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Revolutionary Charleston, 1765-1800

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Revolutionary Charleston, 1765-1800
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Deaton, Stanley Kenneth, 1964-
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African Americans ( jstor )
American Revolution ( jstor )
Artisans ( jstor )
Backcountry ( jstor )
Cities ( jstor )
Merchants ( jstor )
Political revolutions ( jstor )
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United States history ( jstor )
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1997.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 356-409).
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Typescript.
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Vita.
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by Stanley Kenneth Deaton.

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REVOLUTIONARY CHARLESTON, 1765-1800


STANLEY KENNETH DEATON














A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA




REVOLUTIONARY CHARLESTON, 1765-1800
By
STANLEY KENNETH DEATON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PFilLOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1997


Copyright 1997
by
Stanley Kenneth Deaton


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to
there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17:20
Many people helped me to move this mountain. Though historical research and
writing are inherently solitary and lonely exercises, they are impossible to do successfully
without the help and support of others. My academic debts begin with my dissertation
supervisor, Dr. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, and the members of my committee, professors
Jeffrey S. Adler, David R. Colburn, C. John Sommerville, and Samuel S. Hill (who
graciously agreed to serve at the last moment). With remarkable patience they demanded
that I rethink my ideas and question my assumptions, hammered away at my sloppy use
of commas and passive voice, and continually challenged me to become a better thinker,
writer, and historian. I could not have chosen better mentors. Finally, I owe a special
intellectual debt to Dr. Carl J. Vipperman, who first kindled my interest in South Carolina
history as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia.
I am grateful to Allen H. Stokes, Henry Fullmer, and Daniel Boice of the South
Caroliniana Library of the University of South Carolina, Columbia; former directors
Alexander Moore and Joseph Kitchens and director of publications Stephen Hoffius of
the South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston; Elizabeth Alexander and Bruce
Chappel of the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida; Dr.


John Ingram, director of Special Collections at the University of Florida Libraries; the
staffs of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, the
Charleston Library Society, and the University of Floridas Interlibrary Loan department;
and Betty Convine, Kimberly Yocum, and Linda Opper of the UF Department of History.
The Department of History at the University of Florida provided teaching
assistantships for more years than I had a right to expect. The Universitys College of
Liberal Arts and Sciences awarded a generous fellowship that allowed me to spend a
summer in Columbia. And it was my good fortune and pleasure to work for three years
with University legend Dr. Samuel Proctor in the Oral History Program. Special thanks
to Dr. Barbara Oberlander of Santa Fe Community College, who took a gamble and gave
me my first opportunity to teach my own class. Her kindness will not be forgotten.
My personal debts to friends and family are many. Daniel W. Stowell is partially
responsible for getting me into this mess to begin with. If I was sometimes a burden to
him, I cannot say with any honesty that I regret a minute of it. I was fortunate to enter the
graduate program at the University of Florida with five men who turned out to be more
than just colleagues. They made the long journey of classes, qualifying exams, and
dissertations a little less bumpy and a lot more fun. My thanks to the Fab Five, great
friends, learned scholars, and pretty good poker players: Andrew Granddad Chancey,
Glenn Brains Crothers, Mark Ignatius Greenberg, Dan Snuggles Kilbride, and
Chris Gomez Olsen. My aunt and uncle, Helen and Nathaniel Deaton, opened their
home and hearts to me on my many research trips to Charleston. They are two very
special people. April Arrington has become the sister I never had, a confidant who shares
IV


my joys, sorrows, occasional triumphs, and my love of the Pandas buffet lunch. Her
warm heart and laughter helped preserve my sanity, and I count her friendship among my
greatest treasures. Finally, many thanks to dear friends Don and Dawn Denny, Bryan and
Lynn Drost, Bret and Shawna Hegi, Jim and Jan Johnson, and Scot Hawes, all of whom
must have wondered what was taking me so long but had the good grace not to ask.
My greatest debts are to my family. Ken and Elaine Grizzle generously supported
me throughout this endeavor, never questioning a decision that moved their daughter far
from home. I love them both very much and am honored to be their son-in-law. My big
brother Jeff bailed me out of many difficult school projects when we were growing up,
but for some reason he made me do this one alone. I hope he is as proud of the results as
I have always been of him. My parents, Bill and Jeannette Deaton, encouraged us to
follow where our interests and talents led, and they gave us both the means and the
freedom to find our own way. Their love and support has sustained me throughout my
life, and nothing I have done-especially this degree-would have been possible without
them. I love them dearly, and they deserve more than I can ever repay. Finally, my wife,
Deborah Grizzle Deaton, allowed me to follow my dream and eagerly chased it with me
every step of the way. This dissertation and degree are as much her achievements as they
are mine. She has been my rock and my strength, brightening my darkest days, believing
in me long after I stopped believing in myself. Debbie worked tirelessly, sacrificed much,
and never once complained. There will be many stars in her crown, and I thank God
every day that she chose to walk through life with me. Of Debbie, Mom, and Dad it may
truly be said, If I reached high it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.
v


TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
ABSTRACT vii
INTRODUCTION: THROUGH THE PAST, DARKLY 1
CHAPTERS
1 THE CITY BEFORE THE STORM: CHARLESTON IN 1765 15
2 THE MANY-HEADED POWER OF THE PEOPLE:
METAMORPHOSIS, 1766-1775 59
3 WE ARE AN UNDONE PEOPLE: WAR AND OCCUPATION,
1776-1782 Ill
4 DEMOCRACY AND POLITICAL TWILIGHT, 1783-1790 163
5 THE DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ECONOMY, 1783-1800 223
6 SELF-PRESERVATION IS THE FIRST LAW OF NATURE:
CHARLESTON AND SLAVERY, 1783-1800 298
EPILOGUE: TO FINISH WHAT THEIR FATHERS HAVE BEGUN:
CHARLESTON IN 1800 344
BIBLIOGRAPHY 356
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 410
vi


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
REVOLUTIONARY CHARLESTON, 1765-1800
By
Stanley Kenneth Deaton
December 1997
Chairman: Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Major Department: History
This project addresses four major problems: the transforming nature of the
American Revolution; the expansion of democratic politics and economic liberalism in
the South; Charlestons evolution from the colonial Souths largest city to an increasingly
inward-looking, paranoid, and declining port; and the transformation of slavery from a
ubiquitous American institution to a primarily Southern one. The American Revolution
transformed Charleston and South Carolina from a world that emphasized hierarchy and
deferential elite leadership to one marked by contentious, egalitarian politics and
economic liberalism. The movement replaced the notion of a classical republic led by a
disinterested, entrenched Charleston aristocracy with a democratic political economy
where individuals openly acknowledged competing political and economic interests.
Artisans, mechanics, yeoman farmers, and small merchants did not seek to exclude or


isolate themselves from the market economy but instead sought improved access to it in
order to ensure that it would benefit all segments of society, not just lowcountry planters
and merchants. Simultaneously, however, Revolutionary ideology forced many
Americans to question and ultimately condemn slavery at just the moment when most
white Charlestonians became convinced that their prosperity and identity rested more
than ever upon slaverys survival and expansion. The contested meanings of the
Revolution, growing abolitionism, and subsequent events in France and Santo Domingo
combined to raise white levels of anxiety over slavery to a fever pitch. Many South
Carolinians found themselves defending and maintaining by force an institution
increasingly labeled anti-modem, anti-progressive, and anti-Christian by much of the rest
of the world. Charleston subsequently became less cosmopolitan during the 1790s,
increasingly erecting an intellectual blockade against hostile outside ideas and people at
just the moment when its economic future shone brightest. Ultimately, the American
Revolution in the South spawned a dual, Janus-faced, legacy: a strongly optimistic faith
in political and economic liberalism that favored trade with all the world coupled with a
growing anxiety over dangerous external ideas about universal equality that threatened to
destroy the very fabric of Southern economic and social life.
viii


INTRODUCTION
THROUGH THE PAST, DARKLY
Historians are left forever chasing shadows, painfully aware of their inability ever to
reconstruct a dead world in its completeness however thorough or revealing their
documentation.... We are doomed to be forever hailing someone who has just gone
around the comer and out of earshot.
Simon Schama, Dead Certainties (1991)
This study began with the question, What were the effects of the American
Revolution in the South? Gordon S. Wood has recently portrayed the American
Revolution as the most radical and most far-reaching event in American history, a
movement that democratized the nation and cleared the way for liberal capitalism.
According to Wood, the Revolution created the most liberal, the most democratic,
the most commercially minded, and the most modem people in the world.1 Woods
thesis, however, contradicts two prevailing paradigms in Southern history. First,
Eugene D. Genovese and other Southern historians argue that the South was
dominated by patriarchal slaveholders committed to an anti-capitalist ethos that
emphasized staple crop agriculture, slavery, honor, and leisure.2 Opposed to
'Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 8, 7.
2A11 of this literature is discussed more fully in chapter five, but see in particular
Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the
Slave South (New York: Random House, 1968), 3-39. This is perhaps the most
1


2
aggressive capitalistic behavior, Southerners supposedly remained anti-modem in
outlook,3 anxious about capitalistic development,4 and culturally opposed to
economic improvements.5 They eschewed the commercial behavior that paved the
way for an increasingly capitalistic society in the North in the years after the
Revolution.6 Secondly, historians of the eighteenth-century South have insisted that
the American Revolution in the region was primarily a conservative, cautious,
political revolt that simply consolidated elite rule, in this case replacing the Crown
influential articulation of the view that Southern planters were anti-capitalists. Genovese
argues that Southern planters and their economic system were tied to the world system of
markets but were not capitalists. The planters were not mere capitalists; they were
precapitalist, quasi-aristocratic landowners who had to adjust their economy and ways of
thinking to a capitalist world market. Their society, in its spirit and fundamental
direction, represented the antithesis of capitalism. Genovese, Ibid., 23.
JThe best recent summary of this point of view is Douglas R. Egerton, Markets
Without a Market Revolution: Southern Planters and Capitalism, Journal of the Early
Republic 16 (Summer 1996): 207-221. Egerton argues that if the Atlantic market
shaped the plantation economy to its own ends, it simultaneously spawned a landed elite
with economic interests and moral values antagonistic to the spirit of modem capitalism.
Egerton, 220.
4See most recently Joyce E. Chaplin, An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation
and Modernity in the Lower South. 1730-1815 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1993).
5See for example W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1941), 3-55; David Bertelson, The Lazv South (New York: Oxford University Press,
1967); Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1982).
6For good recent discussion of the notion that the South developed differently than
tire rest of America and has been at odds with the mainstream of American values or
behavior and therefore has been constructed as a special problem, see the collection of
essays in Larry J. Griffin and Don H. Doyle, eds., The South as an American Problem
(Athens GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995), especially David L. Carlton, How
American is the American South? 33-56. The quote is on p. 1.


3
with a slaveholding oligarchy. Historians characterize particularly the Revolution in
South Carolina-home to some of the most conservative, wealthy, and politically
powerful Americans-as a limited political movement in which traditional
aristocratic leaders survived the break with Great Britain. Robert M. Weir maintains
that the Revolution in South Carolina was a remarkably conservative movement
that never led to any extensive social or economic change.7 Almost every other
historian of eighteenth-century South Carolina agrees.8 How then does one square
Robert M. Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood NY: KTO Press,
1983), 332-333.
sHistorians of Revolutionary South Carolina have denied the existence of a
radical Revolution in that state, and generally agree, as S.R. Matchett has noted, on two
points: that the Revolution was limited to political reforms and that the traditional
aristocratic leaders survived the break with Britain, despite making a few concessions to
backcountry upstarts. None has examined the radicalism of the expansion of political
and economic liberalism in the post-war decades. S.R. Matchett, Unanimity, Order and
Regularity: The Political Culture of South Carolina in the Era of the Revolution, Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Sydney, 1980, 6-7. Matchett argues for a consensus model
as a way of understanding South Carolina political culture in the years after the war.
The aristocrats held power, he argues, not in spite of popular opposition but because
they reflected the values and interests of the community at large. Matchett, Ibid., 16.
See also Mary Catherine Ferrari, Artisans of the South: A Comparative Study of
Norfolk, Charleston and Alexandria, 1763-1800, Ph.D. dissertation, College of William
and Mary, 1992; Rachel Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class
in the South Carolina Backcountry. 1760-1808 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1990); George Winston Lane Jr., The Middletons of Eighteenth-Century
South Carolina: A Colonial Dynasty, 1678-1787, Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University,
1990; John C. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus Burke: Revolutionary Republican in
Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1989); Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 332-333; E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and Robert H.
Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution (Knoxville TN: University of
Tennessee Press, 1982); Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in
South Carolina (Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981); George C.
Rogers Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys (1969; rpt., Columbia SC: University
of South Carolina Press, 1980); Frances Leigh Williams, A Founding Family: The
Pinckneys of South Carolina (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978); Richard


4
the new synthesis on the American Revolution-Woods interpretationwith the
prevailing model of development for the American South?
Charleston, South Carolina, as the colonial Souths largest city, for a number
of reasons proved to be an ideal place to examine the hypothesis of a radical
revolution in the South. First, eighteenth-century seaboard commercial cities,
according to Gary B. Nash, predicted the future.9 Though America remained
overwhelmingly rural, colonial cities were urban crucibles, on the cutting edge of
economic, social, and political change and the cradles of both American capitalism
and American democracy. Transformations in American society first occurred in
cities and then radiated outward to the countryside.10 In Charleston, if anywhere in
Brent Clow, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, 1749-1800: Unproclaimed Statesman,
Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976; Eva B. Poythress, Revolution By
Committee: An Administrative History of the Extralegal Committees in South Carolina,
1774-1776, Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1975; Robert M. Weir,
The Harmony We Were Famous For: An Interpretation of Pre-Revolutionary South
Carolina Politics, William and Mary Quarterly 26 (October 1969): 473-501; Marvin R.
Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father (Chapel Hill NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1967); Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Revolutionary Era in South
Carolina, 1775-1788, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1965; Raymond G.
Starr, The Conservative Revolution: South Carolina Public Affairs, 1775-1790, Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Texas, 1964; George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of A Federalist:
William Loushton Smith of Charleston. 11758-18121 (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1962); Frederick P. Bowes, The Culture of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill
NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1942).
Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the
American Revolution. Abr. ed. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), ix.
10In addition to Nash, see Richard D. Brown, The Emergence of Urban Society in
Rural Massachusetts. Journal of American History 61 (June 1974): 29-51.


5
the South, the effects of the American Revolution and its legacy should be most
visible.
Secondly, historians of the Revolutionary era have focused much attention on
Northern urban centers over the past twenty-five years to the exclusion of the urban
South." Their findings, like Woods, also contradict the prevailing themes of
"In addition to Nashs work, see Charles F. Olton, Artisans For Independence:
Philadelphia Mechanics and the American Revolution (Syracuse NY: Syracuse University
Press, 1975); Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1976); Dirk Hoerder, Crowd Action in Revolutionary Massachusetts.
1765-1800 (New York: Academic Press, 1977); Richard A. Ryerson, The Revolution is
Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia. 1765-1776 (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978); Howard B. Rock, Artisans of the New Republic:
The Tradesmen of New York City in the Age of Jefferson (New York: New York
University Press, 1979); John K. Alexander, Render Them Submissive: Responses to
Poverty in Philadelphia, 1760-1800 (Amherst MA: University of Massachusetts Press,
1980); Edward Countryman, A People in Revolution: The American Revolution and
Political Society in New York, 1760-1790 (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1981); Lynne Withey, Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island: Newport and
Providence in the Eighteenth Century (Albany NY: State University of New York Press,
1984); Elaine Forman Crane, A Dependent People: Newport. Rhode Island in the
Revolutionary Era (New York: Fordham University Press, 1985); Thomas M.
Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in
Revolutionary Philadelphia (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1986);
Paul Gilje, The Road to Mobocracv: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834
(Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Steven Rosswurm, Arms.
Country, and Class: The Philadelphia Militia and the Lower Sort During the American
Revolution (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987); Billy G. Smith, The
Lower Sort: Philadelphias Laboring People. 1750-1800 (Ithaca NY: Cornell University
Press, 1990). Urban studies of the Revolutionary South include Richard Walsh,
Charlestons Sons of Liberty: A Study of the Artisans. 1763-1789 (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1959); Edward C. Papenfuse, In Pursuit of Profit: The
Annapolis Merchants in the Era of the American Revolution. 1763-1805 (Baltimore MD:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975); Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore:
Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution. 1763-1812 (Urbana IL: University of
Illinois Press, 1984); Mary Catherine Ferrari, Artisans of the South: A Comparative
Study of Norfolk, Charleston, and Alexandria, 1763-1800, Ph.D. dissertation, College of
William and Mary, 1992.


Southern history. Nash, for instance, found that in Boston, Philadelphia, and New
York the Revolution brought an internal struggle for a new social order. In
Northern cities plebeian urban dwellers adopted street demonstrations, mass
meetings, and extralegal committees to challenge the established elite and force their
way into the political arena.12 Similarly, the Revolution in New York, according to
Edward Countryman, amounted to a democratic revolution that firmly laid the
foundations of a liberal bourgeois society. New Yorks Revolution appealed to
artisans, white laborers, small farmers, and expectant small capitalists, while
bypassing blacks, Indians, and women, none of whom took part as a group in the
revolutionary coalition, and none of them got much that they wanted out of its
radicalism.13 And in Philadelphia, Thomas M. Doerflinger found that merchants
displayed a vigorous spirit of enterprise by capitalizing on the commercial
opportunities stimulated by war. Indeed, he located the entrepreneurial origins of
American economic development in the drive and flexibility, the tolerance for risk,
[and] the roving quest for new markets that characterized Northernbut not
Southern-businessmen during the Revolutionary era.14 These findings are broadly
suggestive of the recent scholarship on northern colonial cities and demonstrate, in
Countrymans phrase, that the revolution was genuinely revolutionary.15 But are
l2Nash. Urban Crucible. 201,246-247.
l3Countryman, A People in Revolution, xvii, 296, 288-289.
Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise. 344, 355.
l5Countryman, A People in Revolution, ix.


7
these conclusions applicable to the colonial urban South as well? The consistent
theme of Revolutionary urban history over the last quarter-century-that the
American Revolution fundamentally reshaped Northern society, politics, and
economiesdirectly contradicts the predominant interpretations in Southern history
of an anti-capitalist South and a Revolution limited to minor political reforms. A
study of the American Revolution in Charleston thus provides an excellent
opportunity to test these competing and contradictory interpretations.
Thirdly, Revolutionary Charleston should furnish a better understanding of
the Revolutions transformative effector lack ofupon Southern cities. Even now,
upon first entering the city, a visitor cannot help but notice that Charleston seems
frozen in time, the Federalist architecture of the 1790s remaining the dominant
characteristic of the city. Though the eighteenth-century docks that once jutted out
into the Cooper River along East Bay Street have long since disappeared, there are
no skyscrapers, no subways, no factories, no concrete canyons. The absence of
modern development becomes all the more startling when one learns that Charleston
was the largest city in the colonial South, and the fourth largest city in America until
1800. How had it become an almost living museum? If it once rivaled New York,
Philadelphia, and Boston, why did it not do so now? Why did the American
Revolution not propel this colonial metropolis toward continued growth and
expansion in the early Republic, as it did for Baltimore and its more Northern rivals?
Conversely, what role did the Revolution play in Charlestons eventual decline and
stagnation?


8
************
This dissertation reconciles the contradictions between the new synthesis of
the American Revolution and the dominant interpretations of Southern history. It
addresses four major problems: the transforming nature of the American Revolution;
the expansion of democratic politics and economic liberalism16 in the South;
Charlestons evolution from the colonial Souths largest city to an increasingly
inward-looking, paranoid, and declining port; and the transformation of slavery from
a ubiquitous American institution to a primarily Southern one. The first three
chapters chronicle the enormously disruptive forces that shattered the stable world of
Charlestons elite between 1765 and 1782. These chapters particularly emphasize
the internal revolution caused by social, political, and economic unrest in the years
before the war and the chaos and disruption of the war itself. Charlestons
traditional leaders proved unable to contain the upheaval and a series of events-high
prices, scarce goods, rebellious slaves, armed invasion, military occupation, and
political and religious concessions to outsiderscombined to shake the
foundations of elite power and dominance and paved the way for substantial political
challenges in the post-war years. Chapter four examines the political results of the
Revolution: the continued challenge to elite domination in Charleston, the
incorporation of the city, the expansion of divisive democratic politics, and the
backcountry challenge to lowcountry political hegemony which culminated in
'"Economic liberalism is defined as an economic system stressing
individualism, competition, and a free market economy.


9
constitutional reform and the removal of the capital to Columbia. Chapter five
reviews the economic results of the American Revolution and the ways in which
economic liberalism muted the divisiveness of democratic politics, healed sectional
wounds, and secured Charlestons continued economic prosperity despite its political
losses. Finally, chapter six explores how increasing white anxiety over slavery in the
1790s created an intellectual blockade against potentially threatening ideas and
people. Revolutionary ideology, abolitionism, the French Revolution, and the slave
revolt in Haiti combined to poison Charlestons previously cosmopolitan intellectual
atmosphere and eventually enervated the effects of the American Revolution itself.
* * * * * * *
The American Revolution in Charleston was indeed a radical revolution,
transforming Charleston and South Carolina from a world that emphasized hierarchy
and deferential elite leadership to one marked by contentious, egalitarian politics and
economic liberalism. The movement replaced the notion of a classical republic led
by a disinterested, entrenched Charleston aristocracy with a democratic political
economy where individuals openly acknowledged competing political and
economic interests. In these days, William Flomby asserted in 1784, we are equal
citizens of a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, in which jealously and opposition must
naturally exist, while there exists a difference in the minds, interests, and sentiments
of mankind.17 The Revolution did not create modem democracy or capitalism, per
se, but as Gordon Wood has recently argued, it certainly made both things possible.
l7Gazette of the State of South Carolina. July 29. 1784.


10
It did spread the notion that all should benefit equally from the political and
economic opportunities created by the war. And ultimately the Revolution toppled
Charleston from its dominant position in both South Carolina and the Lower South.
The years 1765-1800 were transforming ones in Charleston and throughout
South Carolina. The Revolution as an event brought outsiders into the political
process and gave them a voice for the first time. Simultaneously, the Revolution
created unprecedented opportunities for economic expansion and growth, and the
elite quickly grasped the chance to invest in new agricultural techniques, new
financial institutions, and innovations in transportation. Outsiders, both in the
backcountry and within the city, demanded to be part of this processnot to
overthrow the system but to participate as equals in the market economy and in a
more participatory democratic politics. They petitioned for new towns and markets,
protective tariffs to encourage home manufactures, improved roads, bridges, ferries,
and canals to link them more effectively with the economic metropolis, while
simultaneously demanding that the political capital be removed to a more central,
plebeian location. Artisans, mechanics, yeoman farmers, and small merchants did
not seek to exclude or isolate themselves from the market economy-far from it.
Instead they sought improved access to it in order to ensure that it would benefit all
segments of society, not just lowcountry planters and merchants. This democratic
political economy was not modem, industrial capitalism, nor was it radically anti
capitalist. It simply sought to spread the benefits of the American Revolution
equally throughout white society. This in effect was the real American


11
Revolution. It certainly did not completely level society, destroy all social ranks,
redistribute wealth or property, or give complete equality to women and African-
Americans. It did, however, fundamentally alter the political, social, and economic
relationships that bound white South Carolinians together.
This interpretation challenges the contention that a majority of Americans in
the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century resisted the transition to
capitalism.18 Most historians who have addressed this subject have either ignored
the South altogether or argued that the South was non- or anti-capitalistic. This
thesis also disputes the notion that Southern planters were anti-modem in economic
outlook, anxious about capitalistic development, or culturally opposed to economic
improvements.19 Gordon Woods argument that no event in the eighteenth century
18See especially Michael Merrill, Putting Capitalism in its Place: A Review of
Recent Literature, William and Mary Quarterly 52 (April 1995): 315-326; Allan
Kulikoff, The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism (Charlottesville VA: University
Press of Virginia, 1992), particularly chapter four, Was the American Revolution a
Bourgeois Revolution? 99-126; James A. Henretta, The Origins of American
Capitalism: Collected Essays (Boston MA: Northeastern University Press, 1991);
Christopher Clark, The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts. 1780-1860
(Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Steven Hahn and Jonathan Prude, eds., The
Countryside in the Age of Capitalist Transformation: Essays in the Social History of
Rural America (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985). See also
note five in Chapter Five below.
19See Cash, Mind of the South. 3-55; William R. Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee:
The Old South and American National Character (New York: George Braziller, 1961),
95-141; Eugene D. Genovese, The World the Slaveholders Made: Two Essays in
Interpretation (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1969), 165-194; William W.
Freehling, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina. 1816-
1836 (New York: Harper and Row, 1965); Bertelson, The Lazy South: C. Vann
Woodward, The Southern Ethic in a Puritan World, William and Mary Quarterly 25
(July 1968): 343-370, reprinted in Woodward, American Counterpoint: Slavery and
Racism in the North-South Dialogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 13-46;


12
accelerated the capitalistic development of America more than the American
Revolution is as equally true for the South as the North.20 And finally, it rejects the
argument that the American Revolution in South Carolina was a limited,
conservative, primarily political movement.
Nevertheless, the American Revolution had a much darker side as well.
Therefore this work also traces the evolution of slavery from a general American
institution to a primarily Southern one. Despite-and in many ways because ofthe
sweeping changes in the political economy, the Revolution fastened the chains of
slavery more tightly upon Charlestons-and the Souths-slaves. The increased
economic opportunities created by the war helped to renew and strengthen white
commitment to the institution of slavery, particularly as the shift to tidal rice
cultivation and the expansion of cotton production further increased demands for
labor. Simultaneously, however, Revolutionary ideology forced many Americans to
question and ultimately condemn slavery at just the moment when most white
Charlestonians became convinced that their prosperityindeed their very identity-
rested more than ever upon slaverys survival and expansion in the region. Thus
Charlestonians and other Southerners became even more committed to an institution
Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery. American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial
Virginia (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975), 44-71; Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of
Virginia. 1740-1790 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982), esp. 88-138, 320-322; Wyatt-
Brown, SouthemHonor, 88-114, 175-197, 327-361.
20Wood, Interests and Disinterestedness in the Making of the Constitution, in
Richard Beeman, Stephen Botein, and Edward C. Carter II, Beyond Confederation:
Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity (Chapel Hill NC: University
of North Carolina Press, 1987), 78.


13
that would increasingly become defined as outmoded and uncivilized by the majority
of the trans-Atlantic world.
Ultimately, the American Revolution in the South created a dual, Janus
faced, legacy: a strongly optimistic faith in political and economic liberalism that
favored trade with all the world coupled with a growing anxiety over dangerous
external ideas about universal equality that threatened to destroy the very fabric of
Southern economic and social life. The generation of South Carolinians that lived
through and experienced the American Revolution was as excited about future
commercial possibilities, as open to new technologies, financial institutions,
agricultural improvements, and potential for improved transportation as their
Northern brethren. In that sense being Southern or slaveowners made them no less
modem or liberal than other late eighteenth-century Americans. The genius of our
people, David Ramsay observed in 1783, is entirely turned from war to commerce.
Schemes of business and partnerships for extending commerce are daily forming.21
But the contested meaning of Revolutionary ideology, growing abolitionism, and
subsequent events in France and Santo Domingo combined to raise white levels of
anxiety over slavery to a fever pitch. Many found themselves defending and
maintaining by force an institution increasingly labeled anti-modem, anti
progressive, and anti-Christian by much of the rest of the world. As a result,
Charleston subsequently became less cosmopolitan during the 1790s at just the
2lDavid Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, September 9, 1783, in Robert L. Brunhouse,
ed., David Ramsay, 1749-1815: Selections From His Writings, Transactions of the
American Philosophical Society 55, Part 4 (1965): 76.


14
moment when its economic future shone brightest. Charleston became caught on the
horns of an enormous dilemma, simultaneously embracing the expansive economic
opportunities of the American Revolution while increasingly erecting an intellectual
blockade against hostile outside ideas and people.
Charlestonians thus failed to follow through on most of their grandiose
schemes for economic improvements. The canals of which they dreamed that would
link Charleston with the Ohio Valley and endless prosperity remained only dreams in
the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and other cities eclipsed Charleston in
economic and political importance. The Erie Canal in New York firmly linked the
Midwest with the North rather than the South. By that time Southerners had begun
to seal themselves off from the rest of the nation rather than seek new ways to
increase economic and commercial ties.
Nevertheless, though succeeding generations of South Carolinians failed to
sustain an optimistic vision of Charleston as the economic terminus of a vast
Southern hinterland, we are compelled still to recognize the existence of a
progressive, modem, liberal vision in the South before 1800 and its origins in the
political and economic radicalism of the American Revolution. In many ways it
represented a road not taken. Yet to overlook or dismiss it as unimportant or fleeting
because of the cataclysmic events of the nineteenth century is to miss the
significance of the American Revolution in the South.


CHAPTER ONE
THE CITY BEFORE THE STORM:
CHARLESTON IN 1765
In human terms Charles Town might best be described as the capital of an African
foothold with a diverse minority of Europeans all under the shaping influence of English
West Indian experience, forcibly wedged into American Indian realms.
D.W. Meinig, Atlantic America, 1492-1800 (1986)
In 1765 Charleston, South Carolina, reigned as the undisputed metropolis of the
Lower Southern British colonies. Charlestons original English and Barbadian settlers
arrived on the west bank of the Ashley River in 1670 at Albemarle Point and relocated
downriver ten years later to the peninsula of land between the Ashley and Cooper rivers.
The city, with its wide and deep harbor, prospered chiefly because of favorable geography
and the citys expanding role as economic entrepot for a fast-growing agricultural
hinterland. But the revolutionary events that began with the Stamp Act crisis in 1765
would ultimately shatter the stability and prosperity of the city and weaken Charlestons
position of dominance in both the state and the region. When Charlestons powerful,
confident elite rose to meet the ministerial challenge to their political authority, they
found themselves in the center of an upheaval that would eventually alter not only their
government but also their society as well. The consequences of the Stamp Act tumults of
15


16
1765 reverberated throughout the region, heralding like thunder the approach of more
cataclysmic storms to come.1
'Historians have generally argued for the primacy of either geography or economic
function in explaining why South Carolina had an urban center while the rest of the South
did not. For instance, D.W. Meinig argues that Charleston flourished because of climate.
Because Charleston was healthier and cooler than the surrounding countryside, planters
and merchants built houses there and lived in town much of the year. Meinig, The
Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, volume one,
Atlantic America. 1492-1800 fNew Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1986), 172-190.
See also Herman Wellenreuther, Urbanization in the Colonial South: A Critique,
William and Mary Quarterly 31 (October 1974): 653-671; Leila Sellers, Charleston
Business on the Eve of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1934), 5. Others argue that Charleston grew because of the economic
functions involved in marketing South Carolina staple crops. The factors necessary for
marketing rice differed substantially from those needed for marketing other southern
staples, particularly tobacco. Chesapeake planters shipped tobacco primarily to London
and Bristol; Carolinians sent rice to Britain, a number of ports in southern and northern
Europe, as well as American mainland and Caribbean ports. Exporters thus had to have
extensive knowledge of considerably more markets as well as maintaining
correspondence with agents in those markets. Also, since rice was shipped in bulk,
obtaining favorable freight rates became as important as choosing the right market. South
Carolina planters thus sold their rice to merchants in Charleston who performed these
delicate and difficult tasks for them. Tobacco planters consigned their crops to Britain,
where they were sold by commission agents on the planters risk and account. There was
no need for a centralized market. Thus the centralization of the rice trade in Charleston
accounts for the citys rise in the eighteenth century. The most recent and persuasive
articulation of this view is R.C. Nash, Urbanization in the Colonial South: Charleston,
South Carolina, as a Case Study, Journal of Urban History 19 (November 1992): 3-29.
See also Nash, South Carolina and the Atlantic Economy in the Late Seventeenth and
Eighteenth Centuries, Economic History Review 45 (November 1992): 677-702; Peter
A. Coclanis, The Shadow of A Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina
Low Country. 1670-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); David A. Smith,
Dependent Urbanization in Colonial America: The Case of Charleston, South Carolina,
Social Forces 66 (September 1987): 1-28; David R. Goldfield, Cotton Fields and
Skyscrapers: Southern City and Region. 1607-1980 (Baton Rouge LA: Louisiana State
University Press, 1982), 13-27; Peter A. Coclanis, Bitter Harvest: The South Carolina
Low Country in Historical Perspective, Journal of Economic History 45 (June 1985):
251-259; Edward K. Muller, Regional Urbanization and the Selective Growth of Towns
in North American Regions, Journal of Historical Geography 3 (January 1977): 21-39;
Carville Earle and Ronald Hoffman, Staple Crops and Urban Development in the
Eighteenth-Century South. Perspectives in American History 10 (1976): 7-78; Edward


17
Despite Charlestons distance from any of the three main river systems in South
Carolina,2 the Ashley, Cooper, Stono, and Wando rivers linked Charleston to the
surrounding hinterland much more extensively than either Beaufort to the south or
Georgetown to the north.3 "It is a market town and the produce of the whole province is
brought to it, for sale or exportation," the London Magazine reported, "its trade is far
from being inconsiderable for it deals near one thousand miles into the continent."4
K. Muller, Selective Urban Growth in the Middle Ohio Valley, 1800-1860,
Geographical Review 66 (April 1976): 178-199; Michael P. Conzen, A Transport
Interpretation of the Growth of Urban Regions: An American Example, Journal of
Historical Geography 1 (October 1975): 361-382; Jacob Price, Economic Function and
the Growth of American Port Towns in the Eighteenth Century, Perspectives in
American History 8 (1974): 123-186; Joseph A. Ernst and H. Roy Merrens, Camdens
Turrets Pierce the Skies!: The Urban Process in the Southern Colonies During the
Eighteenth Century, William and Mary Quarterly 30 (October 1973): 549-574. It should
be noted that Carville and Earle emphasize staple flows and their linkage effect more
than economic function, per se. They argue that the size and spatial pattern of regional
ports and their respective hinterland towns resulted from the staple produced. And
geography, of course, determined the staples grown and how farmers transported them to
market. The southeastern flow of rivers out of the North Carolina piedmont, for example,
ensured that wheat and naval stores would flow into Charleston rather than to the North
Carolina coast. See Staple Crops and Urban Development, 11, 18, 62, 66-67, and The
Urban South: The First Two Centuries, in Blaine A. Brownell and David R. Goldfield,
eds., The City in Southern History: The Growth of Urban Civilization in the South (Port
Washington NY: Kennikat Press, 1977), 35.
2The Pee Dee in the northeast, the Santee in the central area, and the Savannah in the
southwest. WPA Writers' Program, South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1941), 9.
3 George C. Rogers Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys (Norman OK:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1969, reprint, Columbia SC: University of South Carolina
Press, 1980), 8.
4"An Account of the City of Charles-Town, Metropolis of the Province of South
Carolina, With An Exact and Beautiful Prospect Thereof, Copied From the London
Magazine. June 1762," Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1882 (Charleston SC: News and
Courier Presses, 1882), 341-342.


18
Planters and small farmers from the Cape Fear River valley in North Carolina south to
Pensacola in British West Florida shipped the regions great staple productsrice, indigo,
tobacco, wheat, and naval storesdownriver, along the seacoast, or overland by wagon to
Charleston, and by 1765 the city had become the largest in the Southern colonies. Indeed,
the city's population of 8,000 in 1765almost evenly divided between black and white-
ranked as the fourth most populous in colonial America behind Philadelphia, New York,
and Boston [see Tables 1-1 and 1-2].5 The streets of Charleston in 1765 teemed with
royal officials, slaves, indentured servants, merchants, ministers, planters, lawyers,
sailors, ship captains, soldiers, immigrants, beggars, orphans, and prostitutes. Charleston
offered a catholicity of taverns, ballrooms, race tracks, library and benevolent societies,
clubs, churches, coffeehouses, marketplaces, and theaters to meet all tastes. Between
1680 and 1765 Charles Town survived Spanish invasions and a succession of natural
disasters to become the political, social, and economic capital of the region, dominating
and overshadowing Wilmington, Baltimore, and Norfolk to the north, and Savannah and
sGeorge Milligen Johnston, a contemporary observer, placed the white population in
1763 at 4,000, "and the negro servants near the same number." George Milligen
Johnston, A Short Description of the Province of South Carolina (1770), 32, South
Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia. Lieutenant-Governor
William Bull reported the population to the Board of Trade in 1770 as 5,030 whites,
5,831 blacks. William Bull to Earl of Hillsborough, November 30, 1770, in Transcripts
of Records in the British Public Records Office Relating to South Carolina, 1663-1782,
36 volumes, 32:387-388, Records Deposited With the Secretary, Records of the Secretary
of State, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia (hereafter cited
as SCBPRO). Carl Bridenbaugh relies on Bull's figures in Cities in Revolt: 1 Jrban Life
in America. 1743-1776 CLondon: Oxford University Press, 1955), 333.


19
St. Augustine to the south.6 In short, by 1765 Charleston had become the capital "of the
most flourishing of all His Majesty's American colonies."7
William Gerard De Brahm, the royal surveyor, described Charleston as "the most
convenient and by far the richest city in the Southern District of North America."8 The
London Magazine marveled that "here the rich people have handsome equipages; the
merchants are opulent and well bred; the people are thriving and extensive, in dress and
life, so that everything conspires to make this town the politest, as it is one of the richest
in America."9 Publisher Peter Timothy boasted to his friend Benjamin Franklin that "I do
not suppose there is a colony on this continent in so flourishing and promising a situation
as South Carolina at present. Very elegant buildings are rising in almost every street by
private gentlemen."10 Indeed, the city contained over 900 houses and rent ranged from
6See Sellers, Charleston Business on the Eve of the American Revolution. 3-48. On
Savannah's growth in this period as compared to Charleston's, see Frances Harrold,
Colonial Siblings: Georgias Relationship with South Carolina During the Pre-
Revolutionary Period, Georgia Historical Quarterly 73 (Winter 1989): 707-744; Barratt
Wilkins, "A View of Savannah on the Eve of the Revolution," Georgia Historical
Quarterly 54 (Winter 1970): 577-584. See also Carl Bridenbaugh, Myths and Realities:
Societies of the Colonial South (1952; reprint, New York: Atheneum, 1975), 59-60.
Shelburne to Lord Charles Montagu, February 19, 1767, SCBPRO 31:309.
*Louis De Vorsey, Jr., ed., De Brahm's Report of the General Survey in the Southern
District of North America (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1971), 90.
"An Account of the City of Charles-Town, 341-342.
l0Peter Timothy to Benjamin Franklin, September 3, 1768, in Hennig Cohen, ed.,
"Four Letters From Peter Timothy, 1755, 1768, 1771," South Carolina Historical
Magazine 55 (1954): 162-163. See also Henry Laurens to James Grant, March 23, 1767,
in Philip M. Hamer et al., eds., The Papers of Henry Laurens. 14 vols. to date (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1968-), 5:237-238.


20
£80 to £800 a year, depending upon the size and substantiality of the dwelling." By 1774
"many elegant" houses covered White Point at the south end of the peninsula.12
Governors Bridge connected the city with its first suburbs north of town at Craven's
Bastion, Meeting Street had been extended north to George Street, and in August 1769
the legislature fixed Boundary Street (present-day Calhoun Street) as the town's northern
limit.13 Commercial improvements continued along the riverfront and harbor. The
legislature built a new Exchange at the intersection of Broad and Bay streets and a new
beacon and lighthouse in the harbor, while merchants constructed wharves along the
Cooper River and, for the first time, on the Ashley.14 Christopher Gadsden erected a large
new wharf on the Cooper, just north of town, "reckoned the most extensive of its kind
ever undertaken by any one man in America."15 Off South Bay Street, William Gibbes
wharf extended over 300 feet into the Ashley River. Between November 1768 and
November 1769 Charleston merchants exported over 123,000 barrels of rice and 380,000
hogsheads of indigo from Charlestons wharves. These two great staples represented 85
11 South Carolina Gazette. August 17, 1767.
,2Ibid March 7, 1774.
l3George C. Rogers Jr., "The Charleston Tea Party: The Significance of December 3,
1773," South Carolina Historical Magazine 75 (July 1974): 155; South Carolina Gazette
and Country Journal. August 28, 1769.
14South Carolina Gazette. August 1, 1768. The foundation for the Exchange was laid
on Monday, July 25, 1768.
15Ibid., March 7, 1774; E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and Robert H. Woody, Christopher
Gadsden and the American Revolution (Knoxville TN: University of Tennessee Press,
1982), 73-74. See Gadsden's advertisement for workers in the South Carolina Gazette.
March 23,1769.


21
percent of the exported goods valued at £404,056 sterling shipped from Charleston that
year.16
Despite such outward symbols of economic prosperity, the Southern metropolis
did not lack substantial social problems, however. In addition to difficulties with the
poor (which will be discussed), Charleston had insufficient and overcrowded jails, a
workhouse full of notorious bawds, strumpers, vagrants, drunkards, [and] idle persons,
too few public wells, street lamps, and public stocks, too many vagrants, taverns, filthy
streets, and bad roads, and an undermanned and underpaid town watch. Governor
Montagu complained to London that "building a jail is a thing that is become now
absolutely necessary, as the present one is so old and weak that the prisoners are
frequently breaking out."17 The city lacked an adequate police force, and disgruntled
citizens seeking police assistance often found the Watch House on the comer of Broad
and Meeting streets empty.18 Charleston's narrow streets contained "all kinds of filth,"
l6William Bull to Board of Trade, December 5,1769, Bull to Hillsborough, December
6,1769, SCBPRO 32:122-130.
17See grand jury presentments in South Carolina Gazette. June 8, 1765, June 2, 1766,
November 9, 1767, May 9, 1768, January 25, 1770, February 2, 1771, February 22, 1773,
May 24, 1773; South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. November 17, 1767; South
Carolina and American General Gazette. January 29, 1768, March 26, 1770; Lord Charles
Montagu to Earl of Shelburne, August 14, 1767, SCBPRO 31:413.
18The law required the town watch to be active from sunrise Sunday to sunrise
Monday. This was in reaction to the Stono Rebellion, which took place on Sunday,
September 9, 1739. For the Stono Rebellion and its aftermath, see Peter H. Wood, Black
Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 Through the Stono Rebellion
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1974), 308-326.


22
while horses and cattle fed openly in the streets "to the great annoyance of the
inhabitants."19
Charlestons growing population consisted of four separate and distinctly unequal
ranks: the elite, artisans and mechanics, common laborers, and slaves.20 A ruling elite of
merchants, planters, and lawyers governed the city and dominated its political and social
institutions.21 The Commons House of Assembly, the lower house of South Carolinas
19South Carolina Gazette. May 24, 1773, February 7,1771, June 2,1766; South
Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. June 20, 1775.
20The use of the term rank instead of class follows the lead of Gary B. Nash,
Edward Countryman, and Stuart M. Blumin, who all argue that eighteenth-century society
was organized vertically into ranks rather than horizontally into layered, antagonistic
classes. Blumin writes that the term ranks identifies the flow of influence, patronage,
and deference within this system of interests, rather than the experiences and
consciousness of separate classes. My account of Charleston in 1765 agrees with
Blumins description of eighteenth-century society as profoundly elitist in its recruitment
of political leadership and in its assignment of social prestige. Stuart M. Blumin, The
Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City. 1760-1900
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 17. Gary B. Nash warns that
eighteenth-century society had not yet reached the historical stage of a mature class
formation, but nevertheless believes that historians can understand more fully the
origins and meaning of the American Revolution by analyzing the changing relations
among people of different ranks and examining the emergence of new modes of thought
based on horizontal rather than vertical divisions in society. Gary B. Nash, The Urban
Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution Abr. Ed.
(Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), xii. Edward Countryman writes that
the middling sort in New York did not form a class. Edward Counryman, A People
in Revolution: The American Revolution and Political Society in New York. 1760-1790
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1981), 12. Historians who do use the term middle class in
the eighteenth century include Carl Bridenbaugh, Cities in Revolt. 332; Charles F. Olton,
Artisans For Independence: Philadelphia Mechanics and the American Revolution
(Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1975), x; Richard A. Ryerson, The
Revolution is Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia. 1765-1776
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), 254.
2IA note is in order here about the use of the papers of members of the governing elite
in this project, particularly the papers of Henry Laurens. Few of the papers of prominent


23
colonial legislature, remained the exclusive enclave of these wealthy aristocrats
eighteenth-century South Carolinians have survived. The most notable exceptions are the
papers of Henry Laurens, David Ramsay, and to a lesser extent, Christopher Gadsden.
The Laurens Papers are an indispensable source for the student of Revolutionary
Charleston and this project, like most recent works on eighteenth-century South Carolina,
extensively utilizes this primary source, particularly in the first three chapters. Laurens
was a successful merchant-planter in colonial and Revolutionary Charleston and played a
prominent role in the Revolutionary movement in South Carolina. He maintained a vast
political and commercial correspondence and commented on almost every aspect of the
Revolution on a local, regional, and national level. This correspondence is preserved in
the Henry Laurens Papers in the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston and is
currently being published by the University of South Carolina Press. Similarly, David
Ramsay served in the Confederation Congress and was active in Charleston affairs in the
1780s and 1790s. His published post-war correspondence has been particularly helpful in
illuminating events discussed in the last three chapters. Christopher Gadsden was another
successful merchant who played a conspicuous role in the Revolution. His extant papers
are much thinner than those of Laurens and Ramsay, but it too has been collected and
published. Biographies of prominent eighteenth-century South Carolinians are rare
because so few of their personal and business papers survive. The few biographies that
have been written over the last thirty-five years by necessity tend to focus either on public
rather than private lives (life and times biography), or on prominent families rather than
individuals. The best published works are George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of a
Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston. (1758-18121 (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1962); William M. Dabney and Marion Dargan,
William Henry Dravton and the American Revolution (Albuquerque NM: University of
New Mexico Press, 1962); Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pincknev: Founding
Father (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1967); Frances Leigh
Williams, A Founding Family: The Pinckneys of South Carolina (New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1978); Carl J. Vipperman, The Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 1721-1800
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1978); Godbold and Woody, Gadsden
and the American Revolution: John C. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus Burke:
Revolutionary Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1989); Kinloch Bull Jr., The Oligarchs in Colonial
and Revolutionary Charleston: Lieutenant Governor William Bull II and His Family
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991); Arthur H. Shaffer, To Be An
American: David Ramsay and the Making of the American Consciousness (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991). There are no first-rate published
biographies of Gabriel Manigault, John or Edward Rutledge, Ralph Izard, Henry or
Arthur Middleton, Alexander Gillon, or surprisingly, Henry Laurens.


24
throughout the colonial period.22 Charleston merchants exported Southern staples to all
parts of the British empire and many places beyond and imported the manufactured goods
and luxuriesespecially the human cargoes-that Charlestons planters demanded. The
citys merchants had been growing in economic stature since the 1730s and by the 1760s
had successfully monopolized Southern trade. Their influence originated from their
beginnings as factors sent out as agents by British companies trading with the province.
Many remained in Charleston, invested their capital, took risks, and flourished as
Charleston became the most important trading center in the Southern colonies.
Charleston merchants sponsored storekeepers at the heads of rivers and ferry crossings,
where they bought produce, livestock, and commodities for shipment to Charleston.23
Most of these exports came to Charleston from the vast hinterlands of the midlands and
backcountry of South Carolina and from the neighboring colonies of Georgia and North
Carolina. Inland waterways provided the primary avenues to market, but many
inhabitants made the journey over bumpy and bad roads. Lieutenant Governor William
Bull noted in 1770 that 3,000 wagons laden with the produce of the countryside had come
to Charleston the previous year.24 Merchants and planters thus required efficient and
220f the forty-eight members of the Commons House in 1765, over two-thirds owned
property worth £5,000 sterling or more, and the other one-third owned property worth at
least £2,000 sterling or more. No artisans ever served in the colonial South Carolina
legislature. Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in South
Carolina (Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981), 105. Assembly
membership required 500 acres and 10 slaves or houses and town lots valued at £1,000.
Rogers. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. 19.
23Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. 11-12.
24William Bull to Hillsborough, June 7,1770, SCBPRO 32:283.


25
affordable transportation links to Charleston. Grand juries complained often about
dreadful conditions on public roads, while the Commons House of Assembly licensed
ferry operators and passed legislation to clear rivers and construct new roads.25
Backcountry farmers who made the long journey to Charleston sold their deerskins,
indigo, flour, wheat, hemp, and tobacco in the various city markets or to merchants and
factors, and they returned to their homes with "necessaries and luxuries from every
quarter of the globe."26
Charleston merchants maintained close ties with the Atlantic mercantile
community throughout the colonial period.27 From November to May of each year the
harbor filled with ships from all parts of the British empire, bringing manufactured goods
to the colony and returning to European, West Indian, and North American ports with rice
and indigo, the great staple crops of South Carolina. In January 1765 alone ships entered
Charleston from Havana, Montserrat, Lisbon, Jamaica, London, Bermuda, St. Kitts,
Philadelphia, St. Augustine, and Aberdeen.28 Many of the city's merchants had forged
economic links by serving as apprentices in London and returned to the province with
25See for instance South Carolina Gazette. June 2,1766, and Sir Matthew Lamb to
Board of Trade, March 10,1767, SCBPRO 31:316-317.
Milligen Johnston, A Short Description of the Province of South Carolina. 36.
27See David Hancock, Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of
the British Atlantic Community. 1735-1785 (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1995).
28South Carolina Gazette. January 17, 1765. Lieutenant-Governor William Bull
reported to London in March 1765 that "at Charles Town within the last 12 months
arrived 360 sail from different countries. At Beaufort 40, George Town 21." Bull to Earl
of Halifax, March 1, 1765, SCBPRO 30:245.


26
valuable commercial ties. Henry Laurens entered business as a clerk in the offices of
London merchant James Crokatt. After touring London, Bristol, and Liverpool in order
to establish contacts, Laurens went into partnership in Charleston with George Austin in
1749. During the Seven Years War the pair grew wealthy trading in rice and slaves.
When Austin retired and returned to England in 1762, Laurens invested in Mepkin, a
3,000-acre plantation thirty miles north of Charleston on the Cooper River, combining
rice and indigo production with his successful mercantile business. At his death thirty
years later, he owned over 20,000 acres in Georgia and Carolina.29 Gabriel Manigault
grew wealthy importing and exporting primarily with the West Indies, Philadelphia, and
New York. He began acquiring land in the 1730s, eventually owning several thousand
acres and almost 300 slaves. During the Revolution he loaned the state government more
than £650,000 before his death in 1781.30 Laurens and Manigault serve to represent the
shared interests and fluidity of Charleston's merchant-planter community. Their fortunes,
and that of their city, were inextricably linked.31
29Walter B. Edgar and N. Louise Bailey et al., eds., Biographical Directory of the
South Carolina House of Representatives. 5 vols. (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1977-1992), 2:390-393; South Carolina (WPA) Will Transcripts, Wills of
Charleston County, 24 (1786-1793): 1152-1158, microfilm, South Carolina Department
of Archives and History, originals in Charleston County Courthouse; Rogers, Charleston
in the Age of the Pinckneys. 38.
30Edgar and Bailey, Biographical Directory. 2:428-429. For Manigaults career as a
merchant, see Maurice Alfred Crouse, "The Manigault Family of South Carolina, 1685-
1783," Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 1964, 317-339.
3,See also R.C. Nash, Trade and Business in Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: The
Career of John Guerard, Merchant and Planter, South Carolina Historical Magazine 96
(January 1995): 6-29.


27
Charleston merchants supplied the planters with credit, allowing them to expand
their production through land, supplies, and above all, slave labor. The planter in turn
paid off his debts in the winter when he brought his staples to Charleston. One visiting
Newport merchant observed the intimate ties between Carolina planters and Charleston
merchants. "The merchants who import merchandise from Europe supply the planters
both by the piece and retail, he wrote, and what they do not have stored in their shops
they will obtain from others. Planters often refused to do business with anyone but his
merchant. This is so much so that although elsewhere they offer him what he needs more
cheaply, he does not change."32
The citys planters grew on their surrounding lowcountry plantations the rice that
fed much of Northern Europe and the indigo required by the burgeoning British Industrial
Revolution. Parliament placed rice on the enumerated list in 1705, requiring the article to
be shipped directly to England before reexport to any other port. In 1730 the British
relaxed the restriction somewhat, allowing direct shipment to all ports south of Cape
Finisterre on the northwestern coast of Spain.33 In 1765 Charleston exported more than
107,000 barrels of rice. By 1770 rice exports had expanded to 131,805, an increase of
215 percent since 1730, and the highest figure reached during the colonial period. In fact,
Charleston served as the rice port for the American colonies: Between 1765 and 1774
Charleston exported an average of 83 percent of all rice shipped from the colonies [see
32Thomas J. Tobias, ed., "Charles Town in 1764," South Carolina Historical Magazine
67 (April 1966): 66.
33Ibid., 67; Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. 3, 9-11.


28
Table 1-3].34 Merchants sent most of the rice to Great Britain, where British traders then
re-exported the bulk to Northern Europe. Of the rice exported in 1766,46 percent went
to England, 29 percent to ports south of Cape Finisterre, 14 percent to the British West
Indies, 4 percent to other American colonies, 4 percent to other West Indian islands, and
3 percent to Scotland.35 By 1775 rice ranked behind only tobacco and flour as Americas
most valuable export.36 Britains growing cloth industry fueled the demand for Carolina
indigo, and Parliament placed a six pence per pound bounty on the crop in 1748. The
subsidy made indigo planting profitable, and production flourished, expanding from a
small beginning of 5,000 pounds exported in 1746 to more than 335,000 pounds in 1765.
34Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to
1970.2 vols. (Washington DC: Bureau of the Census, 1975), 2:1192. See also Kenneth
Morgan, The Organization of the Colonial American Rice Trade, William and Mary
Quarterly 52 (July 1995): 433-452; R. Douglas Hurt, American Agriculture: A Brief
History (Ames IA: Iowa State University Press, 1994), 43-46; Peter A. Coclanis, Distant
Thunder: The Creation of a World Market in Rice and the Transformations It Wrought,
American Historical Review 98 (1993): 1050-1078; Henry C. Dethloff, A History of the
American Rice Industry. 1685-1985 (College Station TX: Texas A & M University Press,
1988), 6-45; Dethloff, The Colonial Rice Trade, Agricultural History 56 (January
1982): 231-243; James M. Clifton, The Rice Industry in Colonial America. Agricultural
History 55 (1981): 266-283; David LeRoy Coon, The Development of Market
Agriculture in South Carolina, 1670-1785, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign, 1972, 164-214; Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the
Southern United States To I860. 2 vols. (Washington DC: Carnegie Institution of
Washington, 1933), 1:277-290.
^Historical Statistics of the United States. 2:1193.
36Hurt, American Agriculture. 46.


29
Indigo production peaked in 1775 at 1.1 million pounds [see Table 1-4].37 Planters also
grew tobacco, hemp, silk, wine, oil, barley, wheat, flax, cotton, and ginger.38
The close ties planters maintained with Charlestons merchants and lawyers
ensured that the Carolina elite developed a community of shared values, as Robert M.
Weir has noted.39 Charleston lawyers, often educated in London, primarily served the
citys merchants in securing debts. All of the colonys lawyers practiced in Charleston
since no other courts existed outside of the coastal capital. Many lawyers, of course,
doubled as planters or merchants as well.40 The elite further cemented their hegemony
37C. Robert Haywood, "Mercantilism and South Carolina Agriculture, 1700-1763,"
South Carolina Historical Magazine 60 (January 1959): 18, 20-21: Historical Statistics of
the United States. 2:1189. Exports figures for indigo are available only for all South
Carolina ports from 1765 to 1775. Charleston figures are based on the Census Bureau's
estimate that South Carolina ports other than Charleston averaged 7.8 percent of the
colony's total for 1768-1773 [Historical Statistics. 2:1189n1. Using this figure, an
estimated 261,924 pounds of indigo was exported from Charleston in 1765, and 873,316
pounds in 1775. For South Carolina indigo production, see Coon, Development of
Market Agriculture in South Carolina, 1670-1785, 215-268; G. Terry Shatter, The
Indigo Bonanza in South Carolina, 1740-90, Technology and Culture 12 (July 1971):
447-455; Shatter, Indigo in Carolina, 1671-1796, South Carolina Historical Magazine
72 (April 1971): 94-103; Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States.
1:290-297.
38William Bull to Board of Trade, September 6, 1768, SCBPRO 32:30-34.
Robert M. Weir, "'The Harmony We Were Famous For': An Interpretation of Pre-
Revolutionary South Carolina Politics," in Stanley N. Katz and John M. Murrin, eds.,
Colonial America: Essays in Politics and Social Development (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1983), 435. (Originally published in William and Mary Quarterly 26 (October
1969): 473-501.)
See George C. Rogers Jr., Generations of Lawyers: A History of the South Carolina
Bar (Columbia SC: South Carolina Bar Foundation, 1992); Hoyt P. Canady Jr.,
Gentlemen of the Bar: Lawyers in South Carolina, Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Tennessee, 1979.


30
and their ties through selective marriages with other prominent families.41 These links
also served to reinforce the citys position as the political, social, and cultural center of
the colony. Most planters owned houses in Charleston and spent much of the year there.
They escaped the malarial conditions of their plantations during the summer, attended
sessions of the Commons House of Assembly, and enjoyed the season of social and
cultural activities which coincided with the busiest months of commercial activity.42
Members of the elite joined together socially at the Monday Night Club, the Hellfire
Club, or the Friday Night Club, or at meetings of fraternal organizations such as the
Freemasons. The citys benevolent organizations included the St. Andrews Society, the
St. Georges Society, and the South Carolina Society. In addition, the elite congregated at
the Charleston Library Society, the New Market racetrack, and at various balls, dances,
plays, assemblies, and taverns.43 The city contained a number of houses of worship,
41See Richard Waterhouse, South Carolinas Colonial Elite: A Study in the Social
Structure and Political Culture of a Southern Colony, 1670-1760, Ph.D. dissertation,
Johns Hopkins University, 1973; Waterhouse, The Development of Elite Culture in the
Colonial American South: A Study of Charles Town, 1670-1770, Australian Journal of
Politics and History 28 (1982): 391-404; Samuel A. Lilly, The Culture of Revolutionary
Charleston, Ph.D. dissertation, Miami University, 1972; Frederick P. Bowes, The
Culture of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1942),
115-130.
42"The usual time of shipping" rice, indigo, deer skins, and naval stores "is from the
month of January to the month of May, the great consumption of rice in Holland,
Germany, and Flanders, being early in the year, and to which very great quantities are
annually exported." Petition of Merchants Trading with South Carolina and Georgia to
the Board of Trade, December 18, 1770, SCBPRO 32:439.
43See Walter J. Fraser Jr., Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 129-135; Rogers, Charleston
in the Age of the Pinckneys. 6, 89-115; Suzanne Krebsbach, The Great Charlestown
Smallpox Epidemic of 1760, South Carolina Historical Magazine 97 (January 1996): 30-


31
though the Anglican church had been the established faith since 1706.44 Charleston had
two Anglican churches: St. Philips on Church Street, and St. Michaels at the
intersection of Broad and Meeting streets. The Congregationalists and Presbyterians
worshiped on Meeting Street, the French Huguenots and the Baptists on Church Street,
37; H. Roy Merrens and George D. Terry, Dying in Paradise: Malaria, Mortality, and the
Perceptual Environment in Colonial South Carolina, Journal of Southern History 50
(November 1984): 533-550; John Duffy, Eighteenth Century Carolina Health
Conditions, Journal of Southern History 18 (August 1952): 289-302; St. Julien Ravenel
Childs, Notes on the History of Public Health in South Carolina, 1670-1800,
Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1932, 13-22; Waterhouse,
South Carolinas Colonial Elite; Samuel A. Lilly, The Culture of Revolutionary
Charleston; David Morton Knepper, The Political Structure of Colonial South Carolina,
1743-1776, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1971; John Christie Dann, Low-
Country Planter Society in Colonial South Carolina, M.A. thesis, College of William
and Mary, 1970; Robert J. Bagdon, Musical Life in Charleston, South Carolina From
1732 to 1776 As Recorded in Colonial Sources, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Miami,
1978; Eola Willis, The Charleston Stage in the 18th Century (New York: B. Blum, 1968);
Mary Julia Curtis, The Early Charleston Stage: 1703-1798, Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana
University 1968; Bowes, Culture of Early Charleston. 115-130; Tobias, ed., Charles
Town in 1764, 68; Charles Caleb Cotton to My Dear Mother, June 3, 1799, in Julien
Dwight Martin, ed., The Letters of Charles Caleb Cotton, 1798-1802, South Carolina
Historical Magazine 51 (October 1950): 217; James H. Easterby, History of the St.
Andrews Society of Charleston. South Carolina. 1729-1929 (Charleston SC: Walker,
Evans, and Cogswell, 1929); Randy J. Sparks, Gentlemens Sport: Horse Racing in
Antebellum Charleston, South Carolina Historical Magazine 93 (January 1992): 15-30,
esp. 17-21.
44John Wesley Brinsfield, Religion and Politics in Colonial South Carolina (Easley
SC: Southern Historical Press, 1983); S. Charles Bolton, Southern Anglicanism: The
Church of England in Colonial South Carolina (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1982);
Rev. Philip G. Clarke, Anglicanism in South Carolina (Easley SC: Southern Historical
Press, 1976); George C. Rogers Jr., Church and State in Eighteenth Century South
Carolina (Charleston SC: Dalcho Historical Society, 1959).


32
while King Street housed the Quaker meeting. The citys growing Jewish population
established the Beth Elohim Synagogue in 1749.45
Wealthy merchants, planters, and lawyers governed the city through the Commons
House of Assembly until 1783, and during the colonial period none but planters,
merchants, or lawyers ever sat in this body. By 1765, the Commons House had become
the most powerful branch of government in the colony. The delegates jealously guarded
their rights against all royal encroachments.46 The Commons House set all general
property and income taxes, export duties, import duties on slaves, and appointed all tax
collectors as well as the colonys treasurer, who answered only to the lower house.47
Though some historians have suggested that the planter-dominated assembly neglected
45Arthur H. Hirsch, The Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina (Hamden CT: Archon
Books, 1962); Anna Wells Rutledge, The Second St. Philips, Charleston, 1710-1835,
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 18 (October 1959): 112-114; George
W. Williams, St. Michaels. Charleston. 1751-1951 (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1951); George N. Edwards. A History of the Independent or
Congregational Church of Charleston. South Carolina (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1947);
Leah Townsend, South Carolina Baptists. 1670-1805 (Florence SC: The Florence
Printing Co., 1935); Edward McCrady, Historical Sketch of St. Philips Church,
Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1897 (Charleston SC, 1897), 319-374; George Howe,
History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. 2 vols. (Columbia SC: Duffle and
Chapman, 1870), 1:305-563; James William Hagy, This Happy Land: The Jews of
Colonial and Antebellum Charleston (Tuscaloosa AL: University of Alabama Press,
1993).
460n this point see M. Eugene Sirmans, Colonial South Carolina: A Political History.
1663-1763 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1966), and Jack P.
Greene, The Quest for Power: The Lower Houses of Assembly in the Southern Royal
Colonies. 1689-1776 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1963). The
other branches of government were the governor, appointed by the crown, and the
council, also appointive, which acted as the upper house of the legislature.
47Rogers. Charleston in the Ape of the Pinckneys. 19-20.


33
urban development, the Commons House spent a great deal of time attending to the citys
needs.48 In 1767 alone the legislature passed legislation regulating the port and harbor,
made plans to construct a new Exchange, Custom House, and hospital, extended existing
streets while laying out new ones, investigated the conditions of the city's poor, and
encouraged Charleston's trade with neighboring colonies by lifting duties on naval stores
imported from those colonies. In addition, legislators mediated a dispute between
merchants and owners of wharves, extended Meeting Street north to George Street, and
built a bridge over the creek near Craven's Bastion at the north end of the Bay.49
The Commons House passed all laws pertaining to the city, though the day-to-day
governance of the city fell to various commissioners elected annually on Easter Monday.
Voting requirements remained unchanged since 1721. All free white Christian males
over 21 years of age who had lived in South Carolina for at least a year, owned at least
fifty acres of land, or paid twenty shillings a year in taxes could vote.50 Voters elected
city commissioners for the two urban parishes, St. Philip's, created in 1704, and St.
Michael's, formed in 1751 out of the southern half of the city, below Broad Street.
Churchwardens, usually merchants, oversaw the maintenance of the city's poor.
According to Blaine Brownell and David Goldfield, the planter "urban consciousness
consisted of plotting an escape from Charleston before the first mosquitoes and after the
last party. Associational activity probably consisted of dipping snuff at the St. Cecilia's
Society." Blaine Brownell and David Goldfield, "Southern Urban History," in Brownell
and Goldfield, City in Southern History. 8-9.
Henry Laurens to James Grant, March 23, 1767, Laurens Papers. 5:237-238.
50Thomas Cooper and David J. McCord, eds., The Statutes at Large of South Carolina.
10 vols. (Columbia, SC: A.S. Johnston, 1838-1841), 3:135-140.


34
Firemasters, also generally merchants, ensured that residents kept buckets and ladders
near at hand and inspected buildings for potential hazards. Packers, mostly master
coopers, inspected the packing of exports on the city wharves. Wood measurers,
primarily artisans, safeguarded the city against exorbitant rates for wood and coal. The
commissioners of markets and the workhouse collected fees for market stalls, enforced
sanitary regulations, and also oversaw the workhouse, where the city housed sick folk,
criminals, indigents, and runaway slaves. Finally, the commissioners of roads supervised
the paving and cleaning of streets and set prices for haulage. Voters generally elected
both merchants and artisans as market, workhouse, and road commissioners.51
The artisans who served without pay in these positions represented the middling
sorts, below the governing elite.52 Though politically mute for most of the colonial
51The Government of the City of Charleston, 1682-1882, Yearbook. City of
Charleston. 1881 (Charleston SC: News and Courier Book Presses, 1881), 325-377.
Protestant Episcopal Church, St. Philip's, Charleston, Records, 1732-1910, WPA
Transcript, 1939, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia,
copied from the original in the possession of St. Philip's Church, Charleston; Rogers,
Charleston in the Aee of the Pinckneys. 20-21.
52Artisans are defined as laborers who performed skilled work with their hands, and
the term is used interchangeably with mechanic and craftsman throughout this study.
The term does not include unskilled laborers. For the term middling sorts, see note
three above and especially Blumin, Middling sorts in the Eighteenth-Century City,
chapter two in Emergence of the Middle Class. 17-65. The best works on Charleston
artisans are Mary Catherine Ferrari, "Artisans of the South: A Comparative Study of
Norfolk, Charleston and Alexandria, 1763-1800, Ph.D. dissertation, College of William
and Mary, 1992; Richard Walsh, Charlestons Sons of Liberty: A Study of the Artisans.
1763-1789 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1959). For recent
scholarship on both Southern and urban artisans, see Johanna Miller Lewis, Artisans in
the North Carolina Backcountrv (Lexington KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1995);
Floward B. Rock, Paul A. Gilje, and Robert Asher, eds., American Artisans: Crafting
Social Identity. 1750-1850 (Baltimore MD: Johns Flopkins University Press, 1995);
Ronald Schultz, The Republic of Labor: Philadelphia Artisans and the Politics of Class.


35
period, these workers nevertheless asserted themselves through their craftsmanship, and
the fruits of their labors could be seen, heard, and smelled throughout the city. These
craftsmen and women catered to the needs of the merchant-planter community, provided
food and drink in the city, brewed beer, baked bread, butchered meat, designed and built
lavish homes, painted houses, portraits, and coats of arms, fashioned clothes, furniture,
shoes, watches, wigs, coaches, silver, jewelry, tanned hides, repaired guns, built ships,
and packed staple crops to be shipped out for export. The exact number of Charlestons
artisans in 1765 is unknown, but artisans comprised 25 percent of Charleston households
in 1790. Between 1764 and 1807, nearly 2,500 artisans worked in the city.53
As the citys middling rank, artisans labored in the gray area between the
merchant-planter oligarchy and the large black population. Skilled white artisans
complained bitterly about the competition they faced from black labor, but many white
1720-1830 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Paul A. Gilje and Howard Rock,
eds., Keepers of the Revolution: New Yorkers at Work in the Early Republic (Ithaca NY:
Cornell University Press, 1992); Billy G. Smith, The Lower Sort: Philadelphias
Laboring People, 1750-1800 (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Paul Gilje, The
Road to Mobocracv: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834 (Chapel Hill NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Sharon V. Salinger, To Serve Well and
Faithfully: Labor and Indentured Servants in Pennsylvania. 1682-1800 (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1987); Steven Rosswurm, Arms. Country, and Class: The
Philadelphia Militia and the Lower Sort During the American Revolution (New
Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987); Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of
Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution. 1763-1812 (Urbana IL:
University of Illinois Press, 1984); Nash, Urban Crucible: Howard B. Rock, Artisans of
the New Republic: The Tradesmen of New York City in the Age of Jefferson (New York:
New York University Press, 1979); Dirk Hoerder, Crowd Action in Revolutionary
Massachusetts. 1765-1800 (New York: Academic Press, 1977), Foner, Tom Paine and
Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976); Olton, Artisans For
Independence.
53Ferrari, "Artisans of the South, 17.


36
artisans invested in slaves because of the scarcity of free labor in the city. Recent
scholarship suggests that 81 percent of all artisans between 1764 and 1780 owned at least
one slave, though they possessed only 11 percent of inventoried wealth.54 British
mercantilism also worked against artisanal interest. Charleston craftsmen could not
compete with their counterparts in London nor did the citys elite encourage them to do
so. Opulent planters demanded the finest craftsmanship the mother country had to offer,
and the city's merchants eagerly imported English-made goods, all the while depriving
domestic artisans of customers and profits. Royal officials even required Carolina
governors to verify the subordinate position of American manufacturing. After a
thorough search of the public records, William Bull assured the Board of Trade in 1768
that no public assistance had ever been given to encourage manufactures. He noted that
while many backcountry homes kept looms to weave cloth for their own families, the
government gave public assistance only to agricultural improvements. "Attempts to
establish [manufactures] here, he wrote, can never succeed to any degree, where there
is so much room to employ labor in agriculture and trade with more profit."55
Artisans thus welcomed and encouraged non-importation of British goods when
disputes over colonial taxation erupted in the latter half of the 1760s, and in some
measure they indeed acted as the "advanced guard of rebellion."56 The Revolutionary
54Ibid., 20-21.
William Bull to Hillsborough, November 30, 1770, SCBPRO 32:404.
Richard Walsh, The Charleston Mechanics: A Brief Study, 1760-1776, South
Carolina Historical Magazine 60 (1959): 123-144.


37
movement offered artisans the opportunity to eliminate or at least curb the economic
hegemony of their overseas competition, and in 1769 Charleston's mechanics demanded
and received equal representation on the committee that enforced compliance with the
colonial boycott. The artisanal community had always been shut out of provincial
politics, but the Revolution would shatter the chains of deference that had kept them so
long in silence.57
The third rank of Charleston society consisted of common laborers and the citys
poor. Though unskilled workers often found employment on Charlestons wharves and
with skilled artisans, they faced unending competition from the citys ubiquitous slaves.
While Charleston's elite grew wealthier during the 1760s and 1770s, the growing number
of urban poor taxed the limits of the citys institutions of relief, as they did in
contemporary Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.58 The Rev. Robert Smith of St.
57Most of the artisans owned property, and many could therefore vote under the
suffrage requirements of the act of 1721. Many also sat on Grand Juries and could
therefore voice their complaints through that vehicle. But no artisan ever served in the
Commons House of Assembly.
S!For the wealth and poverty of the city, see Barbara L. Bellows, Benevolence Among
Slaveholders: Assisting the Poor in Charleston. 1670-1860 (Baton Rouge LA: Louisiana
State University Press, 1993); Walter J. Fraser Jr., The City Elite, Disorder, and the
Poor Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston, South Carolina Historical Magazine 84
(July 1983): 167-179; William G. Bentley, Wealth in Colonial South Carolina, Ph.D.
dissertation, Georgia State University, 1977; Waterhouse, South Carolinas Colonial
Elite. On the poor in the urban North, see James A. Henretta, "Economic Development
and Social Structure in Colonial Boston," William and Mary Quarterly 22 (January 1965):
75-92; Raymond Mohl, "Poverty in Early America, A Reappraisal: The Case of
Eighteenth Century New York City," New York History 50 (1969): 5-27; Allan Kulikoff,
"The Progress of Inequality in Revolutionary Boston," William and Mary Quarterly 28
(July 1971): 376-411; Gary B. Nash, "Urban Wealth and Poverty in Pre-Revolutionary
America," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 6 (Spring 1976): 545-584; John K.
Alexander, Render Them Submissive: Responses to Poverty in Philadelphia. 1760-1800


38
Philips parish (which oversaw the care of the poor) requested the use of soldier's
barracks in 1766 to relieve the overcrowded workhouse, which also served as a jail.
Smith complained about the inhuman policy of housing violent prisoners with "the poor
and sick, who may be, and often are, pious and well disposed persons."59 While exported
staple crops continued to enrich city planters and merchants, wealth became increasingly
concentrated between 1757 and 1762 due to the Seven Years War.60 Consequently, tax
rates to support increasingly ineffective institutions rose as well. Poor rates soared in the
1760s and 1770s, rising from £3,000 in 1755 to £6,500 in 1765 to £14,000 in 1775.61
Alarmed legislators investigated and blamed the problem on vestry and church wardens
who failed to return the poor to their home parishes. In addition, they found that many
arriving immigrants bound for the backcountry simply remained in town.62 Grand Juries
frequently complained about the rising numbers of the destitute and continually requested
(Amherst MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980).
Minutes of Vestry meeting, December 7, 1766, St. Philips Records, 44-45.
James Harold Easterby, "Public Poor Relief in Colonial Charleston: A Report to the
Commons House of Assembly About the Year 1767," South Carolina Historical
Magazine 42 (April 1941): 84-86; Fraser, "The City Elite, 'Disorder,' and the Poor
Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston," 167-179. On the concentration of wealth, see
Bentley, "Wealth Distribution in Colonial South Carolina." For similar results of the
Seven Years War in the urban North, especially post-war depression and greater
concentration of wealth, see Nash, Urban Crucible. 147-183. Nash, p. 157, found that in
all the seaport towns the greatest hardships imposed by the post-1760 slump fell upon the
laboring classes.
61Easterby, "Public Poor Relief," 84-86; St. Philips Records, 135.
Easterby, "Public Poor Relief," 84-86; Fraser, "The City Elite."


39
laws to prevent the poor from entering town from "all parts of this and many neighboring
provinces" and further increasing the tax rate.63
Slaves, of course, occupied the bottom rung of Charleston society. The city had
the largest black population of any city on mainland British North America during the
Revolutionary period [see Table 1-5]. Blacks comprised half of the citys residents in
1765 and 61 percent of the entire colony. Despite persistent white fears of a growing
black population, the percentage of slaves in the citys population remained steady
between 1760 and 1810, ranging from 51 to 54 percent [see Table 1-6]. The black
majority in the lowcountry as a whole between 1775 and 1810 varied from 73 to 84
percent of the total population [see Table 1-7].64 The city served as a major port of entry
for slave traders in the American colonies, and Charleston merchants imported almost
42,000 slaves between 1760 and 1774.65 In 1765 alone 106 cargoes entered the port with
63See South Carolina Gazette. January 25, 1770, February 22, 1773.
MOn the growth of the black majority in colonial South Carolina, see Russell L.
Menard, Slave Demography in the Lowcountry, 1670-1740: From Frontier Society to
Plantation Regime, South Carolina Historical Magazine 96 (October 1995): 280-303;
Wood, Black Majority; Wood, More Like a Negro Country: Demographic Patterns in
Colonial South Carolina, 1700-1740, in Stanley L. Engerman and Eugene D. Genovese,
eds., Race and Slavery in the Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies (Princeton NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1975), 131-171; Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, The Slave Labor
Problem in the Charleston District, Political Science Quarterly 22 (September 1907):
416-439.
6iHistorical Statistics of the United States. 2:1173; Walter Minchinton, A Comment
on The Slave Trade to Colonial South Carolina: A Profile, South Carolina Historical
Magazine 95 (January 1994): 47-57; David Richardson, The British Slave Trade to
Colonial South Carolina, Slavery and Abolition 12 (1991): 157-163; Robert M. Weir,
Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood NY: KTO Press, 1983), 178; Daniel C.
Littlefield, Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina
(Baton Rouge LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1981); W. Robert Higgins,


40
a total of 6,520 slaves [see Table 1-8].66 One Charleston visitor insisted that he had been
mistakenly taken by his guide to Africa.67
White and black intermingled constantly in a city where 8,000 people occupied
the space of a few square miles and residential segregation was unknown. It seemed to a
visiting Frenchman in 1777 that "one will meet seven or eight coloured men on the street
for every European that he encounters."68 Slaves could be found throughout the city,
working on ships and wharves, driving coaches, cooking and waiting tables, hired out and
apprenticed to artisans, working illegally for themselves in competition with white
artisans, and serving as common laborers. Timothy Ford, a New Jersey native visiting
after the Revolution asserted that "in this country a person can no more act or move
without an attending servant than a planet without its satellites." "I have seen tradesmen,
he wrote, "go through the city followed by a negro carrying their toolsbarbers who are
Charleston: Terminus and Entrepot of the Colonial Slave Trade, in Martin L. Kilson
and Robert I. Rothberg, eds., The African Diaspora: Interpretive Essays (Cambridge MA:
Harvard University Press, 1976), 114-131; Higgins, Charles Town Merchants and
Factors Dealing in the External Negro Trade, 1735-1775, South Carolina Historical
Magazine 65 (October 1964): 205-217; Elizabeth Donnan, The Slave Trade into South
Carolina Before the Revolution, American Historical Review 33 (July 1928): 804-828.
Historical Statistics of the United States. 2:1173, 1168. Of the slaves imported in
1765,68 percent came from Africa, 31 percent from the Caribbean. See also Peter H.
Wood, The Changing Population of the Colonial South: An Overview by Race and
Region, 1685-1790, in Peter H. Wood et al., eds., Powhatans Mantle: Indians in the
Colonial Southeast (Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 35-103; W. Robert
Higgins, The Geographical Origins of Negro Slaves in Colonial South Carolina, South
Atlantic Quarterly 70 (Winter 1971): 34-47.
67South Carolina Gazette. August 27, 1772.
68Elmer Douglas Johnson, trans., "A Frenchman Visits Charleston in 1777," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 52 (April 1951): 92.


