(Excerpted from the Centennial Celebration Address of Stephen Beauregard Weeks, June 5, 1895)
North Carolina Among the Heroic in History:
“The heroic in history but seldom occurs. It is not often that the life of nations rises above the
monotonous level which characterizes the daily routine of duty. When such periods do
occur they are usually a part of some great national uprising like the leve en masse
in France under the first Napoleon, or the Landsturm in Germany in 1813.
Of the American States, none can show a fairer record in this respect than North Carolina.
There is little in the Colonial or State history of North Carolina that is discreditable. The key-note
to the whole of her Colonial history is unending opposition to unjust and illegal government,
by whom and wherever exercised.
During the period from the end of the Revolution to the Civil War there are no mountain peaks
in her history; the level of uniformity is hardly broken by a single event of importance.
And there is little in it to attract the student of the philosophy of history.
But there is a period in the history of North Carolina which stands pre-eminent. There is a time
which deserves to be characterized as the Heroic Period of the State. This is the period
of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Let other parts of our history be forgotten,
this period of itself, though it be less than half a generation in all,
will place North Carolina among the heroic in history.
During those years we see a renaissance of the ideas which characterized pre-eminently
the men of the Colonial period. The men of ’61 showed that the spirit of Colonial North Carolina
was still abroad in the land, and their watchword became again resistance to what they believed
to be unjust government, and with this as a basis they conducted a struggle for success
that has few parallels in history. They sought again to
carry out the program of their colonial ancestors…..
In this movement that led up to the war North Carolina took the part of a conservative,
ambitious for peace. She sought to escape the necessity of war by all the means
in her power; but, when the die was cast and war was no longer avoidable, she entered
into the struggle with characteristic energy, and prosecute it to the end, and when
the end came, no State accepted the crushing defeat with more steadfast loyalty
than North Carolina, or sought with more energy to build up the waste places.
Then came what was worse than defeat…..the terrors of reconstruction….broke over us like
the roar of some terrible simoon, bearing in its path further humiliation, accompanied by
a corrupt government, increased taxes, and a depreciation of values.
Such was the struggle through which the best men of North Carolina were called to pass in
those fateful years between 1860 and 1875. These were the years on which the
fate of the future in a large measure depended.
Well did the brave men of that generation come to the succor of the foundering ship of State,
and nobly did they rescue her from the rule of her motley crew. The best men of North Carolina
were engaged in this work, and among them, most frequently as leaders, were many
alumni of the University of North Carolina.
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