(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Nathaniel Macon"

3* * ,* v * 









^"\ <*> A* /- 








J a>V 






C 



*W 











*\ \^ SdXtir. \</ -•**»"• 



V \b, "'7'.'.' 
















c5> °v 








5 * r ^ *<? * 



- :' 




, • T A A* % j£Mb^* &■ C y ft $s^5 - • *P>. a!* S 









v.%* 



^<y 








* ^ ^ **-" 








^ .-isM*. %,,/ •£&£ w ^ 














"oV 5 











r oV 







fiATHAfllHLi jWACO^ 



AN ADDRESS 



THOMAS M. PITTMAN, Esq., 



On occasion of the Unveiling of a Monument 
Mr. Macon, at Guilford Battle Groun 
July 4th, 1902. 




PURLIS 
THE GUILFORD BATTLE 



GREEN ES60 







/ t\ 



NATHANIEL MACON. 

BY 
THOMAS M. PITTMAN. 



About us on every hand is peace. But the occasion, 
this place, these monuments speak of war — a war patriotic 
in its beginning, glorious in its conduct, far-reaching in 
its consequences, which ended the sovereignty of the 
king and ushered in the sovereignty of the people and in 
which a loyal colony was transformed into the free State 
of North Carolina. The privations and dangers of war 
gave way to the cares and perplexities of civil life under 
new and untried conditions. The foundations of gover- 
ment had been well laid in constitutions for which 
existed no precedents of form or interpretation, but the 
details and policies of both State and National Gov- 
ernments were literally to be spelled out under cir- 
cumstances demanding almost infinite patience and cour- 
age. It was inevitable that differences should result in 
opposing parties. Visions of empire, of wealth and 
position fixed the fancy of some on a government of pow- 
er and dignity, which should be made great by the con- 
trol and direction of the great and wealthy few. To 
these constitutions were but shackles that impeded the 
progress of brilliant policies and to be got rid of as 
far as possible, if not by repeal, then by a broadness o 
interpretation which should make all things possible. 

Others saw visions of manhood — self-governing, ex- 
alted and dignified. To these constitutions were the 
safeguards of liberty — as the strong walls of a city shut- 



ting out foes which threaten its safety. One saw the 
splendor and luxury of the few, the other saw the digni- 
ty, safety, and the prosperity of the many. So much 
being understood an insight is possible into the life of 
the man whose memory we honor today. 

Nathaniel Macon was born in Granville county, now 
Warren, December 17, 1757. His father was Gideon 
Macon, a native of Virginia, descended from the Hugue- 
not Gideon Macon, who settled in that State some time 
prior to 1682. Martha, a daughter of this first Gideon, 
married Orlando Jones and was grandmother of Martha 
Custis, the wife of George Washington. His mother was 
Priscilla Jones, daughter of Edmund Jones, of Shocco, 
and Abigail (Sugan) Jones, reputed the fiirst white wo- 
man to cross Shocco creek into the up country. 

Nathaniel was one of the younger, possibly the young- 
est, of eight children. His father died when he was 
about five years old. His mother subsequently married 
James Ransom and from that marriage sprung Gen. 
Robert Ransom and his distinguished brother Matt. W. 
Ransom. At an early age Nathaniel gave such promise 
of those strong moral and intellectual qualities which 
distinguished his mature years that, notwithstanding the 
moderate means of the family, it was determined to give 
him a collegiate education. The few classical schools 
then in the State were conducted chiefly by Presbyterian 
ministers who were educated at Princeton college — then 
as now an institution of very high rank. Through the 
influence of these teachers it contributed more than any 
similar institution to higher education in North Carolina. 
The fact that young Macon was sent to that college in- 
dicates the influence of some one of those teachers, most 
likely Rev. Henry Patillo, who taught in Orange and 
later in Granville, and was chairman of the Committee 






of Safety of Bute county from its organization. His rep- 
utation as a teacher was excellent and specimens of his 
handwriting, now in my possession, indicate that he was 
a man of culture. I have not been able to learn when 
Mr. Macon entered college, but it was probably about 
1775. In 1776 when he was not yet eighteen years of age, 
his studies were interrupted for a short tour of military 
service on the Deleware, after which he returned to his 
classes. The gifted and patriotic Dr. Witherspoon was 
then President of Princeton and the value of his influence 
upon the life of the young man can not now be measured. 

