Romulus Mitchell Saunders was born March 3, 1791, near Milton in Caswell County to William Saunders and Hannah Mitchell Saunders. He attended local schools (Hyco and Caswell Academies) and the University of North Carolina. At age 24, after becoming a member of the bar, he was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons, serving two years as speaker.
Beteen 1821 and 1827 Saunders represented North Carolina in the United States House of Representatives. His career also included North Carolina State Attorney General, holding the position as a North Carolina Superior Court Judge, and running for the North Carolina governorship in 1840 (unsuccessfully). Saunders was the United States Minister to Spain 1846-1849 and was on the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees for forty-five years.
On December 27, 1812, he married Rebecca Peine Carter and they had at least four children. Upon the death of his first wife, he married Anne Heyes Johnson on May 26, 1823, with at least four children resulting.
According to biographer H. G. Jones in Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, Editor (1994) at 286:He was a man of considerable ability and talent, but he was rough-hewn in his appearance and speech, often intemperate in his statements, and intensely partisan in his associations. He was popular among the rank-and-file Democrats, but his inveterate pursuit of public office eventually diminished his influence among party leaders. Early in his career he lived at Longwood in Milton, North Carolina.