Tracing the cause of discontent to some demagogue

Have you had enough of presidential candidates flying in and out of North Carolina looking for primary votes?

Wouldn’t it be nice if they came to see us after the election, like our first president, George Washington, who visited North Carolina soon after he took office?

Thanks to a new book by Warren Bingham, “George Washington’s 1791 Southern Tour,” we can follow that trip traveling in Washington’s shoes.

The new book explains that the president of the new country wanted to visit the different regions to promote unity after the recent bitter battles over adoption of the Constitution had left divisive feelings in states like North Carolina.

Because the book follows Washington’s travels day-by-day with detailed information about each stop, it provides a nice itinerary for a modern traveler who wants to see our state the way George Washington did.

Coming from Virginia, Washington’s first stop was at Halifax along the Roanoke River, a few miles south of today’s Roanoke Rapids. Halifax was an important place, a center of politics and commerce. It was the home of William R. Davie, a founder of the University of North Carolina and a strong advocate of the nation’s new federal constitution. The state’s leading opponent of that constitution, Wiley Jones, also lived there.

Thanks to the old town’s status as a historic site, some of the buildings that Washington saw and visited in April 1791 are still there.

From Halifax Washington’s party made its way to Tarboro where he was underwhelmed by a one-gun salute. But he must have been impressed by the lovely town commons established in 1760. Still in existence, it is on my list of must-experience places.

In New Bern Washington dined and danced at the Tryon Palace, now rebuilt and restored for modern visitors to enjoy.

After a long passage through longleaf pine forests, the party arrived in Wilmington, then the state’s largest city. “Though it was Easter,” writes Bingham, “Washington did not attend a church service.”

The DuBois Boatwright House at 14 South Third Street and the Mitchell-Anderson House at 102 Orange Street are among the few existing buildings that Washington might have seen in 1791.

From Wilmington, the party moved into South Carolina on April 27. After a few weeks in South Carolina and Georgia, the party came back into North Carolina on Saturday, May 28. That was after, writes Bingham, “the president reluctantly met with Catawba Indian leaders” who were concerned, with good reason, about losing their lands which covered areas now occupied by Rock Hill and Fort Mill.

In his diary entry for May 28, Washington wrote, “Charlotte is a very trifling place.” His host was Thomas Polk, great-uncle of future president James K. Polk. President Polk’s birthplace in nearby Pineville, built in 1796, can give an idea of the modest buildings Washington saw while in Charlotte.

After a stop at Martin Phifer’s farm near Concord, the group arrived in Salisbury on May 30. Now in a hurry to get back home, Washington left the next day at 4 a.m., crossing the Yadkin River at Long’s Ferry where “ferryman’s Alexander Long’s fine home from 1786 still stands.”

Then Washington sped to Salem, where he spent two nights enjoying Moravian hospitality in buildings that modern travelers may still visit.

After a short visit to the Guilford Courthouse battlefield, Washington headed home. Shortly after crossing into Virginia on June 4, he wrote that the people he had visited “appeared to be happy, contented and satisfied with the genl. governmt. under which they were placed. Where the case was otherwise, it was not difficult to trace the cause to some demagogue, or speculating character.”

Did they have demagogues back then, too?

North Carolina’s British Queen

Here is a North Carolina history question: Which North Carolina counties were named in honor of women?

Dare, of course, in honor of Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents born in America.
Wake was named for Margaret Wake, wife of Governor William Tryon.
And then, Mecklenburg, named in honor of the wife of King George III, Charlotte, who grew up in the Mecklenburg region of Germany.
German Mecklenburg was part of the old East Germany. There was almost no connection between the two Mecklenburgs until the Wall came down.
Last month in Mirow, a small town in German Mecklenburg, important people from all over the world gathered to celebrate a “Queen Charlotte” connection that binds Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Perhaps the most important person there was British Ambassador to Germany Simon McDonald, who reported, “I was puzzled at first to find the place teeming with Americans; until I realised they were from Charlotte, North Carolina.  The delegation was headed by the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Mecklenburg County, and included the Deputy Mayor of Charlotte …. Charlotte, NC, was founded in 1762, the year after Charlotte became Queen.  Its symbol is still Charlotte’s crown; the Deputy Mayor proudly pointed out that a crown tops Charlotte’s tallest building, the Bank of America HQ.”
What brought all these Charlotte-connected people together? In the words of the ambassador, it was “to take part in ceremonies to mark the 250th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III.”
And why was this tiny town, population about 3,500, chosen to host the event? The ambassador explained that the future queen “was born at Mirow on 19 May 1744.”
Charlotte was living in the schloss, the German word for castle or palace, in Mirow when, at age17, she departed in August, 1761 for England to marry King George.
When I first visited Princess Charlotte’s schloss in 1990, it was lovely, but in bad repair. It seemed way too small to be a real castle. But, as the ambassador explained, that was a blessing. “Its small size and intact roof saved it during the DDR [East German] time when the authorities systematically demolished princely palaces.”
After the unification of Germany, it took the heroic efforts of a group of Mirow residents and the support of wise officials of German Mecklenburg’s government to keep the schloss from being sold to private owners.
The schloss, though small, turned out to be something very special because, as the ambassador explained, its first owner, Charlotte’s grandmother, “built beautifully on a modest scale; the final touches were provided by Italian painters and sculptors …coaxed north from Berlin when Frederick the Great could not afford to pay their fees during the Seven Years War (1756-63).”
The government of German Mecklenburg, with support from the European Union, is pouring millions of euros into restoring the schloss. One special small room, by itself, will cost almost a million euros. Expected completion date: 2014.
 Speaking to his fellow British citizens, the ambassador continued, “I recommend a visit in three years to see what you’re investing in as an EU taxpayer: it promises to be spectacular.”
I agree. But don’t wait. With the lovely grounds on the small castle island, a special gatehouse with a room dedicated to a partnership with North Carolina, a hotel, a marina, restaurants, and the historic church where Charlotte was baptized, all within sight of each other, and less than two hours from Berlin, Mirow cries out for a visit by North Carolinians—right now.
For British Ambassador Simon McDonald’s complete report on the events in Mirow, see
For a video of my search for Princess Charlotte see: