He was an outspoken advocate of limited government; that’s probably why.
Troy Kickler, the historian who heads the North Carolina History Project (and who will soon be a blogger on Liberty and Power), is trying to restore awareness of Macon. Troy is editing Macon’s letters, and on December 1 he gave a talk about the legislator at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.
Nathaniel Macon opposed adopting the Constitution, believing that a powerful national government would destroy the liberties of individuals and state governments. He lost that fight, of course, but once the Constitution was adopted, he consistently opposed expanding the federal government’s powers (expansion that began almost immediately).
Macon became a national figure—and Speaker of the House—by opposing the Sedition Act of 1798, a clearly unconstitutional act that banned “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” about the government. The act was designed to quash the evolving Republican Party. The law “sunset” in 1801 and Macon helped keep it from being reenacted.
Macon opposed debt (public and private) and paper money, favored free trade, and hated government meddling. Among the quotes that Troy shared with his listeners:
“The attempt to govern too much has produced every civil war that ever has been, and . . . probably, every one that ever may be.”
“Principles can never change and what has lately been called the law of circumstances is an abandonment of principle, and has been the ruin of all free governments, and if the Republican party fall in the United States, it is owing to the same cause.”
That last one is something to reflect on at the close of 2008.