the area. Young Davie was educated at
Queens College in nearby Charlotte and
the College of New Jersey, now Princeton.
He enlisted in the military before graduat-
ing; he later started a law practice in Salis-
bury but re-upped as the Revolution
moved southward. Described as a brilliant
cavalry leader, Davie rose to the rank of
commissary general, arming and supplying
Gen. Nathaniel Greene.
Mter the war, he moved to the eastern
part of the state to practice law in Halifax,
which afforded him a west-east comparison
that gave him a taste of the deeply seeded
sectionalism that would figure in the battle
to start a public wuversity. Davie was
elected to the General Assembly, and he
was one of eight delegates to the Constitu-
tional Convention of 1787 who was not
born in the colonies.
He returned as a committed Federalist
in a North Carolina reluctant to join the
union. The same specter of an unseemly
aristocracy that left them late to sign on to
the Constitution made many of the state's
leaders skeptical of the idea of a wuversity.
Davie had staked himselfas a public educa-
tion proponent. He introduced the bill to
establish UNC in 1789, and he articulated
the case for it. There was the issue of
money - none available. Davie also introduced the Escheats Act, which held the
potential for a windfall to the state in large
tracts of unclaimed land in western North
Carolina guaranteed to those who fought
in the war. But the escheats were slow to
yield; Davie led an effort to raise a $10,000
loan from the Legislature, and soon the
search was on for a campus as near as possible to the state's center.
In September 1793 Davie wrote,"The
seat of the University is on the sumnut of a
very high ridge. There is a gentle declivity of
300 yards to the village, which is situated on
a handsome plain, considerably lower than
the site of the public buildings, but so greatly
elevated above the neighboring country as to
furnish an extensive and beautiful landscape,
composed of the heights in the vicinity of
Eno, Little and Flat Rivers....
"This town being the only seat of
learning immediately under the patronage
of the public, possessing the advantages of a
central situation, on some of the most public roads in the state, in a plentiful country
and excelled by few places in the world,
either for beauty of situation or salubrity of
air, promises, with all moral certainty, to be
a place of growing and permanent impor-
The Davie Award Jor extraordinary service
to UNC or to society is the highest award
given by the tn/stees. There are portraits oj
Davie in the chancellor~ qffice, the UNC Sys-
tem president~ home, the Di-Phi Soa"eties' col-
lection, Wilson Library and possibly elsewhere.
Namesakes - the giant poplar and two oj its
cjJspring, and the psychology building - are
within a rock-throw oj the cornerstone that was
swung into place on Oct. 12, 1793, in a ceremony carifully planned by WR. Davie.
This summer, UNC archeologists will take
students to Tivoli, Davie~ plantation in South
Carolina, to see what they can.fi11d ojhis life.
Believed to have owned about 100 slaves at
Tivoli, Davie retired there in 1803 and died
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