Richard Dobbs Spaight

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Founding Fathers
RD Spaight.JPG
Richard Dobbs Spaight
State North Carolina
Religion Episcopalian
Founding Documents United States Constitution

Richard Dobbs Spaight Sr. (March 25, 1758 – September 6, 1802) was the eighth Governor of North Carolina. He was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and a signer of the United States Constitution.[1]

Early life

Spaight was born in New Bern, North Carolina, on March 25, 1758, and was the son of the Secretary of the Crown in the colony, Arthur Dobb. After being orphaned, he was sent to attend school in Ireland, and later attended the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He returned home in 1778 and joined the Continental Army as aide-de-camp to General Caswell.

Military Service

In 1778, Spaight returned to America and joined the Continental Army, serving as aide-de-camp to General Richard Caswell in the New Bern District Brigade.

Political career

Spaight served as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons 1779-1783. Following the war, he was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, serving from 1783-1785. Spaight was elected eighth governor of North Carolina in 1792, and remained in office until 1795.

Increasingly frustrated with the Federalist Party's abandonment of states' rights, Spaight came to be associated with the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson.[2] Nathan Bryan's death in 1798 left his seat in the United States House of Representatives vacant; Spaight was elected to this seat as a Republican, serving the remainder of Bryan's term. He was again elected to a two-year term in 1799; in 1801, having lost his bid for re-election to John Stanly, he returned to state government as a member of the North Carolina state senate.

Constitutional Convention

Spaight attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where he signed the United States Constitution. Other members of the North Carolina delegation to the Convention were William Blount, William Richardson Davie, Alexander Martin, and Hugh Williamson.

He was also a member of the North Carolina state ratification convention.

Later life and death

In 1795, after his term of governor was complete, he married Mary Leach who was of a prominent family from Holmesburg, Pennsylvania.[3] One of his sons, Richard Dobbs Spaight Jr., grew up to also be a governor for the state of North Carolina from 1835-1836.[4]

Spaight engaged in a duel with John Stanly, the man who had defeated him in his run for Congress in 1801; he was injured in this duel, and died of his wounds on September 6, 1802. He is buried in the family sepulcher near New Bern, North Carolina.


  2. Richard Dobbs Spaight
  3. Sketch of the Life of Richard Dobbs Spaight of North Carolina
  4. The Founders: The 39 Stories Behind the U.S. Constitution