After Slavery: Educator Resources

Exhibit Splash Image

3. North Carolina Constitutional Convention Protects Homesteads

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Eight: Planters, Poor Whites and White Supremacy in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

The constitutional conventions that convened in 1868 under the authority of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 included not only African Americans, but also a greater representation of poor white men than had participated in the 1865 constitutional conventions. One of their key concerns was passing a homestead law. In this context, a homestead law refers not to the federal government giving away free land, as in the federal Homestead Act of 1862, but the state government protecting a minimal amount of productive property for each citizen. The law would insure that even if a person was in debt, his creditors had to leave him enough land and other material to provide a basic living for himself and his family. Over the next several years, these homestead laws were constantly modified by both legislatures and courts. The document below is the work of the North Carolina constitutional convention on homesteads.

North Carolina Constitutional Convention Protects Homesteads

The Committee appointed to report on a Homestead, respectfully submit the following article, to wit:

SECTION 1. The personal property of any resident of this State, to the value of three hundred dollars, to be selected by such resident, shall be exempted from sale or execution, or other final process of any court, issued for the collection of any debt contracted after the adoption of this Constitution.

SEC. 2. Every Homestead not exceeding one hundred acres of land and the dwelling and buildings therewith, not exceeding in value one thousand dollars, to be selected by the owner thereof, or in lieu thereof, at the option of the owner, any lot in a city, town or village, with the dwelling and buildings used thereon, owned and occupied by any resident of this State, and not exceeding the value of one thousand dollars, shall be exempt from sale, execution, or any final process, obtained on any debt contracted from and after the adoption of this Constitution. Such exemption, however, shall not extend to any mortgage lawfully obtained; but no such mortgage or deed in the nature thereof, made by the owner of the homestead, if a married man, and no deed of conveyance by him shall be valid without the voluntary signature and assent of his wife, signified on her private examination before a Judge of some Court of this State.

SEC. 3. The homestead of a family, after the death of the owner thereof, shall be exempt from the payment of any debt contracted by him after the adoption of this Constitution, during the minority of his children, or any one of them.

SEC. 4. The provisions of sections one and two of this Article shall not be so construed as to prevent a laborer's lien for work done and performed for the person claiming such exemption, or a mechanic for work done on the premises.

SEC. 5. If the owner of a homestead die, leaving a widow but no children, the same shall be exempt from the debts of her husband, and the rents and profits thereof shall inure to her benefit for her life.

SEC. 6. The real and personal property of any female in this State, acquired before marriage, and all property, real and personal, to which she may, after marriage, become in any manner entitled after the adoption of this Constitution, shall be and remain the sole and separate estate and property of such female, and shall not be liable for any debts, obligations or engagements of her husband, and may be conveyed, devised, or bequeathed by her as if she were a femme sole.

C. C. JONES, Chairman.

SourceJournal of the Constitutional Convention of the State of North Carolina at its Session 1868 (Raleigh: Joseph W. Holden, 1868), 219-220.


Questions to Consider

  1. What are the exceptions to the homestead protection, and whose interests do those exceptions serve?

  2. What is significant about section 6 of the proposed law?

  3. What groups of people might be opposed to this law, and why?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Eight