Willie Person Mangum


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Willie Person Mangum politics and pragmatism in the Age of Jackson
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Thompson, Joseph Conan, 1960-
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1995.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 397-417).
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by Joseph Conan Thompson.
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At long last this project is complete and I can begin the delightful task of thanking

all those who made what could have been a lonely exercise a pleasant experience. My first

debt is to William Cooper who suggested Willie Mangum as a dissertation topic. When

my mentor Bertram Wyatt-Brown approached Dr. Cooper on my behalf, he recommended

Mangum without hesitation. His quick response saved me countless hours of searching

by pointing me in the direction of a long-neglected public servant worthy of a scholarly

biography. Robert Kenser read an early draft of the first chapter and offered his special

insights. Lucy James, one of Mangum's few surviving direct descendants, brought her

unique perspective to the project, enabling me to flesh out the senator and better

understand his complex family life. Conversations with Larry Menna and Thomas Jeffrey

helped me place Mangum within the larger context of early national politics.

While researching Mangum's life I had the chance to work with people whose

professionalism made my job easier. The staffs at the Southern Historical Collection in

Chapel Hill, Duke University in Durham, the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh,

Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and the Library of Congress in Washington,

D.C. all expressed an interest in my work, helped me locate valuable material, and

generally made researching a pleasant experience. Special thanks to H. G. Jones and the

rest of the staff at the North Caroliniana Society at the University of North Carolina for

their financial support. Charlie and Sue Rice made life on the road easier by providing

me with a home away from home during my stays in Washington, D.C. So too did Pete

Troisi. These old friends fed me, drank with me, and listened to my tales of Willie late

into the night without complaint. My new friends, Bob and Maureen Lucas, along with

their dogs, showed me the way to Willie Mangum's long-neglected grave in the North

Carolina woods. Indeed, to all those anonymous souls in and around the town of Bahama

who pointed me in the direction of his final resting place, I say thank you.

I reserve special thanks for my dissertation committee. Ron Formisano brought his

special knowledge of nineteenth-century politics and superior editing techniques to this

project. His comments and criticisms of the final draft have already proven invaluable as

I prepare this work for the next stage. Jeff Adler and John Sommerville made important

contributions as both teachers and committee members. James Button of the Political

Science Department came to my rescue as a last minute addition to the committee, making

it possible for me to graduate on schedule. Hal Wilson sat in for one of his colleagues,

proving once again that he is a class act. The irreplaceable Betty Corwine and the rest of

the staff of the History Department at the University of Florida guided me through the

byzantine process of graduate school, asking only that I donate ten percent of my life's

earnings to them. You will not get my money Betty, only my gratitude.

While at the University of Florida I made friends whom I now count among my

dearest. They taught me to be a better historian, a better listener, a better friend, and a

better softball player. In my eight years in Gainesville I have had the chance to work with

people who I know will go on to become the leading lights of a new generation of


historians, including Jane Landers, Chris Morris, Stephanie Cole, Eric Rise, Jeremy Stahl,

Scott Sheffield, and Jeff Brautigam. Several others -- including Jack Henderson and John

Guthrie -- helped me survive qualifying exams, and for that and so much more I remain

forever in their debt. Another survivor of that process, Daniel Stowell, also led me

through that modern labyrinth we call the computer. He and his wife Miriam made

navigating this strange new world fun. Caleb and Beth Finegan read parts of this work and

offered their encouragement as I neared completion. My colleagues at Santa Fe

Community College have given me their personal and professional support during the latter

stages of this project. One of them, Doug Klepper, has given his support and friendship'

all along.

Two fellow graduate students merit special mention. Dave Tegeder and Steve Noll

went above and beyond the call of duty, listening as I read page upon page of this work

over the phone. Despite the occasional grumble, both offered excellent advice and

demonstrated incredible patience. Dave read the first draft of my prospectus. His advice

proved especially insightful and gave the project form it might not otherwise have had.

Another group of close friends, some of them able historians, others talented journalists,

all mediocre softball players, made life in Gainesville more fun than I could have imagined

and probably slowed down this process more than helped it along. Nevertheless, to all

those who have worn the "Ducks" uniform, I extend to you my thanks for reminding me

that there is life after dissertation. To Kevin Fritz and Christi Lane I say the same and

add that your friendship has meant more to me these past few years than words alone can

describe. My brothers and sisters -- Joanne, Jim, Lulu, Maggie, Kitty, Jackie, Peter --


my mother Joanne and stepfather John have given me so much support over an entire

lifetime. To my brother John who was there when I began my college career but left too

soon, and to my father James whose memory I try to do proud, I say God bless.

Finally, I save my most heartfelt thanks for the two people who have given me the

most during this period in my life. To Bertram Wyatt-Brown, a first-class scholar, an

editor of unmatched ability, and mentor in every sense of the word, I say thanks. You

pushed when I needed it, but never too hard and always with the best intentions. Your

editing has given this work style. If there are passages that stand out, you can be assured

they are as much your doing as mine. The awkward parts, on the other hand, are mine

alone. And to my wife Toni. For twelve years you have given me everything I needed.

Your financial support has allowed me to live better than any graduate student should,

your editorial remarks have made this work readable, your patience has made it possible.

Not once did you question my commitment to my work. Instead you allowed me to follow

my dream and make it a reality. But most of all, you showed me -- in your smile, your

laugh, your eyes, your passion -- what it means to be alive. I love you and it is to you that

I dedicate this work and my life.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..................................... ii

ABSTRACT ............................................. viii



1 RED MOUNTAIN ................................... 15

2 JUDGE MANGUM ................................... 34

3 THE PRESIDENTIAL QUESTION ........................ 63

4 RELUCTANT JACKSONIAN ............................... 96

5 PLAYING CHESS .................................. 135

6 ANTIPARTY PARTISAN .............................. 172

7 INSTRUCTIONS ...................................... 212

8 W ALNUT HALL .................................... 255

9 VINDICATION ...................................... 275

10 VICE PRESIDENT MANGUM ........................... 303

11 HOLDING ON .................................... 344


BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................... ............. 397

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................... 418

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Joseph Conan Thompson

December 1995

Chairman: Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Major Department: History

For most of his eighteen years in the United States Senate, Willie Mangum wielded

tremendous power and influenced the course of national politics. He served as president

pro tempore of the senate, oversaw political campaigns in every state, and advised those

who became paragons of their age. His current lack of historical notoriety, while

undeserved, can be explained by his political style. His important work took place in

committee meetings, cloakrooms, taverns, or boarding houses; all places far removed from

public view. However, it was here that Mangum and a generation of leaders orchestrated

the development and consolidation of modern political parties and fashioned the legislation

and the compromises that define the Age of Jackson. This dissertation examines the

transformation of elite antebellum American political culture through the lens of


Willie Mangum's informal style of management together with his long tenure in

Congress elevated him to the highest ranks of the national Whig organization. His career

demonstrates the varied ways in which the Whig elite brokered power and exchanged

favors to maintain political viability. Similarly, his evolution from an antipartisan

politician to a leader of a national organization illustrate the conflict in American politics

between rhetoric and reality. The republican traditions so warmly embraced by the

electorate and so eloquently defended by the officeseekers, were often ignored in the

closed-door sessions that produced public policy. Despite a genuine belief in the principles

espoused by the Revolutionary generation, Mangum and his contemporaries placed

practical concerns above potentially divisive ideals and employed both formal and informal

mechanisms to achieve what they regarded as workable solutions to complex problems.

His flexible definition of republicanism and pragmatic approach to power politics served

him well in an age when a market revolution was transforming American society.


Henry Clay's funeral procession moved solemnly down Pennsylvania Avenue and

into the senate chamber where the body of the great compromiser would lay in state. Six

United States senators filed alongside the caisson as honorary pallbearers, their faces and

reputations almost as well known to the American people as the man they had come to

mourn. Among those marching was Lewis Cass, the Democratic presidential nominee in

1848, and John Bell, former Speaker of the House. Willie Person Mangum, the senior

senator from North Carolina and one of Clay's closest friends and most trusted allies,

walked with them.1 Both Clay and Mangum enjoyed long careers in Washington and both

epitomized a generation of political leaders in America. In what could accurately be

described as the "Age of Pragmatism" -- the period between 1820 and 1848 -- the two

stood out as paragons of an age. Avoiding divisive issues, creating broad coalitions,

fashioning compromises, and building a national party system, these two pragmatists

guided American politics from the localism of the eighteenth century into the modern era.

SHis name is pronounced "Wylie Parson Mangum." See, Henry Thomas Shanks, ed.,
The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5 vols. (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and
History, 1950-1956), 5:762; Willie Person Mangum to Washington Hunt, 8 February
1844, Willie P. Mangum Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Robert
V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
1991), pp. 782.


In carrying Clay to his grave, however, Mangum and the others were carrying political

pragmatism to its final rest. In effect, they were burying an age. Frail and bitter, the

sixty-year-old Mangum would remain in Washington for only one more year, ending more

than three decades of public service. While in better physical condition than Clay,

Mangum's political career was just as moribund. By 1852, the generation of pragmatists

had given way to a new breed of younger politicians. Mangum no longer fit in with this

crowd and so he left, a discarded remnant of the second party system.

Born in 1792 in Orange County, North Carolina, Willie Person Mangum rose from

the state legislature to the United States House of Representatives. In 1830, he entered the

United States Senate and served one term before resigning in 1836. Four years later he

was reelected to the senate, where he remained for more than twelve years. During that

time Mangum labored in the company of giants. He participated as a member of the most

prestigious committees, advised presidents, hosted foreign dignitaries, and served as the

president pro tempore of the senate. High ranking party officials looked on Mangum as

a man of national renown and often mentioned him as a possible contender for the highest

state and national offices. Rigidly partisan and chauvinistically southern in his public

utterances, he nevertheless enjoyed private relationships with men from both political

parties and every region. Two years before escorting the body of Henry Clay to the

Capitol, Mangum was a pallbearer in the funeral procession of John C. Calhoun, evidence

indeed of the breadth of his personal associations. Over the course of his long career,

Mangum earned the admiration and respect of those who knew him on a passing level.


Those who knew him well knew him to be an outgoing, honorable, and generous man.

He applied these virtues to a career noted for its longevity and success.2

Given his contemporary fame and importance, why, the historian asks, has Willie

Mangum all but vanished from national memory? He has been relegated to the

appendices of textbooks where historians faithfully record the eleven electoral votes he

received in the election of 1836. Little else of what he did is commonly known. Although

his current obscurity is undeserved, it is understandable in light of the fact that his

important work took place in private: in committee meetings, cloakrooms, taverns, or

boarding houses. While the lives of presidents and presidential aspirants of the Jacksonian

and antebellum periods have been noted, the deeds of those whose careers are similarly

noteworthy, if less dramatic, need also be documented. Political biographers are drawn

to the extraordinary and tend to ignore the routine; they look upon the beauty and grace

of the thoroughbred, only to miss the power and drive of the work horse.

This dissertation represents a partial atonement for prior historical neglect. It

covers the life of Willie Mangum from his boyhood up to the year 1849. Four historians

have started to write definitive, full-length biographies of Willie Mangum, but all failed

to complete the task. Stephen B. Weeks, Penelope McDuffie, William K. Boyd, and

Fletcher M. Green, each working independently, began biographies at one time or another.

Coincidentally, each died before they could finish. The fifty-four page McDuffie

2 Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union, Vol. 1: Fruits of Manifest Destiny (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1947), p. 314.


biography was published in 1925 and a draft of Boyd's work survives in the Mangum

Papers at the Duke University archives. Two graduate students, Edith Josephine Houston,

writing in 1960, and Julian Mclver Pleasants, writing in 1962, completed master's theses

dealing with parts of Mangum's career, but neither constitute a true biography and both

are dated.3 Mangum himself once intimated that the history of his life would never be

written because so much of what he did went unrecorded.4 The "want of a scribe,"

historian Glenn Tucker wrote in 1966, explains why Mangum has not been accorded his

due by subsequent generations of Americans.5

Ironically, Mangum's success as a party manager helps to explain the absence of

a full-length biography. During the 1830s he helped mold the North Carolina Whig Party

into an efficient organization. In 1840, 1844, and 1848 North Carolina gave all its

electoral votes to the Whig presidential candidate and for most of the decade they held

narrow majorities in state legislature and controlled the governorship outright. So, when

national party leaders met to name candidates to run for national office they passed over

3 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, l:vii; Penelope McDuffie, "Chapters in
the Life of Willie Person Mangum," The Historical Papers. Published by the Trinity
College Historical Society (Durham: Duke University Press, 1925); William K. Boyd, "A
Draft of the Life of Willie P. Mangum." Willie Person Mangum Papers, Special
Collections, Duke University Library, Durham, North Carolina; Edith Josephine Houston,
"The Bank of the United States and Willie P. Mangum." (M.A. thesis, Appalachian State
Teachers College, 1960); Julian Mclver Pleasants, "The Political Career of Willie Person
Mangum, 1828-1840" (M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1962).

4Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5:741.

5 Glenn Tucker, "For Want of a Scribe," North Caroiina Historical Review 43


Mangum, in part because they regarded his state as safely Whig. Customarily, the more

hotly contested states or those with larger populations won the right to place the names of

their native sons before the national electorate. Of those born in the Old North State, only

James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson, three men who relocated elsewhere

prior to embarking on political careers, won spots on successful national tickets. Had

Mangum been picked to run on such a ticket, he would have caught the attention of a

biographer before now.6

The literature on antebellum southern politics in general and North Carolina in

particular is rich and places Mangum in a larger perspective. In The South and the Politics

of Slavery. 1828-1856, author William J. Cooper demonstrates how politicians like

Mangum suited their rhetoric to the whim of the electorate. Using Willie Mangum as a

yardstick, however, Cooper's thesis, that slave-related issues were almost always the

central focus of southern politics, is overstated. To be sure, Mangum proved a stout

defender of slavery and ultimately sided with fellow southerners on many questions

pertaining to slavery. Like most southern Whigs, however, he did his utmost to see to it

that the question rarely entered into the discourse and looked to party, not region, as the

unifying force in American politics at the height of the second party system. Historian

John Ashworth, in 'Agrarians & Aristocrats': Party Ideology in the United States. 1837-

1846, better captures the inherent complexities of southern Whiggery as typified by

Mangum's evolving outlook on key national issues, but relies too heavily on ideology as

6 Thomas E. Jeffrey, State Parties and National Politics: North Carolina, 1814-1861
(Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1989), p. 162.


an explanation for most Whig policies. So too does J. Mills Thornton in his study of

antebellum Alabama.7

Of the studies relating specifically to antebellum North Carolina politics,

Jacksonian Politics and Community Conflict: The Emergence of the Second American

Party System in Cumberland County, North Carolina, by Harry L. Watson, is best at

placing North Carolina within the broader context of national politics. It also comes

closest to naming pragmatism as a driving force in elite political behavior. Two recent

works on the second party system in North Carolina take opposing views of the importance

of pragmatism in the process of party formation. In Parties and Politics in North Carolina,

1836-1865, published in 1983, Marc Kruman brings the republican synthesis to the Tar

Heel state. Locating the source of party conflict in the ideology of the Revolutionary

generation, Kruman argues that the Whigs and Democrats battled continually over which

policies best preserved republicanism. Thomas Jeffrey, in State Parties and National

Politics: North Carolina. 1815-1861, views the partisan battles in antebellum North

Carolina as having more pragmatic antecedents. As he saw it, state and local issues had

become so divisive by the mid-1830s that leaders from both parties started to emphasize

national issues to unite easterners and westerners in true statewide parties. Where Kruman

is ready to accept the rhetoric of antebellum political leaders at face value, Jeffrey offers

7 William J. Cooper, Jr., The South and the Politics of Slavery. 1828-1856 (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978); John Ashworth, "Agrarians" and
"Aristocrats": Party Political Ideology in the United States. 1837-1846 (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1983); J. Mills Thornton, III, Politics and Power in a Slave
Society: Alabama. 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978).


a more skeptical, and in my opinion, more realistic view of partisan politics in an age of

an expanding electorate.8

The use of the phrase "Age of Jackson" in the subtitle of this work is deliberate.

Although considered by some historians to be outdated, the phrase recalls how important

Andrew Jackson, as both an individual and an issue, was to the course of American

politics for more than twenty years. More importantly, it calls to mind the politics of

evasion that men like Mangum practiced throughout this period. In order to build national

coalitions in a nation of such great regional, social, and economic diversity, party leaders

had to mute the more divisive issues, particularly slavery, and focus less volatile questions

or mere symbols. The two major political parties to emerge during the second party

system were nonideological, as were most of their leaders. To appease their broad

constituencies, nineteenth-century political leaders, whom historian Edward Pessen has

referred to as opportunists par excellence, eschewed ideology. Instead, they focused

public attention on the quadrennial contest for the presidency. The "presidential game,"

as Richard P. McCormick noted, drew regional factions together in ways previously

unimagined and forestalled a constitutional crisis over the question that divided North from

South -- slavery. On those occasions when ideologues did get the public's ear -- the

8 Harry L. Watson, Jacksonian Politics and Community Conflict: The Emergence of
the Second Party System in Cumberland County North Carolina (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1981); Marc W. Kruman, Parties and Politics in North Carolina.
1836-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983); Jeffrey, State Parties
and National Politics.


nullification crisis, for example -- politics-as-usual came to a standstill and the pragmatists

had to reassert themselves by restoring banality to center stage.9

What little issue-oriented politics took place in America during this period took

place outside the mainstream. Reformers and idealists had to construct fringe parties or

leave politics aside to form private benevolent societies. According to the nineteenth-

century liberal paradigm, government was defined in the negative. The American people,

still devoted to the idealism of the American Revolution, wanted to limit the power of the

state. Any work beyond collecting taxes, delivering the mail, organizing the military, and

establishing diplomatic missions belonged to the private sector. The services provided by

the state needed civil servants, so those who entered politics were rewarded with control

of vast reserves of patronage. Therefore, government service attracted pragmatists like

Mangum, a man more concerned with power and position than with social uplift.