Of young Macon at this time his friend and biographer 
Hon. Weldon N. Edwards, writes: "His own inclina- 
tions eagerly seconded the hopeful purpose of his friends. 
While there he prosecuted his studies with fond diligence 
and sought all the avenues to useful knowledge with un- 
flagging zeal. Nor did he relax his efforts in this respect 
after his return home, devoting to such books as were 
within his reach all the time he could spare from the 
ordinary duties of life. * * * In the latter part of his 
life he was often heard to say that his eyesight failed him 
sooner than it otherwise would have done inconsequence 
of his reading so much by firelight in his youth and early 
manhood — being then too poor to buy candles — his small 
patrimony having been exhausted during his minority 
in his support and education.". 

In 1779, when the war clouds had descended upon the 
South, he laid aside his studies at college and hastening 
home enlisted as a private in a company of which his 
brother John was captain. He continued in the service 
as a private, except as interrupted by legislative duties 
until provisional articles of peace were signed in Novem- 
ber, 1782, and "though commands and places of trust 
and confidence, as well as of ease and safety were often 



tendered him, he invariably declined them;" nor would 
he ever accept a cent of pay for his service. When the war 
was over and provision was being made for the soldiers 
of the revolution, he declared that "no state of fortune 
could induce him to accept it." His was a knightly spirit 
freed from the license and extravagance of knighthood. 
He served from the love of serving and when the frosts 
of many winters had crowned his head, the State was 
still to him "Our beloved mother North Carolina. 

While in the army and scarcely yet twenty-three years 
of age, he was elected the first Senator from Warren 
county to the General Assembly of North Carolina. It 
is said that his first intimation of the election was a sum- 
mons from the Governer to attend a session of the As- 
sembly, and that he would have declined the honor but 
for Gen. Greene, who heard of his purpose and persuaded 
him that he could be of greater service to the army in 
the State Senate than as a private in the ranks. It was 
during the time of the famous retreat from South Caro- 
lina, which led to the battle of Guilford Court House 
and the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. The 
American army had just crossed the Yadkin and was 
taking a short and much needed rest on its northern side 
while the British pursuit was delayed by a flood in the 
river. Mr. Macon's refusal to obey the Governor's sum- 
mons was talked about the camp until it came to the 
knowledge of Gen. Greene, who was deeply impressed 
by such a preference. The army was in a destitute con- 
dition and the outlook gloomy. The General sent for 
the young man and asked an explanation of his strange 
conduct. Macon replied "that he had seen the faces of 
the British many times, but had never seen their backs, 
and he meant to stay in the army till he did." General 
Greene knew men and quickly realized that one stood 



5 

before him through whom the army might be equipped 
for the great emergency that was upon it. Under these 
circumstances Mr. Macon was persuaded to enter the 
Senate. He did not disappoint his General's expectations. 
Largely through his efforts the pressing necessities of the 
army were supplied. The Battle of Guilford Court House 
was made possible, from which British dominion over the 
colonies went down in the gloom of defeat at Yorktown. 
He was Senator five terms, beginning in 1781. His 
recognition was prompt and the records of the Senate 
show that he was one of the most industrious and in- 
fluential members. His strict regard for the law was as 
manifest here as in his later life. Certain goods had 
been impressed from merchants in Edenton for the use 
of the army. It was the occasion of a petition to the 
Assembly. Mr. Macon, chairman of the joint com- 
mittee to consider the matter, reported : "It is your 
committee's opinion that the impressment of goods by 
general warrants is unconstitutional, oppressive and de- 
structive of trade." Forty years later he wrote to his 
friend, Bartlett Yancey: "The book of Judges ought to 
be attentively read by every man in the United States 
to see the terrible effect on the Israelites for departing 
from the law which was their constitution; and so ought 
the books of Samuel and Kings; indeed the whole Bible 
contains great knowledge of the principles of govern- 
ment./ The rising generations forget the principles and 
maxims of their forefathers, hence the destruction of 
free government in every age. Of what benefit was the 
law to the children of Israel when they departed from it, 
or what benefit are written constitutions if they be de- 
parted from; the wise maxims they may contain are 
useless, perhaps worse than useless if not adhered to, 
because honest people abide by them, and others do not." 