41
supported in idleness and ease by their negroes who do the business, and in fact many of
the mechanics bear nothing more of their trade than the name."69 Elite Charlestonians
might resent the rising numbers of poor whites, but they complained most frequently
about the behavior of their slaves. They protested that slaves sold in the citys markets,
hired their own time, congregated in large numbers, frequented taverns, cursed and swore
in the city streets, refused to work, dressed inappropriately, gambled, and always seemed
to behave in an insolent manner. One inhabitant wondered if "the laws of this province
extend to the punishment of vices in Negroes?" Greater economic opportunity and less
white supervision combined to give urban slaves more autonomy than their rural
counterparts, and many whites considered Charleston's slaves more "rude, unmannerly,
insolent, and shameless" than country slaves.
Charlestons large slave population kept whites constantly on edge. Lieutenant
Governor William Bull maintained in 1770 that "the state of slavery is as comfortable in
this province as such a state can be," but anxious planters feared that the lure of freedom
69Joseph W. Barnwell, ed., "Diary of Timothy Ford, South Carolina Historical
Magazine 13 (July 1912): 142.
70South Carolina Gazette. August 27, 1772. See Loren Schweninger, Slave
Independence and Enterprise in South Carolina, 1780-1865, South Carolina Historical
Magazine 93 (April 1992): 101-125; Philip D. Morgan, Black Life in Eighteenth-
Century Charleston, PerspectiyesinAnjencanjiistory New Series 1 (1984): 187-232;
Morgan, Black Society in the Lowcountry, 1760-1810, in Ira Berlin and Ronald
Hoffman, eds., Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution (Urbana IL:
University of Illinois Press, 1983), 83-142; Morgan, Work and Culture: The Task
System and the World of Lowcountry Blacks, 1700 to 1880, William and Mary
Quarterly 39 (October 1982): 563-599; Claudia Dale Goldin, Urban Slavery in the
American South. 1820-1860: A Quantitative History (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1976); Richard C. Wade, Slavery in the Cities: The South. 1820-1860 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1964).


42
would "raise ideas in [slaves] of an interest opposite to their masters."71 South Carolina
had weathered the Stono Rebellion of 1739, but fears of another, more widespread,
uprising always bubbled beneath the surface.72 In December 1765, rumors spread through
Charleston of an impending slave revolt during the Christmas season, traditionally an
extended holiday for slaves. Provincial authorities quickly called out the militia, while
Lt. Governor Bull brought down forty-seven Catawba Indians from the backcountry to
hunt down and kill the supposed rebels.73 Henry Laurens described the scene in
Charleston: "Patrols were riding day and night for 10 to 14 days in most bitter weather
and here in town all were soldiers in arms for more than a week." This uprisinglike so
many othersfailed to materialize, and Laurens noted wryly that the whole affair ended
with the "banishment of one fellow, not because he was guilty or instigator of
insurrection, but because some of his judges said that in the general course of his life he
had been a sad dog, and perhaps it was necessary to save appearances."74 This incident is
suggestive of the tensions and fears created in a city with a population half slave. Despite
William Bull to Hillsborough, November 30, 1770, SCBPRO 32:382, Committee
Report on Boundary Between South and North Carolina, inclosure, Board of Trade
Journal, SCBPRO 32:143.
72See here especially Wood, Black Majority. 308-326, and Knepper, "Political
Structure of Colonial South Carolina," 36-38.
73 William Bull to Board of Trade, December 17, 1765, January 25, 1766, SCBPRO
30:300-301, 31:18-21; Bull Jr., Oligarchs in Colonial and Revolutionary Charleston. 122.
74Henry Laurens to John Lewis Gervais, January 29, 1766, Papers of Henry Laurens.
5:53-54.


43
white assertions that mutual bonds of affection existed between happy slaves and kindly
masters, the slightest rumors of unrest could set off widespread panic.
Timothy Ford described an incident which gives great insight into the intimate
links between slavery and status in South Carolina. While returning to town after visiting
a local plantation, Ford and his friends stopped for a picnic beside the road. At some
distance off, a man appeared on horseback, and the locals all commented upon the fine
cut of his clothes and his expert horsemanship. "As we were all surveying and querying
who he should be, Ford wrote, one of the company finished the enquiry by saying 'he
cannot be a gentleman for he is riding without servants.'" Soon, however, two slaves on
horseback emerged from the woods, and the stranger "regained his lost honours, and it
was agreed on all sides that he is a gentleman."75 The New Jersey native found the whole
scene baffling. Ford simply could not fathom how ownership of other human beings
could define rank and status in society. A later visitor echoed similar thoughts: It is
strange that men should value themselves most upon what they ought to be most ashamed
of.76 Slaves did not simply represent another form of labor. Their overwhelming
presence in both the city and countryside was inextricably linked with the way white
South Carolinians created their own identity. In the years to come whites would view any
challenge to the institution, from any quarter whatsoever, as a direct threat to the social
and economic system that formed the very heart of their society.
75Bamwell, Diary of Timothy Ford, 189-190.
76H. Roy Merrens, A View of Coastal South Carolina in 1778: The Journal of
F.beneyer Hazard. South Carolina Historical Magazine 73 (October 1972): 190.


44
************
Charlestons reaction to the Stamp Act, though labeled cautious and
conservative by some historians, certainly frightened contemporary royal officials and
the citys elite and upset traditional notions of political participation, deference, and
social order.77 Some negroes mimicked their betters in crying out liberty, while angry
crowds threatened to pull down the homes of royal officials and forced their way into
Henry Laurens' home to search for stamped papers.78 The official elite reaction was, of
course, much more subdued. Merchants, lawyers, and planters disagreed among
themselves over a proper response to the Stamp Act, particularly after violence followed
resistance in Northern ports.79 Henry Laurens thought such uprisings disgraceful and
urged Carolina authorities to prevent any "apings and mockery of those infamous
inglorious feats." While Laurens did not support the Stamp Act, he felt that only a
decent, respectful representation would bring about redress. "The Act must be executed
and indeed a suspension of it while it is in force would prove our ruin and destruction,"
he cautioned. Conversely, attorney Richard Hutson blasted Charlestonians as indifferent
while applauding the "laudable example of the northern provinces in endeavoring to repel
77See in particular Raymond G. Starr, "The Conservative Revolution: South Carolina
Public Affairs, 1775-1790," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1964, and Maurice
Crouse, "Cautious Rebellion: South Carolina's Opposition to the Stamp Act," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 73 (April 1972): 59-71.
7SHenry Laurens to John Lewis Gervais, January 29, 1766, Laurens Paners. 5:53-54.
79See Nash, Urban Crucible. 184-199; Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp
Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution. New rev. ed., (London: Collier Books, 1962), 187-
204.


45
the manifest encroachments on their liberty."80 In July the Commons House responded
favorably to Massachusetts' invitation to send representatives to a Stamp Act Congress in
New York the following October. The assembly elected Thomas Lynch, Christopher
Gadsden, and John Rutledge, all established members of Charleston's elite. Rutledge
practiced law in Charleston and invested heavily in land, obtaining over 30,000 acres by
1775. Lynch owned three plantations and a townhouse in Charleston and invested as
part-owner of three trading vessels. Gadsden, of course, was one of the city's most
successful merchant-planters.81
Meanwhile, as the Stamp Act Congress deliberated in New York, the stamped
paper arrived in Charleston on Friday, October 18, 1765, with the act set to take effect on
November 1. Local Sons of Liberty, comprised primarily of artisans and mechanics,
moved swiftly to resist British policy. The following morning two effigies of a stamp
collector appeared hanging from a twenty-foot gallows at the comer of Broad and Church
streets, near Dillon's Tavern, in the center of town. Onlookers passed by all day to see the
figures with "LIBERTY and no STAMP ACT" printed on them, while the muffled bells
of St. Michael's tolled mournfully. That same evening Stamp Act protesters cut the
figures down, placed them in a wagon, and moved down Bay Street toward Tradd Street
Henry Laurens to Joseph Brown, October 11, 1765, Laurens Papers. 5:25; Richard
Hutson to Joel Benedict, October 30,1765, Richard Hutson Letterbook, South Carolina
Historical Society, Charleston. Hutson was the first intendant (mayor) of incorporated
Charleston in 1783.
8lSouth Carolina Gazette. August 10, 1765; David Duncan Wallace, South Carolina:
A Short History. 1520-1948 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1961),
231; Edgar and Bailey, Biogranhical Directory. 2:259-260, 420-421, 577-578.


46
and the home of stamp inspector George Saxby, followed by a crowd estimated at two
thousand. Cooler heads barely restrained the crowd from demolishing the house, and
after searching the grounds and breaking the windows the procession moved on to the
City Green. There the protesters set the effigies on fire and solemnly buried American
Liberty in a mock funeral as the flames rose into the night sky.82
Five days later, on Wednesday, October 23, rumors circulated that the stamps had
been brought into town and placed in Henry Laurens' home in Ansonborough, a suburb
just north of Charleston.83 Laurens had opposed earlier street demonstrations, and that
evening at midnight a crowd of protesters awakened Laurens by pounding violently on his
front door. The startled merchant assured the crowd that he had no stamped paper, and
Laurens, as a member of the gentry, expected to be taken at his word. Instead, the crowd
Wallace, South Carolina. 231; South Carolina Gazette. October 31,1765. Similar
protests had taken place previously in Boston on August 14, and in Newport on August
27-29,1765. See Peter D. G. Thomas, "The Stamp Act Crisis and Its Repercussions,
Including the Quartering Act Controversy," in Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole, eds., The
Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing,
1991), 117. These Stamp Act demonstrations of street theater and ritual protest were
played out repeatedly in colonial capitals and have recently been called by David
Waldstreicher "the first and most important example of celebration and mourning as loyal
protest." Such protests were performed in the name of English tradition, and its guardian,
the king. "With the king on their side, the lower classes could take the rhetorical high
ground, even against the king's men." Only later, after the Declaration of Independence
and the rejection of England, were colonial grievances thrust upon the King himself.
David Waldstreicher, "Rites of Rebellion, Rites of Assent: Celebrations, Print Culture,
and the Origins of American Nationalism," Journal of American History 82 (June 1995):
43, 47. See also David Waldstreicher, The Making of American Nationalism:
Celebrations and Political Culture, 1776-1820. Ph.D. dissertation., Yale University,
1994.
Laurens' home was on the comer of what is now Laurens Street and East Bay. It was
destroyed in 1916.


47
demanded entrance to his house; Laurens, fearing for his and his pregnant wife's safety,
obeyed. After the crowd had searched the house in vain, the insurgents remained in
Laurenss front parlor and demanded that he swear that he did not know the location of
the stamps. When Laurens refused the crowd threatened him with violence. The standoff
continued for over an hour before the dissidents finally gave up and left. As they did,
"they praised me highly and insisted upon giving me three cheers and then retired with
God bless your honor, Good night Colonel, We hope the poor lady will do well."84
During the ordeal Laurens recognized several of his accusers despite their disguises, and
he called many of them by name. But despite words of bravery, the intrusion left Laurens
shaken and stunned.85 Such an overt and direct threat to private property, social order,
and political deference could not go unchallenged and Laurens complained directly to the
lieutenant governor. Bull responded by calling a Council meeting, advising captains in
port to keep their sailors aboard ship at night and announced to the public that he had
lodged the stamped papers in Fort Johnson in Charleston Harbor. Bull privately fumed
that the artifices of some busy spirits had poisoned the minds of men with the
principles imbibed and propagated from Boston and Rhode Island.86
Henry Laurens to Joseph Brown, October 28, 1765, Laurens Papers. 5:29-32; South
Carolina Gazette. October 31, 1765.
Ten years later, when James Laurens, the child his wife was carrying that night, died
after an accident in London, Laurens told his son John that "he was marked for
misfortune before his birth." Henry to John Laurens, January 4, 1776, Laurens Papers.
10:617.
86Godbold and Woody, Gadsden and the American Revolution. 58.


48
The following Monday Bull and other elite leaders witnessed more street theater.
Stamp inspector George Saxby and stamp distributor Caleb Lloyd, having spent two days
virtually imprisoned in the fort, came up to town to face a multitude of protesters
threatening to tear them to pieces. The trembling pair pleaded that they would do nothing
until Parliament had addressed colonial grievances, and the assembled throng roared its
approval. The harbor rang with cheers, clanging bells, and cannon fire, and the crowd
escorted the stamp officials first to Dillon's Tavern and later to their own homes. Saxby
and Lloyd meekly explained to London that their lives and property had been repeatedly
threatened, and they had acted only to prevent "murder and the destruction of the town.87
Opposition to the Stamp Act eventually closed down the Souths busiest port.
Trading came to a halt, and as crops went unsold, money grew scarce and debts went
unpaid. Though ships kept arriving they could not leave, and more and more sailors
crowded into town. Charleston faced an explosive situation, and merchants pleaded with
their London agents to lobby for repeal. Lt. Governor Bull, at the center of the storm,
received enormous pressure from various groups to open the port without stamped paper,
as Virginia and other colonies had done. Eventually Bull acquiesced. He simply declared
stamped paper unavailable, opened the port, and tensions gradually eased.88 On May 3,
1766, unofficial news arrived that American resolve had been rewarded and that
Parliament had repealed the act. Christopher Gadsden nearly fainted when he heard the
87South Carolina Gazette. October 31, 1765; George Saxby and Caleb Lloyd to
William Bull, October 29, 1765, SCBPRO 30:279-280; Morgan and Morgan, Stamp Act
Crisis. 202.
88See Bull Jr., Oligarchs in Colonial and Revolutionary Charleston. 108-135.


49
report, and according to one witness "joy, jollity and mirth" reigned throughout the port.
Official confirmation coincided with the traditional celebration of the king's birthday in
June.89 Bells rang throughout the city while ships in the harbor displayed their colors and
fired cannon. The city's militia regiment, artillery company, and a new company of light
infantry all assembled on the parade ground for review by Lt. Governor Bull. Later that
evening, Bull hosted a dinner at Dillon's Tavern, attended by both houses of the
legislature, local clergy, and all civil and military officers. Fireworks ended the festive
day, and royal officials could rest assured that "the inhabitants of this province are a loyal
and a grateful people."90
The Stamp Act crisis had passed, but it exposed dangerous fault lines in the citys
social and political facade. From the early 1750s through the early 1770s, Charleston's
population doubled, with poor white inhabitants increasing at the fastest rate. The Stamp
Act crisis simply accelerated existing social trends. The collapse of business swelled the
ranks of the poor, and made a bad situation even worse. Institutions designed for poor
relief, insufficient before the crisis, had been completely overwhelmed by December
1766. Runaway slaves, disorderly sailors, and the poor all crowded into the workhouse.
89Robert Raper to Greenwood and Higginson, London, October 28, 1765, and Raper to
John Colleton, November 8, 1765, Robert Raper Letterbook, South Carolina Historical
Society; William Bull to Henry Seymour Conway, February 6, 1766, SCBPRO 31:22-26;
Crouse, "Cautious Rebellion," 68; Peter Manigault to Thomas Gadsden, May 14,1766,
Peter Manigault Letterbook, South Carolina Historical Society; South Carolina Gazette.
June 9,1766.
90South Carolina Gazette. June 8, 1765; Peter Manigault to Charles Garth, July 4,
1766, Peter Manigault Letterbook, South Carolina Historical Society. Garth was South
Carolina's agent in London.


50
As poor tax rates increased, city fathers desperately sought ways to control a population
that appeared to be growing dangerously out of control.91
The Stamp Act crisis also gave vent to backcountry grievances against lowcountry
arrogance and Charleston hegemony. South Carolinas backcountry, despite a growing
population, elected only four of forty-eight assemblymen in the Commons House.
Charleston alone had six representatives. The backcountry also lacked efficient and
adequate law enforcement and educational institutions. Charleston leaders and
lowcountry legislators in the assembly acknowledged the lack of courts, jails, sheriffs,
and schools, but resisted spending their tax money on backcountry improvements.
Hence, when coastal leaders denounced the Stamp Act as British oppression, the
backcountry exploded in anger. Charles Woodmason, an upcountry clergyman and
popular spokesman, sneered that "while these provincials were roaring out against the
Stamp Act and impositions, they were rioting in Luxury and Extravagance." Woodmason
ridiculed the hypocrisy of "men who bounce and make such noise about Liberty! Liberty!
Freedom! Property! Rights! Privileges! while they ride, oppress, distress and keep under
the lowest subjection half of the inhabitants."92 For those who cared to see them, the
Stamp Act crisis exposed the first signs of conflicts that would rage on for years.
Minutes of Vestry Meeting, December 7, 1766, St. Philip's Records, South
Caroliniana Library; Easterby, "Public Poor Relief in Colonial Charleston," 83-86;
Fraser, "City Elite, 'Disorder,' and the Poor Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston,"
167-168.
92Robert H. Woody, "Christopher Gadsden and the Stamp Act," Proceedings of the
South Carolina Historical Association. 1937, 9.


51
The American Revolution presented both enormous challenges and unprecedented
opportunities for all Charlestonians. As members of the citys elite gathered in Dillon's
Tavern to celebrate the King's birthday and the repeal of the Stamp Act on that summer
evening in 1766, few could have imagined that the Stamp Act crisis had thrust all ranks
of Charleston society upon the brink of enormous changes. Yet, as Gordon S. Wood has
recently written, when eighteenth-century Americans set out to change their governments,
they changed their society as well.93 Once down the road of rebellion, the elite found to
their horror that everything that gave their world stability and identity had come under
assault. The citys plain mechanics and industrial artisans may have worked with their
hands rather than their minds, but during the coming years they would take to the streets
and raise their voices in protest against British mercantilism, elite economic policy, and
time-honored notions of aristocratic dominance. Ultimately they rejected deferential
politics altogether and embraced political equality and self-interested democracy.
Religious dissenters attacked the established church. Backcountrymen, not content to
simply condemn lowcountry hypocrisy, would demand a more egalitarian government
and the removal of the capital to a centralized, plebeian, location. Finally, and perhaps
most ominously, a chorus of rising voices from both within and without the region
challenged white South Carolinians right to own other human beings. The Revolution in
Charleston was not cautious or conservative. In fact, it forever altered not only the
Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1992), 5.


52
relationships that bound Carolinians together, but also the citys position of unchallenged
dominance in the colony and region.


53
TABLE 1-1
Population of American Cities, 1760-1810
1760
1775
1790
1800
1810
Philadelphia
23,750
40,000
42,520
41,220
53,722
New York
18,000
25,000
33,131
60,489
96,373
Boston
15,631
16,000
18,038
24,937
34,322
Charleston
8,598
12,000
16,359
20,473
24,711
Baltimore
5,934
13,503
26,514
46,555
Sources: Carl Bridenbaugh, Urban Life in America. 1743-1776. 216-217; Philip D.
Morgan, "Black Life in Eighteenth-Century Charleston," Perspectives in American
History New Series 1 (1984): 188; Everett S. Lee and Michael Lalli, Population, in
David T. Gilchrist, ed., The Growth of Seaport Cities. 34-35; First, Second, and Third
Federal Population Censuses.


54
TABLE 1-2
Number and Tonnage of Ships Outward and Inward Bound, For Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, 1768-1772
1768
Outward Bound
1769 1770 1771
1772
Boston
612
33,695
828
37,045
800
36,965
794
38,995
845
New York
480
23,566
787
26,859
612
26,653
524
25,433
700
Philadelphia
641
36,944
678
40,871
769
47,292
741
43,029
759
Charleston
429
31,551
433
31,147
451
29,976
487
31,031
485
1768
Inward Bound
1769 1770 1 771
1772
Boston
549
31,983
879
40,483
819
38,360
821
39,420
852
New York
462
21,847
725
26,650
600
25,539
557
25,042
710
Philadelphia
528
34,970
698
42,333
750
47,489
719
41,740
730
Charleston
448
34,449
433
29,096
455
27,554
489
31,592
452
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970.2 vols.. 2:1180-1181.


TABLE 1-3
Rice Exported From Charleston, 1765-1789 (barrels)
55
Barrels
Pounds
% Total Rice Exports
1765
107,292
65,710,575
86%
1766
74,031
48,396,600
80%
1767
104,125
63,465,150
86%
1768
125,538
77,284,200
85%
1769
115,582
73,078,950
83%
1770
131,805
83,708,625
83%
1771
125,151
81,755,100
80%
1772
104,821
69,218,625
80%
1773
126,940
81,476,325
82%
1774
118,482
76,265,700
82%
1783
24,255
12,733,875
N/A
1784
61,974
32,536,350
N/A
1785
63,732
33,459,300
N/A
1786
66,557
34,942,425
N/A
1787
65,195
34,227,375
N/A
1788
82,400
43,260,000
N/A
1789
100,000
52,500,000
N/A
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970.2 vols.. 2:1192.
Note: Number of pounds per barrel varied from year to year, but from 1765-1774
averaged 525 pounds. The pounds for 1783-1789 are not provided by the Bureau of the
Census, but have been calculated using the average for 1765-1774.


TABLE 1-4
Indigo Exported From South Carolina, 1765-1788 (lbs.)
56
1765
335,800
1766
491,800
1767
N/A
1768
498,000
1769
402,700
1770
550,800
1771
434,200
1772
746,700
1773
720,600
1774
747,200
1775
1,122,200
1783
289,500
1784
713,900
1785
626,200
1786
757,100
1787
974,100
1788
833,500
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970. 2 vols.. 2:1189.
Note: Between 1768-1773, Charleston exported 92.2 percent of all indigo exported from
South Carolina. The totals for 1783-1788 are for Charleston only.


TABLE 1-5
Black Population of North American Cities, 1760s-1810
57
Pre-Rev.
1790
1800
1810
Philadelphia
872 (1775)
2,078
6,434
9,678
New York
3,137 (1771)
3,470
6,367
9,823
Boston
811(1765)
766
1,174
1,484
Charleston
5,831 (1770)
8,270
10,843
13,143
Sources: Gary B. Nash, "Forging Freedom: The Emancipation Experience in the
Northern Seaport Cities, 1775-1820," in Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, eds., Slavery
and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution. 5; William Bull to Hillsborough,
November 30, 1770, in Transcripts of Records in the British Public Record Office,
32:387-388, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia; First,
Second, and Third Federal Population Censuses.
TABLE 1-6
Population of Charleston, 1760-1810
White
Black
Total
1760
4,121 (48%)
4,474 (52%)
8,598
1770
5,030 (46%)
5,831 (54%)
10,861
1790
8,089 (49%)
8,270 (51%)
16,359
1800
9,630 (47%)
10,843 (53%)
20,473
1810
11,568 (47%)
13,143 (53%)
24,711
Sources: Philip D. Morgan, "Black Life in Eighteenth-Century Charleston," Perspectives
in American History New Series 1 (1984): 188; First, Second, and Third Federal
Population Censuses


TABLE 1-7
Population of Lowcountry South Carolina, 1775-1810
58
White
Black
Total
1775
14,302 (16%)
72,743 (84%)
87,045
1790
28,644 (27%)
79,216 (73%)
107,860
1800
33,863 (26%)
98,800 (74%)
132,663
1810
38,061 (25%)
113,147(75%)
151,208
Sources: Stella H. Sutherland, Population Distribution in Colonial America (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1936), 240; First, Second, and Third Federal Population
Censuses.
Note: The Lowcountry consists in 1790 of Charleston District, Beaufort District, and
Georgetown District; for 1800 also Colleton District, Marion District; for 1810 also
Horry District, Williamsburg District.
TABLE 1-8
Slaves Imported Into Charleston, 1765-1775
Slaves
Cargoes
1765
6,520
106
1769
4,652
67
1770
1,596
19
1771
2,035
77
1772
4,740
90
1773
7,845
97
1774
4,592
87
Total
31,980
543
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970. 2 vols.. 2:1173-1174-
Note: During 1766-1768 South Carolina prohibited the external slave trade. A total of 9
slaves and 5 cargoes entered the port during those years.


CHAPTER TWO
THE MANY-HEADED POWER OF THE PEOPLE:
METAMORPHOSIS, 1766-1775
"Excuse me for seeming to compare you to unbroke asses, upon whose backs it is
extremely difficult to lay the first sack. Remember now or never, more sacks, more sacks
are coming, if once you receive this."
"Home Spun Free-Man," 1766
"The present struggle will either insure happiness and freedom or miserable slavery to
this continent. Our all is at stake, and upon the behavior of this day hangs the fate of
future generations."
"Vox Populi," 1774
"You-think the people in England are acting madly, I am sure we may safely compare
notes with them in this country. I am ready to cry out, a pox on both their houses, we are
all mad, all wrong."
Henry Laurens, 1775
Between 1766 and 1775 a series of overlapping crises propelled Charleston
toward social, political, and economic revolution and armed rebellion against the Crown.
If South Carolina's colonial elite prided themselves on "the harmony we were famous
for,"1 the events of the late 1760s and early 1770s must have seemed like a nightmare.
The debate over the proper response to British policy shattered the cohesion of
'See Robert M. Weir, "'The Harmony We Were Famous For': An Interpretation of Pre-
Revolutionary South Carolina Politics," in Stanley N. Katz and John M. Murrin, eds.,
Colonial America: Essays in Politics and Social Development (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1983), 421-446. ('Originally published in William and Mary Quarterly 26
(October 1969): 473-501.)
59


60
Charlestons traditional leaders and turned resistance into revolution as the citys
middling ranks seized the opportunity to make unprecedented challenges to elite
authority. Charlestons artisans, like their counterparts in Boston, Philadelphia, and New
York, asserted their economic self-interest and adamantly supported non-importation in
defiance of conservative merchants. As the epicenter of resistance in South Carolina,
Charlestons urban milieu accelerated the transition from deferential elite politics to self-
interested democracy. The recognition of self-interest in American politics emerged as
one of the most radical political innovations of the American Revolution, for it
challenged traditional notions about communalism, political deference, and economic
self-interest.2
This interpretation is supported by most of the recent scholarship on the
Revolution in the urban North but contradicts the prevailing interpretations of the
Revolution in South Carolina. Gary B. Nash found that in the urban North the
Revolution accelerated existing demographic and economic trends and turned resistance
into a "dual revolution," replacing vertical with horizontal divisions.3 Similarly, Charles
F. Olton argues that Philadelphia's artisans exchanged "shy deference" for an increasingly
active role in city politics after 1765. Artisans protected their economic self-interest by
actively supporting non-importation of British goods, and merchant intransigence led
them to organize in associations to air their political and economic grievances. They
2Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1992), 245-247, 252-259.
3Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seanorts and the Origins of the
American Revolution Abr. ed. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986).


61
sought not social revolution but political inclusiveness, which they had accomplished, he
wrote, by 1777. This growing artisan assertiveness, Olton argued, emerged as "one of the
most striking events in the history of Philadelphia in the eighteenth century."4 Edward
Countryman uncovered analogous behavior among artisans in Revolutionary New York,
who took to the streets to assert their demands and stretched the fabric of New York
until it rent even while they helped to do the same thing to the British empire." The
Revolution brought great changes to the city, and Countryman finds that by 1790 New
York society had been transformed.5 Charles G. Steffen and Dirk Hoerder found that
artisan agitation in Baltimore and Boston produced similar results in those cities.6
Conversely, Mary Catherine Ferrari, a student of Southern urban artisans, asserts that
during the non-importation movement of the late 1760s Charleston's artisans "neither
challenged the traditional ruling powers nor did they attain cohesion among themselves."7
4Charles F. Olton, Artisans For Independence: Philadelphia Mechanics and the
American Revolution (Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1975), 33-34, 39-40, 52,
54, 80.
5Edward Countryman, A People In Revolution: The American Revolution and
Political Society in New York. 1760-1790 (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1981), 36-45, 59. See also Howard B. Rock, Artisans of the New Republic: The
Tradesmen of New York City in the Age of Jefferson (New York: New York University
Press, 1979). Rock found that the political gains that New York's artisans made in the
Jeffersonian era had their roots in the Revolution.
6Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of
Revolution. 1763-1812 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984); Dirk Hoerder, Crowd
Action in Revolutionary Massachusetts. 1765-1800 (New York: Academic Press, 1977).
7Mary Catherine Ferrari, "Artisans of the South: A Comparative Study of Norfolk,
Charleston, and Alexandria, 1763-1800. Ph.D. dissertation, College of William and
Mary, 1992, 92.


62
Similarly, David Chesnutt argues that "by the end of 1769 all sides had been placated,
[and] stability had been restored to assembly politics."8 Robert M. Weir believes that the
non-importation movement altered elite conceptions of South Carolinas relationship with
London but did not disrupt the ties between the citys various factions. Indeed, most
historians of Revolutionary South Carolina concur in the notion of the Revolution as a
conservative elite revolt that produced little social, political, or economic instability.
According to Weir, Revolutionary changes proved to be "weak and ephemeral."9
*David Chesnutt, Greedy Party Work: The South Carolina Election of 1768, in
Patricia U. Bonomi, ed., Party and Political Opposition in Revolutionary America
(Tarrytown NY: Sleepy Hollow Press, 1980), 86.
Robert M. Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood NY: KTO Press,
1983), 306, 342. Weir earlier wrote that the political culture of the eighteenth century
persisted into the nineteenth in South Carolina with relatively little modification. Weir,
The Harmony We Were Famous For, 444. Similarly, George Winston Lane Jr. writes
that once lowcountry families caught their breaths after restoring plantations and
businesses to order, they would have noticed remarkably little change from the war.
Lane Jr., The Middletons of Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: A Colonial Dynasty,
1678-1787, Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1990, 715. John C. Meleney argues
that neither in South Carolina nor elsewhere in Revolutionary America did the
commitment to virtuous republicanism imply rejection of a hierarchical political structure
in which men of demonstrated merit would hold the requisite authority to govern. With
independence won, the patriot rebels in the lowcountry became, overnight, the
metropolitan establishment responsible for the management of political affairs and the
preservation of both liberty and order... the Revolution was not a great divide. Only the
terms of reference changed, as one source of authority was lopped off and another
substituted in its place. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus Burke: Revolutionary
Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1989), 278, 281. Richard Brent Clow came to a similar conclusion in his
biography of Edward Rutledge. See Clow, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, 1749-
1800: Unproclaimed Statesman, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976,
especially 200. Eva B. Poythress maintains that throughout the conflict leadership
remained firmly in the hands of traditional leaders. The same men who opened the
breach . continued in government through the war. Many members of the
conservative elite such as Laurens, the Rutledges, the Pinckneys, and the Middletons
nurtured the Revolution in its earliest phases and saw it through to its conclusion. The


63
This chapter explores how the enormously disruptive events of 1766-1775
shattered the stable world of Charlestons elite and turned resistance into radical
revolution. By September 1775 the economic, political, and social stability of the
prospering, growing metropolis of 1765 had been replaced by "division, riot, anarchy, and
confusion." The Continental Association closed the harbor to both imports and exports.
With all commerce at a halt, courts closed, money grew scarce, and debts went unpaid.
political elite was both supported and spurred to greater action by the mechanics of the
city and the more liberal elements of the backcountry, but ultimate direction and authority
lay always with the traditional leadership. Poythress, Revolution By Committee: An
Administrative History of the Extralegal Committees in South Carolina, 1774-1776,
Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1975, 340-341. Gordon Roy Denboer
asserts that by early assuming leadership of the opposition to British policies in the early
1760s and continuing that opposition as each new crisis occurred up to mid-1776, the
colonys political leaders greatly minimized the chances that they would be upset in an
internal revolution. Denboer, The Early Revolutionary Movement in South Carolina,
1773-1776, M.A. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1969, 144. Marvin R. Zahniser wrote
that to a remarkable degree the low-country gentry retained control of the government in
South Carolina after the Revolutionary War. In the political sphere, it sometimes seemed
that the war had never taken place. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding
Father (Chapel Hill NC: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1967), 101. Raymond Stan-
proposed that because of the conservative leadership, the aim of the revolutionary
movement was to protect the rights of British citizens and to prevent anarchy, not to
establish a new social and political order, and that the Revolution had freed South
Carolina from British control within the state without producing an internal revolution.
Stan, The Conservative Revolution: South Carolina Public Affairs, 1775-1790, Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Texas, 1964, 285, 288. His findings agreed with George C.
Rogers Jr., Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston 11758-18121
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1962), 36. Frederick P. Bowes
argued that in 1776 the Charleston aristocracy threw off the one remaining trammel to its
power and stood supreme over the life and government of South Carolina. Bowes, The
Culture of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill NC: University ofNorth Carolina, 1942), 115.
Jerome J. Nadelhaft argued for a limited political revolution in South Carolina that
brought increased representation to the backcountry and the rise of democratic rhetoric.
The war made necessary the enlistment of widespread support and gave new people
experience and confidence. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in Smith
Carolina (Orono Me: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981), 105-124, 216.


64
Armed men in rebellion to the Crown roamed the streets, non-legal bodies governed the
city and province, and Charlestonians hastily constructed defenses against an imminent
British Naval bombardment and invasion.10 It all seemed unimaginable in 1766.
************
The repeal of the Stamp Act set off wild celebrations in Charleston in the spring
of 1766. When news of the repeal arrived on May 3, 1766, "joy, jollity, and mirth"
reigned, according to Commons House speaker Peter Manigault.11 Charlestonians
celebrated with banquets, bells, and fireworks. Almost no one noticed the Declaratory
Act accompanying the good news, which asserted Parliament's right to legislate for the
colonies "in all cases whatsoever." The Commons House of Assembly, certain that the
repeal marked a great moment in South Carolina history, commissioned a statue of
William Pitt, "the Great Commoner" who had championed American liberty, to be
erected in the center of town at the intersection of Broad and Meeting streets.12 But even
10Alexander Innes to Earl of Dartmouth, June 10, 1775, in B.D. Bargar, ed., Charles
Town Loyalism in 1775: The Secret Reports of Alexander Innes. South Carolina
Historical Magazine 63 (1962): 134; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, July 2, 1775,
"Letters from Henry Laurens to His Son John," South Carolina Historical Magazine 5
(January 1904): 12; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, September 18, 1775, in Philip M.
Hamer et al., eds., The Papers of Henry Laurens. 14 vols. to date (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1968-), 10:396-397: South Carolina and American
General Gazette. September 1, 1775.
"Peter Manigault to Thomas Gadsden, May 14, 1766, Peter Manigault Letterbook,
South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.
12The statue was raised on Thursday, July 5, 1770. See South Carolina Gazette. July 5,
1770, and D.E. Huger Smith, "Wilton's Statue of Pitt," South Carolina Historical
Magazine 15 (January 1914): 18-38. The statue's pedestal is now in Washington Park
behind City Hall, and the statue itself, minus an arm, is now in the Charleston Museum.


65
the most ardent foes of the Stamp Act could not imagine how quickly these celebrations
would fade into memory, to be overshadowed by the darker events of the next ten years.
The repeal of the Stamp Act had opened up the harbor, and the city bustled with
activity after the long cessation of trade. The new royal governor, Lord Charles Greville
Montagu, arrived in Charleston on June 11, 1766.13 He entered a flourishing, growing
city, and despite the upheaval of the next decade, Charleston continued to expand as a
regional center of trade and commerce. Nevertheless, the Southern metropolis did not
lack significant social, political, and economic problems. The number of the citys poor
rose alarmingly during the late 1760s, particularly as the Stamp Act crisis closed the
harbor, and poor tax rates increased accordingly.14 Simultaneously, overzealous revenue
officers began harassing Charleston merchants in an effort to enforce the letter as well as
the spirit of the Navigation Laws. Royal customs officials seized several coasting
schooners owned by Henry Laurens, and his subsequent legal troubles in the Court of
Vice Admiralty exposed the problem of corruption in the colonial administration.15 In
13South Carolina and American General Gazette. June 13,1766.
l4This problem is discussed in chapter one, but see also Barbara L. Bellows,
Benevolence Among Slaveholders: Assisting the Poor in Charleston. 1670-1860 (Baton
Rouge LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); Walter J. Fraser Jr., The City Elite,
Disorder, and the Poor Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston, South Carolina
Historical Magazine 84 (July 1983): 167-179.
l5See David Duncan Wallace, The Life of Henry Laurens (New York: G.P. Putnam's
Sons, 1915), 137-149; Warner Oland Moore Jr., "Henry Laurens: A Charleston Merchant
in the Eighteenth Century, 1747-1771," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Alabama, 1974,
267-289; Robert M. Calhoon and Robert M. Weir, '"The Scandalous History of Sir
Egerton Leigh,"' William and Mary Quarterly 26 (January 1969): 53-62; Weir, "A Most
Important Epocha:" The Coming of the Revolution in South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1970), 25-28. See also Neil R. Stout, Charleston vs.


66
addition to social and economic problems, Charlestonians faced a storm of political
protest from backcountrymen demanding adequate judicial and educational institutions,
as well as more proportionate representation in the legislature. The populous region
elected only four of the forty-eight members of the Commons House of Assembly and
suffered from a lack of schools, jails, and law enforcement officials. The Assembly
partially placated backcountry dissidents by passing the Circuit Court Act of July 1769,
but only after the bloodshed and violence of the Regulator movement.16 Meanwhile, the
dispute over schools and especially backcountry representation remained contentious and
divisive issues for several decades to come.
As one historian has noted, the Stamp Act crisis of 1765-1766 created "a political
squall line that would eventually spawn larger storms."17 At the height of the furor in
1766, "Home Spun Free-Man" compared his fellow South Carolinians to "unbroke asses
and warned that "more sacks, more sacks are coming" if they did not resist ministerial
the Royal Navy, 1767, South Carolina Historical Magazine 93 (July/October 1992): 196-
201. John Hancock had similar problems in Boston. See Oliver M. Dickerson. The
Navigation Acts and the American Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1951), 231-250.
16On the Regulator movement, see Richard Maxwell Brown, The South Carolina
Regulators (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1963); Rachel N. Klein,
Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina
Backcountry. 1760-1808 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 47-
77; Klein, Ordering the Backcountry: The South Carolina Regulation, William and
Mary Quarterly 38 (1981): 661-680.
17Robert M. Weir, '"Liberty and Property, and No Stamps': South Carolina and the
Stamp Act Crisis," Ph.D. dissertation, Western Reserve University, 1966, 354.


67
encroachments.18 Indeed, Charlestonians violently resisted implementation of the act as
their counterparts did in the urban North.19 Despite colonial resistance, or perhaps
because of it, "more sacks" followed anyway. Parliament passed the Townshend Acts on
June 29, 1767, taxing all glass, lead, paint, and tea imported into America effective
November 20, 1767. The Ministry intended for the acts to raise £40,000 a year in the
colonies, with the revenue earmarked for colonial defense and administration. American
dissenters charged that Parliament in fact designed the acts to demonstrate its supremacy
over colonial legislatures and to make royal officials financially independent of provincial
legislatures. The news reached Charleston via Boston on August 21, 1767.20 In
November, word arrived that Boston had resolved not to import any taxable goods. On
February 11,1768, the Massachusetts House sent out a circular letter to the other
provincial assemblies urging joint action in opposing the Townshend Acts. When
Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard demanded that the House rescind the letter,
ninety-two members refused. Bernard retaliated by proroguing and then dissolving the
House.21 Secretary of State Hillsborough, determined to prevent a continental
l8South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. February 25,1766.
19For the events of October 1765, see chapter one, and Weir, '"Liberty and Property,'"
222-243.
20Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 301-302; South Carolina and American General
Gazette. August 21, 1767.
2lEdward McCrady, The History of South Carolina Under the Roval Government
1719-1776 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1899), 596-602.


68
Townshend Duties assembly analogous to the Stamp Act Congress, ordered colonial
governors to prevent their respective legislatures from considering the letter.
The election of 1768 marked the first time Charlestons artisans participated in the
political process. With the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly scheduled to
meet in November 1768, Governor Montague called elections for October 4 and 5.
Determined to make their voices heard in the debate over the Townshend Duties,
Charleston's artisans held an unprecedented meeting at the Liberty Tree in Isaac Mazycks
pasture on Saturday, October 1, to choose a slate of candidates for the election.22 The
artisans had been active in social organizations in Charleston but until the Stamp Act
crisis had been relatively silent regarding politics.23 Opposition to the Townshend Duties
presented Charleston craftsmen with the opportunity to strike a significant blow against
the British mercantile system, which they believed prevented them from any chance of
real prosperity. Charleston's craftsmen could not compete with their counterparts in
Britain nor did the elite encourage them to do so. Charleston's merchants grew wealthy
providing Carolina planters with the finest British manufactured goods, depriving
Charleston artisans of both profits and customers. Artisanal dissent against the
Townshend Acts therefore both promoted mechanic economic self-interest and
22As in chapter one, artisans are defined as laborers who performed skilled work with
their hands, and the term is used interchangeably with mechanic and craftsman
throughout this study. The term does not include unskilled laborers.
23The artisans founded the Fellowship Society on April 4, 1762, as a benevolent
society. See Fellowship Society Papers, microfilm, South Caroliniana Library, University
of South Carolina, Columbia. In the spring of 1768 the artisans sponsored a horse race
and a cock fight. Ferrari, "Artisans of the South," 45.


69
denounced elite support for British manufacturing. The artisans adopted a pragmatic
approach, however. Rather than supporting a cohort of artisans with little chance of
winning the election, they wisely chose elite candidates perceived as being friendly to
their cause. The meeting nominated five merchant-planters and one mechanic. Three of
the candidates represented the top echelon of Charleston society: Christopher Gadsden,
Benjamin Dart, and Thomas Smith of Broad Street, all successful merchant-planters.
Gadsden had emerged as the leading spokesman for the city's tradesmen during the Stamp
Act crisis. Dart had served as commissioner of the streets, workhouse, and markets, and
in addition to his trading business owned a plantation on the Ashley River. Smith had
retired from business when he inherited Broom Hall plantation in St. James Goose Creek
Parish. The other three candidates, though successful, held lesser prestige. Slave trader
Thomas Savage owned 200 acres in Berkeley County and a Charleston townhouse.
Thomas Smith Sr. had been a Charleston merchant since the 1730s. Only Hopkin Price
had been a mechanic. Price, a former tanner and cobbler, had acquired property in town
and a small plantation on the Ashley River. He had served in the Commons House since
1760, representing various country parishes, but had never represented Charleston. The
artisans considered but passed over attorney-planter Charles Pinckney, and merchant-
planters Henry Laurens, John Lloyd, and John Ward.24
24South Carolina Gazette. October 3, 1768; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. October 4, 1768; Chesnutt, '"Greedy Party Work,'" 76-77; Walter B. Edgar et al.,
eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. 5 vols.
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1974-1992), 2:183-184, 540-541,
596-597, 641-643. David Duncan Wallace describes the artisan's meeting as a "primary."
Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens. 154.


70
Charleston voters elected Gadsden, Dart, and Savage, half of the artisan slate.
Henry Laurensone of the candidates rejected by the artisanswon election by a margin
large enough to allow him to relinquish twenty of his votes to Charles Pinckney in order
to prevent former artisan Hopkin Price from winning election. Laurens lampooned
Gadsden's meeting with the artisans as a "grand barbac given by a grand simpleton," and
he sneered at the idea of having to campaign for votes. "I walk on in the old road," he
told Governor James Grant of East Florida, and he explained that he released votes to
Charles Pinckney "to keep out a person who was thought unqualified to represent Charles
Town."25 Presumably former artisans could represent country parishes but not the grand
metropolis.
The artisans erred in choosing merchants to represent their interests, however.
Predictably, city merchants met the Massachusetts call for a colony-wide boycott of
British goods with "silent neglect."26 The Stamp Act crisis had been disastrous for
commerce, and merchants resisted cutting off all business with London. Indeed, a three-
year ban on slave importations would end in 1769, and Charleston traders anticipated a
brisk business with planters eager to buy human cargo.27 Most merchants agreed that
25South Carolina Gazette. October 10, 1768; Laurens to James Grant, October 1,
December 22, 1768, Papers of Henry Laurens. 6:117-120,231-234.
William Bull to Hillsborough, October 18, 1768, in Transcripts of Records in the
British Public Record Office Relating to South Carolina, 1663-1782, 36 volumes, 32:56-
57, Records Deposited With the Secretary, Records of the Secretary of State, South
Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia (hereafter cited as SCBPRO).
27See Henry Laurens to Ross and Mill, December 24, 1768, Papers of Henry Laurens.
6:240-241: "The planters are full of money, and their rice commands money wherefore
'tis probable that the sales of slaves will be very advantageous at this market.".


71
South Carolina should resist the Townshend Acts, but many felt that a closed port would
be the least desirable option. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Governor William Bull reported to
Secretary Hillsborough that many Charlestonians supported the "political principles now
prevailing in Boston." Even if Charleston's merchants did not personally favor non
importation, clearly most of the colonies favored some form of resistance to the latest
scheme of Parliamentary taxation. Members of the Commons House however,
disagreed over the proper response. Bull prorogued the Assembly until November 14,
1768, hoping that the absent Governor Montagu might return so that he could preside
over the brewing controversy.28 When Montagu returned he warned the House-referring
of course to the Massachusetts circularto ignore any letter it received which might have
"the smallest tendency to sedition, or by promoting an unwarrantable combination, to
inflame the minds of the people." The Commons House, sensing an executive
encroachment on its privileges, assured the Governor that it had received nothing of the
kind, and all twenty-six members present promptly endorsed the Massachusetts letter. A
furious Montagu immediately dissolved the Assembly, complaining to his superiors in
London that all of his efforts to prevent the Commons from endorsing the letter had been
in vain.29
28Bull to Hillsborough, October 18, October 23, 1768, SCBPRO 32:56-59.
29South Carolina Gazette. November 24, 1768; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. November 29, 1768; Lord Charles Montagu to Hillsborough, November 21,
1768, SCBPRO 32:61. The twenty-six members are listed in South Carolina and
American General Gazette November 25, 1768.


72
Though the elite in the Assembly might agree to endorse the Massachusetts
circular, they could reach no consensus on non-importation. The issue divided merchants
and planters and exposed jealousies and tensions between various ranks of Charleston
society. By early 1769, a majority of planters and artisans favored non-importation.
When the Assembly lifted a three-year ban on the foreign slave trade in January 1769, one
planter urged city merchants to send the transports back to Britain. When thousands of
slaves crowded London docks and threatened to overrun the city, he said, royal officials
would have no choice but to grant American demands. In the meantime, artisans-joined
by a few planters-aggressively encouraged their fellow citizens to forego the luxuries of
a corrupt empire and purchase only home manufactures. By February their efforts had
borne fruit as artisans and planters resolved to boycott most British goods and slaves and
to begin manufacturing their own clothes. Many merchants simply ignored the informal
resolves and continued doing business as usual. By summer angry planters threatened to
boycott any trader who continued to import merchandise and slaves from Britain. In late
June the planters formalized their earlier resolves, signing an agreement not to purchase
"any manufactures of Great Britain" and at the urging of the artisans added that they
would cease to purchase slaves after January 1, 1770.30 The debate over resistance to
British policy divided the merchant-planter oligarchy, and artisans seized the opportunity
to voice their political and economic demands. Planters wishing to protect the Commons
30South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. February 7, 1769; South Carolina
Gazette. February 2, June 1, June 29, July 6, 1769.


73
House against the encroachments of Parliament and artisans eager to strike an economic
blow against British competitors formed an uneasy and pragmatic alliance.
By July 1769 two equally disagreeable options confronted Charlestons merchants.
They could continue to import and face the wrath of the community or cut off all trade
and face disaster. Seeking a compromise, they proposed to postpone non-importation for
one year, until January 1, 1771, to cancel all outstanding orders, and to ban all slave
importations during 1770. The artisans howled in protest over the omission of
encouraging home manufactures and promptly rejected the merchants proposal. At this
point one exasperated merchant complained publicly that the mercantile community's
choice amounted to "sign or be ruined." He argued that the nearly self-sufficient planters
and artisans actually stood to profit by non-importation. Planters could expect to profit
when prices rose for existing slaves, staple crops could continue to be exported, and
artisans could expect a booming business with British competition removed. Merchants
did not mind sacrificing to attain common goals, he wrote, but no one could expect them
to bear a greater burden than other groups.31 Finally, the various factions reached a
compromise agreement on July 22, 1769, banning most imports of manufactured goods
and slaves. Anyone failing to sign after one month faced public condemnation and
boycott. When the merchants appointed a committee of thirteen to enforce the
association, the planters and artisans did likewise, forming one General Committee of
39.32 The forging of a non-importation agreement had consumed over six months and had
3lSouth Carolina Gazette. July 13, 1769.
32Ibid July 27, 1769.


74
seriously divided planters and merchants. But for the first time, Charleston's artisans had
obtained a measure of political equality, though admittedly only in an extra-legal body.
Nevertheless, it represented a significant step.
The non-importation movement in Charleston, and in the American colonies in
general, obtained only moderate success. In October 1769 Peter Manigault reported that
only thirty-one merchants had refused to sign the association, but many probably
endorsed the agreement from fear of communal retaliation rather than conviction.33 The
jealousies and tensions exposed during the debate over the terms of the agreement
continued during the boycott itself. The existing evidence indicates that the committee
randomly enforced the agreement, and Charlestonians made charges and countercharges
in the local press that some merchants received preferential treatment. Many merchants
continued to receive goods from Britain that had been ordered long before signing the
agreement and thus saw no reason why they could not land and sell those goods.
Disagreement erupted when the committee allowed some merchants, but not others, to do
so. The committee did not allow Alexander Gillon, for instance, to sell wine ordered in
May 1769 which did not arrive until January 1770.34 Likewise, the committee warned
Charlestonians to boycott Ann and Benjamin Mathews and advertised them as violators
of the agreement on May 31,1770. Ann Mathews charged that the goods had been
ordered before she had signed the agreement, but that John Edwards, a member of the
33Peter Manigault to Ralph Izard, October 4, 1769, Peter Manigault Letterbook, South
Carolina Historical Society; William Bull to Hillsborough, September 25, 1769, March 6,
1770, SCBPRO 32:103-104, 199-204.
34South Carolina Gazette. February 1, 1770.


75
General Committee, had received cargoes under the same conditions and had been
allowed to sell them. Her pleas fell upon deaf ears, and Benjamin Mathews, facing
economic disaster, begged the Committee and the community for forgiveness.35
Some members of the elite objected to the prominent role played by artisans and
mechanics in enforcing the boycott. William Henry Drayton lampooned the notion that
tradesmen could sit in judgment of their betters. Scion of a wealthy and prestigious
Carolina family, Drayton attended Oxford and had been elected to the Commons House
in 1765 at age twenty-three.36 Unlike many of his contemporaries, he chose to defend the
royal prerogative in the late 1760s. In September 1769 he lashed out at the General
Committee for publishing his name as a non-subscriber by ridiculing the "profanum
vulgus." Drayton maintained that he would never take orders from a mechanic, and he
questioned why other members of the educated elite would willingly associate with "men
who never were in a way to study, or to advise upon any points, but rules how to cut up a
beast in the market to the best advantage, to cobble an old shoe in the neatest manner, or
to build a necessary house." Though he respected artisans he thought that "nature never
intended that such men should be profound politicians or able statesmen."37 Many other
35Ibid., June 7, October 4, 1770. See also Leila Sellers, Charleston Business On The
Eve of The American Revolution (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press,
1934), 203-220.
36See J. Russell Snapp, "William Henry Drayton: The Making of A Conservative
Revolutionary," Journal of Southern History 57 (November 1991): 637-658; William M.
Dabney and Marion Dargan, William Henry Drayton and The American Revolution
(Albuquerque NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1962); Edgar, Biographical
Directory. 2:207-210.
37South Carolina Gazette. September 21, 1769.


76
merchants and planters undoubtedly shared Drayton's views but for the sake of unanimity
kept silent.
The unlettered and uneducated target of Draytons diatribe responded with
biting sarcasm. The artisans rebuttal rejected deference with a vengeance. They begged
forgiveness for using plain language, they wrote, "for it cannot be expected they should
know how to convey their thoughts in the polite and courtly manner of such a well-bred
gentleman." The proud craftsmen happily made their living by manual labor and
considered themselves "the most useful people in the community." Every man could not
expect to be so fortunate as to either marry wealth or to inherit it as Drayton had done.
Certainly he had not earned his money himself, nor, they insisted, was he capable of
doing so. The artisans argued that despite Draytons education, he would be helpless if
forced to earn bread, clothing, or shelter with his own hands. He might "hire himself as a
packhorseman in the Indian trade, serve some mechanic as a labourer, or if he behaved
himself well, he might drive a cart or dray about the streets of Charles Town." In short,
the artisans argued that they represented an indispensable part of the community, as
important in that sense as any man of inherited wealth, and stood equal to the planters'
and merchants with regard "to love for their country.1,38 Drayton nor any other member
of the elite ever responded, but the exchange reveals the social and political tensions that
the non-importation movement had brought to the surface. Undoubtedly other planters
and merchants viewed the artisanal response with suspicion, and many must have
38Ibid., October 5, 1769.


77
wondered if perhaps something more important than political supremacy over Parliament
was at stake.
Parliament repealed all of the Townshend Duties except the tax on tea on April
12, 1770, and unified American resolve began to crumble shortly thereafter. The
merchants of Albany, New York, and Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, abandoned
non-importation in May. New York followed in July, Philadelphia in September, and
finally Boston in October. Charlestonians reacted bitterly to this "base desertion," and
determined to continue rigid enforcement until all of the duties had been repealed.39 "At
present we stand single in adhering to our resolutions," Henry Laurens wrote, "but I am
afraid we shall not have virtue enough to continue much longer."40 Indeed, by December
many Charlestonians realized that they could not stand alone, and at a mass meeting
presided over by Laurens on December 13, 1770, the community abandoned non
importation with the singular exception of tea. Many bitterly resented the Northern
colonies, and some talked of banning all trade with them but in the end decided against
harming Northern "landlords, farmers, and mechanics" because of Northern merchant
greed.41
The non-importation movement reduced Charleston's imports from Great Britain
by 56 percent from 1769 to 1770, and importation of slaves alone fell by 65 percent. The
39Peter Manigault to Daniel Blake, October 19, 1770, Peter Manigault Letterbook,
South Carolina Historical Society; South Carolina Gazette. October 9, 1770.
Henry Laurens to Ross and Mill, October 31, 1770, Papers of Henry Laurens. 7:393-
394.
4lSouth Carolina Gazette. November 22, December 13, December 27, 1770.


78
British economy, however, could better withstand the loss of American trade in 1770 than
it could during the Stamp Act crisis of 1765-1766.42 Parliament repealed the Acts largely
because the taxes had failed to raise the desired revenue. There had been no
Parliamentary recognition of American rights. In the aftermath of the boycott, Charleston
planters and merchants resented their Northern urban counterparts and grew increasingly
suspicious of each other. Some merchants and factors had faced financial ruin because
planters exerted economic pressure by doing business with only those merchants who
joined their cause. Simultaneously, many planters begrudged the merchants single-
minded devotion to economic self-preservation rather than protection of American rights.
The political, social, and economic stability that had so long characterized Charleston's
governing elite had shown distinct signs of splintering in the debate over how best to
respond to the threat of British taxation.43 When the elite rose to meet this challenge to
their authority and divided over the proper response, the artisans seized the opportunity to
make their own voices heard within the realm of urban political and economic life. These
first tentative steps alarmed the traditional elite, opening a door that many feared would
be impossible to close.
************
The Wilkes Fund dispute began in the midst of the debate over the response to the
Townshend Duties. Though the conflict did not involve all segments of Charleston
Boston's imports fell by 48 percent, New York's by 85 percent, Philadelphia's by 70
percent over a two-year period. Sellers, Charleston Business. 217-218; Weir, Colonial
South Carolina. 305.
43On political stability, see Weir, "'The Harmony We Were Famous For."'


79
society, it is significant because it kept members of the Charleston elite in the Commons
House in confrontation with the Council, governor, and royal ministers throughout the
early 1770s while events remained quiet in other colonies. In that sense it became a
"bridge to Revolution," as Jack P. Greene described the conflict, between the events of
the late 1760s and the tea controversy of the mid-1770s.44 As the Commons House
quarreled over the most appropriate response to the Townshend Acts, Christopher
Gadsden laid a request before the Assembly from the Society of Gentlemen Supporters of
the Bill of Rights. The Society solicited funds from Americans to support British MP
John Wilkes in his legal and political battles with the King and his ministers. The
ministry had jailed Wilkes for contempt after lampooning George III in his newspaper,
The North Briton. His constituents had promptly reelected him, but the ministry refused
to allow him to sit.45 Many Americans believed Wilkes had waged a solitary battle in
England analogous to the colonial struggle. He had thus become a symbol of persecuted
political liberty and many considered him a hero. The Supporters of the Bill of Rights
had requested funds from all of the colonial assemblies, but only South Carolina
responded. On December 8, 1769, the Commons House appropriated £1,500 sterling to
the Society "for assisting in the support of the just and constitutional rights of America."46
44Jack P. Greene, "Bridge to Revolution: The Wilkes Fund Controversy in South
Carolina, 1769-1775." Journal of Southern History 24 (February 1963): 19-52.
45See George Rud, Wilkes and Liberty: A Political Study of 1763 to 1774 (London:
Oxford University Press, 1962), especially 17-36.
46South Carolina Gazette. December 8, 1769; South Carolina and American General
Gazette. December 13, 1769; Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 305; McCrady, History of
South Carolina. 1719-1776. 662.


80
Many members knew when they cast their vote that the measure would cause a firestorm
of controversy in both London and Charleston, and it did. Lieutenant Governor Bull
informed Secretary Hillsborough that he had been powerless to prevent the appropriation
because of the great civil indulgences granted by the crown to encourage adventurers to
settle in America." In short, the colonial legislatures had grown quite powerful over the
years at the expense of other royal officials.47 The King and his ministers considered
Wilkes a personal enemy, and George III viewed the South Carolina gift to his defense as
highly insulting. Consequently, London sent an "Additional Instruction" to South
Carolina in April 1770 forbidding the passage of any money bills without the consent of
the royal governor and council.48 The instructions also demanded that the governor and
council veto any tax bill that attempted to replace the £1,500 taken out of the Treasury for
the original gift. Suddenly graver and more important issues were at stake than the token
sum to a political dissenter. Henceforth, the Commons House of Assemblythe elected
representatives of the people of South Carolinacould not appropriate tax money without
the consent of Crown-appointed placemen.
The dispute became known as the Wilkes Fund controversy and effectively put an
end to royal government in South Carolina five years before it disappeared in any other
colony. The Commons House refused to recognize the Additional Instruction and never
47Bull to Hillsborough, December 12, 1769, SCBPRO 32:133. On the expansion of
colonial legislative power, see Jack P. Greene, The Quest For Power: The Lower Houses
of Assembly in the Southern Roval Colonies. 1689-1776 fNew York: W.W.
Norton, 1963) and M. Eugene Sirmans, Colonial South Carolina: A Political History.
1663-1763 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1966).
48Board of Trade Instructions, April 3, 1770, SCBPRO 32:233-234.


81
passed a tax bill after 1769. The controversy revolved around two issues: the right of the
peoples representatives to draw on the Treasury without the consent of royal officials and
the right of the crown-appointed Governor's Council to sit as an upper house of
Assembly.49 In hindsight, many members of the Commons regretted the appropriation
but refused to concede the principle at issue. Speaker Peter Manigault of the Commons
House grew weary of the dispute, complaining that "I hate to hear any mention of the Bill
of Rights and the money we threw away upon them. It was always against my opinion
and has been attended with very disagreeable consequences."50 Nevertheless, the
Commons House would not back down.51 By 1772, Governor Montagu had grown
thoroughly disgusted with the now-familiar routine. He would call for elections, and the
Commons would meet and pass a tax bill that included the £1,500. The Council would
then veto the bill and the Commons would refuse to reconsider. At that point the
governor would first prorogue and subsequently dissolve the Assembly, all without any
public business having been completed. Finally, in the fall of 1772, Governor Montagu
decided to call a meeting of the Assembly in Beaufort, seventy miles south of Charleston.
He reasoned that the most obstinate members resided in Charleston and could not afford
to be absent long from there. The remaining members, he hoped, would prove more
49Denboer, "Early Revolutionary Movement in South Carolina," 2; William Bull to
Hillsborough, September 8, 1770, SCBPRO 32:320; South Carolina Gazette. April 12,
September 13, 1770, April 9, 1772; Weir, "A Most Important Enocha". 39-50; McCrady,
History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 683-704.
Manigault to Daniel Blake, October 19, 1770, Peter Manigault Letterbook, South
Carolina Historical Society.
51See Bull to Dartmouth, March 10, 1774, SCBPRO 34:15-19.


82
compliant with royal demands.52 Montagu also believed that by threatening to move the
capital permanently to Beaufort he could frighten the Charleston members into giving up
the point of dispute in the Wilkes Fund controversy in order to keep the capital in
Charleston. Montagu blundered badly on all counts. In provincial minds, the royal
governor had issued a challenge to the colonys elite that they could not fail to meet.
The Assembly met in Beaufort on October 8, 1772, with thirty-seven of forty-
eight members present, a record number for the first day. Stunned by the large attendance
and unsure of his next move, Montagu kept the members waiting for two days and then
prorogued them back to Charleston.53 By now he had been warned by Secretary of State
Dartmouth that moving the legislature would be ill-advised and would only "increase that
ill humor which has already too unfortunately prevailed." When Montague informed
Dartmouth that he had in fact already called the Assembly to meet in Beaufort,
Dartmouth exploded, bitterly denouncing the Carolina governor for "throw[ing] new
difficulties in the way of an accommodation of the former subject of dispute."54 The
Commons House accused him of "a most unprecedented oppression and an unwarranted
abuse of the Royal Prerogative" and asked its agent in London to work toward Montagu's
52Lord Charles Montagu to Hillsborough, July 27, September 24, 1772, SCBPRO
33:166-168, 173-180; South Carolina Gazette. September 3,1772; Alan D. Watson, "The
Beaufort Removal and the Revolutionary Impulse in South Carolina," South Carolina
Historical Magazine 84 (July 1983): 121-135.
53South Carolina Gazette. October 15, 1772; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. October 13, 1772; Montagu to Hillsborough, October 20, 1772, SCBPRO
33:183.
54Dartmouth to Montagu, September 27, 1772, January 6, 1773, SCBPRO 33:181-182,
202-203.


83
removal. After several more skirmishes with the Commons and feeling besieged on all
sides, Montagu departed for London in March 1773 and subsequently resigned.55 The
ministry eventually removed the Additional Instruction, but the Revolutionary events of
1774-1775 superseded the issue.
The Wilkes fund dispute and Montagus attempt to move the capital fed the
growing colonial fears of corrupt and conspiratorial royal officials.56 The events
combined to stoke the fires of elite resistance in a colony where the more radicalized
elements of Charleston society had previously struggled against conservative
complacency and where traditional leaders generally refused to act until compelled by the
demands of the middling and lower ranks.
************
Shortly after Montagu sailed for London, word arrived in Charleston that local
merchants expected a shipment of tea that required payment of the dreaded tax in order to
be landed.57 Charlestonians once again divided over a proper course of action. One local
newspaper counseled that to land the tea would be a tacit admission of Parliament's right
to tax the colonies. Planter "Junius Brutus" warned of Parliaments sinister design to
"raise a revenue out of your pockets, against your consent, and to render assemblies of
55South Carolina Gazette. November 2, 1772, January 7, March 15, 1773.
56The best articulation of elite paranoia remains Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological
Ori gins of the American Revolution (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1967).
57For background on the colonial tea trade and the granting of a monopoly to the East
India Company, see Benjamin Woods Labaree, The Boston Tea Party (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1964), 3-14, 58-79.


84
your representatives totally useless."51 Some called for united community opposition,
while others thought the merchants should voluntarily refuse to accept shipment.59
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, December 1, 1773, the London sailed into port carrying 257
chests of tea consigned to merchant Roger Smith and the firm of Leger and Greenwood.60
Handbills appeared throughout Charleston the next day inviting Charlestonians "without
exception, particularly the landholders" to assemble for a meeting at the Exchange the
following afternoon.61
This meeting marked the beginning of Revolutionary government in Charleston
and the first of the various extra-legal bodies that would govern the city, and by extension
the province, for the remainder of the royal period.62 According to the local press, "the
principal planters and landholders" joined with leading artisans to demand that merchants
stop importing tea.63 Local merchants boycotted the meeting, no doubt anticipating the
planter-artisan reaction. Not to be outflanked, the assembled planters and artisans
s8South Carolina Gazette. November 29, 1773.
59Ibid., November 22, November 29, 1773.
Ibid., December 6, 1773; South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. December 7,
1773.
6lSouth Carolina Gazette. December 6, 1773.
Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 27. The Wilkes fund controversy had
effectively paralyzed all legal government in the colony, creating a vacuum filled by
Revolutionary committees.
South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. December 7, 1773; George C. Rogers
Jr., Rogers, The Charleston Tea Party: The Significance of December 3, 1773, South
Carolina Historical Magazine 75 (July 1974): 153-168.


85
summoned Smith, Leger and Greenwood and informed them that landing the tea would
be unacceptable. Instead, they should return the tea immediately to Britain. The
merchants had little choice but to agree, and the assembled multitude responded with
"repeated thanks and loud shouts of applause."64 The planters further proposed an
economic boycott against any merchant who continued importing tea, and the meeting
appointed a committee of five-three planters, one merchant, and one artisan-to gather
merchant signatures on an agreement pledging non-importation of tea.65 Despite the
compliance of over fifty merchants by the following afternoon, at least one planter
publicly voiced dissatisfaction that the merchants once again had to be coerced into
action.66 The merchants, meanwhile, openly resented the strong-arm tactics of the
mechanic-planter alliance. Consequently, Charleston's principal merchants gathered six
days later and organized the Charleston Chamber of Commerce to protect their interests.67
The Chamber elected John Savage, president, Miles Brewton, vice-president, David Deas,
treasurer, and John Hopton, secretary. Savage, Brewton, and Deas were prominent and
wealthy slavetraders. Hopton had served as a former clerk of Henry Laurens and entered
64South Carolina Gazette. December 6, 1773.
The committee consisted of planters Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney, and Thomas Ferguson, merchant-planter Christopher Gadsden, and artisan
Daniel Cannon. Though a merchant, Gadsden did not represent the citys more
conservative faction of merchants. The fact that a committee had to be appointed to go
out and gather merchant signatures suggests that very few merchants attended the
meeting.
South Carolina Gazette. December 6, 1773.
67Ibid., December 13, 1773; Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 30.


86
into partnership with Robert Powell in 1771. The planters and artisans responded by
holding separate meetings at Swallow's Tavern. The artisans, particularly upset over the
Chamber of Commerce and merchant intransigence, openly talked of forming their own
organization to oppose the Chamber.69 At yet another general meeting on December 17,
planters and artisans heatedly denounced the merchants who continued to import tea and
again resolved to prevent the landing of the tea aboard the London. Beyond that, the three
factions could not reach agreement on any general response.
In the meantime the deadline passed for paying the duty on the tea aboard the
London. Early on the morning of Wednesday, December 22, Lieutenant Governor Bull
ordered customs officials to unload the tea and secure it in the cellar beneath the
Exchange. Well aware of the communitys mood, dockworkers labored at a feverish
pace. The tea had been safely deposited by the time most of the town awoke. Furious
and embarrassed Charlestonians argued that elite dissension had delayed cooperative
action and allowed Bull to outflank the committee and land the tea. The New York Sons
of Liberty expressed outrage that Charleston alone among the principal seaports permitted
tea to be landed and described the event as ''an evil hour for America." They complained
that divisions between Charleston merchants and planters might possibly "delay the
See the letter of introduction Laurens wrote for Hopton: Laurens to Browne, Searle
and Company, July 31, 1770, Papers of Henry Laurens. 7:313-314. Savage and Hopton
became Loyalists during the Revolution. Edgar, Biographical Directory. 2:95-97, 189-
190, 594-596; N. Louise Bailey, ed., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate.
1776-1985. 3 vols. (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1986), 2:747-748.
South Carolina Gazette. December 15, 1773; Poythress, "Revolution By Committee,"
30.


87
repeal of the Revenue Act" and cause further divisions in other colonies.70 Factional
disagreement continued in Charleston, but Bulls actions spurred planters and mechanics
to create an executive General Committee designed to coordinate and direct resistance
to any further importation of tea. This General Committee could also call general
meetings of the people. On June 3, 1774, the Committee received news of the Boston
Port Bill.71 Britain had at last imposed an iron hand on the insubordinate colonies, and
Bull hoped the measure would have some happy effect towards composing the
disturbances in this province." He had never been more mistaken.72
The news galvanized Charlestons planters and artisans into action. They now
made a conscious effort to broaden resistance from primarily local mass meetings to a
gathering with colony-wide representation, hoping that the country representatives would
counteract the conservative merchants of the city. Christopher Gadsden told Samuel
Adams in Boston that members of the trading part have separated themselves from the
70South Carolina Gazette. December 27, 1773; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. February 1, 1774. See also Bull to Dartmouth, December 24, 1773, SCBPRO
33:350-354. The South Carolina Gazette reported that "there never was an instance here
of so great a number of packages being taken out of any vessel, and thus disposed of in so
short a time."
71Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 35; Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens. 201-
202; Ferrari, "Artisans of the South, 76; South Carolina Gazette Extraordinary. June 3,
1774. Parliament passed the Boston Port Bill on March 31, 1774, the first of the Coercive
Acts passed in reaction to the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773. It closed the port
of Boston to all shipping or trade except that involving military supplies and certain
cargos of food and fuel. The bill also stationed customs officials in Salem rather than
Boston, and closed the port until Boston reimbursed the East India Company for the tea
destroyed in the Tea Party. See Laharee. Boston Tea Party. 184-195.
72Bull to Dartmouth, July 31, 1774, SCBPRO 34:177-178.


88
general interest and neglected our public meetings.73 After Boston proposed an
American boycott of trade with Britain, Charlestons General Committee called for a
provincial meeting of citizens for July 6, 1774. The urban planter-artisan alliance hoped
to unite with country members in support of non-importation. Unyielding Charleston
merchants now ignored the General Meeting at their economic peril.74
The General Meeting of July 1774 represented a turning point in the
Revolutionary movement in Charleston. With the Commons House of Assembly
effectively paralyzed by the Wilkes Fund controversy, the government of the city and
colony shifted from legal to extra-legal bodies. Once firmly allied with the urban
planters, many of the citys principal merchants-particularly those in the Chamber of
Commercehad by 1774 become a conservative faction of rear-guard defenders of the
status quo. The citys artisans and mechanics repeatedly opposed the merchants by
supporting measures, such as non-importation and home manufactures, designed to
promote artisanal self-interest. In the process factional interests-horizontal loyalties-
began to replace vertical ties as South Carolinas extra-legal governing bodies became
more inclusive and less deferential. The more liberal planters-led by Gadsden, Arthur
Middleton, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and William Henry Drayton-joined the citys
73Gadsden to Samuel Adams, May 23, 1774, in Richard Walsh, ed., The Writings of
Christopher Gadsden. 1746-1805 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1966), 93. Gadsden told Adams that news of the Boston Port Bill "has raised our utmost
resentment and detestation and [I] hope will produce the desired effect of rousing us from
our supineness." Gadsden to Adams, June 5, 1774, Ibid., 94.
74McCrady, History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 733; South Carolina Gazette. June
20, 1774.


89
radical artisans.75 After the General Meeting of July 1774, however, many of Charleston's
elite who had previously resisted British policy aggressively became noticeably more
moderate and conservative with the growth of extra-legal government and increased
artisan and backcountry participation.76
The General Meeting gathered in Charleston for three tumultuous days in July
1774. Newspaper publisher Peter Timothy described it as "the largest body of the most
respectable inhabitants that had ever been seen together upon any public occasion here."77
Over one hundred members attended, and for the first time backcountry inhabitants
participated in government in significant numbers. Nevertheless, because every member
could vote, the Charleston factions could pack the meeting and carry any disputed point.
The meeting focused primarily on three issues: implementing non-importation, electing
five delegates to a Continental Congress to meet in Philadelphia in September, and the
debate over the extent of the powers granted to those delegates.78 The artisans, of course,
repeatedly clamored for immediate non-importation, with the merchants and the Chamber
75Drayton, who had attacked artisan participation in non-importation enforcement in
1769, had joined the Whig cause by 1774-1775. See Snapp, William Henry Drayton;
Dabney and Dargan, William Henry Dravton and the American Revolution. 47-64.
76Henry Laurens wrote that "all agreed in one point that America is unjustly treated by
the Mother Country, but divided into parties and differing in sentiments upon the proper
means for obtaining a redress of grievances." Laurens to William Manning, January 4,
1775; see also Laurens to Richard Oswald, January 4, 1775, Papers of Henry Laurens.
10:19-23. See also Carl J. Vinnerman. The Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 1721-1800
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1978), 175-194.
77South Carolina Gazette. July 11, 1774.
78Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens. 202; Rogers, "Charleston Tea Party," 165;
McCrady, History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 734-735.


90
of Commerce consistently opposed. On the first vote the assembly rejected both non
importation and non-exportation (which the planters opposed), and the meeting agreed to
allow Congress to formulate any policy in that area. Merchants and artisans now turned
their focus upon electing congressional delegates favorably disposed to their respective
positions on non-importation. The Chamber of Commerce naturally favored more
conservative delegates who would oppose any schemes for non-importation. They
nominated planters Henry Middleton and Rawlins Lowndes, attorneys John Rutledge and
Charles Pinckney, and merchant and Chamber of Commerce officer Miles Brewton. The
artisans, led by Christopher Gadsden, accepted Middleton and Rutledge, and also
nominated Gadsden and two moderate planters, Thomas Lynch, and Edward Rutledge.79
The artisans flexed their political muscle for the first time when voting began for
congressional delegates. The merchants made a tactical blunder by marching their clerks
in a body to vote for the conservative delegation. Infuriated artisans responded by turning
out to vote in record numbers and succeeded in electing their chosen slate of delegates.
The election represented a significant step in the process of artisanal rejection of elite
deferential politics. Though artisans pragmatically nominated members of the moderate
elite as their candidates, they clearly would no longer quietly acquiesce to such blatant
political intimidation. Such altered artisanal behavior caused many of the Charleston
elite to back away from aggressive resistance to British policy.
79South Carolina Gazette. July 11, 1774; Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 47-
53; McCrady, History of South Carolina 1719-1776. 741.


91
Finally, the General Meeting appointed a Committee of Ninety-nine-fifteen
merchants and fifteen artisans representing Charleston, and sixty-nine planters to
represent the countryside-to act as an executive body and committee of correspondence.
A quorum of twenty-one members could transact business; thus, Charleston's delegates
could heavily influence the Committee. On the last day of the meeting several of the
merchants voluntarily committed to non-importation until Carolinas delegates returned
from Congress.80
When the meeting adjourned on July 8, 1774, Charleston's traditional leaders must
have contemplated the events of the preceding three days with a mixture of satisfaction
and fear. Certainly conservatives might have been relieved that non-importation had been
postponed, but the election for delegates to Congress must have frightened even the more
moderate members. Never had the city's artisans so openly opposed elite wishes, and
many of Charlestons traditional leaders must have recognized by mid-1774 that
resistance had taken them down a dangerous and unsure path. In resisting British policy
had they not unintentionally opened themselves up to internal revolution as well? The
Rev. John Bullman of St. Michaels Church undoubtedly voiced elite fears by vehemently
censuring artisan participation in government from the pulpit of his church. He lashed
out at the mechanic who cannot perhaps govern his own household or pay the debts of
his own contracting, yet presumed to be qualified to dictate how the state should be
governed." "Every silly clown and illiterate mechanic, he sneered, should "keep to his
80South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. July 12, 1774; South Carolina Gazette.
July 11, 1774; Enclosure of Bull to Dartmouth, August 3, 1774, SCBPRO 34:194;
Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 52-53.


Full Text
LD
1780
199J
,t>285
UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA
3 1262 08554 7601


REVOLUTIONARY CHARLESTON, 1765-1800
By
STANLEY KENNETH DEATON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PFilLOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1997

Copyright 1997
by
Stanley Kenneth Deaton

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
“If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to
there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20
Many people helped me to move this mountain. Though historical research and
writing are inherently solitary and lonely exercises, they are impossible to do successfully
without the help and support of others. My academic debts begin with my dissertation
supervisor, Dr. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, and the members of my committee, professors
Jeffrey S. Adler, David R. Colburn, C. John Sommerville, and Samuel S. Hill (who
graciously agreed to serve at the last moment). With remarkable patience they demanded
that I rethink my ideas and question my assumptions, hammered away at my sloppy use
of commas and passive voice, and continually challenged me to become a better thinker,
writer, and historian. I could not have chosen better mentors. Finally, I owe a special
intellectual debt to Dr. Carl J. Vipperman, who first kindled my interest in South Carolina
history as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia.
I am grateful to Allen H. Stokes, Henry Fullmer, and Daniel Boice of the South
Caroliniana Library of the University of South Carolina, Columbia; former directors
Alexander Moore and Joseph Kitchens and director of publications Stephen Hoffius of
the South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston; Elizabeth Alexander and Bruce
Chappel of the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida; Dr.

