The historian Irving Brant, who wrote a six-volume biography of James Madison, once complained about his subject’s modest place in America’s historical memory. “Among all the men who shaped the present government of the United States of America, the one who did the most is known the least.” In a modest effort to redress this Madisonian neglect, here are five things we should all know about America’s fourth president.
The Occaneechi is a small tribe of American Indians residing in the Piedmont North Carolina and southern Virginia. Today, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation numbers seven hundred and is the smallest tribe recognized by North Carolina.
Even if you are an expert, chances are that your idea of James Madison is highly skewed. He gets almost no credit for his most important accomplishment; two of his supposed chief achievements were less important than many think; he opposed another before he was for it; and he tried to reel one in after he cast it out.
Born at Blount Hall on May 10, 1759, Thomas Blount served during the Revolutionary War and he was captured and sent to England during the conflict. After the war, Blount became a trader in Edgecombe County. Blount served in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th, and 12th U.S. Congresses as a North Carolina representative.
Once the strongest Algonquian tribe in North Carolina, the Chowanoac, or “people at the south,” thrived in areas that now make up the Bertie, Chowan, Gates, and Hertford Counties. Ralph Lane and other English explorers first encountered the tribe in 1586. Between 1666 and 1676, several conflicts led to the downfall of the once powerful Native American group. By the 1750s, the Chowanoac had sold most of their land holdings to English colonists.
An eastern Siouan tribe that once resided in the southeastern part of North Carolina and upper sections of South Carolina, the Waccamaw lived, hunted, and fished along the rivers and swamps of the region. The Yamassee and Tuscarora Wars proved detrimental to the Waccamaw, a tribe that remained in relative obscurity until the late eighteenth century. Although the federal government has yet to recognize the tribe, North Carolina has recognized the Waccamaw, and some 1,500 members reside in Bladen and Columbus Counties.
The subject of Scottish folklore and myth, Flora MacDonald assisted Prince Charles Stuart in his escape from King George II during the Jacobite rebellion. In 1774, Flora and her family moved to the North Carolina colony, and Flora’s husband and son fought for the Loyalists during the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. The Jacobite heroine returned to her native Scotland in 1779 where she passed away in 1790.
Similar to the earlier, explorer-naturalist John Lawson, William Bartram traveled and detailed most his 1770s trek throughout the southern colonial wilderness and what would become known as North Carolina. His descriptive Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida was published in 1791. The account became an important account of the early American South. Born in 1739, Bartram died in Bladen County in 1823.
As the oldest courthouse in North Carolina, the historic Chowan County Courthouse was constructed in 1767 in Edenton. Joseph Hewes, Samuel Johnston, and other important North Carolina Patriots used the courthouse during the 1770s and 1780s. With the Cupola and Barker House, the Chowan County Courthouse remains an important historical structure and popular attraction in Edenton. Today, the courthouse is the oldest government building in use in the state.
One of the largest and most ornate buildings in colonial North Carolina, the Tryon Palace was built in the late 1760s at the behest of its namesake, Royal Governor William Tryon. John Hawks was the architect, and the government assembly chambers and the house were dedicated on December 5, 1770. Increased taxes to pay for the palace’s construction angered many Piedmont colonists. After the American Revolution, the palace burnt down in a fire in 1798. In 1959, after efforts to restore the site, Tryon Palace opened as the state’s first historic site.