Hillsborough Convention

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Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North Carolina in 1788
Governor Samuel Johnston presided

The Hillsborough Convention, was the first of two North Carolina conventions to ratify the United States Constitution. Delegates represented 7 boroughs and 59 counties, including six western counties that became part of Tennessee when it was created in 1796. They met in Hillsborough, North Carolina from July 21 to August 4, 1788 to deliberate and determine whether to ratify the Constitution recommended to the states by the General Convention that had been held in Philadelphia the previous summer. The delegates had won their seats through special elections held in March 1788, as mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly.[1] Governor Samuel Johnston presided over the Convention.[2] The Hillsborough Convention was dominated by anti-Federalists, and North Carolina did not ratify the Constitution until the Fayetteville Convention, which met a year later.


The convention was held in Hillsborough, North Carolina, at the St. Matthew's Episcopal (Church of England) Church. The church was located on lot 98 in Hillsborough. It was also the location of the third Provincial Congress of North Carolina of 1775 and the meeting place of the North Carolina Legislature in 1778, 1782 and 1783. The church was destroyed by fire before 1800s. A new structure was built on the site in 1814 and became the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church in 1816.[3][4][5]


Key state Federalists were James Iredell Sr., William Richardson Davie, and William Blount. Anti-Federalist leaders included Willie Jones, Samuel Spencer, and Timothy Bloodworth. The Anti-Federalist delegates outnumbered their Federalist colleagues by a margin of two to one. The Federalists wanted to strengthen the powers of the federal government to help the country keep from dissolving. They argued that the powers granted to the federal government in the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient. On the other side, the Anti-Federalists were suspicious of the federal government and did not want self-rule to come under fire from a government that could intrude on state and individual rights. Knowing that they would likely lose, members of the Federalist minority brought a stenographer to the convention to record their arguments for publication in the hopes of changing public opinion in the future.[6]


The debate resulted in the delegates voting 184 to 84 to neither ratify nor reject the Constitution. One of the major reasons for North Carolina not ratifying the Constitution was its lack of a Bill of Rights. The delegates, however, proposed a series of amendments to personal liberties and urged the new federal Congress to adopt measures to incorporate a bill of rights into the Constitution.[7] North Carolina would not join the Union until after it ratified the Constitution, more than a year later, at the November 1789 Fayetteville Convention.[8][9][10][11]


Richard Dobbs Spaight, Craven County delegate
William Richardson Davie, Halifax delegate
later Gov. Benjamin Smith, Brunswick delegate
Willie Jones, Halifax delegate
Benjamin Williams, Craven delegate
William Lenoir, Wilkes delegate
Joseph Graham, Mecklenburg delegate
James Kenan, Duplin delegate
Joseph McDowell, Jr, Burke delegate
Richard Caswell, Dobbs delegate
James Iredell, Edenton delegate

There were 294 known delegates from the 59 counties and seven boroughs of North Carolina. Some counties (Greene, Sullivan, Sumner, Tennessee, Washington) later became part of the state of Tennessee in 1796.[12][13] The election of delegates from Dobbs County was declared invalid because of violence that led to the loss of the ballot box.[14][15]

Governor Samuel Johnston was the President of the Convention. While his home was in Chowan County, he represented Perquimans County in the Convention. John Hunt was the secretary and James Taylor was the assistant secretary of the Convention. The doorkeepers of the convention were William Murfree, Peter Gooding, Nicholas Murfree, and James Mulloy.[15]