Laissez-faire government and the politics it spawned insured the rise of a generation

of pragmatists. The parties they built in the late 1820s were born out of personal cliques

9 Edward Pessen, Jacksonian America: Society. Personality, and Politics (Rev. ed.
Homewood Ill.: The Dorsey Press, 1978), pp. 232, 258, 287, 324, 326; Richard P.
McCormick, The Presidential Game: The Origins of American Presidential Politics (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1982); Harry L. Watson, Liberty and Power: The Politics
of Jacksonian America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990), p. 10; Richard L. McCormick,
The Party Period and Public Policy: American Politics from the Age of Jackson to the
Progressive Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 160-61; David M.
Potter, The Impending Crisis. 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 226;
Frank J. Sorauf, Political Parties in the American System (Boston: Little, Brown and
Company, 1964), pp. 61-65, 127; Glyndon G. Van Deusen, "Some Aspects of Whig
Thought and Theory in the Jacksonian Period," American Historical Review 63
(1958):322; Eric Foner, "Politics, Ideology, and the Origins of the American Civil War,"
in A Nation Divided: Problems and Issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction, ed.
George Fredrickson (Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Company, 1975), pp. 15-16.


that had grown dependent on the good will of an ever expanding electorate. With an

innate distrust for activist governments, Mangum and others like him concentrated on

distributing the benefits of the state to these voters in the guise of keeping the state in

check. Tariff policy, incorporation laws, bank charters, internal improvements, and the

redistribution of proceeds from the sale of the public domain, all represented efforts by a

new professional class of politicians to broaden their own power bases while limiting the

reach of the state. As historian Richard L. McCormick has shown, "policies of allocation

and distribution proved remarkably conducive to the formation and persistence of parties."

They were also safe, an essential element in the process of party formation in a large

republic. Pragmatists like Mangum, Henry Clay, and Martin Van Buren built and

maintained the second party system with the belief that immutable principles had to remain

in the background and used distributive policies to guarantee its continuance.0t

While Mangum held strong opinions, he rarely let them interrupt the normal course

of business. In this regard he embodies a centrist tradition as old as the nation itself. For

all of its history the United States produced politicians with the same moderate proclivities.

Compromising individual principles for what was believed to be the greater good of the

nation, men like Mangum defined the nature of national politics for generations to come.

An informal style of management, coupled with his long tenure in the United States

Congress, elevated Mangum to the highest ranks of the national Whig organization. From

there he had a unique perspective on a dynamic era. His career illustrates the varied ways

o1 McCormick, The Party Period and Public Policy, pp. 139. See also, ibid., pp. 206-


in which the Whig elite brokered power and exchanged favors in order to stay in office and

maintain viability. Despite a genuine belief in the principles espoused by the

Revolutionary generation, Mangum and the other political leaders of the era often placed

practical concerns above principles and employed both formal and informal mechanisms

to achieve justifiable ends. Confronting the contradictions between the republican tradition

of an earlier generation and the demands of a society in the throes of a market revolution,

pragmatic politicians organized the electorate and guided American political organizations

from factions to parties.

Biographies humanize the past. For this reason several historians have raised a cry

for more political biographies. David Brion Davis wrote that biographies allow us to

"examine in detail how the personality crisis of a complex individual reflect tensions

within the general culture and how the individual's resolutions of conflict within himself

lead ultimately to transformations within the culture." As this biography will demonstrate,

Willie Mangum personified the dramatic shift in values of southern Whiggery between the

years 1830 and 1850 and so lends Davis' statement credibility." Ronald Formisano also

called for "studies of elite motivation." "The much heralded replacement of traditional

notables by a 'new class' of professional politicians," Formisano wrote in 1974, "should

be systematically studied" if we are to understand the broader political changes that

David Brion Davis, "Some Recent Directions in Cultural History," American
Historical Review 73 (1968):704.


occurred during the early national period.'2 More recently Peter Knupfer and Michael

Holt have made similar appeals.13

The scholarship of the past thirty years has redefined political history as the study

of political culture, constituent behavior, and the ideological basis of mass political parties.

Still, for all their achievements, students of the new political history and the republican

synthesis have replaced flesh and blood characters with abstractions and statistical

aggregates. Biography restores the participants to historical discourse and human agency

to the process of party formation. Indeed, this work represents a necessary corrective to

what I believe to be the overstatements of the republican synthesis. So much of that

literature mistakes political rhetoric for reality. This is not to suggest that Mangum's

generation rejected ideology. Instead, they understood that principles were often luxuries

they could ill afford as they tried, for example, to reconcile the antipartisan rhetoric of

republicanism with the need to organize an expanding electorate. Reviewing two books

on working-class culture in the early republic, both of which rely heavily on the republican

synthesis, critic Richard Stott remarked that he was "continually struck by how implausibly

high-minded artisans usually appear." The same can be said for the politicians of this

period. Like Stott, I believe that "by humanizing [politicians], we will make them more

12 Ronald P. Formisano, "Deferential-Participation Politics: The Early Republic's
Political Culture, 1789-1840," American Political Science Review 68 (1974):478.

13 Peter B. Knupfer, The Union as It Is: Constitutional Unionism and Sectional
Compromise. 1787-1861 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), p. x;
Michael F. Holt, Political Parties and American Development: from the Age of Jackson
to the Age of Lincoln (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992), p. 22.


real, and in some ways more sympathetic, than the relentlessly respectable [politicians] of

so much of the recent literature."14 This study reintroduces party managers to the study

of American politics without retreating to the old elitist perspective. It combines elements

of the new political history and the republican synthesis while seeking to avoid the


The career of Willie Mangum coincides with the early stages of what historians

have labeled the market and transportation revolutions. Many of my ideas about Willie

Mangum and his times have been shaped by the recent literature concerning the changing

political economy of the early national period. A commercial boom after 1815 brought

national and international market forces into local economies, carrying in their wake

important changes in the nature of American politics. Charles Sellers wrote that "a new

generation of realists" eased the transition to a market-driven economy by using the state

to promote economic development. Facing social and economic dislocation, many

Americans fell back on an outdated ideology to express their displeasure with the new

order. Astute rhetoricians like Mangum fashioned their words in such a way as to appear

sympathetic to their pain, champions of their lost cause. In reality, they were nothing of

the sort. Mangum thought that the long-term benefits of economic expansion would be

great for the country. In the meantime, he, along with the rest of the nation, stumbled

through a new age trying to fit old concepts to new problems with little success. Indeed.

14 Richard Stott, "Respectable Artisans," Reviews in American History 22 (1994):228;
See also, John P. Diggins, The Lost Soul of American Politics. Virtue. Self-Interest. and
the Foundations of Liberalism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 12-
14, 105-109, 112-113.


the tension between the promise of the republic and the demands of commercial capitalism

explain the disparity so often seen between Mangum's words and his deeds. Innovations

and inventions in transportation and communication technology only amplified them, as

railroad lines and telegraph wires drew more people into the vortex of national politics.1

The intellectual and ideological route travelled by Mangum closely parallels the

course followed by a generation of Southern Whigs. Like so many other southern Whigs,

Mangum emerged from the Federalist era with loose moorings and no particular political

affiliation. In 1824, Mangum, an advocate of states rights, aligned with the supporters of

William Crawford during the presidential campaign that year. After the Georgian had

suffered a nearly fatal stroke, Mangum reluctantly joined with Andrew Jackson and the

Democrats, once again following the path blazed by a generation of southerners.

Jackson's belligerent response to nullification and his war on the Second Bank of the

United States alarmed conservative southerners like Mangum, who regarded this expansion

of federal power as an encroachment on the rights of the individual states and a threat to

the republic. Eventually Mangum united the opposition in his home state under the Whig

banner and by 1840 had placed them in Henry Clay's hands. For the next decade he and

"5 Quote from, Charles G. Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America. 1815-
1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 348. See also, Ronald P. Formisano,
The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1790s-1840s (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 16; Daniel Feller, "Politics and Society: Toward a
New Jacksonian Synthesis." Journal of the Early Republic 10 (1990):155. The idea that
pragmatists often carry out the work of idealists is taken from, David Remnick, "The
Hangover," The New Yorker (22 November 1993):51-65. Remnick's observation that
post-Soviet Russia has suffered because ideologues, not pragmatists, lead the government
fits nicely with my ideas and shows them to be timeless.


the other southern Whigs worked side by side with their northern allies. When the alliance

began to deteriorate over the slavery issue, Mangum tried to force upon his fellow

southerners a settlement many could not stomach. The pragmatist did not fully understand

the passions that divided his party. Fittingly, Mangum's gradual physical decline mirrored

that of his dying party. He suffered a series of strokes in the 1850s but lingered until the

outbreak of the Civil War. The North Carolina Whigs also held on until the war, but, like

Mangum, their best days were behind them. He shrunk physically and emotionally to

become a crippled reminder of a bygone era. In September 1861, Willie Person Mangum,

the quintessential southern Whig, suffered his final stroke and died shortly thereafter.'6

6 Cooper, The South and the Politics of Slavery, pp. 163-64.


On May 10, 1792, Catherine Davis Mangum gave birth to her first child at her

home near Red Mountain, North Carolina. Catherine and her husband, William Person

Mangum, named their son Willie (pronounced "Wylie" in the eighteenth-century English

fashion). The new parents had decided to forgo customary naming practices which dictated

that the infant should take the name of a blood relative. Instead, they chose to honor one

of North Carolina's leading citizens, Willie Jones. Born in 1741, Jones represented North

Carolina in the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. Following the war,

he served in the state senate, where he played a leading role in drafting North Carolina's

first constitution. Appointed as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the

ardent anti-Federalist refused the commission and shortly thereafter retired to his spacious

plantation in Halifax. By naming their son for one of North Carolina's most esteemed

patriots, Catherine and William Mangum may have been expressing their own republican

sentiments. On the other hand, they may have simply been paying tribute to a local

aristocrat. In any event, the new parents observed traditional naming patterns with the


newborn's middle name, Person (pronounced "parson"), the family name of the child's

paternal grandmother.'

Willie Mangum grew to adulthood in the shadow of what was generously called

Red Mountain, a gradually rising slope situated along the northern border of Orange

County.2 Located in the central piedmont region of North Carolina, Orange was home to

scores of yeoman farmers and a handful of small-scale planters. In 1790 slaves accounted

for 17 percent of the population of Orange County, the vast majority residing with masters

who owned fewer than six chattel. The arable Durham, Wilkes, and Appling loam that

blanketed the rolling hills of northern Orange County proved especially suited to the

cultivation of tobacco, which the first settlers and their descendants produced in

abundance. Some households added to their income by raising small amounts of cotton.

Alongside nominal yields of these cash crops, local residents harvested enough wheat and

corn and reared sufficient quantities of livestock to lead lives of rugged self-sufficiency.

Henry Thomas Shanks, ed., The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5 vols. (Raleigh:
State Department of Archives and History, 1950-1956), l:xv; 5:762; According to
Bertram Wyatt-Brown, parents in the old South were more likely to name their sons for
a family member than for a prominent individual. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern
Honor: Ethics & Behavior in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982),
pp. 120-21; William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, 4 vols. to date
(Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979-1991), 3:330-31; Willie
Person Mangum to Washington Hunt, 8 February 1844, Willie P. Mangum Family Papers,
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

2 This area is now part of Durham County. The site of what had been the Mangum
homestead is approximately seven miles north of the town of Bahama, along the Hampton
Road between the Mount Tabor Methodist Church and the town of Rougement. Remnants
of a brick foundation, a dilapidated tobacco shed, and a small graveyard, all resting on
heavily-wooded, state-owned property, are all that remain of the old plantation.


Some of the more resourceful and less temperate inhabitants of Orange distilled goodly

portions of their grain into whiskey and corn mash to smooth over the rougher edges of

their wearisome frontier lives.3

In the 1740s and 1750s the first permanent European settlers arrived in Orange

County by way of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Primarily of Scotch-Irish and German

descent, they came to North Carolina looking for inexpensive land. Historian David

Hackett Fischer describes these backcountry settlers as violent and "intensely resistant to

change. "4 Striking a similar chord, Russel Nye notes that North Carolina was "a

Jeffersonian stronghold of small farmers," adding that the state "seemed hardly Southern

at all in comparison with its. .neighbors [Virginia and South Carolina]."5 The Regulator

Movement, an early expression of backcountry dissatisfaction with North Carolina's

provincial government, epitomized this tradition of self-reliance and violence. On May

16, 1771, the movement, which had spawned several bloodless riots since its inception in

1766, took a fatal turn when 1,185 militiamen equipped with artillery routed a band of two

3 Robert C. Kenzer, Kinship and Neighborhood in a Southern Community: Orange
County. North Carolina, 1849-1881 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press,
1987), pp. 7, 23, 34-36, 38, 42; William Henry Hoyt, ed., The Papers of Archibald D.
Murphy, 2 vols. (Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission, 1914), 1:38

4 David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1989) p. 650; Thomas Jeffrey, State Parties and National
Politics: North Carolina. 1814-1861 (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1989), p.
12; Kenzer, Kinship and Neighborhood, p. 7.

5 Russel Blaine Nye, The Cultural Life of the New Nation. 1776-1830 (New York:
Harper & Row, 1960), p. 114.


to three thousand ill-trained Regulators along Alamance Creek in Orange County.6 In spite

of their apparent proclivity for lawlessness and civil disobedience, the people of Orange

County created stable communities characterized by strong kinship networks and very little

geographic mobility. Families tended to cluster in one of Orange's eight "neighborhoods,"

where, as historian Robert Kenzer demonstrates, "family and kinship ties," not wealth,

became the primary factors in determining one's status within the community.7 The people

of Orange also founded towns. Hillsborough, the largest settlement in Orange County,

became a center of social, political, commercial, and cultural activity for this largely rural


Planters in early nineteenth century North Carolina fed their offspring a steady diet

of corn pone, smoked bacon, and republicanism. While maize and pork had long been

staples in the Tar Heel larder, republicanism was a relative newcomer that succeeded in

redefining gender roles within the family. Functioning primarily as "the dominant unit of

6 The Regulator Movement began in August of 1766 and was centered in Orange,
Rowan, and Anson Counties. Its initial objective was to combat corruption in the
provincial government and place local authorities "under better and honester regulation."
A. Roger Ekirch, Poor Carolina: Politics and Society in Colonial North Carolina. 1729-
1776 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1981), pp. 164-65; Jeffrey,
State Parties and National Politics, p. 13; Ruth Blackwelder, The Age of Orange: Political
and Intellectual Leadership in North Carolina. 1752-1861 (Charlotte: William Loftin,
Publisher, 1961), pp. vii, 48. Fischer, Albion's Seed, pp. 651.

7 Kenzer, Kinship and Neighborhood, pp. 2, 6, 19.

8 William K. Boyd, "A Draft of the Life of Willie P. Mangum," 1:3, Willie Person
Mangum Papers, Special Collections, Duke University Library, Durham, North Carolina;
Penelope McDuffie, "Chapters in the Life of Willie Person Mangum," The Historical
Papers. Published by the Trinity College Historical Society (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1925), p. 9.


production and reproduction," the plantation household also became a venue for the

indoctrination of future citizens.9 Republican mothers, exemplars of morality and self-

sacrifice, worked to inculcate these same virtues in their sons and daughters. More

demonstrative than earlier generations, turn-of-the-century planters spoke of their children

in unmistakably sentimental terms, emphasizing the intrinsic worth of their progeny over

their potential value as laborers. Fathers displayed new signs of respect for their sons,

granting them great latitude when it came time for the young man to choose a career.

Evidently, the romanticism expressed in the art and literature of this period had found its

way into the domestic life of genteel North Carolinians.'o

The first Mangums to settle in Orange County were Arthur and Lucy Person

Mangum, Willie Mangum's grandparents. Born in the Spring of 1741 in Surry County,

Virginia, Arthur Mangum was of Welsh ancestry. His parents came to North Carolina in

the late 1740s as part of a great wave of migrants pushing south from Virginia in search

9 Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women
of the Old South (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988), p. 48;
Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic. 1776-1787 (Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1969), p. 48; For more on the southern diet see Jack
Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life. 1790-1840 (New York: Harper & Row, 1988),
pp. 171-74.

10 Linda Kerber, Women in the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary
America (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1980), pp. 11, 52, 283;
Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household, 109, 287-88; Larkin, The Reshaping of
Everyday Life, pp. 52-52; Jane Turner Censer, North Carolina Planters and Their
Children. 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984), pp. xv-xvi,
16-18, 39, 62; Philip Greven, The Protestant Temperament: Patterns of Child-Rearing.
Religious Experience, and the Self in Early America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977),
pp. 265-95.


of inexpensive and fertile land. That same exodus carried the family of Arthur's future

bride Lucy. In the early 1760s, Arthur Mangum purchased several tracts of land in the

Flat River neighborhood of Orange County. Arthur Mangum believed that in addition to

providing a richer soil, the higher elevation along the base of Red Mountain would protect

him and his family from the "fever and chills" that plagued folks in the lower lying areas

of the county. Raising tobacco, hogs, cattle, wheat, and corn and marketing their surplus

yield, Arthur and Lucy Mangum soon prospered. At the time of his death in March of

1789, Arthur Mangum's estate included an estimated 950 acres of land and seven slaves.

