Thursday, September 3, 2009

Good Ol' Ways...

Macon County is one of my favorite mountain counties because of its county seat, the town of Franklin and its reputation of the Gem Capital of the World. I think I already discussed it in this blog, but Macon county itself is already included in the NHA by virtue of the trail of Gen. Rutherford's pursuit of the Cherokee.

I discovered today however that the town is named for Jesse Franklin, who was from Surry county, a governor of NC and the nephew of Benjamin Cleveland. He also served as a Capt. under Maj. Joseph Winston and he is (re)buried at Guilford Courthouse. They led the Surry militia against the Hessians and Tarleton's dragoons in the last action of the battle at Guilford Courthouse.

Macon county is named for Nathaniel Macon of Warrenton, in Warren County. My relatives were his neighbors and watched after his farm while Macon was in Congress. They were apparently indentured servants brought to the US from Wales by his great-grandfather Gideon Macon. Gideon Macon was also the great-grandfather of Martha Washington.

My relatives eventually made their freedom and settled nearby.

Anyway Nathaniel owned black slaves at the time. He was a peculiar old man. He treated everyone basically the same. He lived himself in a modest one room house like his slaves and never remarried after his wife died in her twenties. He stauntly supported slavery I imagine because he was for agriculture and he himself lived so frugally. I guess he thought he treated his slaves like regular people and everyone else would too. Not. He refused to give up the colonial dress of the 1700s even into the 1800s as fashions changed.

He also said the following ( 435): No human power had any right to interpose, or prescribe any religious opinions as a test of office. A mix- ture of politics and religion, was the very essence of hypocrisy. Religion is founded on "peace on earth and good will to man." Read the sermon of the Saviour of mankind on the Mount. There is no persecution there. We had as well try to bind the air we breathe, as men's consciences. All religions united in the establishment of our free Government. Roger Williams, the first man to establish toleration in North America, was a Puritan; Charles Carroll was a Catholic ; Mr. Macon said that he inclined to the Baptist faith ; but he was far from believing all their doctrines. He did not believe it essen- tial, that a man should attach himself to any church. He who feared God, and loved his brother man, and faithfully discharged to his country every duty, and obeyed the precepts of the Gospel, would not be asked, when he reached heaven, to what church he belonged.

The minute detail of Mr. Macon, (pg. 436) by a neighbor, has not permitted us to be at a loss in this respect. " He occupied a neat little single storied frame house sixteen feet square, with an upstairs and a cellar, furnished in the plainest style for his own dwell- ing, with a sufficient number of outhouses to accommodate comfortably his visitors.

" The dwellings of his slaves, instead of the smoky hovels of dirt, and gloom, and discontent, were about the same size of his own house, furnished with all the common necessaries of convenient living."

He had not the felicity of enjoying the condition of married life but for a few years, but his union with Miss Plumrner was as " One long summer day of innocence and joy." Educated and raised in the same sphere of life, their thoughts, feelings, asso- ciations, tastes, and hopes were the same, and how could their union be but happy and contented ? It was the will of Heaven to take early from him this most valued of all earthly blessings. He bore this severe calamity with that calm resignation to the hand of Providence that " does not willingly afflict the children of men," but whose reasons, if inscrutable now, will all be made known hereafter. She left him two daughters ; in these pledges of the love of his departed wife " he garnered up all the richest affections of his heart." They were taught both by the precept and example of their father, the value of truth and the importance of sincerity.

" Sincerity! Thou first of virtues ! Let no mortal leave Thy onward path ! although the earth should gape, And from the gulf of hell, destruction cry, To take dissimulation's winding way."

He inculcated upon them habits of industry and rigid frugality. No tawdry ornament, no French frippery ever was seen on their persons. Like Portia of Rome, they were fit to be the daughters of our Cato. On the mar- riage of the eldest daughter, Mr. Macon divided his estate into three parts. One to each, and one he retained to do with as he pleased hereafter. His con- duct here deserves the imitation of all parents. The rules of English primo- geniture are not only unjust, but often renders a fool of the one, while it makes knaves of the rest. He regarded the claims of his children as alike and equal. The affection of a parent should be equal, his duty equal, and their equal wants demanded his equal care.

As a neighbor, master, and friend, Mr. Macon's conduct was guided by the same rules of philanthropy and justice. He was ever ready to oblige and aid; he was exact in his duty, and required the same of others.

One anecdote left of him exemplifies this: one of his neighbors borrowed his cart and oxen; and promised, of his own accord, to return them by a certain specified time. The time came and passed, but they were not returned. When they were returned (some time afterwards), Macon said nothing of the blunder in the neighbor's calculation of time. The saine neighbor came subsequently, and had occasion to use the cart and oxen again, which he requested the loan of. He was told by Mr. Macon that ." he could not have them ; that he could have his wagon and horses, but never the cart and oxen again, as he had told him one falsehood about the return of them, and he did not wish him to have it in his power to re- peat it."

This anecdote is obtained from the person who is the subject of it, and he said that he had rather borrow of Mr. Macon than any man he ever saw, for the request was granted or refused without hesitation.

While he treated all with justice and kindness, he required the same of them. His invariable rule was to rise early when at home, see his stock fed himself, and his people at their work before he ate his breakfast. He had a rule for everything, and had that rule well digested, well understood by all, and faithfully carried out. One of his rules was that nothing about him was allowed to suffer for food. His negroes were well fed. His horses, and even his dogs came within this benevolent plan.

