Biography of Richard Dobbs Spaight, Sr.
|Richard Dobbs Spaight
Richard Dobbs Spaight, Sr.
March 25, 1758 – September 6, 1802
Spaight was born at New Bern, NC, of distinguished English-Irish parentage
in 1758. When he was orphaned at 8 years of age, his guardians sent him to Ireland, where he obtained an excellent education.
He apparently graduated from Scotland's Glasgow University before he returned to North Carolina in 1778.
At that time, the War for Independence was in full swing, and Spaight's superior
attainments soon gained him a commission. He became an aide to the state militia commander and in 1780 took part in the Battle
of Camden, SC. The year before, he had been elected to the lower house of the legislature.
In 1781, Spaight left the military service to devote full time to his legislative
duties. He represented New Bern and Craven County (1781-83 and 1785-87); in 1785, he became speaker. Between terms, he also
served in the Continental Congress (1783-85).
In 1787, at the age of 29, Spaight joined the North Carolina delegation to
the Philadelphia convention. He was not a leader but spoke on several occasions and numbered among those who attended every
session. After the convention, he worked in his home state for acceptance of the Constitution.
Spaight met defeat in bids for the governorship in 1787 and the U.S. Senate
2 years later. From then until 1792, illness forced his retirement from public life, during which time he visited the West
Indies, but he captured the governorship in the latter year (1792-95). In 1793, he served as presidential elector. Two years
later, he wed Mary Leach, who bore three children.
In 1798, Spaight entered the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democratic-Republican
and remained in office until 1801. During this time, he advocated repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts and voted for Jefferson
in the contested election of 1800. The next year, Spaight was voted into the lower house of the North Carolina legislature;
the following year, to the upper.
Only 44 years old in 1802, Spaight was struck down in a duel at New Bern with
a political rival, Federalist John Stanly; so ended the promising career of one of the state's foremost leaders. He was buried
in the family sepulcher at Clermont estate, near New Bern.
Source: National Archives
Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia
of North Carolina (Hardcover: 1328 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: The first single-volume reference to the events, institutions,
and cultural forces that have defined the state, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is a landmark publication that will serve
those who love and live in North Carolina for generations to come. Editor William S. Powell, whom the Raleigh News & Observer
described as a "living repository of information on all things North Carolinian," spent fifteen years developing this volume.
With contributions by more than 550 volunteer writers—including scholars, librarians, journalists, and many others—it
is a true "people's encyclopedia" of North Carolina. Continued below...
includes more than 2,000 entries, presented alphabetically, consisting of longer essays on major subjects, briefer entries,
and short summaries and definitions. Most entries include suggestions for further reading. Centered on history and the humanities,
topics covered include agriculture; arts and architecture; business and industry; the Civil War; culture and customs; education;
geography; geology, mining, and archaeology; government, politics, and law; media; medicine, science, and technology; military
history; natural environment; organizations, clubs, and foundations; people, languages, and immigration; places and historic
preservation; precolonial and colonial history (including the Founding Fathers); recreation and tourism; religion; and transportation.
An informative and engaging compendium, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is abundantly illustrated with 400 photographs
and maps. It is both a celebration and a gift—from the citizens of North Carolina, to the citizens of North Carolina.
"Truly an exhaustive and exciting view of every aspect of the Old
Reading: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. Review: In retrospect, it seems as if
the American Revolution was inevitable. But was it? In Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis reveals that many of those truths
we hold to be self-evident were actually fiercely contested in the early days of the republic. Ellis focuses on six crucial
moments in the life of the new nation, including a secret dinner at which the seat of the nation's capital was determined--in
exchange for support of Hamilton's financial plan; Washington's
precedent-setting Farewell Address; and the Hamilton and Burr duel. Most interesting, perhaps, is the debate (still dividing
scholars today) over the meaning of the Revolution. Continued below...
In a fascinating
chapter on the renewed friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at the end of their lives, Ellis points out the
fundamental differences between the Republicans, who saw the Revolution as a liberating act and hold the Declaration of Independence
most sacred, and the Federalists, who saw the revolution as a step in the building of American nationhood and hold the Constitution
most dear. Throughout the text, Ellis explains the personal, face-to-face nature of early American politics--and notes that
the members of the revolutionary generation were conscious of the fact that they were establishing precedents on which future
generations would rely. In Founding Brothers, Ellis (whose American Sphinx won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1997)
has written an elegant and engaging narrative, sure to become a classic. Highly recommended.