He married Hannah Plummer October 9, 1783. The 
marriage was a most happy one but of short duration. 
She died January 11, 1790, leaving a son, who died in 
his seventh year, and two daughters, Betsy K., who 
married Wm. Martin, of Granville, and Seigniora, who 
married Wm. Eaton, Sr., of Warren. He never married 
again 

Mr. Macon established his home on Buck Spring plan- 
tation, some ten miles northeast of Warrenton. Here 
died and were buried the wife and son, and here were 
spent the long years which grew into lonely old age. 
In a splendid grove of many hundred oaks he built a 
plain dwelling of poplar plank. One room sixteen feet 
square, a half story above and a basement below, was 
this mansion. It was in keeping with his slender means 
at the outset of life, and wholly sufficient for the simple 
tastes of the lonely man when the light of his life had 
gone out. Offices such as were common in that section 
were placed about the grove for the accommodation of 
guests. The old time kitchen with its great fire place, 
in which I have stood fully erect, was nearly in front of 
the dwelling and close by. As usual in old places in 
that country, the barns and stables were first reached in 
approaching the house. The great spring from which 
the place derived its name was in a well stocked deer 
park. Mr. Macon took much pleasure in sport and dis- 
posed of his deer by will. In December 1824, when six- 
ty-seven years of age, he wrote Mr. Yancey from Wash- 
ington, "I caught twelve foxes before I left home; ate 
of the venison of five wild deer," etc. 

I visited the old home in 1898, in company with Dr. 
Francis A. Macon, and obtained photographs of some of 
the most interesting objects. Some five hundred oaks of 
the old grove remained. The dwelling, kitchen, some 



old barns and servant houses were then standing. A 
friend in Warren county writes me: "I would lay em- 
phasis upon his unfailing honesty, the intimate, friendly 
and social relations he maintained/ with his neighbors, 
his faithful attendance upon the little country church, 
his interest in the young." These were characteristics 
of his home life and greatly endeared him to his neigh- 
bors, by whom he was known as Mr. Meekins. This 
pronunciation of his name was insisted upon by Mr. 
Macon himself but was not so much relished by his 
grandchildren. One of these, by way of protest, 
offered his grandfather some bacon at dinner on one 
occasion, calling it "beekins," and justified himself by 
the argument that if M-a-c-o-n spelled "Meekins," 
b-a-c-o-n spelled " beekins." We are not told that the 
argument was convincing. 

A short time after his wife's death Mr. Macon entered 
upon that public service in which he was to win endur- 
ing fame, and a larger measure of affectionate regard 
than falls to the lot of most public men. At the open- 
ing of the first session of the Second Congress, on 
October 28, 1791 , he took his seat as a member from the 
Warren district. At that time the Federalists were in 
power and already committed to the open door theory 
of constitutional interpretation and to the doctrine of 
implied powers. Against these Mr. Macon was unalter- 
ably set. The gentle Huguenot blood on the one side 
with traditions of kingly falsehood and oppression; the 
hardy pioneer strain on the other, with its records of 
hardships and dangers overcome, were a heritage of 
preparation for a life cast in heroic mould. In 1764 that 
portion of Granville in which he lived had been cut off 
and erected into the county of Bute. Here his boyhood 
witnessed the agitation which preceded the revolution. 



Almost from his very door went the "Serious address to 
the inhabitants of Granville." Only a little way off at 
Hillsboro were the stirring events of the Regulation. 
From his own, Bute, by the hand of Thomas Person, 
went the petition of his kinsmen and neighbors. When, 
after years at the feet of Witherspoon where enthusiasm 
was tempered by knowledge, he returned to join in the 
struggle of his kinsmen for liberty, in the county of Bute 
where there "were no Tories," he found at the head of 
the Committee of Safety his old preceptor, Patillo, and 
associated with him the men of his own family — Ransom, 
Alston, Hawkins, Greene, Seawell, Johnston and Jones. 
About him were men who had conquered stream and 
mountain and forest, who had established homes of virtue 
and industry and thrift, who, in the Colonial Assemblies, 
had proved themselves the equals of the English gov- 
ernors sent to rule over them, and who, upon this sacred 
ground and a hundred other battle-fields had shown 
their manhood in the face of the best soldiers of Europe. 
Could a man born and reared under such circumstances 
and among such men doubt their capacity for self-gov- 
ernment or look with any degree of patience upon the 
acquisition of power by trickery in the interpretation of 
the Constitution ? Not Macon, at any rate. 

