Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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George Nicholas

GEORGE NICHOLAS (ca. 1754–1799)

“Richmond, State of Virginia. In convention, Wednesday, the 25th of June, 1788: The convention . . .” Richmond: Printed by Aug. Davis ... [1788], Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention Broadsides Collection, Library of Congress.

George Nicholas, born in Williamsburg about 1754, was the son of Robert Carter Nicholas, treasurer of Virginia from 1766 to 1776, and a great grandson of Robert "King" Carter. He attended the College of William and Mary and became a noted attorney. Nicholas was a lieutenant colonel in the Continental army but spent much of his time in Baltimore and did not participate in any significant engagements. During service in the House of Delegates in 1778–1779, 1781–1782, 1783, and from 1786 to 1788, the last three terms representing Albemarle County, Nicholas became friendly with James Madison.

Elected to the Virginia Ratification Convention of 1788, Nicholas followed Madison's lead and spoke in favor of ratification of the proposed new Constitution. Soon after the convention, he moved west to Kentucky, where he had a distinguished career as an attorney, as a leading member of the Kentucky Constitutional Convention of 1792, and as the first attorney general of the state and professor of law at Transylvania University. Nicholas wrote important letters on western affairs to Madison and to Thomas Jefferson, which George Washington also read, and tried to convince the federal government to increase its military presence in the West to protect settlers from Indian incursions and to secure westerners' access to the Mississippi River. George Nicholas died in Lexington, Kentucky, on July 25, 1799.