After Slavery: Educator Resources

Exhibit Splash Image

3. D. F. Caldwell's Ideas for Economic Development in North Carolina

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Five: Conservatives Respond to Emancipation in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

Some southern whites saw the end of slavery as an opportunity to modernize many aspects of the South, from the economy to the structure of government. In the letter below, a Greensboro Whig politician and businessman advises Governor Jonathan Worth on a number of schemes for improvement of various sorts. One important issue Caldwell hopes to address is the lack of money in the South. With the collapse of the antebellum system of finance that linked planters to factors in southern port cities who sold their crops, the South after the war was desperately short of banking facilities. The lack of money in circulation slowed down economic recovery, not the least because of changes in federal banking laws accomplished during the war. Caldwell had been very involved in building and financing the North Carolina Railroad in the 1850s, and he believes that connecting the South to markets and resources in the West could be the salvation of this region.

D. F. Caldwell's Ideas for Economic Development in North Carolina

From D. F. Caldwell
Greensboro, Nov. 14th 1866.

You must pardon me for this hasty note. I have long been desirous to write you an article on state affairs, but have not been able to get all the data I desired, and have postponed, until I find it is now too late to effect anything.

This much for my troubling you-If there is one man in the state, who does earnestly desire to see you signalize your administration by doing something for the lasting benefit of ones people and state I am that man. I am sure the way is open and I believe you have the will and popularity. I see that all the enterprising portion of our population in this part of the state will soon leave us if something is not done to give our people hope. Over one thousand have gone and still this frightful exodus continues. I feel touch over conditions for I already see the beginning of the end if something is not done to give laboring men in this section of the state hope in the future if they remain among us.

Now as to what I think ought to be done-the F. and W. R. R. ought to be extended up Deep River to this place as speedy as possible and if the state does nothing more it should do all the late committee asked. The county courts must be authorized to lay off all the counties in small townships and give the people the power to elect road school and agricultural commissioners with a constable for each whose duty it should be to take charge of the roads schools and Agricultural interests in each and in the city, etc., etc. Then we must have some sort of a currency-I had and still have faith in the scheme I proposed-but I will not again press it upon your attention. There is another plan that will work like a charm but will require some time, which I call to your attention and all the savants in whom you may have confidence.

It is this-let owners Railroads unite in asking the Legislature to so amend their respective charters so as to allow them to privilege of banking under the National Banking laws for a limited time if they fear a great mynopoly. If their prayer is answered then let them repair to Washington City and try and get Congress to pass a law authorizing the Postmaster General or some one else to enter into a contract with owners of Railroads for some 15 or 20 years to come to carry the U.S. mail for a certain and stipulated price per mile per annum. And then let the Government of the U.S. issue to these roads bonds of the Government to the amount that the mail pay received will pay the interest on. These bonds may be redeemed by the Government and as additional security the roads may give the state a lien on all their property to redeem them on their circulation. This would soon give us a currency strengthen the roads and enable them to encourage our manufactures milers farmers and mechanics. -by making them loans on land and produce...Then I hope to see what I declared ten years ago should be done the N.C. Rail Road extended to Paint Rock and also to Cleveland on our extreme western border there to connect with the R.Road to Memphis.

When we look at the amount N York has expended on the Roads and Canals to connect with the West What Baltimore has expended on her roads for the same purposes and what Virginia has, and now proposes to spend upon her canall and Road from Newport News, to the Ohio and contrast the annuity expended and yet required to effect these great lines and then contrast them any one of them, with the sum required to extend our road as we proposed we will be astonished that we have so miserably laged in this race. Our Route is the most direct and far the best and cheapest-to the Mississippi and equally so to Cincinnati and St. Louis-And via Arkansas and Texas a far Superior and nearer route to St. Francisco California and when N.C. completes the N.C. Rail Road a I have proposed Then the results will come in like sheaves of grain from a well reaped harvest field. Every effort ought to be made to accomplish forthwith this great work, if the state values it, and dedicate it and all its revenues to the cause of education-but I would not have you to recommend the state to embark another dollar in this or any other scheme of the kind when the individual stockholders had not the full power & control of the road and its management. This is a sine qua non.

SourceThe Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, collected and edited by J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing Co., 1909, pp.836-839.


Questions to Consider

  1. How does Caldwell think that railroads could be made to serve the economic interests of North Carolina? What obstacles would his plan have faced?

  2. What were the effects of a lack of currency in the South in the years immediately following the Civil War?

  3. Is it likely that the same correspondence would have occurred before the War? What had changed?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Five