Recommended Viewing: John Adams (HBO Miniseries)
(2008) (501 minutes). Description: Based on David McCullough's bestselling biography,
the HBO miniseries John Adams is the furthest thing from a starry-eyed look at America's founding fathers and the brutal
path to independence. Adams (Paul Giamatti), second president of the United
States, is portrayed as a skilled orator and principled attorney whose preference for justice
over anti-English passions earns enemies. But he also gains the esteem of the first national government of the United States,
i.e., the Continental Congress, which seeks non-firebrands capable of making a reasoned if powerful case for America's break
from England's monarchy. The first thing one notices about John Adams' dramatizations of congress' proceedings, and the fervent
pro-independence violence in the streets of Boston and elsewhere, is that America's roots don't look pretty or idealized here.
Some horrendous things happen in the name of protest, driving Adams to push the cause of
independence in a legitimate effort to get on with a revolutionary war under the command of George Washington. But the process
isn't easy: not every one of the 13 colonies-turned-states is ready to incur the wrath of England, and behind-the-scenes negotiations prove as much a part of 18th century
congressional sessions as they do today. Continued below...
peek into a less-romanticized version of the past, John Adams is also a story of the man himself. Adams' frustration at being
forgotten or overlooked at critical junctures of America's early development--sent abroad for years instead of helping to
draft the U.S. Constitution--is detailed. So is his dismay that the truth of what actually transpired leading to the signing
of the Declaration of Independence has been slowly forgotten and replaced by a rosier myth. But above all, John Adams is the
story of two key ties: Adams'
54-year marriage to Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), every bit her husband's intellectual equal and anchor, and his difficult,
almost symbiotic relationship with Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane) over decades. Giamatti, of course, has to carry much
of the drama, and if he doesn't always seem quite believable in the series' first half, he becomes increasingly excellent
at the point where an aging Adams becomes bitter over his place in history. Linney is marvelous,
as is Dillane, Sarah Polley as daughter Nabby, Danny Huston as cousin Samuel Adams, and above all Tom Wilkinson as a complex
but indispensable Ben Franklin.
John Adams, by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster). From Publishers
Weekly: Here a preeminent master of narrative history takes on the most fascinating of our founders to create a benchmark
for all Adams biographers. With a keen eye for telling detail and a master storyteller's
instinct for human interest, McCullough (Truman; Mornings on Horseback) resurrects the great Federalist (1735-1826), revealing
in particular his restrained, sometimes off-putting disposition, as well as his political guile. The events McCullough recounts
are well-known, but with his astute marshaling of facts, the author surpasses previous biographers in depicting Adams's years
at Harvard, his early public life in Boston and his role in
the first Continental Congress, where he helped shape the philosophical basis for the Revolution. McCullough also makes vivid
Adams's actions in the second Congress, during which he was the first to propose George Washington
to command the new Continental Army. Continued below...
Later on, we
see Adams bickering with Tom Paine's plan for government as suggested in Common Sense, helping push through the draft for
the Declaration of Independence penned by his longtime friend and frequent rival, Thomas Jefferson, and serving as commissioner
to France and envoy to the Court of St. James's. The author is likewise brilliant
in portraying Adams's complex relationship with Jefferson, who ousted him from the White
House in 1800 and with whom he would share a remarkable death date 26 years later: July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after
the signing of the Declaration. (June) Forecast: Joseph Ellis has shown us the Founding Fathers can be bestsellers, and S&S
knows it has a winner: first printing is 350,000 copies, and McCullough will go on a 15-city tour; both Book-of-the-Month
Club and the History Book Club have taken this book as a selection.
Recommended Viewing: The American Revolution (History Channel) (482 minutes). Description: Revisit the birth of a nation in this truly definitive look at America's fight for independence and its world-changing rise
to glory. The American Revolution features ten powerful documentaries--more than eight hours of essential programming by THE
HISTORY CHANNEL® and A&E on DVD for the first time. From the Declaration of Independence to the Treaty of Paris, these
are the stories and events surrounding the remarkable achievements of heroic individuals seized by the epic forces of history.
Hear the words of the founding fathers and other key figures, as read by leading actors such as Kelsey Grammar (TV’s
Frasier) and Michael Learned (TV’s The Waltons). Continued below...
Thrilling re-enactments of great battles, compelling period images, rare
archival material, and commentary by leading historians bring the past vividly alive. Between Bunker Hill and Yorktown, from Ben Franklin's
masterful diplomacy to Benedict Arnold's deceit and tragedy, The American Revolution presents a sweeping canvas of historical
programming at its comprehensive best.