A substantial portion of this acreage would one day come into the possession of Willie


Lucy and Arthur Mangum raised seven children on their Orange County plantation.

Their first child, William Person Mangum, born in 1762, was Willie Mangum's father.12

Upon the death of his own father in 1789, William inherited 200 acres of land. Over the

course of his life he would augment this bequest by more than 2,300 acres and purchase

at least 21 slaves. An estate of this size placed William Mangum within the ranks of North

'1 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:84-85; 4:242; 5:746-47, 759; Kenzer,
Kinship and Neighborhood, pp. 8-9; Stephen B. Weeks, "Willie Person Mangum," in
Biographical History of North Carolina: From Colonial Times to the Present, Samuel A.
Ashe, ed., 8 vols. (Greensboro: Charles L. Van Noppen, 1905-1917), 5:238; Shirley
Jones Mallard, "Marcus Harris Mangum: His Ancestors and His Descendants," North
Carolina Collection, Durham County Public Library, Durham, North Carolina, pp. 6-15.

12 The exact date of William's birth remains uncertain. Most of the biographical and
genealogical studies relating to the Mangum family give the year as 1762, but always with
the qualifier "circa" placed before the date. McDuffie, "Chapters in the Life of Willie P.
Mangum," p. 12; Weeks, "Willie Person Mangum," p. 239; Mallard, "Marcus Harris
Mangum," p. 10.


Carolina planter society. His system of values, most notably his desire to provide his

children with formal education, reinforced his identification with the ruling element of the


Part of the responsibility for managing the family farm and raising the children fell

to William's wife, Catherine Davis Mangum. Born in the Schuylkill River region of

Pennsylvania, Catherine came with her family to Orange County when she was a child.

The exact date of her marriage to William Mangum is unknown. On April 3, 1795 she

gave birth to her second son, Priestly Hinton Mangum, and on January 28, 1798 delivered

a third, Walter Alvis Mangum. All three of her children survived to adulthood. Beyond

these facts little else is known of Willie Mangum's mother. In all probability, Catherine

was a conventional wife and mother who tried to instill in her three boys religious devotion

and republican principles.14 She may have also suffered periodic bouts of depression, a

condition her eldest son feared hereditary. When she died on March 11, 1829, Priestly

Mangum informed his brother Willie that their father was grief stricken and that "the best

and dearest of our family is taken from us."15

'1 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, l:xv; 5:747; Mallard, "Marcus Harris
Mangum," p.13; Federal Records, United States Bureau of the Census, 1800 and 1810;
Censer, North Carolina Planters and Their Children, pp. 42-42.

14 Censer, North Carolina Planters and Their Children, pp. xv, 16-18; Larkin, The
Reshaping of Everyday Life, pp. 52-53; Ariana Holliday Mangum, "A Short History of
the Mangum Family," North Carolina Collection, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, pp. 4-5.

"5 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:358-59, 368.


The obvious affection Priestly felt for his mother was equaled, if not surpassed, by

the strong attachment he and his brother Willie had for one another. Their close

companionship, which began in childhood, remained steadfast throughout both their lives.

As schoolmates at the University of North Carolina, Willie and Priestly belonged to the

same debating society and graduated together. As the two matured so did their

relationship. Priestly, who built a successful law practice in Hillsborough, became Willie

Mangum's most trusted confidant. The younger Mangum gave his brother political advice

and looked after his personal and financial affairs while the elder Mangum was away from

Red Mountain. The respective skills and temperaments of Willie and Priestly worked to

their mutual advantage. Priestly, the more scholarly of the two, expressed his political

views freely and without fear of offending his listeners, a habit that rendered him ill-suited

to a political career. John Chavis, a mutual acquaintance of the two brothers, attributed

Priestly's misfortunes at the polls to his "stubborn unyielding disposition" and his habit of

condescension.16 However, his legal expertise and social contacts made him a valuable

asset to his brother. Priestly also appears to have been more cautious in matters

concerning his personal health and safety. His rejection of excess in every form, for

example, contrasted sharply with the recklessness exhibited by his brother, who often

drove his sulky at high speeds and overindulged in alcohol. Surprisingly, their differences

proved more often to be a source of amusement then a cause for discord. As an expression

of his profound admiration and respect for his older sibling, Priestly named his second son

16 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:414.


Willie P. Mangum, Jr.'7 Shortly after Priestly's death in 1850, a deeply depressed and

dispirited Willie Mangum wrote of his late brother, that for "all his peculiarities" he was

"the best, & most honest male friend that I had in the world."'"

By way of contrast, Willie Mangum's relationship with his brother Walter could

best be described as ambivalent. The most mercenary of the three Mangum brothers,

Walter's quest for wealth carried him far from Red Mountain. He left home with few

regrets. His friends gone and the land "poor and barren," he could think of no reason to

stay. Even his involvement in a hunting accident that claimed the life of his brother-in-law

did not compel him to return to the comfort of his family."9 In 1832 he prospected for

gold in the mountains of western North Carolina. By the following year Walter had

relocated with his wife and children in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. There he earned

a living raising cotton, trading in slaves, and speculating in land. By 1856, Walter's

wanderlust had taken him to Louisiana by way of Alabama. Seven years later he fled with

his family to Texas to avoid the turmoil of the Civil War. After the war, the refugees

17 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:14; 5:99, 749-50; Evidence of Priestly
Mangum's role as a political and financial advisor to his brother can be found in all five
volumes of Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum. For just a few examples see, 1:97,
118, 300, 366; 2:117-18, 378-79, 395-97; 3:143, 191; 4:299-300, 377; 5:13, 177; Boyd,
"A Draft of the Life of Willie P. Mangum," 8:2; Nathan Sargent, Public Men and Events:
From the Commencement of Mr. Monroe's Administration. in 1817. to the Close of Mr.
Fillmore's Administration. in 1853, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1875),

'8 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5:200.

19 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 2:48, 339.


returned to Louisiana, where Walter died on January 20, 1868.20 The physical distance

separating Willie Mangum from his brother Walter may well explain an emotional

dissonance between the two. Writing to his wife in 1836, Willie Mangum said of Walter,

"I fear [Walter] is never to come to good & yet I feel the strongest & most painful anxiety

on his account."21 The passage of time did not bridge this gap. In 1854 Walter lamented

to his older brother, "I feel we live too cold & inattentive to each other."22 Despite

Walter's plaint, there is no evidence to suggest that their differences were ever completely


Like many planters in North Carolina, William and Catherine Mangum established

a general store on the grounds of their estate, near the intersection of the Oxford and

Hillsborough highways. The store may have generated additional income for the family,

but, more significantly, it placed the Mangums at the center of community life. On its

shelves customers could expect to see canisters of tea, coffee, sugar, spices, salt, candy,

and fruit as well as a wide array of nonperishables, soap, ribbons, cutlery, gloves, and

boots. The store was also a locus of social and political activity. Neighbors and strangers

20 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:571; 2:48, 338-39; 3:211, 287, 295-
96; 5:312; Weeks, "Willie Person Mangum," p. 239.

21 Willie Person Mangum to Charity Mangum, 17 April 1836, Willie Person Mangum
Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Walter's later involvement in
the slave trade may have contributed to his estrangement from his brother Willie.
Mangum family tradition alleges that Willie Mangum prohibited his daughter Mary from
marrying a slave trader because he found the occupation disreputable. Shanks, The Papers
of Willie P. Mangum, 5:760.

22 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5:298.


gathered there to read newspapers, drink spirits, converse, and gamble. On election day

the Mangum's place served as the local polling center and throughout the year it

functioned as a post office. In his youth, Willie Mangum worked at the store, where he

learned the art of debate from customers who would sit for hours and argue about the latest

political controversy or local event. Willie Mangum rapidly acquired a flair for oratory

and an ability to joke and mingle with people that would prove useful in his public life.23

Young Willie Mangum's responsibilities at the store included more than simple

clerking. His name appears alongside his father's in an account receipt dated May 30,

1807, suggesting that local merchants recognized the younger Mangum as a partner in the

business. His father also entrusted him to collect debts from customers who had left the

area without meeting their obligations. In 1808, Willie and one of his father's slaves

traveled to eastern Tennessee to retrieve a man who had defaulted on his debt to the elder

Mangum. Willie Mangum's journey into the Tennessee wilderness was not his first

adventure away from Red Mountain. Late in 1802, he had stowed away aboard a tobacco

wagon bound for market in Petersburg, Virginia. Once the party had gone too far to make

the boy's return home impractical, Willie made his appearance, but William gave his son

a lesson by placing him on horseback, where the cold autumn air gave the boy reason to

regret his mischief. Despite such minor challenges to parental authority, William Mangum

allowed his son to decide for himself which career he would pursue. When Willie

23 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, l:xvi, 1; 5:748; Kenzer, Kinship and
Neighborhood, pp. 20, 37; Guion Griffis Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social
History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1937), pp. 98-99; Larkin, The
Reshaping of Everyday Life, p. 174.


confessed that he was "not cut out to handle a yardstick, and never expected to be a

merchant," his father apparently never questioned his decision.24

Having learned the rudiments of farming and business at Red Mountain, Willie

Mangum left home to begin his formal education. In 1809 and 1810, Mangum attended

the Fayetteville Academy, where he studied under the Reverend Colin Mclver. Before

that, he had trained privately under Thomas A. Flint and a local African-American

educator named John Chavis.25 He studied briefly at the Hillsborough Academy before

enrolling at the Raleigh Academy early in 1811. There he worked under the tutelage of

the Reverend Dr. William McPheeters. One of the finest preparatory schools in the state,

the Raleigh Academy offered courses in reading and writing at a cost of three dollars per

quarter. Students willing to invest two dollars more were also taught "advanced" English

and the classics. Mangum's test scores indicate that he had paid the higher sum. On June

24 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:1; 5:747-49; Censer, North Carolina
Planters and Their Children, pp. xvi, 62.

Mangum's exact relationship to John Chavis has been a subject of debate. Edgar W.
Knight, Chavis' biographer, contends that the pedagogue's lifelong correspondence with
both Willie and Priestly, particularly the manner in which he addressed the two, suggest
a teacher-student relationship. Chavis referred to his former pupils as "my sons," a phrase
he used frequently when referring to the Mangum brothers. The fact that neither Willie
nor Priestly ever protested the use of this informal expression lends circumstantial support
to Knight's contention. Dr. Archibald Henderson, author of a biographical sketch of
Mangum published in the Durham Herald Sun, argued that the Chavis-Mangum connection
was a fiction concocted by Knight in order to exaggerate the importance of his subject.
Henderson offers no evidence to back his claims. Similarly, Mangum Turner, Willie
Mangum's great-grandson, refutes Knight's contention without offering contradictory
evidence. Edgar W. Knight, "Notes on John Chavis," North Carolina Historical Review
7 (1930): 326, 345; Herald Sun (Durham) 6 October 1935; Shanks, The Papers of Willie
P. Mangum, 1:315-318, 506-508, 574-576; 3:478; 4:186-188; 5:753.


21, 1811, the Raleigh Star reported that he had "excelled" in the academy's semi-annual

examinations, earning distinction for his comprehension of the "Odes of Homer" and

"Greek Testament. "26

Mangum's intellect also impressed Archibald Haralson, his roommate during his

first term at the University of North Carolina at nearby Chapel Hill. On September 13,

1811, Haralson wrote that Mangum had "a mind of a speculative turn and was gifted with

more than ordinary sagacity." Together the two young students studied Hume, Lucian,

and others and discussed the "arguments and accuracy of their deductions." And while

their conversations often digressed into the realm of "absurdity," Haralson found them to

be enjoyable and beneficial.27 The following spring, Mangum returned to the Raleigh

Academy, this time as an instructor. While there, he again caught the attention of the

local press. Representing the Raleigh Polemic Society, Mangum delivered a Fourth of

July oration before an audience at the state capital, which the Raleigh Register described

as "handsome and appropriate. "28

Mangum attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1811 to

1815. At the time the institution was small, employing a staff of three professors and one

tutor. Like most southern colleges in the early nineteenth century, the University of North

26 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, l:xvi; 2:44-45; Weeks, "Willie Person
Mangum," p. 239; Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina, pp. 286-288; Raleigh Star, 21
June 1811. Hillsborough Recorder, 11 September 1861.

27 Hoyt, The Papers of Archibald D. Murphy, 1:54.

28 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:3; 5:417, 460; Raleigh Register, 10
July 1812; Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina, p. 323.


Carolina continued to emphasize classical Greek and Latin literature and theology.

University rules required students to attend public worship every Sunday. Tuition, room,

board, and other expenses amounted to about fifty-eight dollars per session. The academic

year was divided into two sessions: the first running from early January to late May, and

the second extending from the middle of June to the middle of November. The students

enjoyed active social lives, carefully balancing their schedules to accommodate both their

lessons and the young women of Chapel Hill. In later years Willie Mangum would recall

his days at the University as the happiest of his life, "when in 'sweet dalliance' we pluck

the gay primrose & scarcely feel the thorn. "29

Mangum most enjoyed his association with the Dialectic Society, one of the

campus' two debating clubs. "The Dialectic Society," he wrote in 1838, "is more

endeared to my memories & more interesting to my affections than perhaps even our

venerable 'Alma Mater.'"3' When he joined the organization in 1811, Mangum found

himself in the company of young men who shared common intellectual, social, and

regional backgrounds. The Dialectic Society drew its members primarily from the

piedmont and western part of the state, while its opposite, the Philanthropic Society,

recruited its members from the eastern counties. Clearly, the regionalism that defined

29 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:5-6; 2:529; Wyatt-Brown, Southern
Honor, pp. 92-94; McDuffie, "Chapters in the Life of Willie P. Mangum," p. 15; Kemp
Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, vol. 1: From Its Beginning to the
Death of President Swain. 1789-1868 (Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing Company,
1907), p. 230.

30 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 2:529.


North Carolina politics during this period was evident in the social intercourse that

prevailed at the University. The political alliances of the late 1820s were also partly

determined by former club membership. Many young men whose names appeared on the

rolls of the Dialectic Society would later occupy the highest offices in state and national

politics. Among its distinguished alumni were future President James K. Polk, future

United States Senators William Henry Haywood and Bedford Brown, future United States

Representative Romulus Sanders, and future North Carolina Governors John Motley

Morehead and Charles Manly. The connections Mangum made as a member of the society

would serve him well in his political career.31

Beyond affording Mangum important professional and social contacts, the Dialectic

Society gave him an opportunity to improve his debating, oratorical, and writing skills.

He also learned about parliamentary procedure. Members conducted their weekly

meetings with great formality, tolerating only the most innocent breaches of etiquette.

Repeated violations of the organization's bylaws resulted in expulsion from the society.

During Willie's tenure, the organization dismissed only one member while admitting

scores of applicants. Willie served on several committees, including one created to

establish a code of moral conduct for society members, and from March 17 to April 7,

31 University of North Carolina Dialectic Society Records, Minutes, 1812-1818,
University of North Carolina Archives, Chapel Hill; "Catalogue of the Members of the
Dialectic Society Instituted in the University of North Carolina June 3, 1795, Together
with Historical Sketches," Printed for the Society, 1890, Southern Historical Collection,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:7;
Max R. Williams, "William A. Graham: North Carolina Whig Party Leader, 1804-1849,"
(Ph. D. dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1965), pp. 28-29.


1814 he acted as presiding officer. The society sponsored a library for the private use of

its members. There they would prepare their debates, the highlight of the weekly

assembly. A review of the topics assigned, as well as the conclusions reached, reveals the

character of the club's members. On August 26, 1813, romantics won the day with the

assertion that love had a "greater effect on the minds of men" than fear. Such idealism

appears to have been the exception, not the rule. One week earlier the polemicists had

answered the question, "Is the prosperity of a nation promoted by continual peace?" in the

negative. The group also decided that it would be impolitic to emancipate the slaves or

grant foreign-born citizens the same privileges reserved for native-born Americans. The

conservative bent of society members is evident in both the questions they chose to debate

and the answers they agreed to record.32 In 1858, more than forty years after leaving

Chapel Hill, Mangum professed that "many of my most happy and agreeable

reminiscences are most interestingly entwined" with the Dialectic Society. His sympathy

for its collegial function and political principles remained undiminished by the passage of


The onset of war with Great Britain in 1812 disrupted Mangum's idyllic interlude

at Chapel Hill. The conflict exacerbated divisions between critics and supporters of the

Madison Administration. These differences were especially acute in North Carolina,

where Federalism remained a viable political force. Despite their genuine attempts to

32 University of North Carolina Dialectic Society Records, Minutes, 1812-1818,
University of North Carolina Archives, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

33 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5:356.


appear supportive of the American war effort, Federalists were unable to dissociate

themselves from the antiwar sentiments they had expressed before the outbreak of

hostilities. As the war dragged on and victory seemed more elusive, Tar Heels polarized

into pro- and anti-Administration camps. These divisions eventually found their way onto

the campus of the University of North Carolina and into the home of university president

Robert Hett Chapman." Chapman's frequent criticism of the war enraged his Republican

students. In January of 1814 a group of pro-war activists ransacked the president's home,

ran off with some of his property, and broke into the president's stable, where they cut the

tail off his horse. Outraged, Chapman conducted a thorough investigation of the crime,

but the hearing soon degenerated into a witch-hunt, as Chapman allowed hearsay and

conjecture to implicate several innocent students. Among the witnesses called to give

evidence was Willie Mangum, whose testimony included speculative answers to leading

questions.35 Mangum's cooperation with the sham trial led some of his contemporaries to

question his allegiance and condemn him as an informer and a collaborator. Years later

his political opponents revived the episode in the Jacksonian press in an attempt to portray

34 Federalists occupied as many as 40 percent of the seats in the North Carolina House
of Commons during the war. James Broussard, "The North Carolina Federalists, 1800-
1816," North Carolina Historical Review 55 (1978): 19, 36-37, 39; James Broussard, The
Southern Federalists, 1800-1816 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978),
p. 154-56, 176; Daniel M. McFarland, "Rip Van Winkle: Political Evolution in North
Carolina, 1815-1835," (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1954), pp. 15-16,

35 Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, p. 233-36.


their rival as a reactionary and a "blue light federal speechifier."36 Mangum never tried

to hide his early political sympathies. On September 24, 1814, fellow student Stephen

Sneed was pleased to inform Mangum that "the good old cause of Federalism continues

triumphant" on the campus of the University of North Carolina.37 In fact, Mangum's

affiliation with the Federalist Party would continue as long as the party remained intact.

