The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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and the State of North Carolina, from July, 1788, to November, 1789, (when the Constitution of the United States was ratified,) presented the extraordinary attitude of a sovereign state, independent and self-governing, with no confusion within or coercion from without. This instructive page of history expresses the truth, that political reunion, like social union, can best be secured by concession, affection, and justice.

        In 1792, Mr. Spaight was again returned to the general assembly, and by that body was chosen the governor of the state, which he held for three years, when he was succeeded by Samuel Ashe.

        He was the first native born son of North Carolina elected as governor. He served while governor as presidential elector.

        In 1797, he took his seat in the House of Representatives, elected from North Carolina, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of Honorable Nathan Bryan, (second session of the Fifth Congress,) and re-elected a member of the Sixth Congress, 1797 to 1799. This was an important epoch in our government. The two great parties (then called Federal and Republican,) fought fierce and furious for power. Governor Spaight voted with his republican colleagues, Willis Alston, Nathaniel Macon, David Stone, and others. It was during this congress that Governor William Blount, Senator from Tennessee, was impeached, (or threatened with impeachment,) and for the first time the election of a president was made by the house. After these exciting scenes, Governor Spaight sought retirement and repose. His health was seriously impaired, and he sought relief in the milder climate of the West Indies. But the people called him again to duty, and he was, in 1801, elected a senator in the general assembly. This was destined to be his last public service. Party politics were never more active and bitter. These animosities pervaded not only public life, but private circles. Governor Spaight was the acknowledged leader of the party which supported Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Stanly, its active adversary. Led on by the maddening and malignant influence of party spirit, on September 5th, 1802, Mr. Stanly challenged Governor Spaight to fight a duel, in a note taunting in its terms, and very opprobrious. They fought on the same day. Governor Spaight was mortally wounded, and died on the following day. This tragic event, from his long, varied, and illustrious service, caused a deep sensation throughout the state, and even at this day is felt with sad regret.

        Such were the public services of Richard Dobbs Spaight. These are inscribed in the records of our nation. Of his private character we are not left to conjecture. One who knew him long and well has informed us that "as a private citizen he was upright in his intentions, and sincere in his declarations. Methodical and even mercantile in his business; no errors of negligence or ignorance involved him in litigation with his neighbors. Uniform in his conduct, respectful to authority, and influential in his example. Hospitality was a conspicuous trait of his character. The stranger was welcome, treated with cordiality, and entertained with kindness. His charity was universal For the tale of sorrow he ever had a tear and relief. He was an affectionate husband, an indulgent father, and a compassionate master; consistent in his hours of study and recreation, no irregularities disturbed his course, or improper indulgence his repose."*

        * Reverend T. P. Irving's funeral discourse on the death of Governor Richard Dobbs Spaight, delivered at New Berne, 1802.

        No one, as a public man, could have held for a long and uninterrupted series of years, the affections, countenance, and support of his countrymen, without any effort on his part, unless he possessed substantial merit and unspotted integrity.

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