Archibald Roane

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Archibald Roane
Portrait of Archibald Roane by C. J. Fox.jpg
Portrait of Roane by C.J. Fox
2nd Governor of Tennessee
In office
September 23, 1801 – September 23, 1803
Preceded byJohn Sevier
Succeeded byJohn Sevier
Personal details
Born1759 (1759) or 1760 (1760)
Derry Township, Province of Pennsylvania, British America
Died (aged about 59)
Knox County, Tennessee, U.S.
Resting placePleasant Forest Cemetery, Farragut, Tennessee
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Ann Campbell
RelationsSpencer Roane (cousin)
John Roane (nephew)

Archibald Roane (1759/60 – January 18, 1819) was the second Governor of Tennessee, serving from 1801 to 1803. He won the office after the state's first governor, John Sevier, was prevented by constitutional restrictions from seeking a fourth consecutive term. He quickly became caught up in the growing rivalry between Sevier and Andrew Jackson, and was soundly defeated by Sevier after just one term. Roane served as an attorney general in the Southwest Territory in the early 1790s, and later served as a judge on the state's Superior Court of Law and Equity (1796–1801) and the Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals (1815–1819).

Early life[edit]

Roane was born in 1759 or 1760[1] in Derry Township (then a part of Lancaster County) in the Province of Pennsylvania.[2] He was the son of Andrew and Margaret Walker Roane. Andrew Roane, who was born in Northern Ireland, was one of four sons of Archibald Gilbert Roane, a Scotsman who had been awarded land in Ireland in return for his British military service. All of the sons of Archibald Gilbert Roane emigrated to America. After Andrew and Margaret Roane both died when young Archibald Roane was about eight years old, he was raised by an uncle, John Roane, a Presbyterian minister, who provided him with a good education.[2]

During the Revolutionary War, Archibald Roane served in the Continental Army as a member of the Lancaster County Militia (5th Company, 9th Battalion, Pennsylvania Volunteers).[2][3][4] He was among the troops who took part in Washington's crossing of the Delaware River and the subsequent Battle of Trenton in December 1776,[5] and was present at the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.[2][4]

In the 1780s he settled for a time in vicinity of Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia, where he studied and later taught at Liberty Hall Academy, a predecessor institution to Washington and Lee University. In Virginia, he married Ann (or Anne) Campbell, whom he had met there, in 1788.[5][2][4]

Shortly after his marriage in 1788, Roane moved to Jonesborough, Tennessee, then still a part of North Carolina, where he was admitted to the bar and began the practice of law.[2][3]

In 1790, when the Southwest Territory was formed, territorial governor William Blount appointed Roane to the position of Attorney and Solicitor for Greene County and later Territorial Attorney General for the Washington District.[2][3] In 1796, he represented Jefferson County at the state constitutional convention. This convention wrote the original Tennessee Constitution, which took effect that same year when Tennessee became a U.S. state. Later in 1796, he became one of the three judges of the Superior Court of Law and Equity, the highest court established under the new state constitution.[2][3][4]

Governor of Tennessee[edit]

In 1801, Governor John Sevier had reached the limit of three consecutive terms allowed as governor under the state constitution, and Roane ran virtually unopposed to become his successor.[6] The Great Seal of Tennessee was adopted during the Roane Administration in 1801, and Tennessee was divided into three Congressional districts.[5] Roane also signed anti-fraud measures, a law outlawing dueling, and a law prohibiting the disturbance of public worship.[5] Like his predecessor, much of Roane's time as governor was spent dealing with disputes between white settlers and Indians.[5]

Roane coordinated efforts to begin construction of the Natchez Trace, convincing Secretary of War Henry Dearborn to construct inns and military posts along the road, and provide rewards for the apprehension of bandits who harassed Natchez travellers.[5] He also appointed a commission that successfully resolved a boundary dispute with Virginia.[5] In October 1802, Spain revoked American access to the critical port of New Orleans following the port's transfer to France, and Roane, acting on orders from President Jefferson, prepared the state militia for possible armed conflict. The situation was resolved by the Louisiana Purchase the following year.[5]

