On September 17, 1787 –that’s 234 years ago today- 39 men signed the United States Constitution. Now the oldest written national constitution currently in effect, it was just an experiment in democracy all those years ago.
The preamble of the Constitution reads:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Constitution was signed on behalf of North Carolina by William Blount, a native of Bertie County; Richard Dobbs Spaight, a native of New Bern; and Hugh Williamson, a native of Pennsylvania.
Born near Windsor in Bertie County, William Blount only reluctantly signed the Constitution and did not actively take part in the convention. Blount later went onto serve as U.S. senator from Tennessee, and as a governor of that state.
After the Revolutionary War, Richard Dobbs Spaight of New Bern served as a member (and eventually speaker) of the state House of Commons and as a member of the Continental Congress. Taking an active role at the federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he also argued forcefully for its adoption at the state convention in Hillsborough. He later served as a North Carolina governor and state senator.
Hugh Williamson was surgeon general of the North Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War and a man of many talents. Over the course of his life he was a licensed Presbyterian preacher, professor of mathematics and physician. Like Spaight, Williamson was an active participant in the convention, serving on five committees and eloquently arguing for the document’s adoption.
Two other men from North Carolina were delegates to the Constitutional Convention, but didn’t ultimately sign the document. William Richardson Davie—perhaps best known as the father of UNC and for being a North Carolina governor—was called away on personal business and never returned. Alexander Martin—also a North Carolina governor—left before the third draft was completed.