On June 16, 1815, Willie Person Mangum graduated from the University of North

Carolina. The day-long commencement ceremony featured speeches, an oration on

"natural philosophy" and four debates. Of the eighteen students to graduate that day,

Willie Mangum was the only one who did not participate in any of the presentations.

Mangum's absence from the podium suggests that he was the only member of his class to

be denied academic honors. Despite his meager record, Mangum's affiliation with the

University did not end on that summer day. In 1818, he earned a Master of Arts degree.

That same year he became a trustee, a post he would hold until 1858. As a member of the

prestigious board, Mangum helped restore solvency to the institution after years of

declining enrollment and decreased funding. In 1845, the University rewarded his

achievements with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. Ironically, two of Mangum's

most powerful political adversaries, President James K. Polk and Attorney General John

Young Mason, received similar honors that same day. Throughout his life Mangum would

36 North Carolina Standard (Raleigh), 15 December 1835; Shanks, The Papers of
Willie P. Mangum, 2:365-66.

37 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:5; Broussard, The Southern Federalists,
pp. 181-82, 192.


remain loyal to his alma mater, advising friends to educate their sons at Chapel Hill and

working to promote the interests of his fellow alumni.38

At the time of his graduation Mangum looked ahead to a bright future. His

optimism was well founded, for his early training and experiences had adequately prepared

him for the legal career he anticipated. From his first days on the family farm at Red

Mountain to the long hours spent at the general store, he had gained a unique

understanding of the people of Orange County. Local kinship networks gave him the

support and influence needed by every new applicant to the bar. His academic training

was likewise sufficient to the task set before him. By the standards of his neighbors,

Mangum was a child of privilege. He had been given a good education and made

important social contacts along the way. As he grew older these assets would prove

invaluable. The foundation set at Red Mountain and elsewhere enabled him to move

comfortably in elite social circles and provided him access to the highest reaches of power.

38 Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, pp. 247, 325-26, 496, 788, 823;
General Alumni Association, The University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: Alumni
Directory (Durham: Seeman Printery, Inc., 1954), p. 590; Shanks, The Papers of Willie
P. Mangum, 4:240, 306-307; 5:461.


Within ten years of his graduation from the University of North Carolina, Willie

Mangum was already becoming one of the most influential figures in state politics. The

protege of the well-connected Duncan Cameron, he had established a successful law

practice, started a family, and served in both the state and federal governments. His rise

to the North Carolina Superior Court in 1819 at the age of twenty seven won him the title,

"Judge," an honorific which he never relinquished, despite future achievements. The

appellation elevated his status beyond his ordinary lineage. The work, however, involved

inconveniences that sometimes seemed to mock the deference due his judicial robes. He

frequently complained about squalid living quarters, poor health, and dangerous roads --

so much so that Mangum never seemed happy riding the circuits and looked impatiently

for an advancement far from such discomforts. At this juncture Willie Mangum developed

his public persona. A favorite in courtrooms and on the hustings, he possessed an uncanny

knack for anticipating the public will and adapting his mannerisms and voice accordingly.

This receptiveness to change served him well in a time of political flux, as politicians

scrambled to adjust to new circumstances.'

Henry Thomas Shanks, ed., The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5 vols. (Raleigh: State
Department of Archives and History, 1950-1956), 1:28-31, 35-36; 5:461, 750-751, 754-


Willie Mangum left the University of North Carolina bent on pursuing a life in

politics. Like many others of his generation, he thought legal training the most

appropriate way to prepare for that career. The custom of the day dictated that he find a

patron with whom to study the law and aid his ambitions. Such a mentor was Duncan

Cameron, a neighboring planter with ties to the state leadership. The son of an Anglican

minister, the Virginia-born Cameron had made his fortune in agriculture before entering

the North Carolina House of Commons as a Federalist in 1802. By 1824, he had served

five terms in the lower chamber and three in the state Senate. An advocate of state

funding for internal improvement projects, he also served intermittently as the president

of the Bank of North Carolina, sat as a trustee of the University of North Carolina, and

was once the clerk of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Between 1814 and 1816

Cameron, who was also a prominent attorney, served as a judge on the Superior Court.

At the time of his death in 1853, he was one of the wealthiest men in the state, with

several plantations and more than one thousand slaves.2

Duncan Cameron and his family made their home at Fairntosh, a plantation located

approximately eight miles from Mangum's place of birth. It was here that Mangum

2 Biographical sketch of Duncan Cameron, Cameron Family Papers, Southern
Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; William
S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, 4 vols. to date (Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1979-1991), 1:311-312; Harold J. Counihan, "North
Carolina 1815-1836: State and Local Perspectives on the Age of Jackson," (Ph. D.
dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1971), p. 64; James H.
Broussard, "The North Carolina Federalists, 1800-1816," North Carolina Historical
Review 55 (1978): 40; Sharon Kettering, "The Historical Development of Political
Clientism," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18 (1988): 425-26.


studied law. In exchange for his patronage, Cameron asked that Mangum tutor his two

young sons, Thomas and Paul. The nature of Mangum's relationship with Thomas, the

older of the two boys, is unclear. Born mentally disabled, Thomas never married and

apparently did not have much contact with Mangum after he left the services of the

Cameron family. Conversely, Paul developed a special rapport with his preceptor and the

two became fast friends. Mangum's lifelong obligation to the Cameron family appears to

have been a debt he paid without complaint. A grateful client, he would later use his

political influence to assist both Duncan and Paul. He promoted Duncan Cameron's

political fortunes, at times at some personal sacrifice, and often turned to his patron for

council during election campaigns. Throughout his life, Paul Cameron, who would later

inherit and expand his father's estate, advised Mangum on matters of local importance and

lent financial assistance to the Mangum family.3

Willie Mangum excelled in his legal studies. An eager student, he spent his

afternoons reading in the law office of Duncan Cameron and his evenings privately

reviewing the day's lessons in his room at Fairntosh. Working well into the night, often

by the light of a single candle, his alacrity won him the admiration of his mentor. The

study of law in early nineteenth century North Carolina was an inexact science. The time

allotted for aspiring lawyers to complete their education was indefinite. Applicants simply

took the bar exam when they felt ready. As a judge of the Superior Court, Duncan

Cameron had the authority to administer the state bar exam to his pupil. It remains

3 Powell, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, 1:312; Shanks, The Papers of Willie
P. Mangum, 1:69, 82-84, 88-89; 2:291, 435, 528.


unknown if he chose to exercise this right; what is known is that Mangum passed the test.

According to one historian, Mangum's success was not unusual, for the test was a mere

formality. Nearly every student who took the bar exam during this period passed it.4

On March 2, 1817, the Superior Courts of Law and the Courts of Equity for the

state of North Carolina granted Willie Mangum a license to practice law. The new

advocate wasted little time in establishing a name for himself. Riding the fourth circuit,

he moved from one courthouse to the next, building a reputation and making important

contacts. He took on both criminal and civil cases and quickly mastered the art of

manipulating his audience. Tall, good looking, and well dressed, the eloquent young

attorney impressed jurors with his colorful, sometimes theatrical, displays. His face

contorted, his lips quivering, his arms waving, Mangum would begin closing arguments

in a whisper that rose with each syllable until the courtroom echoed with the sound of his

deep voice. An ability to express complex ideas without ever condescending to listeners

sat well with folks who appreciated the show of respect. When defending his kin,

Mangum held nothing in reserve: any tactic was fair game when his client's freedom or

life was at stake. One appreciative cousin claimed that Mangum's unrelenting cross-

4 Fannie Memory Farmer, "The Bar Examination and the Beginning Years of Legal
Practice in North Carolina, 1820-1860," North Carolina Historical Review 29 (1952):
160-163; Hillsborough Recorder, 11 September 1861; Shanks, The Papers of Willie P.
Mangum, 5:750.


examination of an unfriendly witness kept him out of prison. In time, Mangum's hard

work would pay handsomely. For now, however, his thoughts turned to politics.5

Willie Mangum made his first bid for elective office at a time when the first party

system, such as it was, had disintegrated. Prior to 1815, Federalism had been an

important force in North Carolina. Strongest in the eastern counties, party lines in North

Carolina mirrored long-standing regional divisions. Although reduced to a minority party

after the election of 1800, Federalists continued to hold seats in both houses of the state

legislature. As late as 1815, one third of state officeholders identified themselves as

Federalists. Following the American victory at the Battle of New Orleans and the

conclusion of the war against Great Britain, many North Carolina Federalists began to

assert that the absence of a foreign threat had rendered political parties obsolete and had

ushered in an "era of good feelings." Skeptics saw this as an attempt by the North

Carolina Federalists to distance themselves from their counterparts in New England and

the discredited Hartford Convention; perhaps, but the debate had changed. During the

1790s, competing forces within President George Washington's cabinet polarized over the

conduct of American foreign policy. This factionalism gradually reached the state level,

giving rise to an embryonic party system. With the Treaty of Ghent, old questions

5 J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Party Politics in North Carolina. 1835-1860 (Durham:
Seeman Printery, 1916), p. 32; Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:9-10, 15, 34,
53; 5:417, 433-434; Hillsborough Recorder, 11 September 1861; Priestly Mangum's
License to Practice Law, Willie P. Mangum Family Papers, Library of Congress,
Washington, D.C.


appeared settled and many officials in North Carolina and elsewhere found themselves in

search of a cause around which they could rally the faithful.6

The postwar nationalist agenda of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and other up-and-

coming politicians proved to be the stimulant for political realignment in North Carolina.

Naturally suspicious of any attempt to expand the powers of the central government,

former Federalists formed the core of southern opposition to a national bank, the tariff,

and federally funded internal improvements. Economic issues had eclipsed foreign policy

as the primary source of dissonance in American politics. One constant factor in this

atmosphere of uncertainty was the leadership. Despite new issues, new alliances, and

egalitarian pretensions, the same class of men responsible for guiding North Carolina

through the first party system would guide her through the second. Constitutional limits

on suffrage, property qualifications for office holders, and the "voluntary deference" of

the electorate assured that power would remain in the hands of the landed elite.7

6 James H. Broussard, The Southern Federalists, 1800-1816 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1978), 181-183; Richard P. McCormick, The Second American
Party System: Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era (Chapel Hill: The University of
North Carolina Press, 1966), pp. 200; For the best account of party formation during the
1790s see Richard Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate
Opposition in the United States. 1790-1840 (Berkeley: University of California Press,

7 Quote from Harry L. Watson, Jacksonian Politics and Community Conflict: The
Emergence of the Second Party System in Cumberland County North Carolina (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981), p. 91; Broussard, The Southern
Federalist, p. 183; Thomas E. Jeffrey, State Parties and National Politics: North Carolina.
1815-1861 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989), p. 51; Marc W. Kruman, Parties
and Politics in North Carolina. 1836-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana Press, 1983), p. 11.


The old lines dividing Federalists and Republicans had lost their significance.

Leaders drifted from one faction to the next without regard to previous affiliation.

Increasingly, personalities became the focal point of state and local elections, as office

seekers and voters adjusted their allegiance with each new contest. Even before the

collapse of the first party system, partisan identification among the electorate in North

Carolina had been weak. Officials failed to create enduring organizations. Besides facing

formidable logistic barriers -- most notably inadequate transportation and communication

networks -- potential organizers confronted a populace hostile to the very idea of party.

Most Americans regarded them as unnecessary, antithetical to republican institutions, and

a threat to liberty. This prepartisan political culture dictated the nature of political

discourse in early nineteenth century North Carolina. Candidates avoided any action that

could be interpreted as advancing the interests of the few at the expense of the many. So

while partisan identification remained a loose determinant of voting behavior during

presidential elections, local elections continued to center on the personalities of the


8 Watson, Jacksonian Politics and Community Conflict, pp. 66, 70, 80-81, 87;
McCormick, The Second American Party System, pp. 177, 200; Richard L. McCormick,
The Party Period and Public Policy: American Politics from the Age of Jackson to the
Progressive Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 157; Max R. Williams,
"Reemergence of the Two Party System," in The North Carolina Experience: An
Interpretive and Documentary History, eds. Lindley S. Butler and Alan D. Watson
(Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 242; For an excellent study
describing the role modern transportation and communication networks played in the
formation of mass political parties see, Ronald P. Formisano, The Transformation of
Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties. 1790s-1840s (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1983).


Political power in North Carolina rested in the legislative branch of the state

government and in the county courts. The state Constitution of 1776 provided for a weak

executive, elected annually by the state legislature. Really nothing more than a

figurehead, the governor had no veto power and controlled very little patronage. By way

of contrast, the state legislature was "almost omnipotent. "9 Invested with the authority to

appoint members of the judiciary, legislators also recommended local justices of the peace,

who in turn dominated the county courts. The average North Carolinian rarely had any

contact with state and national officials. To them, government meant the county courts,

which had jurisdiction in most criminal and civil suits, performed essential legislative and

administrative duties, and levied 75 percent of the taxes paid into state coffers. In effect,

the bicameral legislature controlled, either by direct or indirect means, all levels of

government within the state. Membership within that body was extremely fluid.

Freshmen lawmakers comprised 40 to 45 percent of each new assembly. Despite the high

turnover, the demographic makeup of the State House changed little from one year to the

next. Property qualifications of three hundred acres of land for state senators and one

hundred acres for commoners, precluded most Tar Heels from seeking elective office.10

Willie Mangum entered this milieu in 1818 with his first run for North Carolina

House of Commons, the lower chamber of the General Assembly. The former farm boy

9 Kruman, Parties and Politics, p.45.

'1 McCormick, The Second American Party System, pp. 199-200; Counihan, "North
Carolina 1815-1836," pp. 42-43, 170; Kruman, Parties and Politics, pp. 12, 45-46;
Jeffrey, State Parties and National Politics, p. 50.


proved well suited to the rough and tumble of rural Orange County politics. In an age

when voters expected their politicians to be both entertaining and edifying, campaigns took

on a carnival atmosphere. As candidates debated on makeshift platforms, potential voters

listened with rapt attention. During lulls in the formal proceedings, townsfolk could be

found wrestling, wagering on horse races and other games of chance, or picnicking on the

fare provided by their hosts. "Treating," a custom whereby office seekers provided their

audiences with hard liquor and food, remained a common practice, despite having been

outlawed at the turn of the century. Candidates also took advantage of court days, Sunday

sermons, militia musters, and any other ready-made gathering, to deliver their messages

or confront opponents."

Willie Mangum felt at ease in these surroundings. Listeners appreciated his refusal

to alter his speaking style with each new crowd. He abhorred the disingenuousness of

well-heeled speakers who adopted folksy language when addressing rural audiences.

Instead, he proudly displayed his erudition. Mangum's candor provided a welcome

change. His impressive physique, mellifluous voice, and ready wit endeared him to local

audiences. In addition to engaging voters from the stump, he often canvassed from house

to house, concentrating on dwellings rumored to be unfriendly to his candidacy. Clearly,

he was one of them, a local plebeian who had risen by the dint of his own labor to become

a member of the ruling class. He embodied both the promise of democracy and the

McCormick, The Second American Party System, p. 201; Daniel M. McFarland,
"Rip Van Winkle: Political Evolution in North Carolina, 1815-1835," (Ph. D. dissertation,
University of Pennsylvania, 1954), pp. 27-28.


paradox of an egalitarian society; he had become a man of the people by rising above the

people. They granted him their deference and allowed him to shape public opinion. In

August of 1818, the citizens of Orange honored Mangum by electing him one of their two

representatives to the House of Commons.12

In November of 1818, Mangum journeyed to Raleigh to take his seat in the

assembly. The dusty streets of the little state capital were lined with brick and wooden

buildings. A four-story brick tavern called Casso's stood as the tallest structure in town,

and the three-storied Eagle Hotel offered visitors the most comfortable accommodations.