Order County or Borough Delegate Yeas Nays
1 Perquimans Johnston, Samuel, Esq., President x
2 Borough of Edenton Iredell, James x
3 Borough of Wilmington Maclaine, Archibald x
4 Beaufort Keais, Nathan x
5 Beaufort Blount, John G. x
6 Beaufort Alderson, Thomas x
7 Bertie Johnston, John x
8 Bertie Oliver, Andrew x
9 Bladen Elleston, Goodwin x
10 Burke McDowell, Charles x
11 Craven Spaight, Richard Dobbs x
12 Bertie Dawson, William Johnston x
13 Cumberland Porterfield, James x
14 Cumberland Grove, William Barry x
15 Cumberland Elliott, George x
16 Carteret Styron, Willis x
17 Carteret Shepperd, William x
18 Currituck Phillips, James x
19 Currituck Humphries, John x
20 Chowan Payne, Michael x
21 Chowan Johnson, Charles x
22 Chowan Cabarrus, Stephen x
23 Chowan Blount, Edmund x
24 Camden Abbot, Henry x
25 Camden Gregory, Isaac x
26 Camden Dauge, Peter x
27 Camden Grandy, Charles x
28 Camden Sawyer, Enoch x
29 Chatham Lucas, George x
30 Robeson Willis, John x
31 Robeson Cade, John x
32 Robeson Barnes, Elias x
33 Robeson Brown, Neil x
34 Sumner Winchester, James x
35 Sumner Stokes, William x
36 Tyrrell Stuart, Thomas (sometimes Stewart) x
37 Tyrrell Collins, Josiah x
38 Wake Hines, Thomas x
39 Wake Jones, Nathaniel x
40 Borough of Salisbury Steele, John x
41 Borough of Halifax Davie, William Richardson x
42 Gates Riddick, Joseph x
43 Gates Gregory, James x
44 Gates Hunter, Thomas x
45 Hertford Wyns, Thomas x
46 Hyde Jones, Abraham x
47 Hyde Eborne, John x
48 Hyde Jasper, James x
49 Hyde Foreman, Caleb x
50 Hyde Hovey, Seth (Harvey) x
51 Lincoln Sloan, John x
52 Lincoln Moore, John x
53 Lincoln Maclaine, William x
54 Martin Mayo, Nathan x
55 Martin Slade, William x
56 Martin McKenzie, William x
57 Mecklenburg Irwin, Robert x
58 Pasquotank Lane, John x
59 Pasquotank Reading, Thomas x
60 Pasquotank Everegain, Edward x
61 Pasquotank Relfe, Enoch x
62 Pasquotank Davis, Devotion x
63 Perquimans Skinner, William x
64 Perquimans Skinner, Joshua x
65 Perquimans Harvey, Thomas x
66 Perquimans Skinner, John x
67 Hertford Harrel, Samuel x
68 Craven Leech, Joseph x
69 Johnston Bridges, William (Bridger) x
70 Carteret Burden, William x
71 Tyrrell Blount, Edmund x
72 Tyrrell Spruill, Simeon x
73 Bertie Turner, David[15][16] x
74 Martin Hill, Whitmell x
75 Brunswick Smith, Benjamin x
76 Borough of New Bern Sitgreaves, John x
77 Chowan Allen, Nathaniel x
78 Bladen Owen, Thomas x
79 Hertford Wyns, George x
80 Pitt Perkins, David x
81 Currituck Ferebee, Joseph x
82 Currituck Ferebee, William x
83 Gates Baker, William x
84 Craven Neale, Abner x
85 Halifax Jones, Willie x
86 Anson Spencer, Samuel x
87 Anson Lanier, Lewis x
88 Anson Wade, Thomas x
89 Anson Gould, Daniel x
90 Beaufort Bonner, James x
91 Brunswick Forster, Alexius M. x
92 Brunswick Dupree, Lewis x
93 Bladen Brown, Thomas x
94 Burke Greenlee, James x
95 Burke McDowell, Joseph "Pleasant Gardens" x
96 Burke Miller, Robert x
97 Craven Williams, Benjamin x
98 Craven Nixon, Richard x
99 Cumberland Armstrong, Thomas x
100 Cumberland McAllister, Alexander (McCallister) x
101 Caswell Dickins, Robert x
102 Caswell Roberts, George x
103 Caswell Womack, John x
104 Chatham Ramsey, Ambrose x
105 Chatham Anderson, James x
106 Chatham Stewart, Joseph x
107 Chatham Vestal, William x
108 Davidson Evans, Thomas x
109 Davidson Hardiman, Thomas x
110 Davidson Weakley, Robert x
111 Davidson Donaldson, William x
112 Davidson Dobins, William (Dobbin) x
113 Edgecombe Digges, Robert x
114 Edgecombe Bell, Bythel x
115 Edgecombe Battle, Elisha x
116 Edgecombe Fort, William x
117 Edgecombe Gray, Ethelred x
118 Franklin Lancaster, William x
119 Franklin Sherrod, Thomas x
120 Franklin Norwood, John x
121 Pitt Dupree, Sterling x
122 Pitt Williams, Robert x
123 Pitt Moye, Richard x
124 Pitt Forbes, Arthur x
125 Guilford Caldwell, David x
126 Guilford Goudy, William (Gowdy) x
127 Guilford Gillespie, Daniel x
128 Guilford Anderson, John x
129 Guilford Hamilton, John x
130 Granville Person, Thomas x
131 Granville Taylor, Joseph x
132 Granville Yancey, Thornton x
133 Granville Lewis, Howell, Jun. x
134 Granville Mitchell, Elijah x
135 Rutherford Moore, George x
136 Rutherford Ledbetter, George x
137 Rutherford Porter, William x
138 Randolph Wood, Zebedee x
139 Randolph Waddill, Edmund x
140 Rockingham Galloway, James x
141 Robeson Regan, John x
142 Surry Winston, Joseph x
143 Surry Gains, James x
144 Surry McAnnelly, Charles x
145 Surry Bostick, Absalom (Bostwick) x
146 Sullivan Scott, John x
147 Sullivan Dunkin, John x
148 Sampson Dodd, David x