In February 1803, the state militia convened to elect its commander. The vote ended in a tie between Sevier and Andrew Jackson, and the constitution stipulated that the governor cast the deciding vote. Jackson presented Roane with evidence that Sevier had been complicit in the forging of deeds at North Carolina's Nashville land office in the 1780s, and Roane cast the deciding vote for Jackson.[5]

Enraged that Jackson, 20 years his junior and lacking in military experience, had defeated him for militia commander, Sevier immediately embarked upon a campaign to regain the governorship. Roane and Jackson released the Nashville land office documents and accused Sevier of trying to thwart an investigation into the matter while he was governor, but Sevier's popularity proved insurmountable. On election day, Sevier defeated Roane, 6,780 votes to 4,923.[5]

Later life[edit]

After losing the 1803 gubernatorial election, Roane returned to the practice of law.[3] In 1805, he again challenged Sevier for the governorship, but was defeated, 10,293 votes to 5,795.[6]

In 1811, Roane was elected to a circuit judgeship, and in 1815, he became a judge on the Tennessee Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals, which had replaced the Superior Court of Law and Equity as the state's highest court in 1809.[3][7] He served on that court until his death on January 18, 1819.[3] He was a promoter of institutions of higher learning until his death, serving as a trustee of Blount College (the forerunner of the University of Tennessee), Greeneville College, and Washington College.[4]

Roane is buried at Pleasant Forest Cemetery in Farragut, Tennessee.[8] In June 1918, the state placed a monument on his grave, which was previously unmarked.[5]


Roane County, Tennessee, is named in his honor.[3] Roane County, West Virginia, is named for a cousin, Spencer Roane.[2] A nephew, John Selden Roane, was governor of Arkansas.[9] Archibald Roane's wife, Ann, was a sister of Colonel Arthur Campbell (1743–1811) and Judge David Campbell (1750–1812), an aunt of Governor David Campbell (1779–1859) of Virginia, and a great-aunt of future Tennessee governor William B. Campbell (1807–1867).[10]


  1. ^ Sources differ regarding Archibald Roane's birthdate and other biographical details. The Tennessee State Museum [1] and the memorial marker at his grave (which was erected in 1918) give the birthdate as 1759; the Tennessee State Library and Archives lists it as "circa 1759". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture gives the birthdate as 1760, while the National Governors Association biography also gives a birth year of 1760. An article in the October 1902 The American Historical Magazine and Tennessee Historical Society Quarterly (Vol. VII, number 4, pages 322–323) gives the birthdate as "about 1760" and states that Roane and his wife had six children, while the National Governors Association biography reports eight children.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Elbert Watson (1964) and David R. Sowell (1988), Papers of Governor Archibald Roane, 1801–1803, Tennessee State Library and Archives.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Michael Toomey, Archibald Roane, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
  4. ^ a b c d e Governor's Information: Tennessee Governor Archibald Roane Archived March 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, National Governors Association website, accessed June 12, 2011
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k James Lee McDonough, "Archibald Roane," Governors of Tennessee, Vol. 3 (Memphis State University Press, 1979), pp. 63–76.
  6. ^ a b Our Campaigns – Archibald Roane. Retrieved: January 18, 2013.
  7. ^ Charles A. Sherrill, Tennessee Courts Prior to 1870, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2009. Retrieved: January 18, 2013.
  8. ^ Pleasant Forest Cemetery
  9. ^ John Selden Roane (1817–1867); Fourth Governor (1849–1852), Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture
  10. ^ Margaret Campbell Pilcher, Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families (Nashville: Marshall and Bruce Company, 1911).

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Sevier
Governor of Tennessee
Succeeded by
John Sevier