Politicians, it appears, are cut from the same cloth regardless of era.
Such is the case of William Blount, a North Carolina delegate at the Constitutional Convention. Although well educated, Blount was mostly a silent participant at the event, but he was definitely on board with the concept — signing his name to our country’s governing document.
Just a few years later, in 1790, president George Washington named Blount governor of the Southwest Territory and Blount was instrumental is the creation of the state of Tennessee.
Everything was going great for the 41-year-old who had also taken up land speculation — a business interest that aligned quite nicely with his role as governor. When the state legislators elected Blount United States Senator from Tennessee in 1796, he owned an estimated 1 million acres of land and was very popular in his home state.
Blount was loved, in large part, because he stood with the residents — diligently working to define and enforce a boundary between white settlers and the Cherokee Nation.
At this point everything is right on track for the industrious Blount:
- His constituents love him
- He owns a lot of land
- As current Senator and former governor he has insider access to land deals
- He is well connected to white settlers and Indian Nation leaders
He was in great shape except in one key area — he was broke. The land speculations had stretched him too thin financially.
Undeterred, the ever-resourceful Blount used his connections with influential Indian and British leaders to hatch up a scheme to solve his money woes. Conspiring with Cherokee and Creek Nation leaders and a handful of frontiersmen, Blount decided to steal Florida and Louisiana from Spain and hand over the stolen land to the British.
It turns out, though, working as a agent of a foreign power is illegal (and treason) — but his plan could have worked if not for one small flaw — he put the plan in writing. His house of cards came tumbling down after a letter detailing the scheme fell into the hands of United States president John Adams.
Adams forwarded the information to Congress and five days later the House of Representatives impeached Blount. The Senate, dropped the charges, instead voting 25-1 to expel Blount from the United States Senate.
Despite his ouster in 1797, life went on pretty much the same for Blount until his death three years later. In 1798, he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate and rose to Speaker. He never spent a day in jail for his foiled plot.
Blount died in 1800, a few days short of his 51st birthday. He is buried in Knoxville, Tenn.
Source: The Book of Bastards: 101 Worst Scoundrels and Scandals from the World of Politics and Power by Brian Thornton