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07.01.30 Caswell, Richard, North Carolina Governor, Founding Father and Revolutionary Hero, a biography by Joe A. Mobley, published in 2016

Notes on the Author

Joe A. Mobley, worked with the Division of Archives and History of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, serving as archivist, historical researcher, records analyst and historical publications editor and until his retirement, editor in chief of the North Carolina Historical Review. He currently teaches North Carolina history at North Carolina State University and is currently president-elect for the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, and has served as president for the Historical Society of North Carolina and the Association of Historians in North Carolina. He has written a number of books such as but not limited to, War Governor of the South: North Carolina’s Zeb Vance in the Confederacy (University Press of Florida, 2005), Weary of War: Life on the Confederate Home Front (Praegar, 2008) and Confederate Generals of North Carolina: Tar Heels in Command (The History Press, 2011).

My Review

Mr. Mobley’s book provides an overview of the life of Richard Caswell, the impact and influence he had in early North Carolina and in turn the state’s role in the founding of the United States. He gives an account of Richard Caswell’s early life, education, rise to prominence, and impact of his leadership in various roles in public life.  He captures how Richard Caswell moved from a proponent and supporter of the Royal Crown to a Revolutionary leader and how after the war became a supporter of the Constitution.  He presents the information shared as gathered from a few primary and majority from secondary sources. He breaks down the life of Richard Caswell into a limited number of stages that combine into a quick readable summary (only 123 pages in total).

Noting that the book is a new release on an individual prominent in North Carolina history though not widely known or read about it captures your eye. Mr. Mobley starts his book on how Richard Caswell being from Maryland came to North Carolina, got his start and climbed the social and economic ladder to become a respected member of the upper class and then moves into his role as a militia leader against the Regulator movement in western North Carolina. He shares how Richard Caswell while against the Regulators premise turned against the Royal Crown for very much the same reasons such as local autonomy and political and individual rights. Afterwards he shares Richard Caswell’s inclusion to the North Carolina’s Provincial Congresses, his further involvement as a successful militia leader and eventual appointment as North Carolina’s first governor and the trials and tribulations of leading the state during the Revolutionary war. In closing the book Mr. Mobley furnishes background of Ricard Caswell’s moves from Governor to another role as a military leader and back to Governor during the period of the writing and ratification of the US Constitution and North Carolinians meager or lack of support for.

In this area of the book Mr. Mobley shares at various points the term, “nation, and or national,” which seems to deduce that Americans at that time were creating a single nation versus a union of states. He also infers that Caswell as well as many other persons of the era saw the need of weakened states to the benefit of a strong national government. I do not share these views and in particular the point that he included from another historian, Gordon S. Wood, that a strong central national government was needed to protect the fundamental rights and curb abuses of individuals from the states.

The book has comprehensive notes with usage of manuscripts from various collections and secondary sources.  I enjoyed learning more about a less known early North Carolinian leader though was turned off at the end by the emphasis on certain historian’s views that the leaders of that Revolutionary period were creating, “a nation,” versus a union of sovereign states.

Availability of this Book

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Reviewed by Jonathan Varnell