William Blount

Blount’s statue at the National Constitution
Center in Philadelphia


William Blount is the only Tennessean who signed the U.S. Constitution.

He was governor of the Southwest Territory, which Tennessee was part of before it became a state.

He was also a U.S. Senator from Tennessee and the first member expelled from that body.

Let’s take these points one at a time:

The state of North Carolina had five delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. One was William Blount, a land speculator who served in the North Carolina House of Commons. Blount was skeptical about the new Constitution. But, like the other delegates from North Carolina, he signed it.

Rocky Mount, in Sullivan County

After the Southwest Territory was formed, President Washington appointed Blount to be its new governor. Blount moved west and at first made his capital at a private home known as Rocky Mount.

During his tenure as governor, Blount focused on relations with the Cherokee Nation. He was hopeful when he negotiated the Treaty of the Holston with the Cherokees in 1791. But the treaty did not ensure peace (see clipping on the right). Fighting between the settlers and American Indians continued throughout his tenure, culminating with the defeat of the Chickamaugans at the Nickajack Expedition in 1794.

Blount’s grave in Knoxville

When Tennessee became a state in 1796, Blount was appointed to be one of Tennessee’s first two U.S. Senators. But in 1797 he was expelled from the U.S. Senate for his role in a complicated scheme involving British control over the city of New Orleans. Blount moved back to Tennessee and was elected to the legislature a year later. He died in an epidemic in 1800.

Blount County and Blountville are both named for this important man.