The American Revolution in North Carolina

President Samuel Johnston


Samuel Johnston was born on December 15, 1733 in Dundee, Scotland. In 1736, his father, Samuel Johnston, Sr., sailed to the New World and settled in Onslow County, NC. Samuel Sr. became Surveyor General of the province where his brother, Gabriel Johnston, was Royal Governor. Young Samuel was educated in New England, then read law in Carolina. He moved to Chowan County and started his own plantation, known as Hayes near Edenton, NC.

Samuel Johnston was admitted to the bar and began the practice of law in Edenton. In 1759 he was elected to the province's House of Burgesses and would serve in that body until it was displaced in 1775 as a part of the Revolution.

In 1759, Samuel Johnston was first elected to represent Chowan County in the House of Burgesses, replacing Joseph Blount, who had taken another office, of the:
- 14th General Assembly that met from 1754-1760 - he took his seat on November 23, 1759
- 15th General Assembly that met in 1760

In 1761, Samuel Johnston was first elected to represent the town of Edenton in the House of Burgesses of the:
- 16th General Assembly that met in 1761
- 17th General Assembly that met in 1762
- 18th General Assembly that met in 1762
- 19th General Assembly that met in 1764
- 20th General Assembly that met in 1765

In 1766, Samuel Johnston was again elected to represent Chowan County in the House of Burgesses of the:
- 21st General Assembly that met from 1766-1768
- 22nd General Assembly that met in 1769
- 23rd General Assembly that met from 1770-1771
- 24th General Assembly that met in 1771
- 25th General Assembly that met in 1773
- 26th General Assembly that met from 1773-1774
- 27th General Assembly that met in 1775

Circa 1770, Samuel Johnston married Frances Cathcart, daughter of William Cathcart, and they had four known children.

In 1774, Samuel Johnston was also first elected to represent Chowan County in the:
- 1st Provincial Congress that met in August of 1774
- 2nd Provincial Congress that met in April of 1775
- 3rd Provincial Congress that met in August of 1775
- 4th Provincial Congress that met in April of 1776

Samuel Johnston presided over the Third Provincial Congress in 1775 and the Fourth Provincial Congress in 1776.

In 1779, Samuel Johnston was first elected to represent Chowan County in the NC Senate of the:
- 3rd General Assembly that met in May and Oct-Nov of 1779
- 8th General Assembly that met in April of 1784

North Carolina sent Samuel Johnston as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1780 and 1781. He was elected the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation, but he declined the office.

Samuel Johnston served as Governor of North Carolina from 1787 to 1789. He presided over both conventions called to ratify the U.S. Constitution. The first in 1788 rejected the Constitution in spite of Johnston's strong support. He called another convention in 1789 which did complete ratification. Johnston resigned as governor to become one of North Carolina's first two U.S. Senators, serving from 1789 until 1793. In 1800 he was made a Judge in the Superior Court of North Carolina, an office he held until his retirement in 1803.

On August 17, 1816, Samuel Johnston died at his home, Hayes Plantation, near Edenton in Chowan County, and is buried in the Johnston Burial Ground there. The plantation house is privately owned, but was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973. It is now within Edenton. However the current house was completed by his son, James Cathcart Johnston, a year after Samuel's death.

Samuel Johnston's personal collection of books, which he bequeathed to his son James, is preserved in a full-scale replication of Hayes Plantation's library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That octagonally shaped historic room is on permanent exhibit in the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Wilson Library.


On motion of Richard Caswell, Samuel Johnston was elected President of the Third Provincial Congress. Andrew Knox was elected Secretary with James Glasgow as Assistant.

On April 4, 1776, the Fourth Provincial Congress assembled at Halifax. Allen Jones proposed Samuel Johnston for President and he was unanimously elected. James Green was appointed Secretary, John Hunt as Assistant, and Francis Lynaugh and Evan Swann as Door Keepers.


Samuel Johnston, a Delegate and a U.S. Senator from North Carolina; born in Dundee, Scotland, December 15, 1733; immigrated to the United States in 1736 with his parents, who settled in Chowan County, NC; attended school in New England; studied law in North Carolina, admitted to the bar, and practiced in that province; member, House of Burgesses 1760-1775; clerk of the courts for the Edenton District; deputy naval officer for the port of Edenton; member of the Committee of Correspondence 1773; delegate to the first four provincial congresses and president of the third and fourth; colonial treasurer; member at large of the provincial Council of Safety, and district paymaster of troops 1775; member, SC Senate 1779, and 1784; Member of the Continental Congress 1780-1781, and elected first President after the Articles of Confederation were signed, but declined to serve; presided over the State conventions of 1788 and 1789; elected Governor of North Carolina and was twice re-elected but resigned in 1789 to become a U.S. Senator; elected to the U.S. Senate and served from November 26, 1789, to March 3, 1793; Judge of the Superior Court of North Carolina 1800-1803; died near Edenton, Chowan County, NC, August 17, 1816; interment in the Johnston Burial Ground on the Hayes plantation, near Edenton, NC.

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