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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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O'Kelly, James (1736?-1826)

James O’Kelly, a fiery, revivalist preacher in Virginia and North Carolina from 1775-1826, preached religious liberty.  He decried slavery, using republican rhetoric in An Essay on Negro Slavery, and criticized Methodist polity in The Author’s Apology for Protesting Against the Methodist Episcopal Church.  In 1794, he created the Republican Methodist denomination, which became the Christian Church in the South in 1802.  O’Kelly moved to North Carolina in 1787 and died in Chatham County in 1826. 

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Bloodworth, Timothy (1736-1814)

Timothy Bloodworth was an influential Patriot, Anti-Federalist, and Democratic-Republican.  Without the advantages of great wealth, a prominent family, or a prestigious education, Bloodworth typified a new generation of working-class politicians during and after the American Revolution, and his ambition, ability, and likable personality made him one of North Carolina’s most durable politicians.

Commentary

Antifederalists: North Carolina's Other Founders

It is tempting to dismiss the Anti-Federalists, for the U.S. Constitution that they opposed is practically a sacred document to most modern Americans.  Under that Constitution, the United States increased in population, wealth, and territory to become, by the late twentieth century, the world’s only superpower.  The Anti-Federalists contributed to what now seems to be a preordained drama.  Their story, however, suggests that history might have taken another, and not unthinkable, path.

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Davie, William Richardson (1756-1820)

Soldier, lawmaker, governor, and diplomat, Davie is best remembered as the principal founder of the University of North Carolina.  Despite his many accomplishments, Davie’s ardent Federalism fostered a growing voter disenchantment with him, and he spent his last years living in a self-imposed political exile.

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Blount, William (1749-1800)

As businessman, Revolutionary War veteran, signer of the Constitution, territorial governor, and United States Senator, William Blount spent his lifetime looking for opportunities. No place in the late-eighteenth century United States  offered better opportunities for a person with Blount’s disposition and connections than did the trans-Appalachian frontier. Ultimately Blount’s grasp exceeded his resources, leading Blount to devise a desperate plan that failed—and led to his expulsion from the United States Senate.

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Sevier, John (1745-1815)

John Sevier arrived in western North Carolina during the troubled years just prior to the American Revolution. His leadership was crucial during the Cherokee offensive of 1776 and four years later at the Battle of King’s Mountain. Sevier went on to play central roles in three separate governments west of the Appalachians. His relations with the Cherokee were marked by military success but also marred by controversy. Even so, his leadership on the frontier was unquestioned and was an essential factor in the transition from North Carolina wilderness to Tennessee statehood.

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Oliver, Francis (1740-1808)

Francis Oliver was a Baptist preacher from Duplin County, North Carolina and a delegate at the 1788 state convention to ratify the federal constitution.  An Anti-Federalist, Oliver vigorously defended individual liberty and upheld republican values.

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Iredell, James, Sr. (1751-1799)

James Iredell (1751-1799) was a leader of the North Carolina Federalists during the state ratification debates of the federal Constitution.  Following ratification, President George Washington appointed the North Carolinian to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served until his death in 1799.  His best-known opinion is his dissent in Chisholm v. Georgia (1793) that provided the basis for the subsequent adoption of the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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Republicanism

Republicanism is a term for beliefs that have defined the American political experiment. In particular, republicanism stems from a form a government where the people are sovereign.  In such a government, virtuous and autonomous citizens must exercise self-control for the common good. Republican citizens should not seek office or use public office for economic gain. Public officials must subordinate their personal ambitions for the good of the community. A republican citizen also must be prepared to thwart corrupting influences that would lead the nation toward tyranny or despotism.  Republicanism is based on the assumption that liberty and power continually battle.