149 Sampson Ivey, Curtis x
150 Sampson Holmes, Lewis x
151 Sampson Clinton, Richard x
152 Sampson Holmes, Hardy x
153 Washington Alison, Robert (Alison) x
154 Washington Stuart, James (Stewart) x
155 Washington Tipton, John x
156 Warren Macon, John x
157 Warren Christmass, Thomas x
158 Warren Montfort/Montford, Henry x
159 Wayne Taylor, William x
160 Wayne Handley, James x
161 Wake Saunders, Brittain (Sanders)[15] x
162 Wilkes Lenoir, William x
163 Wilkes Allen, Richard x
164 Wilkes Brown, John x
165 Wilkes Herndon, Joseph x
166 Wilkes Fletcher, James x
167 Hertford Burkit, Lemuel x
168 Hertford Little, William x
169 Hawkins King, Thomas x
170 Jones Bryan, Nathan x
171 Jones Bryan, John Hill x
172 Jones Whitty, Edward x
173 Lincoln Alexander, Robert x
174 Lincoln Johnson, James x
175 Moore Cox, John x
176 Moore Carrel, John x
177 Moore Doud, Cornelius x
178 Moore Tyson, Thomas x
179 Moore Martin, William x
180 Martin Hunter, Thomas x
181 Mecklenburg Graham, Joseph (John?) x
182 Montgomery Loftin, William x
183 Montgomery Kindall, William x
184 Montgomery Ussory, Thomas x
185 Montgomery Butler, Thomas x
186 Northampton Bendford, John (Bentford) x
187 Northampton Vaughan, James x
188 Northampton Peebles, Robert x
189 Northampton Vinson, James x
190 Nash Marnes, William S. x
191 Nash Ellin, Howell x
192 Nash Bunn, Redman x
193 Nash Bonds, John x
194 Nash Pridgen, David x
195 Onslow Yates, Daniel x
196 Onslow Johnston, Thomas x
197 Onslow Spicer, John, Jr. x
198 Borough of Hillsboro Tatom, Abasalom x
199 Orange Mebane, Alexander x
200 Orange Mebane, William x
201 Orange McCauley, William x
202 Orange Shepperd, William x
203 Orange Lindley, Jonathan x
204 Warren Hawkins, Wyatt x
205 Warren Payne, James x
206 Caswell Graves, John x
207 Washington Blair, John x
208 Washington Tipton, Joseph x
209 Rockingham Bethell, William x
210 Rockingham Phillips, Abraham x
211 Rockingham May, John x
212 Rockingham Galloway, Charles x
213 Caswell Bowell, James x
214 Richmond McAllister, John (McAllastar) x
215 Sullivan Looney, David x
216 Sullivan Sharpe, John x
217 Bladen Gaitier, Joseph x
218 New Hanover Campbell, John A. x
219 New Hanover Williams, John Pugh x
220 Hawkins Marshall, William x
221 Richmond Robinson, Charles x
222 Duplin Gillespie, James x
223 Duplin Ward, Charles x
224 Jones Randal, William x
225 Jones Hargett, Frederick x
226 Wayne McKinnie, Richard x
227 Brunswick Cains/Caims, John x
228 Brunswick Leonard, Jacob x
229 Rowan Carson, Thomas x
230 Rutherford Singleton, Richard x
231 Rutherford Whiteside, James x
232 Mecklenburg Phifer, Caleb x
233 Mecklenburg Wilson, Zachias x
234 Mecklenburg Douglas, Joseph x
235 Randolph Dougan, Thomas x
236 Duplin Kenan, James x
237 Halifax Jones, John x
238 Halifax Haywood, Egbert x
239 Halifax Wooten, William x
240 Halifax Branch, John x
241 Franklin Hill, Henry x
242 Wayne Bass, Andrew x
243 Johnston Boon, Joseph x
244 Johnston Farmer, William x
245 Johnston Bryan, John x
246 Richmond Williams, Edward x
247 Duplin Oliver, Francis x
248 Surry Brooks, Matthew x
249 Rowan Rutherford, Griffith x
250 Rowan Barringer, George Henry x
251 New Hanover Bloodworth, Timothy x
252 Johnston Pearce, Everet x
253 Greene Rawlings, Asabel x
254 Greene Wilson, James x
255 Greene Roddy, James x
256 Bladen Cain, Samuel x
257 Richmond Covington, Benjamin x
258 Burke McDowall, Joseph, Jr. x
259 Franklin Hall, Durham x
260 New Hanover Bloodworth, James x
261 Wake Lane, Joel x
262 Wake Hinton, James x
263 New Hanover Devane, Thomas x
264 Rowan Brandon, James (Brannon) x
265 Duplin Dickson, William (Dicks) x
266 Wayne Mooring, Burwell x
267 Rowan Locke, Matthew (Lock) x
268 Hawkins Donelson, Stokely x
269 Anson Wood, Frame[15]
270 Carteret Wallace, David[15]
271 Carteret Borden, Thomas, Jr.[15]
272 Borough of Fayetteville Ingram, John[15]
273 Dobbs Caswell, Richard[15]
274 Dobbs Glasgow, James[15]
275 Dobbs Caswell, Winston[15]
276 Dobbs Sheppard, Bennett[15]
277 Dobbs Lassiter, Nathan (Lasseter)[15]
278 Montgomery McDondald, James[15]
279 New Hannover Huske, John[15]
280 Northampton Peterson, John[15]
281 Onslow Snead, Robert W. (Sneed)[15]
282 Onslow Starkey, Edward[15]
283 Randolph Hanley, Jeff[15]
284 Randolph Bowdon, William[15]
285 Sullivan Martin, Joseph[15]
286 Sumner Smith, Daniel[15]
287 Sumner Wilson, David[15]
288 Sumner Douglass, Edward[15]
289 Tennessee Montgomery, John[15]
290 Tennessee Drew, John[15]
291 Tennessee Johnston, Thomas[15]
292 Tennessee Blount, William[15]
293 Tennessee Menees, Benjamin[15]
294 Tyrrell Spruill, Hezekiah[15]

