Wilson Cary Nicholas
|Wilson Cary Nicholas|
|Wilson Cary Nicholas, by Gilbert Stuart. 1805.|
|United States Senator
December 5, 1799 – May 22, 1804
|Preceded by||Henry Tazewell|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Moore|
|19th Governor of Virginia|
December 1, 1814 – December 1, 1816
|Preceded by||James Barbour|
|Succeeded by||James P. Preston|
January 31, 1761|
|Died||October 10, 1820
|Relations||Brother of George Nicholas
Uncle of Robert C. Nicholas
|Alma mater||College of William and Mary|
Nicholas was born in Williamsburg, Virginia and later attended the College of William and Mary there. According to Nicholas's entry in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, he served in the American Revolutionary War as commander of George Washington's Life Guard until the unit disbanded in 1783. This appears to be an error: his entry in American National Biography states that "he commanded Virginia volunteer units from the fall of 1780 until the following fall, but there is no evidence that he was actually involved in battlefield action."
During the deliberations, on June 6, 1788, Nicholas countered Patrick's Henry's objection that correcting defects in the new national Constitution by way of the Article V convention would be excessively difficult. Said Nicholas: "The conventions which shall be so called will have their deliberations confined to a few points; no local interest to divert their attention; nothing but the necessary alterations. They will have many advantages over the last Convention. No experiments to devise; the general and fundamental regulations being already laid down."
During the years 1794-1800, Nicholas served again in the State house of delegates. He was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Henry Tazewell and served from December 5, 1799, until May 22, 1804, when he resigned to become collector of the port of Norfolk 1804-1807. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the Tenth and Eleventh Congresses and served from March 4, 1807, until his resignation November 27, 1809. Nicholas was chosen to be Governor of Virginia and served in that position 1814-1817.
Nicholas also served as president of the Richmond branch of the Second Bank of the United States. His speculations in western lands put him in serious debt during the Panic of 1819. Having convinced Thomas Jefferson to endorse two of his notes for $10,000 each, he also plunged Jefferson into debt.
He died at Tufton, near Charlottesville, Virginia. As his daughter had married Jefferson's grandson, Nicholas was a Jefferson relation. Thus, he was interred in the Jefferson burying ground at Monticello, near Charlottesville.
Nicholas County, West Virginia was formed in 1843 and named in honor of Nicholas.
- Dennis Golladay. "Nicholas, Wilson Cary". American National Biography Online, February 2000.
- Eliot's Debates, vol. 3, p. 102, quoted in Russell L. Caplan, Constitutional Brinksmanship, Amending the Constitution by National Convention (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 139.
- Herbert E. Sloan, Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001), p. 219
- Archival Records
|United States Senate|
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Virginia
December 5, 1799 - May 22, 1804
Served alongside: Stevens T. Mason, John Taylor, Abraham B. Venable
|United States House of Representatives|
Thomas M. Randolph, Jr.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 21st congressional district
March 4, 1807 - November 27, 1809
David S. Garland
|Governor of Virginia
December 1, 1814 - December 1, 1816
James P. Preston