John Baptista Ashe, Revolutionary War Veteran and (Almost) Governor

Image from the N.C. Museum of History.On November 27, 1802, John Baptista Ashe, who was just elected governor, died before ever being able to take office.

Born near Wilmington in 1748, Ashe’s early career was marked by military service in both the War of Regulation and American Revolution. After independence, he was elected to the General Assembly from Halifax, and quickly became popular in legislative circles. He was unanimously chosen as speaker in 1786.

Ashe’s first foray onto the national scene came in 1785, when he was nominated as a delegate to the Continental Congress, but failed to win election to the post. Despite that setback, he was elected to Congress the next year and also took an active role in North Carolina’s 1789 Constitutional Convention.

After North Carolina ratified the federal Constitution, Ashe was elected to the First and Second Congresses where he voted on a number of important issues including the site of the new nation’s capital and excise taxes on liquor.

When a committee of the legislature arrived at Ashe’s Halifax home in 1802 to tell him of his election to governorship, they found him ill. He died several days later.

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