Recommended Reading: 1776, by David McCullough (Simon
& Schuster). Description: Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military
side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh
perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was a turbulent and confusing time. As British and American politicians
struggled to reach a compromise, events on the ground escalated until war was inevitable. McCullough writes vividly about
the dismal conditions that troops on both sides had to endure, including an unusually harsh winter, and the role that luck
and the whims of the weather played in helping the colonial forces hold off the world's greatest army. Continued below...
He also effectively
explores the importance of motivation and troop morale--a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short
of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war. The redcoat retreat from Boston, for example, was
particularly humiliating for the British, while the minor American victory at Trenton
was magnified despite its limited strategic importance. Some of the strongest passages in 1776 are the revealing and well-rounded
portraits of the Georges on both sides of the Atlantic. King George III, so often portrayed
as a bumbling, arrogant fool, is given a more thoughtful treatment by McCullough, who shows that the king considered the colonists
to be petulant subjects without legitimate grievances--an attitude that led him to underestimate the will and capabilities
of the Americans. At times he seems shocked that war was even necessary. The great Washington lives up to his considerable
reputation in these pages, and McCullough relies on private correspondence to balance the man and the myth, revealing how
deeply concerned Washington was about the Americans' chances for victory, despite his public optimism. Perhaps more than any
other man, he realized how fortunate they were to merely survive the year, and he willingly lays the responsibility for their
good fortune in the hands of God rather than his own. Enthralling and superbly written, 1776 is the work of a master historian.
The Radicalism of the American Revolution.
From Library Journal: Historians have always had problems explaining the revolutionary character of the American Revolution:
its lack of class conflict, a reign of terror, and indiscriminate violence make it seem positively sedate. In this beautifully
written and persuasively argued book, one of the most noted of U.S.
historians restores the radicalism to what he terms "one of the greatest revolutions the world has ever known." It was the
American Revolution, Wood argues, that unleashed the social forces that transformed American society in the years between
1760 and 1820. The change from a deferential, monarchical, ordered, and static society to a liberal, democratic, and commercial
one was astonishing, all the more so because it took place without industrialization, urbanization, or the revolution in transportation.
It was a revolution
of the mind, in which the concept of equality, democracy, and private interest grasped by hundreds of thousands of Americans
transformed a country nearly overnight. Exciting, compelling, and sure to provoke controversy, the book will be discussed
for years to come.
Recommended Reading: American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic (Hardcover).
Review: From the prizewinning author of the best-selling
Founding Brothers and American Sphinx,
a masterly and highly ironic examination of the founding years of our country. The last quarter of the eighteenth century
remains the most politically creative era in American history, when a dedicated and determined group of men undertook a bold
experiment in political ideals. It was a time of triumphs; yet, as Joseph J. Ellis makes clear, it was also a time of tragedies—all
of which contributed to the shaping of our burgeoning nation. Continued below...
From the first
shots fired at Lexington to the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase,
Ellis guides us through the decisive issues of the nation’s founding, and illuminates the emerging philosophies, shifting
alliances, and personal and political foibles of our now iconic leaders—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and
Adams. He casts an incisive eye on the founders’ achievements, arguing that the American Revolution was, paradoxically,
an evolution—and that part of what made it so extraordinary was the gradual pace at which it occurred. He shows us why
the fact that it was brought about by a group, rather than by a single individual, distinguished it from the bloodier revolutions
of other countries, and ultimately played a key role in determining its success. He explains how the idea of a strong federal
government, championed by Washington, was eventually embraced by the American people, the majority of whom had to be won over,
as they feared an absolute power reminiscent of the British Empire. And he details the emergence of the two-party system—then
a political novelty—which today stands as the founders’ most enduring legacy. But Ellis is equally incisive about
their failures, and he makes clear how their inability to abolish slavery and to reach a just settlement with the Native Americans
has played an equally important role in shaping our national character. He demonstrates how these misjudgments, now so abundantly
evident, were not necessarily inevitable. We learn of the negotiations between Henry Knox and Alexander McGillivray, the most
talented Indian statesman of his time, which began in good faith and ended in disaster. And we come to understand how a political
solution to slavery required the kind of robust federal power that the Jeffersonians viewed as a betrayal of their most deeply
held principles. With eloquence and insight, Ellis strips the mythic veneer of the revolutionary generation to reveal men
both human and inspired, possessed of both brilliance and blindness. American Creation is a book that delineates an era of
flawed greatness, at a time when understanding our origins is more important than ever. About the Author: Joseph J. Ellis received the Pulitzer
Prize for Founding Brothers and the National Book
Award for his portrait of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx. He is the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount
Holyoke College. He lives in
Amherst, Massachusetts, with
his wife, Ellen, and their youngest son, Alex.