North Carolina - From Statehood to 1800

The Founding Fathers of North Carolina
Click Here to view/download a very comprehensive slideshow presentation that provides a quick look back at ancient to pre-modern democracies, republics, and constitutions that led to the creation of the provincial representative assemblies in early North Carolina, and how our "founding fathers" learned from these previous attempts to create a viable State government - all while fighting many pitched battles for our collective freedom. Click Here to view/download an Excel spreadsheet with all founding fathers named in alphabetical order.

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Summary of Slides Found Herein

Ancient to Pre-Modern Democracies

500 BC
Certainly the Greeks gave us the word "democracy," the Romans established a "republic," but most are unaware that the Indian sub-continent also gave us an early form of representative government as early as 500 BC.

1066 to Present
As England evolved into Great Britain and the United Kingdom, its government slowly evolved into a "constitutional monarchy," even though the country has no formal written constitution. The 1600s were especially enlightening with many new democratic values introduced, embraced, and passed along to all colonies.

1607 to 1752
The thirteen (13) original colonies were launched via the Crown granting a "charter" to proprietors and/or to companies. Each charter was a "pseudo-constitution" that included "self-rule" as long as all laws enacted conformed to the laws of England. The first "representative government" in the "new world" convened in 1619 in the colony of Virginia.

NC Colonial Government
1629 to 1775

Charles I granted a charter for "Carolana" to Sir Robert Heath, his Attorney General. Heath did not have the wherewithal to make things happen, so the charter languished and was forgotten soon thereafter, thanks to the English Civil War.

Charles II granted a charter for "Carolina" to eight (8) Lords Proprietors in 1663 to honor their service in helping restore him to the Crown. In 1665, this charter was amended to extend the northern boundary. In each of these years, the Lords Proprietors published written decrees to their constituents settling in Albemarle and soon along the Cape Fear. These written decrees were a "pact" - here's what we'll provide, and here's what we will expect from settlers.

The Lords Proprietors issued the Fundamental Constitutions to the settlers sailing to South Carolina, and provided a copy to the North Carolina settlers in Albemarle. These Fundamental Constitutions contradicted many of the earlier "Concessions & Agreements" and this irritated the existing settlers in North Carolina.

As the original eight (8) Lords Proprietors died, their share of Carolina was bequeathed to sons or sold if no heirs survived. Of the forty-six (46) Lords Proprietors, only four (4) ever actually lived in Carolina.

The eldest of the Lords Proprietors was given the title of "Palatine," and he could appoint all governors and other key posts. The other seven (7) Lords Proprietors could appoint "deputies" to serve as the Executive Council for each appointed governor. Per the Fundamental Constitutions, there was a hiearchy of "nobility" created to induce some influential men to settle in Carolina. These were abandoned before the Crown took over.

Twenty-two (22) executives led North Carolina from 1663 to 1729. Ten (10) were appointed by the Lords Proprietors, and twelve (12) were "acting governors" because a governor had died or left the colony and these twelve (12) had been President of the Council at that point in time. Slide 22 is a depiction of the North Carolina government during the Lords Proprietors ownership.

Slides 23-26 provide an overview of Governor Edward Hyde's government in 1712.

When the Crown took over North Carolina in 1729, all governors and other key position were appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Secretary of State. All members of the Executive Council were also appointed by the Crown. Five (5) Royal Governors and three (3) Acting Governors (as President of the Council) served the Crown from 1729 to 1775.

Slides 30-31 provide an overview of Governor George Burrington's government in 1731.

Slides 32-35 provide an overview of Governor Josiah Martin's government in 1775.

NC Provincial Government

In 1773, Benjamin Franklin made the first call for the thirteen (13) colonies to discuss the issues with Great Britain. In 1774, the citizens of North Carolina elected seventy-three (73) delegates to the First Provincial Congress, which was held in New Bern. This group elected three (3) delegates to the first Continental Congress.

The 2nd Provincial Congress was elected and convened the day before the last colonial general assembly met in New Bern. The Mecklenburg Declaration was issued May 20, 1775. The Mecklenburg Resolves were issued May 31, 1775. The Tryon Resolves were issued August 14, 1775. The 3rd Provincial Congress met in Hillsborough and established the militia plus six regiments of Minutemen and two regiments of Provincial Troops.

The 4th Provincial Congress met in Halifax. The Minutemen were disbanded, and six brigades of militia were created based upon the existing six judicial districts. The Provincial Troops were increased and all were placed on the Continental Line. The Halifax Resolves were issued on April 12, 1776. Three (3) North Carolina delegates signed the Declaration of Independence. The 5th Provincial Congress met again in Halifax and approved the newly-created State Constitution - without approval of the people. Three (3) more Continental regiments were authorized. Washington District was created. Richard Caswell was elected the state's first governor.

NC State Government

State government was setup in accordance with the State Constitution, with the Legislative Branch holding most of the power, and with the governor having much less power than held in colonial days. The Legislative Branch included a Senate and House of Commons, who collectively elected all other state officials, delegates to the Continental Congress, and field officers of the state's militia and Continental Line.

1st General Assembly convened in New Bern with one hundred and thirty-six (136) delegates. The Council of State was organized, three delegates to the Continental Congress were elected, and all judges were elected by the General Assembly. Twenty-seven (27) legislative Acts were passed in the first session, and forty-five (45) Acts were passed in the second session. Five (5) new counties were established, and the Washington District was renamed to a county.

2nd General Assembly convened in New Bern, Hillsborough, and Halifax with one hundred and forty-four (144) delegates. They ratified thirty-seven (37) legislative Acts, authorized two (2) more delegates to the Continental Congress, and established eight (8) new counties with their respective militias. Two old counties were abolished.