John Ingram, director of Special Collections at the University of Florida Libraries; the
staffs of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, the
Charleston Library Society, and the University of Florida’s Interlibrary Loan department;
and Betty Convine, Kimberly Yocum, and Linda Opper of the UF Department of History.
The Department of History at the University of Florida provided teaching
assistantships for more years than I had a right to expect. The University’s College of
Liberal Arts and Sciences awarded a generous fellowship that allowed me to spend a
summer in Columbia. And it was my good fortune and pleasure to work for three years
with University legend Dr. Samuel Proctor in the Oral History Program. Special thanks
to Dr. Barbara Oberlander of Santa Fe Community College, who took a gamble and gave
me my first opportunity to teach my own class. Her kindness will not be forgotten.
My personal debts to friends and family are many. Daniel W. Stowell is partially
responsible for getting me into this mess to begin with. If I was sometimes a burden to
him, I cannot say with any honesty that I regret a minute of it. I was fortunate to enter the
graduate program at the University of Florida with five men who turned out to be more
than just colleagues. They made the long journey of classes, qualifying exams, and
dissertations a little less bumpy and a lot more fun. My thanks to the “Fab Five,” great
friends, learned scholars, and pretty good poker players: Andrew “Granddad” Chancey,
Glenn “Brains” Crothers, Mark “Ignatius” Greenberg, Dan “Snuggles” Kilbride, and
Chris “Gomez” Olsen. My aunt and uncle, Helen and Nathaniel Deaton, opened their
home and hearts to me on my many research trips to Charleston. They are two very
special people. April Arrington has become the sister I never had, a confidant who shares
IV

my joys, sorrows, occasional triumphs, and my love of the Panda’s buffet lunch. Her
warm heart and laughter helped preserve my sanity, and I count her friendship among my
greatest treasures. Finally, many thanks to dear friends Don and Dawn Denny, Bryan and
Lynn Drost, Bret and Shawna Hegi, Jim and Jan Johnson, and Scot Hawes, all of whom
must have wondered what was taking me so long but had the good grace not to ask.
My greatest debts are to my family. Ken and Elaine Grizzle generously supported
me throughout this endeavor, never questioning a decision that moved their daughter far
from home. I love them both very much and am honored to be their son-in-law. My big
brother Jeff bailed me out of many difficult school projects when we were growing up,
but for some reason he made me do this one alone. I hope he is as proud of the results as
I have always been of him. My parents, Bill and Jeannette Deaton, encouraged us to
follow where our interests and talents led, and they gave us both the means and the
freedom to find our own way. Their love and support has sustained me throughout my
life, and nothing I have done-especially this degree-would have been possible without
them. I love them dearly, and they deserve more than I can ever repay. Finally, my wife,
Deborah Grizzle Deaton, allowed me to follow my dream and eagerly chased it with me
every step of the way. This dissertation and degree are as much her achievements as they
are mine. She has been my rock and my strength, brightening my darkest days, believing
in me long after I stopped believing in myself. Debbie worked tirelessly, sacrificed much,
and never once complained. There will be many stars in her crown, and I thank God
every day that she chose to walk through life with me. Of Debbie, Mom, and Dad it may
truly be said, “If I reached high it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
v

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
ABSTRACT vii
INTRODUCTION: THROUGH THE PAST, DARKLY 1
CHAPTERS
1 THE CITY BEFORE THE STORM: CHARLESTON IN 1765 15
2 “THE MANY-HEADED POWER OF THE PEOPLE”:
METAMORPHOSIS, 1766-1775 59
3 “WE ARE AN UNDONE PEOPLE”: WAR AND OCCUPATION,
1776-1782 Ill
4 DEMOCRACY AND POLITICAL TWILIGHT, 1783-1790 163
5 THE DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ECONOMY, 1783-1800 223
6 “SELF-PRESERVATION IS THE FIRST LAW OF NATURE”:
CHARLESTON AND SLAVERY, 1783-1800 298
EPILOGUE: “TO FINISH WHAT THEIR FATHERS HAVE BEGUN”:
CHARLESTON IN 1800 344
BIBLIOGRAPHY 356
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 410
vi

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
REVOLUTIONARY CHARLESTON, 1765-1800
By
Stanley Kenneth Deaton
December 1997
Chairman: Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Major Department: History
This project addresses four major problems: the transforming nature of the
American Revolution; the expansion of democratic politics and economic liberalism in
the South; Charleston’s evolution from the colonial South’s largest city to an increasingly
inward-looking, paranoid, and declining port; and the transformation of slavery from a
ubiquitous American institution to a primarily Southern one. The American Revolution
transformed Charleston and South Carolina from a world that emphasized hierarchy and
deferential elite leadership to one marked by contentious, egalitarian politics and
economic liberalism. The movement replaced the notion of a classical republic led by a
disinterested, entrenched Charleston aristocracy with a “democratic political economy”
where individuals openly acknowledged competing political and economic interests.
Artisans, mechanics, yeoman farmers, and small merchants did not seek to exclude or

isolate themselves from the market economy but instead sought improved access to it in
order to ensure that it would benefit all segments of society, not just lowcountry planters
and merchants. Simultaneously, however, Revolutionary ideology forced many
Americans to question and ultimately condemn slavery at just the moment when most
white Charlestonians became convinced that their prosperity and identity rested more
than ever upon slavery’s survival and expansion. The contested meanings of the
Revolution, growing abolitionism, and subsequent events in France and Santo Domingo
combined to raise white levels of anxiety over slavery to a fever pitch. Many South
Carolinians found themselves defending and maintaining by force an institution
increasingly labeled anti-modem, anti-progressive, and anti-Christian by much of the rest
of the world. Charleston subsequently became less “cosmopolitan” during the 1790s,
increasingly erecting an intellectual blockade against hostile “outside” ideas and people at
just the moment when its economic future shone brightest. Ultimately, the American
Revolution in the South spawned a dual, Janus-faced, legacy: a strongly optimistic faith
in political and economic liberalism that favored trade with all the world coupled with a
growing anxiety over dangerous external ideas about universal equality that threatened to
destroy the very fabric of Southern economic and social life.
viii

INTRODUCTION
THROUGH THE PAST, DARKLY
Historians are left forever chasing shadows, painfully aware of their inability ever to
reconstruct a dead world in its completeness however thorough or revealing their
documentation.... We are doomed to be forever hailing someone who has just gone
around the comer and out of earshot.
Simon Schama, Dead Certainties (1991)
This study began with the question, “What were the effects of the American
Revolution in the South?” Gordon S. Wood has recently portrayed the American
Revolution as “the most radical and most far-reaching event in American history,” a
movement that democratized the nation and cleared the way for liberal capitalism.
According to Wood, the Revolution created “the most liberal, the most democratic,
the most commercially minded, and the most modem people in the world.”1 Wood’s
thesis, however, contradicts two prevailing paradigms in Southern history. First,
Eugene D. Genovese and other Southern historians argue that the South was
dominated by patriarchal slaveholders committed to an anti-capitalist ethos that
emphasized staple crop agriculture, slavery, honor, and leisure.2 Opposed to
'Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 8, 7.
2A11 of this literature is discussed more fully in chapter five, but see in particular
Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the
Slave South (New York: Random House, 1968), 3-39. This is perhaps the most
1

2
aggressive capitalistic behavior, Southerners supposedly remained anti-modem in
outlook,3 anxious about capitalistic development,4 and culturally opposed to
economic improvements.5 They eschewed the commercial behavior that paved the
way for an increasingly capitalistic society in the North in the years after the
Revolution.6 Secondly, historians of the eighteenth-century South have insisted that
the American Revolution in the region was primarily a conservative, cautious,
political revolt that simply consolidated elite rule, in this case replacing the Crown
influential articulation of the view that Southern planters were anti-capitalists. Genovese
argues that Southern planters and their economic system were tied to the world system of
markets but were not capitalists. “The planters were not mere capitalists; they were
precapitalist, quasi-aristocratic landowners who had to adjust their economy and ways of
thinking to a capitalist world market. Their society, in its spirit and fundamental
direction, represented the antithesis of capitalism.” Genovese, Ibid., 23.
JThe best recent summary of this point of view is Douglas R. Egerton, “Markets
Without a Market Revolution: Southern Planters and Capitalism,” Journal of the Early
Republic 16 (Summer 1996): 207-221. Egerton argues that “if the Atlantic market
shaped the plantation economy to its own ends, it simultaneously spawned a landed elite
with economic interests and moral values antagonistic to the spirit of modem capitalism.”
Egerton, 220.
4See most recently Joyce E. Chaplin, An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation
and Modernity in the Lower South. 1730-1815 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1993).
5See for example W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1941), 3-55; David Bertelson, The Lazv South (New York: Oxford University Press,
1967); Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1982).
6For good recent discussion of the notion that the South developed differently than
the rest of America and has been “at odds with the mainstream of American values or
behavior and therefore has been constructed as a special problem,” see the collection of
essays in Larry J. Griffin and Don H. Doyle, eds., The South as an American Problem
(Athens GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995), especially David L. Carlton, “How
American is the American South?” 33-56. The quote is on p. 1.

3
with a slaveholding oligarchy. Historians characterize particularly the Revolution in
South Carolina-home to some of the most conservative, wealthy, and politically
powerful Americans-as a limited political movement in which traditional
aristocratic leaders survived the break with Great Britain. Robert M. Weir maintains
that the Revolution in South Carolina was a “remarkably conservative movement”
that never led to any extensive social or economic change.7 Almost every other
historian of eighteenth-century South Carolina agrees.8 How then does one square
’Robert M. Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood NY: KTO Press,
1983), 332-333.
sHistorians of Revolutionary South Carolina have denied the existence of a
“radical” Revolution in that state, and generally agree, as S.R. Matchett has noted, on two
points: that the Revolution was limited to political reforms and that the traditional
aristocratic leaders survived the break with Britain, despite making a few concessions to
backcountry upstarts. None has examined the “radicalism” of the expansion of political
and economic liberalism in the post-war decades. S.R. Matchett, “‘Unanimity, Order and
Regularity’: The Political Culture of South Carolina in the Era of the Revolution,” Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Sydney, 1980, 6-7. Matchett argues for a “consensus model”
as a way of understanding South Carolina political culture in the years after the war.
“The ‘aristocrats’ held power,” he argues, “not in spite of popular opposition but because
they reflected the values and interests of the community at large.” Matchett, Ibid., 16.
See also Mary Catherine Ferrari, “Artisans of the South: A Comparative Study of
Norfolk, Charleston and Alexandria, 1763-1800,” Ph.D. dissertation, College of William
and Mary, 1992; Rachel Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class
in the South Carolina Backcountry. 1760-1808 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1990); George Winston Lane Jr., “The Middletons of Eighteenth-Century
South Carolina: A Colonial Dynasty, 1678-1787,” Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University,
1990; John C. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus Burke: Revolutionary Republican in
Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1989); Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 332-333; E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and Robert H.
Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution (Knoxville TN: University of
Tennessee Press, 1982); Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in
South Carolina (Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981); George C.
Rogers Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys (1969; rpt., Columbia SC: University
of South Carolina Press, 1980); Frances Leigh Williams, A Founding Family: The
Pinckneys of South Carolina (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978); Richard

4
the new synthesis on the American Revolution-Wood’s interpretation—with the
prevailing model of development for the American South?
Charleston, South Carolina, as the colonial South’s largest city, for a number
of reasons proved to be an ideal place to examine the hypothesis of a “radical
revolution” in the South. First, eighteenth-century seaboard commercial cities,
according to Gary B. Nash, “predicted the future.”9 Though America remained
overwhelmingly rural, colonial cities were “urban crucibles,” on the cutting edge of
economic, social, and political change and the cradles of both American capitalism
and American democracy. Transformations in American society first occurred in
cities and then radiated outward to the countryside.10 In Charleston, if anywhere in
Brent Clow, “Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, 1749-1800: Unproclaimed Statesman,”
Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976; Eva B. Poythress, “Revolution By
Committee: An Administrative History of the Extralegal Committees in South Carolina,
1774-1776,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1975; Robert M. Weir,
“‘The Harmony We Were Famous For’: An Interpretation of Pre-Revolutionary South
Carolina Politics,” William and Mary Quarterly 26 (October 1969): 473-501; Marvin R.
Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father (Chapel Hill NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1967); Jerome J. Nadelhaft, “The Revolutionary Era in South
Carolina, 1775-1788,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1965; Raymond G.
Starr, “The Conservative Revolution: South Carolina Public Affairs, 1775-1790,” Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Texas, 1964; George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of A Federalist:
William Loushton Smith of Charleston. C1758-18121 (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1962); Frederick P. Bowes, The Culture of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill
NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1942).
’Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the
American Revolution. Abr. ed. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), ix.
10In addition to Nash, see Richard D. Brown, “The Emergence of Urban Society in
Rural Massachusetts.” Journal of American History 61 (June 1974): 29-51.

5
the South, the effects of the American Revolution and its legacy should be most
visible.
Secondly, historians of the Revolutionary era have focused much attention on
Northern urban centers over the past twenty-five years to the exclusion of the urban
South." Their findings, like Wood’s, also contradict the prevailing themes of
"In addition to Nash’s work, see Charles F. Olton, Artisans For Independence:
Philadelphia Mechanics and the American Revolution (Syracuse NY: Syracuse University
Press, 1975); Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1976); Dirk Hoerder, Crowd Action in Revolutionary Massachusetts.
1765-1800 (New York: Academic Press, 1977); Richard A. Ryerson, “The Revolution is
Now Begun”: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia. 1765-1776 (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978); Howard B. Rock, Artisans of the New Republic:
The Tradesmen of New York City in the Age of Jefferson (New York: New York
University Press, 1979); John K. Alexander, Render Them Submissive: Responses to
Poverty in Philadelphia, 1760-1800 (Amherst MA: University of Massachusetts Press,
1980); Edward Countryman, A People in Revolution: The American Revolution and
Political Society in New York, 1760-1790 (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1981); Lynne Withey, Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island: Newport and
Providence in the Eighteenth Century (Albany NY: State University of New York Press,
1984); Elaine Forman Crane, A Dependent People: Newport. Rhode Island in the
Revolutionary Era (New York: Fordham University Press, 1985); Thomas M.
Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in
Revolutionary Philadelphia (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1986);
Paul Gilje, The Road to Mobocracv: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834
(Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Steven Rosswurm, Arms.
Country, and Class: The Philadelphia Militia and the “Lower Sort” During the American
Revolution (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987); Billy G. Smith, The
“Lower Sort”: Philadelphia’s Laboring People. 1750-1800 (Ithaca NY: Cornell University
Press, 1990). Urban studies of the Revolutionary South include Richard Walsh,
Charleston’s Sons of Liberty: A Study of the Artisans. 1763-1789 (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1959); Edward C. Papenfuse, In Pursuit of Profit: The
Annapolis Merchants in the Era of the American Revolution. 1763-1805 (Baltimore MD:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975); Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore:
Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution. 1763-1812 (Urbana IL: University of
Illinois Press, 1984); Mary Catherine Ferrari, “Artisans of the South: A Comparative
Study of Norfolk, Charleston, and Alexandria, 1763-1800,” Ph.D. dissertation, College of
William and Mary, 1992.

Southern history. Nash, for instance, found that in Boston, Philadelphia, and New
York the Revolution brought “an internal struggle for a new social order.” In
Northern cities “plebeian urban dwellers” adopted street demonstrations, mass
meetings, and extralegal committees to challenge the established elite and force their
way into the political arena.12 Similarly, the Revolution in New York, according to
Edward Countryman, “amounted to a democratic revolution” that firmly laid the
“foundations of a liberal bourgeois society.” New York’s Revolution appealed to
“artisans, white laborers, small farmers, and expectant small capitalists,” while
bypassing blacks, Indians, and women, none of whom “took part as a group in the
revolutionary coalition, and none of them got much that they wanted out of its
radicalism.”13 And in Philadelphia, Thomas M. Doerflinger found that merchants
displayed “a vigorous spirit of enterprise” by capitalizing on the commercial
opportunities stimulated by war. Indeed, he located the “entrepreneurial origins of
American economic development” in the “drive and flexibility, the tolerance for risk,
[and] the roving quest for new markets” that characterized Northern—but not
Southern-businessmen during the Revolutionary era.14 These findings are broadly
suggestive of the recent scholarship on northern colonial cities and demonstrate, in
Countryman’s phrase, that “the revolution was genuinely revolutionary.”15 But are
l2Nash. Urban Crucible. 201,246-247.
l3Countryman, A People in Revolution, xvii, 296, 288-289.
“Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise. 344, 355.
l5Countryman, A People in Revolution, ix.

7
these conclusions applicable to the colonial urban South as well? The consistent
theme of Revolutionary urban history over the last quarter-century-that the
American Revolution fundamentally reshaped Northern society, politics, and
economies—directly contradicts the predominant interpretations in Southern history
of an anti-capitalist South and a Revolution limited to minor political reforms. A
study of the American Revolution in Charleston thus provides an excellent
opportunity to test these competing and contradictory interpretations.
Thirdly, Revolutionary Charleston should furnish a better understanding of
the Revolution’s transformative effect—or lack of—upon Southern cities. Even now,
upon first entering the city, a visitor cannot help but notice that Charleston seems
frozen in time, the Federalist architecture of the 1790s remaining the dominant
characteristic of the city. Though the eighteenth-century docks that once jutted out
into the Cooper River along East Bay Street have long since disappeared, there are
no skyscrapers, no subways, no factories, no concrete canyons. The absence of
modern development becomes all the more startling when one learns that Charleston
was the largest city in the colonial South, and the fourth largest city in America until
1800. How had it become an almost living museum? If it once rivaled New York,
Philadelphia, and Boston, why did it not do so now? Why did the American
Revolution not propel this colonial metropolis toward continued growth and
expansion in the early Republic, as it did for Baltimore and its more Northern rivals?
Conversely, what role did the Revolution play in Charleston’s eventual decline and
stagnation?

8
************
This dissertation reconciles the contradictions between the new synthesis of
the American Revolution and the dominant interpretations of Southern history. It
addresses four major problems: the transforming nature of the American Revolution;
the expansion of democratic politics and economic liberalism16 in the South;
Charleston’s evolution from the colonial South’s largest city to an increasingly
inward-looking, paranoid, and declining port; and the transformation of slavery from
a ubiquitous American institution to a primarily Southern one. The first three
chapters chronicle the enormously disruptive forces that shattered the stable world of
Charleston’s elite between 1765 and 1782. These chapters particularly emphasize
the “internal revolution” caused by social, political, and economic unrest in the years
before the war and the chaos and disruption of the war itself. Charleston’s
traditional leaders proved unable to contain the upheaval and a series of events-high
prices, scarce goods, rebellious slaves, armed invasion, military occupation, and
political and religious concessions to “outsiders”—combined to shake the
foundations of elite power and dominance and paved the way for substantial political
challenges in the post-war years. Chapter four examines the political results of the
Revolution: the continued challenge to elite domination in Charleston, the
incorporation of the city, the expansion of divisive democratic politics, and the
backcountry challenge to lowcountry political hegemony which culminated in
'‘"Economic liberalism” is defined as an economic system stressing
individualism, competition, and a free market economy.

9
constitutional reform and the removal of the capital to Columbia. Chapter five
reviews the economic results of the American Revolution and the ways in which
economic liberalism muted the divisiveness of democratic politics, healed sectional
wounds, and secured Charleston’s continued economic prosperity despite its political
losses. Finally, chapter six explores how increasing white anxiety over slavery in the
1790s created an “intellectual blockade” against potentially threatening ideas and
people. Revolutionary ideology, abolitionism, the French Revolution, and the slave
revolt in Haiti combined to poison Charleston’s previously cosmopolitan intellectual
atmosphere and eventually enervated the effects of the American Revolution itself.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The American Revolution in Charleston was indeed a radical revolution,
transforming Charleston and South Carolina from a world that emphasized hierarchy
and deferential elite leadership to one marked by contentious, egalitarian politics and
economic liberalism. The movement replaced the notion of a classical republic led
by a disinterested, entrenched Charleston aristocracy with a “democratic political
economy” where individuals openly acknowledged competing political and
economic interests. “In these days,” William Flomby asserted in 1784, “we are equal
citizens of a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, in which jealously and opposition must
naturally exist, while there exists a difference in the minds, interests, and sentiments
of mankind.”17 The Revolution did not create modem democracy or capitalism, per
se, but as Gordon Wood has recently argued, it certainly made both things possible.
l7Gazette of the State of South Carolina. July 29. 1784.

10
It did spread the notion that all should benefit equally from the political and
economic opportunities created by the war. And ultimately the Revolution toppled
Charleston from its dominant position in both South Carolina and the Lower South.
The years 1765-1800 were transforming ones in Charleston and throughout
South Carolina. The Revolution as an event brought outsiders into the political
process and gave them a voice for the first time. Simultaneously, the Revolution
created unprecedented opportunities for economic expansion and growth, and the
elite quickly grasped the chance to invest in new agricultural techniques, new
financial institutions, and innovations in transportation. Outsiders, both in the
backcountry and within the city, demanded to be part of this process—not to
overthrow the system but to participate as equals in the market economy and in a
more participatory democratic politics. They petitioned for new towns and markets,
protective tariffs to encourage home manufactures, improved roads, bridges, ferries,
and canals to link them more effectively with the economic metropolis, while
simultaneously demanding that the political capital be removed to a more central,
“plebeian” location. Artisans, mechanics, yeoman farmers, and small merchants did
not seek to exclude or isolate themselves from the market economy-far from it.
Instead they sought improved access to it in order to ensure that it would benefit all
segments of society, not just lowcountry planters and merchants. This “democratic
political economy” was not modem, industrial capitalism, nor was it radically anti¬
capitalist. It simply sought to spread the benefits of the American Revolution
equally throughout white society. This in effect was the “real” American

11
Revolution. It certainly did not completely level society, destroy all social ranks,
redistribute wealth or property, or give complete equality to women and African-
Americans. It did, however, fundamentally alter the political, social, and economic
relationships that bound white South Carolinians together.
This interpretation challenges the contention that a majority of Americans in
the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century resisted the “transition to
capitalism.”18 Most historians who have addressed this subject have either ignored
the South altogether or argued that the South was non- or anti-capitalistic. This
thesis also disputes the notion that Southern planters were anti-modem in economic
outlook, anxious about capitalistic development, or culturally opposed to economic
improvements.19 Gordon Wood’s argument that “no event in the eighteenth century
18See especially Michael Merrill, “Putting ‘Capitalism’ in its Place: A Review of
Recent Literature,” William and Mary Quarterly 52 (April 1995): 315-326; Allan
Kulikoff, The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism (Charlottesville VA: University
Press of Virginia, 1992), particularly chapter four, “Was the American Revolution a
Bourgeois Revolution?” 99-126; James A. Henretta, The Origins of American
Capitalism: Collected Essays (Boston MA: Northeastern University Press, 1991);
Christopher Clark, The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts. 1780-1860
(Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Steven Hahn and Jonathan Prude, eds., The
Countryside in the Age of Capitalist Transformation: Essays in the Social History of
Rural America (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985). See also
note five in Chapter Five below.
l9See Cash, Mind of the South. 3-55; William R. Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee:
The Old South and American National Character (New York: George Braziller, 1961),
95-141; Eugene D. Genovese, The World the Slaveholders Made: Two Essays in
Interpretation (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1969), 165-194; William W.
Freehling, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina. 1816-
1836 (New York: Harper and Row, 1965); Bertelson, The Lazy South: C. Vann
Woodward, “The Southern Ethic in a Puritan World,” William and Mary Quarterly 25
(July 1968): 343-370, reprinted in Woodward, American Counterpoint: Slavery and
Racism in the North-South Dialogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 13-46;

12
accelerated the capitalistic development of America” more than the American
Revolution is as equally true for the South as the North.20 And finally, it rejects the
argument that the American Revolution in South Carolina was a limited,
conservative, primarily political movement.
Nevertheless, the American Revolution had a much darker side as well.
Therefore this work also traces the evolution of slavery from a general American
institution to a primarily Southern one. Despite-and in many ways because of—the
sweeping changes in the political economy, the Revolution fastened the chains of
slavery more tightly upon Charleston’s-and the South’s-slaves. The increased
economic opportunities created by the war helped to renew and strengthen white
commitment to the institution of slavery, particularly as the shift to tidal rice
cultivation and the expansion of cotton production further increased demands for
labor. Simultaneously, however, Revolutionary ideology forced many Americans to
question and ultimately condemn slavery at just the moment when most white
Charlestonians became convinced that their prosperity—indeed their very identity-
rested more than ever upon slavery’s survival and expansion in the region. Thus
Charlestonians and other Southerners became even more committed to an institution
Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery. American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial
Virginia (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975), 44-71; Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of
Virginia. 1740-1790 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982), esp. 88-138, 320-322; Wyatt-
Brown, SouthemHonor, 88-114, 175-197, 327-361.
20Wood, “Interests and Disinterestedness in the Making of the Constitution,” in
Richard Beeman, Stephen Botein, and Edward C. Carter II, Beyond Confederation:
Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity (Chapel Hill NC: University
of North Carolina Press, 1987), 78.

13
that would increasingly become defined as outmoded and uncivilized by the majority
of the trans-Atlantic world.
Ultimately, the American Revolution in the South created a dual, Janus¬
faced, legacy: a strongly optimistic faith in political and economic liberalism that
favored trade with all the world coupled with a growing anxiety over dangerous
external ideas about universal equality that threatened to destroy the very fabric of
Southern economic and social life. The generation of South Carolinians that lived
through and experienced the American Revolution was as excited about future
commercial possibilities, as open to new technologies, financial institutions,
agricultural improvements, and potential for improved transportation as their
Northern brethren. In that sense being Southern or slaveowners made them no less
modem or liberal than other late eighteenth-century Americans. “The genius of our
people,” David Ramsay observed in 1783, “is entirely turned from war to commerce.
Schemes of business and partnerships for extending commerce are daily forming.”21
But the contested meaning of Revolutionary ideology, growing abolitionism, and
subsequent events in France and Santo Domingo combined to raise white levels of
anxiety over slavery to a fever pitch. Many found themselves defending and
maintaining by force an institution increasingly labeled anti-modem, anti¬
progressive, and anti-Christian by much of the rest of the world. As a result,
Charleston subsequently became less “cosmopolitan” during the 1790s at just the
2lDavid Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, September 9, 1783, in Robert L. Brunhouse,
ed., “David Ramsay, 1749-1815: Selections From His Writings,” Transactions of the
American Philosophical Society 55, Part 4 (1965): 76.

14
moment when its economic future shone brightest. Charleston became caught on the
horns of an enormous dilemma, simultaneously embracing the expansive economic
opportunities of the American Revolution while increasingly erecting an intellectual
blockade against hostile “outside” ideas and people.
Charlestonians thus failed to follow through on most of their grandiose
schemes for economic improvements. The canals of which they dreamed that would
link Charleston with the Ohio Valley and endless prosperity remained only dreams in
the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and other cities eclipsed Charleston in
economic and political importance. The Erie Canal in New York firmly linked the
Midwest with the North rather than the South. By that time Southerners had begun
to seal themselves off from the rest of the nation rather than seek new ways to
increase economic and commercial ties.
Nevertheless, though succeeding generations of South Carolinians failed to
sustain an optimistic vision of Charleston as the economic terminus of a vast
Southern hinterland, we are compelled still to recognize the existence of a
progressive, modem, liberal vision in the South before 1800 and its origins in the
political and economic radicalism of the American Revolution. In many ways it
represented a road not taken. Yet to overlook or dismiss it as unimportant or fleeting
because of the cataclysmic events of the nineteenth century is to miss the
significance of the American Revolution in the South.

CHAPTER ONE
THE CITY BEFORE THE STORM:
CHARLESTON IN 1765
“In human terms Charles Town might best be described as the capital of an African
foothold with a diverse minority of Europeans all under the shaping influence of English
West Indian experience, forcibly wedged into American Indian realms.”
D.W. Meinig, Atlantic America, 1492-1800 (1986)
In 1765 Charleston, South Carolina, reigned as the undisputed metropolis of the
Lower Southern British colonies. Charleston’s original English and Barbadian settlers
arrived on the west bank of the Ashley River in 1670 at Albemarle Point and relocated
downriver ten years later to the peninsula of land between the Ashley and Cooper rivers.
The city, with its wide and deep harbor, prospered chiefly because of favorable geography
and the city’s expanding role as economic entrepot for a fast-growing agricultural
hinterland. But the revolutionary events that began with the Stamp Act crisis in 1765
would ultimately shatter the stability and prosperity of the city and weaken Charleston’s
position of dominance in both the state and the region. When Charleston’s powerful,
confident elite rose to meet the ministerial challenge to their political authority, they
found themselves in the center of an upheaval that would eventually alter not only their
government but also their society as well. The consequences of the Stamp Act tumults of
15

16
1765 reverberated throughout the region, heralding like thunder the approach of more
cataclysmic storms to come.1
'Historians have generally argued for the primacy of either geography or economic
function in explaining why South Carolina had an urban center while the rest of the South
did not. For instance, D.W. Meinig argues that Charleston flourished because of climate.
Because Charleston was healthier and cooler than the surrounding countryside, planters
and merchants built houses there and lived in town much of the year. Meinig, The
Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, volume one,
Atlantic America. 1492-1800 fNew Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1986), 172-190.
See also Herman Wellenreuther, “Urbanization in the Colonial South: A Critique,”
William and Mary Quarterly 31 (October 1974): 653-671; Leila Sellers, Charleston
Business on the Eve of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1934), 5. Others argue that Charleston grew because of the economic
functions involved in marketing South Carolina staple crops. The factors necessary for
marketing rice differed substantially from those needed for marketing other southern
staples, particularly tobacco. Chesapeake planters shipped tobacco primarily to London
and Bristol; Carolinians sent rice to Britain, a number of ports in southern and northern
Europe, as well as American mainland and Caribbean ports. Exporters thus had to have
extensive knowledge of considerably more markets as well as maintaining
correspondence with agents in those markets. Also, since rice was shipped in bulk,
obtaining favorable freight rates became as important as choosing the right market. South
Carolina planters thus sold their rice to merchants in Charleston who performed these
delicate and difficult tasks for them. Tobacco planters consigned their crops to Britain,
where they were sold by commission agents on the planters’ risk and account. There was
no need for a centralized market. Thus the centralization of the rice trade in Charleston
accounts for the city’s rise in the eighteenth century. The most recent and persuasive
articulation of this view is R.C. Nash, “Urbanization in the Colonial South: Charleston,
South Carolina, as a Case Study,” Journal of Urban History 19 (November 1992): 3-29.
See also Nash, “South Carolina and the Atlantic Economy in the Late Seventeenth and
Eighteenth Centuries,” Economic History Review 45 (November 1992): 677-702; Peter
A. Coclanis, The Shadow of A Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina
Low Country. 1670-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); David A. Smith,
“Dependent Urbanization in Colonial America: The Case of Charleston, South Carolina,”
Social Forces 66 (September 1987): 1-28; David R. Goldfield, Cotton Fields and
Skyscrapers: Southern City and Region. 1607-1980 (Baton Rouge LA: Louisiana State
University Press, 1982), 13-27; Peter A. Coclanis, “Bitter Harvest: The South Carolina
Low Country in Historical Perspective,” Journal of Economic History 45 (June 1985):
251-259; Edward K. Muller, “Regional Urbanization and the Selective Growth of Towns
in North American Regions,” Journal of Historical Geography 3 (January 1977): 21-39;
Carville Earle and Ronald Hoffman, “Staple Crops and Urban Development in the
Eighteenth-Century South.” Perspectives in American History 10 (1976): 7-78; Edward

17
Despite Charleston’s distance from any of the three main river systems in South
Carolina,2 the Ashley, Cooper, Stono, and Wando rivers linked Charleston to the
surrounding hinterland much more extensively than either Beaufort to the south or
Georgetown to the north.3 "It is a market town and the produce of the whole province is
brought to it, for sale or exportation," the London Magazine reported, "its trade is far
from being inconsiderable for it deals near one thousand miles into the continent."4
K. Muller, “Selective Urban Growth in the Middle Ohio Valley, 1800-1860,”
Geographical Review 66 (April 1976): 178-199; Michael P. Conzen, “A Transport
Interpretation of the Growth of Urban Regions: An American Example,” Journal of
Historical Geography 1 (October 1975): 361-382; Jacob Price, “Economic Function and
the Growth of American Port Towns in the Eighteenth Century,” Perspectives in
American History 8 (1974): 123-186; Joseph A. Ernst and H. Roy Merrens, ‘“Camden’s
Turrets Pierce the Skies!’: The Urban Process in the Southern Colonies During the
Eighteenth Century,” William and Mary Quarterly 30 (October 1973): 549-574. It should
be noted that Carville and Earle emphasize “staple flows and their linkage effect” more
than economic function, per se. They argue that “the size and spatial pattern of regional
ports and their respective hinterland towns resulted from the staple produced.” And
geography, of course, determined the staples grown and how farmers transported them to
market. The southeastern flow of rivers out of the North Carolina piedmont, for example,
ensured that wheat and naval stores would flow into Charleston rather than to the North
Carolina coast. See “Staple Crops and Urban Development,” 11, 18, 62, 66-67, and “The
Urban South: The First Two Centuries,” in Blaine A. Brownell and David R. Goldfield,
eds., The City in Southern History: The Growth of Urban Civilization in the South (Port
Washington NY: Kennikat Press, 1977), 35.
2The Pee Dee in the northeast, the Santee in the central area, and the Savannah in the
southwest. WPA Writers' Program, South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1941), 9.
3 George C. Rogers Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys (Norman OK:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1969, reprint, Columbia SC: University of South Carolina
Press, 1980), 8.
4"An Account of the City of Charles-Town, Metropolis of the Province of South
Carolina, With An Exact and Beautiful Prospect Thereof, Copied From the London
Magazine. June 1762," Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1882 (Charleston SC: News and
Courier Presses, 1882), 341-342.

18
Planters and small farmers from the Cape Fear River valley in North Carolina south to
Pensacola in British West Florida shipped the region’s great staple products—rice, indigo,
tobacco, wheat, and naval stores—downriver, along the seacoast, or overland by wagon to
Charleston, and by 1765 the city had become the largest in the Southern colonies. Indeed,
the city's population of 8,000 in 1765—almost evenly divided between black and white-
ranked as the fourth most populous in colonial America behind Philadelphia, New York,
and Boston [see Tables 1-1 and 1-2].5 The streets of Charleston in 1765 teemed with
royal officials, slaves, indentured servants, merchants, ministers, planters, lawyers,
sailors, ship captains, soldiers, immigrants, beggars, orphans, and prostitutes. Charleston
offered a catholicity of taverns, ballrooms, race tracks, library and benevolent societies,
clubs, churches, coffeehouses, marketplaces, and theaters to meet all tastes. Between
1680 and 1765 Charles Town survived Spanish invasions and a succession of natural
disasters to become the political, social, and economic capital of the region, dominating
and overshadowing Wilmington, Baltimore, and Norfolk to the north, and Savannah and
sGeorge Milligen Johnston, a contemporary observer, placed the white population in
1763 at 4,000, "and the negro servants near the same number." George Milligen
Johnston, A Short Description of the Province of South Carolina (1770), 32, South
Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia. Lieutenant-Governor
William Bull reported the population to the Board of Trade in 1770 as 5,030 whites,
5,831 blacks. William Bull to Earl of Hillsborough, November 30, 1770, in Transcripts
of Records in the British Public Records Office Relating to South Carolina, 1663-1782,
36 volumes, 32:387-388, Records Deposited With the Secretary, Records of the Secretary
of State, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia (hereafter cited
as SCBPRO). Carl Bridenbaugh relies on Bull's figures in Cities in Revolt: 1 Jrban Life
in America. 1743-1776 CLondon: Oxford University Press, 1955), 333.

19
St. Augustine to the south.6 In short, by 1765 Charleston had become the capital "of the
most flourishing of all His Majesty's American colonies."7
William Gerard De Brahm, the royal surveyor, described Charleston as "the most
convenient and by far the richest city in the Southern District of North America."8 The
London Magazine marveled that "here the rich people have handsome equipages; the
merchants are opulent and well bred; the people are thriving and extensive, in dress and
life, so that everything conspires to make this town the politest, as it is one of the richest
in America."9 Publisher Peter Timothy boasted to his friend Benjamin Franklin that "I do
not suppose there is a colony on this continent in so flourishing and promising a situation
as South Carolina at present. Very elegant buildings are rising in almost every street by
private gentlemen."10 Indeed, the city contained over 900 houses and rent ranged from
6See Sellers, Charleston Business on the Eve of the American Revolution. 3-48. On
Savannah's growth in this period as compared to Charleston's, see Frances Harrold,
“Colonial Siblings: Georgia’s Relationship with South Carolina During the Pre-
Revolutionary Period,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 73 (Winter 1989): 707-744; Barratt
Wilkins, "A View of Savannah on the Eve of the Revolution," Georgia Historical
Quarterly 54 (Winter 1970): 577-584. See also Carl Bridenbaugh, Myths and Realities:
Societies of the Colonial South (1952; reprint, New York: Atheneum, 1975), 59-60.
’Shelburne to Lord Charles Montagu, February 19, 1767, SCBPRO 31:309.
*Louis De Vorsey, Jr., ed., De Brahm's Report of the General Survey in the Southern
District of North America (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1971), 90.
’"An Account of the City of Charles-Town,” 341-342.
l0Peter Timothy to Benjamin Franklin, September 3, 1768, in Hennig Cohen, ed.,
"Four Letters From Peter Timothy, 1755, 1768, 1771," South Carolina Historical
Magazine 55 (1954): 162-163. See also Henry Laurens to James Grant, March 23, 1767,
in Philip M. Hamer et al., eds., The Papers of Henry Laurens. 14 vols. to date (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1968-), 5:237-238.

20
£80 to £800 a year, depending upon the size and substantiality of the dwelling." By 1774
"many elegant" houses covered White Point at the south end of the peninsula.12
Governor’s Bridge connected the city with its first suburbs north of town at Craven's
Bastion, Meeting Street had been extended north to George Street, and in August 1769
the legislature fixed Boundary Street (present-day Calhoun Street) as the town's northern
limit.13 Commercial improvements continued along the riverfront and harbor. The
legislature built a new Exchange at the intersection of Broad and Bay streets and a new
beacon and lighthouse in the harbor, while merchants constructed wharves along the
Cooper River and, for the first time, on the Ashley.14 Christopher Gadsden erected a large
new wharf on the Cooper, just north of town, "reckoned the most extensive of its kind
ever undertaken by any one man in America."15 Off South Bay Street, William Gibbes’
wharf extended over 300 feet into the Ashley River. Between November 1768 and
November 1769 Charleston merchants exported over 123,000 barrels of rice and 380,000
hogsheads of indigo from Charleston’s wharves. These two great staples represented 85
11 South Carolina Gazette. August 17, 1767.
,2Ibid„ March 7, 1774.
l3George C. Rogers Jr., "The Charleston Tea Party: The Significance of December 3,
1773," South Carolina Historical Magazine 75 (July 1974): 155; South Carolina Gazette
and Country Journal. August 28, 1769.
14South Carolina Gazette. August 1, 1768. The foundation for the Exchange was laid
on Monday, July 25, 1768.
15Ibid., March 7, 1774; E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and Robert H. Woody, Christopher
Gadsden and the American Revolution (Knoxville TN: University of Tennessee Press,
1982), 73-74. See Gadsden's advertisement for workers in the South Carolina Gazette.
March 23,1769.

21
percent of the exported goods valued at £404,056 sterling shipped from Charleston that
year.16
Despite such outward symbols of economic prosperity, the Southern metropolis
did not lack substantial social problems, however. In addition to difficulties with the
poor (which will be discussed), Charleston had insufficient and overcrowded jails, a
workhouse full of “notorious bawds, strumpers, vagrants, drunkards, [and] idle persons,”
too few public wells, street lamps, and public stocks, too many vagrants, taverns, filthy
streets, and bad roads, and an undermanned and underpaid town watch. Governor
Montagu complained to London that "building a jail is a thing that is become now
absolutely necessary, as the present one is so old and weak that the prisoners are
frequently breaking out."17 The city lacked an adequate police force, and disgruntled
citizens seeking police assistance often found the Watch House on the comer of Broad
and Meeting streets empty.18 Charleston's narrow streets contained "all kinds of filth,"
l6William Bull to Board of Trade, December 5,1769, Bull to Hillsborough, December
6,1769, SCBPRO 32:122-130.
17See grand jury presentments in South Carolina Gazette. June 8, 1765, June 2, 1766,
November 9, 1767, May 9, 1768, January 25, 1770, February 2, 1771, February 22, 1773,
May 24, 1773; South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. November 17, 1767; South
Carolina and American General Gazette. January 29, 1768, March 26, 1770; Lord Charles
Montagu to Earl of Shelburne, August 14, 1767, SCBPRO 31:413.
18The law required the town watch to be active from sunrise Sunday to sunrise
Monday. This was in reaction to the Stono Rebellion, which took place on Sunday,
September 9, 1739. For the Stono Rebellion and its aftermath, see Peter H. Wood, Black
Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 Through the Stono Rebellion
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1974), 308-326.

22
while horses and cattle fed openly in the streets "to the great annoyance of the
inhabitants."19
Charleston’s growing population consisted of four separate and distinctly unequal
ranks: the elite, artisans and mechanics, common laborers, and slaves.20 A ruling elite of
merchants, planters, and lawyers governed the city and dominated its political and social
institutions.21 The Commons House of Assembly, the lower house of South Carolina’s
19South Carolina Gazette. May 24, 1773, February 7,1771, June 2,1766; South
Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. June 20, 1775.
20The use of the term “rank” instead of “class” follows the lead of Gary B. Nash,
Edward Countryman, and Stuart M. Blumin, who all argue that eighteenth-century society
was organized vertically into ranks rather than horizontally into layered, antagonistic
classes. Blumin writes that the term “ranks” identifies “the flow of influence, patronage,
and deference within this system of interests, rather than the experiences and
consciousness of separate classes.” My account of Charleston in 1765 agrees with
Blumin’s description of eighteenth-century society as “profoundly elitist in its recruitment
of political leadership and in its assignment of social prestige.” Stuart M. Blumin, The
Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City. 1760-1900
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 17. Gary B. Nash warns that
“eighteenth-century society had not yet reached the historical stage of a mature class
formation,” but nevertheless believes that historians can “understand more fully the
origins and meaning of the American Revolution by analyzing the changing relations
among people of different ranks and examining the emergence of new modes of thought
based on horizontal rather than vertical divisions in society.” Gary B. Nash, The Urban
Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution Abr. Ed.
(Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), xii. Edward Countryman writes that
the “middling sort” in New York “did not form a class.” Edward Counryman, A People
in Revolution: The American Revolution and Political Society in New York. 1760-1790
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1981), 12. Historians who do use the term “middle class” in
the eighteenth century include Carl Bridenbaugh, Cities in Revolt. 332; Charles F. Olton,
Artisans For Independence: Philadelphia Mechanics and the American Revolution
(Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1975), x; Richard A. Ryerson, “The
Revolution is Now Begun”: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia. 1765-1776
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), 254.
2IA note is in order here about the use of the papers of members of the governing elite
in this project, particularly the papers of Henry Laurens. Few of the papers of prominent

23
colonial legislature, remained the exclusive enclave of these wealthy aristocrats
eighteenth-century South Carolinians have survived. The most notable exceptions are the
papers of Henry Laurens, David Ramsay, and to a lesser extent, Christopher Gadsden.
The Laurens Papers are an indispensable source for the student of Revolutionary
Charleston and this project, like most recent works on eighteenth-century South Carolina,
extensively utilizes this primary source, particularly in the first three chapters. Laurens
was a successful merchant-planter in colonial and Revolutionary Charleston and played a
prominent role in the Revolutionary movement in South Carolina. He maintained a vast
political and commercial correspondence and commented on almost every aspect of the
Revolution on a local, regional, and national level. This correspondence is preserved in
the Henry Laurens Papers in the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston and is
currently being published by the University of South Carolina Press. Similarly, David
Ramsay served in the Confederation Congress and was active in Charleston affairs in the
1780s and 1790s. His published post-war correspondence has been particularly helpful in
illuminating events discussed in the last three chapters. Christopher Gadsden was another
successful merchant who played a conspicuous role in the Revolution. His extant papers
are much thinner than those of Laurens and Ramsay, but it too has been collected and
published. Biographies of prominent eighteenth-century South Carolinians are rare
because so few of their personal and business papers survive. The few biographies that
have been written over the last thirty-five years by necessity tend to focus either on public
rather than private lives (“life and times” biography), or on prominent families rather than
individuals. The best published works are George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of a
Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston. (1758-18121 (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1962); William M. Dabney and Marion Dargan,
William Henry Dravton and the American Revolution (Albuquerque NM: University of
New Mexico Press, 1962); Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pincknev: Founding
Father (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1967); Frances Leigh
Williams, A Founding Family: The Pinckneys of South Carolina (New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1978); Carl J. Vipperman, The Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 1721-1800
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1978); Godbold and Woody, Gadsden
and the American Revolution: John C. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus Burke:
Revolutionary Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1989); Kinloch Bull Jr., The Oligarchs in Colonial
and Revolutionary Charleston: Lieutenant Governor William Bull II and His Family
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991); Arthur H. Shaffer, To Be An
American: David Ramsay and the Making of the American Consciousness (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991). There are no first-rate published
biographies of Gabriel Manigault, John or Edward Rutledge, Ralph Izard, Henry or
Arthur Middleton, Alexander Gillon, or surprisingly, Henry Laurens.

24
throughout the colonial period.22 Charleston merchants exported Southern staples to all
parts of the British empire and many places beyond and imported the manufactured goods
and luxuries—especially the human cargoes-that Charleston’s planters demanded. The
city’s merchants had been growing in economic stature since the 1730s and by the 1760s
had successfully monopolized Southern trade. Their influence originated from their
beginnings as factors sent out as agents by British companies trading with the province.
Many remained in Charleston, invested their capital, took risks, and flourished as
Charleston became the most important trading center in the Southern colonies.
Charleston merchants sponsored storekeepers at the heads of rivers and ferry crossings,
where they bought produce, livestock, and commodities for shipment to Charleston.23
Most of these exports came to Charleston from the vast hinterlands of the midlands and
backcountry of South Carolina and from the neighboring colonies of Georgia and North
Carolina. Inland waterways provided the primary avenues to market, but many
inhabitants made the journey over bumpy and bad roads. Lieutenant Governor William
Bull noted in 1770 that 3,000 wagons laden with the produce of the countryside had come
to Charleston the previous year.24 Merchants and planters thus required efficient and
220f the forty-eight members of the Commons House in 1765, over two-thirds owned
property worth £5,000 sterling or more, and the other one-third owned property worth at
least £2,000 sterling or more. No artisans ever served in the colonial South Carolina
legislature. Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in South
Carolina (Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981), 105. Assembly
membership required 500 acres and 10 slaves or houses and town lots valued at £1,000.
Rogers. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. 19.
23Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. 11-12.
24William Bull to Hillsborough, June 7,1770, SCBPRO 32:283.

25
affordable transportation links to Charleston. Grand juries complained often about
dreadful conditions on public roads, while the Commons House of Assembly licensed
ferry operators and passed legislation to clear rivers and construct new roads.25
Backcountry farmers who made the long journey to Charleston sold their deerskins,
indigo, flour, wheat, hemp, and tobacco in the various city markets or to merchants and
factors, and they returned to their homes with "necessaries and luxuries from every
quarter of the globe."26
Charleston merchants maintained close ties with the Atlantic mercantile
community throughout the colonial period.27 From November to May of each year the
harbor filled with ships from all parts of the British empire, bringing manufactured goods
to the colony and returning to European, West Indian, and North American ports with rice
and indigo, the great staple crops of South Carolina. In January 1765 alone ships entered
Charleston from Havana, Montserrat, Lisbon, Jamaica, London, Bermuda, St. Kitts,
Philadelphia, St. Augustine, and Aberdeen.28 Many of the city's merchants had forged
economic links by serving as apprentices in London and returned to the province with
25See for instance South Carolina Gazette. June 2,1766, and Sir Matthew Lamb to
Board of Trade, March 10,1767, SCBPRO 31:316-317.
“Milligen Johnston, A Short Description of the Province of South Carolina. 36.
27See David Hancock, Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of
the British Atlantic Community. 1735-1785 (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1995).
28South Carolina Gazette. January 17, 1765. Lieutenant-Governor William Bull
reported to London in March 1765 that "at Charles Town within the last 12 months
arrived 360 sail from different countries. At Beaufort 40, George Town 21." Bull to Earl
of Halifax, March 1, 1765, SCBPRO 30:245.

26
valuable commercial ties. Henry Laurens entered business as a clerk in the offices of
London merchant James Crokatt. After touring London, Bristol, and Liverpool in order
to establish contacts, Laurens went into partnership in Charleston with George Austin in
1749. During the Seven Years War the pair grew wealthy trading in rice and slaves.
When Austin retired and returned to England in 1762, Laurens invested in Mepkin, a
3,000-acre plantation thirty miles north of Charleston on the Cooper River, combining
rice and indigo production with his successful mercantile business. At his death thirty
years later, he owned over 20,000 acres in Georgia and Carolina.29 Gabriel Manigault
grew wealthy importing and exporting primarily with the West Indies, Philadelphia, and
New York. He began acquiring land in the 1730s, eventually owning several thousand
acres and almost 300 slaves. During the Revolution he loaned the state government more
than £650,000 before his death in 1781.30 Laurens and Manigault serve to represent the
shared interests and fluidity of Charleston's merchant-planter community. Their fortunes,
and that of their city, were inextricably linked.31
29Walter B. Edgar and N. Louise Bailey et al., eds., Biographical Directory of the
South Carolina House of Representatives. 5 vols. (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1977-1992), 2:390-393; South Carolina (WPA) Will Transcripts, Wills of
Charleston County, 24 (1786-1793): 1152-1158, microfilm, South Carolina Department
of Archives and History, originals in Charleston County Courthouse; Rogers, Charleston
in the Age of the Pinckneys. 38.
30Edgar and Bailey, Biographical Directory. 2:428-429. For Manigault’s career as a
merchant, see Maurice Alfred Crouse, "The Manigault Family of South Carolina, 1685-
1783," Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 1964, 317-339.
3,See also R.C. Nash, “Trade and Business in Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: The
Career of John Guerard, Merchant and Planter,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 96
(January 1995): 6-29.

27
Charleston merchants supplied the planters with credit, allowing them to expand
their production through land, supplies, and above all, slave labor. The planter in turn
paid off his debts in the winter when he brought his staples to Charleston. One visiting
Newport merchant observed the intimate ties between Carolina planters and Charleston
merchants. "The merchants who import merchandise from Europe supply the planters
both by the piece and retail,” he wrote, “and what they do not have stored in their shops
they will obtain from others.” Planters often refused “to do business with anyone but his
merchant. This is so much so that although elsewhere they offer him what he needs more
cheaply, he does not change."32
The city’s planters grew on their surrounding lowcountry plantations the rice that
fed much of Northern Europe and the indigo required by the burgeoning British Industrial
Revolution. Parliament placed rice on the enumerated list in 1705, requiring the article to
be shipped directly to England before reexport to any other port. In 1730 the British
relaxed the restriction somewhat, allowing direct shipment to all ports south of Cape
Finisterre on the northwestern coast of Spain.33 In 1765 Charleston exported more than
107,000 barrels of rice. By 1770 rice exports had expanded to 131,805, an increase of
215 percent since 1730, and the highest figure reached during the colonial period. In fact,
Charleston served as the rice port for the American colonies: Between 1765 and 1774
Charleston exported an average of 83 percent of all rice shipped from the colonies [see
32Thomas J. Tobias, ed., "Charles Town in 1764," South Carolina Historical Magazine
67 (April 1966): 66.
33Ibid., 67; Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. 3, 9-11.

28
Table 1-3].34 Merchants sent most of the rice to Great Britain, where British traders then
re-exported the bulk to Northern Europe. Of the rice exported in 1766,46 percent went
to England, 29 percent to ports south of Cape Finisterre, 14 percent to the British West
Indies, 4 percent to other American colonies, 4 percent to other West Indian islands, and
3 percent to Scotland.35 By 1775 rice ranked behind only tobacco and flour as America’s
most valuable export.36 Britain’s growing cloth industry fueled the demand for Carolina
indigo, and Parliament placed a six pence per pound bounty on the crop in 1748. The
subsidy made indigo planting profitable, and production flourished, expanding from a
small beginning of 5,000 pounds exported in 1746 to more than 335,000 pounds in 1765.
34Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to
1970.2 vols. (Washington DC: Bureau of the Census, 1975), 2:1192. See also Kenneth
Morgan, “The Organization of the Colonial American Rice Trade,” William and Mary
Quarterly 52 (July 1995): 433-452; R. Douglas Hurt, American Agriculture: A Brief
History (Ames IA: Iowa State University Press, 1994), 43-46; Peter A. Coclanis, “Distant
Thunder: The Creation of a World Market in Rice and the Transformations It Wrought,”
American Historical Review 98 (1993): 1050-1078; Henry C. Dethloff, A History of the
American Rice Industry. 1685-1985 (College Station TX: Texas A & M University Press,
1988), 6-45; Dethloff, “The Colonial Rice Trade,” Agricultural History 56 (January
1982): 231-243; James M. Clifton, “The Rice Industry in Colonial America.” Agricultural
History 55 (1981): 266-283; David LeRoy Coon, “The Development of Market
Agriculture in South Carolina, 1670-1785,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign, 1972, 164-214; Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the
Southern United States To I860. 2 vols. (Washington DC: Carnegie Institution of
Washington, 1933), 1:277-290.
^Historical Statistics of the United States. 2:1193.
36Hurt, American Agriculture. 46.

29
Indigo production peaked in 1775 at 1.1 million pounds [see Table 1-4].37 Planters also
grew tobacco, hemp, silk, wine, oil, barley, wheat, flax, cotton, and ginger.38
The close ties planters maintained with Charleston’s merchants and lawyers
ensured that the Carolina elite developed a “community of shared values,” as Robert M.
Weir has noted.39 Charleston lawyers, often educated in London, primarily served the
city’s merchants in securing debts. All of the colony’s lawyers practiced in Charleston
since no other courts existed outside of the coastal capital. Many lawyers, of course,
doubled as planters or merchants as well.40 The elite further cemented their hegemony
37C. Robert Haywood, "Mercantilism and South Carolina Agriculture, 1700-1763,"
South Carolina Historical Magazine 60 (January 1959): 18, 20-21: Historical Statistics of
the United States. 2:1189. Exports figures for indigo are available only for all South
Carolina ports from 1765 to 1775. Charleston figures are based on the Census Bureau's
estimate that South Carolina ports other than Charleston averaged 7.8 percent of the
colony's total for 1768-1773 [Historical Statistics. 2:1189n1. Using this figure, an
estimated 261,924 pounds of indigo was exported from Charleston in 1765, and 873,316
pounds in 1775. For South Carolina indigo production, see Coon, “Development of
Market Agriculture in South Carolina, 1670-1785,” 215-268; G. Terry Shatter, “The
Indigo Bonanza in South Carolina, 1740-90,” Technology and Culture 12 (July 1971):
447-455; Shatter, “Indigo in Carolina, 1671-1796,” South Carolina Historical Magazine
72 (April 1971): 94-103; Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States.
1:290-297.
38William Bull to Board of Trade, September 6, 1768, SCBPRO 32:30-34.
“Robert M. Weir, "'The Harmony We Were Famous For': An Interpretation of Pre-
Revolutionary South Carolina Politics," in Stanley N. Katz and John M. Murrin, eds.,
Colonial America: Essays in Politics and Social Development (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1983), 435. (Originally published in William and Mary Quarterly 26 (October
1969): 473-501.)
“See George C. Rogers Jr., Generations of Lawyers: A History of the South Carolina
Bar (Columbia SC: South Carolina Bar Foundation, 1992); Hoyt P. Canady Jr.,
“Gentlemen of the Bar: Lawyers in South Carolina,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Tennessee, 1979.

30
and their ties through selective marriages with other prominent families.41 These links
also served to reinforce the city’s position as the political, social, and cultural center of
the colony. Most planters owned houses in Charleston and spent much of the year there.
They escaped the malarial conditions of their plantations during the summer, attended
sessions of the Commons House of Assembly, and enjoyed the “season” of social and
cultural activities which coincided with the busiest months of commercial activity.42
Members of the elite joined together socially at the Monday Night Club, the Hellfire
Club, or the Friday Night Club, or at meetings of fraternal organizations such as the
Freemasons. The city’s benevolent organizations included the St. Andrew’s Society, the
St. George’s Society, and the South Carolina Society. In addition, the elite congregated at
the Charleston Library Society, the New Market racetrack, and at various balls, dances,
plays, assemblies, and taverns.43 The city contained a number of houses of worship,
41See Richard Waterhouse, “South Carolina’s Colonial Elite: A Study in the Social
Structure and Political Culture of a Southern Colony, 1670-1760,” Ph.D. dissertation,
Johns Hopkins University, 1973; Waterhouse, “The Development of Elite Culture in the
Colonial American South: A Study of Charles Town, 1670-1770,” Australian Journal of
Politics and History 28 (1982): 391-404; Samuel A. Lilly, “The Culture of Revolutionary
Charleston,” Ph.D. dissertation, Miami University, 1972; Frederick P. Bowes, The
Culture of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1942),
115-130.
42"The usual time of shipping" rice, indigo, deer skins, and naval stores "is from the
month of January to the month of May, the great consumption of rice in Holland,
Germany, and Flanders, being early in the year, and to which very great quantities are
annually exported." Petition of Merchants Trading with South Carolina and Georgia to
the Board of Trade, December 18, 1770, SCBPRO 32:439.
43See Walter J. Fraser Jr., Charleston! Charleston! The History of a Southern City
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 129-135; Rogers, Charleston
in the Age of the Pinckneys. 6, 89-115; Suzanne Krebsbach, “The Great Charlestown
Smallpox Epidemic of 1760,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 97 (January 1996): 30-

31
though the Anglican church had been the established faith since 1706.44 Charleston had
two Anglican churches: St. Philip’s on Church Street, and St. Michael’s at the
intersection of Broad and Meeting streets. The Congregationalists and Presbyterians
worshiped on Meeting Street, the French Huguenots and the Baptists on Church Street,
37; H. Roy Merrens and George D. Terry, “Dying in Paradise: Malaria, Mortality, and the
Perceptual Environment in Colonial South Carolina,” Journal of Southern History 50
(November 1984): 533-550; John Duffy, “Eighteenth Century Carolina Health
Conditions,” Journal of Southern History 18 (August 1952): 289-302; St. Julien Ravenel
Childs, “Notes on the History of Public Health in South Carolina, 1670-1800,”
Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1932, 13-22; Waterhouse,
“South Carolina’s Colonial Elite”; Samuel A. Lilly, “The Culture of Revolutionary
Charleston”; David Morton Knepper, “The Political Structure of Colonial South Carolina,
1743-1776,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1971; John Christie Dann, “Low-
Country Planter Society in Colonial South Carolina,” M.A. thesis, College of William
and Mary, 1970; Robert J. Bagdon, “Musical Life in Charleston, South Carolina From
1732 to 1776 As Recorded in Colonial Sources,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Miami,
1978; Eola Willis, The Charleston Stage in the 18th Century (New York: B. Blum, 1968);
Mary Julia Curtis, “The Early Charleston Stage: 1703-1798,” Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana
University 1968; Bowes, Culture of Early Charleston. 115-130; Tobias, ed., “Charles
Town in 1764,” 68; Charles Caleb Cotton to “My Dear Mother,” June 3, 1799, in Julien
Dwight Martin, ed., “The Letters of Charles Caleb Cotton, 1798-1802,” South Carolina
Historical Magazine 51 (October 1950): 217; James H. Easterby, History of the St.
Andrew’s Society of Charleston. South Carolina. 1729-1929 (Charleston SC: Walker,
Evans, and Cogswell, 1929); Randy J. Sparks, “Gentlemen’s Sport: Horse Racing in
Antebellum Charleston,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 93 (January 1992): 15-30,
esp. 17-21.
44John Wesley Brinsfield, Religion and Politics in Colonial South Carolina (Easley
SC: Southern Historical Press, 1983); S. Charles Bolton, Southern Anglicanism: The
Church of England in Colonial South Carolina (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1982);
Rev. Philip G. Clarke, Anglicanism in South Carolina (Easley SC: Southern Historical
Press, 1976); George C. Rogers Jr., Church and State in Eighteenth Century South
Carolina (Charleston SC: Dalcho Historical Society, 1959).

32
while King Street housed the Quaker meeting. The city’s growing Jewish population
established the Beth Elohim Synagogue in 1749.45
Wealthy merchants, planters, and lawyers governed the city through the Commons
House of Assembly until 1783, and during the colonial period none but planters,
merchants, or lawyers ever sat in this body. By 1765, the Commons House had become
the most powerful branch of government in the colony. The delegates jealously guarded
their rights against all royal encroachments.46 The Commons House set all general
property and income taxes, export duties, import duties on slaves, and appointed all tax
collectors as well as the colony’s treasurer, who answered only to the lower house.47
Though some historians have suggested that the planter-dominated assembly neglected
45Arthur H. Hirsch, The Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina (Hamden CT: Archon
Books, 1962); Anna Wells Rutledge, “The Second St. Philip’s, Charleston, 1710-1835,”
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 18 (October 1959): 112-114; George
W. Williams, St. Michael’s. Charleston. 1751-1951 (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1951); George N. Edwards. A History of the Independent or
Congregational Church of Charleston. South Carolina (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1947);
Leah Townsend, South Carolina Baptists. 1670-1805 (Florence SC: The Florence
Printing Co., 1935); Edward McCrady, “Historical Sketch of St. Philip’s Church,”
Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1897 (Charleston SC, 1897), 319-374; George Howe,
History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. 2 vols. (Columbia SC: Duffle and
Chapman, 1870), 1:305-563; James William Hagy, This Happy Land: The Jews of
Colonial and Antebellum Charleston (Tuscaloosa AL: University of Alabama Press,
1993).
460n this point see M. Eugene Sirmans, Colonial South Carolina: A Political History.
1663-1763 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1966), and Jack P.
Greene, The Quest for Power: The Lower Houses of Assembly in the Southern Royal
Colonies. 1689-1776 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1963). The
other branches of government were the governor, appointed by the crown, and the
council, also appointive, which acted as the upper house of the legislature.
“Rogers. Charleston in the Ape of the Pinckneys. 19-20.

33
urban development, the Commons House spent a great deal of time attending to the city’s
needs.48 In 1767 alone the legislature passed legislation regulating the port and harbor,
made plans to construct a new Exchange, Custom House, and hospital, extended existing
streets while laying out new ones, investigated the conditions of the city's poor, and
encouraged Charleston's trade with neighboring colonies by lifting duties on naval stores
imported from those colonies. In addition, legislators mediated a dispute between
merchants and owners of wharves, extended Meeting Street north to George Street, and
built a bridge over the creek near Craven's Bastion at the north end of the Bay.49
The Commons House passed all laws pertaining to the city, though the day-to-day
governance of the city fell to various commissioners elected annually on Easter Monday.
Voting requirements remained unchanged since 1721. All free white Christian males
over 21 years of age who had lived in South Carolina for at least a year, owned at least
fifty acres of land, or paid twenty shillings a year in taxes could vote.50 Voters elected
city commissioners for the two urban parishes, St. Philip's, created in 1704, and St.
Michael's, formed in 1751 out of the southern half of the city, below Broad Street.
Churchwardens, usually merchants, oversaw the maintenance of the city's poor.
“According to Blaine Brownell and David Goldfield, the planter "urban consciousness
consisted of plotting an escape from Charleston before the first mosquitoes and after the
last party. Associational activity probably consisted of dipping snuff at the St. Cecilia's
Society." Blaine Brownell and David Goldfield, "Southern Urban History," in Brownell
and Goldfield, City in Southern History. 8-9.
49Henry Laurens to James Grant, March 23, 1767, Laurens Papers. 5:237-238.
50Thomas Cooper and David J. McCord, eds., The Statutes at Large of South Carolina.
10 vols. (Columbia, SC: A.S. Johnston, 1838-1841), 3:135-140.

34
Firemasters, also generally merchants, ensured that residents kept buckets and ladders
near at hand and inspected buildings for potential hazards. Packers, mostly master
coopers, inspected the packing of exports on the city wharves. Wood measurers,
primarily artisans, safeguarded the city against exorbitant rates for wood and coal. The
commissioners of markets and the workhouse collected fees for market stalls, enforced
sanitary regulations, and also oversaw the workhouse, where the city housed sick folk,
criminals, indigents, and runaway slaves. Finally, the commissioners of roads supervised
the paving and cleaning of streets and set prices for haulage. Voters generally elected
both merchants and artisans as market, workhouse, and road commissioners.51
The artisans who served without pay in these positions represented the “middling
sorts,” below the governing elite.52 Though politically mute for most of the colonial
51“The Government of the City of Charleston, 1682-1882,” Yearbook. City of
Charleston. 1881 (Charleston SC: News and Courier Book Presses, 1881), 325-377.
Protestant Episcopal Church, St. Philip's, Charleston, Records, 1732-1910, WPA
Transcript, 1939, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia,
copied from the original in the possession of St. Philip's Church, Charleston; Rogers,
Charleston in the Aee of the Pinckneys. 20-21.
52Artisans are defined as laborers who performed skilled work with their hands, and
the term is used interchangeably with “mechanic” and “craftsman” throughout this study.
The term does not include unskilled laborers. For the term “middling sorts,” see note
three above and especially Blumin, “‘Middling sorts’ in the Eighteenth-Century City,”
chapter two in Emergence of the Middle Class. 17-65. The best works on Charleston
artisans are Mary Catherine Ferrari, "Artisans of the South: A Comparative Study of
Norfolk, Charleston and Alexandria, 1763-1800,” Ph.D. dissertation, College of William
and Mary, 1992; Richard Walsh, Charleston’s Sons of Liberty: A Study of the Artisans.
1763-1789 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1959). For recent
scholarship on both Southern and urban artisans, see Johanna Miller Lewis, Artisans in
the North Carolina Backcountrv (Lexington KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1995);
Floward B. Rock, Paul A. Gilje, and Robert Asher, eds., American Artisans: Crafting
Social Identity. 1750-1850 (Baltimore MD: Johns Flopkins University Press, 1995);
Ronald Schultz, The Republic of Labor: Philadelphia Artisans and the Politics of Class.

35
period, these workers nevertheless asserted themselves through their craftsmanship, and
the fruits of their labors could be seen, heard, and smelled throughout the city. These
craftsmen and women catered to the needs of the merchant-planter community, provided
food and drink in the city, brewed beer, baked bread, butchered meat, designed and built
lavish homes, painted houses, portraits, and coats of arms, fashioned clothes, furniture,
shoes, watches, wigs, coaches, silver, jewelry, tanned hides, repaired guns, built ships,
and packed staple crops to be shipped out for export. The exact number of Charleston’s
artisans in 1765 is unknown, but artisans comprised 25 percent of Charleston households
in 1790. Between 1764 and 1807, nearly 2,500 artisans worked in the city.53
As the city’s middling rank, artisans labored in the gray area between the
merchant-planter oligarchy and the large black population. Skilled white artisans
complained bitterly about the competition they faced from black labor, but many white
1720-1830 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Paul A. Gilje and Howard Rock,
eds., Keepers of the Revolution: New Yorkers at Work in the Early Republic (Ithaca NY:
Cornell University Press, 1992); Billy G. Smith, The “Lower Sort”: Philadelphia’s
Laboring People, 1750-1800 (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Paul Gilje, The
Road to Mobocracv: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834 (Chapel Hill NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Sharon V. Salinger, “To Serve Well and
Faithfully”: Labor and Indentured Servants in Pennsylvania. 1682-1800 (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1987); Steven Rosswurm, Arms. Country, and Class: The
Philadelphia Militia and the “Lower Sort” During the American Revolution (New
Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987); Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of
Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution. 1763-1812 (Urbana IL:
University of Illinois Press, 1984); Nash, Urban Crucible: Howard B. Rock, Artisans of
the New Republic: The Tradesmen of New York City in the Age of Jefferson (New York:
New York University Press, 1979); Dirk Hoerder, Crowd Action in Revolutionary
Massachusetts. 1765-1800 (New York: Academic Press, 1977), Foner, Tom Paine and
Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976); Olton, Artisans For
Independence.
53Ferrari, "Artisans of the South,” 17.

36
artisans invested in slaves because of the scarcity of free labor in the city. Recent
scholarship suggests that 81 percent of all artisans between 1764 and 1780 owned at least
one slave, though they possessed only 11 percent of inventoried wealth.54 British
mercantilism also worked against artisanal interest. Charleston craftsmen could not
compete with their counterparts in London nor did the city’s elite encourage them to do
so. Opulent planters demanded the finest craftsmanship the mother country had to offer,
and the city's merchants eagerly imported English-made goods, all the while depriving
domestic artisans of customers and profits. Royal officials even required Carolina
governors to verify the subordinate position of American manufacturing. After a
thorough search of the public records, William Bull assured the Board of Trade in 1768
that no public assistance had ever been given to encourage manufactures. He noted that
while many backcountry homes kept looms to weave cloth for their own families, the
government gave public assistance only to agricultural improvements. "Attempts to
establish [manufactures] here,” he wrote, “can never succeed to any degree, where there
is so much room to employ labor in agriculture and trade with more profit."55
Artisans thus welcomed and encouraged non-importation of British goods when
disputes over colonial taxation erupted in the latter half of the 1760s, and in some
measure they indeed acted as the "advanced guard of rebellion."56 The Revolutionary
54Ibid., 20-21.
“William Bull to Hillsborough, November 30, 1770, SCBPRO 32:404.
“Richard Walsh, “The Charleston Mechanics: A Brief Study, 1760-1776,” South
Carolina Historical Magazine 60 (1959): 123-144.

37
movement offered artisans the opportunity to eliminate or at least curb the economic
hegemony of their overseas competition, and in 1769 Charleston's mechanics demanded
and received equal representation on the committee that enforced compliance with the
colonial boycott. The artisanal community had always been shut out of provincial
politics, but the Revolution would shatter the chains of deference that had kept them so
long in silence.57
The third rank of Charleston society consisted of common laborers and the city’s
poor. Though unskilled workers often found employment on Charleston’s wharves and
with skilled artisans, they faced unending competition from the city’s ubiquitous slaves.
While Charleston's elite grew wealthier during the 1760s and 1770s, the growing number
of urban poor taxed the limits of the city’s institutions of relief, as they did in
contemporary Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.58 The Rev. Robert Smith of St.
57Most of the artisans owned property, and many could therefore vote under the
suffrage requirements of the act of 1721. Many also sat on Grand Juries and could
therefore voice their complaints through that vehicle. But no artisan ever served in the
Commons House of Assembly.
S!For the wealth and poverty of the city, see Barbara L. Bellows, Benevolence Among
Slaveholders: Assisting the Poor in Charleston. 1670-1860 (Baton Rouge LA: Louisiana
State University Press, 1993); Walter J. Fraser Jr., “The City Elite, ‘Disorder,’ and the
Poor Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 84
(July 1983): 167-179; William G. Bentley, “Wealth in Colonial South Carolina,” Ph.D.
dissertation, Georgia State University, 1977; Waterhouse, “South Carolina’s Colonial
Elite.” On the poor in the urban North, see James A. Henretta, "Economic Development
and Social Structure in Colonial Boston," William and Mary Quarterly 22 (January 1965):
75-92; Raymond Mohl, "Poverty in Early America, A Reappraisal: The Case of
Eighteenth Century New York City," New York History 50 (1969): 5-27; Allan Kulikoff,
"The Progress of Inequality in Revolutionary Boston," William and Mary Quarterly 28
(July 1971): 376-411; Gary B. Nash, "Urban Wealth and Poverty in Pre-Revolutionary
America," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 6 (Spring 1976): 545-584; John K.
Alexander, Render Them Submissive: Responses to Poverty in Philadelphia. 1760-1800

38
Philip’s parish (which oversaw the care of the poor) requested the use of soldier's
barracks in 1766 to relieve the overcrowded workhouse, which also served as a jail.
Smith complained about the inhuman policy of housing violent prisoners with "the poor
and sick, who may be, and often are, pious and well disposed persons."59 While exported
staple crops continued to enrich city planters and merchants, wealth became increasingly
concentrated between 1757 and 1762 due to the Seven Years War.60 Consequently, tax
rates to support increasingly ineffective institutions rose as well. Poor rates soared in the
1760s and 1770s, rising from £3,000 in 1755 to £6,500 in 1765 to £14,000 in 1775.61
Alarmed legislators investigated and blamed the problem on vestry and church wardens
who failed to return the poor to their home parishes. In addition, they found that many
arriving immigrants bound for the backcountry simply remained in town.62 Grand Juries
frequently complained about the rising numbers of the destitute and continually requested
(Amherst MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980).
’’Minutes of Vestry meeting, December 7, 1766, St. Philips Records, 44-45.
“James Harold Easterby, "Public Poor Relief in Colonial Charleston: A Report to the
Commons House of Assembly About the Year 1767," South Carolina Historical
Magazine 42 (April 1941): 84-86; Fraser, "The City Elite, 'Disorder,' and the Poor
Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston," 167-179. On the concentration of wealth, see
Bentley, "Wealth Distribution in Colonial South Carolina." For similar results of the
Seven Years War in the urban North, especially post-war depression and greater
concentration of wealth, see Nash, Urban Crucible. 147-183. Nash, p. 157, found that “in
all the seaport towns the greatest hardships imposed by the post-1760 slump fell upon the
laboring classes.”
61Easterby, "Public Poor Relief," 84-86; St. Philips Records, 135.
“Easterby, "Public Poor Relief," 84-86; Fraser, "The City Elite."

39
laws to prevent the poor from entering town from "all parts of this and many neighboring
provinces" and further increasing the tax rate.63
Slaves, of course, occupied the bottom rung of Charleston society. The city had
the largest black population of any city on mainland British North America during the
Revolutionary period [see Table 1-5]. Blacks comprised half of the city’s residents in
1765 and 61 percent of the entire colony. Despite persistent white fears of a growing
black population, the percentage of slaves in the city’s population remained steady
between 1760 and 1810, ranging from 51 to 54 percent [see Table 1-6]. The “black
majority” in the lowcountry as a whole between 1775 and 1810 varied from 73 to 84
percent of the total population [see Table 1-7].64 The city served as a major port of entry
for slave traders in the American colonies, and Charleston merchants imported almost
42,000 slaves between 1760 and 1774.65 In 1765 alone 106 cargoes entered the port with
63See South Carolina Gazette. January 25, 1770, February 22, 1773.
MOn the growth of the black majority in colonial South Carolina, see Russell L.
Menard, “Slave Demography in the Lowcountry, 1670-1740: From Frontier Society to
Plantation Regime,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 96 (October 1995): 280-303;
Wood, Black Majority; Wood, “More Like a Negro Country’: Demographic Patterns in
Colonial South Carolina, 1700-1740,” in Stanley L. Engerman and Eugene D. Genovese,
eds., Race and Slavery in the Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies (Princeton NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1975), 131-171; Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, “The Slave Labor
Problem in the Charleston District,” Political Science Quarterly 22 (September 1907):
416-439.
6iHistorical Statistics of the United States. 2:1173; Walter Minchinton, “A Comment
on ‘The Slave Trade to Colonial South Carolina: A Profile,”’ South Carolina Historical
Magazine 95 (January 1994): 47-57; David Richardson, “The British Slave Trade to
Colonial South Carolina,” Slavery and Abolition 12 (1991): 157-163; Robert M. Weir,
Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood NY: KTO Press, 1983), 178; Daniel C.
Littlefield, Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina
(Baton Rouge LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1981); W. Robert Higgins,

40
a total of 6,520 slaves [see Table 1-8].66 One Charleston visitor insisted that “he had been
mistakenly taken by his guide to Africa.”67
White and black intermingled constantly in a city where 8,000 people occupied
the space of a few square miles and residential segregation was unknown. It seemed to a
visiting Frenchman in 1777 that "one will meet seven or eight coloured men on the street
for every European that he encounters."68 Slaves could be found throughout the city,
working on ships and wharves, driving coaches, cooking and waiting tables, hired out and
apprenticed to artisans, working illegally for themselves in competition with white
artisans, and serving as common laborers. Timothy Ford, a New Jersey native visiting
after the Revolution asserted that "in this country a person can no more act or move
without an attending servant than a planet without its satellites." "I have seen tradesmen,"
he wrote, "go through the city followed by a negro carrying their tools—barbers who are
“Charleston: Terminus and Entrepot of the Colonial Slave Trade,” in Martin L. Kilson
and Robert I. Rothberg, eds., The African Diaspora: Interpretive Essays (Cambridge MA:
Harvard University Press, 1976), 114-131; Higgins, “Charles Town Merchants and
Factors Dealing in the External Negro Trade, 1735-1775,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 65 (October 1964): 205-217; Elizabeth Donnan, “The Slave Trade into South
Carolina Before the Revolution,” American Historical Review 33 (July 1928): 804-828.
“Historical Statistics of the United States. 2:1173, 1168. Of the slaves imported in
1765,68 percent came from Africa, 31 percent from the Caribbean. See also Peter H.
Wood, “The Changing Population of the Colonial South: An Overview by Race and
Region, 1685-1790,” in Peter H. Wood et al., eds., Powhatan’s Mantle: Indians in the
Colonial Southeast (Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 35-103; W. Robert
Higgins, “The Geographical Origins of Negro Slaves in Colonial South Carolina,” South
Atlantic Quarterly 70 (Winter 1971): 34-47.
67South Carolina Gazette. August 27, 1772.
68Elmer Douglas Johnson, trans., "A Frenchman Visits Charleston in 1777," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 52 (April 1951): 92.

