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Declaration of Rights

by John V. Orth, 2006

See also: State Constitution; Black and Tan Constitution; Convention of 1835 (from Encyclopedia of North Carolina); 1835 Constitutional Convention (from Tar Heel Junior Historian); Convention of 1868; Convention of 1875; Governor

The first North Carolina Declaration of Rights, modeled in part on comparable declarations in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, was adopted on behalf of the state by the Fifth Provincial Congress on 17 Dec. 1776. The declaration was adopted one day prior to the adoption of the new state's constitution and was specifically incorporated into that document to emphasize the strong commitment of North Carolinians to individual freedoms. The Declaration of Rights proclaimed popular sovereignty and separation of powers as well as basic civil rights, such as freedom of religion and guarantees of a fair trial, many of which were later restated in the federal Bill of Rights. The original Declaration of Rights, largely unchanged-plus a few provisions made necessary by defeat in the Civil War, such as the abolition of slavery and the prohibition of secession-became Article I of the 1868 North Carolina Constitution. With only minor changes, the Declaration of Rights remains the primary article of the state's 1971 constitution.

Educator Resources:

Grade 8: Bill of Rights. North Carolina Civic Education Consortium.


John V. Orth, The North Carolina State Constitution: A Reference Guide (1993).

Additional Resources:

North Carolina Constitution, NC Historical Marker E-98:

North Carolina Constitution and Declaration of Rights, LearnNC:

North Carolina's State Constitution: The Declaration of Rights. NC Civic Education Consortium, Lesson Plan:

North Carolina Declaration of Rights, Library of Congress: #

North Carolina State Constitution, NC General Assembly:

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It is not possible that 'both' slavery and state's rights are factually correct answers to a question of on what 'behalf' the U.S. Civil War was fought.

The presumption in the answer that 'fought on behalf of' must mean generally 'cause of war' is probably correct.

The conflation of 'slavery' and 'state's rights' as two equal items is revisionist and not supported by an fact pattern.

The common-sense question that arises from the answer given on Aug. 22, 2017 is: 'States right to do what?'

Certainly, no combatant party in the US Civil War fought for an abstraction called 'state's rights.'

An examination of the ordinances of secession, the commentary, letters, documents and diaries of the leader of the seceded states all indicate that the prevailing 'state's right' on which the seceding states (popularly called 'the South') was the 'right' to secede from the Union.

Then, why secede?

The states seceded because they believed:
1. The People of the United States, through their Congress, could not regulate the institution of slavery -- even though this belief conflicts with a mountain of fact, including the restrictions on slavery in the Northwest Ordinances, slavery prohibition articles in the statehood laws of new states north of the Ohio and west of the Mississippi rivers, and there being no citation or theory of the Constitution of the United States that prevented Congress from regulating slavery as an institution in interstate commerce.
2. States of the Union did not have the right (an anti-states' right argument!!!) to prohibit slavery -- this despite the seceding states' pretextual claim to support states' rights over the constitutionally enumerated powers of the Government of the United States.

Thus, what facts we have show that the seceding states seceded actually for a single reason -- to preserve slavery.

They employed BOTH state's rights (exclusive right to regulate slavery) and anti-state's rights (no state may outlaw slavery) in their general, overall, unitary and sole motivation to fight the Government of the United States by force of arms -- the defense of slavery.

Slavery was the cause of the U.S. Civil War. It was the sole cause. Other causes attributed are secondary and all connected to the economic and social interest of slavery.

The "NC Government & Heritage Library" would do well to recognize the weight of evidence and end the "slavery and state's rights" canard.

Historians generally acknowledge that the seceding states (popularly called 'The South') fought the U.S. Civil War for the preservation of slavery. The governments of those seceding states also invoked 'states' rights' arguments, but always and exclusively in their efforts to preserve slavery.


Unfortunately your quoting propaganda as "states rights" are factually historically INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.

The civil war was about individual sovereignty and the concept of "popular sovereignty" as the way of life in the south. It turned into a battle of the international corporate complex versus southern aristocracy for control of the people. All one needs to look up is what "chambers of commerce" are and specifically the actions of the chambers of commerce of new york city of the so called "empire state."
Go down this rabbit hole and it will lead you to the truth.

Once upon a time, the people of this nation were free, but the civil war turned all into corporate slaves. One needs only to follow the money as usual to see what new york was up to, and doing so you will learn about the civil war debt, which families owned that debt, and why the constitution was ignored and also changed by a governemnt supposedly defending it. The civil war "reconstruction amendments" made everyone federal slaves to an "unquestionable war debt" which paid and benefitted the new elite, the international organization which stole our gold in the "trading with the enemies acts" which eventually designated all former "citizens" as now "enemies of the state." One needs only examine a little further to see these internationalists get us into 2 world wars and damn near constant war ever since.

For more info, look up the AFG, aka american federal government. Look up "united states in congress assembled" and look up the articles of confederation and then look up southern constitutions.

Slavery was the ability of one person to own another persons debt, eventually to the point of being that persons private jailer. Private prisons still exists as "corporate citizens" and still use prison labor for monetary gains, so has slavery really vanished? People have taxes on everything they do and own now....something a slave is subject to, not a free person. The civil war only established and enabled the current sweeping injustices against all people, whereas before there were many people not subject to much if any control outside of their own wants, needs, and desires.

So more than slavery, and definitely not states rights, but the rights of the sovereign and free individuals was the actual reason for the civil war. States rights were seen as a sovereigns right to participate in any chosen local government, but is not the real issue at hand.

Sovereign White male landowners were supposed to be this nation, but consistent steps by internationalists have subverted it to become what it is today.


Was the Civil War fought on behalf of the South because of slavery and/or states rights?


Dear Elinor,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia  and for sharing your question.

I think that historians generally acknowledge that both of those are true.  

You may be interested in this article in the New York Times written a few years ago during the commemoration of the Civil War at 150 -- It discusses popular and historical misunderstandings of the causes and outcomes of the war as well as recent research, review and re-interpretation by historians.  You might find it helpful.

Additionally, here are resources in NCpedia about the Civil War:

Please let us know if you have additional questions.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


this was a great lesson for my students thank u nc pedia

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