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BLOUNT, William [1749-1800] -- American politician

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A Delegate from North Carolina and a Senator from Tennessee; born near Windsor, Bertie County, N.C., March 26, 1749; pursued preparatory studies in New Bern, N.C.; paymaster of the Continental troops, North Carolina Line, in 1777; served in the State house of commons 1780-1784; Member of the Continental Congress in 1782, 1783, 1786, and 1787; delegate to the convention that framed the Federal Constitution in 1787; member of the State senate 1788-1790; appointed Governor of the Territory South of the River Ohio by President Washington in 1790; Superintendent of Indian Affairs 1790-1796; chairman of the convention which framed the first State constitution of Tennessee, February 6, 1796; upon the admission of Tennessee as a State into the Union was elected to the United States Senate and served from August 2, 1796, until he was found guilty "of a high misdemeanor, entirely inconsistent with his public trust and duty as a Senator," and was expelled July 8, 1797; was active in a plan to incite the Creeks and Cherokees to aid the British in conquering the Spanish territory of West Florida; impeachment proceedings were instituted but dismissed; during the trial was elected to the State senate of Tennessee and chosen its president at the opening of the session, December 3, 1797; died in Knoxville, Tenn., March 21, 1800; interment in the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery. BDAC

The Expulsion of William Blount
Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate by Robert J. Dole
On July 8, 1797, the Senate expelled Senator William Blount of Tennessee. In two hundred years, only fifteen of the Senate's approximately eighteen hundred members have been expelled. Blount was the first; the remaining expulsions occurred during the Civil War.

William Blount was a signer of the Declaration of Independence [false, -R.], a former North Carolina Federalist turned Tennessee Republican, and an unscrupulous, chronically overextended land speculator. On July 3, 1797, President John Adams, a staunch Federalist, transmitted to the Senate a letter from Senator Blount to James Carey, an interpreter for the Cherokee Nation. In the letter, undeniably written by Blount, the senator imprudently spelled out plans to launch an attack by Cherokee and Creek Indians on frontiersmen, aided by the British fleet, in order to wrest Louisiana and Florida away from the Spanish and turn them over to England. From this blatant conspiracy with the British, Blount stood to profit handsomely.

Blount's highly incriminating letter was referred to a select Senate committee. The evidence against him was conclusive, and the committee recommended his expulsion for "a high misdemeanor, entirely inconsistent with his public trust and duty as a Senator." Blount's grandiose plotting was so distasteful to his fellow senators that they expelled him on July 8, 1797, by a nearly unanimous vote of 2 to 1.

Blount's expulsion did him little harm in Tennessee, where he was promptly elected speaker of the state senate. His problems with the federal Congress, however, were far from over. In 1798, Federalist leaders in the House, not content with his epulsion, adopted five articles of impeachment against Blount. His impeachment trial in the Senate in January 1799 was the first ever held. Blount's lawyers argued vehemently that the Senate had no jurisdiction over their client, since he was a private citizen. By a vote of 14 to 11, his former colleagues agreed, refusing jurisdiction in the case.

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Chronology

1777
Paymaster for Continental troops, NC line
1780-1784
NC house of commons
1782-1787
Member of the COntinental Congress
1787
Delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention
1788-1790
State Senate
1790
Appointed governor or territory south of Ohio R.
1790-1796
Superintendant of Indian Affairs
1796/02/06
Chairman of convention for first State constitution of TN
1796/08/02
US Senator from TN
1797/07/08
Expelled
1797/07/08
First member expelled from the US Senate
1797/12/03
Elected to TN state senate, chosen president of that body
1799/01
Senate impeachment trial begins
1799/01
First Senate impeachment trial, at which he was acquitted for lack of jurisdiction as he was then a private citizen.

Associated

  • Half-brother: BLOUNT, Willie (Wiley) [1767-1835] American politician, Governor of Tennessee

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