Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
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Signer of Constitution Expelled From U.S. Senate

When "Founding Father" is mentioned many Americans want to stand and salute. However, not all founders assumed room temperature in a blaze of glory. For example, one delegate from North Carolina who signed the Constitution moved from the state and later, as a U.S. Senator from another state, was expelled from the Senate.

Twelve years after the Declaration of Independence, on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the constitution and thereby form the United States of America. [Virginia, on 06/25/1788: New York, on 07/26/1788: North Carolina, on 11/21/1789: and Rhode Island, on 05/29/1790, completed the ratification process for the original 13 states. However, under the ratification clause, only 9 approvals were necessary to form the Union.]

For most of the 12 years between the Declaration and the ratification, the states operated under the Articles of Confederation, a loose agreement providing for cooperation on matters of mutual interest, but also a document with virtually no enforcement powers. For example, it required each state to provide militia and money for war but, should a state not meet it's obligations, the only recourse was military intervention from the other states. In other words, it was sort of an early model of the United Nations and it didn't work either. Even during peaceful and calm times, rational people could see that it was a cruel joke -- again sort of like the UN.

The Continental Convention of 1787 met to draft and propose changes to the Articles of Confederation but rational thinking intervened and, instead of upgrading the Articles, the convention wrote a completely new document. Delegates had been instructed by their states and many thought the convention out of bounds in considering a new approach, but all 13 states ratified the resulting document thereby establishing the legitimacy of the process.

North Carolina sent five delegates: William Blount, William R. Davie, Alexander Martin, Richard D. Spaight, and Hugh Williamson, [each state had one vote and therefore could send any number of delegates.] Davie and Martin left before the meeting ended and therefore did not sign the final document. Blount, Spaight, and Williamson signed for North Carolina.

At the convention, delegate William Pierce of Georgia made notes on his opinion of most of the other delegates. On William Blount he wrote:

"Mr. Blount is a character strongly marked for integrity and honor. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and in that office discharged his duty with ability and faithfulness. He is no Speaker, nor does he possess any of those talents that make Men shine; - he is plain, honest, and sincere. Mr. Blount is about 36 years of age."

About the only thing he got right was Blount's age.

Blount, a lawyer [ahem], remained active in politics beyond North Carolina and in 1790 he was appointed governor of the territory south of the Ohio. In 1796 he was chosen president of the convention of Tennessee. He was afterward elected by that state to a seat in the United States Senate, but was expelled in July, 1797, for having instigated the Indians to assist the British in conquering Florida from Spain! The gun barrels were still smoking from the Revolutionary War and this United States Senator is out making private deals with the British to invade another country's territory. Blount wasn't doing this for the good ol' U.S.A. He expected Florida to become a British Colony with him as Governor.

Tennessee loved the scoundrel. They named the County Seat of Sullivan County "Blountville" [Bristol, Johnson City, Tri-City Airport, Bristol Speedway.] That's where NASCAR driver, Alan Kulwicki, died in a plane crash. They also named a county southeast of Knoxville, "Blount" County [Maryville, Lenoir, Alcoa.]

Blount died at Knoxville, Tennessee, in March, 1800.

Here's what Pierce had to say about the other North Carolina delegates. [Spelling and capitalization retained from original text.]

Richard Dobbs Spaight: [Signed]

"Mr. Spaight is a worthy Man, of some abilities, and fortune: Without possessing a Genius to render him brilliant, he is able to discharge any public trust that his Country may repose in him. He is about 31 years of age."

Hugh Williamson: [Signed]

"Mr. Williamson is a Gentleman of education and talents. He enters freely into public debate from his close attention to most subjects, but he is no Orator. There is a great degree of good humour and pleasantry in his character; and in his manners there is a strong trait of the Gentleman. He is about 48 years of age."

William Richardson Davie: [Did not sign]

"Mr. Davey(sic) is a Lawyer of some eminence in his State. He is said to have a good classical education, and is a Gentleman of considerable literary talents. He was silent in the Convention, but his opinion was always respected. Mr. Davey is about 30 years of age."

Alexander Martin: [Did not sign]

"Mr. Martin was lately Governor of North Carolina, which office he filled with credit. He is a Man of sense, and undoubtedly is a good politician, but he is not formed to shine in public debate, being no Speaker. Mr. Martin was once a Colonel in the American Army, but proved unfit for the field. [Ed. note, "ouch"] He is about 40 years of age."

Philosophos Historia


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