He was inflexible in the enforcing of his orders. His habit was to attend to his own farm. When in Congress he had to employ an agent or overseer, as it is termed. His practice was to write down his instructions, which were not to be de- viated from under any circumstances. An anecdote is narrated of the rigid fidelity of one of his overseers. Mr. Macon had left the order in writing that his flock of sheep should be kept in a certain enclosure, and there to remain until his return from Con- gress the ensuing spring. Mr. Eaton, his son-in-law, happened during the winter to be passing by, and told Mr. Shearen, the overseer, that the sheep were dying for want of better pasturage, and suggested to him to turn them out in the woods.

The sturdy old man said " No Mr. Macon directed the sheep to remain in that place, and there they must remain ; he had rather lose every sheep than disobey Mr. Macon." The sheep nearly all died.

When Macon returned home Mr. Eaton told at dinner-table the tale to him, and he seemed pleased, and replied that " he was more delighted with the fidelity of his old friend Lewis Shearen, (My relative!) than to own a hundred flocks of sheep ; that he never knew him to disobey him, tell him a lie, or guilty of any dishonesty. If he had disobeyed and saved the sheep this time, he might disobey him at another time, and lose him five times as much more/' His rule was to understand well what he ordered, and see that order faithfully obeyed.

He expressed the truthfulness of the Meckinburg Resolves as being the first breakaway document of the Revolution to Congress. It was not until 1819, forty-four years after the alleged signing of Meckinburg Declaration of Independence, when Virginia and Massachusetts were arguing over which of the two states had been first to break with Great Britain, that U.S. Senator Nathanial Macon and William Davidson , the latter representing the Mecklenburg County district in the U.S. House of Representatives, put forth the astounding claim that the Scots-Irish of North Carolina were the first to declare their independence. Thomas Jefferson dismissed it as a hoax "until positive and solemn proof of its authenticity shall be produced."

Even its staunchest defenders admitted that no copy of the actual document existed. "Nearly all of my father's papers," declared a son of John McKnitt Alexander , "were burned in the spring of 1800." A document was supplied, but it was John McKnitt Alexander's account of what transpired in May 1775, not the actual Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence itself. To bolster their case, supporters of the so-called "Meck Dec" interviewed several signers, all of whom had attained advanced age by the time they were asked to search their memories. These elderly gentlemen, mostly Presbyterians, all agreed that they had attended a meeting in May 1775 but could not recall the exact date. William Polk, son of Thomas Polk, published a pamphlet containing these testimonials and declared the matter settled. In 1825, a large crowd gathered in Charlotte on the 50th anniversary of the alleged signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and heard it read by Reverend Humphrey Hunter of the Presbyterian Church. What further proof could one want?

He was the original Senator NO before Jesse Helms.

Macon disliked banks and debt, whether held by individuals or the nation. According to Macon, “Whoever is much in debt can hardly be perfectly free, he is dependent on his indebtors; and a nation in debt always has its strong arm of defense tied fast.”

Many North Carolinians embraced the rustic and rural character
of the state, actively resisting change. In an 1820 United States Senate
debate, North Carolina Senator Nathanial Macon, a slave-owning
tobacco planter from Warren County asked: “Why depart from the
good old way, which has kept us in quiet, peace, and harmony . . .?”
This mindset led some to call North Carolina the “Rip Van Winkle
state after the Washington Irving character who slept for nearly twenty
years. Given the state’s lack of social and economic development,
perhaps it is not surprising that North Carolina was the last of the
original thirteen states to charter a bank.

Given what I just said about Washington and stepping aside, it is interesting to note that this Uberconservative, a holdback of the 18th century, thinking of the good ol' way, reminded us how to behave after elections given that we finally approved a constitution which he probably orginally opposed, when: Speaker of the House Nathanial Macon, in 1802, responding to those who claimed that without judicial review there would be civil war, said:

Whenever we supposed the Constitution violated, did we talk of civil war? No, sir; we depended on elections as the main corner-stone of our safety; and supposed, whatever injury the State machine might receive from a violation of the Constitution, that at the next election the people would elect those that would repair the injury and set it right again; and this in my opinion ought to be the doctrine of us all; and when we differ about Constitutional points, and the question shall be decided against us, we ought to consider it a temporary evil, remembering that the people possess the means of rectifying any error that may be committed by us.

And as Macon implied, you will just have to live with it until its properly time to change. Senator No you can't...yet...

You just have to love him for his faithfulness to his wife and neighbors even when he was wrong. At least he is willing to let the constitution work. Today, I say Enough with all this furious talk and saber rattling about the US becoming unglued if we pass a health care reform. Talk softly and carry a big stick. Is that it? A big stick is your vote. Guard it and speak civily to each other. It may be the right thing after all and if not, you can change it again when the vote comes.

The MOST important thing is to protect the voting rights.

All of this being said, look how many places in the US were named for him.
Macon County, Alabama
Macon County, Illinois
Macon County, Missouri
Macon, Missouri
Macon County, North Carolina
Macon, Georgia
Macon County, Georgia
Macon, North Carolina
Macon County, Tennessee
Randolph-Macon College
Ft. Macon

There are waterfalls in Macon county (pg174). And of course the gem mining. I have done that often. My parents were fans. Local jewelers cut and polish the stones and will set them in precious metals if you want to make your own jewelry designs. I have a gorgeous (favorite word, n'est pas?) clear quartz set in gold and surrounded by rubies that people always mistake for a 3 carat diamond. My parents found the stones in the 1970s and a jewelry in Macon county crafted it. I try not to tell folks it is quartz, but it is beautiful and of course it is real and it's handcrafted.

Macon County again wasn't formed until after the revolution. But here are Rev. war soldiers who settled there later.

The ol' rascal....not! You know where you stand with Macon. How can a man like that think its okay to own permanent slaves?

No comments: