On March 25, 1758, Richard Dobbs Spaight, the first native-born governor, was born in New Bern. Orphaned at a young age, Spaight received his preparatory education in Ireland and is thought to have graduated from the University of Glasgow. Returning to North Carolina during the early stages of the Revolution, Spaight served as a military aide to Governor Richard Caswell, though his energies and ambitions were directed more toward politics than they were to warfare.
As a prominent Federalist leader, Spaight was one of five delegates from North Carolina to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Following an active role in the Convention, he signed the Constitution and argued forcefully for its ratification. In 1792 Spaight was elected governor. Twice reelected, he served the maximum three consecutive terms.
Spaight was the first governor to convene the General Assembly in Raleigh. Much of his role as Chief Executive was played against the backdrop of war between England and France. Other issues during Spaight’s administration included the negotiation of lingering border disputes with South Carolina, and the threat of Cherokee uprisings in the mountain region. In 1795 he presided over the official opening of the University of North Carolina.
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