Facts and Events
William Blount (March 26, 1749March 21, 1800) was an American statesman and land speculator, and a signer of the United States Constitution. He was a member of the North Carolina delegation at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and led efforts in North Carolina to ratify the Constitution in 1789. He subsequently served as the only governor of the Southwest Territory, and played a leading role in helping the territory gain admission to the Union as the State of Tennessee. He was selected as one of Tennessee's initial U.S. senators in 1796.
Born to a prominent North Carolina family, Blount served as a paymaster during the American Revolutionary War. He was elected to the North Carolina legislature in 1781, where he remained in one role or another for most of the decade, the exception being two terms in the Continental Congress in 1782 and 1786. Blount pushed efforts in the legislature to open the lands west of the Appalachians to settlement. As Governor of the Southwest Territory, he negotiated the Treaty of Holston in 1791, bringing thousands of acres of Indian lands under U.S. control.
An aggressive land speculator, Blount gradually acquired millions of acres in Tennessee and the trans-Appalachian west. His risky land investments left him in debt, and in the 1790s, he conspired with England to seize the Spanish-controlled Louisiana Territory in hopes of boosting western land prices. When the conspiracy was uncovered in 1797, he was expelled from the Senate, and became the first U.S. public official to face impeachment. Blount nevertheless remained popular in Tennessee, and served in the state senate during the last years of his life.