A youth of fifteen when Fort Sumter fell, Walter Clark rose to the rank of major in the 35th North Carolina Regiment by the end of the war. Like most Southern men at the end of the war, he went back to his farm to eke out a living amongst the devastation. He found that an undependable labor supply would not bode well for the economic future of the South.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Menacing Tide of Abolitionist Fanaticism
“[At the close of the war] . . . the former slaves were thoroughly confused. These Negroes were being deceived by the report that Lincoln had promised to give each family a mule and forty acres of land and that they as free citizens would not have to work for anyone. Thus demoralized and imbued with false hopes, they staged the first great “sit down strike.” In an effort to secure dependable labor for the plantation, Clark visited Raleigh, Baltimore and even New York, but with little success.
On December 2nd 1865 he wrote [to the Raleigh Sentinel]:
“The picture of abandoned farms, stagnated business, a dejected people and open lawlessness is fearful to contemplate. We must rid ourselves of the dead body of slavery, and with it dispose of the perplexing problems of Negro suffrage and Negro equality forever. We have fertile lands, navigable rivers, inexhaustible mines, and a brave and generous people. We need labor to develop these resources and improve our advantages. To do this, however, the labor must be dependable. The conduct of the newly emancipated freedmen is a problem yet to be solved by the future. The prosperity of a great State should not depend upon a contingency.”
Clark pointed out that if the resolution for the abolition of slavery introduced in the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures in 1831 and 1832 had not been defeated by the menacing tide of [abolitionist] fanaticism, our own interests would have long since led us to abolish a system which is “at variance with the spirit of our institutions and the genius of the age and has been fraught with the most baneful effects.”
He strongly urged the importation of free white labor and advocated the industrial development of the State, saying: “The broad fertile fields, unexplored mines, unimproved waterpower and dwarf cities of North Carolina are imperiously calling for the influx of population.”
(Walter Clark, Fighting Judge, Aubrey Lee Brooks, UNC Press, 1944, pp.37-39)