Legislators who did not stay at the Eagle or one of the city's four other hotels, took

lodgings at private rooming houses. In the evenings, lawmakers would gather at Casso's,

the Indian Queen, or one of several other local taverns near the Capitol to drink, dine and

relax after the day's work. Conversation often turned to politics, as debates begun at the

State House concluded in the ale house. Politicians cemented their alliances over an apple

brandy or glass of whiskey. Raleigh's informal style of politics aided newcomers like

Mangum, whose personal charms worked to a much greater effect when lubricated by

alcohol. Receptions at the Governor's mansion and "subscription balls" offered additional

opportunities for young assemblymen to ingratiate themselves with senior officials outside

the formal confines of the State House.13

12 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5:430, 434; Martha Person Mangum,
Diary, 12 June 1853, Willie P. Mangum Family Papers, Library of Congress,
Washington, D.C.; North Carolina Standard (Raleigh), 21 August 1818.

13 Counihan, "North Carolina 1815-1836," pp. 34-36.


In taverns and in the Capitol, Mangum forged alliances with some of North

Carolina's leading statesmen. Orange County state senator Archibald DeBow Murphey

proved an important ally during Mangum's first term. A close friend of Duncan Cameron,

Murphey championed state funding for internal improvements at a time when many North

Carolinians were reluctant to fund expensive projects. Mangum also associated with

William Gaston, who, like Murphey, was a Federalist of long-standing repute. Bartlett

Yancey, the powerful Speaker of the State Senate, likewise worked with the first-term

commoner, albeit in an unofficial capacity.4

Clearly, Mangum had acted in his own best interests when selecting his

confederates. Powerful men one and all, Murphey, Gaston, and Yancey would later assist

Mangum in his ascent up the ladder of state and national politics. However, these

alliances must also be understood within the context of regional factionalism in North

Carolina. Divisions between wealthy eastern counties and the less prosperous west formed

the basis of factional disputes as old as the state itself. Intermittent regional conflict, in

evidence during the colonial period, became more pronounced with the collapse of the first

party system. East vied with West over questions concerning state funding for internal

improvements, judicial reform, and constitutional revision. The more conservative

elements in the state, represented primarily by the eastern counties, subverted repeated

efforts by western lawmakers to rewrite the state constitution. At issue was the question

14 Ibid., pp. 73-75, 103-105; Julian Mclver Pleasants, "The Political Career of Willie
Person Mangum, 1828-1840," (M.A. Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
1962), p. 7.


of representation. The Constitution of 1776 stipulated that each county, no matter the

number of inhabitants, was entitled to one state senator and two commoners. In time, the

twenty-five counties of the rapidly expanding west outstripped the thirty-seven eastern

counties. Westerners resented the disproportionate power of the east and fought to make

population the basis of representation in the lower house. Unwilling to bear the burden

of higher taxes, wealthy Eastern leaders used their numerical advantage to block funding

for expensive improvement projects, thus retarding the economic growth of the entire

state. As a spokesman for Western interests, Mangum naturally gravitated toward

lawmakers who shared his neighbors' desire to reform the constitution and finance the

construction of roads and canals. So while his early associations may have been personally

advantageous, they also benefited his constituency."

As a first-term Commoner, Mangum backed his powerful friends while retaining

some degree of independence. He voted with the majority in favor of William Gaston's

bill creating a state Supreme Court. Unquestionably the most meaningful legislation

passed that session, Gaston's Judicial Reform Bill enjoyed wide support in western North

Carolina. Mangum's affirmative vote, therefore, could only enhance his reputation with

the people of Orange. He also voted "yea" on the issue of constitutional revision. This

time his efforts came to naught: the General Assembly rejected a proposal to place the

convention question on an upcoming ballot. Distancing himself from the pro-Bank stand

15 Jeffrey, State Parties and National Politics, pp. 49-54; William S. Hoffman, "Willie
P. Mangum and the Whig Revival of the Doctrine of Instructions," The Journal of
Southern History 22 (1956): 339.


of his patron Duncan Cameron, Mangum opposed a move to increase the capital reserves

of three state banks. Mindful of popular prejudices, he spoke to his constituent's deep-

seeded suspicion of powerful institutions when he harangued "banking institutions in

general.""6 His work on the Committee on Public Education reunited him with his old

classmate, Romulus Saunders. It submitted a plan to build schools in the outlying counties

of the state. The assembly adjourned without acting on the measure, but not before

Mangum had established himself as a friend of both education reform and western

interests. In his first attempt at writing legislation, Mangum sponsored a bill designed to

streamline the state's byzantine inheritance codes. Again, the act died with the end of the

session. Finally, he acted on behalf of private citizens who had grievances with the state

government. Over the course of the session, Mangum presented at least two petitions from

individuals demanding payment on debts owed by the state. To be sure, he understood the

reciprocity essential to reelection in a district as small as his own. On December 26,

1818, the session that began with high hopes ended in disappointment. Mangum had

learned firsthand that politics in the Old North State moved at an excruciatingly slow

pace. 1

16 Raleigh Register, 24 December 1818.

17 North Carolina, General Assembly, Journal of the House of Commons (Raleigh:
State Printer, 1818), pp. 1, 16, 47; McFarland, "Rip Van Winkle," pp. 75-78, 80;
Stephen B. Weeks, "Willie Person Mangum," in Biographical History of North Carolina:
From Colonial Times to the Present, Samuel A. Ashe, ed., 8 vols. (Greensboro: Charles
L. Van Noppen, 1905-1917), 5:239-40; Raleigh Register, 27 November; 4, 11, 18, 24
December 1818.


The impatient young attorney could hardly wait to resume his practice. Within four

months of his return from Raleigh, he had turned a tidy profit. On April 20, 1819, he

reported his good fortune to his brother Priestly, who had started his own practice nearly

two years earlier. That Spring alone, he crowed, he had earned "upwards of $1900 in

actual receipts." This new-found wealth enabled Mangum to travel in a style befitting the

country squire he aspired to be. No longer did he ride on horseback with his legal briefs

stuffed in saddlebags. Now he traversed the country roads in an "elegant," yet durable,

sulky. "My prospects in the practice," he added optimistically, "continue to grow more

flattering." Unfortunately, his prosperity proved short lived: Throughout his life,

Mangum would be burdened with debt. Ever the romantic, he closed his letter with the

news of his impending marriage. "I may be married this summer," he informed Priestly,

adding that he would know better once he had concluded urgent business that awaited him

in Raleigh. "You see what a romantic lover I am," he quipped, "[I] speak of settling the

business when speaking of love, how cold, how business like, & how ridiculous. "'

The object of Mangum's awkwardly expressed affection was Charity Alston Cain,

the daughter of Sarah Alston Dudley and William Cain of Orange County. Born February

16, 1795, she had courted Willie for a short time before he asked for her hand. Family

tradition tells of young Willie's persistence with Charity's father, who twice turned away

the eager suitor before sanctioning the union. A wealthy planter from the Little River

neighborhood, William Cain considered the struggling attorney a poor match for his

18 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Manzum, 1:14-15.


daughter. Mangum's family background, future prospects, and youth worked against him,

for Cain had hoped to strengthen his own standing in the community by marrying his

daughter to an older gentleman of means. A shared animosity between William Mangum,

Willie's father, and William Cain only complicated the romance. Mangum did not share

his prospective father-in-law's pessimism. To him, the future looked bright. The money

generated by his practice, he thought, was enough to support a family. Indeed, Mangum

agreed that no man should marry until his finances were in order. In any event, the two

were in love. The practical and financial concerns of William had little meaning for


As the daughter of one of the largest landowners in the county, Charity Cain

enjoyed superior wealth and status to that of her beau. In denying Mangum's first two

applications, William Cain had acted in what he thought were the best interests of his

family. His caution was understandable. Planter society abounded with fortune hunters

trying to attach themselves to wealthy families. Mangum's decision to seek a bride outside

his Flat River neighborhood might have lent him the appearance of one of these ne'er-do-

wells, giving William Cain good cause for trepidation. Traditionally, matches between

couples from different neighborhoods meant that one or both of the families involved were

trying to establish favorable social and economic ties. Men and women interested solely

in strengthening kinship networks married within their own neighborhoods. Surely,

Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:14-16; 5:265, 461, 759; Martha Person
Mangum, Diary, 30 January 1853, Willie P. Mangum Family Papers, Library of
Congress, Washington, D.C.; Ariana Holliday Mangum, "A Short History of the Mangum
Family," North Carolina Collection, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, p. 8.


Mangum, who had no blood ties to the Cain family, stood to benefit by the arrangement.

So while Cain would not go so far as to arrange his daughter's marriage, he did reserve

the right to interview hopeful bridegrooms. Having received Cain's begrudging consent,

Willie proposed to Charity. She accepted and on September 30, 1818, the two were


At their first meeting, Mangum might very well have regarded Charity's pedigree

as her finest feature. If that were the case, it was a short-lived infatuation. Letters written

over the course of both their lives reveal a deep, abiding love affair. Much enamored of

his wife's beauty and sexuality, Willie often favored her with eloquent expressions of his

adoration. "Indeed my dear," he wrote shortly after their marriage, "absence teaches me

how rich a jewel my heart has treasured up, in my Dear lovely Wife.""2 The sexual

allusions in his prose are unmistakable. "Indeed you must not think it romantic that my

bosom would throb with pleasure's purest ecstacy, while my wayward fancy would hover

around your pillow where all my hopes, my happiness & love lay in the sweet embrace of

20 Ruth Blackwelder, The Age of Orange: Political and Intellectual Leadership in North
Carolina. 1752-1861 (Charlotte: William Loftin, Publisher, 1961), pp. 79; Robert C.
Kenzer, Kinship and Neighborhood in a Southern Community: Orange County. North
Carolina. 1849-1881 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1987), pp. 14, 42-
44, 200; Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics & Behavior in the Old South
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 206, 209, 273-75; Jane Turner Censer,
North Carolina Planters and Their Children, 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1984), pp. 68-79; Brent H. Holcomb, compiler, Marriages of Orange
County North Carolina (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1983), p. 200.

21 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:19.


sleep."22 Her image invaded his dreams. Recounting what he called "the sweetest love

dream that I have had in years," he described how he and Charity "opened a courtship"

in a carefully manicured garden. The vision climaxed with Willie pulling Charity into his

embrace and kissing her "over & over again.""23 Willie featured prominently in Charity's

dreams as well, but the details of her subconscious were not committed to paper.24 The

sting of cupid's arrow infused Mangum with a renewed appreciation of outdoor scenes like

the garden he visited in his dream. "Nature seems to have delighted in the grand &

magnificent," he wrote during a visit to the mountainous western part of the state, "when

she was piling in such whimsical combinations the vast allighenies [sic]."25 At times his

letters lacked their typical panache. After telling Charity of his desire to hold her in his

arms, he asked bluntly, "are you growing fat?," possibly a reference to her pregnancy.26

Charity's responses, also marked by passion, carried more restraint. She wrote

mournfully, telling of her loneliness and expressing concern for Willie's safety. "I cannot

bear to think of the distance that we are from each other perhaps never to meet again

should you be taken from me in the prime of life," went one such lament.27 Part of her

22 Ibid., 1:24.

23 Ibid., 1:539.

2 Charity A. Mangum to Willie P. Mangum, 21 December 1823, Willie P. Mangum
Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

25 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:22.

26 Ibid., 1:487.

27 Charity A. Mangum to Willie P. Mangum, 24 August 1820, Willie P. Mangum
Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


pain came from the knowledge that her husband was unhappy riding the circuits. In

August 1820, she referred to his "disagreeable circuit," and prayed for his safe and speedy

return.28 Her compassion touched Mangum and called to mind the scene of their most

recent parting. "At this very moment," he wrote, "my fancy draws with painful accuracy

your very look & countenance at the instant I left you and my heart almost melts at the

picture." The bitter image of her "eyes swimming in tears" haunted him, but he took

comfort in her promise to remain strong and await his return.29

While the passage of time did not extinguish their passions, it did bring a change.

Their letters retained characteristic expressions of longing, but the pain of separation

seemed less acute. Habitually late with his correspondence, Willie often opened letters

with an apology. He assured Charity that his failure to write did not mean that his ardor

had cooled. "You are never to suppose for a moment," he wrote after one particularly

long silence, "that I neglect to write...because I do not feel all [of] the affection & love

that I had in our younger & happy days. "3 It seems Charity also found less time to write,

for Willie frequently inquired as to the whereabouts of long-promised letters. In 1841, at

the age of 49, Willie Mangum continued to speak with the voice of a young man in love.

"I desire to see you very much," he wrote from his from his rooming house in

Washington, D.C., adding, "I love you very much, and never know how much I love you

28 Ibid.

29 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:28-29.

30 Ibid., 3:299.


... until I leave you."31 Unlike the notes written years before, this one combines the

musings of the romantic with the self-confidence of a middle-aged man happy in a mature

relationship with his wife. Shorter and more direct, his letters now featured as many

references to the weather, his health, his children, and his plantation, as they did to matters

of the heart. Similarly. Charity's letters included less pining and more talk of her children

and the plantation. Like her husband, she continued to profess her love and complain

about the long separations, but not with the pathos of previous years. Responding to her

cousin's assertion that Mangum would make a good president, she joked that he "would

not get [her] vote" because it would mean even longer hours and less time together.3

For much of their married life, Willie and Charity lived apart. Willie's law

practice and long tenure in public service kept him away from the family plantation for

months at a time. Charity's fear of steamboats may have been one reason for her

reluctance to accompany her husband on his travels. Her duties at home presented a

second, more practical justification. In her husband's absence, Charity assumed the task

of administering the estate. With occasional help from her father, her brother William,

and her two brothers-in-law, she looked after day-to-day operations of their 1,600 acre

farm. Charity relayed her husband's instructions to his overseers and supervised the

construction of their new house. When it came time to ship goods to market, she alerted

her husband and asked for instructions as to what quantities were to be sold and what were

31 Quote from Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 3:176; see also, ibid., 1:225;

32 Ibid., 3:190.


to be used for private consumption. She also settled debts and purchased farming tools in

her husband's stead. Business communiques between the two suggest that Willie Mangum

considered his wife a trustworthy plantation mistress. Their companionate marriage also

proved to be a useful business arrangement. The respect he granted her on matters of

finance, however, did not extend to the realm of ideas. The recipient of a formal academy

education, Charity's letters show her to be an intelligent woman capable of managing a

business and raising a family. Be that as it may, her new husband thought that some

topics, politics for example, were too complex for women and so made only passing

references to the subject in his letters. He would later contradict himself, however, by

insisting that his adult daughters read newspapers and keep abreast of current affairs.

Doubtless this change in outlook came about as a result of the examples set by Charity and

his three daughters.3

Private obligations did not interfere with Mangum's public commitments. As a

county road supervisor, the pragmatic Mangum initiated construction of a three-quarter

mile long spur that connected his homestead to an existing thoroughfare. This selfish

allocation of public funds apparently went unchecked, for his popularity in Orange

continued unabated. In April 1818, he predicted that he would defeat his opponent in his

33 Charity A. Mangum to Willie P. Mangum, 21 December 1823, Willie P. Mangum
Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Shanks, The Papers of Willie P.
Mangum, 1:225, 229; 2:18; 4:7-8; 5:759; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, p. 214; Censer,
North Carolina Planters and Their Children, p. 72; For more on southern women and
plantation management see, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household:
Black and White Women in the Old South (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina
Press, 1988) and Catherine Clinton, The Plantation Mistress: Women's World in the Old
South (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982).


next run for Commons. Brimming with confidence, he added that it was only a matter of

time before the people of the Eighth District elected him their representative to the United

States Congress. He confessed to Priestly that he was frightened by his ambition. Public

approval had filled him with a dangerous sense of pride, and only "sound judgement"

prevented him from grasping for the "dangerous diadem flitted before my vision &

ambition."34 The sin of pride was very real to his generation and any appearance of

arrogance could hurt his career. Mangum faced the dilemma of seeking public office

without seeming too eager to win. His reelection to the House of Commons in August of

1819 proved that he kept his desires well hidden.35

In November 1819, Mangum returned to Raleigh to begin his second term in the

House of Commons. Joined by his mentor, Duncan Cameron, then serving Orange

County as a state senator, the seasoned Mangum took a more active role in the Assembly.

He displayed his new-found poise early in the proceedings by motioning for a minor

procedural change. This maneuver would be the first of many that marked Mangum a

crafty parliamentarian. Much of his later success was predicated on his special ability to

34 Quote from Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:15; see also, ibid., 5:749-

35 Watson, Jacksonian Politics and Community Conflict, pp.72-73; John L. Cheney,
Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585-1974: A Narrative and Statistical History
(Raleigh: North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State, 1975), p. 275; Raleigh
Register, 20 August 1819.


turn the rules governing debate and procedure to his own advantage. In the national

legislature this skill would help elevate him to the highest post in the Senate.36

Following Cameron's lead in the Senate, Mangum presented a series of resolutions

calling for a constitutional convention. Submitted December 1, 1819, his plan outlined

the terms by which freeholders would elect delegates and the issues these officials would

debate. As with earlier drives for reform, this one reflected the power struggle between

eastern and western legislators and centered on the issue of representation. Mangum

proposed that "the representation of the people in the General Assembly shall be equal and

comfortable to the principles of republican government." In other words, population

should be the standard of representation.37 Additional proposals included the popular

election of the Governor and local sheriffs, provisions for the removal of inept or corrupt

Supreme and Superior Court Judges, and biennial, rather than annual meetings of the

General Assembly. Mangum's planned alterations to the state constitution reiterated a

mistrust of centralized power, first revealed in his anti-bank philippics of the previous

year. With these reforms he sought to limit the power of the state by making it more

responsive to the public will. Again, this attempt to rewrite the constitution suffered

defeat at the hands of conservative eastern lawmakers.38

36 Raleigh Register, 26 November 1819.

7 Quote from North Carolina, General Assembly, Journal of the House of Commons
(Raleigh: State Printer, 1819), p. 39; See also, Raleigh Register 26 November; 3
December 1819.