41
supported in idleness and ease by their negroes who do the business, and in fact many of
the mechanics bear nothing more of their trade than the name."69 Elite Charlestonians
might resent the rising numbers of poor whites, but they complained most frequently
about the behavior of their slaves. They protested that slaves sold in the city’s markets,
hired their own time, congregated in large numbers, frequented taverns, cursed and swore
in the city streets, refused to work, dressed inappropriately, gambled, and always seemed
to behave in an insolent manner. One inhabitant wondered if "the laws of this province
extend to the punishment of vices in Negroes?" Greater economic opportunity and less
white supervision combined to give urban slaves more autonomy than their rural
counterparts, and many whites considered Charleston's slaves more "rude, unmannerly,
insolent, and shameless" than country slaves.â„¢
Charleston’s large slave population kept whites constantly on edge. Lieutenant
Governor William Bull maintained in 1770 that "the state of slavery is as comfortable in
this province as such a state can be," but anxious planters feared that the lure of freedom
69Joseph W. Barnwell, ed., "Diary of Timothy Ford,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 13 (July 1912): 142.
70South Carolina Gazette. August 27, 1772. See Loren Schweninger, “Slave
Independence and Enterprise in South Carolina, 1780-1865,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 93 (April 1992): 101-125; Philip D. Morgan, “Black Life in Eighteenth-
Century Charleston,” PerspectiyesinAnjencanjiistory New Series 1 (1984): 187-232;
Morgan, “Black Society in the Lowcountry, 1760-1810,” in Ira Berlin and Ronald
Hoffman, eds., Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution (Urbana IL:
University of Illinois Press, 1983), 83-142; Morgan, “Work and Culture: The Task
System and the World of Lowcountry Blacks, 1700 to 1880,” William and Mary
Quarterly 39 (October 1982): 563-599; Claudia Dale Goldin, Urban Slavery in the
American South. 1820-1860: A Quantitative History (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1976); Richard C. Wade, Slavery in the Cities: The South. 1820-1860 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1964).

42
would "raise ideas in [slaves] of an interest opposite to their masters."71 South Carolina
had weathered the Stono Rebellion of 1739, but fears of another, more widespread,
uprising always bubbled beneath the surface.72 In December 1765, rumors spread through
Charleston of an impending slave revolt during the Christmas season, traditionally an
extended holiday for slaves. Provincial authorities quickly called out the militia, while
Lt. Governor Bull brought down forty-seven Catawba Indians from the backcountry to
hunt down and kill the supposed rebels.73 Henry Laurens described the scene in
Charleston: "Patrols were riding day and night for 10 to 14 days in most bitter weather
and here in town all were soldiers in arms for more than a week." This uprising—like so
many others—failed to materialize, and Laurens noted wryly that the whole affair ended
with the "banishment of one fellow, not because he was guilty or instigator of
insurrection, but because some of his judges said that in the general course of his life he
had been a sad dog, and perhaps it was necessary to save appearances."74 This incident is
suggestive of the tensions and fears created in a city with a population half slave. Despite
’■William Bull to Hillsborough, November 30, 1770, SCBPRO 32:382, Committee
Report on Boundary Between South and North Carolina, inclosure, Board of Trade
Journal, SCBPRO 32:143.
72See here especially Wood, Black Majority. 308-326, and Knepper, "Political
Structure of Colonial South Carolina," 36-38.
73 William Bull to Board of Trade, December 17, 1765, January 25, 1766, SCBPRO
30:300-301, 31:18-21; Bull Jr., Oligarchs in Colonial and Revolutionary Charleston. 122.
74Henry Laurens to John Lewis Gervais, January 29, 1766, Papers of Henry Laurens.
5:53-54.

43
white assertions that mutual bonds of affection existed between happy slaves and kindly
masters, the slightest rumors of unrest could set off widespread panic.
Timothy Ford described an incident which gives great insight into the intimate
links between slavery and status in South Carolina. While returning to town after visiting
a local plantation, Ford and his friends stopped for a picnic beside the road. At some
distance off, a man appeared on horseback, and the locals all commented upon the fine
cut of his clothes and his expert horsemanship. "As we were all surveying and querying
who he should be,” Ford wrote, “one of the company finished the enquiry by saying 'he
cannot be a gentleman for he is riding without servants.'" Soon, however, two slaves on
horseback emerged from the woods, and the stranger "regained his lost honours, and it
was agreed on all sides that he is a gentleman."75 The New Jersey native found the whole
scene baffling. Ford simply could not fathom how ownership of other human beings
could define rank and status in society. A later visitor echoed similar thoughts: “It is
strange that men should value themselves most upon what they ought to be most ashamed
of.”76 Slaves did not simply represent another form of labor. Their overwhelming
presence in both the city and countryside was inextricably linked with the way white
South Carolinians created their own identity. In the years to come whites would view any
challenge to the institution, from any quarter whatsoever, as a direct threat to the social
and economic system that formed the very heart of their society.
75Bamwell, “Diary of Timothy Ford,” 189-190.
76H. Roy Merrens, “A View of Coastal South Carolina in 1778: The Journal of
F.henezer Hazard.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 73 (October 1972): 190.

44
************
Charleston’s reaction to the Stamp Act, though labeled “cautious” and
“conservative” by some historians, certainly frightened contemporary royal officials and
the city’s elite and upset traditional notions of political participation, deference, and
social order.77 “Some negroes mimicked their betters in crying out ‘liberty,’” while angry
crowds threatened to pull down the homes of royal officials and forced their way into
Henry Laurens' home to search for stamped papers.78 The “official” elite reaction was, of
course, much more subdued. Merchants, lawyers, and planters disagreed among
themselves over a proper response to the Stamp Act, particularly after violence followed
resistance in Northern ports.79 Henry Laurens thought such uprisings disgraceful and
urged Carolina authorities to prevent any "apings and mockery of those infamous
inglorious feats." While Laurens did not support the Stamp Act, he felt that only a
decent, respectful representation would bring about redress. "The Act must be executed
and indeed a suspension of it while it is in force would prove our ruin and destruction,"
he cautioned. Conversely, attorney Richard Hutson blasted Charlestonians as indifferent
while applauding the "laudable example of the northern provinces in endeavoring to repel
77See in particular Raymond G. Starr, "The Conservative Revolution: South Carolina
Public Affairs, 1775-1790," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1964, and Maurice
Crouse, "Cautious Rebellion: South Carolina's Opposition to the Stamp Act," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 73 (April 1972): 59-71.
7SHenry Laurens to John Lewis Gervais, January 29, 1766, Laurens Paners. 5:53-54.
79See Nash, Urban Crucible. 184-199; Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp
Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution. New rev. ed., (London: Collier Books, 1962), 187-
204.

45
the manifest encroachments on their liberty."80 In July the Commons House responded
favorably to Massachusetts' invitation to send representatives to a Stamp Act Congress in
New York the following October. The assembly elected Thomas Lynch, Christopher
Gadsden, and John Rutledge, all established members of Charleston's elite. Rutledge
practiced law in Charleston and invested heavily in land, obtaining over 30,000 acres by
1775. Lynch owned three plantations and a townhouse in Charleston and invested as
part-owner of three trading vessels. Gadsden, of course, was one of the city's most
successful merchant-planters.8'
Meanwhile, as the Stamp Act Congress deliberated in New York, the stamped
paper arrived in Charleston on Friday, October 18, 1765, with the act set to take effect on
November 1. Local Sons of Liberty, comprised primarily of artisans and mechanics,
moved swiftly to resist British policy. The following morning two effigies of a stamp
collector appeared hanging from a twenty-foot gallows at the comer of Broad and Church
streets, near Dillon's Tavern, in the center of town. Onlookers passed by all day to see the
figures with "LIBERTY and no STAMP ACT” printed on them, while the muffled bells
of St. Michael's tolled mournfully. That same evening Stamp Act protesters cut the
figures down, placed them in a wagon, and moved down Bay Street toward Tradd Street
“Henry Laurens to Joseph Brown, October 11, 1765, Laurens Papers. 5:25; Richard
Hutson to Joel Benedict, October 30,1765, Richard Hutson Letterbook, South Carolina
Historical Society, Charleston. Hutson was the first intendant (mayor) of incorporated
Charleston in 1783.
81 South Carolina Gazette. August 10, 1765; David Duncan Wallace, South Carolina:
A Short History. 1520-1948 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1961),
231; Edgar and Bailey, Biographical Directory. 2:259-260, 420-421, 577-578.

46
and the home of stamp inspector George Saxby, followed by a crowd estimated at two
thousand. Cooler heads barely restrained the crowd from demolishing the house, and
after searching the grounds and breaking the windows the procession moved on to the
City Green. There the protesters set the effigies on fire and solemnly buried “American
Liberty” in a mock funeral as the flames rose into the night sky.82
Five days later, on Wednesday, October 23, rumors circulated that the stamps had
been brought into town and placed in Henry Laurens' home in Ansonborough, a suburb
just north of Charleston.83 Laurens had opposed earlier street demonstrations, and that
evening at midnight a crowd of protesters awakened Laurens by pounding violently on his
front door. The startled merchant assured the crowd that he had no stamped paper, and
Laurens, as a member of the gentry, expected to be taken at his word. Instead, the crowd
“Wallace, South Carolina. 231; South Carolina Gazette. October 31,1765. Similar
protests had taken place previously in Boston on August 14, and in Newport on August
27-29,1765. See Peter D. G. Thomas, "The Stamp Act Crisis and Its Repercussions,
Including the Quartering Act Controversy," in Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole, eds., The
Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing,
1991), 117. These Stamp Act demonstrations of street theater and ritual protest were
played out repeatedly in colonial capitals and have recently been called by David
Waldstreicher "the first and most important example of celebration and mourning as loyal
protest." Such protests were performed in the name of English tradition, and its guardian,
the king. "With the king on their side, the lower classes could take the rhetorical high
ground, even against the king's men." Only later, after the Declaration of Independence
and the rejection of England, were colonial grievances thrust upon the King himself.
David Waldstreicher, "Rites of Rebellion, Rites of Assent: Celebrations, Print Culture,
and the Origins of American Nationalism," Journal of American History 82 (June 1995):
43, 47. See also David Waldstreicher, “The Making of American Nationalism:
Celebrations and Political Culture, 1776-1820.” Ph.D. dissertation., Yale University,
1994.
“Laurens' home was on the comer of what is now Laurens Street and East Bay. It was
destroyed in 1916.

47
demanded entrance to his house; Laurens, fearing for his and his pregnant wife's safety,
obeyed. After the crowd had searched the house in vain, the insurgents remained in
Laurens’s front parlor and demanded that he swear that he did not know the location of
the stamps. When Laurens refused the crowd threatened him with violence. The standoff
continued for over an hour before the dissidents finally gave up and left. As they did,
"they praised me highly and insisted upon giving me three cheers and then retired with
God bless your honor, Good night Colonel, We hope the poor lady will do well."84
During the ordeal Laurens recognized several of his accusers despite their disguises, and
he called many of them by name. But despite words of bravery, the intrusion left Laurens
shaken and stunned.85 Such an overt and direct threat to private property, social order,
and political deference could not go unchallenged and Laurens complained directly to the
lieutenant governor. Bull responded by calling a Council meeting, advising captains in
port to keep their sailors aboard ship at night and announced to the public that he had
lodged the stamped papers in Fort Johnson in Charleston Harbor. Bull privately fumed
that “the artifices of some busy spirits” had poisoned “the minds of men with the
principles imbibed and propagated from Boston and Rhode Island.”86
84Henry Laurens to Joseph Brown, October 28, 1765, Laurens Papers. 5:29-32; South
Carolina Gazette. October 31, 1765.
8iTen years later, when James Laurens, the child his wife was carrying that night, died
after an accident in London, Laurens told his son John that "he was marked for
misfortune before his birth." Henry to John Laurens, January 4, 1776, Laurens Papers.
10:617.
86Godbold and Woody, Gadsden and the American Revolution. 58.

48
The following Monday Bull and other elite leaders witnessed more street theater.
Stamp inspector George Saxby and stamp distributor Caleb Lloyd, having spent two days
virtually imprisoned in the fort, came up to town to face a multitude of protesters
threatening to tear them to pieces. The trembling pair pleaded that they would do nothing
until Parliament had addressed colonial grievances, and the assembled throng roared its
approval. The harbor rang with cheers, clanging bells, and cannon fire, and the crowd
escorted the stamp officials first to Dillon's Tavern and later to their own homes. Saxby
and Lloyd meekly explained to London that their lives and property had been repeatedly
threatened, and they had acted only to prevent "murder and the destruction of the town.”87
Opposition to the Stamp Act eventually closed down the South’s busiest port.
Trading came to a halt, and as crops went unsold, money grew scarce and debts went
unpaid. Though ships kept arriving they could not leave, and more and more sailors
crowded into town. Charleston faced an explosive situation, and merchants pleaded with
their London agents to lobby for repeal. Lt. Governor Bull, at the center of the storm,
received enormous pressure from various groups to open the port without stamped paper,
as Virginia and other colonies had done. Eventually Bull acquiesced. He simply declared
stamped paper unavailable, opened the port, and tensions gradually eased.88 On May 3,
1766, unofficial news arrived that American resolve had been rewarded and that
Parliament had repealed the act. Christopher Gadsden nearly fainted when he heard the
87South Carolina Gazette. October 31, 1765; George Saxby and Caleb Lloyd to
William Bull, October 29, 1765, SCBPRO 30:279-280; Morgan and Morgan, Stamp Act
Crisis. 202.
88See Bull Jr., Oligarchs in Colonial and Revolutionary Charleston. 108-135.

49
report, and according to one witness "joy, jollity and mirth" reigned throughout the port.
Official confirmation coincided with the traditional celebration of the king's birthday in
June.89 Bells rang throughout the city while ships in the harbor displayed their colors and
fired cannon. The city's militia regiment, artillery company, and a new company of light
infantry all assembled on the parade ground for review by Lt. Governor Bull. Later that
evening, Bull hosted a dinner at Dillon's Tavern, attended by both houses of the
legislature, local clergy, and all civil and military officers. Fireworks ended the festive
day, and royal officials could rest assured that "the inhabitants of this province are a loyal
and a grateful people."90
The Stamp Act crisis had passed, but it exposed dangerous fault lines in the city’s
social and political facade. From the early 1750s through the early 1770s, Charleston's
population doubled, with poor white inhabitants increasing at the fastest rate. The Stamp
Act crisis simply accelerated existing social trends. The collapse of business swelled the
ranks of the poor, and made a bad situation even worse. Institutions designed for poor
relief, insufficient before the crisis, had been completely overwhelmed by December
1766. Runaway slaves, disorderly sailors, and the poor all crowded into the workhouse.
89Robert Raper to Greenwood and Higginson, London, October 28, 1765, and Raper to
John Colleton, November 8, 1765, Robert Raper Letterbook, South Carolina Historical
Society; William Bull to Henry Seymour Conway, February 6, 1766, SCBPRO 31:22-26;
Crouse, "Cautious Rebellion," 68; Peter Manigault to Thomas Gadsden, May 14,1766,
Peter Manigault Letterbook, South Carolina Historical Society; South Carolina Gazette.
June 9,1766.
90South Carolina Gazette. June 8, 1765; Peter Manigault to Charles Garth, July 4,
1766, Peter Manigault Letterbook, South Carolina Historical Society. Garth was South
Carolina's agent in London.

50
As poor tax rates increased, city fathers desperately sought ways to control a population
that appeared to be growing dangerously out of control.91
The Stamp Act crisis also gave vent to backcountry grievances against lowcountry
arrogance and Charleston hegemony. South Carolina’s backcountry, despite a growing
population, elected only four of forty-eight assemblymen in the Commons House.
Charleston alone had six representatives. The backcountry also lacked efficient and
adequate law enforcement and educational institutions. Charleston leaders and
lowcountry legislators in the assembly acknowledged the lack of courts, jails, sheriffs,
and schools, but resisted spending their tax money on backcountry improvements.
Hence, when coastal leaders denounced the Stamp Act as British “oppression,” the
backcountry exploded in anger. Charles Woodmason, an upcountry clergyman and
popular spokesman, sneered that "while these provincials were roaring out against the
Stamp Act and impositions, they were rioting in Luxury and Extravagance." Woodmason
ridiculed the hypocrisy of "men who bounce and make such noise about Liberty! Liberty!
Freedom! Property! Rights! Privileges! while they ride, oppress, distress and keep under
the lowest subjection half of the inhabitants."92 For those who cared to see them, the
Stamp Act crisis exposed the first signs of conflicts that would rage on for years.
’’Minutes of Vestry Meeting, December 7, 1766, St. Philip's Records, South
Caroliniana Library; Easterby, "Public Poor Relief in Colonial Charleston," 83-86;
Fraser, "City Elite, 'Disorder,' and the Poor Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston,"
167-168.
92Robert H. Woody, "Christopher Gadsden and the Stamp Act," Proceedings of the
South Carolina Historical Association. 1937, 9.

51
The American Revolution presented both enormous challenges and unprecedented
opportunities for all Charlestonians. As members of the city’s elite gathered in Dillon's
Tavern to celebrate the King's birthday and the repeal of the Stamp Act on that summer
evening in 1766, few could have imagined that the Stamp Act crisis had thrust all ranks
of Charleston society upon the brink of enormous changes. Yet, as Gordon S. Wood has
recently written, when eighteenth-century Americans set out to change their governments,
they changed their society as well.93 Once down the road of rebellion, the elite found to
their horror that everything that gave their world stability and identity had come under
assault. The city’s plain mechanics and industrial artisans may have worked with their
hands rather than their minds, but during the coming years they would take to the streets
and raise their voices in protest against British mercantilism, elite economic policy, and
time-honored notions of aristocratic dominance. Ultimately they rejected deferential
politics altogether and embraced political equality and self-interested democracy.
Religious dissenters attacked the established church. Backcountrymen, not content to
simply condemn lowcountry hypocrisy, would demand a more egalitarian government
and the removal of the capital to a centralized, “plebeian,” location. Finally, and perhaps
most ominously, a chorus of rising voices from both within and without the region
challenged white South Carolinians’ right to own other human beings. The Revolution in
Charleston was not “cautious” or “conservative.” In fact, it forever altered not only the
“Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1992), 5.

52
relationships that bound Carolinians together, but also the city’s position of unchallenged
dominance in the colony and region.

53
TABLE 1-1
Population of American Cities, 1760-1810
1760
1775
1790
1800
1810
Philadelphia
23,750
40,000
42,520
41,220
53,722
New York
18,000
25,000
33,131
60,489
96,373
Boston
15,631
16,000
18,038
24,937
34,322
Charleston
8,598
12,000
16,359
20,473
24,711
Baltimore
5,934
13,503
26,514
46,555
Sources: Carl Bridenbaugh, Urban Life in America. 1743-1776. 216-217; Philip D.
Morgan, "Black Life in Eighteenth-Century Charleston," Perspectives in American
History New Series 1 (1984): 188; Everett S. Lee and Michael Lalli, “Population,” in
David T. Gilchrist, ed., The Growth of Seaport Cities. 34-35; First, Second, and Third
Federal Population Censuses.

54
TABLE 1-2
Number and Tonnage of Ships Outward and Inward Bound, For Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, 1768-1772
1768
Outward Bound
1769 1770 1771
1772
Boston
612
33,695
828
37,045
800
36,965
794
38,995
845
New York
480
23,566
787
26,859
612
26,653
524
25,433
700
Philadelphia
641
36,944
678
40,871
769
47,292
741
43,029
759
Charleston
429
31,551
433
31,147
451
29,976
487
31,031
485
1768
Inward Bound
1769 1770 1 771
1772
Boston
549
31,983
879
40,483
819
38,360
821
39,420
852
New York
462
21,847
725
26,650
600
25,539
557
25,042
710
Philadelphia
528
34,970
698
42,333
750
47,489
719
41,740
730
Charleston
448
34,449
433
29,096
455
27,554
489
31,592
452
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970.2 vols.. 2:1180-1181.

TABLE 1-3
Rice Exported From Charleston, 1765-1789 (barrels)
55
Barrels
Pounds
% Total Rice Exports
1765
107,292
65,710,575
86%
1766
74,031
48,396,600
80%
1767
104,125
63,465,150
86%
1768
125,538
77,284,200
85%
1769
115,582
73,078,950
83%
1770
131,805
83,708,625
83%
1771
125,151
81,755,100
80%
1772
104,821
69,218,625
80%
1773
126,940
81,476,325
82%
1774
118,482
76,265,700
82%
1783
24,255
12,733,875
N/A
1784
61,974
32,536,350
N/A
1785
63,732
33,459,300
N/A
1786
66,557
34,942,425
N/A
1787
65,195
34,227,375
N/A
1788
82,400
43,260,000
N/A
1789
100,000
52,500,000
N/A
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970.2 vols.. 2:1192.
Note: Number of pounds per barrel varied from year to year, but from 1765-1774
averaged 525 pounds. The pounds for 1783-1789 are not provided by the Bureau of the
Census, but have been calculated using the average for 1765-1774.

TABLE 1-4
Indigo Exported From South Carolina, 1765-1788 (lbs.)
56
1765
335,800
1766
491,800
1767
N/A
1768
498,000
1769
402,700
1770
550,800
1771
434,200
1772
746,700
1773
720,600
1774
747,200
1775
1,122,200
1783
289,500
1784
713,900
1785
626,200
1786
757,100
1787
974,100
1788
833,500
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970. 2 vols.. 2:1189.
Note: Between 1768-1773, Charleston exported 92.2 percent of all indigo exported from
South Carolina. The totals for 1783-1788 are for Charleston only.

TABLE 1-5
Black Population of North American Cities, 1760s-1810
57
Pre-Rev.
1790
1800
1810
Philadelphia
872 (1775)
2,078
6,434
9,678
New York
3,137 (1771)
3,470
6,367
9,823
Boston
811(1765)
766
1,174
1,484
Charleston
5,831 (1770)
8,270
10,843
13,143
Sources: Gary B. Nash, "Forging Freedom: The Emancipation Experience in the
Northern Seaport Cities, 1775-1820," in Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, eds., Slavery
and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution. 5; William Bull to Hillsborough,
November 30, 1770, in Transcripts of Records in the British Public Record Office,
32:387-388, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia; First,
Second, and Third Federal Population Censuses.
TABLE 1-6
Population of Charleston, 1760-1810
White
Black
Total
1760
4,121 (48%)
4,474 (52%)
8,598
1770
5,030 (46%)
5,831 (54%)
10,861
1790
8,089 (49%)
8,270 (51%)
16,359
1800
9,630 (47%)
10,843 (53%)
20,473
1810
11,568 (47%)
13,143 (53%)
24,711
Sources: Philip D. Morgan, "Black Life in Eighteenth-Century Charleston," Perspectives
in American History New Series 1 (1984): 188; First, Second, and Third Federal
Population Censuses

TABLE 1-7
Population of Lowcountry South Carolina, 1775-1810
58
White
Black
Total
1775
14,302 (16%)
72,743 (84%)
87,045
1790
28,644 (27%)
79,216 (73%)
107,860
1800
33,863 (26%)
98,800 (74%)
132,663
1810
38,061 (25%)
113,147(75%)
151,208
Sources: Stella H. Sutherland, Population Distribution in Colonial America (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1936), 240; First, Second, and Third Federal Population
Censuses.
Note: The Lowcountry consists in 1790 of Charleston District, Beaufort District, and
Georgetown District; for 1800 also Colleton District, Marion District; for 1810 also
Horry District, Williamsburg District.
TABLE 1-8
Slaves Imported Into Charleston, 1765-1775
Slaves
Cargoes
1765
6,520
106
1769
4,652
67
1770
1,596
19
1771
2,035
77
1772
4,740
90
1773
7,845
97
1774
4,592
87
Total
31,980
543
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times
to 1970. 2 vols.. 2:1173-1174-
Note: During 1766-1768 South Carolina prohibited the external slave trade. A total of 9
slaves and 5 cargoes entered the port during those years.

CHAPTER TWO
‘THE MANY-HEADED POWER OF THE PEOPLE”:
METAMORPHOSIS, 1766-1775
"Excuse me for seeming to compare you to unbroke asses, upon whose backs it is
extremely difficult to lay the first sack. Remember now or never, more sacks, more sacks
are coming, if once you receive this."
"Home Spun Free-Man," 1766
"The present struggle will either insure happiness and freedom or miserable slavery to
this continent. Our all is at stake, and upon the behavior of this day hangs the fate of
future generations."
"Vox Populi," 1774
"You-think the people in England are acting madly, I am sure we may safely compare
notes with them in this country. I am ready to cry out, a pox on both their houses, we are
all mad, all wrong."
Henry Laurens, 1775
Between 1766 and 1775 a series of overlapping crises propelled Charleston
toward social, political, and economic revolution and armed rebellion against the Crown.
If South Carolina's colonial elite prided themselves on "the harmony we were famous
for,"1 the events of the late 1760s and early 1770s must have seemed like a nightmare.
The debate over the proper response to British policy shattered the cohesion of
'See Robert M. Weir, "'The Harmony We Were Famous For': An Interpretation of Pre-
Revolutionary South Carolina Politics," in Stanley N. Katz and John M. Murrin, eds.,
Colonial America: Essays in Politics and Social Development (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1983), 421-446. ('Originally published in William and Mary Quarterly 26
(October 1969): 473-501.)
59

60
Charleston’s traditional leaders and turned resistance into revolution as the city’s
middling ranks seized the opportunity to make unprecedented challenges to elite
authority. Charleston’s artisans, like their counterparts in Boston, Philadelphia, and New
York, asserted their economic self-interest and adamantly supported non-importation in
defiance of conservative merchants. As the epicenter of resistance in South Carolina,
Charleston’s urban milieu accelerated the transition from deferential elite politics to self-
interested democracy. The recognition of self-interest in American politics emerged as
one of the most radical political innovations of the American Revolution, for it
challenged traditional notions about communalism, political deference, and economic
self-interest.2
This interpretation is supported by most of the recent scholarship on the
Revolution in the urban North but contradicts the prevailing interpretations of the
Revolution in South Carolina. Gary B. Nash found that in the urban North the
Revolution accelerated existing demographic and economic trends and turned resistance
into a "dual revolution," replacing vertical with horizontal divisions.3 Similarly, Charles
F. Olton argues that Philadelphia's artisans exchanged "shy deference" for an increasingly
active role in city politics after 1765. Artisans protected their economic self-interest by
actively supporting non-importation of British goods, and merchant intransigence led
them to organize in associations to air their political and economic grievances. They
2Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1992), 245-247, 252-259.
3Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seanorts and the Origins of the
American Revolution Abr. ed. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986).

61
sought not social revolution but political inclusiveness, which they had accomplished, he
wrote, by 1777. This growing artisan assertiveness, Olton argued, emerged as "one of the
most striking events in the history of Philadelphia in the eighteenth century."4 Edward
Countryman uncovered analogous behavior among artisans in Revolutionary New York,
who took to the streets to assert their demands and “stretched the fabric of New York
until it rent even while they helped to do the same thing to the British empire." The
Revolution brought great changes to the city, and Countryman finds that by 1790 New
York society had been transformed.5 Charles G. Steffen and Dirk Hoerder found that
artisan agitation in Baltimore and Boston produced similar results in those cities.6
Conversely, Mary Catherine Ferrari, a student of Southern urban artisans, asserts that
during the non-importation movement of the late 1760s Charleston's artisans "neither
challenged the traditional ruling powers nor did they attain cohesion among themselves."7
4Charles F. Olton, Artisans For Independence: Philadelphia Mechanics and the
American Revolution (Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1975), 33-34, 39-40, 52,
54, 80.
5Edward Countryman, A People In Revolution: The American Revolution and
Political Society in New York. 1760-1790 (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1981), 36-45, 59. See also Howard B. Rock, Artisans of the New Republic: The
Tradesmen of New York City in the Age of Jefferson (New York: New York University
Press, 1979). Rock found that the political gains that New York's artisans made in the
Jeffersonian era had their roots in the Revolution.
6Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of
Revolution. 1763-1812 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984); Dirk Hoerder, Crowd
Action in Revolutionary Massachusetts. 1765-1800 (New York: Academic Press, 1977).
7Mary Catherine Ferrari, "Artisans of the South: A Comparative Study of Norfolk,
Charleston, and Alexandria, 1763-1800.” Ph.D. dissertation, College of William and
Mary, 1992, 92.

62
Similarly, David Chesnutt argues that "by the end of 1769 all sides had been placated,
[and] stability had been restored to assembly politics."8 Robert M. Weir believes that the
non-importation movement altered elite conceptions of South Carolina’s relationship with
London but did not disrupt the ties between the city’s various factions. Indeed, most
historians of Revolutionary South Carolina concur in the notion of the Revolution as a
conservative elite revolt that produced little social, political, or economic instability.
According to Weir, Revolutionary changes proved to be "weak and ephemeral."9
*David Chesnutt, ‘“Greedy Party Work’: The South Carolina Election of 1768,” in
Patricia U. Bonomi, ed., Party and Political Opposition in Revolutionary America
(Tarrytown NY: Sleepy Hollow Press, 1980), 86.
’Robert M. Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood NY: KTO Press,
1983), 306, 342. Weir earlier wrote that “the political culture of the eighteenth century
persisted into the nineteenth in South Carolina with relatively little modification.” Weir,
‘“The Harmony We Were Famous For,’” 444. Similarly, George Winston Lane Jr. writes
that “once lowcountry families caught their breaths after restoring plantations and
businesses to order, they would have noticed remarkably little change from the war.”
Lane Jr., “The Middletons of Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: A Colonial Dynasty,
1678-1787,” Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1990, 715. John C. Meleney argues
that “neither in South Carolina nor elsewhere in Revolutionary America did the
commitment to virtuous republicanism imply rejection of a hierarchical political structure
in which men of demonstrated merit would hold the requisite authority to govern. With
independence won, the patriot rebels in the lowcountry became, overnight, the
metropolitan establishment responsible for the management of political affairs and the
preservation of both liberty and order... the Revolution was not a great divide. Only the
terms of reference changed, as one source of authority was lopped off and another
substituted in its place.” Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus Burke: Revolutionary
Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1989), 278, 281. Richard Brent Clow came to a similar conclusion in his
biography of Edward Rutledge. See Clow, “Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, 1749-
1800: Unproclaimed Statesman,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976,
especially 200. Eva B. Poythress maintains that throughout the conflict leadership
remained firmly in the hands of traditional leaders. “The same men who opened the
breach ... continued in government through the war.” Many members of the
conservative elite such as Laurens, the Rutledges, the Pinckneys, and the Middletons
“nurtured the Revolution in its earliest phases and saw it through to its conclusion. The

63
This chapter explores how the enormously disruptive events of 1766-1775
shattered the stable world of Charleston’s elite and turned resistance into radical
revolution. By September 1775 the economic, political, and social stability of the
prospering, growing metropolis of 1765 had been replaced by "division, riot, anarchy, and
confusion." The Continental Association closed the harbor to both imports and exports.
With all commerce at a halt, courts closed, money grew scarce, and debts went unpaid.
political elite was both supported and spurred to greater action by the mechanics of the
city and the more liberal elements of the backcountry, but ultimate direction and authority
lay always with the traditional leadership.” Poythress, “Revolution By Committee: An
Administrative History of the Extralegal Committees in South Carolina, 1774-1776,”
Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1975, 340-341. Gordon Roy Denboer
asserts that “by early assuming leadership of the opposition to British policies in the early
1760s and continuing that opposition as each new crisis occurred up to mid-1776, the
colony’s political leaders greatly minimized the chances that they would be upset in an
internal revolution.” Denboer, “The Early Revolutionary Movement in South Carolina,
1773-1776,” M.A. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1969, 144. Marvin R. Zahniser wrote
that “to a remarkable degree the low-country gentry retained control of the government in
South Carolina after the Revolutionary War. In the political sphere, it sometimes seemed
that the war had never taken place.” Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding
Father (Chapel Hill NC: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1967), 101. Raymond Stan-
proposed that “because of the conservative leadership, the aim of the revolutionary
movement was to protect the rights of British citizens and to prevent anarchy, not to
establish a new social and political order,” and that “the Revolution had freed South
Carolina from British control within the state without producing an internal revolution.”
Starr, “The Conservative Revolution: South Carolina Public Affairs, 1775-1790,” Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Texas, 1964, 285, 288. His findings agreed with George C.
Rogers Jr., Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston 11758-18121
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1962), 36. Frederick P. Bowes
argued that in 1776 the Charleston aristocracy “threw off the one remaining trammel to its
power and stood supreme over the life and government of South Carolina.” Bowes, The
Culture of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill NC: University ofNorth Carolina, 1942), 115.
Jerome J. Nadelhaft argued for a limited political revolution in South Carolina that
brought increased representation to the backcountry and the rise of democratic rhetoric.
The war “made necessary the enlistment of widespread support and gave new people
experience and confidence.” Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in Smith
Carolina (Orono Me: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981), 105-124, 216.

64
Armed men in rebellion to the Crown roamed the streets, non-legal bodies governed the
city and province, and Charlestonians hastily constructed defenses against an imminent
British Naval bombardment and invasion.10 It all seemed unimaginable in 1766.
************
The repeal of the Stamp Act set off wild celebrations in Charleston in the spring
of 1766. When news of the repeal arrived on May 3, 1766, "joy, jollity, and mirth"
reigned, according to Commons House speaker Peter Manigault.11 Charlestonians
celebrated with banquets, bells, and fireworks. Almost no one noticed the Declaratory
Act accompanying the good news, which asserted Parliament's right to legislate for the
colonies "in all cases whatsoever.” The Commons House of Assembly, certain that the
repeal marked a great moment in South Carolina history, commissioned a statue of
William Pitt, "the Great Commoner" who had championed American liberty, to be
erected in the center of town at the intersection of Broad and Meeting streets.12 But even
10Alexander Innes to Earl of Dartmouth, June 10, 1775, in B.D. Bargar, ed., “Charles
Town Loyalism in 1775: The Secret Reports of Alexander Innes.” South Carolina
Historical Magazine 63 (1962): 134; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, July 2, 1775,
"Letters from Henry Laurens to His Son John," South Carolina Historical Magazine 5
(January 1904): 12; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, September 18, 1775, in Philip M.
Hamer et al., eds., The Papers of Henry Laurens. 14 vols. to date (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1968-), 10:396-397: South Carolina and American
General Gazette. September 1, 1775.
"Peter Manigault to Thomas Gadsden, May 14, 1766, Peter Manigault Letterbook,
South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.
l2The statue was raised on Thursday, July 5, 1770. See South Carolina Gazette. July 5,
1770, and D.E. Huger Smith, "Wilton's Statue of Pitt," South Carolina Historical
Magazine 15 (January 1914): 18-38. The statue's pedestal is now in Washington Park
behind City Hall, and the statue itself, minus an arm, is now in the Charleston Museum.

65
the most ardent foes of the Stamp Act could not imagine how quickly these celebrations
would fade into memory, to be overshadowed by the darker events of the next ten years.
The repeal of the Stamp Act had opened up the harbor, and the city bustled with
activity after the long cessation of trade. The new royal governor, Lord Charles Greville
Montagu, arrived in Charleston on June 11, 1766.13 He entered a flourishing, growing
city, and despite the upheaval of the next decade, Charleston continued to expand as a
regional center of trade and commerce. Nevertheless, the Southern metropolis did not
lack significant social, political, and economic problems. The number of the city’s poor
rose alarmingly during the late 1760s, particularly as the Stamp Act crisis closed the
harbor, and poor tax rates increased accordingly.14 Simultaneously, overzealous revenue
officers began harassing Charleston merchants in an effort to enforce the letter as well as
the spirit of the Navigation Laws. Royal customs officials seized several coasting
schooners owned by Henry Laurens, and his subsequent legal troubles in the Court of
Vice Admiralty exposed the problem of corruption in the colonial administration.15 In
13South Carolina and American General Gazette. June 13,1766.
l4This problem is discussed in chapter one, but see also Barbara L. Bellows,
Benevolence Among Slaveholders: Assisting the Poor in Charleston. 1670-1860 (Baton
Rouge LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); Walter J. Fraser Jr., “The City Elite,
‘Disorder,’ and the Poor Children of Pre-Revolutionary Charleston,” South Carolina
Historical Magazine 84 (July 1983): 167-179.
l5See David Duncan Wallace, The Life of Henry Laurens (New York: G.P. Putnam's
Sons, 1915), 137-149; Warner Oland Moore Jr., "Henry Laurens: A Charleston Merchant
in the Eighteenth Century, 1747-1771," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Alabama, 1974,
267-289; Robert M. Calhoon and Robert M. Weir, '"The Scandalous History of Sir
Egerton Leigh,"' William and Mary Quarterly 26 (January 1969): 53-62; Weir, "A Most
Important Epocha:" The Coming of the Revolution in South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1970), 25-28. See also Neil R. Stout, “Charleston vs.

66
addition to social and economic problems, Charlestonians faced a storm of political
protest from backcountrymen demanding adequate judicial and educational institutions,
as well as more proportionate representation in the legislature. The populous region
elected only four of the forty-eight members of the Commons House of Assembly and
suffered from a lack of schools, jails, and law enforcement officials. The Assembly
partially placated backcountry dissidents by passing the Circuit Court Act of July 1769,
but only after the bloodshed and violence of the Regulator movement.16 Meanwhile, the
dispute over schools and especially backcountry representation remained contentious and
divisive issues for several decades to come.
As one historian has noted, the Stamp Act crisis of 1765-1766 created "a political
squall line that would eventually spawn larger storms."17 At the height of the furor in
1766, "Home Spun Free-Man" compared his fellow South Carolinians to "unbroke asses”
and warned that "more sacks, more sacks are coming" if they did not resist ministerial
the Royal Navy, 1767,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 93 (July/October 1992): 196-
201. John Hancock had similar problems in Boston. See Oliver M. Dickerson. The
Navigation Acts and the American Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1951), 231-250.
16On the Regulator movement, see Richard Maxwell Brown, The South Carolina
Regulators (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1963); Rachel N. Klein,
Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina
Backcountry. 1760-1808 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 47-
77; Klein, “Ordering the Backcountry: The South Carolina Regulation,” William and
Mary Quarterly 38 (1981): 661-680.
17Robert M. Weir, '"Liberty and Property, and No Stamps': South Carolina and the
Stamp Act Crisis," Ph.D. dissertation, Western Reserve University, 1966, 354.

67
encroachments.18 Indeed, Charlestonians violently resisted implementation of the act as
their counterparts did in the urban North.19 Despite colonial resistance, or perhaps
because of it, "more sacks" followed anyway. Parliament passed the Townshend Acts on
June 29, 1767, taxing all glass, lead, paint, and tea imported into America effective
November 20, 1767. The Ministry intended for the acts to raise £40,000 a year in the
colonies, with the revenue earmarked for colonial defense and administration. American
dissenters charged that Parliament in fact designed the acts to demonstrate its supremacy
over colonial legislatures and to make royal officials financially independent of provincial
legislatures. The news reached Charleston via Boston on August 21, 1767.20 In
November, word arrived that Boston had resolved not to import any taxable goods. On
February 11,1768, the Massachusetts House sent out a circular letter to the other
provincial assemblies urging joint action in opposing the Townshend Acts. When
Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard demanded that the House rescind the letter,
ninety-two members refused. Bernard retaliated by proroguing and then dissolving the
House.21 Secretary of State Hillsborough, determined to prevent a continental
l8South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. February 25,1766.
19For the events of October 1765, see chapter one, and Weir, '"Liberty and Property,'"
222-243.
20Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 301-302; South Carolina and American General
Gazette. August 21, 1767.
2lEdward McCrady, The History of South Carolina Under the Roval Government
1719-1776 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1899), 596-602.

68
Townshend Duties assembly analogous to the Stamp Act Congress, ordered colonial
governors to prevent their respective legislatures from considering the letter.
The election of 1768 marked the first time Charleston’s artisans participated in the
political process. With the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly scheduled to
meet in November 1768, Governor Montague called elections for October 4 and 5.
Determined to make their voices heard in the debate over the Townshend Duties,
Charleston's artisans held an unprecedented meeting at the Liberty Tree in Isaac Mazyck’s
pasture on Saturday, October 1, to choose a slate of candidates for the election.22 The
artisans had been active in social organizations in Charleston but until the Stamp Act
crisis had been relatively silent regarding politics.23 Opposition to the Townshend Duties
presented Charleston craftsmen with the opportunity to strike a significant blow against
the British mercantile system, which they believed prevented them from any chance of
real prosperity. Charleston's craftsmen could not compete with their counterparts in
Britain nor did the elite encourage them to do so. Charleston's merchants grew wealthy
providing Carolina planters with the finest British manufactured goods, depriving
Charleston artisans of both profits and customers. Artisanal dissent against the
Townshend Acts therefore both promoted mechanic economic self-interest and
22As in chapter one, artisans are defined as laborers who performed skilled work with
their hands, and the term is used interchangeably with “mechanic” and “craftsman”
throughout this study. The term does not include unskilled laborers.
23The artisans founded the Fellowship Society on April 4, 1762, as a benevolent
society. See Fellowship Society Papers, microfilm, South Caroliniana Library, University
of South Carolina, Columbia. In the spring of 1768 the artisans sponsored a horse race
and a cock fight. Ferrari, "Artisans of the South," 45.

69
denounced elite support for British manufacturing. The artisans adopted a pragmatic
approach, however. Rather than supporting a cohort of artisans with little chance of
winning the election, they wisely chose elite candidates perceived as being friendly to
their cause. The meeting nominated five merchant-planters and one mechanic. Three of
the candidates represented the top echelon of Charleston society: Christopher Gadsden,
Benjamin Dart, and Thomas Smith of Broad Street, all successful merchant-planters.
Gadsden had emerged as the leading spokesman for the city's tradesmen during the Stamp
Act crisis. Dart had served as commissioner of the streets, workhouse, and markets, and
in addition to his trading business owned a plantation on the Ashley River. Smith had
retired from business when he inherited Broom Hall plantation in St. James Goose Creek
Parish. The other three candidates, though successful, held lesser prestige. Slave trader
Thomas Savage owned 200 acres in Berkeley County and a Charleston townhouse.
Thomas Smith Sr. had been a Charleston merchant since the 1730s. Only Hopkin Price
had been a mechanic. Price, a former tanner and cobbler, had acquired property in town
and a small plantation on the Ashley River. He had served in the Commons House since
1760, representing various country parishes, but had never represented Charleston. The
artisans considered but passed over attorney-planter Charles Pinckney, and merchant-
planters Henry Laurens, John Lloyd, and John Ward.24
24South Carolina Gazette. October 3, 1768; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. October 4, 1768; Chesnutt, '"Greedy Party Work,'" 76-77; Walter B. Edgar et al.,
eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. 5 vols.
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1974-1992), 2:183-184, 540-541,
596-597, 641-643. David Duncan Wallace describes the artisan's meeting as a "primary."
Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens. 154.

70
Charleston voters elected Gadsden, Dart, and Savage, half of the artisan slate.
Henry Laurens—one of the candidates rejected by the artisans—won election by a margin
large enough to allow him to relinquish twenty of his votes to Charles Pinckney in order
to prevent former artisan Hopkin Price from winning election. Laurens lampooned
Gadsden's meeting with the artisans as a "grand barbacú given by a grand simpleton," and
he sneered at the idea of having to campaign for votes. "I walk on in the old road," he
told Governor James Grant of East Florida, and he explained that he released votes to
Charles Pinckney "to keep out a person who was thought unqualified to represent Charles
Town."25 Presumably former artisans could represent country parishes but not the grand
metropolis.
The artisans erred in choosing merchants to represent their interests, however.
Predictably, city merchants met the Massachusetts call for a colony-wide boycott of
British goods with "silent neglect."26 The Stamp Act crisis had been disastrous for
commerce, and merchants resisted cutting off all business with London. Indeed, a three-
year ban on slave importations would end in 1769, and Charleston traders anticipated a
brisk business with planters eager to buy human cargo.27 Most merchants agreed that
25South Carolina Gazette. October 10, 1768; Laurens to James Grant, October 1,
December 22, 1768, Papers of Henry Laurens. 6:117-120, 231-234.
“William Bull to Hillsborough, October 18, 1768, in Transcripts of Records in the
British Public Record Office Relating to South Carolina, 1663-1782, 36 volumes, 32:56-
57, Records Deposited With the Secretary, Records of the Secretary of State, South
Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia (hereafter cited as SCBPRO).
27See Henry Laurens to Ross and Mill, December 24, 1768, Papers of Henry Laurens.
6:240-241: "The planters are full of money, and their rice commands money wherefore
'tis probable that the sales of slaves will be very advantageous at this market.".

71
South Carolina should resist the Townshend Acts, but many felt that a closed port would
be the least desirable option. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Governor William Bull reported to
Secretary Hillsborough that many Charlestonians supported the "political principles now
prevailing in Boston." Even if Charleston's merchants did not personally favor non¬
importation, clearly most of the colonies favored some form of resistance to the latest
scheme of Parliamentary taxation. Members of the Commons House , however,
disagreed over the proper response. Bull prorogued the Assembly until November 14,
1768, hoping that the absent Governor Montagu might return so that he could preside
over the brewing controversy.28 When Montagu returned he warned the House-referring
of course to the Massachusetts circular—to ignore any letter it received which might have
"the smallest tendency to sedition, or by promoting an unwarrantable combination, to
inflame the minds of the people." The Commons House, sensing an executive
encroachment on its privileges, assured the Governor that it had received nothing of the
kind, and all twenty-six members present promptly endorsed the Massachusetts letter. A
furious Montagu immediately dissolved the Assembly, complaining to his superiors in
London that all of his efforts to prevent the Commons from endorsing the letter had been
in vain.29
28Bull to Hillsborough, October 18, October 23, 1768, SCBPRO 32:56-59.
29South Carolina Gazette. November 24, 1768; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. November 29, 1768; Lord Charles Montagu to Hillsborough, November 21,
1768, SCBPRO 32:61. The twenty-six members are listed in South Carolina and
American General Gazette. November 25, 1768.

72
Though the elite in the Assembly might agree to endorse the Massachusetts
circular, they could reach no consensus on non-importation. The issue divided merchants
and planters and exposed jealousies and tensions between various ranks of Charleston
society. By early 1769, a majority of planters and artisans favored non-importation.
When the Assembly lifted a three-year ban on the foreign slave trade in January 1769, one
planter urged city merchants to send the transports back to Britain. When thousands of
slaves crowded London docks and threatened to overrun the city, he said, royal officials
would have no choice but to grant American demands. In the meantime, artisans-joined
by a few planters-aggressively encouraged their fellow citizens to forego the luxuries of
a corrupt empire and purchase only home manufactures. By February their efforts had
borne fruit as artisans and planters resolved to boycott most British goods and slaves and
to begin manufacturing their own clothes. Many merchants simply ignored the informal
resolves and continued doing business as usual. By summer angry planters threatened to
boycott any trader who continued to import merchandise and slaves from Britain. In late
June the planters formalized their earlier resolves, signing an agreement not to purchase
"any manufactures of Great Britain" and at the urging of the artisans added that they
would cease to purchase slaves after January 1, 1770.30 The debate over resistance to
British policy divided the merchant-planter oligarchy, and artisans seized the opportunity
to voice their political and economic demands. Planters wishing to protect the Commons
30South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. February 7, 1769; South Carolina
Gazette. February 2, June 1, June 29, July 6, 1769.

73
House against the encroachments of Parliament and artisans eager to strike an economic
blow against British competitors formed an uneasy and pragmatic alliance.
By July 1769 two equally disagreeable options confronted Charleston’s merchants.
They could continue to import and face the wrath of the community or cut off all trade
and face disaster. Seeking a compromise, they proposed to postpone non-importation for
one year, until January 1, 1771, to cancel all outstanding orders, and to ban all slave
importations during 1770. The artisans howled in protest over the omission of
encouraging home manufactures and promptly rejected the merchant’s proposal. At this
point one exasperated merchant complained publicly that the mercantile community's
choice amounted to "sign or be ruined." He argued that the nearly self-sufficient planters
and artisans actually stood to profit by non-importation. Planters could expect to profit
when prices rose for existing slaves, staple crops could continue to be exported, and
artisans could expect a booming business with British competition removed. Merchants
did not mind sacrificing to attain common goals, he wrote, but no one could expect them
to bear a greater burden than other groups.31 Finally, the various factions reached a
compromise agreement on July 22, 1769, banning most imports of manufactured goods
and slaves. Anyone failing to sign after one month faced public condemnation and
boycott. When the merchants appointed a committee of thirteen to enforce the
association, the planters and artisans did likewise, forming one General Committee of
39.32 The forging of a non-importation agreement had consumed over six months and had
31South Carolina Gazette. July 13, 1769.
32Ibid„ July 27, 1769.

74
seriously divided planters and merchants. But for the first time, Charleston's artisans had
obtained a measure of political equality, though admittedly only in an extra-legal body.
Nevertheless, it represented a significant step.
The non-importation movement in Charleston, and in the American colonies in
general, obtained only moderate success. In October 1769 Peter Manigault reported that
only thirty-one merchants had refused to sign the association, but many probably
endorsed the agreement from fear of communal retaliation rather than conviction.33 The
jealousies and tensions exposed during the debate over the terms of the agreement
continued during the boycott itself. The existing evidence indicates that the committee
randomly enforced the agreement, and Charlestonians made charges and countercharges
in the local press that some merchants received preferential treatment. Many merchants
continued to receive goods from Britain that had been ordered long before signing the
agreement and thus saw no reason why they could not land and sell those goods.
Disagreement erupted when the committee allowed some merchants, but not others, to do
so. The committee did not allow Alexander Gillon, for instance, to sell wine ordered in
May 1769 which did not arrive until January 1770.34 Likewise, the committee warned
Charlestonians to boycott Ann and Benjamin Mathews and advertised them as violators
of the agreement on May 31,1770. Ann Mathews charged that the goods had been
ordered before she had signed the agreement, but that John Edwards, a member of the
33Peter Manigault to Ralph Izard, October 4, 1769, Peter Manigault Letterbook, South
Carolina Historical Society; William Bull to Hillsborough, September 25, 1769, March 6,
1770, SCBPRO 32:103-104, 199-204.
34South Carolina Gazette. February 1, 1770.

75
General Committee, had received cargoes under the same conditions and had been
allowed to sell them. Her pleas fell upon deaf ears, and Benjamin Mathews, facing
economic disaster, begged the Committee and the community for forgiveness.35
Some members of the elite objected to the prominent role played by artisans and
mechanics in enforcing the boycott. William Henry Drayton lampooned the notion that
tradesmen could sit in judgment of their betters. Scion of a wealthy and prestigious
Carolina family, Drayton attended Oxford and had been elected to the Commons House
in 1765 at age twenty-three.36 Unlike many of his contemporaries, he chose to defend the
royal prerogative in the late 1760s. In September 1769 he lashed out at the General
Committee for publishing his name as a non-subscriber by ridiculing the "profanum
vulgus." Drayton maintained that he would never take orders from a mechanic, and he
questioned why other members of the educated elite would willingly associate with "men
who never were in a way to study, or to advise upon any points, but rules how to cut up a
beast in the market to the best advantage, to cobble an old shoe in the neatest manner, or
to build a necessary house." Though he respected artisans he thought that "nature never
intended that such men should be profound politicians or able statesmen."37 Many other
35Ibid., June 7, October 4, 1770. See also Leila Sellers, Charleston Business On The
Eve of The American Revolution (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press,
1934), 203-220.
36See J. Russell Snapp, "William Henry Drayton: The Making of A Conservative
Revolutionary," Journal of Southern History 57 (November 1991): 637-658; William M.
Dabney and Marion Dargan, William Henry Drayton and The American Revolution
(Albuquerque NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1962); Edgar, Biographical
Directory. 2:207-210.
37South Carolina Gazette. September 21, 1769.

76
merchants and planters undoubtedly shared Drayton's views but for the sake of unanimity
kept silent.
The “unlettered” and “uneducated” target of Drayton’s diatribe responded with
biting sarcasm. The artisans’ rebuttal rejected deference with a vengeance. They begged
forgiveness for using plain language, they wrote, "for it cannot be expected they should
know how to convey their thoughts in the polite and courtly manner of such a well-bred
gentleman." The proud craftsmen happily made their living by manual labor and
considered themselves "the most useful people in the community." Every man could not
expect to be so fortunate as to either marry wealth or to inherit it as Drayton had done.
Certainly he had not earned his money himself, nor, they insisted, was he capable of
doing so. The artisans argued that despite Drayton’s education, he would be helpless if
forced to earn bread, clothing, or shelter with his own hands. He might "hire himself as a
packhorseman in the Indian trade, serve some mechanic as a labourer, or if he behaved
himself well, he might drive a cart or dray about the streets of Charles Town." In short,
the artisans argued that they represented an indispensable part of the community, as
important in that sense as any man of inherited wealth, and stood equal to the planters'
and merchants’ with regard "to love for their country.1,38 Drayton nor any other member
of the elite ever responded, but the exchange reveals the social and political tensions that
the non-importation movement had brought to the surface. Undoubtedly other planters
and merchants viewed the artisanal response with suspicion, and many must have
38Ibid., October 5, 1769.

77
wondered if perhaps something more important than political supremacy over Parliament
was at stake.
Parliament repealed all of the Townshend Duties except the tax on tea on April
12, 1770, and unified American resolve began to crumble shortly thereafter. The
merchants of Albany, New York, and Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, abandoned
non-importation in May. New York followed in July, Philadelphia in September, and
finally Boston in October. Charlestonians reacted bitterly to this "base desertion," and
determined to continue rigid enforcement until all of the duties had been repealed.39 "At
present we stand single in adhering to our resolutions," Henry Laurens wrote, "but I am
afraid we shall not have virtue enough to continue much longer."40 Indeed, by December
many Charlestonians realized that they could not stand alone, and at a mass meeting
presided over by Laurens on December 13, 1770, the community abandoned non¬
importation with the singular exception of tea. Many bitterly resented the Northern
colonies, and some talked of banning all trade with them but in the end decided against
harming Northern "landlords, farmers, and mechanics" because of Northern merchant
greed.41
The non-importation movement reduced Charleston's imports from Great Britain
by 56 percent from 1769 to 1770, and importation of slaves alone fell by 65 percent. The
39Peter Manigault to Daniel Blake, October 19, 1770, Peter Manigault Letterbook,
South Carolina Historical Society; South Carolina Gazette. October 9, 1770.
“Henry Laurens to Ross and Mill, October 31, 1770, Papers of Henry Laurens. 7:393-
394.
4lSouth Carolina Gazette. November 22, December 13, December 27, 1770.

78
British economy, however, could better withstand the loss of American trade in 1770 than
it could during the Stamp Act crisis of 1765-1766.42 Parliament repealed the Acts largely
because the taxes had failed to raise the desired revenue. There had been no
Parliamentary recognition of American rights. In the aftermath of the boycott, Charleston
planters and merchants resented their Northern urban counterparts and grew increasingly
suspicious of each other. Some merchants and factors had faced financial ruin because
planters exerted economic pressure by doing business with only those merchants who
joined their cause. Simultaneously, many planters begrudged the merchant’s single-
minded devotion to economic self-preservation rather than protection of American rights.
The political, social, and economic stability that had so long characterized Charleston's
governing elite had shown distinct signs of splintering in the debate over how best to
respond to the threat of British taxation.43 When the elite rose to meet this challenge to
their authority and divided over the proper response, the artisans seized the opportunity to
make their own voices heard within the realm of urban political and economic life. These
first tentative steps alarmed the traditional elite, opening a door that many feared would
be impossible to close.
************
The Wilkes Fund dispute began in the midst of the debate over the response to the
Townshend Duties. Though the conflict did not involve all segments of Charleston
“Boston's imports fell by 48 percent, New York's by 85 percent, Philadelphia's by 70
percent over a two-year period. Sellers, Charleston Business. 217-218; Weir, Colonial
South Carolina. 305.
43On political stability, see Weir, "'The Harmony We Were Famous For."'

79
society, it is significant because it kept members of the Charleston elite in the Commons
House in confrontation with the Council, governor, and royal ministers throughout the
early 1770s while events remained quiet in other colonies. In that sense it became a
"bridge to Revolution," as Jack P. Greene described the conflict, between the events of
the late 1760s and the tea controversy of the mid-1770s.44 As the Commons House
quarreled over the most appropriate response to the Townshend Acts, Christopher
Gadsden laid a request before the Assembly from the Society of Gentlemen Supporters of
the Bill of Rights. The Society solicited funds from Americans to support British MP
John Wilkes in his legal and political battles with the King and his ministers. The
ministry had jailed Wilkes for contempt after lampooning George III in his newspaper,
The North Briton. His constituents had promptly reelected him, but the ministry refused
to allow him to sit.45 Many Americans believed Wilkes had waged a solitary battle in
England analogous to the colonial struggle. He had thus become a symbol of persecuted
political liberty and many considered him a hero. The Supporters of the Bill of Rights
had requested funds from all of the colonial assemblies, but only South Carolina
responded. On December 8, 1769, the Commons House appropriated £1,500 sterling to
the Society "for assisting in the support of the just and constitutional rights of America."46
44Jack P. Greene, "Bridge to Revolution: The Wilkes Fund Controversy in South
Carolina, 1769-1775." Journal of Southern History 24 (February 1963): 19-52.
45See George Rudé, Wilkes and Liberty: A Political Study of 1763 to 1774 (London:
Oxford University Press, 1962), especially 17-36.
46South Carolina Gazette. December 8, 1769; South Carolina and American General
Gazette. December 13, 1769; Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 305; McCrady, History of
South Carolina. 1719-1776. 662.

80
Many members knew when they cast their vote that the measure would cause a firestorm
of controversy in both London and Charleston, and it did. Lieutenant Governor Bull
informed Secretary Hillsborough that he had been powerless to prevent the appropriation
because of the “great civil indulgences granted by the crown to encourage adventurers to
settle in America.1' In short, the colonial legislatures had grown quite powerful over the
years at the expense of other royal officials.47 The King and his ministers considered
Wilkes a personal enemy, and George III viewed the South Carolina gift to his defense as
highly insulting. Consequently, London sent an "Additional Instruction" to South
Carolina in April 1770 forbidding the passage of any money bills without the consent of
the royal governor and council.48 The instructions also demanded that the governor and
council veto any tax bill that attempted to replace the £1,500 taken out of the Treasury for
the original gift. Suddenly graver and more important issues were at stake than the token
sum to a political dissenter. Henceforth, the Commons House of Assembly—the elected
representatives of the people of South Carolina—could not appropriate tax money without
the consent of Crown-appointed placemen.
The dispute became known as the Wilkes Fund controversy and effectively put an
end to royal government in South Carolina five years before it disappeared in any other
colony. The Commons House refused to recognize the Additional Instruction and never
47Bull to Hillsborough, December 12, 1769, SCBPRO 32:133. On the expansion of
colonial legislative power, see Jack P. Greene, The Quest For Power: The Lower Houses
of Assembly in the Southern Roval Colonies. 1689-1776 (New York: W.W.
Norton, 1963) and M. Eugene Sirmans, Colonial South Carolina: A Political History.
1663-1763 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1966).
48Board of Trade Instructions, April 3, 1770, SCBPRO 32:233-234.

81
passed a tax bill after 1769. The controversy revolved around two issues: the right of the
people's representatives to draw on the Treasury without the consent of royal officials and
the right of the crown-appointed Governor's Council to sit as an upper house of
Assembly.49 In hindsight, many members of the Commons regretted the appropriation
but refused to concede the principle at issue. Speaker Peter Manigault of the Commons
House grew weary of the dispute, complaining that "I hate to hear any mention of the Bill
of Rights and the money we threw away upon them. It was always against my opinion
and has been attended with very disagreeable consequences."50 Nevertheless, the
Commons House would not back down.51 By 1772, Governor Montagu had grown
thoroughly disgusted with the now-familiar routine. He would call for elections, and the
Commons would meet and pass a tax bill that included the £1,500. The Council would
then veto the bill and the Commons would refuse to reconsider. At that point the
governor would first prorogue and subsequently dissolve the Assembly, all without any
public business having been completed. Finally, in the fall of 1772, Governor Montagu
decided to call a meeting of the Assembly in Beaufort, seventy miles south of Charleston.
He reasoned that the most obstinate members resided in Charleston and could not afford
to be absent long from there. The remaining members, he hoped, would prove more
49Denboer, "Early Revolutionary Movement in South Carolina," 2; William Bull to
Hillsborough, September 8, 1770, SCBPRO 32:320; South Carolina Gazette. April 12,
September 13, 1770, April 9, 1772; Weir, "A Most Important Enocha". 39-50; McCrady,
History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 683-704.
’“Manigault to Daniel Blake, October 19, 1770, Peter Manigault Letterbook, South
Carolina Historical Society.
51See Bull to Dartmouth, March 10, 1774, SCBPRO 34:15-19.

82
compliant with royal demands.52 Montagu also believed that by threatening to move the
capital permanently to Beaufort he could frighten the Charleston members into giving up
the point of dispute in the Wilkes Fund controversy in order to keep the capital in
Charleston. Montagu blundered badly on all counts. In provincial minds, the royal
governor had issued a challenge to the colony’s elite that they could not fail to meet.
The Assembly met in Beaufort on October 8, 1772, with thirty-seven of forty-
eight members present, a record number for the first day. Stunned by the large attendance
and unsure of his next move, Montagu kept the members waiting for two days and then
prorogued them back to Charleston.53 By now he had been warned by Secretary of State
Dartmouth that moving the legislature would be ill-advised and would only "increase that
ill humor which has already too unfortunately prevailed." When Montague informed
Dartmouth that he had in fact already called the Assembly to meet in Beaufort,
Dartmouth exploded, bitterly denouncing the Carolina governor for "throwpng] new
difficulties in the way of an accommodation of the former subject of dispute."54 The
Commons House accused him of "a most unprecedented oppression and an unwarranted
abuse of the Royal Prerogative" and asked its agent in London to work toward Montagu's
52Lord Charles Montagu to Hillsborough, July 27, September 24, 1772, SCBPRO
33:166-168, 173-180; South Carolina Gazette. September 3,1772; Alan D. Watson, "The
Beaufort Removal and the Revolutionary Impulse in South Carolina," South Carolina
Historical Magazine 84 (July 1983): 121-135.
53South Carolina Gazette. October 15, 1772; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. October 13, 1772; Montagu to Hillsborough, October 20, 1772, SCBPRO
33:183.
54Dartmouth to Montagu, September 27, 1772, January 6, 1773, SCBPRO 33:181-182,
202-203.

83
removal. After several more skirmishes with the Commons and feeling besieged on all
sides, Montagu departed for London in March 1773 and subsequently resigned.55 The
ministry eventually removed the Additional Instruction, but the Revolutionary events of
1774-1775 superseded the issue.
The Wilkes fund dispute and Montagu’s attempt to move the capital fed the
growing colonial fears of corrupt and conspiratorial royal officials.56 The events
combined to stoke the fires of elite resistance in a colony where the more radicalized
elements of Charleston society had previously struggled against conservative
complacency and where traditional leaders generally refused to act until compelled by the
demands of the middling and lower ranks.
************
Shortly after Montagu sailed for London, word arrived in Charleston that local
merchants expected a shipment of tea that required payment of the dreaded tax in order to
be landed.57 Charlestonians once again divided over a proper course of action. One local
newspaper counseled that to land the tea would be a tacit admission of Parliament's right
to tax the colonies. Planter "Junius Brutus" warned of Parliament’s sinister design to
"raise a revenue out of your pockets, against your consent, and to render assemblies of
55South Carolina Gazette. November 2, 1772, January 7, March 15, 1773.
56The best articulation of elite paranoia remains Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological
Ori gins of the American Revolution (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1967).
57For background on the colonial tea trade and the granting of a monopoly to the East
India Company, see Benjamin Woods Labaree, The Boston Tea Party (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1964), 3-14, 58-79.

84
your representatives totally useless."51 Some called for united community opposition,
while others thought the merchants should voluntarily refuse to accept shipment.59
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, December 1, 1773, the London sailed into port carrying 257
chests of tea consigned to merchant Roger Smith and the firm of Leger and Greenwood.60
Handbills appeared throughout Charleston the next day inviting Charlestonians "without
exception, particularly the landholders" to assemble for a meeting at the Exchange the
following afternoon.61
This meeting marked the beginning of Revolutionary government in Charleston
and the first of the various extra-legal bodies that would govern the city, and by extension
the province, for the remainder of the royal period.62 According to the local press, "the
principal planters and landholders" joined with leading artisans to demand that merchants
stop importing tea.63 Local merchants boycotted the meeting, no doubt anticipating the
planter-artisan reaction. Not to be outflanked, the assembled planters and artisans
58South Carolina Gazette. November 29, 1773.
59Ibid., November 22, November 29, 1773.
“Ibid., December 6, 1773; South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. December 7,
1773.
6lSouth Carolina Gazette. December 6, 1773.
“Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 27. The Wilkes fund controversy had
effectively paralyzed all legal government in the colony, creating a vacuum filled by
Revolutionary committees.
“South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. December 7, 1773; George C. Rogers
Jr., Rogers, “The Charleston Tea Party: The Significance of December 3, 1773,” South
Carolina Historical Magazine 75 (July 1974): 153-168.

85
summoned Smith, Leger and Greenwood and informed them that landing the tea would
be unacceptable. Instead, they should return the tea immediately to Britain. The
merchants had little choice but to agree, and the assembled multitude responded with
"repeated thanks and loud shouts of applause."64 The planters further proposed an
economic boycott against any merchant who continued importing tea, and the meeting
appointed a committee of five-three planters, one merchant, and one artisan-to gather
merchant signatures on an agreement pledging non-importation of tea.65 Despite the
compliance of over fifty merchants by the following afternoon, at least one planter
publicly voiced dissatisfaction that the merchants once again had to be coerced into
action.66 The merchants, meanwhile, openly resented the strong-arm tactics of the
mechanic-planter alliance. Consequently, Charleston's principal merchants gathered six
days later and organized the Charleston Chamber of Commerce to protect their interests.67
The Chamber elected John Savage, president, Miles Brewton, vice-president, David Deas,
treasurer, and John Hopton, secretary. Savage, Brewton, and Deas were prominent and
wealthy slavetraders. Hopton had served as a former clerk of Henry Laurens and entered
64South Carolina Gazette. December 6, 1773.
“The committee consisted of planters Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney, and Thomas Ferguson, merchant-planter Christopher Gadsden, and artisan
Daniel Cannon. Though a merchant, Gadsden did not represent the city’s more
conservative faction of merchants. The fact that a committee had to be appointed to go
out and gather merchant signatures suggests that very few merchants attended the
meeting.
“South Carolina Gazette. December 6, 1773.
67Ibid., December 13, 1773; Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 30.

86
into partnership with Robert Powell in 1771.“ The planters and artisans responded by
holding separate meetings at Swallow's Tavern. The artisans, particularly upset over the
Chamber of Commerce and merchant intransigence, openly talked of forming their own
organization to oppose the Chamber.69 At yet another general meeting on December 17,
planters and artisans heatedly denounced the merchants who continued to import tea and
again resolved to prevent the landing of the tea aboard the London. Beyond that, the three
factions could not reach agreement on any general response.
In the meantime the deadline passed for paying the duty on the tea aboard the
London. Early on the morning of Wednesday, December 22, Lieutenant Governor Bull
ordered customs officials to unload the tea and secure it in the cellar beneath the
Exchange. Well aware of the community’s mood, dockworkers labored at a feverish
pace. The tea had been safely deposited by the time most of the town awoke. Furious
and embarrassed Charlestonians argued that elite dissension had delayed cooperative
action and allowed Bull to outflank the committee and land the tea. The New York Sons
of Liberty expressed outrage that Charleston alone among the principal seaports permitted
tea to be landed and described the event as ''an evil hour for America." They complained
that divisions between Charleston merchants and planters might possibly "delay the
“See the letter of introduction Laurens wrote for Hopton: Laurens to Browne, Searle
and Company, July 31, 1770, Papers of Henry Laurens. 7:313-314. Savage and Hopton
became Loyalists during the Revolution. Edgar, Biographical Directory. 2:95-97, 189-
190, 594-596; N. Louise Bailey, ed., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate.
1776-1985. 3 vols. (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1986), 2:747-748.
“South Carolina Gazette. December 15, 1773; Poythress, "Revolution By Committee,"
30.

87
repeal of the Revenue Act" and cause further divisions in other colonies.70 Factional
disagreement continued in Charleston, but Bull’s actions spurred planters and mechanics
to create an executive “General Committee” designed to coordinate and direct resistance
to any further importation of tea. This “General Committee” could also call general
meetings of the people. On June 3, 1774, the Committee received news of the Boston
Port Bill.71 Britain had at last imposed an iron hand on the insubordinate colonies, and
Bull hoped the measure “would have some happy effect towards composing the
disturbances in this province." He had never been more mistaken.72
The news galvanized Charleston’s planters and artisans into action. They now
made a conscious effort to broaden resistance from primarily local mass meetings to a
gathering with colony-wide representation, hoping that the country representatives would
counteract the conservative merchants of the city. Christopher Gadsden told Samuel
Adams in Boston that “members of the trading part have separated themselves from the
70South Carolina Gazette. December 27, 1773; South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal. February 1, 1774. See also Bull to Dartmouth, December 24, 1773, SCBPRO
33:350-354. The South Carolina Gazette reported that "there never was an instance here
of so great a number of packages being taken out of any vessel, and thus disposed of in so
short a time."
71Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 35; Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens. 201-
202; Ferrari, "Artisans of the South,” 76; South Carolina Gazette Extraordinary. June 3,
1774. Parliament passed the Boston Port Bill on March 31, 1774, the first of the Coercive
Acts passed in reaction to the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773. It closed the port
of Boston to all shipping or trade except that involving military supplies and certain
cargos of food and fuel. The bill also stationed customs officials in Salem rather than
Boston, and closed the port until Boston reimbursed the East India Company for the tea
destroyed in the Tea Party. See Laharee. Boston Tea Party. 184-195.
72Bull to Dartmouth, July 31, 1774, SCBPRO 34:177-178.

88
general interest and neglected our public meetings.”73 After Boston proposed an
American boycott of trade with Britain, Charleston’s General Committee called for a
provincial meeting of citizens for July 6, 1774. The urban planter-artisan alliance hoped
to unite with country members in support of non-importation. Unyielding Charleston
merchants now ignored the General Meeting at their economic peril.74
The General Meeting of July 1774 represented a turning point in the
Revolutionary movement in Charleston. With the Commons House of Assembly
effectively paralyzed by the Wilkes Fund controversy, the government of the city and
colony shifted from legal to extra-legal bodies. Once firmly allied with the urban
planters, many of the city’s principal merchants-particularly those in the Chamber of
Commerce—had by 1774 become a conservative faction of rear-guard defenders of the
status quo. The city’s artisans and mechanics repeatedly opposed the merchants by
supporting measures, such as non-importation and home manufactures, designed to
promote artisanal self-interest. In the process factional interests-horizontal loyalties-
began to replace vertical ties as South Carolina’s extra-legal governing bodies became
more inclusive and less deferential. The more liberal planters-led by Gadsden, Arthur
Middleton, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and William Henry Drayton-joined the city’s
73Gadsden to Samuel Adams, May 23, 1774, in Richard Walsh, ed., The Writings of
Christopher Gadsden. 1746-1805 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1966), 93. Gadsden told Adams that news of the Boston Port Bill "has raised our utmost
resentment and detestation and [I] hope will produce the desired effect of rousing us from
our supineness." Gadsden to Adams, June 5, 1774, Ibid., 94.
74McCrady, History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 733; South Carolina Gazette. June
20, 1774.

89
radical artisans.75 After the General Meeting of July 1774, however, many of Charleston's
elite who had previously resisted British policy aggressively became noticeably more
moderate and conservative with the growth of extra-legal government and increased
artisan and backcountry participation.76
The General Meeting gathered in Charleston for three tumultuous days in July
1774. Newspaper publisher Peter Timothy described it as "the largest body of the most
respectable inhabitants that had ever been seen together upon any public occasion here."77
Over one hundred members attended, and for the first time backcountry inhabitants
participated in government in significant numbers. Nevertheless, because every member
could vote, the Charleston factions could pack the meeting and carry any disputed point.
The meeting focused primarily on three issues: implementing non-importation, electing
five delegates to a Continental Congress to meet in Philadelphia in September, and the
debate over the extent of the powers granted to those delegates.78 The artisans, of course,
repeatedly clamored for immediate non-importation, with the merchants and the Chamber
75Drayton, who had attacked artisan participation in non-importation enforcement in
1769, had joined the Whig cause by 1774-1775. See Snapp, “William Henry Drayton”;
Dabney and Dargan, William Henry Dravton and the American Revolution. 47-64.
76Henry Laurens wrote that "all agreed in one point that America is unjustly treated by
the Mother Country, but divided into parties and differing in sentiments upon the proper
means for obtaining a redress of grievances." Laurens to William Manning, January 4,
1775; see also Laurens to Richard Oswald, January 4, 1775, Papers of Henry Laurens.
10:19-23. See also Carl J. Vinnerman. The Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 1721-1800
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1978), 175-194.
77South Carolina Gazette. July 11, 1774.
78Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens. 202; Rogers, "Charleston Tea Party," 165;
McCrady, History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 734-735.

90
of Commerce consistently opposed. On the first vote the assembly rejected both non¬
importation and non-exportation (which the planters opposed), and the meeting agreed to
allow Congress to formulate any policy in that area. Merchants and artisans now turned
their focus upon electing congressional delegates favorably disposed to their respective
positions on non-importation. The Chamber of Commerce naturally favored more
conservative delegates who would oppose any schemes for non-importation. They
nominated planters Henry Middleton and Rawlins Lowndes, attorneys John Rutledge and
Charles Pinckney, and merchant and Chamber of Commerce officer Miles Brewton. The
artisans, led by Christopher Gadsden, accepted Middleton and Rutledge, and also
nominated Gadsden and two moderate planters, Thomas Lynch, and Edward Rutledge.79
The artisans flexed their political muscle for the first time when voting began for
congressional delegates. The merchants made a tactical blunder by marching their clerks
in a body to vote for the conservative delegation. Infuriated artisans responded by turning
out to vote in record numbers and succeeded in electing their chosen slate of delegates.
The election represented a significant step in the process of artisanal rejection of elite
deferential politics. Though artisans pragmatically nominated members of the moderate
elite as their candidates, they clearly would no longer quietly acquiesce to such blatant
political intimidation. Such altered artisanal behavior caused many of the Charleston
elite to back away from aggressive resistance to British policy.
79South Carolina Gazette. July 11, 1774; Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 47-
53; McCrady, History of South Carolina 1719-1776. 741.

91
Finally, the General Meeting appointed a Committee of Ninety-nine-fifteen
merchants and fifteen artisans representing Charleston, and sixty-nine planters to
represent the countryside-to act as an executive body and committee of correspondence.
A quorum of twenty-one members could transact business; thus, Charleston's delegates
could heavily influence the Committee. On the last day of the meeting several of the
merchants voluntarily committed to non-importation until Carolina’s delegates returned
from Congress.80
When the meeting adjourned on July 8, 1774, Charleston's traditional leaders must
have contemplated the events of the preceding three days with a mixture of satisfaction
and fear. Certainly conservatives might have been relieved that non-importation had been
postponed, but the election for delegates to Congress must have frightened even the more
moderate members. Never had the city's artisans so openly opposed elite wishes, and
many of Charleston’s traditional leaders must have recognized by mid-1774 that
resistance had taken them down a dangerous and unsure path. In resisting British policy
had they not unintentionally opened themselves up to internal revolution as well? The
Rev. John Bullman of St. Michael’s Church undoubtedly voiced elite fears by vehemently
censuring artisan participation in government from the pulpit of his church. He lashed
out at the mechanic “who cannot perhaps govern his own household or pay the debts of
his own contracting,” yet presumed to be “qualified to dictate how the state should be
governed." "Every silly clown and illiterate mechanic,” he sneered, should "keep to his
80South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. July 12, 1774; South Carolina Gazette.
July 11, 1774; Enclosure of Bull to Dartmouth, August 3, 1774, SCBPRO 34:194;
Poythress, "Revolution By Committee," 52-53.

92
rank, and do his duty in his own station, without usurping undue authority over his
neighbor."81 The artisans responded that Bullman’s tirade represented "civil and
ecclesiastical tyranny by denying the privilege of thinking and acting to the honest and
industrious mechanic."82 The vestry reprimanded Bullman for "entering upon politics in
the pulpit at this time." After he steadfastly refused to apologize a general meeting of
parishioners condemned his conduct by a vote of 42-33, and the vestry fired Bullman.
Nevertheless, seventy-four of his followers petitioned for his recall or at least another
meeting. The Vestry refused. Though forced eventually to leave the province, Bullman
had the support of many of his parishioners. Clearly many of the elite felt uncomfortable
about the expanding artisanal role in the extra-legal government.83
************
The South Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress returned from
Philadelphia on Sunday, November 6, 1774, armed with the Continental Association.
The agreement would ban British imports on December 1, 1774, and all exports except
81Protestant Episcopal Church, St. Michael's, Charleston, Records, 1759-1824, WPA
transcripts, 97-99, South Caroliniana Library, copied from the original in the possession
of St. Michael's Church, Charleston.
82South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. August 16, 1774.
83The vestrymen were planter-lawyers James Parson and Thomas Heyward, and
merchants Sir Edmund Head, Peter Leger (of the tea-importing firm of Leger and
Greenwood), Edward Blake, George Abbot Hall, and Robert William Powell. Only Head
and Powell became Loyalists. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House.
2:323-325, 508-509, 3:70-72,296-298, 325-326,429-430, 582.

