Nash, Abner

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Nash, Abner

NASH, ABNER. (1740–1786). War governor of North Carolina. North Carolina and Virginia. Born in Amelia County, Virginia, around 1740, Abner Nash became an attorney and served in the Virginia legislature from 1761 to 1762. He then moved to Halifax, North Carolina, with his brother Francis Nash in 1762. Elected to the North Carolina Assembly in 1764, 1765, and from 1770 to 1771, Nash married the widow of Governor Arthur Dobbs. He sued the estate of the governor for his wife's property in a case that eventually set the assembly against the royal governor and accelerated the controversy with the Crown. Following the death of his wife in 1771, Nash moved to New Bern, serving in Tryon's forces as a major of militia at the battle at Alamance on 16 May 1771. The following year he became a leader of the Patriot cause, helping to drive Governor Martin out of North Carolina. He served in the Provincial Congress and on the provincial council from 1774 to 1776.

After helping to write North Carolina's constitution, Nash was elected the first speaker of the House of Commons in 1777, moving up to the state senate in 1779, where he was again elected speaker. In the spring of 1780, as his state became a theater of active military operations, Nash was elected governor. While he was energetic, he chafed under the constitutional weaknesses of his office and then objected to what he considered to be unconstitutional acts by the Assembly in appointing Richard Caswell as commander of the militia, in establishing a board of war and, subsequently, in creating a council extraordinary with powers that undermined his own. The Loyalist uprising of 1781 led to the temporary dissolution of the state's government, as well as to the burning of Nash's home during Major James Craig's raid on New Bern in August 1781. Declining a second term, Nash returned to the House of Commons in 1782, 1784, and 1785. He declined election to Congress in 1778, but accepted in 1782, 1783, and 1785. However, he did not attend a single session in these last two years. Elected again in 1786, Nash decided to attend Congress, but died in New York City on 2 December 1786.

SEE ALSO Alamance, Battle of the; Nash, Francis.

                      revised by Michael Bellesiles