The Father of the University of North Carolina - William Richardson Davie

The Father of the University of North Carolina - William Richardson Davie

Yesterday we discussed the military accomplishments of William Richardson Davie.

Today we will look at the rest of Davie’s life, including his time in the Constitutional Convention and as Governor of North Carolina.

If you missed the first half of Davie’s life, you can find it here.

After the War

After the Revolutionary War had come to a conclusion, William Richardson Davie returned home to North Carolina.

Davie finally had the opportunity to practice the law and did so in several towns and cities around his home State.

Eventually, he was elected to the State Assembly, serving for the better part of a decade.

Constitutional Convention

In 1787, Davie was chosen as a North Carolina Delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

He played an active role during the debates, most notably working with Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth on the Connecticut Compromise.

Also known as the Great Compromise, this negotiation arranged the agreement which led to the House of Representatives being designated by population with the Senate having equal representation from each State.

The part that Davie played was to sway his fellow North Carolina Delegates to accept the compromise, thereby helping to influence other delegations.


William left the Constitutional Convention early to attend to business at home.

Although he did not sign the document, he did support it.

Davie became an ardent Federalist, attending both of North Carolina’s ratifying conventions.

A trusted member of the State Assembly, William would go on to be elected Governor of North Carolina.

Peace Commissioner

Davie served as Governor for just under a year when he resigned the position.

This decision was made because President John Adams had appointed him as a delegate to the peace commission tasked with ending the Quasi-War being fought between the United States and France.

William was able to work with the American commissioners and end the hostilities with the nation’s former ally. 

The University of North Carolina

After returning to the United States, William Richardson Davie was able to complete his passion project.

Like many States, North Carolina wanted a college of its own.

Davie had been working to create a university for his home for twenty years, raising funds and choosing a location.

When it was finally completed, Davie became recognized as the ‘Father of the University of North Carolina.’

Election of 1812

The election of 1812 was a strange one.

With the nation on the brink of war with Great Britain, the Federalist Party had all but died out.

James Madison, the incumbent Democratic-Republican was running against DeWitt Clinton, another Democratic-Republican. (Interestingly, Clinton’s uncle, George, was Madison’s VP in his first term.)

Certain former Federalists refused to vote for any Democratic-Republican and nominated Rufus King for President.

This was a long shot and everyone knew it, but King needed a running mate.

Their choice?

William Richardson Davie.

Here are some other articles on Founders who built or improved universities:

James Manning, Brown University and the French Army

Abraham Baldwin has Sixteen Years of Distractions

Davie’s part in building the Constitution was small but important.

This gives me a chance to recommend my favorite book about the Summer of 1787 when the Constitution was written…’Plain, Honest Men.’

If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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