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.
Author: Jeff Broadwater
Dr. Broadwater is Associate Professor of History at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina. He holds a J.D. from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. in American History from Vanderbilt. His most recent book is George Mason, Forgotten Founder (Chapel Hill, 2006). He is also the author of Eisenhower and the Anti-Communist Crusade (Chapel Hill, 1992) and Adlai Stevenson and American Politics: The Odyssey of a Cold War Liberal (New York, 1994).
Formed in 1855, Wilson County was once home to the Tuscarora Indians. The county did not experience great growth until the arrival of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad in the late 1830s. During most of the 20th century, the county was known as "the world’s greatest tobaccomarket." Its county seat is also called Wilson.
Abner Nash served as the second governor of North Carolina during the darkest days of the American Revolution (1780-1781). The first North Carolina constitution gave few powers to the governor, and such limitations frustrated Nash, who disagreed constantly with the legislature. He refused to run for reelection.
Samuel Johnston, one of early North Carolina’s most durable politicians, served as governor during the debate over the ratification of the United States Constitution. In addition to his support for the Constitution, Johnston was known as a governor, in the words of one historian, who displayed “cautious restraint with regard to fiscal and monetary affairs.”
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.
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.
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.
Bayard v. Singleton is one of the most important early cases involving the exercise of judicial review by an American court. The controversial decision served as a precedent for the later and commonplace practice of judicial review.
A Federalist who represented North Carolina in the United States Congress from 1791 until 1803, William Barry Grove supported the ratification of the Constitution and thwarted the Democratic-Republic agenda. He earned a reputation as pro-British and anti-French and a supporter of Federalist foreign policy.