baner image

Home   Browse Complete Collection  

1789-1820 North Carolina Early Statehood

 

Click on the image of any document that you want to see a larger version of or read in its entirety (where available).

Acts of Congress attested by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, 1790-1791

Thomas Jefferson, who was president from 1801 to 1809, started his long career of public service as early as 1767 when he served his home county as magistrate and was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses the following year. Highly respected as author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was chosen by George Washington to be the Secretary of State in his first administration.

These documents consist of seven acts and one resolution of the First Congress, Second and Third Session, 1790-1791. Each is one of the two certified copies sent to the North Carolina General Assembly as required by U.S. law, and each was certified by Jefferson as secretary of state.

1) An Act Making Provision for the Debt of the United States. August 4, 1790.

2) An Act to provide more effectually for the Settlement of the Accounts between the United States and the Individual States. August 5, 1790.

3) An Act authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to finish the Light House on Portland-Head, in the District of Maine. August 10, 1790.

4) An Act declaring the Assent of Congress to certain Acts of the State of Maryland, Georgia, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantation. August 11, 1790.

5) An Act making certain Appropriations therein mentioned. August 12, 1790.

6) An Act for the Admission of the State of Vermont into this Union. February 18, 1791.

7) Resolution of the U.S. Congress. Resolved … That the President of the United States be requested to cause to be communicated to France the … sensibility of Congress to the tribute paid to the memory of Benjamin Franklin .… March 2, 1791.

8) An Act repealing … Duties previously laid upon Distilled Spirits imported from abroad and laying others in their Stead; and also upon Spirits Distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same. March 3, 1791.

 

Letter from George Washington to Governor and Council, 1790


Letter from George Washington to Governor and Council, 1790

In a letter dated August 26, 1790, George Washington wrote the Governor (Alexander Martin) and Council of State congratulating them on the ratification of the Constitution. In the letter, Washington thanks the governor and council for the "friendly sentiments entertained by you for my person, as well as for the Government which I have been appointed by my Countrymen to administer."

In May, 1974 this historic letter was offered for sale by Sotheby Parke Bernet of New York. Since it is clearly a public record from the files of the governor, the state took legal action to recover it. In an out of court settlement, the letter was returned to North Carolina and the North Carolina State Archives by an anonymous donor in 1977.

 

Bill of Rights


Bill of Rights. United States Constitution

The Bill of Rights is the name given to the first 10 amendments of the United States Constitution. These amendments are a series of limitations on the power of the United States Federal government. George Washington commissioned fourteen copies to be given to the thirteen colonies and federal government. North Carolina’s copy was taken from the State Capitol during the Civil War. The Bill of Rights was missing for nearly 140 years until, on August 4, 2005, Governor Mike Easley accepted North Carolina’s original copy during a ceremony in the old Senate Chamber at the State Capitol.

 

"Plan of Raleigh, 1792"


"Plan of Raleigh, 1792"

During the colonial period North Carolina's legislature was reluctant to designate a fixed seat of government. The few times a capital was named, circumstances changed and the center of population began to shift. New Bern had been the colony's seat of government between 1766 up to the American Revolution. During the Revolution, however, the "Palace" was too much associated with royal government; and wary of invasion, the government once again became migratory.

In 1787 the legislature turned the problem of locating a state capital over to a convention called in Hillsborough for the purpose of considering the proposed federal constitution. This convention passed a resolution that the capital be placed within ten miles of Isaac Hunter's tavern in Wake County. The legislature, however, was given the task of deciding the exact site within the circle around Hunter's land. No further action was taken during the sessions from 1788 to 1791, thanks to opposition from those who claimed such a site in the wilderness would never be more than a village. In early 1792, advocates of the Wake County site finally got enough support to name a commission to locate the exact site of the capital. The Assembly appointed another group to oversee the building of a state house in the new capital, to be named in honor of Sir Walter Raleigh.

The commissioners gathered at Isaac Hunter's residence in March of 1792, but soon adjourned to the home of State Senator Joel Lane. About ten days later they voted to purchase 1,000 acres of Lane's plantation. Lane was paid 1, 378 pounds for the land and 30 pounds for entertaining the commissioners. William Christmas, another senator and a surveyor by profession, drew the plan for Raleigh. Using a total of 400 acres, Christmas designated the axial center of the city as Union Square. It was composed of six acres and intended as the site of the future State House. The map described the square as "a beautiful eminence which commands a view of the town and fine prospect of the surrounding county." Flanking the corners of the center square was to be four four-acre squares or parks reserved for public purposes. These were named Caswell, Nash, Burke, for the state's first governors and Moore, in honor of Attorney General Alfred E. Moore. The four main streets were named Halifax, Newbern, Fayetteville, and Hillsborough, judicial districts toward the north, east, south, and west. These streets ran from the four sides of Union Square and were to be 99 feet wide; the other 17 streets were to be 66 feet wide and were named for the remaining judicial districts, the points of the compass, the commissioners themselves, and several other prominent citizens, including the former owner of the land. The remaining 276 acres were marked off in one-acre lots to be sold at public auction, with the proceeds used to build the capital and other public buildings.

