Nathaniel Macon

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Nathaniel Macon : biography

December 17, 1757 – June 29, 1837

Notes

Early life

Nathaniel Macon was the son of Maj. Gideon Hunt Macon (1715–1761) and Priscilla Jones (1718 – March 1802). Gideon Hunt Macon was born in Virginia, but moved to North Carolina in the early 1740s. He and Priscilla were married in North Carolina in 1744.

Gideon Hunt Macon built "Macon Manor" and became a prosperous tobacco planter. Nathaniel, born at Macon Manor, was the sixth child of Gideon and Priscilla, and he was only two when his father died in 1761. Upon his death, Gideon possessed of land and 25–30 slaves. Nathaniel was bequeathed two parcels of land and all of his father’s blacksmithing tools. Gideon also left his son three slaves: George, Robb, and Lucy.

In 1766, Priscilla Macon arranged for the education of two of her sons, Nathaniel and John, along with the two sons of her neighbor Philemon Hawkins. For this purpose, they engaged Mr. Charles Pettigrew who later became the Principal of the Academy of Edenton in 1733. The two brothers and their neighbors, Joseph and Benjamin Hawkins, were instructed by him from 1766–1773. Three of the four boys (Nathaniel counted among them) continued on to further their education at the "College of New Jersey" at Princeton.

Places named for Nathaniel Macon

  • Macon County, Alabama
  • Macon County, Illinois
  • Macon County, Missouri
  • Macon, Missouri
  • Macon County, North Carolina
  • Macon, Georgia
  • Macon, Mississippi
  • Macon County, Georgia
  • Macon, North Carolina
  • Macon County, Tennessee
  • Randolph-Macon College
  • Fort Macon

Political life

Macon opposed the Constitution and spent his four decades in Congress making sure the national government would remain weak. He was especially hostile to a navy, fearing the expense would create a financial interest . Macon detested Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist program. He bitterly opposed the Jay Treaty in 1795, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, and the movement for war with France in 1798–99. He supported Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana in 1803 and tried to get Jefferson to purchase Florida as well. He supported all of the foreign policies of Jefferson and Madison from 1801 to 1817. During the Jefferson administration, Macon was offered the post of postmaster general at least twice, but he declined. In 1808, Macon was considered a potential candidate for the vice presidency but did not run. In 1809 he chaired the foreign relations committee and reported successively the two bills that bear his name, although he was the author of neither and was definitely opposed to the second.

Macon Bill No. 1 attacked British shipping, but was defeated. In May 1810, Macon’s Bill No. 2 was passed, giving the president power to suspend trade with either Great Britain or France if the other should cease to interfere with United States commerce. Macon supported Madison in declaring the War of 1812; he opposed conscription to build the army and opposed higher taxes. He opposed the recharter of the United States Bank in 1811 and in 1816, uniformly voted against any form of protective tariff; he did favor some road construction by the federal government but generally opposed the policy of internal improvements promoted by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. In the Missouri debate of 1820 he voted against the compromise brokered by Clay. He was always an earnest defender of slavery. Macon was also considered a potential candidate for the presidency in 1824 but declined. Macon won 24 electoral votes for vice president as the stand-in running-mate for William Harris Crawford. Macon was asked to run for the vice presidency again in 1828 but declined.

Nathaniel Macon’s home, known as "Buck Spring", in [[Warrenton, North Carolina (built c. 1781Wellman 2002, p. 58-59). Photogr. by Thomas Waterman, 1940.]] Macon was for 37 years the most prominent nay-sayer in Congress—a "negative radical".Hamilton 1933. It was said of him that during the entire term of his service no ten other members cast so many negative votes. "Negation was his ward and arm." He was rural and local-minded, and economy was the passion of his public career. "His economy of the public money was the severest, sharpest, most stringent and constant refusal of almost any grant that could be proposed." With him, "not only was … parsimony the best subsidy—but … the only one".C. J. Ingersoll, quoted Hamilton 1933.

Macon collaborated with John Randolph and John Taylor as part of the Quids or Old Republicans, a faction of the Jeffersonian Republican Party that rejected the Tariff Bill, growth in power of the United States Supreme Court, and other aspects of Neo-Federalism.