Born in New Bern, North Carolina in 1758, Richard Dobbs Spaight served as a delegate at the federal constitutional convention of 1787 and at the Hillsboro convention of 1788.
Subject: Ratification Debates
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally, the term “Federalist” referred to supporters of the federal constitution of 1787. Though the Federalist Party existed for less than half of a century, it helped define the new nation. Though they may have lost many political battles, Federalists may have won the war, for their vision of a cosmopolitan and industrialized America eventually came to fruition.