See also[edit]

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, signing is Richard Dobbs Spaight, behind him is William Blount and Hugh Williamson


  1. ^ Cavanagh, John C. (2006). "Convention of 1788". NCpedia. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  2. ^ "Hillsborough Convention of 1788". NorthCarolinahistory.org An Online Encyclopedia. North Carolina History Project. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  3. ^ "Church History". Hillsborough Presbyterian Church. Hillsborough, North Carolina. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  4. ^ "New Plaque Honors NC Leaders Who Did Not Sign Constitution Until Bill Of Rights Added". WUNC91.5. November 17, 2014.
  5. ^ "Marker G-131, Constitutional Convention 1788". NCMarkers.com. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  6. ^ "July 21, 2013: Hillsborough Convention Fails to Ratify Constitution". This Day in North Carolina History. North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  7. ^ Watson, Alan (2011). General Benjamin Smith: A Biography of the North Carolina Governor. McFarland. p. 52. ISBN 978-0786461561.
  8. ^ "Fayette Convention of 1789". NorthCarolinaHistory.org. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  9. ^ John C. Cavanaugh, Decision at Fayetteville (Raleigh, 1989)
  10. ^ William Price, Jr., "’There Ought to Be a Bill of Rights’: North Carolina Enters a New Nation," in The Bill of Rights and the States, ed. Patrick T. Conley and John Kaminski (Lanham, Maryland, 1992)
  11. ^ Louise Irby Trenholme, The Ratification of the Federal Constitution in North Carolina (Columbia, Missouri, 1932)
  12. ^ "Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North-Carolina, Convened at Hillsborough, on Monday the 21st Day of July, 1788, for the Purpose of Deliberating and Determining on the Constitution Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, the 17th Day of September, 1787: To Which is Prefixed the Said Constitution". 1788. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  13. ^ Counties were not listed for the delegates in the minutes, so the 1904 Manual was used.
  14. ^ Connor, Henry Grove (August 1904). "The Convention of 1788‑'89 and the Federal Constitution — Hillsborough and Fayetteville". Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Connor, R.D.D. (1913). A Manual of North Carolina (PDF). Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission. p. 863-. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  16. ^ Minutes say Tanner vice Turner as in Manual

Additional sourcing:

  • Gillespie, Michael Allen Gillespie (1989). Liensch, Michael (ed.). North Carolina: Preserving Rights. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  • Price, William S. (1991). The Bill of Rights and North Carolina: There Ought to be a Bill of Rights.

External links[edit]