As a member of the minority, Mr. Macon had little 
opportunity to promote any important legislation in 
Congress, but here, as in the State Legislature, he 
received early recognition. His course was marked by 
sound judgment and industry, and by a strict adherence 
to the Constitution. His first real opportunity came in 
the great political contest of 1799- 1800, which ended in 
the final defeat of the Federalist party. Judge Story in 
his notable address on Marshall gives this account of 
that struggle: "The session of Congress in the winter 



of 1799 and 1800 will be forever memorable in our politi- 
cal annals. It was the moment of the final struggle for 
power between the two great political parties, which 
then divided the country, and ended, as is well known, 
in the overthrow of the Federal administration. Men of 
the higest talents and influence were there assembled 
and arrayed in hostility to each other; and were excited 
by all the strongest motives which can rouse the human 
mind, the pride of power, the hope of victory, the sense 
of responsibility, the devotion to principles deemed vital, 
and the bonds of long political attachment and action. 
Under such circumstances (as might naturally be ex- 
pected) every important measure of the administration 
was assailed with a bold and vehement criticism, and 
was defended with untiring zeal and firmness. No man 
came out of this struggle with more distinction than Mr. 
Macon. It left him the recognized leader of his party 
in the House of Representatives and Speaker. He held 
this position during three terms with entire indepen- 
dence, and yet. with satisfaction to all parties. His 
sickness and absence from place prevented his further 
election. 

It is impossible in a short address to discuss Mr. Ma- 
con's Congressional career in detail. He was attentive 
and prompt in meeting every duty. We may note a few 
instances of the part he played and the views he ex- 
pressed: 

The depredations upon our commerce, growing out of 
the war between Great Britain and France, caused much 
irritation in the United States. Various expedients were 
proposed to meet the situation, such as new treaties and the 
embargo act. Mr. Macon was solicitous to pursue a course 
which might bring relief and yet avoid war. He said: 

"This nation, in my opinion, must take her choice of 



two alternatives: to be happy and contented without war 
and without internal taxes, or to be warlike and glorious, 
abounding with what is called honor and dignity, or in 
other words taxes and blood. If it be the first the people 
will continue to enjoy that which they have hitherto en- 
joyed — more privileges than have fallen to the lot of any 
nation with whose history we are acquainted; they will, 
as they have done, live plentifully on their farms, and 
such as choose will carry on a fair trade by exchanging 
our surplus productions for such foreign articles as we 
may want. If we take the other ground we shall, I fear, 
pursue the same career, which has nearly, or quite, ruin- 
ed all the nations of the globe. Look at the people of 
England, legally free, but half their time fighting for 
the honor and dignity of the crown, and the carrying 
trade, and see whether they have gained anything by 
all their battles for the nation except taxes, and these 
they have in greatest abundance. Look also at France 
before the Revolution and we shall see a people posses- 
sing a fertile country and fine climate, having the honor 
to fight and be taxed as much as they could bear, for the 
glory of the Grand Monarque. Let us turn from these 
two great nations, and view Switzerland, during the same 
period, though not powerful like the others, we shall see 
the people free and happy without wars, contented at 
home, because they have enough to live comfortably on 
and are not over taxed. The history of these three na- 
tions ought to convince us that public force and liberty 
cannot dwell in the same country." 

When the interference with our commerce became in- 
tolerable under the later British Orders in Council, and 
the Berlin and Milan decrees of Napoleon, he became a 
leader in the movements for relief. As chairman of the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs he reported and secured 



1 1 

the passage of a bill through the House, known as Macon 
Bill No. i, which was understood to have the ap- 
proval of the President and Mr. Gallatin. It excluded 
French and English warships and merchant vessels from 
our ports, restricted the importation of French and Eng- 
lish goods to vessels owned wholy by American citizens 
and to such as came directly from England or France- 
It has been characterized as the "only measure short of 
war which met the requirements of the case." The 
ground of Mr. Macon's support was that "it places re- 
strictions on those who restrict us and not, as at present, 
on ourselves." This bill was defeated by a coalition of 
Federalists and personal enemies of Gallatin. Macon 
Bill No. 2, a milder measure, was then brought forward 
and passed, but it was not sufficient to stay the mischief, 
and his wise efforts to avoid war were defeated. 

