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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Nathaniel Macon

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NATHANIEL MACON (1758-1837), American political leader, was born at Macon Manor, Warren county, North Carolina, on the 17th of December 1758. He studied at the college of New Jersey (now Princeton University) from 1774 to 1776, when the institution was closed on account of the outbreak of the War of Independence; served for a short time in a New Jersey militia company; studied law at Bute Court-house, North Carolina, in 1 7771 7 80, at the same time managing his tobacco plantation; was a member of a Warren county militia company in 1780-1782, and served in the North Carolina Senate in 1781-1785. In 1786 he was elected to the Continental Congress, but declined to serve. In1791-1815he was a member of the national House of Representatives, and in1815-1828of the United States Senate. Macon's point of view was always local rather than national. He was essentially a North Carolinian first, and an American afterwards; and throughout his career he was an aggressive advocate of state sovereignty and an adherent of the doctrines of the "Old Republicans." He at first opposed the adoption of the Ftderal constitution of 1787, as a member of the faction led by Willie Jones (1731-1801) of Halifax, North Carolina, but later withdrew his opposition. In Congress he denounced Hamilton's financial policy, opposed the Jay Treaty (1795) and the Alien and Sedition Acts, and advocated a continuance of the French alliance of 1778. His party came into power in 1801, and he was Speaker of the house from December 1801 to October 1807. At first he was in accord with Jefferson's administration; he approved the Louisiana Purchase, and as early as 1803 advocated the purchase of Florida. For a number of years, however, he was politically allied with John Randolph.' As speaker, in spite of strong opposition, he kept Randolph at the head of the important committee on Ways and Means from 1801 to 1806; and in 1805-1808, with Randolph and Joseph H. Nicholson (1770-1817) of Maryland, he was a leader of the group of about ten independents, called the "Quids," who strongly criticized Jefferson and opposed the presidential candidature of Madison. By 1809, however, Macon was again in accord with his party, and during the next two years he was one of the most influential of its leaders. In December 1809 he introduced resolutions which combined the ideas of Peter Early (1773-1817) of Georgia, David R. Williams (1776-1830) of South Carolina, and Samuel W. Dana (1757-1830) of Connecticut with his own. The resolutions recommended the complete exclusion of foreign war vessels from United States ports and the suppression of illegal trade carried on by foreign merchants under the American flag. The substance of these resolutions was embodied in the "Macon Bill, No. 1," which passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. On the 7th of April 1810 Macon reported from committee the "Macon Bill, No. 2," which had been drawn by John Taylor (1770-1832) of South Carolina, and was not actively supported by him. This measure (amended) became law on the 1st of May, and provided for the repeal of the NonIntercourse Act of 1809, authorized the president, "in case either Great Britain or France shall before the 3rd day of March next so revoke or modify her edicts as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States," to revive non-intercourse against the other, and prohibited British and French vessels of war from entering American waters. In 1812 Macon voted for the declaration of war against Great Britain, and later was chairman of the Congressional committee which made a report (July 1813) condemning Great Britain's conduct of the war. He opposed the Bank Act of 1816, the "internal improvements" policy of Calhoun (in the early part of his career) and Clay, and the Missouri Compromise, his speech against the last being especially able. In 1824 Macon received the electoral vote of Virginia for the vice-presidency, and in1826-1828was president pro tempore of the Senate. He was president of the North Carolina constitutional convention in 1835, and was an elector on the Van Buren ticket in 1836. He died at his home, Buck Springs, Warren county, North Carolina, on the 29th of June 183 7.

See William E. Dodd, The Life of Nathaniel Macon (Raleigh, N.C., 1903); E. M. Wilson, The Congressional Career of Nathaniel Macon (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1900).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Nathaniel Macon'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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