A history lesson for Pasquotank County commissioners

“….In their reactions to last week’s call by the Pasquotank NAACP to remove a Confederate monument from the county courthouse property, several Pasquotank commissioners said the Civil War was fought more over the issue of states’ rights than slavery.

“That’s just not so, said Michael Hill, a historian with the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, who called the states’ rights justification for the South’s secession a ‘bogus argument’….

“ ‘That debate was long settled among historians,’ Hill said in a phone interview. ‘Slavery was central to the debate that preceded the war.’

“Hill said that when Southern states declared their causes for seceding from the Union, many said point-blank it was because of the North’s perceived hostility to slaveholding. Shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865, he said, many Southern leaders and writers tried to redefine, and even rename, the Civil War — one of those names was in fact the ‘War Between the States’ — but he said there’s no doubt about the ‘centrality of slavery’ in causing the war…”

— From “Historian: Slavery, not states’ rights, caused Civil War” by Jon Hawley in the Elizabeth City Daily Advance (July 4)

Of course, this misconception isn’t limited to northeastern North Carolina.


Crime and punishment, North Carolina-style

On this day in 1786: A judge in Pasquotank County certifies that “John Rose, an inhabitant of this county and State aforesaid, being with part of his left ear left off, had the misfortune to be deprived of that by a bite of a Malicious Mare… “

As late as the early 1800s, N.C. courts commonly punish offenders by loss of one or both ears. A perjurer in Ashe County, for example, is fined 10 pounds and sentenced to “stand in the pillory for one hour, at the expiration of which time both his ears be cut off and entirely severed from his head, and… be nailed to the pillory and there remain till the setting of the sun.”

To avoid being taken for convicted criminals, citizens such as John Rose petition the courts to certify that their missing or maimed ears resulted from other causes.