Biography of William Blount:
March 26, 1749 - March 21, 1800
William Blount was the great-grandson of Thomas Blount, who came from England
to Virginia soon after 1660 and settled on a North Carolina plantation. William, the eldest in a large family, was born in
1749 while his mother was visiting his grandfather's Rosefield estate, on the site of present Windsor near Pamlico Sound.
The youth apparently received a good education.
Shortly after the War for Independence began, in 1776, Blount enlisted as
a paymaster in the North Carolina forces. Two years later, he wed Mary Grainier (Granger); of their six children who reached
adulthood, one son also became prominent in Tennessee politics.
Blount spent most of the remainder of his life in public office. He sat in
the lower house of the North Carolina legislature (1780-84), including service as speaker, as well as in the upper (1788-90).
In addition, he took part in national politics, serving in the Continental Congress in 1782-83 and 1786-87.
Appointed as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention at the age of 38,
Blount was absent for more than a month because he chose to attend the Continental Congress on behalf of his state. He said
almost nothing in the debates and signed the Constitution reluctantly--only, he said, to make it "the unanimous act of the
States in Convention." Nonetheless, he favored his state's ratification of the completed document.
Blount hoped to be elected to the first U.S. Senate. When he failed to achieve
that end, in 1790, he pushed westward beyond the Appalachians, where he held speculative land interests and had represented
North Carolina in dealings with the Indians. He settled in what became Tennessee, to which he devoted the rest of his life.
He resided first at Rocky Mount, a cabin near present Johnson City and in 1792 built a mansion in Knoxville.
Two years earlier, Washington had appointed Blount as Governor for the Territory
South of the River Ohio (which included Tennessee) and also as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern Department,
in which positions he increased his popularity with the frontiersmen. In 1796, he presided over the constitutional convention
that transformed part of the territory into the State of Tennessee. He was elected as one of its first U.S. senators (1796-97).
During this period, Blount's affairs took a sharp turn for the worse. In 1797
his speculations in western lands led him into serious financial difficulties. That same year, he also apparently concocted
a plan involving use of Indians, frontiersmen, and British naval forces to conquer for Britain the Spanish provinces of Florida
and Louisiana. A letter he wrote alluding to the plan fell into the hands of President Adams, who turned it over to the Senate
on July 3, 1797. Five days later, that body voted 25 to 1 to expel Blount. The House impeached him, but the Senate dropped
the charges in 1799 on the grounds that no further action could be taken beyond his dismissal.
The episode did not hamper Blount's career in Tennessee. In 1798, he was elected
to the senate and rose to the speakership. He died 2 years later at Knoxville in his early fifties. He is buried there in
the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church.
Sources: National Archives; Image courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum,
Tennessee Historical Society Collection, Nashville, TN.
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; 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
Recommended Reading: The Tar
Heel State: A History of North Carolina (Hardcover). Description: The Tar Heel State:
A History of North Carolina constitutes the most comprehensive and inclusive single-volume chronicle of the state’s
storied past to date, culminating with an attentive look at recent events that have transformed North Carolina into a southern megastate. Integrating tales of famous pioneers, statesmen,
soldiers, farmers, captains of industry, activists, and community leaders with more marginalized voices, including those of
Native Americans, African Americans, and women, Milton Ready gives readers a view of North Carolina that encompasses perspectives
and personalities from the coast, "tobacco road," the Piedmont, and the mountains in this sweeping history of the Tar Heel
State. The first such volume in more than two decades, Ready’s work offers a distinctive view of the state’s history
built from myriad stories and episodes. The Tar Heel State is enhanced by one hundred and ninety illustrations and five maps.
with a study of the state’s geography and then invites readers to revisit dramatic struggles of the American Revolution
and Civil War, the early history of Cherokees, the impact of slavery as an institution, the rise of industrial mills, and
the changes wrought by modern information-based technologies since 1970. Mixing spirited anecdotes and illustrative statistics,
Ready describes the rich Native American culture found by John White in 1585, the chartered chaos of North Carolina’s
proprietary settlement, and the chronic distrust of government that grew out of settlement patterns and the colony’s
early political economy. He challenges the perception of relaxed intellectualism attributed to the "Rip van Winkle" state,
the notion that slavery was a relatively benign institution in North Carolina,
and the commonly accepted interpretation of Reconstruction in the state. Ready also discusses how the woman suffrage movement
pushed North Carolina into a hesitant twentieth-century
progressivism. In perhaps his most significant contribution to North Carolina’s
historical record, Ready continues his narrative past the benchmark of World War II and into the twenty-first century. From
the civil rights struggle to the building of research triangles, triads, and parks, Ready recounts the events that have fueled
North Carolina’s accelerated development in recent years and the many challenges that have accompanied such rapid growth,
especially those of population change and environmental degradation.
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.
Recommended Reading: America's Constitution: A Biography (Hardcover). Publishers Weekly: Starred Review. You can read the U.S. Constitution, including its 27 amendments, in about a half-hour, but it
takes decades of study to understand how this blueprint for our nation's government came into existence. Amar, a 20-year veteran
of the Yale Law School
faculty, has that understanding, steeped in the political history of the 1780s, when dissatisfaction with the Articles of
Confederation led to a constitutional convention in Philadelphia,
which produced a document of wonderful compression and balance creating an indissoluble union. Amar examines in turn each
article of the Constitution, explaining how the framers drew on English models, existing state constitutions and other sources
in structuring the three branches of the federal government and defining the relationship of the government to the states.
on each of the amendments, from the original Bill of Rights to changes in the rules for presidential succession. The book
squarely confronts America's involvement with slavery, which the original Constitution
facilitated in ways the author carefully explains. Scholarly, reflective and brimming with ideas, this book is miles removed
from an arid, academic exercise in textual analysis. Amar evokes the passions and tumult that marked the Constitution's birth
and its subsequent revisions. Only rarely do you find a book that embodies scholarship at its most solid and invigorating;
this is such a book.
Recommended Reading: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the U.S.
Constitution. Description: The “living” document that changed the world. One of the most revered,
imitated, and controversial government documents in the world, the U.S. Constitution serves as the foundation for the American
government and shapes the lives of Americans every day. But how many know its history and the impact it’s had on American
laws and practices throughout history? This guide serves as the most current and accessible handbook to this all-important
document. —Covers the document itself, as well as controversial interpretations and decisions.
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 Reading: The U.S. Constitution: And Fascinating Facts About It. Description: In The U.S. Constitution & Fascinating Facts About It you'll see the entire text
of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence--and much more! You'll find interesting insights
into the men who wrote the Constitution, how it was created, and how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution in
the two centuries since its creation.