3rd General Assembly convened in Smithfield and Halifax, again with one hundred and forty-four (144) delegates. They ratified forty-one (41) legislative Acts, created a 2nd regiment of militia in Mecklenburg County, established an academy in Granville County, and created three (3) new counties with their respective militias.

4th General Assembly convened in New Bern and Halifax with one hundred and fifty-seven (157) delegates. They ratified fifty (50) legislative Acts, authorized the rebuilding of the NC Continental Line since it was decimated at the Fall of Charleston in May of 1780, and re-wrote the Militia Law twice. Abner Nash was elected the second governor. Since the Fall of Charleston, there was another defeat at the battle of Camden, SC, and a pyrrhic victory by the British at Guilford Court House in March of 1781.

5th General Assembly convened in Bloomsbury (Wake Courth House) with one hundred and thirty-six (136) delegates. They ratified only eighteen (18) legislative Acts and authorized the governor to sell tobacco to raise money to purchase arms and ammunition. Thomas Burke was elected the third governor of North Carolina. In September of 1781, he was captured by the notorious Loyalist Col. David Fanning and taken first to Wilmington, then on to Charleston in South Carolina. From August to November of 1781, Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford assembled a large army of only North Carolina militiamen and finally forced the British occupation of Wilmington to end.

6th General Assembly convened in Hillsborough with one hundred and fifty-four (154) delegates. They ratified fifty-four (54) legislative Acts, divided Rowan County into two regiments of militia, and created the Morgan District as a new judicial and military district. They elected Alexander Martin as the fourth governor. The final "Cherokee Expedition" lasted from June to October, and the preliminary Articles of Peace were signed in Paris.

7th General Assembly convened in Hillsborough with one hundred and fifty-six (156) delegates. They ratified fifty-nine (59) legislative Acts, created two (2) new counties with their respective militias, and established two (2) schools and three (3) academies.

8th General Assembly convened in April in New Bern with one hundred and sixty-five (165) delegates. They ratified eighty (80) legislative Acts, created two (2) new counties with their respective militias, ceded the "Southwest Territory" to the US Government, which never accepted it, and incorporated an academy in Hillsborough.

9th General Assembly convened in October, again in New Bern, with one hundred and sixty-five (165) delegates, not all the same as those elected to the April General Assembly. They ratified forty-nine (49) legislative Acts, repealed the "Southwest Territory" grant, and established the Washington District as a judicial and military district west of the Appalachian mountains. Richard Caswell was again elected as governor.

The State of Franklin was created by citizens angry that North Carolina had earlier ceded the "Southwest Territory" to the US government. A long disagreement ensued and the state of Franklin was abandoned, with North Carolina resuming government control.

10th General Assembly convened in New Bern with one hundred and fifty-five (155) delegates. They ratified sixty-seven (67) legislative Acts, provided appropriations for "poor houses," created Rockingham County and its associated militia, and established academies in five (5) different counties.

11th General Assembly convened in Fayetteville with one hundred and sixty-three (163) delegates. They ratified eighty-three (83) legislative Acts, created three (3) counties and their respective militias, and incorporated academies in three (3) different counties. They also elected five (5) delegates to represent North Carolina in the national Constitutional Convention to be held in Philadelphia - three of the original five attended along with two new members appointed by Gov. Caswell. North Carolina did NOT approve the original Constitution and only signed a "draft" at this point in time.

12th General Assembly convened in Tarborough with one hundred and sixty-eight (168) delegates. They ratified fifty-six (56) legislative Acts, created the Fayetteville District as a judicial and military district, and arranged elections for a state-wide Constitution Convention for the summer of 1788. Samuel Johnston was elected the fifth governor.

Constitution Convention convened in Hillsborough with two hundred and ninety (290) delegates. These men agreed that the U.S. Constitution must include a Federal Bill of Rights, and they presented twenty-six (26) amendments to the U.S. Congress. This group agreed to neither approve or reject the "Draft U.S. Constitution" of last year - and adjourned.

13th General Assembly convened in Fayetteville with one hundred and seventy-two (172) delegates. They ratified fifty-one (51) legislative Acts, created two (2) counties and their respective militias, created the Mero District as a judicial and military district, and arranged for a 2nd Statewide Constitution Convention to be held in 1789. Instead of electing delegats to Continental Congress or the already sitting U.S. Congress, this general assembly elected two men to "settle accounts with the federal government."

14th General Assembly convened in Fayetteville with one hundred and eighty-three (183) delegates. They ratified seventy-one (71) legislative Acts, established the University of North Carolina, created one (1) county with respective militia, voted again to cede the "Southwest Territory" to the U.S. Government, ratifed the U.S. Constitution after a separate 2nd Constitution Convention finally agreed, and established the process to elect U.S. Senators and for the people to elect U.S. House of Representatives. The general assembly elected two (2) U.S. Senators.

North Carolina ceded what is now Tennessee to the U.S. Government, which was accepted by the U.S. Congress on April 2, 1790. The territory's only governor was William Blount, previous legislator from Craven County, member of Council of State, and delegate to the Continental Congress. The 1st U.S. Census was taken and North Carolina had 397,179 souls recorded. The people of North Carolina elected five (5) men to represent North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives.

15th General Assembly convened in Fayetteville with one hundred and sixty-two (162) delegates. They ratified sixty (60) legislative Acts, authorized the construction of the Dismal Swamp Canal, established a process to elect U.S. Senators, and directed these new senators to "get us a better postal route."


Four (4) primary sources. Six (6) secondary sources. All important.

Appendix A

Explanation of who are included as "founding fathers." Total of 1,546 named. Followed by the men named from each County - some moved and are included in more than one county.

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