38 McFarland, "Rip Van Winkle," pp. 97-98; North Carolina, General Assembly,
Journal of the House of Commons (1819), pp. 38-40; Raleigh Register, 10 December


The rift between east and west also featured prominently in the debate over an

internal improvements bill. Unlike previous battles, the opposition failed to maintain a

united front and the legislation passed by a vote of 72 to 54. Designed to diversify the

state's stagnant economy, the bill established a board of oversight charged with distributing

funds for internal improvement projects. Mangum, a proponent of economic diversity.

voted for the measure. He shared the sentiments of like-minded southerners who wanted

to wean the region from its dependence on plantation agriculture. Their only salvation,

he believed, was a modern transportation infrastructure built, in part, with state, not

federal, money. Mangum did not share the agrarian idealism of his opponents. How he

planned to finance these ambitious plans without the aid of lending institutions and without

expanding the power of the state remained to be seen. The young assemblyman was too

concerned with practical matters to perfect a consistent political philosophy.39

Mangum soon tired of life in the capital. Shortly after his return there, he

complained to his new wife that "Raleigh is as dull & uninteresting to me as the squeaking

of a scotchman's bagpipes." The carefree bachelor of a year before was now a lovesick

newlywed. He looked with amazement at the changes he experienced since the previous

winter. "At that time I plunged into the vortex of fashionable dissipation," he recalled,

as time "sped away on swiftest wing." Now he described his company as "vapid." He


39 Harry L. Watson, "Squire Oldway and his Friends: Opposition to Internal
Improvements in Antebellum North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review 54
(1977):119; McFarland, "Rip Van Winkle," p. 96; North Carolina, General Assembly,
Journal of the House of Commons (1819), p. 82.


whiled away his free hours, which seemed endless, alone in his bedchamber reading "tales

of fiction." Official business offered little relief. Frustrated by the inaction of the

legislature, Mangum seemed ready for a change.4 Fortunately, his colleagues rescued him

from the tedium. On December 22, 1819, the General Assembly elected Mangum a Judge

of the Superior Court of Law and Equity.4'

Mangum rose to the bench through the influence of Duncan Cameron. Initially,

the senator tried to land William Norwood in the post. Opposition from rival power-

broker John Stanly, who wished to see his relative George E. Badger win the honor,

produced a stalemate. Eventually, Cameron induced Mangum to be his compromise

candidate. In the General Assembly, the official records tell a simpler story. On

December 20, 1819, the Senate placed James J. McKay's name in nomination and the

House added Badger's to the slate. Apparently, Cameron dumped his first choice before

the Assembly took any official action. Two days later, the House submitted Mangum's

nomination and began balloting. After all three candidates failed to win a majority in the

first round, McKay withdrew his name and the voting recommended. Mangum won on

the second ballot. Cameron and Mangum's back-room deal caused a brief stir within the

opposition camp. Word of the episode did not reach the press, however, sparing both men

40 All quotes from Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:19.

1 Raleigh Register, 24 December 1819.


potentially embarrassing allegations of cabalism or some other act popularly understood

to be incompatible with republican government.42

Established in 1777, the Superior Court of Law and Equity exercised jurisdiction

over both civil and criminal suits. Judges also discharged administrative duties that placed

a variety of patronage posts at their disposal. The original Act of 1777 created six

districts: subsequent addenda increased the number to eight and divided each into eastern

and western "ridings." Courts convened for six-day sessions, concluding on the final day

regardless of whether or not a trial was in progress. Even capital cases ended without a

verdict if a jury had not finished its deliberation within the allotted time. A shortage of

justices and the vast distances between courthouses necessitated such abrupt scheduling.

Barring misconduct, judges retained their posts for as long as they pleased.43

At the age of 27, Willie Mangum had been guaranteed lifetime tenure in a highly

respected profession. Unfortunately, he never enjoyed the job and contemplated resigning

almost from the start. His first assignment took him to the Sixth Judicial Circuit, a

territory encompassing hundreds of square miles in the mountainous counties of western

North Carolina. He found the region rich in breathtaking vistas but little else. "Rambling

42 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5:750; Penelope McDuffie, "Chapters
in the Life of Willie Person Mangum," The Historical Papers. Published by the Trinity
College Historical Society (Durham: Duke University Press, 1925), p. 20; Weeks, "Willie
Person Mangum," 5:240; Raleigh Register, 24 December 1819; Hamilton, Party Politics
in North Carolina, p. 32; J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, ed., The Papers of Thomas Ruffin,
4 vols. (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1918-1920), 1:234.

43 Guion Griffis Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1937), pp. 622-25.


among the knolls" and the lush green hills encircling the village of Lincolnton, Mangum

relished a rare moment of serenity. "Spring is rapidly clothing in her rich & verdant robes

. the weather is soft & delightful."" Nothing, however, could alleviate his sense of

isolation. "My desire to get home disturbs the sweet serenity of the scene," he reported

from the isolated hamlet. To his relief, the people of that town displayed more refinement

and culture than the folks he had encountered in the backcountry. Unable to hide his

disdain, he described the latter as "a population as little congenial to my habits & tastes

as the wild savage." It seems he found the rugged beauty of the landscape more to his

liking than the men and women who made it their home.45

Mangum also suffered the ill effects of the cold, damp mountain climate.

Unspecified health problems plagued him throughout the term. Spring storms washed

away already treacherous roads, rendering many impassable. Unaccustomed to driving

in such conditions, Mangum often found himself lying face-down in the mud beside his

overturned gig. Surrendering to the elements, he gave up the comforts of his coach for

the safety of the saddle. Overwork compounded his aggravation. "My labors have been

most arduous," he complained, telling his wife that he had put in more hours in his four

months as a judge than he had during an entire year as an attorney.46 Mangum would not

allow exhaustion to affect his demeanor. Presiding from the bench he cut an impressive

44 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:22-24.

45 Ibid., 1:24.

6 Quote from Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:24; See also, ibid., 5:570.


figure, exhibiting the same bearing that had won him esteem as a lawyer.47 All his hours

before a jury, however, could not prepare the young magistrate for the grim task of

deciding matters of life and death. "It is not within the scope of my powers of language

to describe my feelings on the first occasion that a man was tried before me for his life,"

he wrote shortly after handing down a decision in his first capital case. "I have just passed

through two trials of that awful character," he confided to his wife, "the first was so

critical that the weight of a hair would have saved or lost a life, & in that trying moment

I was compelled to decide." The overwhelming responsibility was almost too much for

the 27-year-old judge to bear: his depression was impossible to conceal.48

Reassignment failed to relieve Mangum's unhappiness. Late in the Summer of

1820 he was posted to the First Judicial Circuit in the northeastern part of the state.

Impressed as he was with the vastness of Albemarle Sound and the nearby canals, he could

not help but notice that the Edenton Circuit, as it was more commonly known, offered its

own special kind of annoyance: mosquito-infested swamps. Again, his letters home stress

a familiar litany of miseries; loneliness, illness, and discomfort. He painted an

unflattering picture of his new environment as "a country filled with swamps, flies

& musquitoes [sic]." "It is very unhealthy," he added, stating that he had lost nine pounds

since setting off on his journey. Inevitably, these conditions proved unbearable. In

47 Hillsborough Recorder, 11 September 1861.

48 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:21.


November 1820, less than a year after his appointment, Mangum stepped down from the

bench and returned home to Charity and his law practice.9

Privately, Mangum told those closest to him that his father's recent financial

setbacks had provided an additional incentive to relinquish his judgeship. Mangum's

ability to bail out his father was compromised, however, by his own pecuniary distress.

Falling commodity prices and marginal harvests eroded part of his estate. Risky

investments consumed even more. In 1819, Mangum, using receipts from his legal

practice, purchased land in Haywood, North Carolina, a town situated at the confluence

of the Deep, Haw, and Cape Fear Rivers. Initially, this venture turned a profit. Rumors

that the state capital would relocate in Haywood, proposed bridge and canal projects, and

long-promised improvements to the Cape Fear, stimulated land speculation in the area.

The promise of further rewards led him to form a partnership with Archibald Haralson.

The two purchased seven more lots in Haywood and part interest in a proposed toll bridge

that would span the Deep River. When Haralson defaulted on his share of the note, his

uncle, Archibald Murphey and Mangum assumed partial liability. Additional land

purchases in Hillsborough and the collapse of the Haywood land boom put Mangum deep

in debt. The ramifications of his bad investments would be felt through the end of the

decade: financial security would elude him for the rest of his life.50

49 Ibid., 1:30, 32-33.

50 Ibid., l:xxiii-xxiv, 11-14, 17-18, 37-40.


To satisfy his creditors, Mangum solicited loans from friends and family members.

His father-in-law William Cain became his most generous benefactor. The relationship

between the two men had gone through some profound changes since their first encounter.

Mangum used his position in Commons to promote Cain's views, encouraging him to visit

Raleigh before important votes. Always deferential, he insisted that Cain come at his own

convenience and not concern himself with Mangum's schedule. As a judge, Mangum

made a habit of visiting with his father-in-law before setting off on his circuit. Ties

between the two men grew stronger with the birth of Willie and Charity's first child.

William Cain hosted his granddaughter during extended visits to his home and looked in

on Charity while Mangum was away. On October 21, 1822, William gave his daughter

eight slaves. The added hands surely made life on the plantation easier for the Mangums

and improved their chances of generating revenue. Cain's tacit approval of Mangum's

decision to stake his financial recovery on farming was not shared by Mangum's brother.

Priestly objected to his brother's decision to remain a country lawyer and urged him to

move to Hillsborough. "If you continue where you are," he warned, "[you will] gradually

sink in the public estimation." The younger Mangum also felt that a residence in town

would help Willie's political career by assuring "a better chance for a participation in the

distributions of public favor." Mangum disregarded his brother's advice, choosing instead

to launch the next phase of his political career from his estate at Red Mountain.5"

51 Quote from Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:44: See also, ibid., 1:xxiv,
19, 29, 43, 247, 337-38.


On June 4, 1823, Willie Mangum announced his intention to run for a seat in the

United States House of Representatives in an election to be held that August. The race,

between Mangum and General Daniel L. Barringer, soon degenerated into personal

vilification, innuendo, and a narrowly averted duel. None of these features was alien to

the voters of the Eighth Congressional District. Historian Harry Watson argues that this

"predilection for gutter politics" served a higher purpose. Officeseekers, he insists, fell

to undignified tactics to preserve the higher principles of republicanism. Any

electioneering device was acceptable so long as it prevented unfit men from gaining control

of the state. According to Watson's paradigm, candidates temporarily set aside their own

virtue for the sake of the commonweal. The behavior of Willie Mangum and his cohorts

suggest different motives. To them, ideology was something to be exploited. Every

candidate, regardless of his factional affiliation or political viewpoint, invoked the same

rhetoric, rendering the republican ideology of an earlier era so elastic as to deprive it of

meaning. Instead of speaking to real concerns, candidates manipulated symbols and

language to arouse their followers and confound those loyal to their opponents. Editors

and printers participated in the game. Newspapers and broadsides functioned as


propaganda sheets, devoid of any purpose beyond electing their favorites and reaping the

benefits of power.'

Mangum's declaration of his candidacy caught Barringer off guard. The general

told supporters that Mangum had privately assured him that he would not be a candidate.

Mangum, in turn, denied the charge, insisting that he had personally communicated his

plans to the General. In either event, the two had made a silent accord that showed how

meaningless republican virtue -- as modern historians interpret it -- had become. Once

underway, the two began the business of campaigning. Convention prescribed that neither

man openly seek office, but like Cincinnatus, officeseekers were supposed to enter the fray

only because an alarmed citizenry demanded that they serve when the Republic was

thought endangered. Again, Mangum and Barringer ignored the dictates of custom, which

in fact had been eroding for some years. Whether in the guise of an apolitical meeting or

through surrogates, the two campaigned up to election day.2

Constitutional reform quickly emerged as the most divisive issue of the campaign.

On May 29, 1823, reform-minded leaders from Orange county met in Hillsborough to plot

their course. The rump selected Mangum and four others to serve as their delegation to

a statewide assembly scheduled to met in Raleigh that November. Speaking before a

friendly crowd, Mangum reconfirmed his commitment to modifying the document, linking

Hillsborough Recorder, 4 June 1823; Harry L. Watson, Jacksonian Politics and
Community Conflict: The Emergence of the Second Party System in Cumberland County.
North Carolina (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981), p. 77.

2 Henry Thomas Shanks, ed., The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 5 vols. (Raleigh: State
Department of Archives and History, 1950-1956), 1:51-52.


constitutional revision to internal improvements. By accepting the nomination, Mangum

invited the disapproval of a considerable portion of the electorate. The Eighth District

straddled both pro- and anti-reform counties. While most voters in Orange and Person

counties advocated revision, a majority in Wake stood opposed. Realizing that this would

cost him support in Wake, Mangum attempted to counter Barringer's influence there by

painting him as a friend of reform. The General denied the allegation as the debate

degenerated into a series of charges and countercharges. Mangum verified his claims by

assembling corroborative statements from several of the district's leading citizens and

releasing them in a circular letter.3

The testimonials of local merchant Thomas Clancy, former assemblyman James

Mebane, and other highly-placed members of the community attested to the duplicity of

Mangum's opponent. Each admitted that Barringer had indeed voiced qualified support

for constitutional revision during recent visits to Hillsborough, the county seat of Orange.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the circular is what Mangum chose to exclude. In

the official release, Mangum stated that he and Barringer had agreed to curtail public

appearances, emerging from the comforts of domestic duty only to attend Sunday sermons,

visit relatives, or to run "errands of charity." "I was utterly astonished," he alleged in the

circular, "to understand that Gen. Barringer was, on Sunday the 3d instant, thirteen miles

from home, not attending to divine worship, but talking to the people on the subjects

3 Ibid., 1:51-57; Hillsborough Recorder, 11 June 1823.


of elections and amending the state constitution."4 To his friend Seth Jones, however,

Mangum admitted that this self-imposed exile from public functions applied to Sundays

as well. "I thought proper to omit that fact lest it might hurt the feelings of some

religious people."5 Mangum's candor offers a glimpse at the discrepancies between what

officials often said and how they actually behaved. It also calls into question the value of

newspapers, pamphlets, and speeches as barometers of the ideological commitment

professed by elite figures in early nineteenth century American politics. If both Barringer

and Mangum were willing to tailor their statements to public notions of proper conduct

vis-a-vis the church, what was to prevent them from doing so with regard to secular

ideologies and institutions? Whether uttered by politicians or published by equally partisan

editors, public pronouncements shrouded in the language of republicanism or any other

popular conviction must be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

Barringer responded to Mangum's assault with an equally caustic circular. Dated

August 9, 1823, it alleged that the affidavits included in his opponent's handbill had been

written by Mangum's allies. With the election only a few days off, Barringer said he had

no time to compile his own "certificates." Instead, his offered an "unbiased" account of

events that would show that "trick and stratagem" were "the most prominent features in

[Mangum's] character." He averred that the Judge intentionally altered his speeches so

that they would conform to the opinions of his listeners. In Wake County, for example,

4 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:61.

5 Ibid., 1:63-64.


Mangum was said to have spoken unenthusiastically about constitutional revision: in

Orange he expressed himself otherwise. Responding to Mangum's insinuations that he

championed the unpopular Bank of the United States, Barringer pointed to Mangum's long

association with its leading proponent, Duncan Cameron, as evidence of guilt by

association. As for the ban on electioneering, Barringer returned Mangum's charge of

duplicity. While in Raleigh, Barringer chanced upon Mangum's overseer as he delivered

campaign literature for his master, an obvious breach of their earlier pact.6 Whether

rooted in fact, fiction or both, the General's circular proved too little too late. The mid-

August elections gave Mangum a 794 vote majority over his rival.7

Questions surrounding the authorship of Barringer's "scurrilous handbill" continued

to surface long after the last votes had been tallied.8 In a series of letters written between

September 30 and October 17, 1823, Mangum and Henry Seawell, a local politician and

judge, exchanged allegations of slander and improper conduct in connection with the

circular. Only the intercession of their seconds averted a duel. The episode began when

Seawell reproached Mangum for publicly maligning his name when he accused him of

writing the document. Mangum admitted that he believed Seawell to be the author, but

denied having made any remark that could be interpreted as derogatory. However, he did

state that Seawell's participation in the matter came after he had pledged his neutrality in

6 Ibid., 1:65-69.

7 Raleigh Register, 22 August 1823.

8 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:70.


the election. Misunderstandings heightened their mutual animosity, as each man

stubbornly postured to appear the more aggrieved party. Eventually the two discontinued

direct communication and began speaking through intermediaries. Mangum even went so

far as to go to Raleigh in anticipation of a duel that never materialized. In the end, the

two settled their differences without resorting to violence. The incident showed Mangum's

political immaturity. The newly-elected Congressman risked public censure and personal

injury over a minor misunderstanding, one that could have been cleared up much sooner

had either man issued an unqualified apology. It also earned Mangum the enmity of an

important power broker. Later in life he learned to settle his disputes quickly, defusing

troublesome situations before they became unmanageable.9

Before taking his seat in the national legislature, Mangum went to Raleigh to attend

a constitutional convention. The extra-legal conference met at the urging of a caucus of

western legislators, who had scheduled the event during the previous session of the

General Assembly. Mangum arrived on November 11, 1823, the day after the conference

began. Montfort Stokes, the venerated Revolutionary War veteran, presided over the

proceedings and assigned Mangum, Bartlett Yancey, and five others to the Committee on

Amendments. As with earlier efforts to alter the charter, this one turned on the question

of representation. The relative absence of eastern obstructionists did not ease the process.

