North Carolina: Westward Expansion and Civic Improvements

Westward Expansion and Civic Improvements

Settlements had been established beyond the mountains before the Revolution (see Watauga Association and Transylvania Company) and were increased after the war. In 1784 North Carolina ceded its western lands to the United States, spurring the transmontane people to organize a new, short-lived government (see Franklin, State of). Within the year North Carolina repealed the act ceding the land; however, the cession was reenacted in 1789, and that territory became (1796) the state of Tennessee.

North Carolina opposed a strong central government and did not ratify the Constitution until Nov., 1789, months after the new U.S. government had begun to function. Little social and economic progress was made under the state's undemocratic constitution (framed in 1776), which largely served the interests of the politically dominant, tidewater planter aristocracy, and North Carolina appeared to be on the verge of revolution.

In 1835, however, the western part of the state, now its most populous section, finally succeeded in enacting a constitution that abolished the property and religious qualifications for voting and holding office (except for Jews) and provided for the popular election of governors. In the same year began the final forced removal of most of the Cherokee; but to check the steady, voluntary outmigration of whites, internal improvements, especially the building of railroads and plank roads, were effected. The Public School Law (1839) inaugurated free education, and other important reforms were instituted. The period of progress continued until the Civil War.

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