Amending the North Carolina Constitution

Spatial and Political Enfranchisement as Portrayed By Delegate Votes and Voter Representation in 1835

  • James C. Burke Cape Fear Community College
  • Elisabeth S. Nelson University of North Carolina at Greensboro


The most significant event in the political history of antebellum North Carolina was the convention that assembled at Raleigh on 4 June 1835 to amend the North Carolina Constitution. At that time, it had become apparent that the North Carolina Constitution of 1776 was seriously flawed. When the convention was adjourned on 11 June 1835, the delegates had prepared amendments that abolished borough representation, secured better representation for the western counties, allowed for election of the governor by the people rather than the Legislature, and removed certain religious qualifications for holding office. Unfortunately, they also submitted an abrogation the right of free persons of color to vote. When the amendments were submitted to the citizens of the state for ratification, the tabulation of popular vote reflected a stark contrast between the counties of the east, favoring rejection of the amendments, and the counties of the Piedmont and Mountains that supported their ratification. With such a solid division between the regions, it is difficult to determine county-level sentiment on any particular amendment. The votes of the delegates to the convention, however, were not always so clearly divided along sectional lines when they were crafting the amendments. By mapping the spatial distribution of the votes of the delegates on the individual amendments, county-level attributes of the popular vote emerge.