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Home North Carolina Person County City of Roxboro Historical Markers J. G. A. Williamson

J. G. A. Williamson

NC-157, Roxboro, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"First U.S. representative to Republic of Venezuela, 1835-1840; member of N.C. General Assembly. Birthplace was 1/2 mile S.E."
     John Gustavus Adolphus Williamson, first American diplomatic representative to Venezuela, was born on December 2, 1793, to James Williamson, a wealthy Person County planter. His mother, whose name is unknown, died shortly after his birth. Williamson entered the University of North Carolina in 1813 but did not graduate. He studied law but never practiced, entering instead the mercantile business in New York. After his return to Person County, Williamson was elected to the General Assembly, where he made his name as a Jackson and Calhoun supporter, for three terms (1823-25).

     In 1823 Williamson sought “a situation…that should be a permanent and honorable one to which there might be attached a salary and perquisites, or salary alone sufficient for a genteel living.” His political friends, including Hutchins Burton, Romulus Saunders, and Bartlett Yancey wrote letters of recommendation that helped Williamson in 1826 to secure the appointment of Consul of the United States at LaGuayra, Republic of Colombia. He remained in LaGuayra until 1832 when he returned to the United States and married Frances Travis of Philadelphia. The following year he ran for Congress in the district that was comprised of Wake, Orange, and Person Counties. Around the time of his defeat in that race, Williamson received a letter from the Secretary of State asking for an explanation for his absence from his diplomatic position and requesting that he return to it immediately. Williamson returned alone, but in February 1834 wrote for permission to go to Philadelphia to get his wife. While back in the United States he learned that the government was going to recognize the Republic of Venezuela (newly separated from Colombia) by sending a charge d’ affaires. Well acquainted with the language and the area, Williamson was well suited for the position and became the first American diplomat to Venezuela in 1835.

     While in Caracas, Williamson faithfully kept a diary. The surviving manuscript is an important personal narrative of Venezuela’s formative years and a vivid account of current world events, as the author recorded his thoughts after reading newspapers received by mail. Frances Williamson, never happy in Venezuela, left her husband in February of 1840. Williamson died six months later on August 7, 1840. He is buried in the English Cemetery in Caracas. His diary is in the William T. Morrey Collection at Louisiana State University, and an edited and annotated version is in the North Carolina State Archives.

John Gustavus Adolphus Williamson Collection, North Carolina State Archives
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 6, 220—sketch by Charles H. McArver Jr.
Nancy Jane Lucas, “Caracas Exile,” North Carolina Historical Review (October 1947): 485-493