Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jonathan M. Chu

Second Advisor

Elizabeth McCahill

Third Advisor

Vincent J. Cannato


North Carolina’s first ratifying convention at Hillsborough left the state outside of the Union. The state’s choice not to ratify the Constitution in 1788 has been widely overlooked given that North Carolina did ratify the Constitution a little over a year later. The thesis examines the motivating factors behind the decision not to ratify at Hillsborough, arguing the relationship between taxation and representation in the national legislature left many North Carolinians certain that the new federal system would end in despotism. The first chapter addresses the regional tensions that led to the development of two distinctive cultures between the eastern and western regions of North Carolina with a focus on the development of western culture. The second chapter addresses the role of the North Carolina delegation at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. This chapter takes into consideration the backgrounds of the delegates as well as their actions at the convention to understand the eastern perspective on ratification. The final chapter focuses on the Hillsborough ratifying convention in 1788 and examines the arguments of both eastern and western delegates to understand the philosophical differences that emerged as a result of cultural differences. The thesis concludes that the western delegation, which easily outnumbered the eastern delegation, refused to ratify the Constitution at Hillsborough because of a history of government corruption and abuse at the expense of westerners, who believed the legislative structure proposed in the Constitution would result in despotism due to the relationship between taxation and representation.


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