The plans of William Christmas followed those drawn up in 1758 for George City, proposed as a colonial capital during Governor Arthur Dobb's administration. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Savannah, Georgia are examples of colonial cities established before Raleigh that used a gridiron pattern of streets broken by public squares in each directional quadrant. Though not original, Raleigh's plan has been considered an excellent example of city planning for its time.

 

Letter from George Washington


Letter from President George Washington to Governor Alexander Martin, dated September 29, 1792.

This letter from President George Washington to Governor Alexander Martin, dated September 29, 1792, served as a cover letter for a proclamation sent to all the states. The proclamation, dated September 15, 1792, denouncing the growing “Whiskey Rebellion,” which was centered in Western Pennsylvania and largely related to the strong opposition by farmers to the excise tax placed on whiskey and the making of alcoholic spirits. The proclamation was submitted with an accompanying message by Governor Martin to the General Assembly on November 21, 1792. In this letter the President asks Governor Martin to accept the Proclamation, “in consequence of certain irregular and refractory proceedings which have taken place in particular parts of some States, contravening the Laws therein mentioned.” He then asks Martin to assure that “the weight and influence of Executive of North Carolina will be Chearfully [sic] exerted, in every proper way, to further the object of this measure, and to promote it on every occasion, a due obedience to the constitutional laws of the Union.” In his own hand, Washington has written the word “President” on the address page. A red seal in wax is imprinted on the address page as well.

 

Resolution of Congress proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would limit the power of the federal judiciary, 1793.


Resolution of Congress proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would limit the power of the federal judiciary, 1793.

The United States Constitution, Article III, gives Congress the authority to establish federal courts and to define much of their jurisdiction. To implement this article, Congress passed the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789. In defining federal jurisdiction under this act, Congress made state courts and even state legislatures subordinate to the federal judiciary. During that period even North Carolina's Federalists, who supported a strong central government, were generally opposed to such an extension of federal power. North Carolina's legislature was so provoked with these developments that it voted in 1790 to support the Edenton Superior Court for refusing to transfer a case to federal district court as ordered.

This document is a Resolution of Congress, passed in 1793, proposing an amendment to the federal Constitution that would limit the power of the federal judiciary. The resolution was signed by Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, of Pennsylvania as Speaker of the House and by Vice President John Adams of Massachusetts as president of the Senate.

The resolution was passed in the same year as the landmark Supreme Court Case, Chisholm v. Georgia, which affirmed the right of a citizen of one state to sue another state in federal court. This challenge to state's rights prompted the dissent of North Carolina's one United States Supreme Court Justice, James Iredell, Sr. In a lengthy argument, Iredell described the nature of the Constitution as a compact between states and the federal government, arguing that states were sovereign except for those constitutional powers given specifically to the federal government. Support for Iredell's opinion contributed to the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution. Proposed in 1794 and ratified the following year, this amendment was significant in restoring the principle of state's sovereign immunity and important in future constitutional tests and developments.

 

 

Appointment signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Feb. 19, 1793


Appointment signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Feb. 19, 1793

This document is the appointment of Samuel Tredwell as Collector of Customs for the District of Edenton, including the port of Edenton (Port Roanoke). It was signed February 19, 1793 by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, as Washington's first Secretary of State. Born on Long Island, New York in 1763, Tredwell was the nephew of Samuel Johnston (1733-1816), who served as North Carolina's governor (1787-1789), U.S. senator (1789-1793), and president of North Carolina's second Constitutional Convention that adopted the federal Constitution in 1789. Tredell was also the nephew of Hannah Johnston Iredell, married to James Iredell, Sr., future United States Supreme Court Justice.

Iredell also had held the position of Collector of Customs for the District of Edenton, serving from 1774 to 1776. Tredwell's daughter, Frances, later married James Iredell, Jr., who became governor in 1827 and a United States Senator in 1828.

The office of collector of customs was among the earliest established in the province. It continued to be important office during the colonial era, the early years of the Republic and on into the nineteenth century. The function of collecting import and export duties by the collector of customs or the "naval officer" necessitated the keeping of records and submitting to a quarterly audit. However, public officers such as the collector of customs were most often appointed for political reasons rather than for their qualifications.

The document reads:

"George Washington, President of the United States of America. To All Who Shall See These Presents, Greeting. Know Ye, That reposing special Trust and Confidence in the Integrity, Diligence and Discretion of Samuel Tredwell of North Carolina I have nominated, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, Do Appoint him Collector for the District of Edenton and do authorize and empower him to execute and fulfil the Duties of that Office according to Law; unto him the said Samuel Tredwell during the Pleasure of the President of the United States for the Time being. In Testimony whereof I have caused these Letters to be made patent, and the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed. Given under my Hand, at the City of Philadelphia, the nineteenth Day of February, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety three, and the Independence of the United States of America the seventeenth

G. Washington
By the President
Th. Jefferson"

 

William Henry Harrison, aide-de-camp, Headquarters, Greenville, Ohio, July 11, 1795.


William Henry Harrison, aide-de-camp, Headquarters, Greenville, Ohio, July 11, 1795.

As a young man, Harrison left his medical studies in his native Virginia, obtained a commission as an ensign in the army, and headed to the old Northwest Territory where he lived for much of the remainder of his life.

Harrison served as aide-de-camp to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne in the Northwest Territory and was with General Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, 1794, and at Greenville, Ohio, in August, 1795, when the treaty was signed which signified the final surrender of the Native Americans in the Ohio Territory.

 

 

John Adams, September 4, 1798, to John Steele, Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury.


John Adams, September 4, 1798, to John Steele, Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury.

Adams thanks Steele for sending him various resolutions passed by citizens of Bladen County and comments favorably on the record election of Archibald Henderson, a Federalist, to Congress.

 

 

Thomas Jefferson, Washington, December 10, 1802, to John Steele, Salisbury.


Thomas Jefferson, Washington, December 10, 1802, to John Steele, Salisbury.

Jefferson sends regrets that Steele has found it necessary to resign his appointment as Comptroller of the Treasury. He praises Steele's service and reiterates his wish that Steele could remain in office.

John Steele, (1764-1815), was appointed Comptroller of the Treasury in 1796 and served in that capacity until 1802 when he resigned primarily because of illness in his family.

 

 

James Madison, January 16, 1810, to the North Carolina General Assembly.


James Madison, January 16, 1810, to the North Carolina General Assembly.

President Madison expresses pleasure at its approval of the administration's actions "for maintaining the rights of the Nation, and the respect due its Government. " Madison notes the "unyielding injustice of foreign powers " but assures the General Assembly that the government gains strength from the support and cooperation of the states.

James Madison entered the presidency in 1809 facing problems with France and Great Britain which had grown steadily during the Jefferson administration. The Embargo, Enforcement, and Non-Intercourse Acts drew strong opposition from many, particularly in the north, and Madison's support from North Carolina was especially important.

 

Andrew Jackson, Huntsville, Alabama, May 8, 1814, to Brig. General Joseph Graham, Fort Jackson.


Andrew Jackson, Huntsville, Alabama, May 8, 1814, to Brig. General Joseph Graham, Fort Jackson.

Joseph Graham, a native of Lincoln County, commanded a brigade of detached militia from North and South Carolina in 1814 taking part in a campaign against the Creek Indians in Upper Creek Nation of Alabama. In this letter, General Jackson informed Graham that two horses were being sent by Jim Fife, a Native American friendly to the United States, and that Fife would attempt to recover other horses stolen by the Fish Pond tribe.

 

Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, January 22, 1816, to Nathaniel Macon.


Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, January 22, 1816, to Nathaniel Macon.

Jefferson, writing in response to a request by Macon, United States Senator from North Carolina, for suggestions about a proposed statue of George Washington, says that only Antonio Canova, the greatest sculptor alive, should execute the work and only from Italian marble. Canova was chosen to make the statue which was brought to Raleigh in 1821. When the old State House burned in 1831, the building's dome fell in on the statue and destroyed it. In the early twentieth century, Canova's working model for the Washington statue was discovered in Italy. In May 1970, the state received a marble copy of this model which is on display in the state Capital rotunda.

 

Patent, May 13, 1818, signed by Monroe as president granting land to Jacob Simons in Illinois territory.

Patent, May 13, 1818, signed by Monroe as president granting land to Jacob Simons in Illinois territory.

This land grant came into the State Archives in 1934 as part of a group of records and papers collected by Thomas Merritt Pittman, superior court judge, president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association and chairman of the North Carolina Historical Commission. Judge Pittman collected manuscripts relating to both North Carolina and United States History.

Last Modified: 09/14/2011

home