93
rice on September 1, 1775.84 The agreement represented weeks of compromise and
delicate negotiation in Congress, but it received only a lukewarm reception in Charleston
and served to further divide political factions. Furious indigo planters blasted the
exception for exporting rice as both a blatant attempt to show economic favoritism and an
embarrassment to South Carolina. Charleston merchants, meanwhile, gloomily predicted
economic disaster with the prospect of another non-importation movement. Merchant
Levinus Clarkson voiced the concerns of the mercantile community when he complained
that the Association "has effectually blasted my prospects for the ensuing year." If non¬
importation closed the slave trade, he moaned, he only recourse would be to return to his
native New York, "for this country will not do to live in for a fair subsistence."85
With the planters divided in their support for the agreement and the merchants
opposed, the General Committee called for province-wide elections for a new Provincial
Congress to meet at the Exchange in Charleston on Wednesday, January 11,1775. The
84South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. November 8, 1774; South Carolina
Gazette. November 21, 1774. The text of the Continental Association is in William
Edwin Hemphill, ed., Extracts From the Journals of the Provincial Congresses of South
Carolina. 1775-1776. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: South
Carolina Archives Department, 1960), 15-19, and in Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1883
(Charleston SC: News and Courier Book Presses, 1883), 316-322. See also Christopher
Gould, "The South Carolina and Continental Associations: Prelude to Revolution," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 87 (February 1986): 30-48. For South Carolina's role in the
First Continental Congress, see James Haw, "The Rutledges, The Continental Congress,
and Independence," South Carolina Historical Magazine 94 (October 1993): 232-251, and
Frank W. Ryan Jr., "The Role of South Carolina in the First Continental Congress," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 60 (1959~): 147-153.
85Levinus Clarkson to David Van Home, January 2, 1775, in William Bell Clark, ed.,
Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 10 vols. to date (Washington DC:
Government Printing Office, 1964-), 1:49.

94
Provincial Congress would consider the Association and elect delegates to a second
Continental Congress to meet the following May. Henry Laurens fretted that the
necessity of more inclusive politics meant that the "reins are not in the hands of Town
men as formerly," and he worried that backcountry delegates would steer a more radical
course than the conservative urban elite. Nevertheless, he conceded “the superiority
which the country people claim-no man is now supposed to be unequal to a share in
government." These represented Revolutionary words indeed from a man who ten years
earlier had been frightened out of his wits by Stamp Act protesters. Laurens and other
members of the elite realized that Charleston could not continue to resist British policy
without the consent and cooperation of the remainder of the colony. Traditional notions
of political participation therefore had to bend to meet current needs. In doing so,
however, Laurens could only foresee "trouble and confusion."86 Charleston voters elected
delegates on Monday, January 9, three weeks after the country parishes balloted.
Delegates did not have to reside in the parishes they represented, and in the time-honored
fashion of deferential politics, upcountry parishes often elected established lowcountry
leaders to represent their interests. The delay between rural and urban elections thus
allowed urban voters to choose other delegates if the country parishes had already elected
a Charleston delegate. A group of Charlestonians met three days before the election at
Ramadge's Tavern "to propose proper persons and prepare a list" of candidates.87 The
86Henry Laurens to John Laurens, January 4, 1775, in "Letters From Hon. Henry
Laurens to His Son John, 1773-1776," South Carolina Historical Magazine 4 (October
1903): 271.
87South Carolina Gazette. November21, 1774, January 2, 1775.

95
composition of this meeting cannot be determined, but voters elected thirteen artisans,
eleven merchants, and five planters to the Provincial Congress. Artisans comprised
almost one-half of the city’s thirty delegates.88
Laurens prediction of "trouble and confusion" proved to be prophetic when the
184 members of the Provincial Congress assembled in Charleston on January 11, 1775.
Charleston sent thirty delegates, the remainder of the lowcountry elected ninety-six, and
the backcountry seventy-six. Upcountry representatives, unfamiliar with the proceedings
of deliberative bodies, chafed at what they perceived as unnecessary delays and accused
experienced Charleston legislators of deliberately plotting to thin out backcountry ranks.
Henry Laurens complained that "according to their ideas everything might have been
completed with no more words than are necessary in the bargain and sale of a cow."89
The primary divisions in the Provincial Congress, however, revolved around the
exception of rice from the non-exportation agreement. Indigo planters and other
commodity producers resented an exemption that allowed rice planters to continue
trading while others faced economic ruin. John and Edward Rutledge defended the
exemption in Charleston as they had done in Philadelphia. Refusing to be intimidated,
they argued that rice and indigo, as enumerated articles, could only be exported directly to
88Ibid., January 23, 1775; Extracts From the Journals of the Provincial Congresses. 3;
Ferrari, "Artisans of the South," 81. The remaining Charleston delegate was minister
William Tennant.
89Henry Laurens to John Laurens, January 22, 1775, Papers of Henry Laurens. 10:39-
40. Laurens offered to put up any delegates in his own house who could not afford
lodgings in the city.

96
Britain.90 South Carolina therefore stood to suffer a much greater economic loss than the
Northern colonies if the Association halted trade only with the Mother Country. Shipping
figures support the Rutledge’s argument. Between 1768 and 1772, Great Britain
accounted for less than 8.5 percent of tonnage exported from Philadelphia, 16 percent
from Boston, and 18 percent from New York. Comparable export figures for Charleston
during those same years averaged 48 percent. Trade with Great Britain accounted for
more than 20 percent of the total number of ships entering and leaving Charleston, and
more than 40 percent of all inward- and outward- bound tonnage [see Tables 2-1 through
2-4], Charleston (and the South) traded more with the Mother Country than the Northern
ports. The Association thus placed Southerners at greater economic risk. The Rutledges
explained that the Carolina delegates had supported a ban on all exports, to Britain or
otherwise, but Congress defeated the motion. They had thus managed to secure the
exception of rice only when four of five South Carolina delegates walked out of
Congress, threatening to disrupt the entire proceedings.91 After much debate, the
Provincial Congress approved the exemption—and the Association—by a narrow margin.
The delegates devised a compensation scheme to recompense non-rice planters and
"Direct exportation was allowed to all ports south of Cape Finesterre, Spain, but not
to Western Europe. For an excellent discussion of the debate in the First Continental
Congress over the exemption of rice, see Flaw, "The Rutledges, Continental Congress,
and Independence," 237-239.
’’Christopher Gadsden did not walk out and was willing to give up rice and sign the
Association for South Carolina alone. See Ryan, "Role of South Carolina in First
Continental Congress," 151-152.

97
appointed parish committees to enforce the Association.92 Notwithstanding the
controversy over the exemption of rice, the Provincial Congress reelected the same
delegates to the Second Continental Congress to meet in May. They feared that electing
new delegates would send a signal to London and the other colonies that South Carolina
did not support the work of the original delegates.93
Despite the facade of unanimity that finally prevailed in the Provincial Congress,
divisions remained among Charleston factions over how best to confront the ministerial
threat. Indigo planters and small farmers, despite the compensation plan, remained angry
over what they perceived to be the greed of self-interested rice planters. Most merchants
remained opposed to non-importation, which artisans, of course, strongly supported.
Henry Laurens described Charlestonians beset by "fears and jealousies . .. best friends
and neighbors differing in sentiments upon the mode, yet all concurring that opposition is
necessary. Silent men suspected of enmity to our cause, the moderate charged with
lukewarmness, rashness and evil designs ascribed to such as are zealously affected."94
Laurens’s observations suggest that many of the elite feared that resistance had begun to
take a more radical turn than they would have wished, and that the moderate middle
ground had become less tenable. John Laurens, writing to his father from London, far
92See John Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution. From its Commencement
to the Year 1776. Inclusive. As Relating to the State of South Carolina. 2 vols.
(Charleston, 1821, reprint, New York: Amo Press, 1969), 1:171-174. Carolinians never
put the provisions of the scheme into effect.
93Extracts of Journals From the Provincial Congresses. 24-29; South Carolina Gazette.
January 23, 1775.
94Henry Laurens to John Laurens, January 22, 1775, Papers of Henry Laurens. 10:42.

98
removed from events in Charleston, expressed deep concern over what he considered the
rising tide of democracy. "Far be if from me when we are struggling against oppression
to wish to make distinctions unfavourable to liberty," he wrote, "but it gives me great
concern to hear that some of our lowest mechanics still bear great part in our public
transactions—men who are as contemptible for their ignorance as they may be pernicious
by their obstinacy." According to Laurens, these "upstart Patriots" required subtle
guidance and manipulation. They must continue to think that they acted for themselves.95
Laurens's resentment toward artisanal participation in government is emblematic of the
elite retreat toward a more moderate and conservative stance in the aftermath of the
General Meeting of July 1774 and the Provincial Congress of January 1775. The artisan-
planter alliance of the late 1760s had begun to weaken noticeably as planters began to
realign with their traditional merchant allies as the pace of events rapidly turned
resistance into revolution.
The battle over strict enforcement of non-importation proved just how tenuous
gentry authority had become. In early February a ship arrived loaded with coals and
potatoes, and the Charleston committee of enforcement promptly dumped the cargo into
the harbor. The committee sent another cargo of 300 slaves unloaded to the West
Indies.96 But on Tuesday, March 21,1775, Robert Smyth arrived from Britain aboard the
Proteus with furniture and horses that his family had purchased and used in London. The
“Smyth Horse affair” tested elite commitment to non-importation and subjected the
95John Laurens to Henry Laurens, February 18, 1775, Ibid., 10:75-76.
96South Carolina Gazette. March 6,1775.

99
unpopular decisions of traditional leaders to the power of public opinion for almost the
first time. Smyth, a Charleston merchant, undoubtedly thought that items for personal
use did not violate the Association, and after some debate, thirty-three members of the
Charleston committee agreed with him. Though many of the city's elite were willing to
overlook one of their own bringing goods back from England for his family's private
pleasure, the city's artisans viewed the matter in an entirely different light.97 According to
John Drayton, "hundreds of inhabitants” assembled on Friday, March 24, to denounce the
committee's decision and threatened to enforce the terms of the Association by force if
necessary. The artisans had opposed the merchants in the debate over non-importation in
1769 and again in 1774, but this demonstration marked the first time they had openly
broken with and challenged the authority of the planters. Elite committee members like
attorney Edward Rutledge, stunned and surprised at vehement popular outburst, blasted
the crowd for questioning the authority of the committee. The assembled multitude
shouted him down. When the artisans demanded that the committee "reconsider" its
decision, some outraged and insulted aristocrats stormed out of the hall, while others
engaged into shouting matches with the crowd. The meeting had degenerated into
confrontation and chaos, and the exasperated and besieged members of the General
Committee decided to adjourn until Monday. They hoped that by then more members of
the Committee would be present to deal with a situation rapidly threatening to spin out of
97Ibid., March 27, 1775. See also David H. Villers, "The Smyth Horses Affair and the
Association," South Carolina Historical Magazine 70 (July 1969): 137-148; McCrady,
History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 775-777.

100
control.98 The authority of Charleston's traditional leaders had been openly and violently
challenged, and their ability to govern effectively and control men and events through
extra-legal agencies had become increasingly problematic.
By Monday morning the town was in "universal commotion," and many feared
that a real crisis was at hand. The General Committee ordered the militia to stand by to
land the horses by force if necessary. The majority of the militia refused, sympathizing
with members of the lower ranks of Charleston society. With a throng flowing out of the
meeting hall into the street, Christopher Gadsden proposed that the Committee reverse its
decision if for no other reason than that "our people are highly dissatisfied with it."
William Henry Drayton, one of the few conservative planters who had become more
liberal since 1769, agreed. Drayton had roundly condemned the artisans as the "profanum
vulgus" during the Townshend Acts crisis, but he now argued that "the people thought an
error had been committed, and it was our duty to satisfy our constituents, as we [are] only
servants of the public." Drayton’s stunning reversal sounded to many of the elite like a
clarion call for revolution and represented nothing less than political heresy for an
aristocratic and wealthy South Carolina planter. His words brought angry rebuttals from
conservative committee members, particularly Edward and John Rutledge, Rawlins
Lowndes (speaker of the Commons House), attorney Thomas Bee, and planter Thomas
Lynch. Nevertheless, the moderates overruled the conservatives by one vote, and the
committee reversed its decision. The horses and furniture violated the agreement and
98Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution. 1:182-183; South Carolina Gazette
March 27,1775.

101
could not be landed. The assembled Charlestonians roared their approval." The "Smyth
Horse affair" ended peacefully and with the Association intact, but Charleston's planters,
merchants, and artisans emerged from the affair more bitterly and openly divided than
ever before. The affair symbolized as nothing else had how quickly political protest
could become social and political revolution. One loyalist noted that “Mr. Laurens, Mr.
Lowndes, Mr. [Miles] Brewton and several other men of fortune tremble at the lengths
already gone and strive now to check the torrent... nothing but division, riot, anarchy,
and confusion reigns at present amongst them.”"® From his vantage point as a loyal
British official, Lt. Gov. William Bull astutely observed that "the men of property begin
at length to see that the many-headed power of the people, who have hitherto been
obediently made use of by their numbers and occasional riots, have discovered their own
strength and importance, and are not now so easily governed by their former leaders."
The entire affair, he wrote, had left much "ill-blood."101
The events of the summer of 1775 raised tensions and passions to the breaking
point. Conservatives, moderates, and radicals clashed openly over the means of
resistance, and one prominent merchant's wife despaired that "everything seems to have a
very gloomy prospect." South Carolina's five delegates to the Second Continental
Congress, according to one royal official, threatened "to cut one another's throats" over
"Ferrari, "Artisans of the South,” 83; Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution.
1:183-187.
looBargar, “Secret Reports of Alexander Innes,” 134.
101Bull to Dartmouth, March 28, 1775, SCBPRO 35:80-82.

102
their political differences.102 Word arrived on April 14 that Parliament considered
Massachusetts to be in open rebellion and would send additional troops to subdue the Bay
Colony by force. Charleston received news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on
May 8. Simultaneously, rumors of British-led slave and Indian rebellions touched off
widespread panic in the city. One Loyalist begged for armed intervention before "there
[is] a total change of government here, and the very slight mask they now condescend to
wear entirely thrown off."103 In June the second session of the Provincial Congress raised
a provincial army, elected a Council of Safety to act as the executive arm of the Congress,
and passed a loyalty oath.104 The middle ground of moderation and caution had all but
disappeared by the time the new-and last—royal governor arrived in Charleston on
Saturday, June 17, 1775. A shocked and stunned Lord William Campbell reported to
London that he found nothing left to govern: "the legal administration of justice
obstructed, government in a manner annihilated, the most dangerous measures adopted,
and acts of the most outrageous and illegal nature committed publicly with impunity."
Charlestonians stepped up their harassment of royal officials after the Provincial
Congress passed a loyalty oath on June 3. An unexpected and unfriendly visit from four
102Mrs. Anne Manigault to Gabriel Manigault, May 3, 1775, Elizabeth Hassell to
Gabriel Manigault, June 6, 1775, Manigault Family Papers, South Caroliniana Library;
Alexander Innes to Dartmouth, May 1, 1775, SCBPRO 35:95.
'“Alexander Innes to Earl of Dartmouth, May 16, 1775, in Bargar, ed., "Secret
Reports of Alexander Innes," 128.
'“Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens. 204; Weir, "A Most Important Epocha". 62;
McCrady, History of South Carolina. 1719-1776. 789; South Carolina Gazette and
Country Journal. May 2, June 6, 1775; South Carolina and American General Gazette.
April 28, June 9, 1775; Extracts From the Journals of the Provincial Congresses. 33-67.

103
artisans both frightened and outraged Royal surgeon George Milligen. He vehemently
denounced his tormenters as part of “that monster the mob [that] now governs
Charlestown." For his part, Governor Campbell waged an ongoing verbal battle with the
Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety, and by August he admitted that "the
powers of government are wrested out of my hands. I can neither protect nor punish."105
The Thomas Jeremiah murder dramatically demonstrated how impotent royal
government in Charleston had become. Rumors of British plans to foment servile
insurrection among lowcountry slaves focused white attention on Thomas Jeremiah, a
successful free black harbor pilot.106 According to Governor Campbell, Jeremiah’s only
crime was being a prosperous free black man in a city filled with poor and destitute
whites. He naturally aroused a great deal of white suspicion and jealousy.107 In the
summer of 1775, Charleston’s extra-legal government accused Jeremiah of plotting to aid
the British both by guiding British warships into the harbor and by leading a slave
105South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. June 20, 1775; South Carolina and
American General Gazette. July 14, August 25, 1775; Mr. Milligen's Report of the state
of South Carolina, September 15, 1775, SCBPRO 35:235. See also George Roupell to
Anthony Todd, August 19,1775, C.O. 5/386, Colonial Office Papers, Class 5, America
and the West Indies, Original Papers, Letters, Etc., From the Governors, 1754-1776,
Public Record Office, London, microfilm, South Carolina Department of Archives and
History.
106The rumors began in part because of a letter from Arthur Lee in London warning
that the ministry was planning to incite slave insurrections to frighten Southern whites
into obedience. See Petér H. Wood, ‘“Liberty is Sweet’: African-American Freedom
Struggles in the Years Before White Independence,” in Alfred F. Young, ed., Beyond the
American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism. (DeKalb IL:
Northern Illinois University Press, 1993), 165.
l07Walter J. Fraser Jr., Charleston! Charleston! The History of A Southern City
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 144.

104
rebellion. Whites based their charges primarily upon the testimony of two Charleston
slaves who supposedly had overheard Jeremiah prophesying that “a great war is coming
soon to help the poor Negroes.”108 Members of Charleston’s extra-legal government tried
and condemned Jeremiah under the provisions of the Negro Act of 1740, and despite
efforts by the royal government in Charleston to save his life, local whites hanged
Jeremiah and burned his body on Friday, August IB, 1775.109 Governor Campbell,
repulsed and horrified at the proceedings, had talked of intervening and commuting the
ffeedman’s sentence. Local whites warned the royal governor that if he attempted to help
Jeremiah he would be “hanged at my door.” Another prominent member of the elite
cautioned Campbell to prepare for “a flame all the water in the Cooper River would not
extinguish” if he attempted to save Jeremiah.110 The murder is suggestive of the extent to
which black notions of freedom may have influenced white actions in the struggle against
the British ministry and illuminates both the heightened sense of paranoia and suspicion
108Wood, “‘Liberty is Sweet,”’ 167.
109See Peter H. Wood, ‘“Taking Care of Business’ In Revolutionary South Carolina:
Republicanism and the Slave Society,” in Jeffrey J. Crow and Larry E. Tise, eds., The
Southern Experience in the American Revolution. (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1978), 284-287; Wood, “‘Liberty is Sweet,”’ 165-168; Weir, Colonial
South Carolina. 200-203; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, August 20, 1775, Papers of
Henry Laurens. 10:320-322; Sylvia R. Frey, Water From the Rock: Black Resistance in A
Revolutionary Age (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), 57-58; John Donald
Duncan, “Servitude and Slavery in Colonial South Carolina, 1670-1776,” Ph.D.
dissertation, Emory University, 1971, 837-843.
"“Lord William Campbell to “My Lord,” August 19, 1775, SCBPRO 35:186; Fraser,
Charleston. Charleston!. 144-147.

105
that existed among Charleston Whigs that summer and the vapidity to which royal
government had been driven by the events of the preceding decade."1
Campbell turned his attention to the Commons House of Assembly and tried to
reason with the only legal body of representatives remaining in the colony. He pleaded
with them to remain loyal to a government which had brought prosperity and happiness to
Charleston and urged them to turn away from measures designed to bring only destruction
and "inevitable ruin." The Commons replied defiantly that if ruin was to be their lot "we
wait the event, and leave the justice of our cause to the great sovereign of the universe,
upon whom the fate of kingdoms and empires depends.”112 Thoroughly disgusted with
the political turn of events and fearing for his life, Campbell dissolved the Commons
House for the last time on Friday, September 15, 1775, and fled to the safety of a royal
ship in Charleston Harbor.113 Royal government in South Carolina had come to an end,
and the South’s largest city now was now entirely in the hands of the rebels.
Charleston loyalists, primarily royal officials and conservative merchants and
planters, never posed any serious opposition to Whig leaders. The chief loyalist threat in
1775 came from the backcountry. Charleston leaders were thus pre-occupied in the fall
of 1775 with neutralizing that section. The fate of most Charleston loyalists tended to be
‘"Peter H. Wood has recently written about the role played by Southern blacks in
accelerating white rebellion against the British, and he dispels the notion that ideas about
liberty and freedom “trickled down” from the elite to slaves. See Wood, ‘“Liberty is
Sweet.’”
'"South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Extraordinary, July 22, 1775.
1 "South Carolina and American General Gazette. September 22, 1775; South Carolina
Gazette. October 3, 1775.

106
either exile or tragedy. Some loyalists, like Lieutenant Governor William Bull and
planter William Wragg, chose to retreat into political exile on their lowcountry estates
until driven from the province. Others, like merchant Miles Brewton, left the state in
1775. Brewton's entire family perished at sea en route to Philadelphia, while Wragg
drowned in an attempt to save his son after a shipwreck off the coast of Holland. Others
remained in the community until the passage of the controversial Loyalty Oath of 1778,
which forced them either to swear allegiance to South Carolina or leave the state. After
the British re-captured Charleston in 1780, many Whigs joined the remaining loyalists in
swearing allegiance to the British in order to practice their trades. Consequently, in 1782
when the Whig Jacksonborough legislature compiled a list of 425 families for
banishment, confiscation, or amercement, 90 percent were from Charleston or the
surrounding lowcountry.114
"4See Lewis P. Jones, The South Carolina Civil War of 1775 (Lexington SC, 1975);
Fraser, Charleston! Charleston!. 163,167; Kinloch Bull Jr., The Oligarchs in Colonial
and Revolutionary Charleston: Lieutenant Governor William Bull II and His Family
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991), 230-287; Geraldine W.
Meroney, “William Bull’s First Exile From South Carolina, 1777-1781,” South Carolina
H historical Magazine 80 (April 1979): 91-104; Ella Pettit Levett, “Loyalism in
Charleston, 1761-1784.” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1936,
12-16; Robert W. Barnwell Jr., “The Migration of Loyalists From South Carolina,”
Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1937, 34-42; Robert W.
Barnwell, “Loyalists in South Carolina, 1765-1785,” Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University,
1941; Ralph L. Andreano and Herbert O. Werner, “Charleston Loyalists: A Statistical
Note,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 60 (July 1959): 164-168; Kathy Roe Coker,
“The Punishment of Revolutionary War Loyalists in South Carolina,” Ph.D. dissertation,
University of South Carolina, 1987; Robert S. Lambert, South Carolina Loyalists in the
American Revolution (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1987); Coker,
“Absentees as Loyalists in Revolutionary War South Carolina,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 96 (April 1995): 119-134.

107
By late September 1775, Charleston had been transformed from the city that had
received Governor Montagu nine years earlier. The economic, political, and social
stability of the prosperous metropolis of 1766 had been replaced by "division, riot,
anarchy, and confusion." The harbor, closed to both imports and exports, lay empty of
commercial vessels. Armed citizens in rebellion to the Crown marched through the city.
Artisans had played a pivotal role in implementing and enforcing the economic boycott
against Britain and increasingly flexed their political muscle both in the street and the
assembly hall.115 The illegal bodies that now governed the city and province contained
artisans and mechanics as well as the traditional planters and merchants. The cessation of
trade made money scarce and debts difficult to collect, particularly with the colony’s
courts closed. The economic boycott had an immediate and widespread impact not only
in the city but throughout the hinterlands of Charleston’s trading empire in South
Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and the West Indies. With Charleston closed to
commerce, staple commodities ceased to flow downriver to town. Conversely, wagons
loaded with textiles and other manufactured goods no longer rolled overland up the
Ashley River Road. The economic lifeline between much of the Lower South and the
outside world had been cut off. With the harbor closed and commerce at a halt,
Charleston’s wealth and prosperity might quickly evaporate. "Good God, what are we
about to do?" asked Henry Laurens. "We are on the eve of a total suspension of all
nsAlexander Innes to Earl of Dartmouth, June 10, 1775, in Bargar, ed., "Reports of
Alexander Innes," 134; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, July 2, 1775, "Letters from Henry
Laurens to His Son John," South Carolina Historical Magazine 5 (January 1904): 12;
Henry Laurens to John Laurens, September 18, 1775, Pacers of Henry Laurens. 10:396-
397: South Carolina and American General Gazette. September 1, 1775.

108
trade," he wrote, "stripped of gold and silver money, and have no resources. We are all
mad, all wrong.""6 The memories of the prosperous and happy days of 1766 had faded
into the misty past, soon to be replaced by the darker night of revolution and war. It
would be many long years before "joy, jollity and mirth" reigned again. Charleston would
discover that the seeds of rebellion could reap bitter fruit indeed.
'“Henry Laurens to Richard Oswald, January 4, 1775, Laurens to John Laurens, June
8, September 18, 1775. Papers of Henry Laurens. 10:21-23, 166, 396-397.

109
TABLE 2-1
Number and Tonnage of Ships Inward Bound From Great Britain, 1768-1772
1768 1769 1770 1 771 1772
Boston
69
6,946
75
7,333
74
6,830
72
7,502
93
New York
79
7,158
41
3,785
39
4,055
63
6,850
61
Philadelphia
60
6,924
46
5,504
42
4,705
71
8,157
63
Charleston
139
18,125
115
14,551
61
9,153
79
11,878
79
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times
to 1970.2 vols. (Washington DC, 1975), 2:1180-1181.
TABLE 2-2
Average Number and Tonnage of Ships From Great Britain, 1769-1772
As a Percentage of Total Inward Bound Shipping
Number
Tonnage
Boston
9.78
19.58
New York
9.84
22.28
Philadelphia
8.42
16.10
Charleston
20.92
41.98
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times
to 1970. 2 vols. (Washington DC, 1975), 2:1180-1181.

110
TABLE 2-3
Number and Tonnage of Ships Outward Bound To Great Britain, 1768-1772
1768 1 769 1770 1771 1772
Boston
67
6,428
66
6,707
56
5,819
55
5,750
57
New York
56
5,130
47
3,955
46
4,665
45
4,830
39
Philadelphia
40
4,134
37
4,049
25
3,208
27
3,222
23
Charleston
121
15,873
109
14,681
81
11,727
119
115,792
115
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times
to 1970. 2 vols. (Washington DC, 1975), 2:1180-1181.
TABLE 2-4
Average Number and Tonnage of Ships To Great Britain, 1768-1772,
As a Percentage of Total Outward Bound Shipping
Number
Tonnage
Boston
7.86
16.42
New York
7.88
17.60
Philadelphia
4.32
8.48
Charleston
23.88
47.38
Source: Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times
to 1970.2 vols. (Washington DC, 1975), 2:1180-1181.

CHAPTER THREE
“WE ARE AN UNDONE PEOPLE”:
WAR AND OCCUPATION, 1776-1782
“Charlestown is now melancholy to behold, houses shut up, wharves and stores all empty,
trade not carried on, places of worship almost deserted, scarce a woman to be seen in the
streets, men continually on military duty, and no other music but drum and fife daily
sounding. Our trust I hope is ultimately on the Great Ruler of the Universe.”
Josiah Smith Jr., 1776
“Has the God of heaven and of earth deserted his kingdom? Has he delivered us up as a
prey to our enemies? Has he totally abandoned this world to tyranny and oppression?
No. The same God still reigns in heaven—even the same mighty, just and glorious God.”
John Lewis, minister, 1777
“We have compelled them to take the most valuable jewel in the American crown and to
ruin our united cause, for in the capture of Charles Town I see the destruction of the
confederacy.”
Henry Laurens, 1777
Between 1776 and 1782 Charleston became a cauldron of social, political, and
economic chaos. A movement that began as a political redress of grievances in 1765
became a radical revolution as a result of six years of war, invasion, and occupation.
Historians have long contended that the Revolutionary War years in South Carolina were
a time of bland conservativism, with no long-lasting social or economic consequences.
The exigencies of war and occupation, however, disrupted traditional trading patterns,
overturned established religion, weakened the institution of slavery, and irrevocably
altered the political ties that bound white Carolinians together. The war propelled
111

112
Charleston’s elite-planters, merchants, and lawyers—much farther down the road of
revolution than any of them had desired to go and ultimately accelerated the shift of
power from the coastal elite to upcountry planters.
The British attacked Charleston three times between 1776 and 1780 and finally
conquered the South’s most important city in May 1780. Inflation, scarcity, and naval
blockades nearly ruined Charleston’s economy. The great fire of 1778 made a worsening
situation even more intolerable by destroying almost one-quarter of the city’s homes and
businesses. Charlestonians pressed by high prices took to the streets to protest
forestalling and leniency in enforcing Whig loyalty oaths. The constitutions of 1776 and
1778 attempted to bring political order and stability out of chaos, but the need for intra¬
sectional unity in the face of war forced the lowcountry elite to compromise on the issues
of established religion and backcountry representation. Most ominously, white
Carolinians stood by helplessly as their slaves openly rebelled, ran off to join the British,
or simply vanished into the countryside. Some prominent Charlestonians questioned the
morality of the institution itself. Others openly debated the propriety of arming slaves to
defend white liberty. Thus the prevailing notion that Charleston’s elite remained firmly
in control of Revolutionary events and never felt seriously threatened by wartime
disruptions must be overturned.1 The exigencies of war forced lowcountry aristocrats to
'Most of the scholarship on the Revolution in South Carolina follows this line of
thought. Robert M. Weir writes that the Revolution in South Carolina was a “remarkably
conservative movement” that never led to any extensive social or economic change. The
elite remained responsive to popular needs and institutional change was therefore very
small. Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History (Millwood NY: KTO Press, 1983), 332-
333. For other conservative interpretations, see also George Winston Lane Jr., “The
Middletons of Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: A Colonial Dynasty, 1678-1787,”

113
make a number of political concessions to “outsiders” both within Charleston and in the
backcountry, and they often lacked the power to govern effectively in the face of
overwhelming social and economic upheaval.
Recent scholarship demonstrates that the war years produced similar dislocations
in other urban centers, but the upheaval and chaos affected postwar growth in remarkably
different ways. Elaine Forman Crane describes Newport, Rhode Island as “a town at war
with itself.” The war created economic dislocations, social divisions and animosity, and
political and religious discord. British occupation drove enterprising merchants away.
Those who remained could not effectively capitalize on new commercial opportunities
with the west because of geographic constraints and a continuing reliance upon British
markets. As a result, the once-flourishing colonial city had stagnated and declined by
Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1990; John C. Meleney, The Public Life of
Aedanus Burke: Revolutionary Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989); E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and
Robert H. Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution (KnoxvilleTN:
University of Tennessee Press, 1982); Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The
Revolution in South Carolina (Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981);
Richard Brent Clow, “Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, 1749-1800: Unproclaimed
Statesman,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976; Eva B. Poythress,
“Revolution By Committee: An Administrative History of the Extralegal Committees in
South Carolina, 1774-1776,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1975;
Weir, ‘“The Harmony We Were Famous For’: An Interpretation of Pre-Revolutionary
South Carolina Politics,” William and Mary Quarterly 26 (October 1969): 473-501;
Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father (Chapel Hill NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1967); Raymond G. Starr, “The Conservative
Revolution: South Carolina Public Affairs, 1775-1790,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Texas, 1964; George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of A Federalist: William Louehton Smith
of Charleston 11758-18121 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1962);
Frederick P. Bowes, The Cuhure of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1942).

114
1800.2 Similarly, Lynne Withey’s study of colonial Rhode Island found that the
Revolution played a seminal role in the rise of Providence and the decline of Newport.
Before 1750, Providence remained economically dependent upon Newport and operated
primarily as a local center of trade. Increased direct trade with Europe brought
Providence into direct competition with Newport by the Revolution and during the war
Providence expanded while Newport declined. Withey argued that the war and
occupation destroyed Newport’s trade and forced many in the city to flee. Providence
managed to escape occupation and kept its population and economic leadership intact.
The city flourished as a result of a combination of factors, primarily demography,
geography, and a strong, financially secure elite that invested in an improved physical and
financial infrastructure after the war. Newport, conversely, never recovered.3
Charles G. Steffen found in Baltimore that an artisanal “radical vision of
republicanism... clashed with the conservative republicanism of merchants and
lawyers.” Baltimore “fought its own small war of independence, not against the British
but rather against a conservative assembly [in Annapolis] determined to preserve the
dominance of the planter gentry.” Lacking a traditional ruling elite, however, Baltimore’s
economic society remained fluid and open to talented and enterprising men who
capitalized on the economic opportunities of the Revolution to draw trade and capital
2Elaine Forman Crane, A Dependent People: Newport. Rhode Island in the
Revolutionary Era fNew York: Fordham University Press, 1985), 126-140, 157-166.
3Lynne Withey, Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island: Newport and Providence
in the Eighteenth Century (Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 1984), 1-7,
77-78, 97-102.

115
away from Annapolis. During the war, according to Gary Lawson Browne, Baltimore
became a “central trading depot in the war effort,” drawing commerce away from
occupied Philadelphia. The town never attracted British military attention as did
Charleston and the more populous Northern ports, and Baltimore became a major
supplier for the allied American and French armies. The war thus “revolutionized
Baltimore society,” acting as the catalyst for the town’s remarkable postwar growth and
prosperity.4 Baltimore flourished and grew in the postwar decades.
In the urban North, according to Gary B. Nash, the war turned resistance into a
"dual revolution," accelerating the formation of horizontal rather than vertical divisions in
society. Nash found that Boston, New York, and Philadelphia all experienced an internal
revolution marked by increasing class consciousness, pervasive poverty, declining
deference, and narrowing of opportunity among laboring people.5 Eric Foner argued that
the Revolution in Philadelphia transformed life in the city by “greatly accelerating] the
transition between older and more modem forms of economic and political life.” The
war politicized the masses and propelled the city “along the path of capitalist
development,” by providing unprecedented opportunities for the growth of “banks,
4Charles G. Steffen, The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age
of Revolution. 1763-1812 (Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1984); Steffen, From
Gentlemen to Townsmen: The Gentry of Baltimore County. Maryland. 1660-1776
(Lexington KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1993), esp. 137-167; Edward C.
Papenfuse, In Pursuit of Profit: The Annapolis Merchants in the Era of the American
Revolution. 1763-1805 (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975); Gary
Larson Browne, Baltimore in the Nation. 1789-1861 (Chapel Hill NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1980), 3-13.
5Gary B. Nash, The Urban Cmcible: The Northern Seanorts and the Origins of the
American Revolution Abr. ed. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986).

116
corporations and other modem financial institutions.”6 Similarly, Thomas M. Doerflinger
asserted that conservative Philadelphia merchants took creative entrepreneurial risks and
capitalized on the economic opportunities created by the exigencies of war. Philadelphia
merchants thus laid the foundation for the “entrepreneurial origins of American economic
development” in the postwar years.7
Charleston’s wartime experience thus had much in common with other American
urban centers. The war created challenges to established political leaders, to the time-
honored social institutions of slavery and religion, and to Charleston’s economic
dominance in the region. Wartime dislocations may appear at first glance to be
ephemeral and transitory. To those who lived through them they certainly were not. By
1790, backcountry dissidents had triumphed in their demands for constitutional revision
and removal of the capital inland, while the institution of slavery came under
unprecedented attack in the postwar decades. Furthermore, the Revolution created new
economic opportunities, as inland merchants and planters petitioned for and invested in
towns, markets, roads, bridges, and canals to link the hinterland with the market
economy. The war forever altered Charleston’s position of unchallenged dominance
within both the state and the region. It was not surprising that Oliver Hart, minister of
6Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1976), esp. 68-69.
7Thomas M. Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and
Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia (Chapel Hill NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1986), 5, 135-164, 283-334.

117
Charleston’s First Baptist Church, told his brother in 1779 that “unless providence kindly
and remarkably interposes on our behalf, we are an undone people.”8
************
After Royal Governor Lord William Campbell abandoned Charleston for the
relative safety of a British warship in the harbor, the city’s rebel leaders considered it only
a matter of weeks before the British launched a military assault upon their city. The
Continental Congress resolved in early November 1775 that “the town of Charles Town
ought to be defended” against possible British attack.9 Carolina’s leaders had been
planning Charleston’s defense for months, even before Campbell took refuge aboard the
HMS Tamar on September 15, 1775.10 For more than six months South Carolina’s
Council of Safety had been heatedly debating a proposal to block the harbor by sinking
ships across the channel, while military matters dominated the first session of the Second
Provincial Congress when it convened in Charleston for four weeks in November."
801iver Hart to Joseph Hart, February 16, 1779, Oliver Hart Papers, South
Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
’Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress. 1774-
1789. 34 vols. (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1904-1937), 3:326.
'“"Papers of the First Council of Safety of the Revolutionary Party in South
Carolina, June-November, 1775,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 1(1900): 41-75,
119-135, 183-205,279-310,2 (1901): 3-26,97-107, 167-193,259-267, 3 (1902): 3-15;
South Carolina and American General Gazette. September 1, September 22, 1775.
"Henry Laurens to John Laurens, May 30,1775, Henry Laurens to James Laurens,
September 22, 1775, in Philip M. Hamer et al., eds., The Paners of Henry Laurens 14
vols. to date (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1968-), 10:157-161, 413-
415; William Edwin Hemphill, ed., Extracts From the Journals of the Provincial
Congresses of South Carolina. 1775-1776. The State Records of South Carolina
(Columbia SC: South Carolina Archives Department, 1960), 81-168.

118
The British understood Charleston’s political and economic importance, not only
to South Carolina but for the Southern colonies as a whole. Southern Royal governors
bombarded London with a litany of complaints throughout 1775 about Charleston’s
pervasive and insidious influence in the Lower South. Governor Campbell protested that
“every rebellious measure which has been adopted in this part of the continent originated
in Charlestown. [It] is the fountainhead from whence all the violence flows; stop that, and
the rebellion in this part of the continent will I trust be at an end.”’2 Governor James
Wright of Georgia maintained that Savannah’s Sons of Liberty had followed Charleston’s
lead, and he pleaded in vain for stronger measures designed to cut off the growing
rebellion in Charleston.13 Governor Josiah Martin of North Carolina made similar
requests after South Carolina’s Provincial Congress sent recruiting parties into his colony
in 1775. Martin told the Earl of Dartmouth that Charleston acted as “the head and heart
12Lord William Campbell to Josiah Martin, December 1, 1775, in William Bell
Clark, ed., Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 10 vols. to date (Washington
DC: Government Printing Office, 1964), 2:1225; Campbell to Dartmouth, October 19,
1775, Transcripts of Records in the British Public Record Office Relating To South
Carolina, 1663-1782,36 volumes, 35:271-281, Records Deposited With The Secretary,
Records of the Secretary of State, South Carolina Department of Archives and History,
Columbia, (hereafter cited as SCBPRO).
’’Governor Sir James Wright to Earl of Dartmouth, August 24, 1774, February 1,
1775, May 25, 1775, June 9, 1775, in K.G. Davies, ed., Documents of the American
Revolution. 1770-1783 fColonial Office Series'). 21 vols. (Dublin, Ireland: Irish
University Press, 1972-1981), 8:162-163, 9:42-43, 144, 167-168. Wright repeatedly
accused Lieutenant Governor William Bull of South Carolina of failing to take any action
to put down the rebellion in Charleston. See Kinloch Bull Jr., The Oligarchs in Colonial
and Revolutionary Charleston: Lieutenant Governor William Bull II and His Family
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991), 146-147, 202.

119
of their boasted province” and that a single armed ship could conquer it.14 Similarly,
Southern royal officials understood the role played by the coastal urban center as the
economic lifeline between the hinterlands and overseas markets. Campbell argued that if
the British navy seized Charleston, the back settlements of Georgia and the two Carolinas
would be driven by economic necessity to submit to Royal authority. He had personally
witnessed the long train of wagons that rolled into “the capital of the three southern
provinces” laden with produce to be exchanged for manufactured goods. “They almost
entirely depend for their necessary supplies,” he wrote, “on the market of Charleston.”15
Continental congressman William Hooper of North Carolina confirmed that western
North Carolina’s commercial dependence upon Charleston would compel his state to act
if the British attacked the city. He warned his state legislature to spare no expense in
defending “that metropolis.”16 Lord George Germain informed General Henry Clinton
that “Charleston is the seat of commerce of all that part of America and consequently the
l4Govemor Josiah Martin to Earl of Dartmouth, June 30, 1775, Documents of the
American Revolution. 9:209-216.
l5Lord William Campbell to Major General Henry Clinton, March 26,1776,
Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 4:531; Memorial of Lord William
Campbell and Others to Lord George Germain, August 1777, Documents of the
American Revolution. 14:182-184. See also Theodorus Swaine Drage to Benjamin
Franklin, March 2, 1771, in Leonard W. Labaree, ed., The Papers of Beniamin Franklin.
31 vols. to date (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1959-), 18:41. Drage was an
Anglican missionary in Regulator North Carolina. He wrote Franklin that “it is to be
considered that these people are three hundred and odd miles from the seat of government
[of North Carolina], and scarce have three hundred and odd pence to carry them there any
one of them. Charles Town is the market they go to.”
16William Hooper to the North Carolina Convention, November 16, 1776, in Paul
H. Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates To Congress. 1774-1789. 24 vols. to date (Washington
DC: Library of Congress, 1976-), 5:500-503.

120
place where the most essential interests of the planters are concentered. The restoration
of the legal government there must and will have very important consequences.”17
Though officials in London did not act quickly or decisively enough to please the
Southern Royal governors, Dartmouth finally ordered a naval blockade of the major
American ports, including Charleston, in July 1775.18
Six years of intermittent British naval blockades, self-imposed trading restrictions,
and British occupation brought economic disaster to Charleston’s once-thriving economy.
Carolina exports to Great Britain dropped from £579,549 in 1775 to £13,668 in 1776, and
fell to £1,074 by 1778. Charleston’s imports from Great Britain declined from £378,116
sterling in 1774 to £6,245 in 1775.19 Scarcity became a problem during 1775, and after
non-exportation went into effect on September 10 the normal exchange of goods and
produce ceased almost completely. Charleston’s markets stood empty, and merchants
closed their stores at the time of year when foodstuffs and staple commodities usually
17Lord George Germain to Major-General Henry Clinton or Officer Appointed to
Command Expedition to Southern Colonies, December 6, 1775, Documents of the
American Revolution. 11:204-205. See also Precis Prepared For the King of Events
Leading Up to the Expedition Against the Southern Colonies, December 31,1775, Naval
Documents of the American Revolution. 3:465-467.
l8Earl of Dartmouth to Lords of Admiralty, July 1, 1775, Documents of the
American Revolution.. 11:23-24.
19Bureau of the Census, comp., Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial
Times to 1970 2 vols. (Washington DC: Bureau of the Census. 1975), 2:1176. The
Continental Association cut off imports from Great Britain on December 1, 1774, but
postponed implementing non-exportation until September 10, 1775, so that Southern
planters could export their crops in 1775. See Frank W. Ryan Jr., “The Role of South
Carolina in the First Continental Congress,” South Carolina Historical Mapazine 60
(1959): 147-153.

121
piled up on the city’s wharves. Newspaper reports noted early in 1776 that “the markets
have been of late very scantily provided and everything sold at an extravagant price.”20
City merchant Josiah Smith Jr. complained that the wharves lay “quite bare and deserted,
not a vessel to be seen. In short, business of no kind in a public way to be done, but that
of fortifying the harbour and fitting out of vessels for defense.”21 William Ancrum, a
merchant-planter with the firm of Ancrum, Lance, and Loocock, warned his overseers to
do the best they could with existing plantation tools, as “there is not a hoe nor a bar of
iron to be got. If times do not become better soon (of which there seems little prospect)
we shall be greatly distressed for many articles.”22 The scarcity of hard money made
collecting debts problematic at best, and the crisis closed the courts that usually offered
creditors relief in such cases. Planters who usually came to town during the “season”
instead remained on their country estates during the winter of 1775-1776. One planter
gloomily reported that “Charles Town now has the most melancholy appearance. There
is no peace, satisfaction or happiness to be enjoyed in it.”23
20South Carolina and American General Gazette. December 8, 1775, January 19,
1776.
21 Josiah Smith Jr. to James Poyas, January 10, 1776, Naval Documents of the
American Revolution. 3:724-727.
22William Ancrum to Marlow Pryor, March 23, 1776, William Ancrum
Letterbook and Account Book, 1776-1780, South Caroliniana Library, University of
South Carolina. Ancrum owned Redband and Good Hope, near Camden.
23John Farquhasson to Gabriel Manigault, July 10, 1775, Manigault Family
Papers, South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston; Henry Laurens to James Laurens,
January 6, 1776, Henry Laurens to Martha Laurens, February 29, 1776, Papers of Henry
Laurens. 11:4-7, 129-132; Stephen Mazyck to “My Dear Brother,” February 7, 1776,
Daniel Elliott Huger Smith Papers, South Carolina Historical Society. See also Frances

122
The Provincial Congress attempted to strengthen the city’s declining economic
fortunes by restoring a measure of political stability. In November 1775 the Continental
Congress recommended that South Carolinians call “a full and free representation of the
people” to establish new governments “during the continuance of the present dispute
between Great Britain and the colonies.” Conservatives like John and Edward Rutledge
resisted this step as long as possible, but by early 1776 the elite recognized the growing
need to check the confusion created by the absence of legal government. Royal
government ceased to exist, the economy lay in ruins, slaves had become increasingly
ungovernable, and the town needed to prepare for a British attack. The Provincial
Congress ignored the call for “a full and free representation of the people” and instead
chose an eleven-man committee on February 11, 1776, to prepare a new constitution.
Traditional members of the Charleston elite—planters, lawyers, and merchants with close
ties to each other—dominated the committee.24 The Revolutionary crisis had at last
Reese Kepner, ed., “A British View of The Siege of Charleston, 1776,” Journal of
Southern History 11 (February 1945): 96-97. On January 17, 1776, the Fellowship
Society of Charleston granted a grace period to members delinquent in their dues because
of the “great scarcity of cash.” “Nothing but the absolute necessity of the times has
induced the society to give this indulgence.” Fellowship Society Papers, microfilm,
South Caroliniana Library, 317.
24 Extracts From the Journals of the Provincial Congresses. 181-182, 185. The
committee consisted of attorney-planters Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Rutledge,
and Charles Pinckney, merchant-planters Flenry Laurens and Christopher Gadsden, and
planters Rawlins Lowndes, Arthur Middleton, Henry Middleton, Thomas Bee, Thomas
Lynch Jr., and Thomas Heyward Jr. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney sat for St. John
Colleton, Rutledge for Christ Church, Lowndes for St. Bartholomew, Bee for St.
Andrews, and Lynch for Prince George’s, Winyah. The remainder represented
Charleston. Henry and Arthur Middleton were father and son, the Pinckneys were
cousins, Henry Middleton and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were father- and son-in-law,
and Pinckney and Arthur Middleton were brothers-in-law.

123
compelled the colony to take the extraordinary step of establishing a new government and
written constitution, but political “outsiders” would have no hand in its creation.
Charleston aristocrats put aside their differences over non-importation and united to
exclude upstart mechanics and backcountrymen from the committee. Six of the eleven
committee members represented Charleston, and all eleven sat for lowcountry parishes.
No delegate from a midlands or backcountry parish served, and only one, from
Georgetown, represented any of the outlying lowcountry parishes.25 The committee
brought the results of its labor before the Congress on March 2, and the delegates began
debating on March 8. Arguments over the language of the document abruptly ended after
the Provincial Congress received news from Savannah two weeks later that the King had
declared the colonies “in actual rebellion” and had closed all colonial ports to commerce.
This startling news galvanized the Congress and ended the debate. The delegates
promptly adopted the Constitution on March 26,1776. The Second Provincial Congress
adjourned that morning and reconvened that afternoon as the General Assembly.26
25Ibid„ 71-78; Walter B. Edgar and N. Louise Bailey et al., eds., Biographical
Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. 5 vols. (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1974-1992), 2:69-72,259-263,323-325,390-394,
415-418,456-460, 522-528, 577-581, 3:450-451; Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 28.
2<*Extracts From the Journals of the Provincial Congresses. 242, 254-255, 263;
South Carolina and American General Gazette. April 3, 1776; Edward McCrady, The
History of South Carolina In the Revolution. 1775-1780 (New York: Russell and Russell,
1901), 112-113. On August 23,1775, King George III refused to receive the “Olive
Branch” Petition from the Second Continental Congress and issued a proclamation
declaring the American colonies to be in a state of open rebellion. On December 23,
1775, the King issued a royal proclamation closing the American colonies to all trade and
commerce, effective March 1, 1776. See John R. Alden, A History of the American
Revolution (New York: Da Capo Press, 1969), 228; Robert Middlekauf, The Glorious
Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789 (New York: Oxford University Press,

124
The constitution of 1776 certainly represented no sharp break with the past.
Instead it sought to pacify political dissenters by making government somewhat more
inclusive during the Revolutionary crisis without radically altering traditional institutions
of government. The new document nevertheless kept governmental control firmly in the
hands of the coastal parishes. The new General Assembly had 202 members, increased
from 184 in the Provincial Congresses, and substantially more than the 48 in the colonial
Commons House of Assembly. Charleston alone held 30 of those 202 seats, and the city
combined with the surrounding parishes to control 96 of 202 seats (48 percent). The
lowcountry parishes altogether held 126 of 202 (62 percent). Jerome J. Nadelhaft has
noted that Charleston, though still heavily favored, could no longer govern without regard
for other areas.27 Nevertheless, with only 49 members needed for a quorum, Charleston’s
members could easily exert an undue influence on events in the assembly. William
Tennent, minister of Charleston’s Congregational Church and a leading religious
dissenter, complained that “so many circumstances concur to give the capital and adjacent
parishes the advantage in representation that there is danger that the government of this
state in time will degenerate into an oligarchy.”28 The backcountry consisted of 60
1982), 313-316.
27Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 30-31. The Constitution of 1776 is printed in
Francis Newton Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions. Colonial Charters, and
Other Organic Laws of the States. Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming
the United States of America. 7 vols. (Washington DC: Government Printing Office,
1909), 6:3241-3248, and in Extracts From the Journals of the Provincial Congresses. 256-
263.
28Newton B. Jones, ed., “Writings of the Reverend Willliam Tennent, 1740-
1777.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 61 (1960): 189.

125
percent of the population but held only 38 percent of the seats (76 of 202). This
represented an increase from 32 percent in the Provincial Congress. The constitution
provided no elected upper house. Instead, the General Assembly elected thirteen
members to a Legislative Council which acted as an upper house. It also elected a
president, vice-president, and a six-member Privy Council to act as an advisory panel to
the president. Finally, the new constitution retained both the established church and the
existing suffrage qualifications. Carolina’s leaders never submitted the document to the
people for ratification.29
The constitution of 1776 satisfied no one. At first glance it appears to have been a
counter-revolutionary document, strengthening Charleston’s aristocratic grip upon the
reins of power. The document survived for only two years, however, because
Charleston’s traditional leaders could no longer rule arbitrarily over the remainder of the
province without some form of consensus. Both Charleston artisans30 and backcountry
dissidents, who together constituted 43 percent of the Second Provincial Congress, played
no role whatsoever in drawing up the document. Nor had any been elected to fill
29Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 327;Daniel Joseph McDonough, “Christopher
Gadsden and Henry Laurens: The Parallel Lives of Two American Patriots,” Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Illinois, 1990, 284; David Ramsay, The History of South
Carolina. From Its First Settlement In 1670. To The Year 1808. 2 vols. (Charleston SC:
David Longworth, 1809), 1:262-263; McCrady, South Carolina In the Revolution. 1775-
1780. 114; Jerome J. Nadelhafr, “The Revolutionary Era in South Carolina, 1775-1788,”
Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1965, 19-21.
“Artisans are defined as laborers who performed skilled work with their hands.
The terms artisan, mechanic, and craftsmen are used interchangeably in this study and do
not include unskilled laborers.

126
positions in the new government.31 The more liberal members of the Charleston elite
such as Arthur Middleton, William Henry Drayton, and Christopher Gadsden, argued that
the document did not go far enough.32 Charleston conservatives, of course, disliked the
fact that it had become necessary at all. And religious dissenters in both Charleston and
the backcountry attacked the constitution because it did not guarantee religious freedom.
William Tennent, a Charleston Congregationalist minister and a member of the Second
31Mary Catherine Ferrari, “Artisans of the South: A Comparative Study of
Norfolk, Charleston and Alexandria, 1763-1800,” Ph.D. dissertation, College of William
and Mary, 1992, 88; Richard Walsh, Charleston’s Sons of Liberty: A Study of the
Artisans. 1763-1789 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1959), 81.
Artisans comprised fully one-third of Charleston’s delegation. They were Michael
Kalteisen, Daniel Cannon, builder, William Johnson, blacksmith, Peter Timothy, printer,
Joseph Verree, carpenter, Edward Weyman, upholsterer, Cato Ash, carpenter, James
Brown, carpenter, Anthony Toomer, builder and bricklayer, and John Berwick,
shoemaker. Ferrari, “Artisans of the South,” 88; Extracts From the Journals of the
Provincial Congresses. 71; Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House. 2:672-
675, 3:44, 68-69, 96, 124-126, 383-385, 716-718, 732-733, 759-761. For a list of elected
officers to the new government, see Ramsay, History of South Carolina. 1670-1808.
1:263.
32The term “liberal” is used here rather than “radical” for several reasons.
Middleton, Drayton, and Gadsden have traditionally been identified by South Carolina
historians as “radical” because they sought aggressive measures in resisting British
policy, and favored independence much earlier than other members of the Carolina elite
like Henry Laurens and Rawlins Lowndes. This is certainly true enough, but Middleton,
Drayton, and Gadsden were nevertheless never very far out in front of their colleagues,
politically or socially, and none favored any truly “radical” measures at any time during
the Revolution. To be sure, Gadsden supported disestablishment of the Anglican Church,
and acted somewhat as a spokesmen for the city’s artisans in the early stages of the
conflict, but after 1778, as we shall see, he broke with them completely over the
enforcement of an oath of allegiance. As Richard Walsh has argued, Gadsden was
“radical” in the sense that “his hatred of imperial, political, and economic control fed his
desires for independence and self-determination.” But within South Carolina, “Gadsden
was still moved by views as a merchant. ... he was horror stricken at the unrest which the
Revolution had unleashed.” Walsh, “Christopher Gadsden: Radical or Conservative
Revolutionary?” South Carolina Historical Magazine 63 (1962):195-203.

127
Provincial Congress, immediately enlisted the help of upcountry dissenters in circulating
a petition to have the Anglican church disestablished.33 But it would take more opportune
circumstances, a British naval assault, and complete separation from the Mother Country
before democratic-minded Carolinians could make more radical and permanent
alterations to the constitution.
Political squabbling among radicals, moderates, and conservatives over the limits
and excesses of the constitution—and the revolution it represented—ended abruptly when
Governor John Rutledge received news on May 31, 1776, of a large British fleet sighted
twenty miles north of Charleston.34 Artisans, merchants, and planters now united to
defend their metropolis against military invasion. Charlestonians had been preparing the
city’s defenses since the spring of 1775, when the Provincial Congress appointed the first
Council of Safety to direct the colony’s military efforts. British warships had lain at
anchor in Charleston Harbor throughout the summer and fall of that year and had finally
33John Wesley Brinsfield, Religion and Politics in Colonial South Carolina
(Easley SC: Southern Historical Press, 1983), 64; George C. Rogers Jr., Church and State
In Eighteenth-Century South Carolina (Charleston SC: Dalcho Historical Society, 1959),
21; Elisha P. Douglass, Rebels and Democrats: The Struggle For Equal Political Rights
and Majority Rule During The American Revolution (Chapel Hill NC: University of
North Carolina Press, 1955), 39-43.
34McCradv. South Carolina in the Revolution 1775-1780. 137. John Adams had
this to say about South Carolina’s new government: “Two young gentlemen from South
Carolina now in this city [Philadelphia], who were in Charles Town when their new
Constitution was promulgated, and when their new Governor and Council and Assembly
walked out in procession . . . told me that they were beheld by the people with transports
and tears of joy. The people gazed at them with a kind of rapture.” John Adams to
Abigail Adams, May 17, 1776, in Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., The Adams Paners. Series
11. Adams Family Correspondence. 2 volumes (New York: Atheneum, 1965), 1:411.

128
sailed for Cape Fear, North Carolina, in early 1776.35 Royal Governor William Campbell
strongly protested that the British ships should remain in Charleston because of “the vast
difference between the provinces in wealth, strength, and of course in the power of doing
mischief.”36 After the British departure, the city’s militia remained on constant alert,
reinforced by country militia from the surrounding lowcountry parishes.37 The Council of
Safety fortified Sullivan’s Island in Charleston Harbor, while troops mounted cannon on
the waterfront batteries.38 In late February the Continental Congress created the Middle
and Southern military departments, the latter under the command of General Charles
Lee.39 A British naval squadron under Sir Peter Parker reached Charleston on June 4,
35See South Carolina and American General Gazette. September 1, 1775, for early
military preparations. Henry Laurens reported that “the little ships of war which were
lying in Rebellion Road are all now going out to sea as I am told, I believe in search of
provision.” Laurens to James Laurens, January 6, 1776, Papers of Henry Laurens 11:7.
36CampbeIl to Earl of Dartmouth, January 1, 1776, Documents of the American
Revolution. 12:29.
37"The houses in Charles Town which had been emptied of their owners and their
furniture are now made use of as barracks for the country rifle-men and other militia.”
Henry Laurens to William Manning, February 27, 1776, Papers of Henry Laurens.
11:122.
38Minutes of the South Carolina Council of Safety, January 8-9, 1776, Naval
Documents of the American Revolution. 3:686-687, 705; South Carolina and American
General Gazette. January 19, 1776; Thomas Lynch to George Washington, January 16,
1776, in W.W. Abbot, ed., The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series.
6 vols. to date (Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1985-), 3:110.
39Congress created the departments on February 27 and appointed officers for
them on March 1, 1776. See Journals of the Continental Congress. 4:132-133, 157, 174,
180-181, and John Hancock to George Washington, March 6, 1776, in Papers of George
Washington: Revolutionary War Series. 3:415.

129
1776, and crossed the sand bar into the harbor three days later.40 Lee arrived with
Continental troops to take command of the city’s defense the very next day. Lee found
South Carolina troops stationed at Fort Johnson on James Island, on Sullivan’s Island,
and on the bay in Charleston.41 The general thought the city’s defenses poorly
constructed, and he ordered the provincial troops to abandon the unfinished fort on
Sullivan’s Island commanded by William Moultrie. Governor Rutledge refused, and the
troops stayed on the island. Thomas Pinckney, at Fort Johnson on James Island, reported
that “our men are healthy and very cheerful, so that I flatter myself if they venture in we
shall be able to give a very good account of them.” Richard Hutson boasted that “the fort
will be tendered to them at the mouth of the cannon. We are preparing for the most
vigorous resistance in our power.”42 Charlestonians dug in and waited.
The attack on the city and its successful defense had a three-pronged effect: it
united immediately Charleston’s divided political factions (if only temporarily) and gave
new life to the resistance movement, it made Carolina conservatives more receptive to
complete separation from Britain, and it gave Southerners a false sense of security about
Charleston’s invincibility. The British naval and infantry assault of June 28, 1776, ended
40Sir Peter Parker to Philip Stevens, July 9, 1776, ADM 1/486, Admirals’
Dispatches, Admiralty and Secretariat Papers, Public Record Office, London, microfilm.
41 William Thomas Bulger Jr., “The British Expedition To Charleston, 1779-
1780,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1957, 13, 15; Ramsay, History of
South Carolina 1670-1808. 1:270.
42Thomas Pinckney to Harriott Horry, June 5,1776, in Jack L. Cross, ed., “Letters
of Thomas Pinckney, 1775-1780,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 58 (January
1957): 67; Richard Hutson to Isaac Hayne, June 9, 1776, Richard Hutson Letterbook,
South Carolina Historical Society.

130
in unqualified disaster. Any ship hoping to reach the city had to pass through the
northern part of the harbor and come under the guns of the unfinished fort on Sullivan’s
Island.43 Parker failed to get a single ship past the fort, while British infantry troops
remained stranded on Long Island, separated from Sullivan’s Island by a breach of water
seven feet deep.44 Charles Lee told George Washington that he had never experienced a
more intense attack, and that the South Carolinians on Sullivan’s Island “acted like
Romans in the third century.”45 One local witness confessed it was “almost incredible to
think that a palmetto log fort with twelve guns and three hundred men should make such
havoc with so formidable a fleet of British vessels.”46 The British attack of 1776 would
43This was due to the shoal extending from James Island into the center of the
harbor. Fort Sumter was built on this shoal. See Bulger, “British Expedition to
Charleston,” 15.
■“The British sounded the Breach between the islands at low tide. At high tide it
could not be crossed. Sir Peter Parker later maintained that “if the troops could have
cooperated on this attack His Majesty would have been in possession of Sullivan’s
Island.” Peter Parker to Philip Stevens, July 9, 1776, ADM 1/486, 64-70. Long Island is
now the Isle of Palms.
45Charles Lee to George Washington, July 1, 1776, in Papers of George
Washington: Revolutionary War Series. 5:169.
46Extract of a letter from Charleston, July 3, 1776, Pennsylvania Evening Post.
July 23,1776, quoted in Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 5:903-906. For
more detailed accounts of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, see McCrady, South Carolina In
the Revolution. 1775-1780. 128-162; Bulger, “British Expedition to Charleston,” 6-33;
South Carolina and American General Gazette. August 2,1776; Kepner, “British View of
the Siege of Charleston, 1776;” Eric Robson, “The Expedition to the Southern Colonies,
1775-1776.” English Historical Review 66 (October 1951): 535-560; Peter Parker to
Philip Stevens, July 9, 1776, ADM 1/486, 64-70; Walter J. Fraser, Jr., Charleston!
Charleston! The History of a Southern City (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina
Press, 1989), 148-150; Fraser, Patriots. Pistols and Petticoats: “Poor Sinful Charles
Town” During the American Revolution Second ed. (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1993), 80-95; John S. Pancake, This Destructive War: The British

131
not be the last attempt to conquer the Southern metropolis, and the next two attacks
applied the lessons learned from the first. The invasions of 1779 and 1780 would be
carefully planned and more successful.
The naval bombardment of 1776 galvanized Charleston radicals and moderates
and made conservatives more receptive to total independence from Great Britain. One
correspondent noted that “the spirits of our people are higher than at any period. I
believe there are few among us who have an idea of giving up the cause, happen what
will.”47 South Carolina’s representatives in the Continental Congress signed the
Declaration of Independence reluctantly, unsure how conservative Carolinians back home
would react. Heretofore, Charleston conservatives had rejected any notion of
independence. When Christopher Gadsden returned from Philadelphia with a copy of
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense in early 1776, his proposals for a complete separation
from Britain met harsh and swift condemnation from the Provincial Congress.48
Conservatives contended that only extraordinary events had driven royal government
from the colony and these circumstances dictated the necessity for a new constitution. It
would serve, as John Rutledge argued, only “till an accommodation of the unhappy
Campaign in the Carolinas. 1780-1782 (Tuscaloosa AL: University of Alabama Press,
1985), 20-25.
47William Fleming to Thomas Jefferson, July 27, 1776, in Julian P. Boyd et al.,
eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 26 vols. to date (Princeton NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1950-), 1:474-475.
48Henry Laurens to Georgia Authorities, February 13, 1776, in “Papers of the
Second Council of Safety of the Revolutionary Party in South Carolina, November 1775-
March 1776.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 4 fAnril 1903): 87-88. Laurens
nevertheless passed on a copy of Common Sense to Whigs in Georgia.

132
differences can be obtained, and that event is still desired.”49 The Declaration of
Independence, therefore, coincided fortuitously with the British attack on Charleston, and
the city greeted the news “amidst loud acclamations of thousands.”50 Charlestonians
heard the Declaration read publicly in Broad Street and in front of the Exchange and
celebrated by firing the cannon on the Cooper River bastions.51 The Reverend William
Tennent rejoiced that “no event has seemed to diffuse more general satisfaction among
the people. This seems to be designed as a most import epocha in the history of South
Carolina.”52 Conservative Charlestonians watched these events with heavy hearts and
mixed emotions. Henry Laurens described the scene as “serious, important, and awful,”
and confessed that he felt like “a dutiful son thrust by the hand of violence out of a
father’s house into the wide world.” Though Charleston remained free from military
attack for almost three years after 1776, independence brought little peace or security.
Celebration soon gave way to rancorous political conflict over constitutional revision,
religious freedom, equal representation, greater scarcity of goods and provision, rampant
inflation, disrupted trade, rumors of impending invasions, and devastating fires and riots.
<9South Carolina and American General Gazette. April 17, 1776; McDonough,
“Gadsden and Laurens,” 283.
50South Carolina Delegates to John Rutledge, July 9, 1776, Letters of Delegates to
Congress. 4:420-421: South Carolina and American General Gazette. August 2,1776;
McCrady, South Carolina in the Revolution. 1775-1780. 177; Ramsay, History of South
Carolina. 1670-1808. 1:288-289; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, August 14, 1776,
Papers of Henry Laurens. 11:228.
51Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 332.
52Weir, “A Most Important Enocha:” The Coming of the Revolution in South
Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1970), 77.

133
Charleston liberals, led by Christopher Gadsden, utilized both the British invasion
and independence to justify their efforts to give South Carolina’s government a more
permanent design. Delegates began debating revisions to the temporary constitution of
1776 in the newly elected General Assembly of September 1776. Religious dissenters
and backcountry representatives, emboldened by the British attack, sought more extensive
and permanent changes.53 Charleston conservatives, led by the Rutledges, resisted any
alterations to the existing government, arguing throughout the deliberations that the
constitution of 1776 contained no provision for amendment. Consequently, when the
legislature finally approved a new state constitution in March 1778, President John
Rutledge resigned his post rather than give his sanction to the new government it created.
Simultaneously, however, pragmatic lowcountry leaders realized that they would have to
make significant political and religious concessions in order to gain backcountry support
both for their government and for their cause against British tyranny.S4
The constitution of 1778 demonstrates again the tenuous grip of the lowcountry
elite upon the course and direction of the Revolution. Charleston conservatives would
never have assented to its passage had the calamities of war not forced them to do so, and
they surely knew that privileges once lost could never be regained. The disestablishment
of the Anglican Church emerged as the most radical measure, but other changes rankled
S3William Edwin Hemphill et. al., eds., Journals of the General Assembly and
House of Representatives. 1776-1780 The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1970), 143.
54South Carolina and American General Gazette. March 12, 1778; John Lewis
Gervais to Henry Laurens, March 16, 1778, Papers of Henry Laurens. 13:2-8.

134
the old guard as well. Democratic features of the new constitution altered the Privy
Council, replaced the Legislative Council with a Senate directly elected by the voters,
removed the president’s veto power, lowered suffrage qualifications, and pledged to
reapportion the legislature every seven years. Most ominous for Charlestonians, the
constitution substituted the term “seat of government” for “Charles Town,” with the clear
implication that the capital could one day be moved. John Rutledge sounded strangely
democratic by protesting that the Assembly had overstepped its authority in making such
sweeping changes without calling a special constitutional convention. In reality,
Rutledge objected to the document’s democratic elements, Charleston’s loss of power,
and the reduction of the govemors’s powers. He thought the latter reflected on his
performance in that office and considered the change a personal insult.55
The constitution of 1778, though more radical than its predecessor, still did not
entirely satisfy all factions. Charleston’s artisans disliked it because it appeared that
55The text of the constitution of 1778 is in Thorpe, ed., Federal and State
Constitutions. 6:3248-3257. See also Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 35-43; Douglass,
Rebels and Democrats. 43-44; Carl J. Vipperman, The Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 1721-
1800 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1978), 202-205; Meleney,
Public Life of Aedanus Burke. 41-49; Clow, “Edward Rutledge,” 127-133; McDonough,
“Gadsden and Laurens,” 312-318; Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 333; James Haw, “The
Rutledges, The Continental Congress, and Independence,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 94 (October 1993): 250-251. Haw’s article is especially useful on the
discussion of John Rutledges’ supposed continued desire for an accommodation with
Great Britain as his reason for vetoing the constitution. Haw correctly points out that the
reconciliation Rutledge wished for was simply the negotiation of a successful peace treaty
between America and Britain, not a reunion. Such a position would have been untenable
in even the most conservative Whig by 1778. For the changing relationship between the
executive and the legislature, see Christopher F. Lee, “The Transformation of the
Executive in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 93
(April 1992): 85-100.

135
moderates and conservatives would still dominate the government, especially after
cautious Rawlins Lowndes (nicknamed at one point “Rawlinus Postponator”) replaced
Rutledge as governor. And though the backcountry now controlled about 40 percent of
the legislature and 39 percent of the senate, upcountry representatives remained angry that
the lower house had not been reapportioned. With Charleston controlling 46 percent of
the senate, the balance of power in that body lay with the outlying lowcountry parishes of
Beaufort and Georgetown. The new constitution also required the presence of more
legislators for a quorum, making it difficult to conduct business without backcountry
members present. And while the constitution lowered suffrage qualifications somewhat,
it raised the requirements for officeholding.56 And though religious dissenters rejoiced at
the overthrow of the established church, “the Christian Protestant Religion” replaced
Anglicanism as the established religion of the state. Only Protestants could now serve in
government, and the constitution prohibited ministers—such as dissenter William
Tennent—from holding office. Tennent had played a prominent role in shepherding
religious toleration through the Assembly.
The attack on the established church represented nothing less than an assault on
Charleston’s aristocratic preeminence and privilege within the state. The Church of
England had been the established church in South Carolina since the first decade of the
eighteenth century, and it dominated lowcountry South Carolina. As in tidewater
Virginia, the church served as a bulwark of gentry beliefs, providing religious
56Walsh, Charleston’s Sons of Liberty. 82; Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 40-41;
Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 333; McDonough, “Gadsden and Laurens,” 315-317.

136
reinforcement for the ordered, hierarchical, and deferential society of the Charleston
elite.57 In the mid-1730s, Presbyterian and Baptist dissenters began settling in
backcountry South Carolina, bringing with them an aggressive, emotionally charged
revivalistic religion.58 Enthusiastic dissenters like Baptist minister Oliver Hart attacked
nearly every facet of the dominant gentry culture, including the doctrines and practices of
the Anglican church. Hart railed against “our merry gentry, who delight so much in
frolicking and dancing” and condemned their “filthiness, foolish talking, jesting and
suchlike things.”59 Hugh Alison likewise attacked aristocracy and inherited privilege
when he preached that “to be sprung from illustrious progenitors gives no real worth or
57For Virginia, see especially Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia. 1740-
1790 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1982). Isaac is concerned with the rise of popular
evangelicalism in Virginia and the creation of an evangelical “counterculture” which
undermined the dominant gentry culture and eventually broke the religious hegemony of
the established Anglican church.
58Brinsfield, Religion and Politics in Colonial South Carolina. 16-38; S. Charles
Bolton, Southern Anglicanism: The Church of England in Colonial South Carolina
(Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1982); David T. Morgan, “The Great Awakening in the
Carolinas and Georgia, 1740-1775,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina,
1968; David T. Morgan, “The Great Awakening in South Carolina, 1740-1775,” South
Atlantic Quarterly 70 (Autumn 1971): 595-606; Harold W. Gardner, “The Dissenting
Sects on the Southern Colonial Frontier, 1720-1770,” Ph. D. dissertation, University of
Kansas, 1969; William Howland Kenney III, “Alexander Garden and George Whitefield:
The Significance of Revivalism in South Carolina, 1738-1741,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 71 (January 1970): 1-16.
5901iver Hart, Dancing Exploded: A Sermon Showing the Unlawfulness.
Sinfulness, and Bad Consequences of Balls. Assemblies, and Dances in General
Delivered in Charlestown. South Carolina. March 22, 1778 (Charlestown SC: David
Bruce, 1778), 3-4; Durward Turrentine Stokes, “The Clergy of the Carolinas and the
American Revolution,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1968, 219.

137
excellency to any man.”60 The established church in South Carolina gained few converts
in the backcountry, and by the Revolution Anglicans had been relegated to a small but
powerful minority concentrated in the lowcountry. Thus by attacking the privileges of the
established church, dissenters implicitly challenged the aristocratic social structure of the
Charleston elite.
Charleston dissenters William Tennent, Oliver Hart, and backcountry Baptist
Richard Furman led the efforts to disestablish the Anglican Church. After the adoption of
the constitution of 1776, Hart and Furman invited ministers of all denominations to meet
at the Baptist Church at the High Hills of Santee to draft a petition to the legislature
calling for disestablishment. Dissenters drew parallels between compulsory support of a
church they did not attend and the colonial resistance to imperial taxes, and thousands of
backcountry supporters signed the petition. The movement to disestablish the Anglican
church became part of the process of constitutional reform in 1776-1777. Christopher
Gadsden supported the dissenters’ position and introduced the petition in the legislature
in January 1777. Charleston Congregationalist William Tennent spoke forcefully in
behalf of the petition, arguing that religious establishments infringed upon religious
liberty. No legislature, he argued, had the right to interfere with and tax the “conscience
of men.” “While you are contending for the rights of mankind with one of the greatest
powers upon earth,” he asked, “will you leave your own Constitution marked with
injustice and oppression?” He challenged the Charleston elite to “yield to the mighty
“Hugh Alison, The Faithful Servant of Christ Honoured and Rewarded: A
Sermon Sacred to the Memory of the Reverend William Tennent (Charlestown SC: David
Bruce, 1777), 23.

138
current of American freedom and glory” and vote to strip the Anglican Church of the
privileges it enjoyed at the expense of religious freedom.61
The new constitution of 1778 already weakened Charleston’s traditional political
power, and the loss of an established church would be a severe blow to the city’s cultural
autonomy as well. Like the Commons House of Assembly, the Anglican Church acted as
an integral component of elite hegemony, and dissenters would need to muster more than
Tennent’s eloquence to defeat lowcountry supporters of establishment. The Charleston
elite openly divided over the issue. Gadsden, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Edward
Rutledge, and William Henry Drayton supported the petition, while Rawlins Lowndes,
Richard Hutson, Charles Pinckney, and John Rutledge supported the Anglican church,
arguing that establishment should be continued even without taxation.62 Many Charleston
aristocrats feared that maintaining establishment could stoke the fires of backcountry
loyalism, even though Dissenting ministers overwhelmingly supported the Revolutionary
movement. Without religious concessions, the lowcountry might stand alone against the
61William Tennent, Mr, Tennent’s Speech on the Dissenting Petition. Delivered in
the House of Assembly, Charles-Town. South Carolina. January 11. 1777 (Charlestown
SC: Peter Timothy, 1777), 6-7,17,28; Samuel A. Lilly, “The Culture of Revolutionary
Charleston,” Ph.D. dissertation, Miami University, 1972,125-126.
62Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. 50-51; Godbold and Woody,
Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution. 167-168; Frances Leigh Williams, A
Founding Family: The Pinckneys of South Carolina (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1978), 99-100; Richard Hutson to Isaac Hayne, January 18, 1777, Richard
Hutson Letterbook, South Carolina Historical Society; A.S. Salley Jr., ed., Col. William
Hill’s Memoirs of the Revolution (Columbia SC: The State Company, 1921), 30;
Brinsfield, Religion and Politics in Colonial South Carolina. 116.

139
British threat.63 The need for political unity finally triumphed, and the bill for
disestablishment passed unanimously. The Anglican Church would now have to survive
on its own, no longer supported by evangelical and backcountry taxes.
The Revolutionary movement had delivered another blow to Charleston
aristocratic hegemony. The disestablishment of the Anglican church in 1778
demonstrates the speed with which “outsiders”-in this case religious dissenters-
capitalized on the unprecedented opportunities provided by the upheavals of war to strike
a blow against entrenched elite power. Members of Charleston’s Congregational Church
credited the “the glorious American revolution” for releasing them from the chains of
established religion and for placing “religious liberties on the broad bottom of universal
equality.”64 Oliver Hart rejoiced that “religion is set free here,” while others hoped that
converts would flock to evangelical denominations to hear the more dynamic and popular
dissenting preachers.65 William Tennent even argued that disestablishment would
enhance economic prosperity, opening the state to energetic and entrepreneurial
“Stokes, “Clergy of the Carolinas and the American Revolution,” 181,211,227;
“Historical Sketch of the First Baptist Church,” Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1881
(Charleston SC: News and Courier Book Presses, 1881), 317-319; Bolton, Southern
Anglicanism. 83.
“Independent or Congregational (Circular) Church, Charleston, Records, 1695-
1935, WPA Transcripts, 1940, South Caroliniana Library, 146-147, copied from original
in possession of Congregational Church, Charleston.
“Oliver Hart to Joseph Hart, March 24, 1778, Oliver Hart Papers, South
Caroliniana Library; Oliver Hart to Richard Furman, February 12, 1777, Richard Furman
Correspondence, Special Collections Library, Furman University, Greenville, South
Carolina, microfilm, South Caroliniana Library.

140
dissenters.66 Charleston lawyer Edward Rutledge, however, remained less sanguine.
“Religion,” he wrote, “is now become the subject of dispute and will I am afraid play the
Devil with us.”67 The Revolution forced rapid and extensive changes upon Charleston’s
elite, and lost privileges would prove difficult to regain. Indeed, just twelve years later
the Constitution of 1790 established complete religious freedom and separation of church
and state.
The Revolution’s transforming effect upon the power of Charleston’s traditional
leaders perhaps manifested itself most clearly in the economic life of the city. The elite
proved to be as impotent in protecting the city’s once-thriving economy from the ravages
of war as they had been in preserving the established church. Despite hopes that a more
stable and permanent government would steady the erratic economy, Charleston
nevertheless suffered from scarcity, inflation, “avarice, and extortion.”68 A British
military invasion looked almost tame by comparison. The closure of Charleston’s regular
avenue of commerce with Great Britain in 1775 forced many import/export merchants out
of business altogether. Continued business simply became too risky for many merchants.
The British navy blockaded American ports, and privateers preyed on American
66Tennent, Mr. Tennent’s Speech. 18.
67Edward Rutledge to Robert Morris, January 23, 1777, quoted in Godbold and
Woody. Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution. 168.
68John Wells Jr. to Henry Laurens, April 20, 1778, Papers of Henry Laurens.
13:161-162.

