon so Potter could take office. Petitions were circulated to to prevent Potter from taking his seat, but the House contended it had no right to set standards of conduct — until he cheated at cards.
On this day in 1833: The Star and North Carolina Gazette newspaper quotes the New York Evening Star’s praise of Gov. David Swain’s recent address to the legislature:
“The spirit of frankness with which Gov. Swain impugns the torpid inaction of the legislative deliberations of the State for the last half century induces us to imagine he is disposed to countenance the pleasant sarcasm with which North Carolina has been alluded to as the Rip Van Winkle State, that has not yet awoke.”
This is perhaps the earliest in-state reference to the “Rip Van Winkle” label. “During the first half of the nineteenth century,” historian William S. Powell will write, “North Carolina seemed unaware of much that was going on anywhere, even within its own boundaries.”