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Federal Comptroller John Steele of Salisbury

Image from the North Carolina Portrait Index.On November 16, 1764, early political leader John Steele was born in Salisbury.

After being educated near Statesville, Steele pursued several business ventures. His first political post was as tax assessor for the Salisbury area. He held several local offices in Rowan County and was sent to negotiate relations with Native American tribes before being elected to represent the area in the General Assembly in 1787.

Steele took park in both of North Carolina’s two federal constitutional conventions and served in Congress during its first two sessions. A staunch Federalist, he was an ally of Alexander Hamilton. After losing a vote in the General Assembly in a bid to become a U.S. senator, he returned to the state legislature and became active in the state militia.

President George Washington appointed Steele Comptroller of the Treasury in July 1796, a high-ranking job roughly equivalent to the Treasury Department’s general counsel today, and he remained in that post into the Jefferson administration.

Returning to North Carolina, Steele devoted his attention to managing his plantations and local politics in Rowan County. Before his death in 1815, Steele served in the General Assembly several more times, helped settle border disputes with both South Carolina and Georgia and was a trustee of UNC.

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