141
shipping.69 Some tradesmen retired rather than risk their capital, but many enterprising
Charleston merchants opened new avenues of trade with the French, the Dutch, and their
colonies in the West Indies.70 The flow of imports slowed to a trickle and at times ceased
altogether, but when goods did slip through the blockade they sold for outrageous prices.
Charleston, like Baltimore, became the commercial lifeline for states as far north as New
Jersey after the British captured New York in October 1776 and Philadelphia in
September 1777.71 Many merchants gambled, took risks, and made fortunes almost
overnight. John Adams marveled that “South Carolina seems to display a spirit of
enterprise in trade superior to any other state.”72 Indeed, Charleston merchants during the
early phase of the Revolution exhibited the same “drive and flexibility, the tolerance for
69Congress opened colonial ports to ships of all nations except Great Britain on
April 6, 1776. See Thomas Pinckney to Harriott Horry, undated, “Letters of Thomas
Pinckney,” 30.
’“Unknown to Gabriel Manigault, March 10, 1777, Manigault Family Papers,
South Carolina Historical Society; John Adams to James Warren, April 6, 1777, John
Bondfield to the Commissioners, May 8, 1778, in Robert J. Taylor, ed., The Adams
Papers. Series III, The Papers of John Adams. 10 vols. to date (Cambridge MA: Belknap
Press of Harvard University Press, 1977-), 5:145, 6:99-100; Bondfield to the American
Commissioners, October 3, 1778, Papers of Beniamin Franklin. 27:492-493; McCrady,
South Carolina In the Revolution. 1775-1780.212-220.
7lSee Captain Robert Fanshaw to Vice-Admiral Viscount Howe, February 13,
1778: “Charleston was the great emporium of the southern colonies to which foreigners
bringing supplies chiefly resorted; that from thence a considerable fleet of merchantmen .
. .was preparing to sail and that to complete the lading of this fleet some hundreds of
wagons were constantly employed bringing the produce of the country so far distant as
Virginia. Such circumstances induced me to think that that place required the utmost
attention.” Documents of the American Revolution. 15:46; Ramsay. History of South
Carolina 1670-1808. 1:289; Browne, Baltimore in the Nation. 9-11.
72Adams to James Warren, April 6, 1777, Papers of John Adams 5:145.

142
risk, [and] roving quest for new markets,” that characterized Philadelphia businessmen
during the Revolutionary era.73
Charleston’s import trade rose and fell between 1776 and 1780 depending upon
the amount of British naval activity in Southern waters. Merchants carried on a
flourishing trade in 1777 after the unsuccessful British assault on Sullivan’s Island.74
British ships reappeared in menacing numbers during 1778, however, and trading slowed
again after the British captured Savannah in December 1778.” Both non-exportation and
British depredations affected Charleston’s export trade. Enterprising Charleston
merchants found alternative markets for Carolina rice, indigo, and naval stores in France,
Holland, and Spain.76 Wholesale commodity prices, though only partially available for
73Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise. 344, 355.
74See Christopher Gadsden to Thomas Mumford, February 19, 1777, in Richard
Walsh, ed., The Writings of Christopher Gadsden. 1746-1805 (Columbia SC: University
of South Carolina Press, 1966), 120; John Adams to James Warren, April 6, 1777, Papers
of John Adams. 5:145; Richard Henry Lee to the Governor of Virginia, November 24,
1777, in James Curtis Ballagh, ed., The Letters of Richard Henry Lee. 2 vols. (New York:
The MacMillan Company, 1912), 1:362.
75See for instance Joseph Kershaw to Henry Laurens, February 16, 1778: “Our
port has been blocked up for a considerable length of time by two or three British
cruisers, and some privateers out of [St.] Augustine;” John Rutledge to Henry Laurens,
February 16, 1778: “British cruisers hav[e] done much damage on our coast.” Papers of
Henry Laurens. 12:452-455. William Ancrum to Eli Kershaw, April 4,1778: “We have
had no arrivals lately, the miscarriage of our fleet and the many vessels that have been
lately taken, will in all probability keep up the price of goods, rum is rising.” William
Ancrum Letterbook, South Caroliniana Library.
76Some merchants apparently even skirted around non-exportation laws. William
Ancrum to Campbell, Hooper and Company, September 5, 1778: “The embargo prevents
the exportation of rice, notwithstanding I believe some small parcels are shipped off
clandestinely and with some risk.” William Ancrum Letterbook, South Caroliniana
Library. The loss of Carolina naval stores especially hurt the British navy. See Lord

143
the years 1775-1780, do not seem to have fluctuated as wildly as the price of imported
goods. Rice sold for the same price in September 1 111 that it brought in the spring of
1775.77
The disruptions in the normal avenues of commerce made goods and money
scarce in Charleston and caused prices to rise to excessive heights. William Ancrum, a
wealthy merchant with the firm of Ancrum, Lance, and Loocock, wrote in late 1 111 that
“the loss attending our exports is sufficiently made up by the profits on our imports, all
kinds of dry goods selling at most exorbitant prices.” By April 1778 Ancrum advised
Camden storekeeper Eli Kershaw that “the miscarriage of our fleet and the many vessels
that have been lately taken” meant that prices would remain high. In September of 1778
Ancrum complained that “trade is remarkably dull here at present,” but a month later
rumors of an imminent British invasion sent prices soaring again. Speculators snatched
up available supplies and provisions to sell to the army. Six months later trade had
slowed again: “Of late very few arrivals and no wagons as usual coming to town, little or
no business is done in the shopkeeping way.”78 The vicissitudes of the market allowed
one Loyalist farmer in early 1778 to sell provisions in Charleston at a profit of 300
George Germain to General Sir Henry Clinton, August 5, 1778, Documents of the
American Revolution. 15:177-178.
77George Rogers Taylor, “Wholesale Commodity Prices at Charleston, South
Carolina, 1732-1791.” Journal of Economic and Business History 4 (1932): 366n.
78William Ancrum to Sam Chollet, October 6, 1777, Ancrum to Eli Kershaw,
April 4, 1778, Ancrum to John Chesnut, October 17, 1778, April 28, 1779, William
Ancrum Letterbook, South Caroliniana Library. See also Robert Williams to unknown,
September 18, 1778, Manigault Family Papers, South Carolina Historical Society.

144
percent.79 Rampant inflation made a bad situation intolerable. The Provincial Congress
twice authorized printing paper currency in 1775, and the new General Assembly
continued the policy after adopting the constitution of 1776. The inflation rate rose from
135 percent in 1777 to 8,114 percent by June 1780.80 One former British official wryly
observed that “their money [is] so depreciated that it has become a subject of melancholy
ridicule, even to themselves.”81
Rampant inflation, scarcity, and forestalling eluded elite attempts to manage
Charleston’s wartime economy. Citizens complained repeatedly, and Charleston’s
elected leaders proved incapable of dealing effectively with mounting problems.82 The
Reverend Oliver Hart of Charleston’s First Baptist Church protested that “we have been
buying and selling and preying on each other like vultures.”83 Charleston remained
unincorporated until 1783, and city leaders thus lacked sufficient political, social, or
79Alexander Chesney Journal, 8, Public Record Office, Northern Ireland,
photocopy, South Caroliniana Library.
80W. Robert Higgins, “The South Carolina Revolutionary Debt and Its Holders,
1776-1780,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 72 (January 1971): 15-29; Ferrari,
“Artisans of the South,” 121. According to George Rogers Taylor, a large supply of
Continental paper currency arrived in Charleston in the fall of 1777, and from that time
on currency depreciation was continuous. Taylor, “Wholesale Commodity Prices,” 366.
81 James Simpson to Sir Henry Clinton, August 20,1779, Miscellaneous
Manuscripts Collection, Series I, South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.
82See South Carolina and American General Gazette. January 19, August 21,
1776, April 24, May 1, May 15, November 20, 1777, February 19, 1778, January 19,
1780; Gazette of the State of South Carolina. April 9, May 5, May 12, 1777.
“Oliver Hart to Joseph Hart, February 16, 1779, Oliver Hart Papers, South
Caroliniana Library.

145
economic institutions to meet the overwhelming challenges of war. The lack of a strong
urban government had never been more glaring, and city commissioners made only
ineffectual and feeble attempts to address Charleston’s difficulties. For instance, local
laws prohibited slaves from selling goods at prices unauthorized by their owners.
Magistrates threatened to prosecute any free black or slave who charged higher prices, but
effective enforcement proved difficult.84 Complaints continued throughout the war about
the lack of any systematic attempt to control monopolizing and forestalling, and outraged
consumers repeatedly clamored for stricter regulation of Charleston’s markets.
“Poplicola” demanded regulated prices to curb the “selfishness of mankind.” Freedom,
he argued, did not entail capitalizing on scarcity by charging outrageous prices. To do so
would “defeat the very principle which we are now contending for.”85 Another “Citizen”
asked, “is not every part of the community and their offspring to reap the equal advantage
of the glorious struggle?”86 The great fire that swept through a large part of the city on
January 15, 1778, served to magnify existing social and economic problems. One local
merchant reported that “the distresses of many, before very great, now becomes almost
insupportable.”87 The high price of artisan labor meant that many of the fire’s victims
could not even afford estimates for repairs, even if the scarce materials they needed had
^South Carolina and American General Gazette. May 1, May 15, 1777; Gazette of
the State of South Carolina. May 5, May 12, 1777.
8SSouth Carolina and American General Gazette. August 21, 1776.
“ibid., February 19, 1778.
87William Ancrum to Parker Quince, January 28, 1778, William Ancrum
Letterbook, South Caroliniana Library.

146
been available. For many citizens the fire proved to be a crippling blow, creating “as
complete a scene of woe and horror as the human imagination can picture.”88 The fire
compounded the problems of the city’s poor, who complained that they suffered unduly
from high prices for food, clothing, and firewood. Charleston’s church wardens,
responsible for administering to the poor, had to borrow money from the state legislature
every year from 1776 to 1780. No poor tax had been collected in Charleston since 1774.
Dr. George Logan finally told parish officials in late 1779 that he could not “possibly
attend the poor of the parish after this year” because scarcity had driven up the price of
medicine to exorbitant rates.89 On at least one occasion citizens took matters into their
own hands. In July 1778 angry Charlestonians smashed the windows of a merchant
named Fitzsimons for raising the price of candles.90
88John Wells Jr. to Henry Laurens, January 23, 1778, Papers of Henry Laurens.
12:332. See also South Carolina and American General Gazette. January 29,1778; Ralph
Izard to the American Commissioners, April 29, 1778, Papers of Beniamin Franklin.
26:375; Oliver Hart to Joseph Hart, March 24, 1778, Oliver Hart Diary, January 15,1778,
Oliver Hart Papers, South Caroliniana Library; Samuel G. Stoney, ed., “The Great Fire of
1778 Seen Through Contemporary Letters,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 64
(January 1963): 23-26.
89Minutes of Vestry Meeting, August 7, 1776, April 1, 1777, May 26, 1778,
August 3, 1779, December 8, 1779, Protestant Episcopal Church, St. Philips, Charleston,
Records, 1732-1910, WPA Transcripts, 1939, 141, 144-145, 151, 159, 162, South
Caroliniana Library, copied from the original in the possession of St. Philips Church,
Charleston.
90John Lewis Gervais to Henry Laurens, July 6, 1778, John Lewis Gervais and
Henry Laurens Correspondence, South Carolina Historical Society. This was probably
Christopher Fitzsimons, who later signed a proclamation in 1780 congratulating British
officers Henry Clinton and Marion Arbuthnot on the conquest of Charleston. See Robert
W. Barnwell Jr., “Addressers of Clinton and Arbuthnot,” Proceedings of the South
Carolina Historical Association. 1939, 44. On February 26, 1782, the South Carolina
General Assembly banished Fitzsimons from the state and confiscated his property. See

147
The city’s artisans continued to challenge elite authority, as they had in pre-war
years, and carried on their long-standing economic battle against merchants who flooded
the market (albeit sporadically during these years) with imported goods. Even during the
war artisans continued to propel the elite toward more radical measures, demanding not
only political independence but freedom from British economic tyranny as well. They
especially condemned the many merchants who imported British manufactured goods
from the West Indian islands, extending even after independence the competition from
British industries.91 Not surprisingly, many of the city’s craftsmen became staunch
supporters of the oath of allegiance passed in 1778. The previous oath of 1776 applied
only to former royal officials, but the act signed by President Rawlins Lowndes on March
28, 1778, required all males in South Carolina over the age of sixteen to swear allegiance
to the state. Charlestonians had thirty days in which to comply or lose the right to hold
office, vote, bring suit, bear arms, serve on juries, buy, sell or hold property, or pursue a
trade. Anyone who refused to sign and left the state could, upon returning, be charged
with treason and sentenced to death. The city’s artisans enthusiastically supported strict
enforcement of the oath because it compelled Loyalist-leaning merchants who imported
British goods either to support the Whig cause or leave the state.
When Lowndes extended the deadline to June 5 (at the recommendation of the
Continental Congress), the artisans exploded in protest. They called for mass meetings
Ella Pettit Levett, “Loyalism in Charleston, 1761-1784,” Ibid., 1936, 12-14; A.S. Salley
Jr., ed., Journal of the House of Representatives of South Carolina. January 8. 1782-
Februarv26. 1782 (Columbia SC: The State Company, 1916), 27, 32.
91Walsh, Charleston’s Sons of Liberty. 80.

148
and took to the streets to denounce what they considered to be a preferential and
treasonous act. Vice President Christopher Gadsden broke ranks with his artisanal
colleagues and supported Lowndes, severing a relationship between Gadsden and the
mechanics that began with the Stamp Act crisis of 1765. Despite Gadsden’s opposition,
artisans and other staunch Whigs prevented Lowndes’s extension from taking effect.
After this episode of political defiance, Gadsden, like many members of the elite before
him, turned considerably more moderate and became a staunch defender of the status quo.
The incident is suggestive of the nominal power that aristocratic leaders exercised during
the war and the feeble grip they maintained upon political and economic events in
Charleston during the Revolution.92
Charleston’s economic condition between 1776 and 1780 thus contradicts the
notion that the elite remained firmly in control of Revolutionary events. Planters,
lawyers, and merchants certainly dominated elective office, but the exigencies of war
weakened the ability of those institutions either to check or contain the turbulent and
overwhelming forces of revolution. War distributed the fruits and sacrifices of
independence unevenly throughout the community and defied elite attempts at control or
regulation. Some merchants grew wealthy in the scramble for goods, planters faced an
92For the crisis over the Oath of Allegiance, see Christopher Gadsden to Peter
Timothy, June 8, 1778, Gadsden to William Henry Drayton, Writings of Christopher
Gadsden. 130-134; McDonough, “Gadsden and Laurens,” 323-330; Vipperman, Rise of
Rawlins Lowndes. 209-213; McCrady, South Carolina in the Revolution. 1775-1780.
266-277; Walsh, Charleston’s Sons of Liberty. 85-87; John Wells Jr. to Henry Laurens,
April 20, 1778, June 10, 1778. Papers of Henry Laurens. 13:162, 435-441; South
Carolina and American General Gazette. April 2, June 11, 1778; Gazette of the State of
South Carolina. June 24, 1778. Gadsden did not support the postwar artisanal protests, as
we will see in chapter four.

149
uncertain export market, while less affluent citizens often starved. No one could entirely
escape the effects of rampant inflation, exorbitant prices both for goods and labor,
scarcity, speculation, or forestalling.
The war’s effects upon the city’s large black population proved most troubling of
all for urban whites. If solutions to economic problems bedeviled Charleston’s traditional
leaders throughout the war, controlling Charleston’s slaves during the upheaval proved to
be altogether impossible. The chaos of war offered innumerable and unprecedented
opportunities for slaves to resist and rebel, decreasing white authority while increasing
black autonomy. Slave resistance in the face of white powerlessness proved to be one of
the most unsettling aspects of the war for white South Carolinians. Even before the war
Charleston slaves possessed a great deal of autonomy. They regularly hired out their own
time, operated businesses, worked in a multitude of skilled and unskilled positions, sold
and traded in the city's marketplaces, dominated the fishing trade, worshiped in city
churches, and congregated in city taverns and dramshops, all with little or no white
supervision.93 The city had long acted as a magnet for runaways because of the
93South Carolina Gazette. November 9,1767, May 9, 1768, January 25, 1770,
August 27,1772, September 17, 1772, September 24,1772, February 22,1773, May 24,
1773: South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. November 17,1767, May 24, 1768;
South Carolina and American General Gazette. January 29, 1768, July 1, 1768. For good
recent accounts of slavery in colonial and Revolutionary Charleston and South Carolina,
see Peter H. Wood, ‘“Liberty Is Sweet’: African-American Freedom Struggles in the
Years Before White Independence,” in Alfred F. Young, ed., Beyond The American
Revolution: Explorations in the Flistorv of American Radicalism (Dekalb IL: Northern
Illinois University Press, 1993), 149-184; Philip D. Morgan, “Black Life in Eighteenth-
Century Charleston,” PerspectryesinAmericanHistory New Series 1 (1984): 187-232;
Morgan, “Work and Culture: The Task System and the World of Lowcountry Blacks,
1700 to 1880,” William and Mary Quarterly 39 (October 1982): 563-599; Morgan,
“Black Society in the Lowcountry, 1760-1810,” in Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, eds.,

150
opportunity and need for casual labor.94 Slaves in Charleston quickly sensed the division
and disorder in the white community during the Revolutionary movement and capitalized
on the confusion. The extant correspondence of white slaveowners during the war is
filled with complaints about disobedient and runaway slaves. Henry Laurens told his
brother in London in June 1775 that he had warned his brother's slaves to "behave with
great circumspection in these dangerous times" but by the following January was forced
to admit that "your negroes in some measure govern themselves."95 Other slaveowners
voiced similar complaints. Frightened planters spread rumors throughout the lowcountry
that the British planned to incite slave insurrections and that already slaves on plantations
had refused to work, taken up arms and murdered their masters. Royal Governor Lord
William Campbell reported to London that the rumors had created an atmosphere of near
hysteria among Charleston whites: "words cannot express the flame occasioned amongst
all ranks and degrees."96 With the outbreak of hostilities, many of these rumors became
reality. Slaves disobeyed white overseers, refused to work, ran away from plantations,
Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution (Urbana IL: University of
Illinois Press, 1983), 83-142.
94South Carolina Gazette. September 20, 1770; South Carolina Gazette and
Country Journal. June 21. 1768, August 9, 1768, August 30, 1768, October 25, 1768,
May 2, 1769; Gazette of the State of South Carolina. June 16, 1777.
95Laurens to James Laurens, June 7, 1775, January 6, 1776, Papers of Henry
Laurens 10:162-163, 11:5.
96Mr. Millegen's Report of the state of South Carolina, September 15,1775, and
William Campbell to "My Lord," August 31, 1775, SCBPRO 35:231-232, 192-193.

151
and fled to join the British.97 Many fled the countryside and came to Charleston in hopes
of escaping to British ships. In the fall of 1775 reports reached the South Carolina
Council of Safety that the British fleet in Charleston harbored runaway slaves. Incensed
slaveowners on the Council promptly warned all ship captains that supplies from town
would be terminated if such outrageous and dangerous activity continued. Captain John
Tollemache, commander of the HMS Scorpion, defiantly replied that the slaves on board
his ship "came as freemen, and demanding protection; that he could have had near five
hundred, who had offered."98 Laurens warned fellow planter Ralph Izard that "many of
your negroes” with “vicious designs” continually deserted Izard’s plantations and ran off
to Charleston hoping to reach the British vessels. He urged Izard to hire someone who
had more time than Laurens to hunt down and retrieve his runaway slaves.99 During the
British invasion of 1779, one British commander reported that “the banditti of negroes
who flocked to the conquerors” did more damage to Whig property “than the whole army
put together.”100 Captain Thomas Hall told Major Isaac Harleston in Charleston that "a
one-eyed taylor negro fellow of yours went off to the English with his wife, children, and
97See Sylvia R. Frey, Water From the Rock: Black Resistance In A Revolutionary
Age (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), 45-80; Peter Kolchin, American
Slavery. 1619-1877 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), 70-76.
98Minutes of the South Carolina Council of Safety, December 8, December 10,
1775, Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 3:14-15, 41-43, 104-105, 133-136.
"Henry Laurens to Ralph Izard, June 9, 1777, Papers of Henry Laurens. 11:350.
‘“Archibald Campbell to “Sir,” January 9, 1779, Prioleau Autograph Collection,
South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.

152
enticed five more."101 British raiders took nine slaves from Thomas Pinckney's Ashepoo
plantation in 1779. The remaining ones, Pinckney complained, "are now perfectly free
and live upon the best pro vence of the plantation." His overseer hid in a nearby swamp
and afterwards returned to the plantation but "the negroes pay no attention to his
orders."102 White complaints about the British stealing slaves continued throughout the
war and for years afterward.103
Ironically, though white Charlestonians feared the loss of their authority over the
city’s slaves, some remained confident that slaves would fight for the Whig cause if
properly armed, trained, and led by white officers. The notion of arming slaves did not
appeal to most white Southerners, of course, and the issue proved to be divisive and
emotional.104 South Carolinians resisted using blacks to fill state quotas, and
“'Captain Thomas Hall to Major Isaac Harleston, June 14, 1780, "Records of the
Regiments of the South Carolina Line, Continental Establishment," South Carolina
Historical Magazine 6 (July 1905): 111.
'“Thomas Pinckney to Eliza Lucas Pinckney, May 17, 1779, Pinckney Family
Papers, South Carolina Historical Society.
103Frey, Water From the Rock. 172-205. When the British evacuated Charleston
in December 1782, Whigs complained bitterly about the British carrying off slaves and
reportedly found over 200 blacks “barreled up like beef or pork” aboard the British
transport ships. See Edmund Pendleton to James Madison, December 23,1782, in David
John Mays, ed., The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton. 1732-1803. 2 vols.
(Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1967), 1:436. One reason for
Charleston’s hostile response to the Jay Treaty in 1795 was because it ignored the issue of
British reparations for slaves taken from South Carolina during the war. See George
Smith McCowen, “Chief Justice John Rutledge and the Jay Treaty,” South Carolina
Historical Magazine 62 (January 1961): 10-23.
104For the ways in which blacks served in the Revolutionary War, see Luther P.
Jackson, "Virginia Negro Soldiers and Seamen in the American Revolution," Journal of

153
Congressman Edward Rutledge strongly contested the use of black soldiers in the
Continental Army as well.105 John Adams scoffed that South Carolinians “would run out
of their wits at the least hint” of a “Negro battalion.”106 Nevertheless, in early 1778 John
Laurens proposed arming and leading a regiment of black troops in South Carolina, with
the promise of freedom after the war.107 His father, having undergone something of a
transformation himself in regard to slavery, raised some challenging and thoughtful
reservations.108 If, as the younger Laurens insisted, he had no right to own slaves as
property, "upon what ground of justice will you insist upon their enlisting for soldiers, as
the condition of their enfranchisement? If they are free—tell them so-set them at full
Negro History 27 (July 1942): 247-287; Herbert Aptheker, "The Negro in the American
Revolution," in Aptheker, Essays in the History of the American Negro (New York:
International Publishers, 1945); Benjamin Quarles, The Negro In the American
Revolution (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1961); Wallace Brown,
"Negroes and the American Revolution," History Today 14 (1964): 556-563; Pete
Maslowski, "National Policy Toward the Use of Black Troops in the Revolution," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 73 (January 1972): 1-17; Sylvia R. Frey, "The British and
the Black: A New Perspective," The Historian 38 (February 1976): 225-238; Philip S.
Foner, Blacks in the American Revolution (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1976); M.
Foster Farley, "The South Carolina Negro in the American Revolution, 1775-1783,"
South Carolina Historical Magazine 79 (April 1978): 75-86.
'“Small numbers of free blacks served in the army in all states except South
Carolina and Georgia. Koldun, American Slavery. 71; Rutledge quoted in Richard
Smith's Diary, September 26, 1775, Letters of Delegates To Congress. 1774-1789.2:67.
106John Adams to Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, August 17, 1776, Papers of John
Adams. 4:469.
107John Laurens to Henry Laurens, January 14, 1778, Papers of Henry Laurens.
12:305.
108Henry Laurens’s changing attitudes about slavery are discussed in chapter six.
See Henry Laurens to John Laurens, August 14, 1776, Papers of Henry Laurens 11:222-
246.

154
liberty—and then address them in the language of a recruiting officer to any other free
men." Despite his reservations, Henry Laurens gave his assent to the plan, encouraging
his son to proceed with caution against "the opinions of whole nations."109 When the
British invaded Georgia in 1779, John Laurens brought his plan for arming slaves before
the South Carolina General Assembly, where both the House and Senate rejected the
scheme.110 The cold reaction among Carolina slaveowners did not surprise Henry
Laurens. He consoled his disappointed son but warned him that "rich men [do not] part
willingly with the very source of their wealth."111 The British conquest of Savannah in
December 1778 convinced even the elder Laurens of the necessity and wisdom of arming
slaves. He drafted a committee report in Congress urging Southern governors to arm
“able bodied negroes,” and he assured George Washington that with three thousand
armed slaves the Americans could drive the British out of Georgia and conquer East
Florida as well."2
109Henry Laurens to John Laurens, January 22, 1778, February 6, 1778, September
21, 1779, John Laurens to Henry Laurens, February 17, 1779, March 10, 1779,
"Correspondence Between Hon. Henry Laurens and His Son, John, 1777-1780," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 6 (April, October 1905): 47-48, 50-51,137-139; John
Laurens to Henry Laurens, January 14, 1778, February 2, 1778, Henry Laurens to John
Laurens, January 28, 1778, Papers of Henry Laurens. 12:305, 367-369, 390-393; John
Laurens to Henry Laurens, March 10, 1779, Henry Laurens Papers, South Carolina
Historical Society, Charleston, microfilm.
110Farley, "South Carolina Negro in the American Revolution," 81-82.
'"Henry Laurens to John Laurens, September 21, 1779, "Correspondence
Between Hon. Henry Laurens and His Son, John, 1777-1780," 149-150.
112John Houston to Henry Laurens, January 2, 1779, Henry Laurens Papers, South
Carolina Historical Society, Charleston; Henry Laurens’ Draft Committee Report, March
1779, Laurens to George Washington, March 16, 1779, Letters of Delegates to Congress.

155
Even the chaos of war and occupation, however, could not force the majority of
white Charlestonians to adopt so disagreeable a measure. John Laurens raised the scheme
again in 1780 when the British invaded South Carolina, and finally in 1782, never with
success. General Nathanael Greene pleaded with Governor John Rutledge to reconsider
the policy of utilizing "this great resource that you neglected to avail yourselves of, which
if you had adopted before the reduction of Charlestown might have secured your country
against all it has undergone."113 Greene’s formidable presence before the legislature made
no difference. On February 4, 1782, John Laurens brought the issue to the floor of the
South Carolina General Assembly for the last time, but received the support of only
thirteen members. “I was out-voted,” Laurens complained bitterly to his friend Alexander
Hamilton, “having only reason on my side, and being opposed by a triple-headed monster
of avarice, prejudice, and pusillanimity in our assemblies.”114 Neither expediency nor
pragmatism could persuade Carolina slaveowners of the efficacy of such a radical notion.
Having seen so much of their once stable world transformed by 1782, it is not surprising
12:246-248,200. For Washington’s reply, which was not favorable, see Washington to
Henry Laurens, March 20, 1779, in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George
Washington From the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. 39 vols. (Washington
DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), 14:267.
113Nathanael Greene to Governor Rutledge, January 21, 1782, Nathanael Greene
Papers, Library of Congress, microfilm, South Caroliniana Library.
114John Laurens to Alexander Hamilton, July 1782, Harold C. Syrett, ed., The
Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 26 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961-
1979), 3:120-121; Farley, "South Carolina Negro in the American Revolution," 81-82;
Aedanus Burke to Arthur Middleton, January 25, 1782, in Joseph W. Barnwell, ed.,
"Correspondence of Hon. Arthur Middleton," South Carol ina Historical Magazine 26
(October 1925): 194.

156
that they would overwhelmingly reject a measure which could only have weakened
further their already diminished powers.
The chaos engendered by political division, the economy, and slave unrest
intensified after the British invasion of 1779'15 and the conquest and occupation of
Charleston in 1780. The British shifted military operations to the Southern theater in
1778, and the occupation of Savannah provided the necessary base of operations for a
successful assault on the Carolina capital in late 1779.116 Throughout the winter of 1780
ll5For accounts of the unsuccessful 1779 British assault on Charleston, see South
Carolina and American General Gazette. May 29, 1779; George Germain to Sir Henry
Clinton, March 31, 1779, Clinton to Germain, April 4, 1779, Documents of the American
Revolution. 17:89-90, 96-97; James Haw, “A Broken Compact: Insecurity, Union, and
the Proposed Surrender of Charleston, 1779,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 96
(January 1995): 30-53; Vipperman, Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 223-224; John Carroll
Cavanagh, “The Military Career of Major General Benjamin Lincoln In the War of the
American Revolution, 1775-1781,” Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1969, 153-154;
C.F.W. Coker, ed., “Journal of John Graham, South Carolina Militia, 1779,” Military
Collector & Historian 19 (Summer 1967): 35-47.
ll6The primary and secondary literature on the siege and conquest of Charleston in
1780 is vast. For the evolution of British strategy, see James Simpson to Sir Henry
Clinton, August 20,1779, Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, Series I, South
Carolina Historical Society; Sir Henry Clinton to George Germain, August 21, 1779,
Germain to Clinton, September 27, 1779, Governor James Wright to Clinton, February 3,
1780. Documents of the American Revolution. 17:189-191,223-225, 18:45-48. For the
siege and capture of Charleston, see the following. British manuscripts: Clinton to
Germain, May 13, 1780, James Simpson to Clinton, May 15, 1780, Simpson to Germain,
June 9, 1780, Documents of the American Revolution. 18:86-89, 94-95, 104-105; Mariot
Arbuthnot to “Sirs,” May 14, 1780, ADM 1/486:355, 366-367, Admirals’ Dispatches,
Admiralty and Secretariat Papers, Public Record Office, London, microfilm.
Manuscripts, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia: John
Laurens to Henry Laurens, May 25, 1780, William Gillmore Simms Collection of Henry
Laurens Papers, Kendall Whaling Museum, Sharon, Massachusetts, microfilm, South
Caroliniana Library; John Peebles Notebook. Charleston Library Society, Charleston:
John Rutledge to the Delegates of South Carolina in Congress, May 24, 1780, John
Rutledge Letters; John Mathews to Thomas Bee, June 9, 1780, Thomas Bee
Correspondence; Charleston Siege Journal. South Carolina Historical Society,

157
whites fled plantations in panic, abandoning the lowcountry to the invading British and
the thousand of slaves who eagerly capitalized on the opportunity to secure their
Charleston: John Rutledge to Col. Benjamin Garden, March 2, 1780, Pringle Family
Papers; Mary Cochran to her son, 1780, Cochran Family Letters in Bacot-Fluger Papers;
Gabriel Manigault Diary; Dr. Uzal Johnson Journal, original in Princeton University
Library. Printed sources, both primary and secondary: William Moultrie, Memoirs of the
American Revolution. 2 vols. (New York: David Longworth, 1802; reprint ed. in one
volume, New York: Amo Press, 1968), 2:44-212; Henry Lee, Memoirs of the War in the
Southern Department of the United States. 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Bradford & Inskeep,
1812), 1:113-150; Bernhard A. Uhlendorf, trans. and ed., The Siege of Charleston With
an Account of the Province of South Carolina: Diaries and Letters of Hessian Officers
From the von Jungkenn Papers in the William L. Clements Library (Ann Arbor MI:
University Of Michigan Press, 1938; reprint ed., New York: Amo Press, 1968);
Benjamin F. Stevens, ed., The Campaign in Virginia. 1781: An Exact Reprint of Six Rare
Pamphlets on the Clinton-Comwallis Controversy. 2 vols. (London: For the author,
1882); Captain Johann Ewald, Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal, trans. &
ed., by Joseph P. Tustin (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1979), 196-243;
William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His
Campaigns. 1775-1782 (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1954), 157-172; Charles
Ross, ed., Correspondence of Charles. First Marquis Cornwallis. 3 vols. (London: John
Murray, 1859), 1:43-79; William T. Bulger, “Sir Henry Clinton’s ‘Journal of the Siege of
Charleston, 1780.’” South Carolina Historical Magazine 66 (July 1965): 147-174; Alan S.
Brown, ed., “James Simpson’s Reports on the Carolina Loyalists, 1779-1780,” Journal of
Southern History 21 (November 1955): 513-519; Joseph loor Waring, “Lieutenant John
Wilson’s ‘Journal of the Siege of Charleston,”’ South Carolina Historical Magazine 66
(July 1965): 175-182; Richard K. Murdoch, trans., “A French Account of the Siege of
Charleston, 1780.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 67 (July 1966): 138-154; George
Fenwick Jones, ed., “The 1780 Siege of Charleston as Experienced by a Hessian Officer,”
South Carolina Historical Magazine 88 (January and April 1987): 23-33, 63-73; Ramsay,
History of South Carolina 1670-1808. 1:320-321; “The Siege of Charleston: Journal of
Captain Peter Russell, December 25, 1779, to May 2, 1780,” American Historical Review
4 (April 1899): 478-501; Pancake, This Destructive War. 56-67; Russell F. Weigley, The
Partisan War: The South Carolina Campaign of 1780-1782 (Columbia SC: University of
South Carolina Press, 1970), 4-9; McCrady, South Carolina in the Revolution. 1775-
1780. 445-506; Bulger, “British Expedition to Charleston,” 112-177; Wilmot G.
DeSaussure, “The Siege of Charleston, 1780,” Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1884
(Charleston SC: Walker, Evans, & Cogsdell, 1885), 282-308; Cavanagh, “Military Career
of Benjamin Lincoln,” 187-202; George W. Kyte, “British Invasion of South Carolina in
1780.” The Historian 14 (Spring 1952): 149-172.

158
freedom.117 After an extended siege of Charleston, the British finally conquered and
occupied the Southern metropolis on May 12, 1780.118 The fall of Charleston proved to
be the single greatest military loss for the Americans during the war. The ravages of the
preceding four years had transformed Charleston, and the destruction in the once
prosperous capital shocked returning royal officials. “Nothing but the evidence of my
senses,” former attorney general James Simpson marveled, “would have convinced me
that one half of the distress I am witness to could have been produced in so short a time in
so rich a country. Numbers of families, who four years ago abounded in every
convenience and luxury of life, are without food to live on, clothes to cover them, or the
means to purchase either.”119 Former Lieutenant Governor William Bull described a
“melancholy scene which could not but affect me greatly.” At every turn Bull witnessed
the material and human consequences of the devastation of war. Perhaps most alarming,
the city’s slaves had "become ungovernable, absenting themselves often from the service
of their masters. The code of laws calculated for the government of that class of people
117See Frey, Water From the Rock. 108-142.
118For the occupation of Charleston, see George Smith McCowen Jr., The British
Occupation of Charleston. 1780-1782 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1972); Walsh, Charleston's Sons of Liberty. 89-98; Alexander R. Stoesen, “The British
Occupation of Charleston, 1780-1782,” South Carolina Flistorical Magazine 63 (1962):
71-82; Frederick Bemays Wiener, Civilians Under Military Justice: The British Practice
Since 1689 Especially in North America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967),
152-159.
119James Simpson to General Henry Clinton, July 1, 1780, quoted in Vipperman,
Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 226. See also John Peebles Diary, May 25, 1780, South
Caroliniana Library, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney to Alexander Garden, May 14, 1782, in
Elise Pinckney, ed., “Letters of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1768-1782,” South Carolina
Historical Magazine 76 (July 1975): 168-169.

159
[can] not be carried into execution."120 During the occupation the British forced most of
the city’s governing elite into exile or imprisonment.121 Charleston loyalists never
inspired a sufficient level of confidence to convince their conquerors to restore civil
government in the city, and the British fared no better at maintaining economic and
political stability than had their Whig counterparts.122 A Board of Police, primarily former
Crown officials, governed the city for the two and a half years of British occupation.123
After the Board reopened the port to British commerce, Scottish merchants flooded the
market with more goods, one local reported, than “three such crops as the present would
‘“William Bull to George Germain, February 14, March 22, 1781, C.O. 5/176,
Colonial Office Papers, Class 5, America and the West Indies, General Correspondence
of the Secretary of State with Civil Officers of the Revolting Colonies, Public Record
Office, London, microfilm.
12lFor a list of Charlestonians banished, imprisoned, or sent to St. Augustine, see
McCowen, The British Occupation of Charleston. 151-152; Mabel L. Webber, ed.,
“Josiah Smith’s Diary, 1780-1781.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 33 (1932): 3-4,
6, 100, 34 (1933): 78-83; McCrady, South Carolina in the Revolution. 1775-1780. 716-
717; Joseph W. Barnwell, ed., “Letters To General Greene and Others,” South Carolina
Flistorical Magazine 17(1916): 3-13, 53-57; “The Old Postoffice,” Yearbook. City of
Charleston. 1898 (Charleston SC: Lucas & Richardson, 1898), 358-359. See also
Cornwallis to Germain, September 19, 1780, Documents of the American Revolution.
18:169-171.
l22See the petition of South Carolina Merchants to Germain, October 25, 1781,
Documents of the American Revolution. 20:250-252, and Germain to Bull, September 1,
1781, C.O. 5/176, Colonial Office Papers, microfilm.
123McCowen. The British Occupation of Charleston. 13-42. For the proceedings
of the Board of Police, see C.O. 5/513-535, Colonial Office Papers, Class 5, America and
the West Indies, Entry Book and Journal of the Proceedings of the Board of Police, Public
Record Office, London, microfilm, South Carolina Department of Archives and History,
Columbia.

160
pay for.”124 Inflation remained rampant, prices high, money scarce, and the British turned
to economic coercion to enforce political loyalty.125 The British forced all remaining
artisans to pledge allegiance to the crown in order to practice their trade.126 Such policies
only served to strengthen the Whig cause, and many citizens fled to the relative safety of
the countryside. Many would have undoubtedly remained in town had the British
allowed them to remain neutral. The city thus became an island of loyalism, and the
capture of the Southern metropolis did not have the effect that the British desired. It
certainly did not quash the rebellion in the South, as the Southern governors had
promised it would in 1775. Indeed, by late 1781 the American army under the command
of General Nathanael Greene had recaptured almost all of South Carolina except
Charleston.127
The South Carolina legislature met for the first time in two years in January 1782
in Jacksonborough, just thirty miles from Charleston. The assembly felt confident
enough about their ultimate victory to pass a series of amercement and confiscation acts
124Samuel Came to Christopher Rolleston, October 12, 1780, Samuel Came
Papers, South Caroliniana Library. See also James Simpson to William Knox, October
31, 1780, C.O. 5/178: 167-178, Colonial Office Papers, Class 5, America and the West
Indies, First Peace Commission, Public Record Office, London, microfilm.
125See Bull to Germain, June 28, November 11, 1781, C.O. 5/176, Colonial Office
Papers, microfilm; Simpson to Germain, September 25, 1780, Documents of the
American Revolution. 18:177-178.
'“Walsh, Charleston’s Sons of Liberty. 97-98.
127See Clinton to Germain, December 3, 1781. Documents of the American
Revolution. 20:270-271; George W. Kyte, “General Greene’s Plans for the Capture of
Charleston, 1781-1782,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 62 (1961): 96-106.

161
against the states’s leading Loyalists, many from Charleston.128 Disappointed and bitter
royal officials in Charleston could only complain that “it is a most unpleasant situation.”
After Cornwallis’s defeat at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781, royal civil and military
officials realized that the British could not remain bottled up in the South Carolina capital
indefinitely. Throughout the fall of 1782 the harbor filled with transports, and after
months of delay, the British evacuated Charleston on December 14, 1782, carrying
thousands of black and white refugees with them. Royal government had ended forever
in South Carolina. “I cannot forget that happy day when we marched into Charlestown
with the American troops,” William Moultrie remembered years later, “both citizens and
soldiers shed mutual tears of joy.” “Oh, it was a day of jubilee indeed,” another
Carolinian recalled, “a day of rejoicing never to be forgotten.”129
The war transformed Charleston in ways that would have seemed unimaginable
ten years earlier. Certainly much of the physical structure of the city lay in ruins, but that
128Weir, Colonial South Carolina. 336; Salley, Journal of the House of
Representatives of South Carolina. January 8. 1782-Februarv 26. 1782: Levett, “Loyalism
in Charleston, 1761-1784,” 12-16; Robert W. Barnwell Jr., “The Migration of Loyalists
From South Carolina,” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1937,
34-42; Barnwell, “Loyalists in South Carolina, 1765-1785,” Ph.D. dissertation, Duke
University, 1941; Kathy Roe Coker, “The Punishment of Revolutionary War Loyalists in
South Carolina,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1987.
129"Charleston, 1670-1883,” Yearbook. City of Charleston. 1883 (Charleston SC:
News & Courier Book Presses, 1883), 417-418; Joseph W. Barnwell, “The Evacuation of
Charleston By the British in 1782,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 11 (January
1910): 7-9; Bull to Thomas Townshend, January 19, 1783, Documents of the American
Revolution. 21:148-149; Gabriel Manigault Diary, December 14, 1782, South Carolina
Historical Society, Charleston; George W. Kyte, “Thaddeus Kosciuszko At The
Liberation of Charleston, 1782,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 84 (January 1983):
11-21.

162
in time would be rebuilt. The conflicts over non-importation, constitutional revision,
representation, the established church, loyalty oaths, scarcity, inflation, and slave unrest
had tom asunder the political, social, and economic ties that gave stability and structure to
Charleston society. Lowcountry aristocrats would find in the postwar years that the war
had stripped them of much of their unchallenged hegemony, particularly among urban
artisans and backcountry farmers. Between 1776 and 1782 Charleston’s elite faced
military invasion, unprecedented political challenges to their authority, economic and
social upheaval, and finally occupation, exile, and imprisonment. These crises
accelerated the shift toward contentious, self-interested democratic politics and economic
liberalism, and intensified the conflict over the time-honored institution of slavery. In the
immediate postwar years, urban artisans subjected traditional leaders to a harsh
democratic rhetoric, while backcountry farmers demanded both the removal of the capital
and extensive constitutional revision. Revolutionary ideology and events outside
Charleston in the 1790s would combine to subject the institution of slavery to
unprecedented attacks that would forever alter the intellectual climate of the city. The
war had ended, but the Southern metropolis would never be the same. “I am now by the
will of God brought into a new world,” Henry Laurens proclaimed after hearing the
Declaration of Independence, “and God only knows what sort of world it will be.”130
130Henry Laurens to John Laurens, August 14, 1776, Papers of Henry Laurens.
11:234.

CHAPTER FOUR
DEMOCRACY AND POLITICAL TWILIGHT,1783-1790
“This revolution has introduced so much anarchy that it will take half a century to
eradicate the licentiousness of the people.”
David Ramsay, 1783
“In these days we are equal citizens of a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, in which jealously
and opposition must naturally exist.”
William Hornby, 1784
“Our governments tend too much to democracy.”
Ralph Izard, 1785
In the aftermath of the British occupation of Charleston, the city’s elite struggled
to contain the political radicalism unleashed by American Revolution. During the 1780s,
city leaders would face a dual challenge to their authority and political dominance from
both within the city and from the backcountry. Lowcountry aristocrats increasingly found
themselves on the defensive; their unquestioned right to rule by virtue of wealth, lineage,
and talents came under attack from all quarters. Dissidents within the city and throughout
the backcountry challenged elite dominance and made repeated demands for a more
egalitarian government. To many of the elite, the American Revolution seemed to be a
mixed blessing. To be sure, it brought political independence from Great Britain and a
potentially bright economic future, but it also left aristocratic rule and Charleston’s
hegemony vulnerable. The elite responded in a variety of ways. They sought both to
163

164
contain the political radicalism of the American Revolution—the democratic
equalitarianism that threatened their authority-while encouraging the rising spirit of
economic liberalism that might ultimately ensure their city’s continued survival and
economic supremacy in the region.1 Lowcountry leaders succeeded temporarily in both
endeavors. They contained the radicalism within the city through incorporation, by the
passage of debtor laws and paper money, and by supporting a stronger federal
government that could regulate commerce and trade. By 1790, however, external
pressure from the backcountry forced lowcountry leaders into political compromise, and
ultimately they failed to sustain the economic vision that might have staved off
Charleston’s eventual decline.
The American Revolution thus brought both political and economic radicalism to
Charleston and South Carolina. The Revolution also irrevocably altered Charleston’s
position in both the state and region. By 1790, Charleston was no longer South
Carolina’s capital, and by 1800 Baltimore had surpassed Charleston as the largest
southern city.2 New Orleans would outpace the city by 1810. Nevertheless, the rise of
cotton ensured that Charleston would remain an economic force in the Lower South.
'"Economic liberalism” is defined as an economic system stressing aggressive,
acquisitive economic behavior, individualism, competition, and voluntary participation in
markets for economic advancement and an improved standard of living.
2For the growth of Baltimore from the colonial period through the Revolution and
beyond, see Lawrence H. Larsen, The Urban South: A History (Lexington KY: University
Press of Kentucky, 1990), 10-12; Gary Larson Browne, Baltimore in the Nation. 1789-
1861 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1980); William Bruce
Wheeler, “Urban Politics in Nature’s Republic: The Development of Political Parties in
the Seaport Cities in the Federalist Era,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1967,
144-210.

165
Local leaders worked hard to maintain the city’s dominance in the region. This chapter
examines the political controversies of the post-war years, while the next chapter treats
economic changes.
The war and the British occupation of Charleston exacted an enormous human
and physical toll on the city. In the aftermath of the war, Charlestonians concentrated
first on rebuilding their city and their lives. This meant replenishing Charleston with
goods, supplies, and, most important, slaves. British merchants had flocked to Charleston
during the occupation; state leaders simply allowed many of them to remain behind the
departing British army to dispose of surplus goods and collect debts. Consequently,
native merchants found themselves squeezed out of what was by all accounts a booming
business. British merchants had access to easy credit in London, and Charleston planters
were all too eager to go into debt to restock their plantations. The lenient policy toward
British merchants led to growing anti-Tory and anti-British resentment among native
merchants and artisans that manifested itself in different ways. As will be shown in
chapter five, native merchants revived the dormant Charleston Chamber of Commerce to
promote trade and commerce and actively sought new trade routes and connections to
lessen their dependence on Britain.3 Native artisans, however, took their protests to the
streets under the leadership of Alexander Gillon, who formed the Marine Anti-Britannic
Society to oppose British merchants and lenient policies toward former enemies. Gillon,
3The Chamber of Commerce had first been established by conservative merchants
during the tea crisis of 1773.

166
a native merchant, had an anti-aristocratic strain as well.4 He promoted ties with the
backcountry, openly supporting both moving the capital inland and the emission of paper
money. These measures, of course, alarmed Charleston’s traditional leaders.
The elite reacted to the growing animosity among artisans and native merchants in
part by incorporating Charles Town (now renamed Charleston) in order to give city
leaders more direct authority to deal with anti-Tory demonstrations. They fretted that
street demonstrations threatened the city’s security and, more important, its reputation in
the international trading community at just the moment when the city was trying
desperately to revive its economic and commercial life. Anti-Tory sentiment soon
evolved into a full-blown anti-aristocratic movement. In the fall of 1784 Gillon
challenged Richard Hutson for his seat as Charleston intendant (or mayor). Though
Gillon lost the election, the elite did not remain completely unresponsive to the demands
of the lower sort in regards to British merchants. By 1785 many planters had gone deeply
in debt to the British merchants they had so eagerly welcomed in 1783, and the lack of
specie made it difficult for them to meet their financial obligations. Subsequently, they
passed a series of debtor relief laws and issued paper money to stave off their creditors.
Because these measures particularly benefitted planters and backcountry farmers, South
Carolina avoided an agrarian uprising analogous to Shays Rebellion, though some
farmers did disrupt court proceedings in the backcountry before the laws had been passed.
4Gillon was of course bom in Holland. By “native,” I mean that he was in
Charleston before the war and was not British.

167
Lowcountry planters overwhelmingly favored passage of the United States Constitution
in 1787 in part because of their enormous debt.
Simultaneously, the backcountry challenged Charleston’s leaders and demanded a
more egalitarian state government. Backcountry Whigs fought a vicious civil war during
the Revolution, and by the mid-1780s their political demands could no longer be ignored.
Most prominently, they called for the capital to be relocated to a more central inland
location and for constitutional revision to give the upcountry a more balanced
representation in the state legislature. The pressure to relocate the capital and revise the
state constitution became relentless, and in 1786 the legislature nominally moved the
capital upcountry to Columbia. The move did not become a reality, however, until 1790.
By that time, of course, Charleston’s leaders had begun to face reality. They knew they
could no longer brush backcountry demands aside; the majority of the population had
been located in the backcountry for over twenty years, and 80 percent of the white
population lived in the backcountry by 1790.5 The sacrifices and trauma of the war years
politicized backcountry leaders, making them more assertive and defiant toward
lowcountry aristocrats. Charleston’s leaders recognized the need to strengthen their ties
to the upcountry, and over the next twenty years they put enormous amounts of energy
into the effort. They responded favorably to the innumerable calls for such internal
’United States Bureau of the Census, Heads of Families At the First Census of the
United States Taken in the Year 1790. South Carolina (Washington DC: Government
Printing Office, 1908), 9; Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding
Father (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1967), 106.

168
improvements as roads, bridges, and ferries, and aggressively cleared rivers and invested
in canals to link the uplands with the Charleston market.
Cotton, however, breathed new life into the city, and ultimately cemented the
political and economic ties between the two sections. With the loss of the British bounty
on indigo, planters began looking for viable alternatives to take advantage of the new
opportunities presented by independence. They found it in cotton, especially after
improved ginning methods made short-staple cotton production more profitable after
1793. If Charleston no longer dominated the state politically, it would continue to be the
port through which the great staple crops of Carolina flowed. Lowcountry leaders thus
began to ally themselves with aggressive upcountry leaders to ensure Charleston’s
continued dominance.
************
After the British evacuated Charleston on December 14, 1782, Carolinians
immediately began rebuilding their war-ravaged city. The war and occupation left almost
no one untouched. The euphoria of the first few days of liberation soon gave way to a
sense of melancholy and loss as returning refugees confronted enormous property damage
and the disruptions to familiar patterns of trade, commerce, and agriculture. Charleston
in early 1783 differed enormously from the pre-war metropolis, and in many ways the
capital never recovered its former glory. “This country is left destitute,” David Ramsay
told his friend Benjamin Rush, “and will not be like the former Carolina for years to

169
come.”6 Indeed, over a decade later one Frenchman noted Charlestonians “feel yet the
consequences of the war; most of them are still involved in debt.”7 Unlike Newport,
Rhode Island, however, British occupation of Charleston did not bring immediate post¬
war decline.8 Charleston had never competed directly with another colonial Southern
port that could capitalize on the city’s occupation, as Newport had competed with
Providence. And, unlike Newport, most of the city’s pre-war elite returned and labored to
restore Charleston to its former position of prominence.
The British left behind more than destroyed buildings, however. The atrocities
carried out by both Whig and Tory throughout the state, especially in the backcountry,
made it difficult, if not impossible, for many Carolinians to forgive and forget the bitter
divisions of the war years. The fierce partisan struggle of 1780-1782 left behind deep
wounds and years passed before South Carolina was again at peace with itself.9 Some
6David Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, June 8, 1783, in Robert L. Brunhouse, ed.,
“David Ramsay, 1749-1815: Selections From His Writings, “ Transactions of the
American Philosophical Society 55, Part 4 (1965): 74.
’Francois Alexandre Frédéric, due de La Rochefoucault-Liancourt, Travels
Through the United States of North America, the Country of the Iroquois, and Upper
Canada. In the Years 1795. 1796. 1797. 2 vols. (London: R. Phillips, 1799), 1:574.
*For a compelling interpretation of Providence’s rise and Newport’s decline due to
British occupation, see Lynne Withey, Urban Growth in Colonial Rhode Island: Newport
and Providence in the Eighteenth Century (Albany NY: State University of New York
Press, 1984), 1-7, 77-78, 97-102. Withey effectively demonstrates how demography,
geography, and a strong, financially secure elite made the difference in Providence’s rise
after the war. See also Elaine Forman Crane, A Dependent Peonle: Newport. Rhode
Island in the Revolutionary Era (New York: Fordham University Press, 1985).
9For the civil war in South Carolina, see Russell F. Weigley, The Partisan War:
The South Carolina Campaign of 1780-1782 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina
Press, 1970); John S. Pancake, This Destructive War: The British Campaign in the

170
Charleston Whigs considered this legacy worse than all the stolen and missing slaves,
smoking ruins and damaged property combined. Houses could be rebuilt, Goose Creek
planter and legislator Ralph Izard noted, but “the hatred planted in the breasts of our
Citizens against each other is the most serious injury they have done us.”10 “This
revolution has introduced so much anarchy,” David Ramsay lamented, “that it will take
half a century to eradicate the licentiousness of the people.”" In 1789, as the French
began their own revolution, South Carolina Senator Pierce Butler cautioned them to
remember the lessons of the bitter struggle in South Carolina. If the French “felt as much
of the miseries of Civil War” as the Carolinians, “they would enter on the business with
caution. When once the dogs of civil war are let loose it is no easy matter to call them
back.”12
Much of this spirit of revenge manifested itself in the controversy over
confiscation and amercement of Loyalist property. The South Carolina legislature met in
Jacksonborough (thirty miles east of occupied Charleston) in January 1782 and passed a
Carolinas. 1780-1782 (University AL: University of Alabama Press, 1985); Alice N.
Waring, The Fighting Elder: Andrew Pickens. 1739-1817 (Columbia SC: University of
South Carolina Press, 1962); Anne King Gregorie, Thomas Sumter (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1931); Hugh F. Rankin, Francis Marion: The Swamn
Fox (New York, 1973).
‘"Ralph Izard to Thomas Jefferson, April 27,1784, in Julian P. Boyd et al., eds.,
The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 26 vols.to date (Princeton NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1950-), 7:130.
"David Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, July 11, 1783, “Ramsay Writings,” 75.
"Pierce Butler to Rev. Weeden Butler, March 15, 1789, quoted in Jerome J.
Nadelhaft, “The ‘Havoc of War’ and its Aftermath in Revolutionary South Carolina,”
Histoire Sociale 12 (May 1979): 117-118.

171
series of laws punishing Carolina Tories. Amid a flurry of petitions asking for
forgiveness and explaining extenuating circumstances, legislators spent the better part of
the next three years easing punishments or removing transgressors entirely from the list.
Such leniency infuriated many Charleston merchants and artisans who had been
prevented by the British from earning a living during the occupation because of their
staunch and unwavering patriotism. Many of Charleston’s leaders, they argued, too
eagerly welcomed former enemies back into the community.13 The debate over this
policy of forgiveness raised tempers to a fever pitch on both sides. Many post-war
leaders, primarily planters and other non-merchant professionals, pleaded for a “spirit of
moderation.” Physician David Ramsay feared “the madness and unforgiving temper of
some Whigs.” The war had ended, and it was time to move on, to “amalgamate the
l3For the Jacksonborough legislature, see A.S. Salley Jr., ed., Journal of the House
of Representatives of South Carolina. January 8, 1782 - February 26. 1782 (Columbia
SC: The State Company, 1916); Salley, ed., Journal of the Senate of South Carolina.
January 8. 1782 - February 26. 1782 (Columbia SC: The State Company, 1941). For
loyalists in South Carolina, see Robert W. Barnwell, “Loyalists in South Carolina, 1765-
1785,” Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1941; Kathy Roe Coker, “The Punishment of
Revolutionary War Loyalists in South Carolina,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of South
Carolina, 1987; Robert M. Weir, ‘“The Violent Spirit,’ the Reestablishment of Order, and
the Continuity of Leadership in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina,” in Ronald Hoffman
et al., eds., An Uncivil War: The Southern Backcountrv During the American Revolution
(Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1985), 70-98; Ella Pettit Levett,
“Loyalism in Charleston, 1761-1784,” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical
Association. 1936, 3-17; Ralph L. Andreano and Herbert O. Wemer, “Charleston
Loyalists: A Statistical Note,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 60 (July 1959): 164-
168; Robert S. Lambert, South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1987); Robert M. Calhoon, The Loyalists in
Revolutionary America. 1760-1781 (New York, 1973); Wallace Brown, The King’s
Friends: The Composition and Motives of the American Loyalist Claimants (Providence:
Brown University Press, 1965).

172
people into one homogeneous body.”14 Attorney Francis Kinloch, himself of suspect
loyalties through much of the war, compared the “torrents of illiberal party rage” to the
“passion which animates a child to torment some helpless insect that falls within its
reach.”15
British merchants felt the brunt of Whig animosity in Charleston. After the
British captured Charleston in May 1780, scores of British merchants flocked to the
occupied city to capitalize on the renewed trade. In late 1782, as the British prepared to
evacuate the city, many of these same merchants petitioned Whig Governor John
Mathews to remain in Charleston long enough to sell their surplus goods and collect the
debts owed them. To the astonishment of most native artisans and merchants (and not a
few planters, who would become their best customers), Mathews agreed. Native
merchants who had refused British protection during the occupation and had been exiled
now had a difficult time reestablishing their business affairs in the face of stiff British
competition.16 Shock turned to fury when the planter-dominated legislature extended the
14David Ramsay to “Dear Sir,” September 10, 1782, David Ramsay Papers, South
Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia. For similar sentiments, see
Ralph Izard to Thomas Jefferson, April 27,1784, Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 7:130.
15Francis Kinloch to Thomas Boone, September 1, 1783, in Felix Gilbert, ed.,
“Letters of Francis Kinloch to Thomas Boone,” Journal of Southern Flistorv 8 (February
1942): 97.
'‘Petition of William Logan and others concerning the business practices of
certain British Merchants in Charleston, January 30, 1783, Petitions, 1782-1883, Records
of the General Assembly, South Carolina Department of Archives and Flistory, Columbia
(hereafter cited as SCDAH). For Mathews’ agreement with the British merchants, see
Paul A. Florae, “The Governorship of John Mathews, 1782-1783,” M.A. thesis,
University of South Carolina, 1982; Edward Rutledge to Arthur Middleton, August 1782,
in Joseph W. Barnwell, ed., “Correspondence of Hon. Arthur Middleton,” South Carolina

173
merchants’ stay an additional twelve months, until March 1, 1784.17 This arrangement, of
course, enormously benefitted the planters. Well-connected British merchants had access
to merchandise, slaves, and especially credit, that native merchants lacked. Planters in
the aftermath of war eagerly sought to purchase manufactured goods and to replenish
their plantations with slaves, and they quickly and rather carelessly went into debt with
their former enemies. The British benefitted so greatly during the period 1783-1785 that
one critic called these years “the sunshine harvest of British commerce, policy, and
influence.” Aedanus Burke, though not a merchant himself, gave voice to the frustration
of that group when he complained that the British “plant here a standing army of
merchants, factors, clerks, agents, and emissaries who out maneuvre, undersell, and
Historical Magazine 27 (January 1926): 21-22; James Madison to Edmund Randolph,
September 10, 1782, in Paul H. Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress. 1774-1789.
23 vols. to date (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1976-), 19:140-142. Fora
discussion of the British merchants, see John C. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus
Burke: Revolutionary Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 102-104; Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders
of War: The Revolution in South Carolina (Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono
Press, 1981), 91-94; Richard Brent Clow, “Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, 1749-
1800: Unproclaimed Statesman,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976, 186-
187; George C. Rogers Jr., “Aedanus Burke, Nathanael Greene, Anthony Wayne, and the
British Merchants of Charleston,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 67 (April 1966):
75-83.
'’Petition of British Merchants in Charlestown Concerning their Agreement with
Governor Mathews, February 17, 1783, Petitions, Records of the General Assembly,
SCDAH. Some of the leading British merchants who petitioned for this extension
included partners Henry Shoolbred and Benjamin Moodie, who served as British consul
in Charleston in the 1790s, William Tunno (from an influential merchant family with ties
in London and Charleston), Jonathan and William Simpson, Thomas Stewart, James
Miller and David O’Hara. See George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of A Federalist: William
Louehton Smith of Charleston Ü758-18121 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina
Press, 1962), 100.

174
frighten away” other merchants.18 Charleston split into pro- and anti-British merchant
factions, and during the hot summer months of 1783 and 1784 the political and economic
controversy spilled out into the streets.
During July 1783 “a considerable number” of Charleston’s artisans, mechanics,
and small merchants took to the streets to protest the policy toward British merchants. By
all accounts they dragged at least four or five persons “obnoxious to the state” to the
water pumps for a public dousing.19 The exact number of protesters, of course, is
unknown. Frightened officials such as Governor Benjamin Guerard tended to
overestimate the number and intent of the dissidents. The Charleston elite, as always,
saw only evil purposes behind such activity and viewed protests from below as unlawful
challenges to its authority. Guerard described these protests and similar ones that broke
out the following summer as “great riot[s] and disturbances, of a most dangerous
lsAedanus Burke, A Few Salutary Hints. Pointing Out the Policy and
Consequences of Admitting British Subjects to Engross Our Trade and Become Our
Citizens. Addressed to Those Who Either Risoued or Lost Their All in Bringing About
the Revolution (Charleston, 1786), 4. See also Jerome J. Nadelhaft, “Ending South
Carolina’s War: Two 1782 Agreements Favoring the Planters,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 80 (January 1979): 50-64; Joseph W. Barnwell, ed., “Diary of Timothy Ford,”
South Carolina Historical Magazine 13 (October 1912): 194-195.
19South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. July 12, 1783; David Ramsay to
Benjamin Rush, July 11, 1783, “Ramsay Writings,” 75; Meleney, Aedanus Burke. 104-
113; George C. Rogers Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys (1969; reprint.,
Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1980), 50-51; Richard Walsh,
Charleston’s Sons of Liberty: A Study of the Artisans. 1769-1789 (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1959), 113-123; Daniel Joseph McDonough,
“Christopher Gadsden and Henry Laurens: The Parallel Lives of Two American Patriots,”
Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois, 1990, 452-459.

175
nature.”20 Most planters, of course, had a great deal to gain by the continued presence of
the British merchants. They publicly condemned “mobs and riots” as unlawful and
destructive of the public welfare.21 Many feared that these events would damage
Charleston’s international reputation at just the moment when it was trying desperately to
reestablish commercial connections with the world. Congressman Jacob Read fretted that
“these occurrences will be used to our great disadvantage on the other side of the
Atlantic.”22 One local newspaper denounced the tumults as “the last resource of a
desponding people under a subverted government.”23 There is no evidence that the
protests of 1783-1784 were in fact any more radical than the Stamp Act demonstrations
of 1765 or the protests over the importation of tea in 1773, actions which Charleston’s
elite supported. In fact, they closely resemble the protests over the lax enforcement of
loyalty oaths in 1778. The difference in 1783-1784—and thus the real threat to
established authority-lay in the none too subtle anti-aristocratic language that the
20Adele Stanton Edwards, ed., Journals of the Privy Council. 1783-1789. The
State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1971), 116.
2lSee the comments of “A Patriot,” probably Christopher Gadsden, in South
Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. July 15, 1783. See also Gadsden’s essays
opposing riots, mobs, and secret societies in Gazette of the State of South Carolina. May
6, July 17, and August 5, 1784. See also Gadsden to Samuel Adams, August 18, 1784,
and Gadsden to James Duane, August 18,1784, in Richard Walsh, ed., The Writings of
Christopher Gadsden 1746-1805 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1966), 239-240.
22Jacob Read to Benjamin Guerard, September 4, 1784, Letters of Delegates to
Congress. 21:786-788.
23South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. July 12, 1783.

176
protesters adopted. Beginning in the summer of 1783 and continuing throughout the
decade, even after the controversy surrounding Tories and British merchants passed,
artisans, mechanics, and small merchants adopted anti-aristocratic rhetoric and
increasingly questioned established authority. The Revolution radicalized these groups
and brought them into the political mainstream, and they refused tenaciously to fall back
into the ranks. They had participated in legal and extra-legal bodies since the non¬
importation movement of 1768, and many no longer believed the myth that aristocratic
rulers governed “disinterestedly,” with only the public’s best interest in mind. Artisans
and mechanics now argued that greedy planters and especially lawyers (many of whom
had been educated abroad, they pointed out) allowed self-interest to trample over
republicanism in the controversy over British merchants.24 Prominent Charleston lawyers
included John Rutledge and his brother Edward, William Drayton, Thomas Bee, John
Mathews, John Faucheraud Grimké, Benjamin Guerard, Edward Rutledge, Charles
Cotesworth Pinckney and his brother Thomas, John Julius Pringle, Jacob Read, and
Charles Pinckney. One critic denounced the “mal-administration of men in power or
public trust.”25 A Whig styling himself “Democratic Gentle-Touch” criticized the
“Nabob Phalanx in the legislature,” and their “settled plan of ruling by a few, with a rod
of iron.”26 “Amicus” warned against “aristocratic influence (both IN and OUT of the
24For the connections between Charleston lawyers and British merchants, see
Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist. 112.
25Gazette of the State of South Carolina. August 6, 1783.
26Ibid., August 19,1784.

177
legislature)” and cautioned his fellow citizens to “shun all lawyers as they are more liable
to corruption than other men.”27 In late 1783, Alexander Gillon (merchant), Henry
Peronneau (merchant), Benjamin Waller (schoolmaster), Benjamin Cudsworth and Dr.
James Fallon founded the Marine Anti-Britannic Society and the Whig Club of 600,
opposed to all trade with Britain and British merchants.28 Gillon found favor with
Charleston mechanics and backcountry farmers alike by advocating confiscation of
Loyalist property and removal of the state capital to the Congaree River in the interior.29
The radical rhetoric continued under the auspices of these two groups. The
“Secret Committee” for the Whig Club of 600 railed against privilege and
monopolization of office. A few “wealthy families,” they argued, sought to destroy
“republican equality of citizenship” by introducing ''family influence into the
government,” and establishing an “odious aristocracy over their betters.” This, of course,
27South Carolina Gazette and Public Advertiser. July 9,1785; Charleston Evening
Gazette. August 25, 1786.
28See Elias Ball Jr. to Elias Ball, May 15, 1784, Elias Ball XIV Family Papers,
South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston; John Lewis Gervais to Henry Laurens,
April 15, 1784, Henry Laurens Papers, South Caroliniana Library.
29Alexander Gillon to Dear Colonel, November 17, 1788, Robert W. Gibbes
Autograph Book of the Revolution, South Caroliniana Library. Gillon was elected to the
South Carolina House in 1787 from both Charleston and Saxe-Gotha in the backcountry.
He chose to represent Saxe-Gotha and from that point became a firm ally of the
backcountry. For Gillon, see Walter B. Edgar and N. Louise Bailey et al., eds.,
Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. 5 vols.
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1974-1992), 3:268-271; Berkeley
Grimball, “Commodore Alexander Gillon of South Carolina, 1741-1794,” M.A. thesis,
Duke University, 1951. For the Marine Anti-Britannic Society, see Clow, “Edward
Rutledge,” 190; Meleney, Aedanus Burke. 105-107; Samuel A. Lilly, “The Culture of
Revolutionary Charleston,” Ph.D. dissertation, Miami University, 1972, 48-50.

178
was a thinly-veiled attack on the Rutledge and Pinckney families, and might have applied
equally to any number of other wealthy families who were well connected and well
placed in government. The Whig Club further warned that “enormous wealth is seldom
the associate of pure and disinterested virtue. Elect no wealthy candidate.” Voters
should hold their legislators accountable, and no man ought to be elected who refused to
abide by the wishes of his constituents. And finally, “above all, never place confidence in
or take your political creed from lawyers—that double-tongued race of men who are bred
up to chicanery and deceit.”30 This torrent of openly democratic, anti-aristocratic
language shocked and frightened Charleston’s old guard, who had never faced such harsh
rhetoric in any pre-war Charleston newspapers.31
The elite retaliated by denouncing the radicals as ‘an assemblage of drunken
tavern-keepers, Mountebank doctors, pettifogging attorneys and necessitous
speculators.”32 John Rutledge hotly responded that Carolinians did not want “a simple
democracy or [a government] verging toward it.”3’ His brother Edward Rutledge urged
his colleagues to hold fast: “If the field is to be abandoned by men of virtue from the
clamour of the worthless the condition of humanity would be wretched indeed.” If
30South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. September 16, 1784.
3lSee the excellent discussion of the William Thompson-John Rutledge affair and
the anti-aristocratic sentiment it stirred up in Michael E. Stevens, “Legislative Privilege in
Post-Revolutionary South Carolina,” William and Mary Quarterly 46 (January 1989): 71-
92.
32South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. November 20, 1784.
“Quoted in Nadelhafi, Disorders of War. 118.

179
Charleston’s true leaders united, he said, “I am convinced that sooner or later they will
vanquish their enemies, and leave to themselves and their posterity all the ends of good
government.”34
Historians have disagreed over the importance and extent of these threats to
Charleston’s established leaders. Despite the reaction of contemporaries, Jerome J.
Nadelhaft describes the demonstrations of 1783-1784 as nothing more than “relatively
peaceful protest[s] against the acts of the legislature.”35 John C. Meleney cautions
historians not to read too much class conflict into the artisanal tumults, arguing that they
reacted primarily to policy towards Loyalist, British merchants, and Tories.36 Richard
Brent Clow, in his biography of Edward Rutledge, argues that lowcountry leaders feared
backcountry opposition more than the Marine Anti-Britannic Society, because
backcountry dissidents had much more support, which is certainly true enough.37
Nadelhaft further argues that opposition rhetoric demonstrated a concern only for
democratic rights, that it never suggested anything more radical than giving Charleston a
different set of rulers.38 To be sure, the lower orders never questioned property
qualifications for voting or holding office or the distribution of wealth, but there can be
34Edward Rutledge to John Jay, November 12, 1786, in Henry P. Johnston, ed.,
The Correspondence and Public Pacers of John Jav. 4 vols. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s
Sons, 1890-1893), 3:217.
35Nadelhaft, Disorder of War. 110.
36Melenev. Aedanus Burke. 108.
37Clow, “Edward Rutledge,” 195-196.
38Nadelhaft. Disorders of War. 121-124.

180
no doubt that they did question the aristocracy, privilege, and unquestioned supremacy of
Charleston’s traditional leaders. They challenged not the political and economic system,
but the established rulers. Artisans, mechanics, and smaller merchants sought political
equality and economic inclusiveness, not class warfare. They objected to the fact that
wealthy leaders, far from being “disinterested,” in fact looked after no one’s interest but
their own. As William Hornby wrote in 1784, “in these days we are equal citizens of a
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, in which jealously and opposition must naturally exist,
while there exists a difference in the minds, interests, and sentiments of mankind.”39 This
oppositionist rhetoric represents nothing less than the transition from deferential elite
politics to self-interested democracy. As Gordon S. Wood has argued, this recognition of
self-interest in American politics was one of the most radical political innovations of the
American Revolution, for it challenged “the entire classical tradition of disinterested
public leadership and set forth a rationale for competitive democratic politics.” The
lower orders did not object to wealth, per se, only to self-interested wealthy elites
pretending to be virtuous and disinterested. The behavior and rhetoric of Charleston
dissidents in the 1780s very singularly reveals the extent of the political radicalism of the
American Revolution.40
39Gazette of the State of South Carolina. July 29, 1784.
“For a discussion of the development of interest-group representation and the
recognition of self-interest, see Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American
Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 245-247, 252-259.

181
In the midst of all this activity, and partly because of it, the planter-dominated
legislature incorporated the city of Charleston on August 13, 1783.41 Incorporation had
been proposed several times in the 1770s for various reasons, but the colonial legislature
never acted.42 South Carolina historians generally agree that incorporation represented a
counter-revolutionary move by lowcountry leaders to check the growing disturbances in
Charleston’s streets. The original motion to incorporate the town, however, had been
made in the spring, before the disturbances of July. At that time lawmakers argued the
move was necessary “from the extent, growing trade and opulence of this metropolis.”43
The legislature appointed a joint committee to meet during the summer, and the bill for
incorporation was brought in for the session that met from July 7 to August 13, 1783.44
4'South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. August 16, 1783: South
Carolina Weekly Gazette. August 16, 1783; Thomas Cooper and David J. McCord, eds.,
The Statutes at Large of South Carolina. 10 vols. (Columbia SC: A.S. Johnston, 1838-
1841), 7:97-101.
42See South Carolina Gazette. January 25,1770, November 12, 1772, February 15,
March 8,1773. See also Pauline Maier, “The Charleston Mob and the Evolution of
Popular Politics in Revolutionary South Carolina, 1765-1784.” Perspectives in American
History 4 (1970): 191.
43Theodora J. Thompson, ed., Journals of the House of Representatives. 1783-
1784. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina
Press, 1977), 289-290; Committee of Conference Report Concerning the Incorporation of
Charles Town, March 1783, Committee Reports, 1776-1866, Records of the General
Assembly, SCDAH.
44The original motion was made on March 1, 1783, after Governor Benjamin
Guerard called for incorporation to ensure stronger measures for preventing fires. See
Governor’s Messages, March 1, 1783, Governor’s Messages, 1783-1830, Records of the
General Assembly, SCDAH. For the passage of the act of incorporation, see Journals of
the House of Representatives. 1783-1784. 200, 214-215, 319, 324, 331, 337, 347, 351,
370.

182
Historians assume that because the act gave the new city government strong powers to
deal with riots that Charleston was incorporated largely because of the summer
disturbances. Actually, the summer uprisings were the occasion, but not the primary
reason, for Charleston’s incorporation. Moreover, as Jon C. Teaford has pointed out, no
less than twenty-five towns along the Atlantic seaboard received charters of incorporation
between 1775 and 1789. Other Southern towns incorporated during this period included
Alexandria, Virginia (1779), Winchester, Virginia (1779), Fredericksburg, Virginia
(1781), Richmond, Virginia (1782), Savannah, Georgia (1789), and Georgetown,
Maryland (1789). During these post-war years, Teaford notes, Americans “discarded the
model of urban government inherited from medieval Europe and substituted an ideal
which determined the course of municipal development up to the present.”45 Indeed,
contemporaries noted that “the General Assembly has now incorporated this town on
principles very different from Royal Charters, and on a basis the most liberal for a free
and independent people.”46 Incorporation was not simply a reactionary measure.
Charleston had become more of an administrative problem than the legislature could
reasonably handle. Policing the city’s large slave and maritime population, maintaining
city markets, repairing streets, and regulating the harbor all required more time and
attention than the legislature could spare. The South Carolina House, undistracted by war
45Jon C. Teaford, The Municinal Revolution in America: Origins of Modem
Urban Government. 1650-1825 (Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 64, vii.
See also Merrill Jensen, The New Nation: A History of the United States During the
Confederation. 1781-1789 (New York: Vintage Books, 1950), 118-122.
46South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. August 16, 1783.

183
and no longer answerable to London, simply turned over the government of Charleston to
a city council vested with strong police and regulatory powers. One local newspaper
hailed the act as beginning “a new era in Charleston—may it be propitious to its rising
glory, increasing commerce, and growing opulence.”47
The act of incorporation divided the city into thirteen wards, and the city would
now be governed by a council of thirteen wardens and an intendant (or mayor) elected
from one of the wardens.48 The city council controlled all of the powers formerly vested
in the various commissioners and had extraordinary powers to make all laws necessary to
secure “peace, order, and good government.” Suffrage was broad: all white males who
paid a tax equal to three shillings could vote.49 The city held its first elections in early
September 1783 and elected Richard Hutson as the first intendant.50 The first city council
included: James Neilson, Thomas Bee, Alexander Alexander, Bernard Beekman, Joshua
Ward, Thomas Heyward, John Mathews, George Flagg, Thomas Radcliffe Jr., and John
47Ibid., September 13, 1783.
48The boundaries of these wards can be found in South Carolina Gazette and
General Advertiser. August 16, 1783; “Charleston 1670-1883,” Yearbook. City of
Charleston. 1883 (Charleston SC: News and Courier Book Presses, 1883), 467.
49Cooper and McCord, Statutes at Large of South Carolina. 7:97-98; Ordinances
of the City Council of Charleston, in the State of South Carolina. Passed in the First Year
of Incorporation of the City (Charleston SC: J. Miller, 1784); Teaford, Municipal
Revolution. 66.
50South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. September 2, September 13,
1783.

184
Lewis Gervais.51 Hutson, educated at the College of New Jersey (Princeton), practiced
law in Charleston and owned over 2,300 acres and 17 slaves in neighboring St. Andrews
parish. He had served in the state legislature on and off since 1776 and had signed the
Articles of Confederation as a member of the Continental Congress. Exiled to St.
Augustine during the British occupation, he returned to serve as lieutenant governor of
South Carolina in 1782. He was, needless to say, a staunch member of Charleston’s
ruling elite.52
The new government acted quickly in the first few months of incorporation to
restore order to Charleston and to keep the streets quiet in the evenings. The council
appointed constables, passed laws “governing mariners and seamen within the city”
(many of whom were suspected of participating in the July disturbances), established a
nightly guard and town watch, and passed several ordinances regulating slave behavior.53
Nevertheless, the incorporated city government did not entirely succeed in preventing
demonstrations or in choking the voices of opposition. Street uprisings continued in the
summer of 1784, and a frustrated Governor Guerard called out the militia, angrily
5l,,The Government of the City of Charleston, 1682-1882,” Yearbook. City of
Charleston. 1881 (Charleston SC: News and Courier Book Presses, 1881), 367-368.
Neilson and Alexander were merchants, Beekman, Flagg, and Radcliffe were artisans; the
balance were lawyers, planters, or both.
52Bailey and Cooper, Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House. 3:364-
366; Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography. 22 vols.
(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928-1958), 9:443-444; Jerry Kail, comp., Who
Was Who During the American Revolution (Indianapolis IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976), 420.
53South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. October 7, October 14, 1783,
July 20, 1784; Ordinances of the City Council. 21-24.