When peaceful measures failed to secure protection for 
American interests, Mr. Macon was for war; and when 
that was declared he gave it hearty support. Indeed he 
proposed to go further in strengthening the hands of the 
administration than the majority in Congress were wil- 
ling to follow him. At the same time he declined to 
vote for certain measures that he thought unwise. This 
has occasioned a charge against him of voting for the war 
and then refusing to vote supplies for carrying it on. 
The imputation does Mr. Macon great injustice. Few 
men knew better than he the financial weakness of the 
country and its inability to indulge in reckless expendi- 
tures. The closing events of the war amply justified his 
course. Peace became necessary because the govern- 
ment was unable to maintain its credit. This necessity 
was so great that a treaty was negotiated and signed 
which did not settle nor even mention the principal mat- 
ter in dispute; and that question, the right to search 



vessels of another nation for subjects of the searching 
Power, was never settled between the United States and 
Great Britain until the happening of the celebrated 
"Trent Affair" during our Civil War. 

Mr. Macon rendered great service to the country in his 
defense of the Constitution. In one speech he said: 
"There are five or six different ways found of getting 
power — by construction, by treaty, by implication and 
so forth. I am willing to execute the Constitution just 
as it was understood by those who made it and no other," 
and again, "We get power faster than the people get 
money." The biographer of Randolph writes: "Besides 
Mr. Randolph, Nathaniel Macon, of North Carolina, and 
Spencer Roane, Chief Justice of Virginia, were the most 
conspicuous statesmen in that time of amalgamation and 
confusion of all parties. They were ever consistent and 
uniform in their adherence to the principles of the strict 
construction school, and always urgent for those measures 
of economy and that course of 'wise and masterly inac- 
tivity' which must ever characterize a party based on 
such principles." It is at this point that men have failed 
to comprehend Mr. Macon. He was not what would 
then or now be called a progressive or constructive 
statesman. His idea was that the people who formed 
the government were entirely capable of managing it and 
changing it to meet their wishes when they saw fit; that 
the government could not enlarge its prerogative except 
by encroachment upon the rights of the people; that the 
officers of government were the servants of the people 
and could have no authority except as they saw fit to 
confer it; that the true office of government is to protect 
people from interference that they may work out their 
own lives in the strength of their own manhood. He 
thought the best internal improvements were boys and 



13 

girls and that people would continue to raise them if let 
alone. The man was absolutely and deeply sincere. 
When he spoke for the people, he saw before him the 
neighbors and the friends from whom he had come to the 
Congress, by whose fireside he had sat, whose hands he 
had held in friendly grasp and with whom he was accus- 
tomed to exchange the courtesies of good neighborhood ; 
and he saw an ideal State, where 

" Nursed by freedom, all her sons grew great, 
And every peasant was a prince in virtue." 

He wrote Bartlett Yancey in 1818: "Be not de- 
ceived, I speak soberly in the fear of God, and the love 
of the Constitution; let not love of improvement or a 
thirst for glory blind that sober discretion and sound 
sense with which the Lord has blessed you. Paul was 
not more anxious or sincere concerning Timothy 
than I am for you. Your error in this will injure if not 
destroy our beloved mother, North Carolina, and all the 
South country. Add not to the Constitution nor take 
therefrom; no incidental power can stand alone, what- 
ever can stand alone is substantive, not incidental. 
Be not led astray by grand notions or magnificent opin- 
ions. Remember you belong to a meek State and just 
people who want nothing but to enjoy the fruits of their 
labor honestly and to lay out their profits in their own 
way. In all countries those who have sense enough to 
get and keep money may be safely trusted as to the 
manner of disbursing it." 

