Thomas Burke (North Carolina)

Thomas Burke (c. 1747 in Galway, Ireland, † December 2, 1783 in Orange County, North Carolina) was an American politician and the third Governor of North Carolina.

Early years and political rise

The exact date of birth of Thomas Burke is unknown. It is estimated that he was born around the year 1747. He studied medicine and in 1764 emigrated from Ireland to the then British colony of Virginia. There he settled in Accomack County and practiced for several years as a doctor. Then he decided to study law. After passing the examination and his admission to the bar he began in Norfolk, Virginia, a career as a lawyer. In 1771 he left Virginia and moved to Hillsboro in the former British colony of North Carolina. From the beginning he was a supporter of the American Revolution. He wrote pamphlets against the British Stamp Act, which had become a bone of contention in the American patriots. He was a delegate in 1775 and 1776 at two important meetings in North Carolina, which prepared the way to independence and drafted a new constitution for North Carolina. In 1776 he was elected to the House of Representatives from North Carolina. Between 1777 and 1781 he represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. When the city was threatened by the British, he joined the troops for defense.

Governor of North Carolina

In June 1781 Governor Abner Nash resigned because of differences with the House of Representatives from North Carolina. The House of Representatives then chose Thomas Burke as the new governor. His tenure was short but very moving. The main problem was still the war against the British. In September, Burke fell into the hands of the British, who detained him near Charleston, South Carolina. This was a kind of honor prison. At his word of honor he was allowed to move relatively freely, but many a time but was mistreated by his captors. Therefore, he did not trust the British and feared for his life. For this reason he used in January 1782 an opportunity to escape. After his return he resumed his work as governor of North Carolina again. However, his escape was pushed against his word of honor given for some important people in North Carolina with incomprehension. That was one reason why Thomas Burke was not confirmed in April 1782 in his office.

End of life and death

Burke has never really recovered from the ill-treatment in captivity. Added to this was the refusal of a re-election. His health rapidly deteriorated and he died on 2 December 1783.