185
declaring that “government in the city seems lost.”54 Even the state militia could not be
relied upon; many citizen-soldiers sympathized with Charleston’s lower ranks and defied
orders to turn out. Ultimately, Thomas Pinckney and several other members of the city
elite mounted up and quelled the demonstrations themselves. Critics charged that city
officials had been too quick to label peaceful demonstrations “tumults” and “riots” and
had too hastily requested state intervention.
While the incorporation certainly relieved the legislature from the mundane
details of city administration, many citizens thought the incorporated city now had too
much power. Much of this opposition to strong city government was linked, of course, to
the rising voices of democratic equality discussed above. Alexander Gillon’s Marine
Anti-Britannic Society and Whig Club of 600 led the opposition to the city council, and
Gillon openly challenged Richard Hutson for the intendant’s position in the Fall 1784
elections. Gillon faced vitriolic criticism from conservative opponents who denounced
him as a representative of anarchy, disorder, and riots. A vote for Hutson, conversely,
according to the aristocrats, would restore to power “men eminent and tried for public and
private virtue and prove the voice of the citizen to be inimical to tumultuary, factious, and
lawless proceedings.”55 Christopher Gadsden publicly blamed Gillon for the summer
demonstrations and charged him in the Charleston press with “govempng] and
54South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. July 10, 1784; Edwards, ed.,
Journals of the Privy Council. 116-119.
i5South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. September 7, 1784.

186
influencpng] a few weak and deluded men.”56 Gadsden was a veteran of the Liberty Tree
demonstrations of the 1760s and 1770s but had staunchly supported government and law
and order since his confrontation with the loyalty oath demonstrators in 1778. He now
told Samuel Adams, another veteran of the 1760s, ‘“tis our common interest to support
government and not let a few designing men set us by the ears for their own purposes.”57
Gillon ultimately could not overcome the powerful combination of entrenched planters,
large merchants, and lawyers allied against him, losing the election by a count of 387-
260.58 Though Hutson’s supporters hailed his victory as “law and liberty trampling on
anarchy and tyranny,” Gillon’s defeat did not end opposition to aristocratic government in
Charleston.59 Voters later elected Gillon, Benjamin Waller, and Dr. John Budd, all
56See Gadsden’s essays in Gazette of the State of South Carolina. May 6, July 17,
August 5, 1784.
57Gadsdento Samuel Adams, August 18, 1784, in Walsh, ed., Writings of
Christopher Gadsden. 239. For Gadsden’s evolving (or consistent, depending upon the
historian) views on opposition to government, see Richard Walsh, “Christopher Gadsden:
Radical or Conservative Revolutionary?” South Carolina Historical Magazine 63 (1962):
195-203.
58Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 119. Nadelhaft points out that the 647 votes cast
in this city election probably represents about 50 percent of the eligible electorate, which
was a high turnout. In the city elections of 1786 and 1787, only 275 men voted, and in
1788 less than 425. Exact population figures for 1784 are unknown, but in 1790 the
city’s population was 16,359, of whom 2,810 (17 percent) were free white males over
sixteen. Of these, no foreign merchants or factors or native males under 21 could vote,
nor could males over 21 who did not pay a three-shilling tax. See Nadelhaft, Disorders of
War. 117, 251 n.66. For votes in city elections, see Charleston Morning Post and Daily
Advertiser. September 12, 1786, “Poll Lists, Charleston Municipal Elections, 1787,”
South Carolina Historical Magazine 56 (January 1955): 45-49, City Gazette and Daily
Advertiser. September 30, 1788. Population figures are from Heads of Families at the
First Census. South Carolina. 9.
59South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. September 14, 1784.

187
prominent in the Marine Anti-Britannic Society and outspoken critics of the government,
as Charleston representatives to the state House of Representatives. There they continued
their attacks upon aristocratic city government, and Gillon cast a vote in 1789 for removal
of the capital to Columbia.60
Critics of city government continued their opposition throughout the 1780s but
restricted their voices primarily to newspapers and legislative petitions. The bulk of this
opposition came from artisans and mechanics who used the rhetoric of republicanism to
oppose the “arbitrary and despotic system of city laws.” During the post-war years,
advocates of strong municipal government and supporters of political and civil liberties
fought similar battles in other newly-chartered cities.61 In Charleston, over 170 artisans
and mechanics asked that the incorporation be abolished and a new government
established that would not be “dissonant to Revolution principles, derogatory to the rights
of American freemen, [and] subversive to our constitution.” These protesters railed
against the “leaven of that garbage of monarchy, those tinselled trappings of royalty
which the republican Freemen of this state have but lately shaken off.”62 Others
“Lark Emerson Adams, ed., Journals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786.
The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1979), 607-608. As mentioned earlier, by 1789 Gillon was representing the backcountry
Saxe Gotha district. Dr. John Budd was still sitting for Charleston, and he joined all but
one of his colleagues in voting to keep the capital in Charleston, despite his opposition to
the excesses of the city government. See Michael E. Stevens, ed., Journal of the House of
Representatives. 1789-1790. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 60-62.
61See Teaford, Municipal Revolution. 67-69.
“Petitions from Inhabitants of the City of Charleston, March 1, 1787, Petitions,
SCDAH; Michael E. Stevens, ed., Journals of the House of Representatives, 1787-1788.

188
denounced high city taxes and called the city council “an engine of oppression in the
hands of a potent few to Lord it over the equal rights of other oppressed fellow citizens of
Charleston.”63 Over 190 of the city’s elite responded to these charges with a petition of
their own supporting the city government and praising the “impartial and disinterested”
city leaders.64 Surprisingly, the committee appointed to consider the petitions agreed that
the city’s charter vested too much power in the city council but failed to offer any
possible solutions or alternatives. The House took no further action.65
Despite the survival of city government, it is clear that Charleston’s traditional
elite did not rule unchallenged within the city (or, as we shall we see, within the state) in
the immediate post-war years. To be sure, Charleston’s merchant-planter-lawyer cohort
continued to supply the bulk of city wardens and intendants, but they no longer governed
free from criticism or accountability. The democratic rhetoric of these years made
lowcountry nabobs alarmed and fearful, and the simultaneous backcountry pressure for
more extensive constitutional and political reform increased their anxiety. By 1785 city
leaders were convinced that Charleston’s continued dominance perhaps would be more
The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1981), 169-171.
“Petition of a Number of Inhabitants of the City of Charleston, March 1, 1787,
Petitions, SCDAH: Journals of the House of Representatives, 1787-1788. 169.
“Petition of Citizens of Charleston Praising City Government, March 12, 1787,
Petitions, SCDAH; Journals of the House of Representatives. 1787-1788. 209.
65See Report on revision of charter of Charleston, March 12, 1787, Journals of the
House of Representatives. 1787-1788. 208. City government opponent Dr. John Budd
from Charleston read the committee report.

189
economic than political, and leaders began investing in improved intrastate transportation
links. The Revolution presented new opportunities for commercial expansion and
economic improvement, and both urban and rural Carolinians rushed to take advantage of
them. By embracing and encouraging economic radicalism, city leaders helped to blunt
the extent of democratic radicalism, and by doing so they ensured that Charleston would
continue to be the economic capital, even after Columbia became the political capital in
1790.
************
As mentioned earlier, Charleston’s planters welcomed British merchants in late
1782 because of the credit they offered and the need to rebuild and replenish plantations.
Most planters went quickly and deeply into debt promising future crops in return for
slaves, plantation utensils, and luxury items.66 Crop failures in 1784, 1785, and 1786
compounded an already bad situation. Jacob Read’s plight is suggestive of the
experience of many post-war Charlestonians. Educated as a lawyer in Savannah and
London, Read served as a captain in the Charleston militia and three years as a state
“Particularly useful here is the correspondence between Dr. Robert Pringle of
Charleston and his brother-in-law William Freeman Jr. and William Freeman Sr. of
Bristol. Pringle quit his medical practice and used his family connections in Bristol to
establish a mercantile business in Charleston specifically to capitalize on the post-war
needs of Carolina planters. See especially “Article of Agreement of Copartnership
between Robert Pringle and William Freeman,” June 1783, Robert Pringle to William
Pringle, September 7, 1783, William Freeman Sr. to Robert Pringle, November 13, 1783,
Robert Pringle to Rev. Edward Jenkins, December 27, 1783, William Freeman Sr. to
Robert Pringle, February 20, 1784, William Freeman Jr. to Robert Pringle, March 4,
1784, Robert Pringle to William Freeman, undated, Robert Pringle to Edmund Granger,
undated, John J. Pringle to Robert Pringle, August 19, 1787, all in Pringle Family Papers,
South Carolina Historical Society.

190
attorney. During the occupation of Charleston, the British sent him into exile in St.
Augustine. After the war he began rebuilding his Christ Church parish plantation,
Hobcaw, while simultaneously representing Charleston in the state legislature, the Privy
Council, and in the Confederation Congress. He went on to serve as United States
Senator from 1795-1800.67 Despite his connections and his 1785 marriage to heiress
Catherine Van Home, daughter of wealthy New York merchant David Van Home, Read
found it necessary in 1787 to plead with London merchants for a loan to rebuild his
Charleston home and nearby plantation. A “considerable income from rents” and Read’s
law practice enabled him to provide for his family and slaves, but his plantations had
suffered through three years of bad crops. If John Tunno (brother of Charleston merchant
Adam Tunno) could loan £1,500 pounds, Read promised to “mortgage houses in
Charleston, lands & slaves to four times the value and pledge my Honour to you for an
exact and punctual compliance.” Though almost no Carolinians could pay their debts
during these years, Read assured Tunno he could produce 700 barrels of rice in 1787 and
repay the loan by 1789.6® Read no doubt found this entire exchange humbling, but his
experience was in fact all too typical for South Carolina planters whose continued good
fortunes and careers often hinged on the success of next year’s crop. South Carolina
merchants imported over £1,500,000 in 1783-1784, and exported only £640,000.® The
67Biogranhical Directory of the South Carolina House. 3:597-599.
“Jacob Read to John Tunno, May 19, 1787, Jacob Read Papers, South
Caroliniana Library. See also John Paul Grimke to Alexander Fraser, January 1, 1786,
Grimke Family Papers, South Carolina Historical Society.
®Nadelhaft, Disorders of War 152.

191
ruinous economic conditions of post-war South Carolina forced many planters into debt,
and they then adopted extraordinary measures to fend off their creditors.
Within a few years the relationship between Charleston planters and British
merchants had soured. By 1785, planter debts contracted in 1783 and 1784 came due,
and planters joined the rising chorus of voices against these supposed vultures who
descended upon South Carolina after the war and brought disaster and economic ruin
with them. Never mind that the planters had been primarily responsible for the original
agreement with the British merchants and had agreed to their request for an extension
despite the opposition of native merchants and artisans. Few took Henry Laurens’ advice
to “cease from complaining and be thankful for what is left.” Laurens could afford to be
forgiving. He lived rent free, “my lands will support me and I am free from debt. I have
not so much as I had [but] I have enough.”70 Others were not so fortunate. The enormous
importation of slaves in the immediate post-war years drained the state of much its specie.
Lacking hard money, planters stopped paying their debts, and many merchants thus could
not make timely remittances to their London suppliers.71 One historian estimates that
70Henry Laurens to William Bell, March 31, 1785, in Mabel Webber, ed., “Letters
from Henry Laurens to William Bell of Philadelphia,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 24 (January-April 1923): 3; Henry Laurens to John Bannister, June 4,1785,
William Gilmore Simms Collection of Henry Laurens Papers, Kendall Whaling Museum,
Sharon, Massachusetts, microfilm, South Caroliniana Library (hereafter cited as Kendall
Collection).
’’Much of the surviving correspondence between London and Charleston
merchants from the years 1783-1787 is filled with complaints about non-payment of
debts. Particularly instructive is the correspondence between London merchant Isaac
King and his Charleston attorney Joshua Ward. When King died in 1797 he was still
looking for payment on much of the South Carolina debt contracted during this period.
See Isaac King Letterbook, South Caroliniana Library. See also Gervais and Owen to

192
South Carolinians owed at least £2,000,000 sterling by 1785.72 The result was a flurry of
lawsuits, and local attorney Timothy Ford noted that many planters “were tom to pieces
by legal process.”73 It appeared that some of the most valuable property in the state
would suddenly default into the hands of the former enemy. From all comers of the state,
debtors demanded that the state government intervene and put a stop to this outrage.
Some farmers took matters into their own hands, preventing sheriffs sales and even
halting court proceedings in Camden.74 By late 1785 the debtor crisis threatened to
overturn every economic benefit gained by the war. Charleston attorney Henry William
Leonard De Neufville, April 13,1786, John Lewis Gervais Papers, South Caroliniana
Library; Thomas Morris to Alexander Nesbitt, May 13, 1785, Robert Stewart to
Alexander Nesbitt, June 22, 1786, Thomas Morris Papers, South Caroliniana Library;
Henry Laurens to James Bourdieu, May 6, 1785, Kendall Collection; John Paul Grimke
to Alexander Fraser Sr., January 2, 1786, Grimke Family Papers, South Carolina
Historical Society.
72Nadelhaft. Disorders of War. 152-153.
73Barnwell, ed., “Diary of Timothy Ford,” 194-195. Ford, from New Jersey,
opened a law practice in Charleston in the mid-1780s with his brother-in-law Henry
William DeSaussure. Ford, as on outsider to Charleston society, made several shrewd
observations on the manners and customs of South Carolinians, and his first-hand account
of the bitter battle between planters and merchants survives in his diary. It is an excellent
discussion of the entire debtor-law crisis. See also Ralph Izard to Thomas Jefferson, July
1, 1786, in “Letters of Ralph Izard,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 2 (July 1901):
199.
74See Judge John Faucheraud Grimke’s account of the closing of the Camden
court in “Rough Draft of a Report re disruption of Camden Court,” May 18, 1785,
Grimke Family Papers, South Carolina Historical Society; Robert A. Becker, ed., “John
F. Grimke’s Eyewitness Account of the Camden Court Riot, April 27-28, 1785,” South
Carolina Historical Magazine 83 (July 1982): 209-213. See also Joshua Ward to Isaac
King, May 14, 1785, Isaac King Letterbook, South Caroliniana Library; Thomas Farr to
Dear Sir, August 27, 1785, Gibbes Autograph Book of the Revolution, South Caroliniana
Library.

193
DeSaussure perhaps understated the problem when he wrote that “we are it is true
independent. But we are not yet a happy people. The want of money is the great cry, the
want of economy is the great want.”75
By late 1785 Governor William Moultrie warned the legislature that it must take
extraordinary steps to stave off financial disaster, and the lawmakers, almost all of whom
were deeply in debt, lost no time in passing a series of debtor relief laws.76 Planters and
fanners from all sections publicly supported this move, though privately many worried
that perhaps the failure to pay debts might do more damage to South Carolina’s financial
reputation in the international community than the street demonstrations of 1783 and
1784. John Lloyd, president of the state senate and a former merchant, thought that “the
interference of the legislature in the private contracts of individuals cannot in my opinion
be justified upon any plea whatsoever [and will] forever blast our national character with
foreigners.”77 Others voiced similar concerns. Nevertheless, subsequent legislatures
75Henry William DeSaussure to John Cobum, June 17, 1786, DeSaussure Family
Papers, South Carolina Historical Society.
76For extensive discussion of the various debtor relief laws passed between 1785
and 1789, see Robert A. Becker, “Salus Populi Suprema Lex: Public Peace and South
Carolina Debtor Relief Laws, 1783-1788,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 80
(January 1979): 65-75, which contains an excellent discussion of the Pine Barren Act and
other laws; Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 155-172; Rachel N. Klein, Unification of a
Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountrv, 1760-1808
(Chapel Hill NC: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1990), 134-135; Clow, “Edward
Rutledge,” 201-209; McDonough, “Gadsden and Laurens,” 459-464; Zahniser, Charles
Cotesworth Pinckney. 84-87.
77John Lloyd to “My Dear Nephew,” April 15, 1786, John Lloyd Letters,
Charleston Library Society, Charleston. Lloyd, a native of Bristol, England, was a pre¬
war partner of George Inglis and George Abbot Hall in the firm of Inglis, Lloyd, and Hall,
1759-1764, and in Inglis, Lloyd, and Company until 1773. N. Louise Bailey, ed.,

194
continued to come to the aid of debtors throughout the remainder of the 1780s, even after
the adoption of the United States Constitution supposedly made such laws
unconstitutional ,78
South Carolina’s enormous debt and Britain’s seeming stranglehold on
Charleston’s trade lay behind the lowcountry’s almost unanimous support for a stronger
federal government in 1787.79 Every economic and political group in Charleston favored
the passage of the United States Constitution and a stronger federal government because
each group had something to gain.80 Planters wanted the government to regulate trade,
open up British ports to South Carolina commerce,81 while reducing Carolina debt to
Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate. 1776-1985. 3 vols. (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1986), 2:943-944. See also David Ramsay’s attempts
to explain South Carolina’s stay laws to the international community in Ramsay to
Thomas Jefferson, Paris, April 7, 1787, Ramsay to John Adams, London, April 7, 1787,
in Brunhouse, ed., “Ramsay Writings,” 110-111; Henry Laurens to Michael Hillegas,
April 24, 1786, Laurens to Captain Edward May, January 9, 1787, Henry Laurens Papers,
South Carolina Historical Society; Francis Kinloch to Thomas Boone, March 14, 1786,
Gilbert, ed., “Letters of Francis Kinloch,” 99.
78See Arthur H. Shaffer, To Be An American: David Ramsay and the Making of
the American Consciousness (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991),
82-83; Mark D. Kaplanoff, “How Federalist Was South Carolina in 1787-88?” in David
R. Chesnutt and Clyde N. Wilson, eds., The Meaning of South Carolina History: Essays
in Honor of George C. Rogers Jr. (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1991), 87.
7,For Charleston calls for a national constitutional convention, see Charleston
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser. October 23, 1786.
80The Constitution was published in Charleston in the Columbian Herald. October
2, 1787. See also Ernest M. Lander Jr., “The South Carolinians at the Philadelphia
Convention.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 57 (19561: 134-155.
81British West Indian ports had been closed to American commerce in 1783.
During the Constitutional Convention, South Carolinian John Rutledge put it bluntly:

195
British merchants. Merchants too wanted better regulation of trade and abolition of state
interference between debtor and creditor. Artisans and mechanics wanted protection
from foreign manufactures and encouragement of native industry. There can be little
doubt that South Carolina’s late eighteenth-century “nationalism”-so often hailed by
historians who seek to explain South Carolina’s transformation to staunch sectionalism in
the nineteenth century—was based primarily on defense of economic and sectional self-
interests and was in fact no more “nationalistic” than Calhoun’s critique of the Tariff of
1832. As Mark D. Kaplanoff has quite rightly argued, South Carolina ratified the
Constitution because it hoped to reap considerable economic benefits without making
considerable sacrifices.82
Merchant Adam Gilchrist, secretary of Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce,
lamented the annual passage of debtor laws and hoped that the “federal plan when
adopted will set all matters in proper order.”83 One Charleston editorial encouraged
“We need to secure the West India trade to this country. That was the great object, and a
navigation act was necessary for obtaining it.” George C. Rogers Jr., “South Carolina
Ratifies the Federal Constitution,” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical
Association. 1961, 50, 52.
82For an excellent discussion of the South Carolina’s mythical “transformation”
from one of the most nationalistic states to one of the most sectional and provincial, see
Kaplanoff, “How Federalist Was South Carolina in 1787-88?” 67, 89. See also Pierce
Butler to “Dear Sir” (probably Thomas Fitzsimmons), April 30, 1786, Miscellaneous
Manuscripts Collection, Series I, South Carolina Historical Society; Robert E. Shalhope,
“South Carolina in the Founding Era: A Localist Perspective,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 89 (April 1988): 102-113.
83Adam Gilchrist to Coll MacGregor, February 11, 1788, Adam Gilchrist Papers,
South Caroliniana Library. Gilchrist, the son-in-law of city government critic Dr. John
Budd, had strong mercantile ties in Philadelphia and New York. He would go on to
become actively involved in the Santee Canal Company, the Charleston branch of the

196
ratification to ensure that “one of the greatest of human revolutions will be accomplished
—a free government erected by a free people, capable of reviving our trade, protecting our
manufactures, and rendering us happy at home and respected abroad.”84 David Ramsay
was perhaps the most eloquent of all in prophesying the political, commercial, and
economic benefits that South Carolina (and especially Charleston) would reap by passage
of the Constitution. He argued that it would encourage and facilitate internal
improvements that would unite Carolina’s rivers, build new roads and bridges, and
forever link the hinterlands to the metropolis, ensuring Charleston’s and South Carolina’s
continued dominance in the Lower South.85
Though South Carolina ratified the Constitution by a wide majority, it still faced
considerable opposition within the state, primarily from backcountry leaders who saw in
the document a strong central government that would protect the interests of the
lowcountry elite. Backcountry opposition never manifested itself in any effective way,
however. Upcountry anti-federalists were less organized, less skilled in the art of
United States Bank, and invested heavily in backcountry lands in Ninety-Six district and
Orangeburgh District. See Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House. 4:232-
233.
“Broadside on the Ratification of the Constitution by South Carolina, 1788, Early
American Imprints # 21469.
85David Ramsay, An Oration. Prepared for Delivery Before the Inhabitants of
Charleston. Assembled on the 27th of May. 1788, To Celebrate the Adoption of the New
Constitution Bv South Carolina (Bowen & Co., 1788), 3-6. See also his An Address to
the Freemen of South Carolina on the Subject of the Federal Constitution (1788), 6-7, 9;
Shaffer, To Be An American. 154-161; Robert L. Brunhouse, ed., “David Ramsay on the
Ratification of the Constitution in South Carolina, 1787-1788,” Journal of Southern
History 9 (November 1943): 549-555.

197
parliamentary debate, and less eloquent than the lowcountry lawyers who opposed them.
Ironically, lowcountry planter Rawlins Lowndes emerged as the most prominent and
vocal anti-federalist. His objections, however, had more to do with fears of a strong
central government created at the expense of states’ rights than with backcountry
concerns over the document’s protection of lowcountry wealth and property.86
The real debate over the ratification of the Constitution occurred in the state
legislature in January 1788.87 Even then the only substantive issue was the location of the
ratifying convention. Backcountry legislators, already hard at work attempting to move
the capital, resisted holding the convention in Charleston. They realized that what little
hope they had of blocking ratification depended on debating the issue outside the
hegemonic sway of the seaport metropolis. The vote on the issue was extremely close,
but Charleston won by one vote, 76-75.88 Because each parish and district sent the same
number of delegates to the ratifying convention that it sent to the General Assembly,
lowcountry and Federalist dominance was assured. By the time the ratifying convention
met in May ratification had become a fail accompli. The convention met in Charleston
from May 12-24,1788, and Federalists encountered “trifling opposition.”85 Backcountry
“See Carl J. Vipperman, The Rise of Rawlins Lowndes. 1721-1800 (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1978), 240-253.
87See Debates Which Arose in the House of Representatives of South Carolina.
On the Constitution Framed For the United States. Bv a Convention of Delegates
Assembled at Philadelphia (Charleston SC: City Gazette, 1788).
88Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1788-1789. 330-332.
89Edward Rutledge to John Jay, June 20, 1788, Correspondence of John Jav.
3:339.

198
anti-federalists attempted to postpone consideration until the fall, by which time they
hoped either to have drafted proposed amendments to the existing document, or, better
yet, written a counter-constitution at another national convention. When this effort failed
by forty-six votes, the Federalists quickly cut off debate and overwhelmingly ratified the
Constitution 149-73.90 The vote was of course sectional. The planter and mercantile
interests of the lowcountry overwhelmed the disorganized backcountry opposition, with
Charleston and the surrounding six parishes voting monolithically 73-0 in favor of the
Constitution. Overall, the eighteen lowcountry parishes voted 121-16 in favor of
ratification, while the fourteen upcountry parishes opposed the new government 57-28.
Aedanus Burke, a lowcountry lawyer and judge representing an upcountry district,
bitterly denounced the outcome as the natural result of holding the convention in
Charleston, where “not fifty inhabitants [were] unfriendly to the new government.”
Burke complained that almost everyone in Charleston, “the merchants, the mechanics, the
populace and the mob,” supported the Constitution. Furthermore, Charleston nabobs
threw open their houses to entertain and influence backcountry members, ensuring
ratification “notwithstanding 4/5 of the people do from their souls detest it.”51 Though
90A.S. Salley Jr., Journal of the Convention of South Carolina which Ratified the
Constitution of the United States. May 23. 1788 (Atlanta GA: Foote & Davies, 1928), 13-
23, 39-49. See also Gabriel Manigault to Margaret Izard Manigault, May 22,1788,
Manigault Family Papers, South Carolina Historical Society; Nadelhaft, Disorders of
War. 173-190; Melenev. Aedanus Burke. 139-151; Zahniser. Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney. 88-101; Rogers, “South Carolina Ratifies the Federal Constitution,” 41-61;
Robert M. Weir, “South Carolinians and the Adoption of the Federal Constitution,” South
Carolina Historical Magazine 89 (April 1988): 73-89.
9lAedanus Burke to John Lamb, June 23, 1788, John Lamb Papers, New York
Historical Society, quoted in Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 180-182.

199
Burke overstated the extent of opposition, it is clear that Charleston’s considerable
political, cultural, and economic influence proved ultimately decisive. Lowcountry
leaders knew full well what they were doing when they insisted that the ratifying
convention be held in the metropolis. They thus feared all the more the effects of moving
the capital away from the seacoast and were determined that Charleston remain the
capital of South Carolina.92
Backcountry efforts to relocate the state capital represented yet another in a series
of challenges to lowcountry power throughout the 1780s.93 As we have seen, during the
post-war years Charleston’s elite stood down repeated challenges to its authority and
continued hegemony in the city, state, and region. The incorporation of Charleston
reinforced elite authority in the city, the passage of debtor laws and paper money served
to stave off more serious dissensions throughout the state, and the establishment of a
strong central government able to regulate trade and commerce effectively ensured a
92See David Ramsay, The History of South Carolina. From Its Settlement in 1670.
to the Year 1808. 2 vols. (Charleston: David Longworth, 1809), 2:435-436.
93The Constitution of 1778 did not mention Charleston specifically as the “seat of
government,” leaving open the possibly that it might one day be changed. Francis
Newton Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions. Colonial Charters, and Other
Organic Laws of the States. Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the
United States of America. 7 vols. (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1909),
6:3251. James Mayson, representing Ninety-Six District in the backcountry, made the
first proposal to move the capital inland on February 8, 1780. W. Edwin Hemphill et al.,
eds., Journals of the General Assembly and House of Representatives. 1776-1780. The
State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina, 1970),
287. Another motion was made to relocate the capital on February 18, 1783. See
Journals of the House of Representatives. 1783-1784. 156. See also Jerome J. Nadelhaft,
‘“The Snarls of Invidious Animals’: The Democratization of Revolutionary South
Carolina,” in Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert, eds., Sovereign States in An Age of
Uncertainty (Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1981), 86.

200
national government that would protect the interests of the coastal merchant elite.
Charleston’s traditional rulers remained in place, but their aristocratic dominance could
no longer be taken for granted. The politicization of the lower political orders-
particularly urban artisans and backcountry farmers—had largely enervated their political
triumphs during the post-war years. The American Revolution had democratized too
many of the rank and file who “found it very difficult to fall back in the ranks.”94
Lowcountry aristocrats were now on the defensive. Their unquestioned right to rule by
virtue of wealth, lineage, and talents came under attack from all quarters. Urban artisans
and backcountry farmers challenged the elite right to rule and repeatedly demanded a
more inclusive, egalitarian government. Goose Creek planter Ralph Izard perhaps
represented lowcountry aristocratic political power at its zenith. Izard led a powerful
political faction centered in St. James Goose Creek parish just north of Charleston. His
daughters married Charleston attorney William Loughton Smith and Goose Creek planter
Gabriel Manigault, and the Izard-Smith-Manigault faction virtually controlled this
wealthy parish on the state and national level for the remainder of the eighteenth century.
Izard served as one of South Carolina’s first Federalist senators, and Smith represented
Charleston in Congress from 1788-1797.95 Izard haughtily dismissed demands for
political reforms, sniffing that “our governments tend too much to democracy.” “A
handicraftsman thinks an apprenticeship necessary to make him acquainted with his
94The quote is from Edward Rutledge to John Jay, May 21, 1789, in
Correspondence of John Jav. 3:368.
95See Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist. 124-134.

201
business,” he complained, “but our backcountrymen are of opinion that a politician may
be bom such as well as a poet.”96
Having faced one challenge to their authority within Charleston, lowcountry
leaders certainly wanted to avoid, if possible, an open battle with disaffected backcountry
leaders. But backcountry demands for constitutional reforms began almost immediately
after the war and continued throughout the 1780s. As the debtor crisis became more
severe and widespread, constitutional reform became linked to demands for paper money,
installment laws, and removal of the capital. The last demand, though often couched in
terms of convenience, represented an open and direct challenge not only to the geographic
location of the capital, but also to the lowcountry merchants and planters who ruled the
city. In 1790, 80 percent of South Carolina’s white population resided in the
backcountry, yet by the apportionment of the Constitution of 1778, the backcountry held
only 38 percent of the seats in the state House of Representatives. As David Ramsay
wrote, “every principle of republicanism supported their claim.”97 But lowcountry leaders
had never earned a reputation for being even-handed and generous when their own
political and economic interests hung in the balance. And many were convinced that their
continued survival as a ruling class rested in part on Charleston’s continued political
dominance.
96Ralph Izard to Thomas Jefferson, June 10, 1785, “Letters of Ralph Izard,” 197-
198.
97Ramsay, History of South Carolina. 2:435-436.

202
The Constitution of 1778 had promised a reapportionment of the legislature,
based on population and taxable property, no later than 1785." Nevertheless, lowcountry
leaders continued to resist any changes in part because they argued that while a majority
of the state’s population might reside above the fall line, the lowcountry continued to
hold a majority of the state’s wealth. And to their minds, of course, wealth was the only
basis for determining a proper legislative apportionment. Population figures, they
thought, should be taken into account, but many feared rising property taxes if the
legislature was in fact proportioned equally. Their fears were partially realized by the
Tax Act of 1784. The Tax Act of 1783 had placed a tax of one dollar on every one
hundred acres of land, regardless of quality. Thus backcountry pine barrens paid the
same tax as prime tidewater rice lands. Outlying lowcountry parishes joined with the
backcountry to reverse this injustice the following year, however. The Tax Act of 1784
delivered two blows against lowcountry wealth: it taxed land according to its value and
doubled the tax on slaves. A one-percent tax on the value of all lands doubled some
lowcountry taxes; conversely, most backcountry taxes decreased." Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney protested against the “proprietors of barren acres” passing laws “instead of
persons possessed of real property,”100 and he joined other lowcountry leaders who
fiercely resisted all demands for constitutional reform.
"Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions. 6:3252.
"Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 125-126.
'“"Charleston Morning Post and Daily Advertiser. February 4, 1786.

203
Another lowcountry objection concerned the lack of education in the backcountry.
Some conceded that constitutional revisions might be necessary, even just, but should not
be expected as long as backcountry youths continued to be “brought up deer-hunters and
horse thieves for want of education.”101 It was no coincidence that during these years
many lowcountry leaders united to organize South Carolina’s first college and advocated
the creation of similar institutions throughout the state.102 The Mount Zion Society,
formed to “promote science and advance literature in the remote parts of this state,”
petitioned the legislature in February 1785 for a college to be erected at Winnsborough, in
Camden District.103 The legislature responded favorably, establishing colleges not only in
Charleston, but also in the backcountry at Winnsborough and Ninety-Six.104 Henry
Laurens, among others, approved: “Our people are not inattentive to the rising generation,
schools and seminaries are growing in different parts of the country even to the remotest,
101Aedanus Burke to Arthur Middleton, July 6, 1782, “Correspondence of Arthur
Middleton,” 204.
102See George C. Rogers Jr., “The College of Charleston and the Year 1785,”
South Carolina Historical Magazine 86 (October 1985): 285-295.
l03Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 148-149. See also the
society’s efforts in South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. July 24, 1784. The
officers of the Mount Zion Society were Daniel Cannon, Charleston carpenter and
housewright representing Charleston in the General Assembly, Richard Hutson, attorney
and former intendant of Charleston, and William Hasell Gibbes, Charleston attorney and
state legislator.
l04Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 180-181, 188, 189,232-
233,237,242,249,264.

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hence I have great hopes the children will be wiser and better than their fathers.”105
Despite these well-intentioned efforts, however, only the College of Charleston ever
really fulfilled its purpose. Not surprisingly, only Charleston could raise the necessary
financial support before the era of state funding. Mount Zion College in Winnsborough
operated for a short while and closed in 1795. The College of Cambridge in Ninety-Six
never got off the ground. The first successful college in the backcountry was the South
Carolina College (the University of South Carolina), founded on December 19, 1801.106
In the meantime, backcountry leaders did not sit idly by and wait for their sons’
education to meet condescending lowcountry approval. On January 27, 1785, during the
first session of the Sixth General Assembly, over 220 citizens from the District between
the Broad and Catawba Rivers in the backcountry petitioned the House of
Representatives for removal of the seat of government, county courts, a college, revision
of the state constitution, and tobacco inspection warehouses. They asked that the new
capital “be fixed as centrical as possible for the ease and convenience of the community
at large.” Another petition from 106 “free citizens of this state” echoed the demands of
the first.107 A third petition from 192 inhabitants of Ninety-Six District asked that the
capital be relocated “as near the center of the state” as possible because of the
105Henry Laurens to Edward Bridgen, February 13, 1786, Henry Laurens Papers,
South Carolina Historical Society.
'“Rogers, “College of Charleston,” 293-294.
107Joumals of the House of Representatives, 1785-1786. 26-27.

205
inconvenience, time, and expense necessary to travel to Charleston.108 Speaker John
Faucheraud Grimke referred the petitions to a committee of eleven men, five from the
lowcountry, six from the backcountry. It thus appeared likely that the petition would
receive a favorable hearing.109 Two of the lowcountry representatives, Aedanus Burke
and Thomas Tudor Tucker, supported constitutional revision; another, Richard Flutson,
served as an officer in the Mount Zion Society, which supported establishing a college in
the backcountry.110 Backcountry supporters could be cautiously optimistic.
The committee brought in its report ten days later. The House heard the report
and postponed any further discussion for fifteen days. The speaker asked that during that
time all absent members report to Charleston to attend the debate. In the meantime the
committee reported favorably on the least controversial parts of the petitions, establishing
additional tobacco inspection warehouses and a college in the backcountry. Finally, on
February 22, 1785, the committee reported that the state constitution was “defective and
faulty” and that a committee be appointed to recommend revisions. They further
recommended that statewide elections should be held for a constitutional convention to
meet in Camden, in the backcountry, the following December. Interestingly, a proposed
motion to move the convention to Charleston failed 68-44. The committee refused to
108Ibid., 194-195. This last petition was not received until March 7,1785, more
than a month after the first two and after the committee had already made its report. The
committee reported that the matter was already before the House. Ibid., 196, 284-285.
I09lbid.,27, 601-608.
ll0For Tucker, see Diana Dru Dowdy, ‘“A School For Stoicism’: Thomas Tudor
Tucker and the Republican Age,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 96 (April 1995):
102-118: Klein. Unification of a Slave State. 142.

206
make any recommendation regarding the state capital, however. Such an important
decision, it argued, should be “referred to the convention of the people.” The state senate
dashed all hope for reform, however, when it disagreed with the House report on March 2
and refused to discuss or consider any of the proposed changes during the remainder of
that session.111
During the special session that met in the fall of 1785, seventy-two people from
the lower part of Camden District petitioned for constitutional revision and removal of
the capital to the center of the state. The speaker referred the petition to a committee of
three: William Loughton Smith of St. James Goose Creek in the lowcountry, John
Chesnut of the District Eastward of the Wateree River, and Dr. James Knox from the
District between Broad and Catawba rivers. Once again it looked as if the petition would
at least get a favorable hearing in committee. Nevertheless, Governor William Moultrie
had called this special session of the Assembly to deal with the burgeoning debtor crisis.
The House was preoccupied and the committee recommended that their report be
postponed until the next session of the legislature. Thus despite the work of backcountry
petitioners and the appointment of favorable committees in the House, the capital
remained in Charleston at the close of 1785, and the lowcountry continued to dominate
the legislature."2
‘"Journals ofthe House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 57, 71, 89, 126, 139-140,
179. The first session of the Sixth General Assembly began January 3 and ended March
25, 1785. A special session began September 20 and ended October 12, 1785. The
second session began January 10 and ended March 22, 1786. Biographical Directory of
the House. 1:202.
"Journals ofthe House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 331, 335, 338.

207
Debate over removal of the capital began in earnest during the next session. On
February 6, 1786, yet another petition, this one from the New Acquisition District, called
for a new capital.'13 On February 22, 1786, the committee appointed the previous fall
reported that a constitutional convention should be called and that “the next meeting of
the General Assembly be held as near the center of the state as conveniency will admit.”
A committee appointed to decide on the best location recommended Camden, 125 miles
northwest of Charleston."4
Camden was certainly a likely candidate for a new capital. It lay close to the
confluence of the Wateree River and Pine Tree Creek on one of the main trading paths to
the Catawba Indians. The town served as a collection center for backcountry wheat and
flour, which Camden merchants bought and forwarded on to Charleston."5 One
contemporary described it in 1785 as a “thriving place, where with good management
much money might be yoked, and the trade of the country about it, and even far back of
it, made to center here.”"6 It would take more than an advantageous location and
economic potential to convince the lowcountry elite to relocate the capital, however.
Despite Ramsay’s later assertion that “no private views could control the sovereign
"3Ibid.. 371. The text of this petition is not in the House Journals, but the
Charleston Morning Post and Daily Advertiser. February 6,1786, notes that the
legislature received a petition from New Acquisition concerning removal of the capital.
"“Journals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 449, 451.
"’Joseph A. Ernst and H. Roy Merrens, “‘Camden’s Turrets Pierce the Skies!’:
The Urban Process in the Southern Colonies during the Eighteenth Century,” William
and Mary Quarterly 30 (October 1973): 549-579.
"’Richard Champion to Henry Laurens, July 22, 1785, Kendall Collection.

208
people from establishing their government where they pleased,” lowcountry aristocrats
would not stand by and lose their capital without a fight.117 Charleston supporters
marshaled their eloquence, political strength, and arrogance to engage in battle with the
upcountry.
Many of the objections to moving the capital covered familiar ground.118 Some
had to do with convenience: the backcountry lacked adequate facilities for housing the
assembly, no town except Charleston could provide sufficient lodging for members,
public records would be at risk traveling long distances over dusty roads. Other
objections re-echoed concerns about lack of educational institutions. Former governor
John Mathews insisted that the legislature had received too few petitions to justify
moving the capital.119
But the debate, of course, really centered around power. The location of the
capital in one section or the other meant that members in one region could attend
legislative sessions more conveniently and thus give greater weight and influence to laws
and other legislation. A backcountry capital would mean more absentees from the
lowcountry. Ralph Izard put it bluntly. Removal of the capital would “strengthen the
country interest in a proportion of four to one,” and he flatly opposed any lessening of
11 ’Ramsay, History of South Carolina. 2:103.
U8See the debates over removal of the capital in Charleston Morning Post and
Daily Advertiser. March 3, March 11, 1786.
119Ibid., March 3, 1786. Mathews cited only two petitions, one from Camden, the
other from the New Acquisition, in his arguments. The Assembly, of course, received no
less than five petitions with at least 600 signatures during the meeting of the Sixth
General Assembly alone.

209
Charleston’s power. Charleston was now and had always been the political, economic,
and cultural capital of not only South Carolina, but of the entire Lower South. Was it not
the only metropolis worthy of the name between Philadelphia and the West Indies? The
wealth of enterprising merchants and rice and indigo planters had made it so, while
Charleston’s lawyers were responsible for the eminent quality of the state’s laws. “It
would be neither grateful or just,” Izard imperiously argued, “to compel those gentlemen
to travel 140 miles.”120 Charles Cotesworth Pinckney defiantly defended lowcountry
interests and dismissed the idea that men from good families with virtue, wealth, and
political talents should concede power to “proprietors of barren acres,” with presumably
no pedigree, money, or political training.121 Colleton County planter and Charleston
lawyer Thomas Bee thought the economic capital should be the political capital.
Charleston was the heart of trade and commerce, and neither ship captains nor foreign
merchants desiring business with the legislature or governor should be compelled to
travel 125 miles inland.122 Edward Rutledge further dismissed backcountry complaints
over convenience by sniffing that “country gentlemen” were more in the habit of traveling
than “town gentlemen.”123 The capital thus should remain on the coast.
Lowcountry leaders were much mistaken if they thought the weight and influence
of their opposition would halt all efforts to move the capital, however. Though eloquent
120Ibid„ March 3, 1786.
121Ibid., February 4, 1786. See also Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. 107.
122Charleston Morning Post and Daily Advertiser. March 3, 1786.
123
'Ibid.

210
gentlemen like John Rutledge railed against any proposed move, backcountry reform
advocates refused to be put off or intimidated.124 Henry Laurens had complained in 1775
that “backwoodsmen,” unaccustomed to “the formalities of parliament, moving,
seconding, debating, committing, sauntering, reporting, amending, declaiming,
recommitting, etc.” expected public business to be completed “with extreme facility and
no more words than are necessary in the bargain and sale of a cow.”125 Perhaps they still
lacked the eloquence of their lowcountry peers (and eloquence counted in an age when
public speaking could make a man’s career and reputation) but lordly Charleston nabobs
could no longer expect humble deference from unsophisticated, uneducated
backcountrymen. The experience of fighting a vicious partisan war in the backcountry
coupled with the certainty that they had suffered and sacrificed much more than the rice
kings and merchants in Charleston radicalized these “backwoodsmen” with notions of
political equality that refused to bow down before wealth and privilege.126 As Rutledge
and other members of the lowcountry elite would see, backcountrymen could no longer
be worn down by the delaying tactics of more experienced Charleston politicians.127
124See John Rutledge’s comments in Columbian Herald. March 28, 1785.
125Henry Laurens to John Laurens, January 22, 1775, in Philip M. Hamer et al.,
eds., The Papers of Henry Laurens. 14 vols. to date (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1968-), 10:39-40.
126For a discussion of the impact of war on different sections of South Carolina,
see Nadelhaft, “The ‘Havoc of War’ and its Aftermath in Revolutionary South Carolina.”
127During the Regulator crisis in the late 1760s, backcountry representatives
complained that lowcountry opponents had defeated a county court bill by simply waiting
for upcountrymen to tire and go home. They made the same charge in the early days of
the Revolution in the Provincial Congress, when they argued that “rich rice planters and

211
Despite lowcountry eloquence, John Lewis Gervais introduced the plan to move
the capital that finally gained approval from both houses of the legislature.128 Gervais, a
former Charleston merchant now serving as a state senator from Ninety-Six district,
owned several thousand acres in the backcountry. He and Henry Laurens had invested
jointly in backcountry lands in the 1760s, and eventually Gervais had moved there to
secure their interests.129 He had been an outspoken critic of British merchants in post-war
Charleston, and he now presented a plan to move the capital to Friday’s Ferry on the
Congaree River rather than Camden.130 The plan called for commissioners to divide 640
acres near Friday’s Ferry into half-acre lots. When money came due from the sale of 25
percent of these lots, construction on the new state house could begin. If no one bought
the land, the capital would remain in Charleston.131 Gervais’ plan gained enough support
from outlying lowcountry parishes to pass both houses, and the legislature passed “an act
the towns-people had schemed to weary them out in order to thin the House and transact
business their own way.” See Richard J. Hooker, ed., The Carolina Backcountry on the
Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason. Anglican
Itinerant (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1953), 237; Henry Laurens
to John Laurens, January 22, 1775, Papers of Henry Laurens. 10:39-40.
128Klein, Unification of a Slave State. 144-145. See also notes of Frances Leigh
Williams concerning the removal of the capital, Frances Leigh Williams Papers, South
Carolina Historical Society.
129Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate. 1:559-562: Biographical
Directory of the South Carolina House. 3:256-258.
‘“Friday’s Ferry, present day Columbia, was about !4 mile below the junction of
the Saluda and Broad rivers.
131Nadelhaft. Disorders of War. 137.

212
to appoint Commissioners to purchase lands for the purpose of building a town and for
removing the seat of government thereto.”132 The new capital would be named Columbia.
Nevertheless, no one in Charleston had the slightest interest in moving the capital.
Passing legislation to purchase land and construct buildings was one thing; physically
removing the offices and records of government and holding a meeting of the legislature
in Columbia was something else. Preoccupied with the issues of debtor legislation and
strengthening the federal government, the House pushed aside concerns over the capital.
Charleston’s legislators hoped to delay the move as long as possible. But when the State
House in Charleston burned in February 1788, backcountrymen saw the opening for
which they had waited. Rather than spending public money reconstructing an assembly
hall in Charleston, they asked, why not build in Columbia?133
Backcountrymen seized the opportunity to make the move a reality the following
year. Alexander Gillon, an old Charleston foe now representing Saxe Gotha in the
backcountry, promised to help “fix Columbia at once” in the upcoming legislative
session.134 On January 16, 1789, during the first session of the Eighth General Assembly,
Arthur Simkins of Ninety-Six District gave the House a one-week notice that he would
bring in a bill to move the capital to Columbia.135 Charleston representatives used their
l32Joumals of the House of Renresentatives. 1785-1786. 533, 596.
133State Gazette of South Carolina. February 3, 1788.
134Alexander Gillon to “Dear Colonel,” November 17, 1788, Robert W. Gibbes
Autograph Book of the Revolution, South Caroliniana Library.
l35Michael E. Stevens, ed., Journals of the House of Representatives. 1789-1790.
The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,

213
experience and eloquence to stall and delay as best they could. Edward Rutledge sneered
that he had been to Columbia and found nothing there. Rawlins Lowndes needed more
assurance that Columbia could receive the assemblymen without making them “sleep in
the open air.” He wondered sarcastically if the legislature would be making laws or
“hewing down logs, and building houses?”136 But removal supporters countered that such
objections no longer sufficed. The majority of the population lived away from the coast,
Pierce Butler argued, and the capital, “like the sun, ought to be in the center, visible to
all,” not tucked away “in a comer.” Butler, though a wealthy lowcountry planter (and
attached through marriage to the powerful Middleton family), certainly had sufficient
reasons for wishing to see the capital moved. By 1788 he owned over 8,200 acres in the
backcountry.137 Jacob Brown, from the District between the Broad and Catawba rivers,
urged his colleagues to act quickly before port authorities from the new federal
government arrived and persuaded the legislature to keep the capital in Charleston.138
Astonishingly, when the House finally cut off debate and voted, the proposal
passed 89-71, and Columbia became South Carolina’s new capital.139 Voting analysis
1984), 38. Simkins had moved from Virginia to South Carolina in 1772 in what became
Edgefield County in the backcountry. He served in the war as a captain and subsequently
represented Ninety-Six District in the legislature. In 1787 he owned over 3,000 acres in
Ninety-Six, and at his death in 1826 owned fifty-nine slaves. Biographical Directory of
the South Carolina Senate. 2:1457-1458.
l36Citv Gazette and Daily Advertiser. January 26, 1789.
I37lbid. See also Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House. 3:108-113.
138Citv Gazette and Daily Advertiser. January 26, 1789.
l39Joumals of the House of Representad ves. 1789-1790. 60-62.

214
reveals that the measure won approval because 25 percent of the votes in favor of
removal came from outlying lowcountry parishes. Removal advocates gained enough
allies from the parishes surrounding Georgetown to the north of Charleston and Beaufort
to the south to permanently move the capital to Columbia. The upcountry voted
unanimously, 67-0, while the lowcountry divided, 22 favoring removal, 71 opposed. Of
the 26 members from Charleston present, 25 voted no. Only merchant John Blake
deserted his colleagues to vote yes.140 In fact, Blake was the only representative from any
of the seven parishes in or immediately surrounding Charleston to vote for removal.
Charleston and its immediate neighbors (St. Andrew, St. George Dorchester, St. James
Goose Creek, St. Thomas and St. Dennis, Christ Church, and St. John Colleton) voted
monolithically, 59-1, to oppose the move to Columbia. Fully 79 percent of the total “no”
votes came from the Charleston area. Lowcountry parishes more removed from
Charleston’s influence voted 21-12 in favor of removal.141 The legislature fixed
140I have been unable to find any satisfactory reason why Blake voted to move the
capital from Charleston. A successful merchant in Charleston since the early 1770s when
he had entered into partnership with his father Edward, Blake inherited his father’s estate
on Wappoo Creek in St. Andrews Parish just outside Charleston. He served as a
lieutenant during the war and was exiled to St. Augustine during the British occupation.
Blake voted in favor of the federal Constitution at the state ratifying convention in 1788
and attended the state constitutional convention in 1790. He does not appear to have
owned any land or had any financial interests in the backcountry. Nor does his vote to
move the capital seem to have affected his political career: he was reelected to represent
Charleston in the lower house of the General Assembly every year until 1799, and then
represented Charleston as a Federalist in the state senate from 1802-1809. Biographical
Directory of the South Carolina House. 3:72-73.
l41Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1789-1790 60-62.

215
December 1, 1789, as the date for transferring public records from Charleston to
Columbia.142
Anti-Charleston forces were not satisfied with this victory, however. The issue
remained an open wound, and it came up again the following year in the state
constitutional convention in Columbia. Removal advocates wanted the fixture of
Columbia as the permanent capital written into the new constitution.143 Lowcountry
members balked, and the demand touched off “violence and confusion.”144 Nevertheless,
when debate ended and all votes had been cast, the backcountry prevailed by a slim
margin of four votes, 109-105.145 Once again, members from outlying lowcountry
parishes broke ranks with their colleagues to support the backcountry. Furious
Charleston representatives knew this defeat was final, and they did not accept it
graciously. Christopher Gadsden blamed defeat on “the impatience and desertion” of
lowcountry members who returned home before the final vote.146 Charleston attorney and
l42Citv Gazette and Public Advertiser. January 30, 1789.
l43The proposal was made by James Green Hunt of the Lower District between the
Broad and Saluda rivers. James Alvin Campbell, “The South Carolina Constitution of
1790,” M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1967, 59.
144Citv Gazette and Daily Advertiser. May 26, 1790. For a good narrative of the
debates in the convention, see Campbell, “Constitution of 1790,” 59-67.
145Campbell, “Constitution of 1790,” 67; Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
109; Francis M. Hutson, ed., Journals of the Constitutional Convention of South
Carolina. May 10. 1790 to June 3. 1790 (Columbia SC: South Carolina Historical
Commission, 1946).
146"Letter from Christopher Gadsden to Mr. Thomas Morris, May 30, 1790,”
South Carolina Historical Magazine 2 (January 1901): 44-45.

216
Federalist congressman William Loughton Smith blasted the “folly and absurdity of the
measure,” and heatedly denounced “the almost incredible treachery of some of our
lowcountry people.”147
The controversy over the location of South Carolina’s capital in the aftermath of
the Revolution was more than simply an argument over convenience. Clearly larger and
more important issues of power—both cultural and political—were at stake. Certainly
contemporaries thought so. Ninety-Six lawyer Peter Carnes argued in the state
constitutional convention in 1790 that South Carolinians could choose between meeting
“amongst the opulent at Charleston, which to the upper country members was a different
climate, or amongst those who were styled of Plebian race.”148 Conversely, William
Loughton Smith feared that a backcountry capital would “shed a malignant influence on
all the proceedings of the legislature.”149 The removal of the state capital represented a
clear sign that political power was shifting away from city merchants and planters to
rising backcountry farmers and their allies in the outlying lowcountry parishes. By 1789
the Charleston elite could no longer count on unilateral lowcountry support in legislative
contests with the backcountry. Charlestonians tried to reassure themselves that very little
real power had been lost. One Charleston supporter insisted that the city would remain “a
147William Loughton Smith to Edward Rutledge, July 4, 1790, in George C.
Rogers Jr., ed., “The Letters of William Loughton Smith to Edward Rutledge, June 8,
1789 to April 28, 1794,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 69 (April 1968): 120-122.
l48Citv Gazette and Daily Advertiser. May 26, 1790.
'«William Loughton Smith to Edward Rutledge, July 4, 1790, “Letters of
William Loughton Smith,” 120-122.

217
place of great importance, being the principal seaporf,lso Another argued defiantly that
Charleston had lost not the “seat of government” but only the “seat of the legislature.”151
Nevertheless, the move represented a major blow to Charleston’s political dominance.
The revision of the state constitution in 1790 represents the final direct challenge
to lowcountry hegemony in the post-war years. As stated earlier, by 1790 the
backcountry contained 80 percent of the white population. Almost every backcountry
petition to the legislature praying for an inland capital also requested constitutional
revision.152 The lowcountry-dominated state senate delayed revisions through most of the
decade but finally agreed on March 4, 1789, that a convention should meet the following
year to revise the constitution. A motion to hold the convention in Columbia passed the
House 78-52. The backcountry favored Columbia 59-2, while the lowcountry opposed it
50-19. Once again, the outlying lowcountry parishes provided the support necessary for
backcountry triumph.153
The convention met in Columbia from May 10 to June 3,1790. The new
constitution contained several democratic features, including full religious freedom and
the abolishment of the aristocratic privy council. The Constitution of 1778 had required
150John Farquharson to Gabriel Manigauit, June 24, 1789, Manigault Family
Papers, South Caroliniana Library.
l51State Gazette of South Carolina. June 3, 1790.
152In addition to those cited above, see for instance Petition # 134, from
inhabitants of York County, September 27, 1785, and Petition #224, February 20, 1786,
from Chester County. Journals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 316, 440-
441.
l53Joumals of the House of Representatives, 1789-1790. 220-222.

218
all officeholders to believe in God and a future state of rewards and punishments and had
established Protestantism as the official religion. The new constitution required a quorum
of 50 percent of the members in each house to transact business, a number considerably
higher than the 34 percent necessary in the lower house and 45 percent required in the
state senate by the Constitution of 1778. This measure, of course, prevented Charleston
(or any other area for that matter) from passing narrowly beneficial legislation in a poorly
attended house.154 In terms of apportionment, the lowcountry still dominated in true
numbers. However, given that the outlying lowcountry parishes deserted the Charleston
area in the 1789 and 1790 votes over removal of the capital, lowcountry dominance
cannot be assumed from raw numbers. The Constitution of 1790 lowered the number of
delegates in the lower house from 202 to 124. The lowcountry share dropped from 62 to
56 percent (70), while the backcountry’s increased from 38 to 44 percent (54). The new
Constitution expanded the upper house, from 29 to 37 members, with the backcountry
electing 46 percent, up from 38 percent in 1778. In spite of these gains, the lowcountry
retained control of the legislature, despite having only 20 percent of the white population.
Nevertheless, as both the vote to remove the capital and to hold the convention in
Columbia had made clear, the lowcountry could no longer be considered as a monolithic
voting bloc.
By further dividing lowcountry apportionment between the Charleston District
and the outlying Georgetown and Beaufort districts, the Constitution of 1790 emerges as
a triumph for the anti-lowcountry and anti-Charleston elements in post-war South
154Thorpe, ed., Federal and State Constitutions. 6:3255-3265.

219
Carolina.155 Further dividing the lowcountry in this way reveals that Georgetown and
Beaufort now controlled 17.7 percent (22 members) of the lower house (see Table 4-1),
and 18.9 percent (7 members) of the senate. These two outlying lowcountry areas could
combine with the backcountry in 1790 to control 61.2 percent of the members of the
lower house, and 64.8 percent of the senate.156 Throughout the 1790s this alliance made
its weight felt in the legislature, democratizing militia laws, opposing the incorporation of
Charleston banks, and replacing legislative appointment of sheriffs and court officials
with popular elections.157 And, as will be seen, Columbia and the backcountry ultimately
helped elect a Republican rather than a Federalist president (and a Charleston Federalist
vice-president) in the election of 1800. The Constitution of 1790, so often hailed by
historians as a conservative document that ensured lowcountry dominance throughout the
antebellum period, in reality swung the balance of political power away from
155Nadelhaft first drew these distinctions between lowcountry districts in
Disorders of War. 202-212. The Districts are broken down into the following parishes:
Georgetown: Williamsburg District, Liberty District, Kingston District, All Saints Parish,
Prince George Winyah Parish. Beaufort: St. Peter Parish, St. Luke Parish, St. Helena
Parish, Prince William Parish. Charleston District: St. Bartholomew Parish, St. Paul
Parish, St. John Colleton Parish, St. Andrew Parish, St. George Dorchester Parish, St.
James Goose Creek, St. Philip & St. Michael Parishes (City of Charleston), St. John
Berkeley Parish, St. Stephen Parish, St. James Santee Parish, St. Thomas & St. Dennis
Parish, and Christ Church Parish.
156To be sure, if lowcountry apportionment in the Constitution of 1778 is divided
into three political divisions, it appears that the backcountry and the remote lowcountry
parishes could combine to dominate apportionment in the earlier Constitution. Not until
after the war, however, did Georgetown and Beaufort often unite with the backcountry
over such controversial and emotional issues as repeal of amercement and confiscation
laws, taxes on slaves, removal of the capital, and revising the constitution.
l57Nadelhaft, Disorders of War. 212.

220
Charleston’s orbit. Charleston alone could no longer dominate state politics. Rachel N.
Klein has noted that the Constitution of 1790 represented the conclusion of a decade in
which the coastal elite had been forced to make limited concessions to opposition groups,
and in effect the elite contained that opposition without relinquishing their authority,
continuing to “wield power beyond their numbers under the second South Carolina
constitution.”158 Nevertheless, even limited concessions can be revolutionary when
political and economic power are at stake, and if Charleston’s elite found the Constitution
of 1790 to their liking it was only because it did not force them to give up more.
Charleston aristocrats knew they had irrevocably lost something important: the
Revolution had forced them, by 1790, to share power in a way that would have been
unthinkable in 1765.
In many ways, the Revolution shattered the political world that most of the
Charleston elite had known in 1765. During the immediate post-war years they found
themselves under attack within the city from artisans, mechanics, and small merchants.
These political “outsiders” had found their voice during the American Revolution and
now subjected the aristocracy to a withering and harsh egalitarian political rhetoric that
questioned policy toward British merchants, protested the excessive power of
Charleston’s city government, and openly challenged old assumptions about the
aristocratic right to rule. After weathering a potentially devastating financial crisis
(primarily of their own making) in the mid-1780s, Charleston leaders faced renewed
challenges from backcountrymen who demanded equal representation in government and
158Klein, Unification of a Slave State. 147.

221
a new capital more fully suited to their geographical and cultural liking. During these
twin battles, stunned and shocked city aristocrats like William Loughton Smith and
Christopher Gadsden found themselves deserted by former lowcountry supporters who
now allied themselves with rising backcountry planters like John Hunter, Wade Hampton,
Robert Anderson, and Robert Goodloe Harper. This change reflected the growing
strength of the democratic backcountry, emboldened by the experience of war and
Revolution, and the slow shift of political power away from aristocratic coastal planters
and merchants. When Governor Charles Pinckney took his seat in the new statehouse in
Columbia in 1790, he hoped that the controversy over the capital had been “settled and
the differences it occasioned buried forever in oblivion.”159 In time sectional wounds
would heal, in part because of the economic links being forged even as that sectional
controversy took place. For if Charleston’s political dominance had begun to flicker into
twilight by 1790, its economic future shone brightly indeed, given new life by the
enterprising spirit unleashed by the American Revolution. And few late-eighteenth-
century Americans relished the opportunity to make money more than South Carolinians.
For Charleston, the radicalism of the American Revolution closed one door and opened
another.
l59Charles Pinckney to Andrew Pickens, July 4, 1790, Andrew Pickens Papers,
Charleston Library Society.

222
TABLE 4-1
Comparative Legislative Apportionment for Charleston, Beaufort & Georgetown, and the
Backcountry in the Constitutions of 1778 and 1790
House Senate
1778
1790
1778
1790
Charleston
47.5 %
38.7%
44.8%
35.1%
Beaufort & Georgetown
14.8%
17.7%
17.2%
18.9%
Backcountry
37.6%
43.5%
37.9%
45.9%
Source: Walter B. Edgar et al., eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House
of Representatives. 5 vols. (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1974-
1992), 3:798-799.

CHAPTER FIVE
THE DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ECONOMY, 1783-1800
“Your state will yet be a haven for foreign ships, and trade and commerce will come unto you in
great abundance.”
“Aethiopian,” 1783
“The genius of our people is entirely turned from war to commerce. Schemes of business and
partnerships for extending commerce are daily forming.”
David Ramsay, 1783
The American Revolution created unprecedented economic opportunities for
Charleston and South Carolina. Carolinians of all ranks embraced the chance to reshape
their economic landscape and expand trade and commerce as aggressively as their
Northern brethren. During the 1780s and 1790s Carolinians eagerly built roads, bridges,
ferries, incorporated towns, established markets, and invested in banks and canals, all
with the expressed intention of economically capitalizing on independence by improving
transportation links between the upcountry and the seacoast metropolis. As the
democratic politics unleashed by the Revolution polarized rising backcountry planters
from established lowcountry leaders, economic improvements slowly healed sectional
wounds. They provided backcountry farmers with improved access to markets,1 thus
'"Market” and “market economy” throughout this chapter refers to Joyce
Appleby’s definition as the “invisible flow of goods and payments girdling the globe and
crisscrossing the countryside.” Joyce Appleby, Capitalism and A New Social Order: The
Republican Vision of the 1790s (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 30.
223

224
enabling the economic windfall of the Revolution to be widely shared, while
simultaneously ensuring Charleston’s continued economic dominance despite the decline
of its political fortunes. All of these measures were overtly designed to facilitate access
to the economic marketplace. The upcountry residents who petitioned endlessly for
improvements and lowcountry leaders who responded favorably to these requests and
invested in inland navigation companies were very explicit about their intentions. Each
cleared river, new road, bridge, or ferry made it possible or more convenient for
increasing numbers of backcountry farmers both to sell their produce and purchase
manufactured goods in Charleston. In effect, the American Revolution combined
democratic politics with expanding economic liberalism to produce a democratic political
economy, in which widespread access to the market ensured that the economic benefits of
independence would be shared by all rather than a select few, muting the divisive effects
of democratic politics.2 Thus, upcountry farmers did not seek to isolate themselves
culturally or economically from the market economy. Instead they sought political and
economic inclusiveness. They eagerly embraced new economic opportunities and
2I have borrowed this term from Michael Merrill, because I agree with his
contention that we must examine the development of capitalism within the context of
existing political and social relations, and because I believe it describes the economic and
political inclusiveness sought by backcountry farmers and Charleston artisans. I disagree
with Merrill’s argument that farmers, artisans, and laborers in the early republic favored a
political economy that was different from the kind preferred by merchants, financiers, or
master manufacturers. He suggests using “democratic economy,” “yeoman economy,” or
“household economy” to describe this preferred alternative. I do not agree with his
contention that the Revolution was a “profoundly anticapitalist enterprise,” and that small
farmers, artisans, and laborers were anticapitalists. Michael Merrill, “Putting
‘Capitalism’ in its Place: A Review of Recent Literature,” William and Mary Quarterly
52 (April 1995): 315-326.

225
clamored for transportation improvements that would strengthen their economic ties with
Charleston. The lowcountry elite responded favorably to these requests both because they
coincided with their own wishes and because they hoped that these improvements would
preserve Charleston’s economic dominance in the state and region. Thus, if the Southern
economy was not yet explicitly capitalistic in the early republic, neither was it anti-
capitalistic or anti-modem. South Carolinians did not seek to isolate themselves from an
economically progressive, increasingly capitalistic, modem world in the decades after the
Revolution. Instead, as Charlestonian David Ramsay had predicted in 1778, the
American Revolution made it possible for them to “ride triumphant on the ocean, and to
carry American thunder around the world.”3 As Gordon S. Wood has demonstrated for
the North, the explosion of Southern economic activity was in its own way as radical and
as ideologically powerful as democratic notions of political equality.4 Ultimately, the
American Revolution in South Carolina brought both political and economic radicalism.
Democratic equality and economic liberalism emerged triumphant, even in the most
conservative, aristocratic section of the American Republic.
This interpretation challenges several existing paradigms. Most especially, it
challenges the neo-Marxist contention that the majority of Americans in the late
3David Ramsay, An Oration on the Advantages of American Independence:
Spoken Before a Publick Assembly of the Inhabitants of Charleston in South Carolina, on
the Second Anniversary of That Glorious Era (Charlestown SC: John Wells Jr., 1778), 8.
4Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), esp. 229-369. See also Wood, “The Enemy is Us: Democratic
Capitalism in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 16 (Summer 1996): 295-
308.

eighteenth and early nineteenth century, particularly small fanners and urban artisans,
resisted the “transition to capitalism” that began in the northeast after 1750.s
Furthermore, most historians who have addressed this subject have either ignored the
226
5See particularly Allan Kulikoff, “The Transition to Capitalism in Rural
America,” William and Marv Quarterly 46 (1989): 120-144, especially 105; Kulikoff,
The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism (Charlottesville VA: University Press of
Virginia, 1992), particularly chapter four, “Was the American Revolution a Bourgeois
Revolution?” 99-126; James A. Henretta, The Origins of American Capitalism: Collected
Essays (Boston MA: Northeastern University Press, 1991); Merrill, “Putting ‘Capitalism’
in its Place”; Thomas S. Wermuth, “Were Early Americans Capitalists? An Overview of
the Development of Capitalist Values and Beliefs in Early America,” Mid-America: An
Historical Review 74 (January 1992): 85-97. For the transition to capitalism in the
northeastern countryside, and the resistance to it, see Steven Hahn and Jonathan Prude,
eds., The Countryside in the Age of Capitalist Transformation: Essays in the Social
History of Rural America (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985);
Christopher Clark, The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts. 1780-1860
(Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Winifred Barr Rothenberg, From Market-
Places to a Market Economy: The Transformation of Rural Massachusetts. 1750-1850
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Daniel Vickers, “The Transition to
Capitalism in the American Northeast,” History Teacher 27 (May 1994): 267-269;
Christopher Clark, “Economics and Culture: Opening Up the Rural History of the Early
American Northeast.” American Quarterly 43 (June 1991): 279-301; Michael Merrill,
“The Anticapitalist Origins of the United States,” Review: A Journal of the Fernand
Braudel Center 13 (Fall 1990): 465-497; Daniel Vickers, “Competency and Competition:
Economic Culture in Early America,” William and Marv Quarterly 47 (1990): 3-29;
Michael A. Bernstein and Sean Wilentz, “Marketing, Commerce, and Capitalism in Rural
Massachusetts.” Journal of Economic History 44 (March 1984): 171-173; Richard
Bushman, “Family Security in the Transition from Farm to City, 1750-1850,” Journal of
Family History 6 (1981): 238-256; Robert E. Mutch, “Colonial America and the Debate
about the Transition to Capitalism,” Theory and Society 9 (November 1980): 847-863;
James Henretta, “Families and Farms: Mentalité in Preindustrial America,” William and
Marv Quarterly 35 (1978): 3-32; Michael Merrill, ‘“Cash is Good to Eat’: Self-
Sufficiency and Exchange in the Rural Economy of the United States,” Radical History
Review 4 (Winter 1977): 42-71; Robert E. Mutch, “Yeoman and Merchant in Pre-
Industrial America: Eighteenth-Century Massachusetts as a Case Study,” Societas 7
(Autumn 1977): 279-302.

227
South altogether or argued that the South was non- or anti-capitalist.6 Directly related to
this point, this chapter also argues that Southern planters were not anti-modem in
economic outlook,7 anxious about capitalistic economic development,8 or culturally
6For instance, Allen Kulikoff writes that “the South was the main exception to the
growth of capitalism. The few southern capitalists and workers remained embedded in an
anticapitalist slave society.” The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism. 112, 124.
Similarly, in her study of the South Carolina backcountry, Rachel Klein argues that “up to
the Civil War, the household was the primary context of production in the backcountry
and throughout the southern states. Looked at from this perspective, the planter class was
precapitalist—or noncapitalist.” Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the
Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry. 1760-1808 (Chapel Hill NC: University
of North Carolina Press, 1990), 3. See also, of course, the work of Eugene D. Genovese
below.
7For a good recent summary of this school of thought, see Douglas R. Egerton,
“Markets Without A Market Revolution: Southern Planters and Capitalism,” Journal of
the Early Republic 16 (Summer 1996): 207-221. Egerton argues that “if the Atlantic
market shaped the plantation economy to its own ends, it simultaneously spawned a
landed elite with economic interests and moral values antagonistic to the spirit of modem
capitalism.” Egerton, “Markets Without a Market Revolution,” 220. Perhaps, but not
necessarily to the spirit of late eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century capitalism. The
most influential articulation of the view that Southern planters were anticapitalists is
Eugene D. Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy &
Society of the Slave South (New York: Random House, 1965), 3-39; The World the
Slaveholders Made: Two Essays in Interpretation (1969; rpt. Middletown CT: Wesleyan
University Press, 1988), Part One, “The American Slave Systems in World Perspective,”
3-113; and Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery
and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1983). Genovese argues that Southern planters and their economic
system were tied to the world system of markets but were not capitalists. “The planters
were not mere capitalists; they were precapitalist, quasi-aristocratic landowners who had
to adjust their economy and ways of thinking to a capitalist world market. Their society,
in its spirit and fundamental direction, represented the antithesis of capitalism.” Political
Economy of Slavery. 23.
8See most recently Joyce E. Chaplin, An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation
and Modernity in the Lower South. 1730-1815 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North
Carolina Press, 1993).

228
opposed to economic improvements.9 Gordon S. Wood’s contention that “no event in the
eighteenth century accelerated capitalistic development of America more” than the
American Revolution is as equally true for the South as the North.10 And finally, it
overturns the notion that the American Revolution in South Carolina was a conservative
movement, limited primarily to minor political reforms."
’For the growth of a culture in the South that frowned upon capitalistic economic
pursuits, see W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1941), 3-
55; William R. Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South and American National
Character (New York: George Braziller, 1961); Genovese, Political Economy of Slavery.
12-39; Genovese, The World the Slaveholders Made. 165-194; David Bertelson, The
Lazy South (New York, 1967); Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and
Behavior in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 175-198. For a
discussion of what he calls the “leisure-laziness myth,” see C. Vann Woodward, “The
Southern Ethic in a Puritan World,” American Counterpoint: Slavery and Racism in the
North-South Dialogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 13-46, originally published
in William and Marv Quarterly 25 [July 1968]: 343-370). For a good discussion of the
growth of a culture of leisure and gentility, see, Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor. 88-114,
175-197,327-361.
10Wood, “Interests and Disinterestedness in the Making of the Constitution,” in
Richard Beeman, Stephen Boteln, and Edward C. Carter II, Bevond Confederation:
Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity (Chapel Hill NC: University
of North Carolina Press, 1987), 78.
"Klein, Unification of a Slave State: George Winston Lane Jr., “The Middletons
of Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: A Colonial Dynasty, 1678-1787,” Ph.D.
dissertation, Emory University, 1990; John C. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus
Burke: Revolutionary Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1989); Robert M. Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A
History (Millwood NY: KTO Press, 1983), 332-333; E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and Robert H.
Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution (Knoxville TN: University of
Tennessee Press, 1982); Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in
South Carolina (Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981); George C.
Rogers Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys (1969; rpt., Columbia SC: University
of South Carolina Press, 1980); Frances Leigh Williams, A Founding Family: The
Pincknevs of South Carolina (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978); Richard
Brent Clow, “Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, 1749-1800: Unproclaimed Statesman,”
Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 1976; Robert M. Weir, “‘The Harmony We

229
The American Revolution brought political radicalism to South Carolina through
more egalitarian politics and economic radicalism in the spread of economic liberalism.
Lowcountry aristocrats fiercely resisted the former, while South Carolinians of all ranks
embraced the latter. Of course, the ideology of economic liberalism did not simply
appear as some magical deus ex machina in 1783; in some sense it had been present since
the arrival of the first colonists.12 The Revolution did not necessarily change economic
thought; instead, it provided opportunities for South Carolinians (indeed all white
Americans) to participate in a market economy by releasing Americans from the
constraints of the British mercantile system. The Revolution allowed Americans to create
strong national and state governments to regulate commerce, finance internal
improvements, encourage banking, and protect inventions, all of which allowed capital
(and a capitalist society) to grow. As Allan Kulikoff has noted, all of these functions
were inconceivable under the British mercantilist system. Unlike Kulikoff, however, this
Were Famous For’: An Interpretation of Pre-Revolutionary South Carolina Politics,”
William and Mary Quarterly 26 (October 1969): 473-501; Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles
Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina
Press, 1967); Jerome J. Nadelhaft, “The Revolutionary Era in South Carolina, 1775-
1788,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1965; Raymond G. Starr, “The
Conservative Revolution: South Carolina Public Affairs, 1775-1790,” Ph.D. dissertation,
University of Texas, 1964; George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of A Federalist: William
Loughton Smith of Charleston (1758-18121 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina
Press, 1962); Frederick P. Bowes, The Culture of Early Charleston (Chapel Hill NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1942).
12See especially Joyce Appleby, Capitalism and a New Social Order. 1-50;
Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination (Cambridge MA:
Harvard University Press, 1992); Isaac Kramnick, Republicanism and Bourgeois
Radicalism: Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America (Ithaca
NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Robert Shalhope, The Roots of Democracy:
American Thought and Culture. 1760-1800 (Boston MA: Twayne, 1990).

230
chapter argues that South Carolinians warmly embraced these innovations.13 South
Carolinians-merchants, artisans, yeoman, planters-created a liberal society and economy
by their actions and deeds. It was not forced upon them by a monied, exploitive elite, nor
was it brought about against their will.14 Nor did upcountry farmers seek to isolate
themselves from the inroads of the market economy. The economic debate in post-war
South Carolina did not revolve around competing economic systems (i.e., production for
exchange or production for use) but rather turned on the question of providing access to
markets, ensuring that upcountry farmers could benefit equally in the new economic
opportunities created by the American Revolution. There is little evidence of the sort of
13Allan Kulikoff has made the most convincing argument for the role of the
American Revolution in accelerating the development of a capitalist society, but because
he is a neo-Marxist, or moral economy, historian, he does his best to explain that
Americans did not necessarily like the transition, or participate in it willingly. See “Was
the American Revolution a Bourgeois Revolution?” in Agrarian Origins of American
Capitalism. 99-126, especially 109. Paul A. Gilje writes that the American Revolution
and independence “opened up new vistas that ultimately accelerated and reshaped
developments already under way.” Gilje, “The Rise of Capitalism in the Early Republic,”
Journal of the Early Republic 16 (Summer 1996), 171. Richard D. Brown argues that the
American Revolution stimulated the forces of “modernization”: “a new political system
and a new ideology were encouraging processes that had been retarded if not actually
reversed by the Imperial system.” Brown, Modernization: The Transformation of
American Life. 1600-1865 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1976), 114.
14For an excellent argument against the notion that “the entire explosion of
economic and popular energy in early nineteenth-century America that we label
‘liberalism’ was carried out in opposition to the will of the bulk of the population,” see
Gordon S. Wood, “Equality and Social Conflict in the American Revolution,” 705, in
“Forum: How Revolutionary Was the Revolution? A Discussion of Gordon S. Wood’s
The Radicalism of the American Revolution.” William and Mary Quarterly 51 (October
1994): 677-716. In particular, Wood is reacting to Michael Zuckerman’s interpretation of
the spread of economic liberalism in Zuckerman, “A Different Thermidor: The
Revolution Beyond the American Revolution,” in James A. Henretta et al., eds., The
Transformation of Early American History: Society. Authority. Ideology (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 170-193.

231
populistic, anti-market activity that Steven Hahn asserts characterized most of the
Southern upcountry in the nineteenth-century.15 In both late eighteenth-century
Charleston and South Carolina artisans, craftsmen, and yeoman farmers actively sought to
improve their chances of competing in the marketplace in order to reap the economic
benefits of the new American republic.16 They did not seek to seclude and isolate
themselves in some sort of communal, anti-capitalist culture that protected them from the
workings of the market.17 The market did not “intrude” upon these people. They openly
welcomed it. In fact, many backcountry farmers worked very hard to remove the physical
15Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the
Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry. 1850-1890 (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1983). Joyce E. Chaplin argues that backcountry whites “did not flee the
consequences of commercialization and form themselves into a studiedly nostalgic
yeomanry. Instead, they actively sought to enter the external market and complained
whenever they were denied access to the commercial world.” Chaplin, “Creating a
Cotton South in Georgia and South Carolina, 1760-1815.” Journal of Southern History 57
(May 1991): 185.
16Jon C. Teaford has noted that during the half century after the Revolution, city
governments became less concerned with regulating the urban economy—setting prices
and restricting artisanal profits—and more concerned with health and transportation
problems. “Butchers, bakers, and market vendors were tossing off the restraints of the
past.... The ideological context of American life was changing, and the ideal of
regulated concord was yielding to an ideal of open competition. The result would be an
increasing interest in free trade and a decline in the importance of municipal regulatory
measures.” Teaford, The Municipal Revolution in America: Origins of Modem Urban
Government. 1650-1825 (Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 100-102.
17Rachel N. Klein finds backcountry planters exhibiting aggressive, acquisitive
behavior but recoils at the notion that these farmers were “capitalists,” or that they were
helping to create a “capitalist South,” because the primary context of production
continued to be the household. Instead she argues that by their commitment to slavery,
planters prevented the development of a labor market and “insulated the majority of
southern households from the sort of market penetration that transformed northern society
and culture during the half-century before the Civil War.” Klein, Unification of a Slave
State. 3-4.