He was a wise and far-seeing man. Mr. Randolph 
declared that "if wisdom consisted in properly exercis- 
ing our judgment upon the value of things desirable, Mr. 
Macon was certainly the wisest man he ever saw." One 
or two instances will illustrate this faculty of seeing ahead 



— when the craze for internal improvements sprung up he 
wrote a friend urging an examination of the Constitution 
" with the sole view to decide, whether if Congress 
can establish a bank or make roads and canals, whether 
Congress cannot also free every slave in the several states. 
There is no clause in the Constitution forbidding it." 
This was not urged in friendship of slavery, but wholly 
as a constitutional question affecting important economic 
interests. Indeed, he had declared in Congress that 
"There was not a gentleman in North Carolina who did 
not wish that there were no blacks in the Country. It 
was a misfortune — he considered it as a curse; but there 
was no way of getting rid of them." It may be a matter of 
curious interest in this connection to mention the fact, 
that Lewis Williams member of Congress from the Surry 
district, as late as 1836, voted against the admission of 
Arkansas as a state because its Constitution permited 
slavery. I will cite only one other instance, and that out- 
side of politics: The man who introduced supplemen- 
tal reading in our schools is called the John the Baptist 
of Education. Vet Mr. Macon advanced the very same 
idea and proposed a life of Washington as the book to 
be used for that purpose. 

Men of today do not recognize the issues involved in 
the Constitutional struggles of the early period. They 
were understood then to involve the question of popular 
goverment. Democracy was on trial. He lived to see 
that question settled. There were many encroachments 
that grieved his honest soul, but the right and capacity 
of the people to govern themselves was fixed. If it be 
true that 

" They also serve who only stand and wait," 

how great shall be the praise and glory for the man who, 



i5 

through long years, resisted the encroachments of power 
for the love he bore the people. 

In 1816 Mr. Macon, without his solicitation, was trans- 
ferred to the Senate of the United States and was cordi- 
ally received with the same respect which had attended 
his whole public course. He was repeatedly elected 
president of the Senate until he finally declined the hon- 
or further. He was repeatedly tendered positions in the 
Cabinet, urged to become a candidate for President, and 
was actually voted for by Virginia for Vice-President, 
though not a candidate. In 1828, when he was three score 
and ten years of age, he resigned his offices of Senator, 
Trustee of the State University, and Justice of the Peace. 
Twice afterwards he was called from retirement — once to 
be a member and president of the Constitutional Conven- 
tion of 1835; and again to be Presidential elector in 1836. 

"A calm and steady virtue, which acts temperately 
and wisely, and never plunges into indiscretion or ex- 
travagance is but too often confounded with dullness or 
frigidity." In these later days there have been those 
who, blind to the significance of Mr. Macon's life, 
have failed to see any greatness in the man. A recent 
North Carolina publication speaks of him as a man of 
"mediocre abilities and meagre education, a homespun 
planter, honest and simple, erring more often in his 
grammar than in his moral principles, but knowing little 
of the world beyond the borders of North Carolina. No 
man in American history left a better name than 
Macon, but the name was all he left." This is not the 
estimate of his own day nor of the men with whom he 
moved. I have already spoken of his course at Prince- 
ton and his studious habits. In Congress he won 
speedy recognition and there was no abatement of his 
prestige with the passing years, but ever increasing 



*5 

respect. Just before his retirement Randolph wrote of 
him: "He richly deserves every sentiment of respect 
and veneration that can be felt for his character." His 
speeches and writings exhibit familiar acquaintance with 
both ancient and modern history and full and accurate 
knowledge of affairs in America. As chairman of the 
Committee of Foreign affairs of the House of Represen- 
tatives in that most trying period of the strained rela- 
tions with Great Britain and France, his course was 
characterized by that judgment^' wisdom, tact, modera- 
tion, clearness of perception and knowledge of men 
and affairs which had distinguished his whole public 
career, and commanded the respect of patriots in 
every party. The estimation in which he was held by 
men of his own time may be shown in a few utterances: 

Benton in this Thirty Years View, gives a chapter on 
the "Retiring of Mr. Macon." He says " I have a pleas- 
ure in recalling the recollection of this wise, just and 
good man, and in writing them down, not without profit 
I hope, to rising generations, and at leastas extending the 
knowledge of the kind of men to whom we are indebted 
for our independence and for the form of government 
which they established for us. Mr. Macon was the real 
Cincinnatus of America, the pride and ornament of my 
native State, my hereditary friend through four genera- 
tions, my mentor in the first seven years of my senatorial 
and the last seven years of his senatorial life. 

