James Maria Robert Stuart (January 18, 1735-December 14, 1800) first king of the United States of America. Born in Rome, the third son of James Francis Edward Stuart (the Old Pretender) and Maria Clementina Sobieska. Brother to Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender) and Henry Benedict Stuart (Cardinal-Duke of York).
Young James was despised by his older brothers as they blamed him for their mother's death. His indifferent father sent him away to live under the care of a series of Italian nobles and German princes. James, at age 13, eventually landed at the court of Frederick II of Prussia. During his time in Prussia, James converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism. James used the alias Robert Sobieska while in Berlin. Serving with Frederick's army during the Seven Years' War gave the future king the battle experience he would need in America. During his youth, James apparently had some contact with farmers and peasants and eventually became enamored with the idea of becoming a farmer. Following the war and his release from Frederick's army James Roberts (his latest alias), made his way to the British colony of North Carolina, sometime around 1765. He attempted to shrug off all pretensions of royalty and nobility and presented himself as a simple farmer. However, his identity became more or less an open secret. Royal authorities in the colony made no attempt to harass him, possibly at London's behest. James was quite estranged from his brothers and perhaps was not seen as a threat. This "hands off" approach was tested during the time of North Carolina's Regulator movement. Some historians have speculated that Roberts was involved in events leading up to the Battle of Alamance. However, no solid proof exists that the future king was involved. Overall, he exhibited few if any, political inclinations prior to his being asked to take up the sword for the American cause.
James married Mary Craighead, the daughter of a prominent Presbyterian minister, in 1767. Together they had four children: James Stuart (stillborn 1769), Maria Agnes Stuart Madison (August 20, 1771-November 1, 1855), Alexander Robert (July 4, 1776-February 22, 1836), George Washington (January 5, 1783-January 10, 1836).
Following the capture of General George Washington, a small delegation from the remains of the Continental Congress (led by an ailing Joseph Hewes) came to North Carolina to meet with James Roberts. Hewes and the others were aware of Roberts' true identity. They managed to convince him to return to Pennsylvania with them and meet with the rest of Congress. Roberts was then persuaded to become Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army (General Nathaniel Greene had been in command of the army following Washington's capture). General James Roberts' first task was to rebuild the shattered Continental Army. General Greene had done an exemplary job of keeping a force in the field, but he had been unable to stop many men (including officers) from deserting. Within a year, General Roberts had a force that was on par with the one Washington commanded prior to Monmouth. This army's first major action was the Battle of Morristown (1779), a fierce battle won by the British but one that proved Roberts to be an excellent general. Roberts gained further stature by recapturing the fort at West Point following it's betrayal to the British in August, 1780. General Roberts' most momentous decision as commander was to abandon the planned attack on Sir Henry Clinton's forces in New York and march south in an effort to catch the southern British army in Virginia. The successful siege at Yorktown, combined with the French naval victory off the Virginia coast, resulted in the capture or death of over one-quarter of the British forces in the American colonies. News of the surrender brought about the fall of Lord North's government in London. His successors were inclined to end the war and entered into negotiations with the Americans.
After the war
One of the key sticking points in the negotiations was the status of General Roberts. It was now well-known to people on both sides of the Atlantic that James Roberts was in fact James Robert Stuart, the youngest son of the Old Pretender, James Stuart. Despite the fact that he was quite estranged from his brothers, it was feared that the Stuart banner would again be raised in rebellion against the House of Hanover. This fear was further exacerbated by Bonnie Prince Charlie's visit to America in July 1782. It is unclear what the purpose was of Charles' visit. Speculation includes Charles trying to convince James to bring the Continental Army to Scotland in an attempt to seize the crown there, Charles perhaps insinuating his way into the leadership of the American government, or even trying to secure money for his many and large debts. The brothers did meet in Philadelphia. The meeting did not go well and Charles was nearly arrested for his drunken rampage afterword. Charles was then unceremoniously placed on a French ship and returned to Europe. Shortly thereafter, James signed a public abjuration, on behalf of the entire House of Stuart, foreswearing all claims to the British throne. This cleared the way for the Treaty of The Hague, officially ending the war. The treaty was signed and ratified by both nations in 1783.
James Stuart then resigned his commission and returned to his family and his farm in North Carolina. Many were surprised that he did not maintain his command or use it gain political power. Some, even then, were calling for James to crowned king. He claimed to have no desire for power and only wished to be left to his agrarian pursuits. However, within a year James had gained a seat in the North Carolina legislature and he maintained a correspondence with many of the leaders of the American government.
James was not originally a member of the North Carolina delegation to the Constitutional Convention. Tapped to replace delegate Willaim Blount who had become ill, James arrived in Philadelphia at the Convention's most critical point. The Convention, like the nation, was being torn apart by its regional and political rivalries. It was on the verge of dissolution when some delegates had nearly come to blows and rival factions (thugs in reality) had fought in the streets of Philadelphia. The arrival of the "Saviour of the Revolution" was seen as a providence. James had not yet taken his seat in the hall and talk had already begun as to how a government could be formed with the former general at its head. This talk shifted from the notion of making him head of the Congress to making him king very quickly. James recused himself from the proceedings. Over the objections of some "radical republicans" the King's Constitution (as it came to be called) was finally drafted. It was seen as the only way to unify the nation, under the person of the king, James the hero of the fight for independence and as one who already bore the regal mantle.
While ratification was not an easy process, the new Constitution was adopted by a nation eager for internal peace and stability. On April 15, 1789 James Maria Robert Stuart became King James, King of the United States of America. Within days of his coronation, the king led a small body of troops into the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania to impose order and stop the fighting between partisans from Connecticut and Pennsylvania. He also dispatched Nathaniel Greene to Vermont to settle a similar dispute. With the violence stopped in these and some other areas, the competing land claims were submitted to King's court for resolution. The solution was for all western lands to be "donated" to the king and thus to the nation. The king, with the advice of Congress, would now have the power to create new territories and states. Surveyors were sent not only to the western territories but also to the states (to establish definitive borders) to set the new nations' boundaries.
|Reign:||April 15, 1789 - December 14, 1800|
|Date of birth:||January 18, 1735|
|Date of death:||December 14, 1800|
|Place of birth:||Rome, Papal States (Italy)|
|Full name and title:||James Maria Robert Stuart, King of the United States of America|