The slaveholders in the central piedmont region found themselves at odds with the non-

slaveholding yeomen who dominated the western delegation. While the entire body agreed

9 Ibid., 1:70-79.


that population should be the basis of representation, piedmont delegates favored counting

slaves as three-fifths of a person when calculating population figures. Westerners argued

that only free whites should be counted. Mangum spoke in favor of the latter position and

also moved to reduce property qualifications for office holders. Piedmont representatives

emerged the victors, but in the process had created ruinous divisions within the reform

movement. After five days of meetings, the convention put together a list of proposals

drawn up by Bartlett Yancey and presented them to the incoming legislative assembly.10

The new General Assembly quietly tabled the plan submitted by the convention.

Twelve years passed before advocates succeeded in revising the constitution. Mangum

would not have to wait as long for his rewards. His actions at the assembly once again

caught the attention of the press, which came to regard him as the chief spokesman for

western interests. His motives were both noble and selfish. Clearly, the causes of

democracy and representative government would have been better served by his initiatives.

Equally true, however, is the fact that by expanding the power of the west he augmented

his own reputation and power. The correlation between one's geographic power base and

their support for constitutional revision was hardly a random coincidence. Western leaders

like Mangum pledged themselves to lofty principles when speaking about revision, but

knew very well the practical consequences of their mission."

"o Raleigh Register, 14, 21 November 1823; William Omer Foster, "The Career of
Montfort Stokes in North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review 16 (1939): 253-
254; Daniel M. McFarland, "Rip Van Winkle: Political Evolution in North Carolina,
1815-1835," (Ph. D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1954), pp. 148-150.

Foster, "Montfort Stokes," pp. 255-256; McFarland, "Rip Van Winkle," p 151.


On the morning of November 26, 1823, Mangum boarded a stagecoach bound for

the nation's capital. Shortly after he arrived he took the oath of office and began his

inaugural term in the United States House of Representatives.12 His first impression of

official Washington was one that would stay with him for life. "So little of principle

enters into the context of ambitious men for power," he wrote to his friend and mentor

Duncan Cameron.13 On December 10, 1823, Mangum relayed to Cameron news that "the

Presidential question is here a topic of frequent, I might almost say, constant

conversation."14 With less than a year to go before the next presidential election, Congress

buzzed with rumors as the leading contenders jockeyed for the first office. The official

business of the congress, he believed, was subordinated to the unending struggle for

power. Mangum saw little of the party spirit and devotion to ideals that he believed

guided the founders of the republic. In their place stood ambitious men leading personal

factions. The events of his first month in office were not all disenchanting. Surrounded

by the greatest orators of his generation, Mangum made special note of the talents of

Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. He wrote admiringly of the Kentuckian's "superior

qualifications and transcendent abilities," and thought that maybe his ascension indicated

that merit would determine who led in the post-partisan age."

2 Willie P. Mangum to Phillips Moore, 26 November 1823, Stephen Moore Papers,
Special Collections, Duke University Library, Durham North Carolina.

13 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:84.

4 Ibid., 1:83.

15 Quote from, ibid., 1:82; See also, ibid., 1:109.


Listed as a Federalist in the official records, Mangum was in reality as

uncommitted to old party lines as the men he had disparaged in his letter to Cameron.'6

As a conservative dedicated to protecting the rights of the states against what he saw as the

encroaching power of the federal government, Mangum looked to fellow North Carolinian

Nathaniel Macon as a natural ally. The aging senator proved a useful friend to the

newcomer. Hailing from the eastern part of the state, Macon embodied conservatism and

old republican ideals like no other man in North Carolina. He mistrusted banks, credit,

and paper currency. A strict constructionist, he vehemently opposed federally funded

internal improvements and articulated his resistance as part of a defense of slavery. "If

Congress can make canals," he reasoned, "they can with more propriety emancipate."'7

Although Mangum never phrased his objections with such dexterity, he agreed that

responsibility for internal improvements should be left to the individual states. Amiable

and outgoing, Mangum also developed a friendship with nationalist John C. Calhoun of

16 John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585-1974: A Narrative and
Statistical History (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State, 1975),
pp. 675-76.

17 Quoted in Harry L. Watson, "Squire Oldway and his Friends: Opposition to Internal
Improvements in Antebellum North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review 54
(1977):107; See also, ibid., p. 116; Robert E. Shalhope, "Thomas Jefferson's
Republicanism and Antebellum Southern Thought," Journal of Southern History 42
(1976):548; Harold J. Counihan, "The North Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1835:
A Study in Jacksonian Democracy," North Carolina Historical Review 46 (1969):358;
Henry M. Wagstaff, State Rights and Political Parties in North Carolina. 1776-1861,
(Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1906), p. 42; Elizabeth S. Hoyt, "Reactions in
North Carolina to Jackson's Banking Policy, 1829-1832," North Carolina Historical
Review 25 (1948):172; Max R.Williams, "The Foundations of the Whig Party in North
Carolina: A Synthesis and a Modest Proposal," North Carolina Historical Review 47
(1970):115; Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:305.


South Carolina. The ideological spectrum represented by Mangum's companions shows

his willingness look beyond political differences in his private affairs, a tendency that

stayed with him all his life and proved useful in furthering his political objectives."

When not distracted by the impending presidential contest, members of the first

session of the Eighteenth Congress occupied the majority of their time with internal

improvements legislation and a new tariff. Early in 1824 Congress debated a measure that

would grant the Army Corps of Engineers authority to survey roads and canals for military

use or as postal routes. Mangum viewed the proposal as part of a scheme to expand the

power of the federal government at the expense of constitutional literalism. As he saw it,

the "ultra republicans," led by his friend Calhoun, had drawn up their plan with the full

blessing of President James Monroe. "The new school has taken the principles of the old

Federalists," Mangum worried, "but press their principles much further I mean on the

subjects of internal improvements, etc., and especially in a latitudinous construction of the

constitution generally." The nationalism of the old Federalist Party had been appropriated

by men who called themselves Republicans. Strict construction, once the centerpiece of

Jeffersonian ideology, had been laid to rest. Mangum refused to accept this new

orthodoxy. On February 10, 1824, after nearly a month of discussion, he cast his vote

with the minority against the bill."9

18 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, p. 1:xx, 109.

19 Quotes from, ibid., 1:109; See also, United States Congress, Annals of the Congress
of the United States, 18th Cong., 1st. sess., pp. 1399, 1468-69.


Mangum's opposition to the Tariff of 1824 demonstrated his practical commitment

to southern economic development. Unlike his attack against internal improvements, he

phrased his objections to high import duties in economic and sectional terms, rather than

in constitutional terms. First submitted on January 9, 1824, the new tariff was conceived

as the keystone of Henry Clay's American System. The initial proposal enumerated a long

list of finished products subject to the levy. With ad valorem rates as high as 25 to 35

percent on certain raw materials -- wool, cotton, silk, hemp, and flax, for example --

southern lawmakers like Mangum complained of being trapped in a system that placed

their region in a state of dependency. Forced to sell their cotton in an open market and

to purchase Northern goods in a closed market, they denounced northern capitalists who

colluded with the federal government to impose their repressive system. Mangum and

others understood the necessity of generating revenue, but failed to see the wisdom of

protecting domestic manufacturing if it meant higher prices for southern consumers and

lower profits for southern planters.? In one of his few recorded statements of the session,

Mangum mildly rebuked the tariff, "professing his general objections to the bill" on the

floor of the House.21 To his friend Seth Jones he offered a more colorful protest. "The

Yankees will make the Southerners hewers of wood and drawers of water for them," he

cautioned, adding with resignation that the lines had already been drawn, the North "will

20 Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (New York: W.W. Norton
& Company, 1991), pp. 228-29; Annals of the Congress, 18th Cong., 1st. sess., pp. 959-

21 Annals of the Congress, 18th Cong., 1st. sess., p. 1627.


be converted into a great workshop & the slave holding states will be compelled to pay

them tribute. "22

On April 16, 1824, the House passed the new tariff, which retained its most

important protectionist features. Mangum joined the rest of the southerner delegation and

voted against the final version. However, alterations to the original draft quieted some of

Mangum's initial anxieties.23 The day before President Monroe signed the bill into law,

Mangum confided to Jones, "the bill as passed is not exceedingly objectionable, instead

of being a law for the protection of Domestic Manufacturers, it is a revenue bill It was

gutted in the Senate."24 He was wrong. The Tariff of 1824 was a protective tariff, with

duties on most raw materials remaining as high as when first proposed.2

Little of what Mangum said or did during his first term in Washington was

captured in the official records. Except for an occasional vote or brief remark, Mangum

was a silent participant. His forte was watching and listening to those around him as they

went about the business of governing. An eager student of power politics, Mangum

learned that one of the first responsibilities of a new congressman was to bolster the good

will of those who had sent him to Washington. Patronage seemed the most direct way to

achieve that end; favorable relations with the press back at home was another. Sometimes

22 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:116.

3 Annals of the Congress. 18th Cong., 1st. sess., p. 2675, appendix, pp. 3221-3228;
Remini, Henry Clay, pp. 232.

24 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:146.

25 Remini, Henry Clay, p. 233.


he found he could combine the two tactics by establishing postal routes in his district that

would be used to carry newspapers to more people. On December 15, 1823, Mangum

reminded Thomas D. Bennehan, the brother-in-law of Duncan Cameron, of an already

agreed upon plan to establish a 48 mile postal route extending from Raleigh to Roxborough

via Fish Dam and Staggville. Mangum urged his friend to start a petition drive in support

of the "Fish Dam" road so that he could present the idea to the House. In January,

Mangum's neighbor and kinsman, John J. Carrington, described the project in politically

expedient language. A new route, he implied, might extend the reach of Mangum's

influence into the remote parts of Wake and Person Counties. Voters there would gain

access to pro-Mangum literature. That February Mangum submitted to the House a

proposed postal route that covered the same ground suggested in his letter to Bennehan.26

Residents of the Eighth Congressional District, like most people in North Carolina,

obtained the bulk of their political information from broadsides and pamphlets. Ordinarily

printed on a single sheet of paper, they were often reproduced in newspapers or distributed

through the mail or by hand. Evidently, Mangum did not use his franking privileges to

deliver this material when he first came to Washington. Later, after he had mastered the

finer points of political management and organization, he used the entitlement regularly.

Newspapers carried little information of local interest. Usually published weekly,

periodicals tended to ignore the events taking place in their immediate vicinity, preferring

26 Annals of the Congress, 18th Cong., 1st. sess., pp. 798, 1627, 2654, 2659-60;
Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:88-89, 104-105; Raleigh Register, 20
February 1824.


instead to print fiction, poetry, and national news.27 An avid newspaper reader himself,

Mangum regarded the local weekly as an excellent source of intelligence. Accordingly,

he made common cause with newspaper publisher Dennis Heartt shortly before he took his

seat in Congress. Keeping with common practice, Mangum volunteered to serve as an

unofficial correspondent to Heartt's Hillsborough Recorder. On January 31, 1824, Heartt

recalled to Mangum, "You must not forget your promise to furnish me with scraps of

information as may fall within your observation."28 Despite their differences over the

coming presidential election -- Mangum supported William H. Crawford, Heartt preferred

John Quincy Adams -- the two got along well. In time Mangum and Heartt would see eye-

to-eye on the major political issues of the day, as Heartt became one of Mangum's most

trusted and valued allies. Priestly Mangum later captured the spirit of the relationship

when he jokingly referred to Heartt as "your little Irishman" in a letter to his brother. The

use of the diminutive indicates personal intimacy while the possessive suggests a degree

of influence.29

The presidential election of 1824 supplied Mangum with enough "scraps of

information" to satisfy his publisher friend or anyone else who cared to listen. The

congressman became a conduit for his friends and associates in North Carolina, feeding

27 John Chalmers Vinson, "Electioneering in North Carolina, 1800-1835," North
Carolina Historical Review 29 (1952): 175-76.

28 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:112.

29 Ibid, 1:164; Albert R. Newsome, The Presidential Election of 1824 in North
Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939), pp. 59, 143.


them details and offering his own observations and insights. His correspondence during

these first months revealed that presidential politics had a profound effect on elected

officials. Since his arrival in December ,hey seemed to talk of little else. The

machinations of Mangum and his colleagues also expose the undemocratic nature of the

nominating process. Power brokers in Washington fought each other for months to win

the right to name a successor to the incumbent president. Four of the five hopefuls

mentioned in Mangum's first letters remained before the public through the November

election. Public men presented the voters with a slate of candidates drawn from an elite

pool. Lower echelon figures like Mangum conveyed the will of the caucuses, the factions,

and the various state machines to the leaders in their respective home states and together

they labored to lend the process an air of democracy.

Mangum came to Washington pledged to support Secretary of the Treasury William

H. Crawford of Georgia for the presidency. The contest had been an issue in his race with

Barringer, and Mangum stood firmly behind the Georgian throughout. Of the five

candidates who remained in the running in December 1823, Mangum believed that only

Crawford possessed the states rights credentials essential to winning a majority of North

Carolina voters. He perceived the other four -- Clay, Calhoun, Adams, and Andrew

Jackson -- as nationalists. In Raleigh the Crawfordites secured their control of the General

Assembly with the reelection of Bartlett Yancey to the post of Speaker of the Senate. In

Commons, Robert Strange, another member of the pro-Crawford faction, completed the

coup with his election to the head of that body. On December 2, 1823, the organization

flexed its muscle by awarding Joseph Gales & Son, publishers of the Raleigh Register, the


state's leading pro-Crawford organ, the lucrative public printing contract. Nathaniel

Macon led the pro-Crawford Tar Heels in Washington. Strict constructionists and

proponents of thrifty government from across North Carolina rallied behind the Georgian

to become the dominant faction in the state. On December 24, 1823, their elected

representatives held a caucus in the senate chamber and nominated Crawford for the

presidency. Before adjourning, they named a seven-member committee of correspondence

and began organizing their campaign.30

William Harris Crawford had been a front-runner in the race to succeed Monroe

since about 1820. In 1816 he had polled a close second to the eventual nominee at that

year's Congressional caucus. As Monroe's Secretary of the Treasury he commanded vast

reserves of patronage. He used this prerogative to build a loyal following of officeholders

and political appointees. Among the populace, however, his appeal was confined to the

South and New York State. Especially popular with the older states rights Jeffersonians,

the fifty-one year old Crawford opposed protective tariffs and federally funded internal

improvements. Among the heirs to Federalism in North Carolina, Mangum was unique

30 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:101, 105; McFarland, "Rip Van
Winkle," pp. 143-45; William S. Hoffman, Andrew Jackson and North Carolina Politics
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1958), p. 3; James F. Hopkins,
"Election of 1824," in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Fred L. Israel, and William P. Hansen,
eds., History of American Presidential Elections: 1789-1968, 4 vols. (New York: Chelsea
House Publishers, 1971), 1:374; Richard P. McCormick, The Second Party System: Party
Formation in the Jacksonian Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966),
pp. 202-03; Newsome, The Presidential Election of 1824, p. 62, 102-03; Thomas E.
Jeffrey, State Parties and National Politics: North Carolina. 1815-1861 (Athens: The
University of Georgia Press, 1989), p. 21.


in his support for Crawford.31 Of all the candidates, Mangum thought Crawford a

"sounder constitutionalist" than his opponents, one who promised an administration

"marked with economy & .. rigid accountability."32

Handicapped by reports of failing health, his association with the unpopular

congressional caucus, and the uninspired choice of Albert Gallatin as a running mate,

Crawford faced an uphill battle in North Carolina. The rise of Andrew Jackson provided

a fatal blow to the state's already moribund Crawford movement. Throughout the

campaign, Mangum struggled to preserve the Crawford coalition. In September 1823,

the Georgian suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving him partially blind and bedridden. The

candidate's health disheartened his followers, but they still refused to disclose the full

extent of his illness to the public.33 At first Mangum conveyed a sense of pessimism about

Crawford's condition. He "is very ill," Mangum wrote in December, "[and] tho [sic] his

physicians pronounce him out of danger, yet many entertain doubts of his recovery."34

One month later he evidenced more optimism. While still very sick and sequestered in a

darkened room with his eyes bandaged, Crawford's convalescence was proving beneficial.

31 Richard P. McCormick, The Presidential Game: The Origins of American
Presidential Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 124; McFarland,
"Rip Van Winkle," p. 140; Hopkins, "Election of 1824," 1:351-52, 359, 367; Wagstaff,
State Rights and Political Parties, p. 45; James H. Broussard, The Southern Federalists.
1800-1816 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978), 191-92.

32 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:116.