Jefferson gave repeated evidences of the high esteem 
in which he held Mr. Macon as a public man by inviting 
him more than once to a seat in his cabinet, but nothing 
surpasses a note introducing his grandson, when both 
men had grown old and were nearing the end of all earth- 
ly service. In march 1826 he wrote Mr Macon, "My grand- 
son, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the bearer of this letter 



i7 

on a journey to the north will pass two or three days 
perhaps in Washington. I cannot permit him to do this 
without presenting him to a friend of so long standing, 
whom I consider as the strictest of our models of genuine 
republicanism. Let him be able to say when you are 
gone, but not forgotton, that he had seen Nathaniel 
Macon, upon whose tomb will be written 'Ultimus Ro- 
manorumf I only ask you to give him a hearty shake of 
the hand, on my account as well as his own, assuring you 
he merits it as a citizen, to which I will add my unceas- 
ing affection for yourself." 

John Tyler said "If the minds of Randolph and Macon 
had been properly blended, they would almost have been 
a model of absolute perfection — wit, genius and fancy 
combined with a judgment so inflexible and erect as rare- 
ly to have been shaken" and again in 1838, after Mr. 
Macon's death he said "there was a beautiful consistency 
in his course, from the moment of his entering public life^to 
the moment of his quitting it. Nothing sordid ever entered 
into his imagination. He was a devoted patriot whose 
whole heart and every corner of it was filled with love of 
country. In the House of Representatives he was the 
firm and the unflinching Republican, and in the Senate 
the venerable patriarch, contemporary of Washigton and 
Franklin, and most worthy to have lived in the same 
century with them." And it was also said of him that 
"he could say more while getting up out of his chair and 
sitting down again than most men in a long speech." 

These expressions might be multiplied indefinitely, 
but it is needless — I will let only one other speak — his 
closest friend and daily companion, John Randolph, of 
Roanoke. In December 1838, he wrote "There is no 
one who stands so fair in the public estimation; and with 
the single exception of General Washington there is not 



W i 8 

one of your times who will stand so fair with posterity 
as yourself," and in his will he says: "To N. Macon I give 
and bequeath my candlesticks, punch ladle, silver cans, 
hard metal dishes, choice of four of my best young mares 
and gelddings, and the gold watch with gold chain, and 
may every blessing attend him, the best, wisest and purest 
man I ever knew." An honored official of Princeton 
University wrote me a few days ago: "To say that 
Macon was of 'mediocre ability and meagre' education is 
to cast discredit at least on the judgment and discrimi- 
nation of the State which so honored him." I think the 
point is well taken. 

The suggestion that a good name was all he left is not 
true. He boldly and ably confronted great problems 
of national life on their political and their moral sides. 
The truth and integrity of his life, the sincerity of his 
thought and purpose, the nobility and greatness of his 
character, have made it easier for every man who has 
lived since his day to maintain the truth and sound 
principles. 

Mr. Macon died June 29, 1837, at Buck Spring in the 
county of Warren, in the 79th year of his age, and was 
buried beside the wife whom he had loved and lost long 
ago. His spirit has gone to its giver. His memory re- 
mains as a benediction to the people of his and our " be- 
loved mother, North Carolina." 

In closing I appropriate to him words that were spoken 
of another: "He who has been enabled, by the force of 
his talents and the example of his virtues, to identify his 
own character with the solid interests and happiness of 
his country; he who has lived long enough to stamp the 
impression of his own mind upon the age, and has left on 
record lessons of wisdom for the study and improve- 
ment of all posterity; he, I say, has attained all that a 



19 

truly good man aims at, and all that a truly great man 
should aspire to. He has erected a monument to his 
memory in the hearts of men. Their gratitude will per- 
petually, though it may be silently, breathe forth his 
praises; and the voluntary homage paid to his name will 
speak a language more intelligible and more universal 
than any epitaph inscribed on Parian marble, or any 
image wrought out by the cunning hands of sculp- 
ture." 



• 1 1 













•i- 1 
** 









^ 




4.'" o *"%24" SP «* ~0 










c ° " • * 






: v«s. v 







' ^ ^ V| 
















0' 



"of 






»°^ 













t %j^t^L %*^^ f o ^-^\/ 



• V \: 

G#itviHe,'PA 

>