representatives, the Legislature. He venerated Washington; he had an affectionate regard for Madison and Monroe, but Mr. Jeffer son was to him his Magnus Apollo of politics. He was a devoted friend of Jackson and his constant supporter. His last public office (1836) was as elector in the support of Van Buren for President. He often spoke in Congress, always sententious, decided and to the point. It is regretted that in his day few short-hand reporters or that no Congressional Record existed, but Mr Benton has recorded that "he spoke more good sense while getting in his chair and getting out of it, than many delivered in long and elaborate speeches." He allowed no reporter to amplify or condense his remarks. He was opposed to all nepotism, and in his long public career of forty years in Congress he never once recommended any relative of his to public office. What a contrast with modern times. He never attended a convention or caucus, for he said he trusted them once and then they cheated him. He was a hard-money man, as the only constitutional currency. He said that this was right, for he had seen the evils of paper money, and meant to save the people from it. He was opposed to all pensions to officers and soldiers of the Revolution, and refused any pension for himself, although entitled to one, for he urged that all had been rewarded by the establishment of independence and freedom, and that was sufficient in itself. On this principle he voted against the bill for Lafayette's benefit. On the rights of the States to secede he addressed the following letter to S. P. Carson, dated--
"BUCK SPRINGS, February 9, 1833.
"SIR: I have received your letter of the 24th ulto.
"There can be no doubt that the United States are in a deplorable situation, and that the publication of the opinion you desire would be useless. My opinion has never been a secret, and I have always stated it to those who wanted to know it. In the year 1824, the Constitution was buried. The Senators who were then present will, it is believed, recollect the fact, and was never afterward quoted by me while I continued in the Senate. The opinions of General Washington, Mr. Jefferson and Governor Clinton were known but not respected. I never believed that a State could nullify and remain in the Union, but always believed that a State could secede when she pleased, provided she would pay her proportion of the public debt.
"This right I have considered the best guard to public liberty and the public justice that could be desired, and it ought to have prevented what is now felt in the South--oppression.
"A government of opinion established by sovereign States cannot be maintained by force. The use of force makes enemies, and enemies cannot live in peace.
His private character was but a reflex of his public career. He was exact, just and cautious, not wealthy, he did not covet riches, but lived independently and within his means. Punctual in all his obligations he paid as he went, avoiding all suretyship and debt. When in his last illness and he knew, as he had been informed by his physician, that it was fatal, he asked for his bill of the physician and paid it, and so died not owing a cent to any man. His house, plain and simple, always had a welcome for all. In person he was portly, of strongly marked features, and of pleasant address.
No portrait it is believed of him is extant, for he would never allow one to be taken. On one occasion while in the discharge of some public duty, an artist attempted to take his likeness. When it was discovered, Mr. Macon was indignant and threatened to prosecute the offender. His chirography was like his character, simple, plain and determined, without ornament or affectation.
He was devoted to agriculture, and often in the recess of Congress worked with his hands in gathering his crops. In his dress he was plain but always neat. He wore a suit all of the same material, of superfine navy blue, in the fashion of the olden time; a hat made of a coon skin, broad brimmed, with fair-topped boots outside of the pantaloons, for he said that leather was stronger than cloth. In religion he inclined to "the Baptist persuasion," and he was an earnest and constant student of the Bible. He married Hannah Plummer, and had two daughters, one of whom married William Martin, and the other William Eaton; he died at home suddenly, June 29, 1837. He had selected his burial place many years before his death, a spot of land barren and stony, and not likely ever to be cultivated; and employed two of his neighbors to make his coffin of the plainest material, so it could be paid for before it was used. Such was Nathaniel Macon.
James Turner, born 1766, died 1824, was a native of Virginia, born in Southampton County. His father, Thomas Turner, moved to Warren
Index - Contents