33 Newsome, The Presidential Election of 1824, pp. 106-07; Hopkins, "Election of
1824," 1:367.

34 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:89.


Despite Mangum's repeated assurances that he was on the mend, the candidates's health

remained an issue. As the others entertained their supporters at lavish dinner parties and

elegant balls, Crawford remained conspicuously absent from the affairs that marked an

election year.3

Mangum also had to refute rumors circulating about his own loyalties. Apparently,

his abundantly-detailed accounts of affairs in Congress had left some of his friends

wondering whom he supported. On January 12, 1824, John Carrington wrote Mangum,

"You said a good deal about the Presidential Election and I thought you appeared

something wandering and did not know well which side to take. "36 Less wary, Seth Jones

inquired, "I should like (as your friend) to know if you have changed your mind & if so

your reasons, & who you are for now."37 Mangum reacted quickly and without

equivocation. "I have only to say," he responded, "that [the rumors are] wholly without

foundation." As if to further placate their suspicions, Mangum added that he had never

been more certain that "the best interests of this country require the elevation of Mr.

Crawford to the presidential chair. "38 The source of these rumors remains unknown. The

fact that they surfaced shortly before a pro-Crawford congressional caucus was scheduled

to meet in Washington may provide a clue as to why they started.

3 Ibid., 1:109, 115.

36 Ibid., 1:105.

7 Ibid., 1:101.

38 Ibid., 1:115.


An avowed opponent of caucuses, Mangum had made it clear that he would not

attend the February 14 assemblage. Dismissed as relics of a bygone era, congressional

caucuses as nominating bodies had come under attack in recent years. A public informed

by antiparty ideals would no longer tolerate closed-door, elite-dominated mechanisms like

the caucus. Three state legislatures expressed formal disapproval of the caucus: Five states

sent only one representative to the gathering, and ten refused to take any part at all. Six

of the fifteen members of the North Carolina delegation in Washington, including Senators

John Branch and Nathaniel Macon, declined participation. Aware that Crawford's men

controlled the meeting from the onset, his opponents tried to prevent the event from taking

place. Failing that, supporters of Jackson, Adams, and Clay, chose to boycott the caucus.

On February 14, 1824, sixty-eight delegates assembled to select their nominee.

Confronting only token opposition, the Crawford forces easily won the day. The session

named Albert Gallatin to the second spot and dissolved without a platform.39

Mangum played to popular prejudices with his condemnation of the caucus.

Although committed to the candidate endorsed by the caucus and working with some of

the most well-organized factions in the country, he continued to portray himself as an

antiparty populist. The image pleased a large segment of his constituency. To William

39 The final vote of the caucus delegates went as follows, William Crawford, 64; John
Quincy Adams, 2; Andrew Jackson, 1; Nathaniel Macon, 1; Raleigh Register, 27
February 1824; Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:115-16; Richard Hofstadter,
The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States. 1780-
1840 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), p. 252; Hopkins, "Election of
1824," 1:360, 368-70, 374; Newsome, The Presidential Election of 1824, p. 82;
McCormick, The Presidential Game, pp. 5, 118-19, 133.


Haywood the caucus was nothing less than a "breach in our constitution. "' John F.

Brevard of Lincoln County, North Carolina, informed Mangum that "the public [sic]

sentiment [regarding the caucus] is universally reprebate [sic]." His state, he

continued, was free from "that spirit of organised [sic] faction which exhibits itself so

thoroughly in the state of New York, & in Virginia."41 In fact, Mangum and his partners

in the pro-Crawford faction in North Carolina worked closely with Martin Van Buren and

William Marcy, two members of New York's powerful Albany Regency.42 On March 6,

1824, the Carolina Sentinel commended Mangum and the five other North Carolinians

"who refused to misrepresent the sentiments of their constituents, or to give countenance

to dictation and intrigue, by attending the Radical caucus at Washington."43 While he

warmly supported William Crawford, Mangum was not entirely happy with the outcome

of the caucus. He thought Albert Gallatin a poor choice for the second spot. The Swiss-

born, former Secretary of the Treasury, Mangum told Romulus Saunders, would not run

well in North Carolina. Gallatin himself agreed and in September withdrew from the


40 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:137.

41 Ibid., 1:123.

42 Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System, p. 252.

43 Carolina Sentinel (New Bern), 6 March 1824.

44 J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, ed., The Papers of Thomas Ruffin, 4 vols. (Raleigh:
Edwards and Broughton, 1918-1920), 1:296; Hopkins, "Election of 1824," 1:370.


Before Andrew Jackson emerged as a major contender, John C. Calhoun had been

Crawford's strongest challenger for the hearts and minds of North Carolina. In addition

to the five above named individuals, the original cast of presidential aspirants included

DeWitt Clinton of New York and William Lowndes of South Carolina. In October 1823

Lowndes died, leaving South Carolina with only one favorite son.45 As a backer of

Crawford, Mangum worried little about the threat posed by Calhoun. "Mr. Calhoun

cannot get more than [South] Carolina & New Jersey unless his prospects shall materially

change," he predicted. "Even if he should get [North Carolina], which I cannot for a

moment believe, still the vote would be thrown away."46 Mangum's main objection to

both Calhoun and Henry Clay was their nationalism. He imagined with dread the

extravagance both would bring to the Oval Office. "I have felt alarm," he wrote, "at the

splendor & profuse policy that I think would characterize the administration of either Clay

or Calhoun."47 Most North Carolinians shared Mangum's suspicion of Calhoun and his

costly programs.4

Clay's spendthrift nationalism was not the only thing Mangum found objectionable

about the Kentuckian. As Speaker of the House, Clay had recast the office into one of

45 Hopkins, "Election of 1824," 1:350-51, 361-363.

46 Shanks. The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:116.

47 Ibid.

4 Newsome, The Presidential Election of 1824, p. 129.


unrivaled power.49 Such a concentration of authority struck Mangum as anathema to

democracy. He thought Clay would use his considerable influence to affect the outcome

of the next presidential contest. If the November election concluded without one candidate

garnering a majority of the electoral votes then the House of Representatives would choose

a new president from one of the three top vote-getters. As the election drew nearer

Mangum began to see this turn of events as a distinct possibility. On February 11, 1824,

he wrote "unless the caucus shall produce considerable effect I am satisfied that an election

cannot be made by the people and will ultimately come to the House of Representatives."

After summarizing the regional strengths of each of the leading candidates, Mangum

added, "if Mr. Clay gets into the H. of R. the American people need not be surprised if

he is made president." His state-by-state analysis provides evidence that Mangum had

become an astute observer of political trends around the nation. The accuracy of his early

prognostication, however, was compromised by the withdrawal of John Calhoun later that


So much of Calhoun's political fortunes hinged on his ability to win votes outside

the South. He hoped to gain much needed support in the heavily-populated middle

Atlantic states, notably Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His backers there assured him that

they could deliver the votes. All hope evaporated in March 1824 when the Pennsylvania

49 George B. Galloway, History of the House of Representatives, 2nd. edition, revised
by Sidney Wise (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976), p. 11l; Steven S.
Smith and Christopher J. Deering, Committees in Congress (Washington, D.C.:
Congressional Quarterly Press, 1984), pp. 14-15.

50 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:116.


state convention nominated Andrew Jackson for the presidency with only one dissenting

vote. Sensing his declining fortunes, Calhoun decided to throw his considerable weight

behind the candidacy of the General. The new alliance immediately became a force in

North Carolina, where Calhoun now moved from the first to the second spot on what his

supporters there had labeled "the Peoples Ticket." The real contest in North Carolina

featured Jackson against Crawford, for neither Clay nor Secretary of State John Quincy

Adams, the other two remaining contestants, appealed to the states rights conservatives

who dominated the Old North State.5"

Crawford and Jackson's personal animosity toward one another gave the campaign

an added dimension. In an election centered on personalities rather than issues, problems

of political economy were superceded by differences of character. William Crawford

challenged the legality of the General's incursions into Spanish Florida and renounced as

unjust the treaties he had negotiated with native American tribes in the Southeast.52

Mangum never mentioned any of Jackson's indiscretions when he spoke of the General.

His silence possibly grew from his unwillingness to alienate the growing legion of

Jacksonians in North Carolina. In April 1824, word of Jackson's popularity back home

crossed Mangum's desk in Washington. Priestly informed his brother of Jackson's appeal

with folks in the western part of the state who sang his praises at every public event.

51 Hopkins, "Election of 1824," 1:366-67, 374; Newsome, The Presidential Election
of 1824, pp. 83-85, 100-01.

52 McCormick, The Presidential Game, p. 5; Charles Grier Sellers, Jr., "Jackson Men
With Feet of Clay," American Historical Review 62 (1957):538.


William H. Haywood told a similar tale. On April 17, he declared, "I am fully satisfied

that without a great revolution in the public sentiment of this state that Genl. Jackson will

be the favorite for the next presidency."53 For his part, Mangum voiced qualified approval

for the hero of New Orleans. "Gen. Jackson with all my objections to him," he wrote

half-heartedly, "I should prefer to Mr. Calhoun."54

Jackson's reputation was not the only one stained by an unscrupulous opposition.

In a campaign rife with dirty tricks, every candidate fell prey to unsubstantiated rumors

leveled by unnamed individuals using dubious evidence. Congressman Jonathan Russell

of Massachusetts, for example, falsified letters in an attempt to discredit John Quincy

Adams with voters in the western states. Only the intervention of President Monroe, who

confirmed that the documents in question had been altered, silenced reports that the

Secretary of State had been willing to grant Great Britain unlimited navigation rights along

the Mississippi River as part of the Treaty of Ghent. In January 1823, a pro-Calhoun

newspaper based in Washington, D.C. printed the first in a series of letters implicating

Crawford in a minor scandal. Writing under the alias "A.B.," Illinois Senator Ninian

Edwards claimed that the Secretary had misused government funds during the Panic of

1819 and later withheld information from Congress in order to conceal his complicity in

53 Quote from, Shanks, The Papers of Willie P Mangum, 1:137; See also, ibid., 1:134,

54 Ibid., 1:116.


the affair." In a scene rarely witnessed on the floor of the House, the normally taciturn

Mangum spoke out in defense of the Secretary. He called for an inquiry, proclaiming

Crawford's innocence all the while. Late in May 1824, a special investigative committee

vindicated the young congressman when it exonerated Crawford.56 Events had left

Mangum disenchanted and jaded. Reflecting on the episode in a letter to his friend Seth

Jones, he wrote "Crawford has to contend against the most powerful combination & I fear

as unprincipled as powerful." Still hopeful, however, he closed with his oft repeated

prediction that Crawford would win in November. As for Ninian Edwards, the erstwhile

Judge seemed to concur with his friend John Randolph, who said that the perjurer should

have his ears lopped off.57

The Ninian Edwards affair prolonged an already drawn out session and delayed

Mangum's return to Red Mountain. Afflicted with the same homesickness he had known

on the judicial circuit, Mangum's enthusiasm for Washington diminished with each passing

month. By March 14, 1824 he had lost interest in the city's gay nightlife, telling his wife

that he would forego social events altogether if he could do so without appearing rude or

asocial. Cold winter evenings and poorly-ventilated rooms conspired to impair Mangum's

health.58 The birth of his first child, Sallie Alston Mangum, only intensified his yearning

Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1971), pp. 505-07, 512-513; Hopkins, "Election of 1824," 1:365;
McCormick, The Presidential Game, pp. 124-25.

56 Annals of the Congress, 18th Cong., 1st. sess., pp. 2654-2660, 2713-2725.

5 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:146.

58 Ibid., 1:124.


to get back home. Born January 6, 1824, she instantly became a source of pride and

concern for both her parents who wrote lovingly of her in all their letters.9 Describing

the newborn to her absent husband, Charity Mangum joked, "she has a beautiful little head

& her hair is very like her father's, [only] thicker on the top. "6 From his lodgings in the

capital, the new father could only sit and wonder what his baby daughter was like. Lonely

and eager to learn as much as he could about the girl, Mangum pumped his wife for

details: "Can she talk? Does she seem conscious and observing? Does she seem to know

that she has gotten into a very naughty world? Does she know where her Pa is?" So far

removed from home, he had to rely on second-hand descriptions and his own

preconceptions to form an imperfect impression of her. "I am afraid she is like too many

young ladies," he imagined of Sallie, "giddy & unthinking.""6

The first session of the eighteenth Congress ended shortly after it had concluded

closed-door hearings on the Ninian Edwards affair. Mangum, along with most partisans

in Washington, immediately set off for home to help run the last leg of the presidential

race. Following a joyous reunion with his family, the congressman set out for the

hustings. His new status gave him an air of dignity and credibility that others wished to

exploit. Crawford organizers in the state enlisted multiple speakers at a single venue,

59 Priestly H. Mangum to Willie P. Mangum, 14 January 1824, Willie P. Mangum
Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Shanks, The Papers of Willie P.
Mangum, 1:103-04.

60 Charity A. Mangum to Willie P. Mangum, 2 February 1824, Willie P. Mangum
Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

61 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:125.


believing that the public would be more likely to accept a message delivered by more than

one person. During the late summer and early autumn Mangum shared the stump with

Thomas Ruffin and many other Crawfordites native to his district. He also campaigned

through the mails, urging his friends and associates to get out the vote for Crawford.62

Despite their best efforts, the Crawford forces in North Carolina failed to deliver

their state's fifteen electoral votes in the November election. Instead, supporters of

Jackson's "People's Ticket," a combination of former Federalist and anti-caucus

Republicans, carried the day. Jackson's victory heralded the breakdown of both

Republican solidarity and eastern-dominated politics in North Carolina. The new coalition

comprised elements that had once been at odds with one another. Counties along the

Albemarle Sound in the east combined with western counties to create a formidable

alliance against the powerful plantation districts of the middle-eastern portion of the state.

Mangum's home county of Orange gave the General a slight majority of forty-seven votes,

putting his chances for reelection in 1825 in jeopardy. Jackson's edge in the statewide

tally was considerably more authoritative. Polling 20,415 popular votes, he easily

outdistanced his closest rival William Crawford, who took in 15,621 of the 36,036 total

votes cast.63

62 Hamilton, The Papers of Thomas Ruffin, 1:311-12; Shanks, The Papers of Willie
P. Mangum, 1:153-54.

63 Hopkins, "Election of 1824," 1:371, 374, 409; Jeffrey, State Parties and National
Politics, pp. 29-30; Marc W. Kruman, Parties and Politics in North Carolina. 1836-1865
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983), p. 18; Williams, "The
Foundations of the Whig Party in North Carolina," p. 116; McCormick, The Second Party
System, p. 203; Newsome, The Presidential Election of 1824, pp. 156, 161.


In the national contest, Jackson captured more electoral votes than his three rivals

but failed to win the amount needed to take the election. As a result, the contest was

thrown into the House of Representatives where each state delegation had one vote. In

December 1824, the second session of the eighteenth Congress met in Washington and

immediately set about deciding the unfinished contest. Once again, "the presidential

question" took center stage in American politics. Contrary to the leanings of the

electorate, most of the North Carolina contingent remained steadfastly committed to

William Crawford. In spite of having served only a single term in Congress, Mangum

stepped forward as a leader of his state's pro-Crawford forces. Romulus Saunders shared

the responsibility of marshaling this faction behind the Georgian. In mid-December 1824,

Mangum felt that Jackson stood the best chance of winning in the House, but vowed to his

friends in North Carolina that Jackson would not get his vote. He could not speculate

about the outcome with a great deal of confidence because he did not know who Henry

Clay would support. Mangum suspected that Clay, whose last place showing in November

had disqualified him from the House election, would prove to be the wildcard. Whomever

the Speaker chose to back, Mangum guessed, would win.6

Mangum's seemingly innocuous observation that Andrew Jackson appeared to be

the strongest contender soon came back to haunt him. By the time his prediction had

reached Bartlett Yancey in Raleigh, it had been reworded so as to suggest that Mangum

had changed his loyalties and now stood behind Andrew Jackson. Nothing could be more

6 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:160; Hoffman, Andrew Jackson and
North Carolina Politics, p. 7.


absurd, Mangum reassured Yancey in a letter written on Christmas Day, 1824. He

continued to hold out the possibility, however, that the North Carolina delegation might

try to use its vote as a bargaining chip if Crawford's chances began to appear hopeless.

Conversations with representatives from around the country led Mangum to believe that

Jackson was fading and that Adams had taken his place at the front of the pack.65 Writing

from his father-in-law's home near Wake Forest, North Carolina, Priestly Mangum

thought Jackson's chances remained very good. He shared his brother's concern that as

a military figure Jackson would be inclined to dictate, rather than respond to "the popular

impulse of the nation." Neither brother had much respect for Jackson or the people who

placed their faith in him.66

With the new year came a renewed hope that Crawford could win the election. As

Adams gained momentum the potential for a deadlocked House grew more likely. If that

were to happen, Mangum wrote an ally in Wake County, Crawford would emerge as the

compromise choice. Still, he cautioned, Clay's refusal to make clear his intentions left the

outcome as uncertain as ever.67 Mangum also confessed his perplexity to Duncan

Cameron. Few if any officials, he stated, know what will happen next. "Clay certainly

holds in his hands the votes] of 5 states," he wrote Cameron, suspecting that the Speaker

would turn them over to Adams. These intrigues bothered Mangum, who complained,

65 Shanks, The Papers of Willie P. Mangum, 1:160-161.

6 Ibid., 1:164.

67 Ibid., 1:169-70.