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Address to the Freemen of North Carolina (Publicola)

During the ratification debates, many Federalists and Antifederalists assumed pseudonyms when writing essays supporting or opposing the U.S. Constitution’s adoption.  Under the penname Publicola (meaning friend of the people), Archibald Maclaine of Wilmington, a Federalist, printed a reply to George Mason’s objections to the Constitution.  It appeared in installments in the New Bern State Gazette on March 20 and March 27, 1789.

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Edenton, A Speech at

On November 8, 1787 in Edenton at the Chowan County Courthouse, Hugh Williamson called for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  In February 1788, his speech was published in the New York Daily Advertiser and later in other publications, including Pennsylvania Packet, Charleston Columbian Herald, and Philadelphia American Museum. 

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Spaight, Sr., Richard Dobbs (1758-1802)

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).

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Bloodworth Letters, 1

Antifederalist Timothy Bloodworth’s letters are scarce.  Most of what we know is from what his contemporaries remarked and from his comments during the ratification debates.  In this letter, Bloodworth expresses his concern regarding the Constitution, comments on politics in New York and Virginia, describes public opinion in North Carolina regarding the Constitution, and calls for a committee to explore amendments.

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Williamson Hugh

Born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Hugh Williamson was a physician and polymath who served as one of North Carolina’s delegates to the Federal Constitutional Convention. Active in the debates at the Convention, Williamson was a leading intellectual in Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary America.

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Hillsborough Convention of 1788

Meeting in Hillsborough, North Carolina, Antifederal and Federal delegates convened from July 21 to August 4, 1788 to consider ratification of the newly proposed U.S. Constitution.  The two-week long deliberations resulted in neither ratification nor rejection.  North Carolina refused to make a decision.  Ratification was postponed until the 1789 Fayetteville Convention.

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Martin Alexander

Born in New Jersey in 1738, Alexander Martin was a politician and North Carolinian delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention. He was the only delegate to the Federal Convention who sought election to a state convention and lost. 

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Ratification Debates

Resulting from nationalists’ claim that the Articles of Confederation was too weak, a more powerful central government was proposed. In Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, Constitutional Convention delegates drafted the U.S. Constitution and submitted the document to the states for ratification.  In North Carolina, the document was neither approved or rejected at the state’s first convention, the Hillsborough Convention of 1788.  The following year, delegates met at the Fayetteville Convention and ratified the Constitution.  North Carolina had joined the Union.

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Spencer Samuel

Born in Virginia in 1738, Samuel Spencer played important roles in several chapters of the history of North Carolina. He served as the de facto executive of North Carolina after the American Revolution broke out. Shortly thereafter, he was elected a superior court judge in North Carolina, remaining on the bench until his death. He is, however, best known as the leader of the antifederalist faction at the Hillsborough Convention of 1788.