From 1809-12, Nathaniel Macon criticized the political machinations of a few members of Congress, mainly senators, whom he called “Invisibles.” Far from being superheroes swooping in to rescue ordinary Americans, the Invisibles, in Macon’s mind, acted unconstitutionally and harmed the nation.
Born in an area that many of North Carolina’s early republic and antebellum statesmen called home—Warren, Halifax, and Edgecombe counties—Willis Alston entered into the political arena with established familial and political connections. He served as a state legislator and senator, and as a U.S. Congressman for 21 years. Although he was Nathaniel Macon’s nephew, Willis Alston disagreed with his influential uncle on various political issues during Thomas Jefferson’s administration (1801-1809)
Many North Carolinians expressed Antifederalist sympathies and were skeptical of giving the national government more authority, especially without a Bill of Rights added to the Constitution. There might be problems with the Articles of Confederation, sure, but did Americans, many Tar Heels questioned, need to hurriedly give the national government more power?
When U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., filibustered in March, the old-fashioned way, talking for approximately 13 hours and questioning whether the president had the constitutional authority to use unmanned drones to kill American noncombatants on U.S. soil, he unnerved many politicians and talking heads.
Americans more often than not discuss the meaning of the Constitution through the lens of Supreme Court decisions and the famous Federalist essays of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. That is only part of the story, and in the case of the Supreme Court, a subjective and politically tainted chapter.
Over the past year and a half, I have been traveling across North Carolina with my colleague Michael Sanera leading constitutional workshops. In them, we emphasize the federal nature of the American government and remind Tar Heels that knowledge of history is essential to understanding original intent and the Constitution’s meaning. The question-and-answer sessions are interesting, so I thought I’d share some of the oft- repeated questions with readers.
Turner was an accomplished governor of North Carolina from 1802 to 1805. Before that, Turner was a soldier during the Revolutionary War, during which he served under the famous General Nathaniel Greene. Turner later became a representative in the House of Commons from 1798 to 1800 and served in the State Senate before reaching the North Carolina governorship in 1802. Turner was best known for his affiliation with Nathaniel Macon, a politician from North Carolina who mentored the Old Republicans.
The Judge presiding over the landmark case Bayard v. Singleton (1785), Ashe served three one-year terms as Governor and was an ardent Federalist at the beginning of his term. He soon supported state’s rights and Jeffersonian ideals.
A New Bern native and father of North Carolina Governor Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr., Spaight was a leading Federalist delegate to the Constitutional Convention and governor of North Carolina from 1792 to 1795. He later allied with Jeffersonian Republicanism after disagreeing with Federalist support for the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798).
A Bertie County native, a College of New Jersey (Princeton University) graduate, and part of the Marache Club, David Stone served not only as Governor of North Carolina (1808-1810) but also as a state legislator in the House of Commons (1790-1795, 1810-1811), as a U.S. Representative (1799-1801), and as a U.S. Senator (1801-1807, 1812-1814). As governor he worked to protect personal property rights and promoted education in the Jeffersonian spirit. As a US Senator, he was censured by the General Assembly for opposing war efforts.