North Carolina many times has been a battleground state and a determining factor in national debates. A study of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and in particular what has become known as the “Connecticut Compromise,” provides an example of how North Carolinians provided key votes in the budding new union.
Josiah Collins III was the heir to Somerset Place, a plantation originally built by his grandfather Josiah Collins, Sr. and his Lake Company. Josiah Collins III was educated at Harvard and later studied law in Litchfield, Connecticut, and lived in New York City for a time. At age 21, he assumed management of Somerset Place and turned it into one of the largest and most prosperous plantations in the South. Josiah Collins III died shortly after the beginning of the Civil War and his death marked the end of Somerset Place. It was restored as a North Carolina State Historic Site in the 1950s and 1960s.
Although born in Scotland in 1733, Samuel Johnston lived in North Carolina from infancy. Historians have described the native Scot as a “prominent voice for the Patriot cause” who possessed “Revolutionary zeal.” Even so, many North Carolinians today are unaware of his illustrious political and legal career.
One of the first rope manufacturing establishments in North America; the Edenton Ropewalk (also referred to as the Hewes Ropewalk or the Collins Ropewalk) was originally established by Joseph Hewes in about 1777 and was acquired by Josiah Collins, Sr. in 1783. Under the management of his son, Josiah Collins II, the Edenton Ropewalk became one of the premier rope manufacturing sites in America. Covering an immense 131-acres of land, the Edenton Ropewalk was a large-scale rope making operation and by 1795 it is said to have created some of the best rope in the colonies. However, due to changes in the economic climate and the death of Josiah Collins II, the Edenton Ropewalk ceased operation in 1839.
In my experiences teaching United States history, students have a misconception that American slavery was strictly an agricultural institution. The slave labor experience, in particular, is considered one that existed entirely on plantation fields, sowing, tending, or harvesting cash crops — tobacco, cotton, or rice. Not all rural slaves worked on plantations, though; many toiled on smaller farms with a workforce of five to 10 field hands.
Many United States and North Carolina history enthusiasts are aware that President George Washington nominated James Iredell, Sr. (namesake of Iredell County, North Carolina) as one of the first justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Far fewer are aware that another Washington appointee to the high court called North Carolina home, albeit for only the final year of his life.
Wayne County was formed from Dobbs County in 1779 in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain. Wayne County is named after “Mad Anthony” Wayne, one of George Washington’s most trusted generals. Goldsboro is the county seat, and Wayne is also home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Wayne is also the home of numerous cultural institutions and events.
On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine delegates signed the U.S. Constitution and then submitted it to the various state ratification conventions to approve. What was accomplished on that day was nothing less than remarkable: delegates had agreed on the final draft of the first written national constitution that still remains in effect. Today is Constitution Day, and we as Americans remember the signers’ actions and the document’s importance to ensuring the rule of law, even in our modern world.
One can stand on a beautiful overlook in the Appalachian Mountains, then drive and enjoy the verdant Piedmont, and later listen to the cresting waves of the Atlantic Ocean — all in one day.
Thomas Wynns was a politician and general from Hertford County, North Carolina. He served in the North Carolina House of Commons, the North Carolina Senate, and in the United States House of Representatives. He was also commissioned as a major general in the North Carolina militia.