232
impediments (if not the cultural and political ones) that obstructed their links to
Charleston. They believed that the American Revolution, their participation in and
sacrifices during the war, indeed the notion of “republicanism” itself, entitled them not
only to political equality, but economic gain as well.18
None of this is meant to argue, however, for consensus history--that there were no
fundamental divisions among Americans, or that America has always been capitalist.19
Indeed, the Revolution in South Carolina cannot be understood without considering the
political and cultural divisions between upcountry and lowcountry South Carolinians.
Furthermore, if Immanuel Wallerstein is correct that capitalism is a system of production
organized primarily for exchange rather than use, then surely a transformation took place
I8For an excellent recent discussion of the amorphous concept of “republicanism,”
see Thomas L. Pangle, The Spirit of Modem Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the
American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke (Chicago IL: University of Chicago
Press, 1988), especially 28-39.
l9Carl N. Degler wrote that “capitalism arrived in the first ships.” Degler, Out of
Our Past: The Forces that Shaped Modem America 3rd ed. (New York: Harper & Row,
1984), 2-9. See also Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of
American Political Thought Since the Revolution (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1955);
Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It (New
York: Vintage Books, 1948), and America at 1750: A Social Portrait (New York: Vintage
Books, 1971); Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom
(Boston: 1949). Hofstadter argued that “what we must envisage in order to comprehend
eighteenth-century America is a middle-class world.” Hofstadter, America at 1750. 131.
Alfred F. Young argues that consensus historians, or “counterprogressives” as he calls
them, held the unproven assumption that “the common people shared the ideas of the
elites.” Alfred F. Young, ed., Beyond the American Revolution: Explorations in the
History of American Radicalism (DeKalb IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993), 7.
See also Young, “American Historians Confront ‘The Transforming Hand of
Revolution,’” in Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert, eds., The Transforming Hand of
Revolution: Reconsidering the American Revolution as a Social Movement
(Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1995), 387-402.

233
at some unspecified time in America’s past.20 As Paul A. Gilje described it, “somewhere,
somehow, something dramatic happened in the minds of many Americans; they began to
seek gain through capitalist enterprise.”21 Historians of the early American North have
convincingly argued that the transition to capitalism began there around the middle of the
eighteenth century and that it developed slowly and unevenly over the next one hundred
years.22
But were Americans in the early Republic “capitalists” living in a “capitalist”
economy? Most scholars who have investigated the “transition to capitalism” agree that
the American Revolution accelerated the process, but, not surprisingly, disagree over the
use of the term “capitalism” to describe the emerging economic system. These scholars
can be roughly divided into two schools. The first, “moral economy” (or neo-Marxist)
historians, influenced by the work of Karl Marx and English social historian E.P.
Thompson, are generally hostile toward capitalism and thus argue that post-Revolutionary
America was not capitalist and that the majority of Americans favored some non-
20Wallerstein defines a capitalist world economy as “production for sale in a
market in which the object is to realize the maximum profit.” Wallerstein, The Capitalist
World Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 15. See also his
Historical Capitalism (London: Verso, 1983). Wallerstein believes that capitalism as a
world system evolved in Europe in the sixteenth century. See The Modem World
System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the
Sixteenth Century. 2 vols. (New York: Academic Press, 1974).
21Gilje, “The Rise of Capitalism in the Early Republic,” 178.
22See especially Rothenberg, From Market-Places to Market Economy, and Clark,
Roots of Rural Capitalism.

234
capitalist alternative.23 They argue that the majority of farmers, artisans, and other
laborers produced primarily for use, not for exchange, that the household rather than the
market was the primary focus of economic concern, and that small farmers and artisans
did not farm and trade in order to get more money, land, or status. They participated in
the market only to maintain their way of life, not to make a profit. Moral economy
historians are concerned with the class struggle they believe is inherent in the
development of a capitalist economy. They oppose equating capitalism with a free
enterprise market economy,24 or using such economic indices as aggressive, acquisitive
23These historians are known by various names: neo-Marxist, neo-Progressive,
Revisionists, moral economy, social, or New Left historians. All have been more or less
influenced by E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York:
Vintage Books, 1963), and “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth
Century,” Past and Present 50 (1971): 76-136; George Rudé, The Crowd in History: A
Study of Popular Disturbances in France and England. 1730-1848 (New York: John
Wiley & Sons, 1964); Jesse Lemisch, “The American Revolution Seen From the Bottom
Up,” in Barton J. Bernstein, ed., Towards a New Past: Dissenting Essays in American
History (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), 3-45. For good recent examples of the work
of moral economy historians, see Hahn and Prude, eds., The Countryside in the Age of
Capitalist Transformations: Bruce Laurie, Artisans into Workers: Labor in Nineteenth-
Centurv America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989). Many of these scholars cut their
ideological teeth in the 1960s during a decade of political and social ferment and have
subsequently sought the same sort of anti-establishment, anti-capitalist, class conflict in
the American past that they witnessed on college campuses in the 1960s. As Allan
Kulikoff has written, “Everywhere I looked in contemporary America, from campuses to
urban ghettos, ordinary people were rising up, demanding equality, racial justice, an end
to poverty, war and oppression. How, I wondered, had similar people lived in the past?”
Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism, xi. For two good examples of
scholarship that finds this sort of social unrest in Revolutionary America, see the
collected essays in two volumes edited by Alfred F. Young, The American Revolution:
Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (Dekalb IL: Northern Illinois
University Press, 1976), and Beyond the American Revolution: Explorations in the
History of American Radicalism (Dekalb IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993).
24Michael Merrill argues that to equate capitalism with a market economy means
that “there is no way to oppose capitalism without opposing markets, that the only

235
economic behavior, flexible currency, banks, corporations, transportation systems, or
consumerism as evidence of a capitalist economy. To do so, as Eugene D. Genovese,
Michael Merrill, and Douglas Egerton have written, defines practically everyone in
eighteenth-century America as capitalist, and as Gordon S. Wood has noted, “is
disastrous for any moral condemnation of capitalism.”25 Moral economy historians argue
instead that capitalism should be defined as “a series of social relations characterized by
ffee-wage labor and the separation of the labor force from the means of production, so
that labor is rendered incapable of subsisting without recourse to the market.” In short,
only something akin to industrial capitalism with factory wage labor can actually be
defined as capitalism. Under this definition, America did not become capitalist until the
late nineteenth century and the South even later.
acceptable alternative to capitalism is a society without markets.” Merrill, “Putting
Capitalism in its Place,” 325.
25See Genovese, Political Economy of Slavery. 19; Merrill, “Putting Capitalism in
its Place,” 317-318; Egerton, “Markets Without a Market Revolution,” 211; Alfred F.
Young faults Wood’s Radicalism of the American Revolution for “celebrating capitalism
as part of the radical achievement.” Young. Beyond the American Revolution. 9. Wood
rightly notes that many moral economy historians have tied themselves into knots trying
to fit eighteenth-century American economic behavior into orthodox Marxian theory.
Wood, “The Enemy is Us,” 297. Writing specifically about Marxist historians, Darrett B.
Rutman’s argues that “nineteenth-century polemics carried baldly and ahistorically into
the work of late twentieth-century social history makes for patent absurdities.” Rutman
with Anita H. Rutman, “Historians’ Imperatives, or An Empiricist in a Marxist Den,” in
Small Worlds. Large Questions: Explorations in Early American Social History, 1600-
1850 (Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1994), 7. Bertram Wyatt-Brown
argues that “recapturing the mood of the past is hard enough without indulging in the
should-have-beens.” Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, viii.

236
Conversely, “market historians” argue that Americans have always been more or
less capitalist and that they generally favored vigorous capitalist expansion.26 Most
Americans, they believe, voluntarily and eagerly participated in the market economy to
obtain a higher standard of living and economic advancement. They focus on economic
behavior and equate commercial expansion, market participation, banks, flexible
currency, and investment in transportation systems and agricultural improvements with
capitalism. Both schools agree that Americans engaged in exchange in a market economy
“Thus, true market historians reject the idea of a “transition to capitalism,” or of a
“capitalist transformation.” See Kulikoff, “Transition to Capitalism,” 125-126. Joyce
Appleby writes, “the passionate party warfare of the 1790s did not determine whether or
not America’s economy would be capitalistic. That had already been decided long ago
with the integration of the colonies into the great Atlantic trade.” Appleby, Capitalism
and A New Social Order. 56. Nevertheless, Wood argues that the Revolution “unleashed
acquisitive and commercial forces that no one had quite realized existed.” Wood,
“Interests and Disinterestedness,” 77. The most prominent work of market economy
historians for the Revolutionary and early republic periods are Gordon S. Wood, The
Creation of the American Republic. 1776-1787 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1969); Wood,
Radicalism of the American Revolution: Appleby, Capitalism and A New Social Order:
Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination; Rothenberg, From
Market-Places to a Market Economy: James T. Lemon, The Best Poor Man’s Country: A
Geographical Study of Early Southeastern Pennsylvania (New York: W.W. Norton,
1972); John J. McCusker and Russell R. Menard, The Economy of British America.
1607-1789 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991). Michael Merrill
faults Appleby and Wood for equating capitalism with a “generic commercial economy,”
and that therefore they see “the prosperity that followed the Revolution as a sign of an
emergent, radically new, capitalist order rather than as the expansion of a dynamic,
profoundly anticapitalist, and democratic old order.” He says that American
independence meant for most Americans the freedom “to do whatever they could do,
consistent with their God-given talents and ambitions, in whatever line of work they
chose to pursue.” Merrill calls this line of democratic thought “anticapitalism.” I would
argue that it would be hard to find a better definition of economic liberalism. Merrill,
“Putting Capitalism in its Place,” 323-324.

237
but disagree over the motives for and extent of this exchange.27 Gordon S. Wood has
observed that both schools recognize the presence of this behavior but cannot agree on
what to call it.28 Moral economy historians, for instance, would argue that most
Americans participated in commodity markets but only in a limited way in order to make
money to pay taxes or purchase imported manufactured goods that could not be produced
locally. Market historians, however, contend that Americans increasingly practiced
“possessive individualism.” They worked primarily to earn profits, to improve their
standard of living, acquire more land or slaves, or purchase consumer goods for use and
luxury. Joyce Appleby has argued that this economic individualism, far from being
fraught with class conflict, “undergirded Jefferson’s optimism about America’s future as
a progressive, prosperous, democratic nation.”29 In the process of practicing increased
possessive individualism, Americans replaced the notion of a classical republic with a
democratic marketplace, led not by a disinterested elite but by “competing individuals
with interests to promote.”30
27For instance both market historian Gordon S. Wood and neo-Marxist Allan
Kulikoff stress the singular importance of the role played by the American Revolution in
the creation of a capitalist America. Wood: “No event in the eighteenth century
accelerated the capitalistic development of America more than did the Revolutionary
war.” Kulikoff: “The American Revolution may have been the most crucial event in the
creation of capitalism.” Wood, “Interests and Disinterestedness,” 78; Kulikoff, Agrarian
Origins of American Capitalism. 8.
28Wood, “The Enemy is Us,” 295.
29Appleby, “Commercial Farming and the ‘Agrarian Myth’ in the Early Republic,”
Journal of American History 68 (March 1982): 836.
30Wood, “Interests and Disinterestedness,” 103.

238
The problem is that there is no clear, universally acceptable definition of
capitalism. And as Allan Kulikoff has noted, “one’s definition of capitalism structures
one’s vision of American society.”31 Moral economy historians stress class struggle and
conflict between competing economic systems. Market historians stress aggressive,
acquisitive economic behavior, individualism, and voluntary participation in markets for
economic advancement and an improved standard of living. As stated earlier, this chapter
argues that late eighteenth-century South Carolinians did not disagree over “systems of
economic relations,” but instead concerned themselves with “distribution of profits” and
accessibility to markets.32 Thus, this dissertation equates capitalism and economic
liberalism with voluntary participation in a free market economy.33 The term “liberalism”
is defined as an economic system stressing individualism, competition, and a free market
economy.
If eighteenth-century South Carolinians were not anti-capitalist, neither were they
culturally opposed to economic development. The Charleston and South Carolina elite
were not, as many historians have argued, anti-development, anti-modem, or anxious
about economic development in the sense that they shunned technological improvements,
31Kulikoff, “Transition to Capitalism,” 125.
“These phrases are borrowed from Allan Kulikoff, “Transition to Capitalism,”
125-126.
33My definition of capitalism accepts Immanuel Wallerstein’s contention that
exchange rather than class struggle is central to any understanding of capitalism.
Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism. Wallerstein is a neo-Marxist but does not share his
colleagues’ belief in the centrality of class conflict and free labor. See Genovese, World
the Slaveholders Made. 2nd ed., xix: “We [Marxists] agree on the centrality of class
relations in general.”

239
agricultural innovations, or financial institutions that would enhance and develop their
city and region. Their enthusiasm for and investment in canals, new towns, new
technologies, banks, and new commercial opportunities, reflects a commitment to growth
and development previously overlooked or denied by historians of Southern economic,
political, or social life. The interpretation of neo-Marxists has again been most
prominent. Eugene D. Genovese finds Southern planters participating in a capitalistic,
market-oriented world but argues that they were not themselves capitalists.34 The South,
he writes, was “premodem;” planters were “precapitalist, quasi-aristocratic,” who lived in
a society that “in its spirit and fundamental direction represented the antithesis of
capitalism.”35 Allan Kulikoff argues that “the South was the main exception to the
growth of capitalism. The few southern capitalists and workers remained embedded in an
anticapitalist slave society. Slaveholders created an anticapitalist niche for themselves in
the capitalist world.”36 Writing specifically about South Carolina, Rachel N. Klein states
that in the years following the Revolution, backcountry planters acted “aggressively
acquisitive” but were not capitalists. They produced for the household, not the market,
she argues, and thus participated in the market only to the extent necessary to sustain
existing relationships, not to make money. When “looked at from this perspective, the
34See Genovese, The World the Slaveholders Made. 2nd ed., vii: “slavery in the
Old South raised to power a social class of a new type and laid the foundations for a new
social order that was in but not of the trans-Atlantic capitalist world.”
35Genovese, Political Economy of Slavery. 3, 23.
“Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism. 112, 124. See also
Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake.
1680-1800 (Chapel Hill NC: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1986), 3-15, 261-313.

240
planter class was precapitalist-or noncapitalist.”37 Similarly, Douglas Egerton finds a
landed elite in the South producing for the market but yet exhibiting “economic interests
and moral values antagonistic to the spirit of modem capitalism.” Egerton reminds us
that “export-minded slaveholders exhibited little interest in the entrepreneurial activity
necessary for even small-scale manufacturing.”38 Apparently no matter how much
interest planters had in investing in banks, transportation improvements, or agricultural
innovations-all for the express purpose of expanding capital and facilitating access to
markets-they were not capitalists because they did not employ wage labor or invest in
manufacturing.
Other historians have found that Southern culture and values retarded the growth
of progressive economic development. W.J. Cash, William R. Taylor, William W.
Freehling, David Bertelson, Edmund S. Morgan, Rhys Isaac, and Bertram Wyatt-Brown
have all argued that a Southern commitment to slave-based, staple-crop agriculture
created a culture of honor and leisure that frowned upon and was contrary to notions of
economic improvement.39 But a culture based upon honor, slavery, and paternalism was
37Klein, Unification of a Slave State. 3.
38Egerton, “Markets Without a Market Revolution,” 220, 215.
39See Cash, The Mind of the South. 3-55; Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee. 95-141;
Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery. 3-39; Genovese, The World the
Slaveholders Made. 165-194; William W. Freehling, Prelude to Civil War: The
Nullification Controversy in South Carolina. 1816-1836 (New York: Harper and Row,
1965); Bertelson, The Lazy South: Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery. American
Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975), 44-71; Rhys
Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia. 1740-1790 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982), esp.
88-138, 320-322; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, esp. 176-179, but also 327-329. Wyatt-
Brown argues that most planters “willingly tied themselves to the market economy, but

241
not necessarily antithetical to economic liberalism. This interpretation of an anti¬
progressive, anti-modem, “lazy south” first took root in contemporary travel accounts and
has been more or less perpetuated by historians ever since.40 In 1785, Timothy Ford, a
New Jersey native living in Charleston, scorned “that dronish ease and torpid inactivity
which are so justly attributed to the people of the Southern states ... life is whiled away
in idleness, or consumed in dissipation.”41 Others noted South Carolina’s obsessive
hedonism. German traveler Johann David Schoepf observed that “the people of
Charleston live rapidly, not willingly letting go untasted any of the pleasures of this life,”
and he claimed that Carolinians far exceeded Northerners in their love of luxuries.42
Compare these observations with Freehling’s contention that “disdainful patricians never
escaped the suspicion that enthusiastic plantation management smacked of Yankee
practicality” and that Southerners “bragged about being English gentlemen rather than
preferred defensive over innovative tactics.” (p. 178) “For all the pride in self-reliance
and liberty, few Americans were as devoted as Southerners were to the economic
shackles of tradition. That sort of restrictiveness about livelihood was also bound to
affect the general willingness of individuals to strike out on different moral, cultural, and
social paths.” (p. 177) He argues that many planters were culturally opposed to following
any pursuit other than planting, and even then many resisted an economically rational
approach: “Some, at least, were deliberately, even truculently opposed to the ways of the
‘manufacturing and large commercial centers’ and their allegedly stultifying and
impersonal values.” (p. 178) For a discussion of how slavery came to be seen as anti¬
progressive and anti-modem, see David Brion Davis, Slavery and Human Progress (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 154-315.
40See Chaplin, An Anxious Pursuit. 71-91.
""Joseph W. Barnwell, ed., “Diary of Timothy Ford,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 13 (July 1912): 143.
42Johann David Schoepf, Travels in the Confederation 11784-17851 2 vols., trans.
by Alfred J. Morrison (New York: Bergman Publishers, 1968) 2:216, 168.

242
American go-getters.” Planter’s sons, he wrote, “drank and idled away time in
Charleston,” and preferred “dissolute idleness to disgusting careerism.” 43 Traveler’s
accounts have been widely used by historians because of their often picturesque
description of early American life, but as Joyce E. Chaplin has recently warned, these
accounts mix fact and fiction and often exaggerated the unfamiliar to increase
entertainment value and provide more compelling narratives. In the process they have
helped created persistent cultural stereotypes.44
Whatever the South became after 1820, the notion that Southerners shunned
aggressive economic behavior because of economic or cultural reasons must be
overturned for the years immediately following the American Revolution. South
Carolinians of all ranks actively pursued measures in the 1780s and 1790s designed to
economically improve their state and secure Charleston’s dominance in the region. In
this sense the South developed economically much like the North in the last two decades
of the eighteenth century. Democratic politics unleashed by the Revolution also
accelerated economic liberalism in South Carolina, as backcountry farmers and planters
43Freehling, Prelude to Civil War. 34-35, and Freehling, The Road to Disunion.
Volume 1. Secessionists at Bay. 1776-1854 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990),
29.
‘“Ironically, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century traveler’s accounts that depict
stereotypical characterizations of Southern slaves as “lazy” and “servile” have been
rejected as racist; their depiction of white southerners is almost always accepted at face
value. See for example, Rhys Isaac, Transformation of Virginia, esp. chapter four,
“Church and Home: Celebration’s of Life’s Meanings,” 58-87, for extensive quotations
from the journal of Philip Vickers Fithian; Grady McWhiney, Cracker Culture: Celtic
Wavs in the Old South (Tuscaloosa AL: University of Alabama Press, 1988); and David
Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1989).

243
linked increased demands for more equal political representation to demands for more
equal access to markets. Lowcountry planters and merchants thought that aggressive
economic behavior-investment in internal improvements, agricultural innovations, and
new financial institutions-would blunt the excesses of increased democracy and ensure
their city’s growth and continued regional economic dominance in the new American
republic. If future generations of Carolinians failed to sustain this vision of Charleston as
the economic terminus of a vast Southern hinterland, we are compelled nevertheless to
recognize the existence of this progressive, modem, liberal vision before 1820 and its
origins in the political and economic radicalism of the American Revolution. To
overlook or dismiss it as unimportant or fleeting is to miss the significance of the
American Revolution in the South.
************
South Carolinians praised the economic benefits of independence from Great
Britain almost from the moment of separation. They recognized, of course, that severing
the bonds of empire with Great Britain would bring not only political freedom but also
unprecedented economic opportunity as well. Judge William Henry Drayton told a
Charleston Grand Jury in 1776 that “heretofore you were bound-by the American
Revolution you are now free.” God Himself, “with a stretched out arm ... has delivered
us out of the House of Bondage and has led us on to empire.”45 Two years later, on July
4, 1778, David Ramsay expounded on the theme of release from bondage to emphasize
45William Henry Drayton, A Charge on the Rise of the American Empire.
Delivered bv the Hon. William Henry Drayton, Esq.. Chief Justice of South Carolina. To
the Grand Jury for the District of Charlestown (Charlestown: David Bruce, 1776), 2, 6.

244
and extol the economic benefits of the new American republic. Like Drayton, Ramsay
perceived the “foundations of a new empire, which promises to enlarge itself to vast
dimensions, and to give happiness to a great continent.” He argued that union with Great
Britain shackled and stifled America’s commerce, sacrificing growth and diversity to “the
regulations of an avaricious step-dame.” Independence, however, would unleash the
talents and energies of the American people. South Carolina’s “forests will be
transformed into vessels of commerce, enriching this independent continent with the
produce of every clime and every soil.” Ships from all nations would fill Charleston
harbor, bringing more money and higher prices for Carolina products than had been
possible under a British monopoly. Increased commerce would in turn increase capital to
be invested in transportation, educational, agricultural and industrial improvements at
home. In short, “our change of government smiles upon our commerce.”46 Another
Carolinian echoed Ramsay’s themes five years later when the British evacuated
Charleston. Using almost Biblical language, “Aethiopian” prophesied that “your state
46Ramsav. Oration on the Advantages of American Independence. 1-6, 8, 11, 16,
18, 20. Ramsay would continue to reecho these same themes for the remainder of his life,
though he was disappointed in the ability of Charleston merchants to trade with nations
other than Britain. See his An Address to the Freeman of South Carolina on the Subject
of the Federal Constitution (1788), 9; An Oration Prepared For Delivery Before the
Inhabitants of Charleston. Assembled on the 27th of May. 1788. To Celebrate the
Adontion of the New Constitution bv South Carolina (Bowen and Co., 1788), 5-6;
Ramsay, The History of South Carolina From Its First Settlement in 1670. to the Year
1808. 2 vols. (Charleston SC: David Longworth, 1809), 2:238-239.

245
will yet be a haven for foreign ships, and trade and commerce will come unto you in great
abundance.”47
With independence won in 1783, Charlestonians lost no time in setting out to
fulfill those prophesies. They reestablished old trading patterns, forged new trading
alliances and networks, and sought new markets. After eight years of war and
occupation, Charleston harbor sprang to life as Carolinians scrambled to rebuild their
lives and make new fortunes. The value of imports more than tripled from 1783 to 1784,
slave imports increased over 350 percent, while the price of rice reached a new high in
1784.48 The extent of post-war activity astonished and delighted Henry Laurens, just
returned from four years in Europe. “The merchant, the farmer, the mechanic are all busy
in their respective vocations,” he noted, “each one anxious in the pursuit of his own, at
the same time without seeming to know or mean it, contributing to the public weal. In a
word, everybody appears to be busy in some way or other.”49 Planter Pierce Butler
47Aethiopian, A Sermon On the Evacuation of Charleston (Philadelphia: For the
Author, 1783), 15-16.
48Merchants imported £300,000 in 1783, and £1,000,000 in 1784. Slave imports
increased from 1100 in 1783 to 5000 in 1784. The price of rice averaged 15.4 shillings
per hundred weight in 1784; the pre-war high was 11.7 in 1772. From 1761 to 1770 the
price ranged from 4.8 to 9.3 shillings. During the twelve months ending in November
1784, 50,961 tons cleared Charleston harbor; that figure increased to 56,162 over the next
twelve months. Between 1768 and 1772 the yearly clearance averaged only 31,000 tons.
Nadelhaft. Disorders of War. 145,148, 150, 153.
49Henry Laurens to Edward Bridgen, September 23, 1784, William Gilmore
Simms Collection of Henry Laurens Papers, Kendall Whaling Museum, Sharon
Massachusetts (hereafter referred to as Kendall Collection), microfilm, South Caroliniana
Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia. See also Laurens to Martha Laurens,
August 19, 1784 and to James Bourdieu, September 22, 1784.

246
thought the war gave “a new spring for industry. Our wharfs present a scene of bustle
and activity that I have not seen for many years.”50 Merchant Alexander Gillon
expressed optimism about the prospects for “a wide, general and extensive trade, hitherto
unknown to many, and new channels of commerce hitherto unexplored and unthought
of.”51 Ramsay reported favorably to Benjamin Rush that “the genius of our people is
entirely turned from war to commerce. Schemes of business and partnerships for
extending commerce are daily forming.”52 Robert Pringle, trained as a physician at the
University of Edinburgh, enthusiastically set aside his medical practice in 1783 and
formed a mercantile partnership with his brother-in-law William Freeman Jr. of Bristol,
England.53 Pringle parlayed “some fortunate speculations in the planting business” to
finance his partnership, reversing the usual course of investing mercantile profits into
50Pierce Butler to Thomas Fitzsimons, May 18, 1783, quoted in Rogers, Evolution
of a Federalist. 97.
’’Alexander Gillon to Flugh and Alexander Wallace and William Gibbes, July 4,
1783, Alexander Gillon Papers, South Caroliniana Library.
52Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, September 9, 1783, in Robert L. Brunhouse, ed.,
“David Ramsay, 1749-1815: Selections From His Writings,” Transactions of the
American Philosophical Society 55, Part 4 (1965): 76.
53See Article of Agreement of Copartnership between Robert Pringle and William
Freeman, June, 1783, and Robert Pringle to Rev. Edward Jenkins, December 27, 1783,
Robert Pringle to “Dear Sir,” undated [late 1783], Robert Pringle to Edmund Granger,
undated, Robert Pringle to William Freeman, September 7, 1783, William Freeman Sr. to
Robert Pringle, November 13,1783, February 20,1784, all in Pringle Family Papers,
South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston. Pringle’s father was longtime Charleston
merchant Robert Pringle Sr. See Walter B. Edgar and N. Louise Bailey et al., eds.,
Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. 5 vols.
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1974-1992), 2:542-544. William
Freeman Jr. married Pringle’s sister Elizabeth Mayrant Pringle. The other partner in the
firm was William Freeman Sr., Freeman Jr.’s uncle.

247
land. The manufactured goods Pringle imported found a ready market among Charleston
planters and lawyers, and Pringle’s connections to the local elite paid immediate
dividends. By early 1784 he could boast that the bulk of his customers were “gentlemen
of fortune and means [who] attach themselves wholly to our store for everything they
want.”54 The partnership, however, evidently failed to live up to these auspicious
beginnings and Pringle retired from business in 1787. Nevertheless, he remains a good
example of Charleston’s new enterprising, risk-taking merchants who capitalized on the
opportunities presented by the Revolution.55
Another, more successful, “scheme” was the partnership between native Carolina
merchants Josiah Smith Jr. and his brother-in-law Edward Darrell. The two men had
been pre-war partners, and both had been exiled to St. Augustine during the British
occupation. They returned to Charleston and formed a new mercantile house with
Smith’s cousin George Smith and former Beaufort merchant Daniel DeSaussure.56 The
54Robert Pringle to William Freeman Jr., no date [but sometime in early 1784],
Pringle Family Papers. Pringle owned 235 acres and 58 slaves in St. Bartholomew Parish
in 1783. His brother John Julius Pringle was a successful Charleston lawyer, so Robert
was well connected to two important Charleston groups. See N. Louise Bailey, ed.,
Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate. 1776-1985. 3 vols. (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1986), 2:1316-1317, and Biographical Directory of
the South Carolina House. 3:586-587.
55After leaving the mercantile business Pringle entered politics, serving in the
South Carolina Senate from 1789-1794 in the Eighth through Tenth General Assemblies.
By 1790 he owned eleven slaves in Charleston and sixty-four in St. Bartholomew Parish.
Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate. 2:1316-1317; U.S. Bureau of the
Census, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken In the Year
1790. South Carolina (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1908), 35, 40.
!6See Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist. 97-99.

248
firm of Smiths, DeSaussure and Darrell became the most successful native-owned
mercantile house in post-war Charleston, and three of the four partners played active and
prominent roles in the city’s economic development in the 1780s and 1790s. Darrell
would become a founding member of the revived, anti-British Charleston Chamber of
Commerce, serving as both vice president and president. He voted for ratification of the
United States Constitution at the South Carolina convention of 1788, owned nine slaves
in 1790, served as a director of the Inland Navigation Company in 1793, and was
involved in the Charleston branch of the Bank of the United States. Josiah Smith Jr. also
voted in favor of the Constitution and invested $55,000 in the Charleston branch of the
Bank of the United States in 1792. He also served as the bank’s cashier until its
dissolution in 1810. He owned seventeen slaves in 1800. Daniel DeSaussure also
belonged to the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, serving as vice president in 1793-
1794, voted for ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and served as a director and
president of the Charleston branch of the Bank of the United States in the 1790s. He
owned thirty-nine slaves in 1798. In addition, Josiah Smith Jr, Darrell, and DeSaussure
all represented Charleston in the General Assembly during the 1780s.57 These men
57George C. Rogers Jr. has identified Smiths, DeSaussure and Darrell as one of the
four distinct Federalist factions present in Charleston during the 1790s. He identifies
them as “leaders of the new Chamber of Commerce and directors of the branch bank.”
Rogers Jr.. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. 116-117: Biographical Directory of
the South Carolina House of Representatives. 3:169-170. 665-667: Biographical
Directory of the South Carolina Senate. 1776-1985. 1:384-386; Jeanne A. Calhoun,
Martha A. Zierden and Elizabeth A. Paysinger, “The Geographic Spread of Charleston’s
Mercantile Community, 1732-1767.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 86 (July 1985):
182-220; Heads of Families at the First Census. 38; Charleston Chamber of Commerce
Records, South Carolina Historical Society.

249
moved quickly to capitalize on the new economic opportunities of independence, seeking
out new lines of commerce, supporting a stronger central government, and investing in
new financial institutions and transportation improvements. These Charleston merchants
resemble their Philadelphia counterparts identified by Thomas M. Doerflinger: aggressive
and acquisitive merchants who took risks, reinvested profits, and ultimately made a
“critical contribution to the process of economic development.”58
Native merchants like Smiths, DeSaussure and Darrell had to compete, however,
with a large cohort of well-placed British merchants. As discussed in chapter four, South
Carolina Governor John Mathews allowed British merchants in Charleston to remain
behind the evacuating army in order to collect debts and sell off surplus merchandise.
Many of these merchants eventually applied for and were granted citizenship by the
planter-dominated Assembly. Among the most prominent British merchants were Henry
Shoolbred, Benjamin Moodie, William Tunno, Jonathan and William Simpson, Thomas
Stewart, James Miller and David O’Hara.59 To complicate matters for native merchants,
on July 2, 1783, the British closed their West Indian islands to American shipping.
Henceforth, only British ships could carry Carolina exports directly to the British
58Thomas M. Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and
Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia (New York: W.W. Norton, 1986),
163-164. Gregory Allen Greb found similar behavior among antebellum Charleston
merchants. See Greb, “Charleston, South Carolina, Merchants, 1815-1860: Urban
Leadership in the Antebellum South,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, San
Diego, 1978.
59See Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist. 100-103.

250
Caribbean market.60 Portugal likewise prohibited the importation of Carolina rice.
Though independence technically brought free trade with the world, native merchants had
lost two very lucrative markets for Carolina produce. Rice and indigo planters were now
doubly reliant upon British merchants both for credit and access to markets. Thus the
British monopolized post-war trade in Charleston with easy access to carriers,
merchandise, slaves, and above all, credit, that most native merchants lacked.61 Mathew’s
agreement blatantly favored the planters—who needed to quickly restock their
plantations—at the expense of native artisans and merchants who continued to compete
directly with their British counterparts, as they had before the war. By 1783, however,
Charleston’s artisans and mechanics, politicized by the Revolutionary movement, refused
to accept deferentially elite planter wishes. As detailed in the previous chapter, they
adopted democratic language and street protests to question the notion of “disinterested”
elite leadership. Charleston aristocrats reacted in part by incorporating the city and
establishing a strong city government capable of quelling artisan protests. The city’s
“Charles R. Ritcheson, Aftermath of Revolution: British Policy Toward the
United States. 1783-1795 (Dallas TX: Southern Methodist University Press, 1969);
Nadelhaft. Disorders of War. 151-152.
“Merchant Joseph Clay of Savannah noted that “the planter will as far as in his
power sacrifice everything to attain negroes,” and noted that the slave trade “is to the
trade of this country as the soul to the body, and without it no house can attain a proper
stability.” Clay made complaints about British merchants in Savannah similar to
objections in Charleston. See Joseph Clay to Joachim Noel Famming, April 23, 1783, to
James Jackson, February 16, 1784, to George Meade, April 17, 1784, “Letters of Joseph
Clay, Merchant of Savannah, 1776-1793,” Collections of the Georgia Historical Society 8
(1913): 191, 194-195,210.

251
native merchants equally detested the agreement with British merchants but chose a
different approach to voice their dissent.
A group of native merchants established the Charleston Chamber of Commerce in
1784 to promote new, non-British, avenues of trade, and to protest the favoritism shown
to British merchants in Charleston. Thirteen native merchants met at the City Tavern on
February 4, 1784.“ Their numbers soon grew to nearly seventy and included some of the
most prominent native merchants in Charleston. Founding members included Edward
Darrell, of Smiths, DeSaussure, and Darrell, Alexander Gillon, who would challenge
Richard Hutson for the office of Charleston intendant (mayor) in the fall of 1784, and
John Lewis Gervais, a Charleston merchant with substantial landholdings in the
backcountry. The exclusion of all foreign merchants made clear the Chamber’s anti-
British stance, and they simultaneously opened a correspondence with Thomas Jefferson,
American representative in Paris, about extending South Carolina’s limited commercial
intercourse with France.63
Though originally concerned with policy toward British merchants in Charleston,
native merchants, working through the Chamber of Commerce, soon focused their
attention on influencing policy designed to reopen British West Indian ports to American
“Journal of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, Charleston Chamber of
Commerce Records, South Carolina Historical Society.
63Ibid., February 6, June 2, July 28, 1784. Jefferson wrote to Goose Creek planter
Ralph Izard asking for information on Carolina produce. Izard forwarded the letter on to
the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber replied to Jefferson’s queries on October 15,
1784.

252
shipping as well as finding viable alternatives to British monopolization. Officers64
corresponded with merchants in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, and all agreed that
American trade would suffer until Congress could uniformly coordinate trade policy and
negotiate commercial treaties binding on all states.65 On April 30,1784, Congress
requested the right to pass a general navigation act, but the states hesitated in granting
such broad powers. In January 1785 Congress tried again, appointing James Madison of
Virginia to head a committee to lobby the states for greater power to regulate commerce.
Once again jealousy and suspicion prevented any general agreement. Some states passed
tariffs designed to discriminate against British shipping while simultaneously
encouraging domestic manufactures.66 Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce reacted to
such measures by calling for a general meeting of all citizens at the Exchange on August
11, 1785. Native merchants realized that as long as Britain had to negotiate separately
with thirteen different governments with regard to trade and navigation, American
merchants would continue to labor under enormous disadvantages. They argued that
though each state had different commercial interests, prejudicial British policy injured
every state in some way. The Chamber of Commerce therefore urged the state legislature
64The original officers were Alexander Gillon, president, John Lewis Gervais, vice
president, William Hort, treasurer, and Samuel Legare, secretary.
65For Congressional attempts to deal with foreign restrictions on American trade
during the 1780s, see Richard B. Morris, The Forging of the Union. 1781-1789 (New
York: Harper and Row, 1987), 194-219.
“Ibid., 130-161, especially 148-152. As Morris points out, such discriminatory
legislation did encourage native manufacturing but also prevented a common market
within all states, a major objective of the 1787 Constitution.

253
to grant Congress the power to regulate American commerce.67 The meeting strangely
echoed pre-Revolutionary gatherings of the 1760s and 1770s. Once again, Charleston
merchants protested British trade policy, this time railing against Britain’s unfettered
access to American ports while she closed her empire to American shipping.68 The
British may have lost the war, but due to the lack of coordinated American trade policy,
they could win the peace. Not surprisingly, in 1788 the Charleston Chamber of
Commerce overwhelmingly favored the ratification of the United States Constitution,
which increased the national government’s power to regulate trade. No less than five of
Charleston’s thirty-one representatives in the state ratifying convention were Chamber
members, and Edward Darrell, Daniel DeSaussure, William Sommersall, Nathaniel
Russell, and John Edwards unanimously favored adoption of the new Constitution.69
A stronger central government might be necessary to pry open closed British
ports, but the anti-British Chamber of Commerce did not want to rely solely on traditional
British markets. After all, the Revolution had thrown open trade with the world, and
many Charleston merchants eagerly sought to increase trade with other European nations,
particularly France. In 1784 Thomas Jefferson, American representative in Paris,
requested information on South Carolina’s exports from his friend Ralph Izard. Izard
passed the request on to the Chamber of Commerce, which responded to Jefferson with a
67Joumal of the Chamber of Commerce, August 1, August 11, 1785.
68See Ritcheson, Aftermath of Revolution.
“Alexander S. Salley Jr., ed., Journal of the Convention of South Carolina Which
Ratified the Constitution of the United States. May 23. 1788 (Atlanta GA: Foote and
Davies, 1928), 39-40.

254
detailed report.70 Jefferson found it difficult, however, to persuade Charleston merchants
to break out of their familiar patterns of commerce. Despite widespread anti-British
sentiment, the prevalence of British carriers and credit made it convenient and necessary
for Charleston merchants to continue consigning crops of rice and indigo to British rather
than French agents, as well as ordering British manufactured goods. Chamber of
Commerce members and mercantile partners Thomas Morris and William Brailsford,
however, responded favorably to Jefferson’s entreaties and began doing business with
Berard and Company of France.71 The partners explained to Jefferson that though they
and many other Charleston merchants desired more extensive trade with France, a
combination of planter preferences for English goods, extensive British credit, and
70Joumal of the Chamber of Commerce, July 28, 1784, October 15, 1784.
Jefferson’s letter to Izard was dated May 22, 1784. According to the Papers of Thomas
Jefferson. Jefferson’s original letter to Izard has not been found. The letter, however, is
extracted in the Chamber of Commerce journal on July 28, 1784, which evidently the
editors of the Jefferson papers did not find. See Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of
Thomas Jefferson. 26 vols. to date (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950-),
7:283. Izard replied, with the Chamber’s report, on June 10,1785; see Papers of
Jefferson. 8:195.
71See Ralph Izard to Thomas Jefferson, October 20, 1787. Izard kept passing
Jefferson’s letters on to “several merchants, and am happy to find a general disposition
among them to enter into commercial connections with France. Messieurs Brailsford and
Morris will make a consignment of a cargo of rice to Messieurs Berard and Co. This will
be a beginning of what I wish to see carried to a considerable extent.” Charleston lawyer
Edward Rutledge also encouraged Charleston merchants to begin trading with the French:
“I have endeavoured, and not without success, to convince several of our mercantile
people, as well as some of our planters, how highly beneficial it will be to change the
consignment of their rice from Great Britain to France.” See Edward Rutledge to Thomas
Jefferson, October 23, 1787, both in Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 12:249-250, 263-264;
Richard Walsh, ed., “Letters of Morris and Brailsford to Thomas Jefferson,” South
Carolina Historical Magazine 58 (1957): 132. Thomas Morris was Christopher
Gadsden’s son-in-law.

255
enormous planter debt all conspired against them.72 Morris and Brailsford nevertheless
persevered in their belief that “France is indisputably a much better market for our rice
and tobacco than England,” and they could report with satisfaction by the spring of 1789
that they had shipped thirteen cargoes of Carolina rice to French ports. In addition they
reported “considerable exports to the German, Holland, and Spanish markets.”73
Although the French market never displaced the British, French imports of American rice
did rise during this period, from 473,000 francs in 1787 to 11,627,149 francs in 1793.74
Throughout the economic crisis of the 1780s, the Charleston Chamber of
Commerce labored to reestablish Charleston’s commercial prominence. It worked to
counteract discriminatory British trade policy toward American navigation in general and
the British monopolization of Charleston trade in particular. Charleston’s native
merchants played an active role in corresponding with Northern merchants to encourage a
more uniform American trade policy in a stronger central government and eagerly sought
new avenues of trade for Carolina commodities. Their lobbying efforts in 1791 helped
bring a branch of the Bank of the United States to Charleston and members bought shares
^South Carolina’s debt to British merchants during the 1780s has been estimated
at £860,000 in 1784 and £2,000,000 sterling by the mid-1780s. Nadelhaft, Disorders of
War. 152-153. As one local paper put it, “if we are undone, we are the most splendidly
ruined of any nation in the universe.” South Carolina Gazette and Public Advertiser. May
21, 1785.
73Morris and Brailsford to Thomas Jefferson, October 31, 1787, March 10, 1789,
Morris and Brailsford to Nathaniel Barrett, 1787, “Letters of Morris and Brailsford,” 135,
138-139,143-144.
74Edmund Buron, “Notes and Documents: Statistics on Franco-American Trade,
1778-1806,” Journal of Economic and Business History 4 (May 1932): 571-580.

256
in the institution and served as officers until its dissolution in 1810.75 Throughout the
1780s and 1790s members eagerly invested in canal and other transportation
improvement companies, supported the new Federal Constitution in 1787, and served in
state and local governments. These merchants eagerly embraced new opportunities
provided by the American Revolution and displayed a commitment both to local and
regional economic growth in the post-war years. Though native merchants in the
Chamber of Commerce were less successful than they hoped in opening new non-British
trade routes, their efforts demonstrated those characteristics of Northern merchants,
“flexibility, innovativeness, and speculative drive,” supposedly lacking among Southern
entrepreneurs. Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce exhibited the same “spirit of
enterprise~the drive and flexibility, the tolerance for risk, the roving quest for new
markets,” that characterized Northern businessmen during the Revolutionary era.76
Like Charleston’s merchants, city planters also sought to decrease their reliance
upon British merchants and markets while capitalizing on new opportunities. While
native merchants formed the Charleston Chamber of Commerce to facilitate their goals,
lowcountry planters organized the Agricultural Society of South Carolina in 1785.77 The
Society advocated crop diversification and experimentation in order to find additional
staple crops (much like indigo in the 1740s) that would open up new markets and
75Joumal of the Chamber of Commerce, May 11, 1791, February 8, 1792, South
Carolina Historical Society.
76Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise. 344, 355.
77South Carolina Gazette and Public Advertiser. August 27, 1785.

257
increase profits. In addition to diversification, the Society encouraged agricultural
improvements and techniques designed to increase output.78 Society members
corresponded with similar Northern and European societies to gain access to and
information about new technology and crops grown in similar climates around the world.
Thomas Jefferson sent samples of Mediterranean and Asian rice to society members
Edward Rutledge and Ralph Izard, who eagerly sought to make Carolina rice more
palatable to southern Europeans.79 Rutledge explained his strategy to Jefferson: “We
must change in part the articles that we raise; we must import as little as possible; and we
must find out new markets for our produce. As I can afford to make experiments, I am
doing it in the articles of hemp and cotton to a pretty considerable degree.”80
78Address and Rules of the South Carolina Society For Promoting and Improving
Agriculture and Other Rural Concerns (Charleston SC: Ann Timothy, 1785), 4, 6;
Chalmers S. Murray, This Our Land: The Story of the Agricultural Society of South
Carolina (Charleston SC: Charleston Art Association, 1949), 27-28; Chaplin, Anxious
Pursuit. 140-141; Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States
to I860. 2 vols. (Washington DC: The Carnegie Institution, 1933), 2:783-785; Williams,
Founding Family. 208; George C. Rogers Jr., “South Carolina Ratifies the Federal
Constitution.” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1961,43.
79Jefferson sent the Agricultural Society over ninety different parcels of rice, and
notes on Philippine rice. Society members planted the rice themselves and parceled it out
to other lowcountry planters. Apparently none of it grew in South Carolina. Henry C.
Dethloff, A History of the American Rice Industry. 1685-1985 (College Station TX:
Texas A & M University Press, 1988), 42. See Ralph Izard to Thomas Jefferson, April 4,
1787, April 3, 1789, “Letters of Ralph Izard,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 2 (July
1901): 201-204; Edward Rutledge to Thomas Jefferson, October 14, 1786, October 23,
1787, Ralph Izard to Thomas Jefferson, October 20, 1787, November 10,1787, Thomas
Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, July 14, 1787, Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 10:463-465,
11:587-589, 12:249-250, 263-264, 338-339; Murray, This Our Land. 49-51.
“Edward Rutledge to Thomas Jefferson, April 1, 1789, Papers of Thomas
Jefferson. 15:12-13. In this same letter Rutledge proposed sending Carolina rice to
Constantinople and encouraged Jefferson to find out what he could about that market.

258
Membership included the top echelon of the Charleston and lowcountry planter
community. Thomas Heyward, a Charleston lawyer with plantations in St. Helena Parish
on the Combahee River, served as Society president. Vice President Thomas Pinckney
was also a Charleston lawyer with vast landholdings on the Santee River. Treasurer Peter
Smith owned fifty slaves and over 1,200 acres in St. James Goose Creek. Other members
included Goose Creek planter Ralph Izard, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, William
Drayton, John Mathews, John Rutledge, Thomas Bee, Aaron Loocock, and Isaac
Harleston.81 Nearly all of these members practiced law as well as planting (Loocock was
a merchant), with substantial holdings in both land and slaves in Charleston and the
surrounding countryside.82
These men thoroughly subscribed to the notions of a planter ethos based on the
culture of honor, slavery, and paternalism. None, however, acted as if these values were
antithetical to liberal economic expansion and progressive development. Treasurer Peter
Smith saw no contradiction in being a founding member of both the Agricultural Society
and the St. George’s Jockey Club, while also serving as a commissioner for improving
the navigation of Goose Creek.83 Aaron Loocock wrote a pamphlet in 1775 advocating
madder (which produced a red dye) as a possible staple crop and in the post-war decades
8lRules of the South Carolina Society: Murray, This Our Land. 37.
82Biograt)hical Directory of the South Carolina House. 2:69-72, 205-207, 323-325,
411-413,438-440, 525-528, 573-581, 3:371-373, 561-565,
83Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate. 3:1505.

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served as a director of the Inland Navigation Company and the Bank of South Carolina.84
In addition to his mercantile business in Charleston, Loocock was a partner of fellow
merchants Nathaniel Russell and Andrew Lord in the Rumney Distillery in Charleston,
and at his death in 1794 he owned 3,000 acres and over forty slaves at Middleburg
plantation on the Wateree River, 900 acres and forty-eight slaves at his Goose Creek
plantation just north of Charleston, and a house at 31 Tradd Street in the city.85 These
were not anti-progressive, anti-modem, “lazy” Southern planters. Instead, Charleston’s
planter-entrepreneurs eagerly experimented with various crops, pioneered tidal rice
cultivation, served in the state and city government, and invested in internal improvement
companies. Throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the
Agricultural Society sought to improve techniques for rice and cotton cultivation, crop
yields, and livestock breeding, while encouraging exotic crop experimentation and
technological innovations, such as improved and more efficient water mills for rice and
cotton gins for long- and short-staple cotton. Their belief that “agriculture is the parent of
commerce” demonstrated a conviction that new technologies and new markets for
agriculture would ultimately benefit all of society, not just lowcountry farmers.86 By
promoting agricultural experimentation, diversification, and improvement, Society
biographical Directory of the South Carolina House. 2:411-413.
85South Carolina (WPA) Will Transcripts, Wills of Charleston County, 25 (1793-
1800): 161-166, microfilm, South Carolina Department of Archives and History,
Columbia, originals in Charleston County Courthouse, Charleston..
86Rules of the South Carolina Society. 4.

260
members exhibited a desire to exploit new economic opportunities and increase the
prosperity of their city, state, and region.
The shift to tidal rice cultivation and the expansion of cotton further reflected
planter commitment to economic growth in the postwar decades. Wartime devastation
forced large numbers of lowcountry planters to rebuild their estates. Many planters, faced
with reconstruction from the ground up, began shifting rice production from inland to
tidewater swamps. Tidal rice cultivation allowed planters to utilize the ocean tides in
watering and irrigating their crops. As the tide rose, it pushed fresh water in coastal
rivers back upriver, raising water levels and allowing planters to irrigate their crops while
simultaneously killing grass, weeds, and insects. This more rational87 and efficient
system shortened the growing season, released slaves from the painstaking tasks of
weeding and hoeing, and allowed the harvest to begin earlier and improved crop yield per
acre. Planters increasingly began shifting production to tidal swamps and by the first
decades of the nineteenth century the shift had been nearly completed.88 Rice exports
reflected the shift. From 1782 to 1786 rice exports averaged just over 28 million pounds,
87The term “rational” is meant to imply economic rationalism, using modem,
efficient methods in order to maximize profits. In her discussion of the conflict and
tension between modernity and slavery, Joyce E. Chaplin has ably demonstrated the irony
in the fact that this “rational, efficient, progressive” method of cultivating rice entrenched
and fastened slavery even deeper upon lowcountry South Carolina. See Chaplin, Anxious
Pursuit. 227. This subject will be explored in more detail below and in the next chapter.
88For the shift to tidal rice cultivation, see Chaplin, Anxious Pursuit. 227-276;
Chaplin, “Tidal Rice Cultivation and the Problem of Slavery in South Carolina and
Georgia, 1760-1815,” William and Mary Quarterly 49 (January 1992): 29-61; Gray,
History of Agriculture. 2:721, 726-730; Dethloff, History of the American Rice Industry.
18-23.

261
less than half of the exports from 1769 to 1773, which averaged 70.5 million pounds per
year. By 1790 exports had returned to 1770 levels, and from 1790 to 1795 rice exports
reached all-time highs, averaging over 79 million pounds, with prices reaching 5.9 cents a
pound in 1795, also a record.89
The shift to tidal rice cultivation involved an enormous investment of planter
capital in labor and equipment. Planters needed slaves to reshape the physical landscape
and construct the irrigation ditches, dykes, and embankments that would tame the
lowcountry tides. More proficient methods of irrigation led to greater crop yields, which
in turn led to a greater need for a more efficient method of rice milling. Thus in the late
1780s and early 1790s Charleston planters began investing in improved rice mill
technology, particularly Jonathan Lucas’ revolutionary water-powered mill.90 Lucas’
invention originally relied on a pond or reserve of water alongside the rivers to power his
mill, but this left him vulnerable to drought or flood. By the early 1790s, however, Lucas
had adapted his mill to utilize the ocean tides in much the same way the planters used
them to irrigate their crops. Using the tide and a series of hydraulic lifts and conveyor
belts, the Lucas tidal mill simultaneously reduced the amount of labor necessary to mill
rice while increasing efficiency and output. At just the point when Charleston banks
89Dethloff, History of the American Rice Industry. 40-41. Rice exports for any
five year period from 1796 to 1860 never again reached the level of 1791-1795. Gray,
History of Agriculture. 2:610, 723.
’“Lucas constructed mills for, among others, Frances Motte Middleton, Peter
Horry at Winyah Bay near Georgetown, William Alston on the Waccamaw River,
William Horry on the Santee River, Andrew Johnston, and Henry Laurens Jr. on his
Cooper River plantation. See Dethloff, History of the American Rice Industry 32-33, 35.

262
made capital widely available, planters up and down the lowcountry coast invested in
Lucas mills over the next two decades, significantly increasing the amount of rice milled
in South Carolina. The Lucas mill proved so effective that in the first decade of the
nineteenth century the British government invited his son to build rice mills in England.91
The shift from inland to tidal rice cultivation paralleled a movement away from
indigo toward cotton production. Charleston planters sought new crops and new markets
after the closure of the British West Indies and the loss of the British bounty on indigo,
the other prominent colonial staple. Carolina planters grew cotton as one of several crops
they experimented with in the search for new markets and profits.92 By the early 1790s,
however, cotton became the dominant “second” staple, and by 1800 South Carolina
cotton production had surpassed rice exports. Cotton had a distinct advantage in that it
could be grown on the same land as indigo; as British demand for Carolina indigo fell and
demand and prices for cotton rose, coastal planters eagerly shifted to cotton production.
In the mid-1790s a French traveler observed that “the islands along the coast of South
Carolina, and even some tracts of the coast, were, until these late years, entirely devoted
to the culture of indigo; but cotton is now cultivated in its room.”93 By 1799, as one
9lFor the Lucas mill, see Ibid., 29-35; Murray, This Our Land. 62.
92See Edward Rutledge to Thomas Jefferson, April 1, 1789, Papers of Jefferson.
15:12-13; Aedanus Burke, April 16, 1789, 1st Congress, 1st Session, United States
Congress, The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States. 1789-1824
42 vols. (Washington DC, 1834-1856), 1:155.
93Francois Alexandre Frederic, due de La Rocehfoucault-Liancourt, Travels
Through the United States of North America, the Country of the Iroquois, and Upper
Canada. In the Years 1795. 1796. 1797. 2 vols. (London: R. Phillips, 1799), 1:576.

263
Charlestonian noted, “the culture of cotton is now the great staple. Never was so much of
this planted before.”94 Indeed, cotton production in South Carolina rose from 131 pounds
in 1788 to 9,840 in 1789 to over 6.4 million in 1800.95
Cotton exports rose primarily because of the spread of short-staple cotton
production to the backcountry. This expansion forged important and long-lasting
economic links between Charleston and the upcountry and ultimately helped ease
sectional political tensions. The population of the South Carolina backcountry had grown
steadily since the 1770s and by 1790 contained 80 percent of the state’s white
population.96 These farmers first grew wheat, then tobacco. When European demand and
prices for tobacco and wheat fell in the 1790s, backcountry producers turned to short-
staple cotton. The Whitney cotton gin made short-staple cotton production more
94Charles Caleb Cotton to Mr. Cotton, October 24,1799, in Julien Dwight Morris,
ed., “The Letters of Charles Caleb Cotton, 1798-1802,” South Carolina Historical
Magazine 51 (October 1950): 225.
95Report of George Abbott Hall, Collector of Customs for the Port of Charleston,
on General Exports from Charleston, November 1786 to November 1787, January 18,
1788, Records of the General Assembly, South Carolina Department of Archives and
History, Columbia (hereafter cited as SCDAH); Gray, History of Agriculture. 2:673-690,
esp. 679-680; Chaplin, Anxious Pursuit. 208-226; Klein, Unification of a Slave State.
246.
96Most of this population growth came overland from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and
North Carolina. See Chaplin, “Creating a Cotton South,” 185. See also Richard Henry
Lee to James Madison, November 20, 26, 1784: “It is natural for men to fly from
oppression to ease, and whilst our taxes are extremely heavy, and North Carolina and
Georgia pay little or no tax it is not to be wondered that so many of our people flock to
these states and unfortunately they are carrying to Georgia and South Carolina the
cultivation of tobacco”; “the accounts that we daily receive of the powerful emigrations
from our state to Georgia, to North and South Carolina, and from the interior parts to
Kentucky, are very alarming.” James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee. 2
vols. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1912), 2:300, 305.

264
profitable, but it is important to note, as Joyce E. Chaplin has recently pointed out, that
neither British demand nor the invention of the cotton gin created the cotton South.97
Cotton spread to the South Carolina backcountry because of the conscious decisions of
upland farmers who already participated in a market economy. The shift from wheat to
tobacco to cotton was a relatively easy one. Tobacco and cotton required similar
techniques of production and the same roads, wagons, and boats that transported tobacco
could be used to move cotton.98 Cotton did not create a commercialized economy in the
backcountry; it already existed.
The expansion of cotton into the backcountry had an enormous impact on the
state’s economy and Charleston’s continued economic prominence in the late eighteenth
and early nineteenth century. Total Lower South cotton exports in 1794 are estimated at
just over 8 million pounds, mostly long-staple sea-island cotton. Just four years later the
expansion of short-staple cotton growth in the backcountry had propelled total cotton
exports to over 16 million pounds. By 1804 export levels surpassed 64 million pounds.
With cotton prices during this period averaging about 35 cents a pound, the cotton crop
exported from Charleston, Savannah, and Beaufort in 1804 was valued at over $22.4
million. By 1800 South Carolina produced 50 percent of all cotton exported from the
"Chaplin, Anxious Pursuit. 277-329, esp. 328. For the origins of short-staple
cotton in the upcountry, see also Alfred Glaze Smith Jr., Economic Readjustment of an
Old Cotton State: South Carolina. 1820-1860 (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1958), 1-18.
98Chaplin, “Creating a Cotton South,” 193.

265
United States." Small wonder that indigo production had almost ceased to exist by that
same date. Carolinians exported over 839,000 pounds of indigo in 1792, but as cotton
production rose, indigo exports fell to 96,000 pounds in 1797 and only 3,400 by 1800.'°°
The American Revolution thus allowed Charleston planters to reshape their world,
both literally and figuratively. No one would have wished for the ruinous destruction of
property and the devastation of war, but in rebuilding their estates planters did not simply
return to the status quo. They eagerly seized the opportunity to make rice cultivation
more efficient and profitable, and they experimented with new crops in the search for
alternative markets and increased profits. Though planters went deeply into debt in the
1780s rebuilding their plantations, their commitment to new methods of cultivation and
encouragement of and investment in new technology propelled Charleston once again to
economic dominance in the 1790s, at just the moment when Charleston’s political
fortunes began to decline. Thus while Charleston merchants, through the Chamber of
Commerce, worked to open new avenues of trade, the city’s planters invested in
improved techniques of rice cultivation and shifted from indigo to cotton to reestablish
their city’s economic prominence. Planter investment of enormous amounts of capital in
increased labor, new techniques, and new technology reflects a commitment to liberal
economic growth while undermining the notion of a “lazy South” dominated by planters
culturally averse to energy or efficiency.
"Gray, History of Agriculture. 2:681-683.
I00Ibid., 2:610-611.

266
The irony, of course, was that by committing themselves to new and more
efficient techniques of rice production and the expansion of cotton production, Charleston
planters ensured that the economic survival of their city and region would be linked even
further with the survival of slavery. The spread of cotton into the backcountry had an
enormous impact upon slaveholding in that region, particularly during the decade 1800-
1810.101 The slave population in the South Carolina backcountry increased by 194
percent (from 29,094 to 85,636), while the proportion of slaves in the backcountry
population increased from 20 percent in 1790 to 23 percent in 1800 to 32 percent in 1810.
In 1790 lowcountry planters owned 73 percent of all Carolina slaves; by 1800 that
number had fallen to 65 percent, and down to 56 percent by 1810.102 In the four
contiguous backcountry counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, Laurens, and Newberry, the
percentage of the slave population grew from 18.3 percent in 1790 to 21.4 percent in
1800 to 30.8 percent in 1810. The slave population in these four counties had reached
101See Lacy K. Ford Jr., Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Carolina
Uncountrv. 1800-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 19; Klein,
Unification of a Slave State. 246-257.
102Heads of Families At the First Census of the United States. 8-9; Return of the
Whole Number of Persons Within the Several Districts of the United States According To
“An Act Providing For the Second Census or Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the
United States.” Passed February the twenty-eighth. 1800 (Washington DC, 1802), vol. 2
(hereafter cited as Federal Population Census, 1800); Aggregate Amount of Each
Description of Persons Within the United States of America, and the Territories Thereof.
Agreeably to Actual Enumeration Made According To Law. In the Year 1810
(Washington DC, 1811), vol. 3 (hereafter cited as Federal Population Census, 1810).

267
61.1 percent by I860.103 As Joyce E. Chaplin has demonstrated, “modernity” and
“progress” in the Lower South came with a very heavy price indeed.104
Internal improvements, on a state and local level, played a parallel role to short-
staple cotton production in forging economic and political links between upcountry and
lowcountry and further reflect Southern commitment to economic liberalism and an
eagerness to exploit economic opportunity. Beginning immediately after the evacuation
of Charleston, backcountry settlers continually demanded that the state provide improved
and equal access to markets-roads, bridges, canals, ferries-in order to reap more fully
the economic benefits of the American Revolution. A host of backcountry petitions
during the 1780s and 1790s simultaneously favored strengthening economic links with
Charleston while weakening political ties with the lowcountry metropolis. Backcountry
farmers coupled repeated pleas for removal of the capital and constitutional reform with
more widespread access to Charleston. Lowcountry leaders did not resist backcountry
demands for economic democracy as they had the upland clamor for political
equalitarianism.105 They enthusiastically sought to improve the physical links between
103Ibid.; Gray, History of Agriculture. 2:685.
104See Chaplin, Anxious Pursuit. 125-126, 328.
10SThis directly contradicts Genovese’s notion that “it did not pay the planters to
appropriate state funds to build a transportation system into the backcountry, and any
measure to increase the economic strength of the backcountry farmers seemed politically
dangerous to the aristocracy of the Black Belt.” Genovese, Political Economy of Slavery.
25.

268
the two sections both for economic and political reasons.106 Governor Benjamin Guerard
told the state legislature that the government had a responsibility to “bestow a very
particular attention to all our roads, causeways, bridges, ferries, cuts, and inland
navigation.”107 Charleston planters and merchants realized that transportation
improvements would only bring economic benefit to their port city, as upland farmers
exchanged backcountry staple commodities for imported luxury goods. Lowcountry
politicians also argued that superior transportation links would blunt political tensions
between the two sections.108 Backcountry material conditions would be improved
through increased access to markets, while cultural differences would be lessened by
improved educational institutions. “All the uneasiness which has subsisted between the
lower and back parts has been occasioned by the inequality of their circumstances,”
lowcountry planter Ralph Izard insisted. “Enable the latter to bring their produce to
market upon moderate terms,” he argued, “and they will be enriched. A good education
to the rising generation will be the consequences, and we shall become an united and
happy people.”109 As discussed in the last chapter, many lowcountry leaders argued that
'“Norman Gasque Raiford, “South Carolina and the Issue of Internal
Improvement, 1775-1860,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1974, 8-9. Raiford
writes that Charleston initially opposed all efforts to promote internal improvements
because of economic jealously, but I have found no evidence to support this statement.
'“’Governor Benjamin Guerard Message, February 2, 1784, Governor’s Messages,
1783-1830, Records of the General Assembly, SCDAH. See also Guerard’s message of
January 24, 1785.
108See Klein, Unification of a Slave State. 244-245.
109Ralph Izard to Edward Rutledge, November 9, 1791, Ralph Izard Papers, South
Caroliniana Library.

269
the state capital should be moved inland only when backcountry lawmakers were no
longer “brought up deer-hunters and horse thieves for want of education.”110 David
Ramsay invested $30,000 in the Santee-Cooper Canal and became a canal enthusiast in
part because he believed “our young people especially in the interior country for want of
schoolmasters & preachers are deficient in that knowledge which republicans ought to
possess.”111 Thus, some Charlestonians supported internal improvements not only for
economic reasons but also as a means of providing the backcountry with what many
deemed as the essential educational and cultural prerequisites for self-government.
South Carolina’s enthusiasm for internal improvements paralleled the zeal of
other states in the post-war years.112 Carolina lawmakers had long recognized the
importance of improved transportation. Even while distracted by war the South Carolina
legislature noted “the inland navigation of this state is of great importance to the trade and
riches of the inhabitants,” and Charlestonians discussed plans to cut a canal between the
Santee and Cooper rivers as early as 1770.113 The American Revolution, however, acted
as a catalyst for transportation improvements, and independence presented extraordinary
110Aedanus Burke to Arthur Middleton, July 6, 1782, in Joseph W. Barnwell, ed.,
“Correspondence of Hon. Arthur Middleton,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 26
(October 1925): 204.
111 Ramsay to John Eliot, June 24,1795, “Ramsay Writings,” 141; Shaffer. To Be
an American. 173.
112See John Lauritz Larson, “A Bridge, A Dam, A River: Liberty and Innovation
in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 7 (Winter 1987): 351-354.
113Thomas Cooper and David J. McCord, eds., The Statutes at Large of South
Carolina. 10 vols. (Columbia SC: A.S. Johnston, 1838-1841), 7:521: South Carolina
Gazette. January 18, 1770, February 15, 1773.

270
opportunities for all white Americans to physically reshape the landscape.114 “A desire of
encouraging whatever is useful and economical seems now generally to prevail,” George
Washington told Thomas Jefferson.115 He and other Virginians were busy clearing and
building canals on the Potomac River, while similar efforts were underway in North
Carolina and Pennsylvania.116 “Our next business will be to improve our country, cutting
canals and building bridges,” Ramsay told his friend Benjamin Rush in 1784.117 Farmers
and merchants in all states inundated their legislatures with petitions requesting that rivers
be cleared, bridges built, ferries established and chartered, and canals dug. They
clamored repeatedly for any transportation improvements that would increase the
convenience and speed of moving goods while lowering costs. In addition to
transportation improvements, petitioners also requested new tobacco inspection
warehouses, the establishment of markets and fairs, and incorporation of towns.
114Larson, “A Bridge, A Dam, A River,” 351-354; Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of
American Capitalism. 105-106, 109.
"’tieorge Washington to Thomas Jefferson, February 13, 1789, Papers of Thomas
Jefferson. 14:546-547. For similar sentiments, see also Washington to Governor William
Moultrie, May 25, 1786, in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington
From the Original Manuscript Sources. 1745-1799. 39 vols. (Washington DC: United
States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), 28:439-441; Washington to Marquis de
Chastellux, August 8, 1786, George Washington Letters, Charleston Library Society,
Charleston; Henry Laurens to James Bourdieu, September 22,1784, Kendall Collection,
microfilm, South Caroliniana Library.
ll6South Carolina Gazette and Public Advertiser. July 15, 1784; Ronald E. Shaw,
Canals For A Nation: The Canal F.ra in the United States. 1790-1860 (Lexington KY:
University Press of Kentucy, 1990), 1-29; Curtis P. Nettels, The Emergence of a National
Economy. 1775-1815 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962), 251-262.
117David Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, April 8, 1784, “Ramsay Writings,” 77.

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Backcountry South Carolinians displayed an enthusiasm for market exchange in the
language they adopted in petitioning their government, contradicting the notion that these
farmers sought to isolate themselves from the market in order to preserve a
communalistic, self-sufficient ethos that rejected the notions of laissez-faire liberalism.118
"'Douglas Egerton argues that “the yeoman exhibited neither an interest in nor an
understanding of the acquisitive, entrepreneurial instincts of northern farmers,” and that
these farmers “remained on the periphery of the market economy throughout the
antebellum period. ... the fiercely independent farmers practiced diversified farming for
household subsistence and neighborhood exchange.” He also insists that the notion of
broad support for internal improvements in the South “would come as bewildering news
to the handful of frustrated southern Whigs who pushed for roads and canals.” Egerton,
“Markets Without a Market Revolution,” 217-220. Southerners opposed only those
internal improvements financed by the federal government, not their own state
governments. Alfred Glaze Smith Jr. addressed this issue convincingly forty years ago.
He argued that South Carolinians opposed internal improvements after 1820 because they
were funded primarily by the tariff, which Carolinians wanted lowered. The South
Carolina Senate resolved in 1824 “that it is an unconstitutional exercise of power, on the
part of Congress, to tax the citizens of one state to make roads and canals for the benefit
of the citizens of another state.” South Carolinians had no opposition to internal
improvements, per se, only those financed by federal taxes. Smith, Economic
Readjustment of an Old Cotton State. 15. Genovese likewise insists that throughout the
antebellum period backcountry farmers “remained isolated, self-sufficient, and politically,
economically, and socially backward.” Genovese, Political Economy of Slavery. 25.
Steven Hahn argued that upcountry farmers in antebellum Georgia were “fundamentally
committed to producing for household consumption and local exchange, wary of
‘economic development,’” and that “kinship rather than the marketplace mediated most
productive relations . . . and family self-sufficiency proved the fundamental concern.”
Market exchange, when undertaken at all, “served their interests rather than dominated
their lives.” Hahn, Roots of Southern Populism. 89,29, 39. Ruth Bogin, in a recent
article on petitioning in post-Revolutionary America, argues that petitioners’ goals and
attitudes reflect a “lower class ideology” which emphasized equality of opportunity, an
extension of E.P. Thompson’s “moral economy of the poor,” rather than an acceptance of
“laissez-faire ideology that divested the moneyed ‘few’ of moral responsibility for the
welfare of the ‘many.’” While I agree that South Carolina petitions stress economic
equality in terms of equal access to markets and profits, I would disagree that this in turn
demonstrates that urban artisans and backcountry farmers were attempting to fashion “a
sense of group identity~in fact the consciousness of a laboring class” which favored a
more equal distribution of wealth and who struggled against the concept “that profit alone
should drive economic policy.” Like most moral-economy historians, Bogin is forced to

272
Most petitioners desired new roads, ferries, and bridges, or requested that river
obstructions be cleared. Others wanted canals. Everyone, however, wanted
improvements that would increase the speed while decreasing the costs of shipping goods
to Charleston. Over fifty “free-holders living on the Edisto River” requested a road
between Orangeburgh and Slann’s Bridge “whereof the intercourse between your
petitioners settlements both with the town of Orangeburgh and Charleston would be more
convenient and direct.”119 Christopher Tatum and over 240 other Camden District
residents wanted a new road and ferry to shorten their route to Charleston.120 Residents of
St. Paul’s and St. Bartholomew’s parish in the lowcountry asked that a new ferry be
established on the Edisto River to facilitate farmers from “Augusta, Long Cane, [and]
Ninety-Six” on their way to the port.121 Others in St. Bartholomew’s complained that
they lacked a public road to Charleston and could not “get anything to or from thence but
with much loss and great difficulty.”122 More than forty people from Fairfield and
admit that “the petitioners studied here accepted the capitalism of their day.” Bogin,
“Petitioning and the New Moral Economy of Post-Revolutionary America,” William and
Marv Quarterly 45 (July 1988): 391-425.
"’Petition no. 48, February 15, 1785, in Lark Emerson Adams, ed., Journals of the
House of Representatives. 1785-1786. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1979), 88-89.
‘“Petition of Inhabitants of Camden District, February 6, 1786, Petitions, 1782-
1883, Records of the General Assembly, SCDAH; Petition no. 155, February 6, 1786,
Journals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 376.
'"Petition no. 134, February 2, 1786, Ibid., 366-367.
'“Petition of Inhabitants of the Upper Part of St. Bartholomew’s Parish, March
13, 1787, Petitions, SCDAH; Petition of March 13, 1787, in Michael E. Stevens, ed.,
Journals of the House of Representatives. 1787-1788. The State Records of South

273
Richland counties in Camden District asked that a new public road be built so that they
might increase their commerce with Charleston, arguing that they had been “for two years
past obstructed in our common intercourse with the metropolis of this state in carrying
our produce and the common necessaries therefrom.”123 Settlers near the Broad and
Saluda rivers wanted a ferry at Culpepper’s Plantation as a “near and ready way to
Charleston and Savannah.”12'1 Orangeburgh District farmers proposed to build a bridge
over the Edisto River “to remove every impediment to the conveyance of staples to the
capital, by which means the farmer will be enabled to furnish the necessaries of life at a
much cheaper rate, and to dispose of his produce to the merchant on easier terms.”125
Backcountry farmers near the Saluda River and surrounding creeks sought a public road
near Anderson’s Ferry “to carry their produce to Charleston.”126 Over 100 citizens in
distant York County, on the North Carolina border, simply requested a ferry over the
Congaree River to help overcome the “many difficulties” they faced in transporting their
Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1981), 214.
'“Petition of February 11,1789, in Michael E. Stevens, ed., Journals of the House
of Representatives. 1789-1790. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1984), 121-122.
1 “Petition of January 21, 1788, Ibid., 336-337.
'“Petition of Inhabitants of Orangeburgh District, January 14, 1791, Petitions,
SCDAH.
'“Petition of Inhabitants of Various Places in South Carolina Asking that a Public
Road Be Laid Out From Anderson’s Ferry on Great Saludy to Charleston, February 1,
1787, Petitions, SCDAH.

274
produce to Charleston.127 A group of 122 persons on the Salkehatchie River demanded a
more widespread access to Charleston. They resented the fact that the only road to the
metropolis in their district was convenient only for “three or four families instead of one
hundred families,” which put them under “great disadvantage and inconvenience.”128
Some petitioners requested transportation improvements so that South Carolina
might reap the benefits of their trade rather than neighboring Georgia. Many backcountry
farmers in fact lived closer to Augusta and the Savannah River, and many flocked to
Georgia immediately after the evacuation to buy and sell goods.129 James Mayson and
fifty-three other inhabitants of Ninety-Six and Orangeburgh asked that the Edisto River
be cleared for the “easy carriage of tobacco, flour, lumber and naval stores to Charleston.”
Otherwise they would be forced to transport their products down the Savannah River and
warned that “once trade has fixed itself in a certain channel neither art nor industry can
change it.”130 Over two hundred other residents of Ninety Six voiced the same request,
arguing that bad roads and impassable creeks and rivers forced them to trade in Augusta
“and the profits of our trade which of right ought to center within this state is enjoyed by
127Petition of December 13, 1791, in Michael E. Stevens, ed., Journals of the
House of Representatives. 1791. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina, 1985), 389.
128Petition of January 18, 1790, Journal of the House of Representatives. 1789-
1790. 348.
l29See Lewis Lesteijette to William Logan, January 25, 1783, enclosure in Petition
of William Logan and Others Concerning the Business Practices of Certain British
Merchants in Charleston, January 30, 1783, Petitions, SCDAH.
l30Petition no. 176, February 14, 1786, Journals of the House of Renresentatives.
1785-1786. 404-405.

275
the Georgian to the material loss and disadvantage of the planting and mercantile interest
of this state.”131 These articulate economic threats found their mark, and the potential
loss of trade spurred the legislature to action. It promptly hired a Mr. H. Felder to clear
the river; if he failed, they would find someone else, but above all Charleston must not
lose such profitable trade to its budding rivals across the Savannah River.132 An undated
petition from “Citizens of Charleston” urged lawmakers to pursue “spirited measures” in
improving public roads from the interior to the coastal port in order “to keep the products
of our state in channels running to our own maritime ports.” They fretted over losing
upcountry staple crops (particularly cotton) to Augusta either because of poor or non¬
existent roads leading to Charleston. Turnpikes from the metropolis to “the principal
inland towns and cross roads” would staunch the flow of goods away from Charleston
“and we should see our state flourishing, our commercial cities raising their heads above
the present langour that exists from a diversion of so much of their trade.”133
Other South Carolinians sought to enhance economic opportunities by petitioning
for the incorporation of new towns and markets, the establishment of tobacco inspection
warehouses, or encouragement of home manufactures. Promoters of backcountry towns
hoped to capture much of the trade being lost across the Savannah River because of the
131Petition of February 19, 1787. Journals of the House of Representatives. 1787-
1788. 111-112.
132Committee Report no. 275, Journals of the House of Representatives. 1785-
1786. 484, 489.
'“Petition of the Citizens of Charleston for the Adoption of a plan to improve
roads, undated, Petitions, SCDAH.

276
high transport costs to Charleston. Nearly two hundred residents of Ninety-Six District
asked that a town be established on land belonging to one John Garett directly across the
Savannah River from Augusta. Garrett’s land was “formed by nature for the purpose of
building a town lying very high with a very extensive view.” The new town could
accommodate upcountry farmers “with a repository for their produce” without having to
carry it across the river to Georgia “which is very troublesome and expensive.” A town
would also stimulate backcountry growth by providing an accessible market for the
surrounding “rich and fertile” countryside, where indigo, tobacco, hemp, wheat, and
cotton could be grown. Transporting crops to Charleston using existing transportation
systems “eats up the greatest part of its value;” a new town would thus replace Augusta as
the “first and most advantageous market.”134
Upcountry farmers John and Richard Winn and John Vanderhorst purchased land
between the Broad and Catawba rivers and “at the request of a number of inhabitants
living in the district” laid out the town of Winnsborough. They asked that “a market may
be by law established in the said town and fairs kept and held there” where nearby
farmers could trade “horses, cattle, grain, hemp, flax, tobacco, indigo, and all sorts of
produce and merchandise.”135 Inland merchant-planters Joseph and William Kershaw and
John Chesnut established the new town of Chatham in Cheraw District and also
“Petition of Inhabitants of Ninety-Six District, 1784, Petitions, SCDAH.
“Petition of John Winn, Richard Winn, and John Vanderhorst, February 19,
1785, Petitions, SCDAH; Petition no. 64, February 21, 1785, Journals of the House of
Representatives. 1785-1786. 117-118. See also Committee Report no. 68, and Bill no.
14, March 9, 1785, Ibid., 126,204.

277
petitioned to establish markets and fairs. Joseph Kershaw was certainly no stranger to
organizing new towns. He established a store at Pine Tree Hill in 1758 and eleven years
later chartered it as Camden. With his brothers Ely and William he went into business
with Charleston merchants William Ancrum and Aaron Loocock. They became the
largest merchants in the Cheraws District, and in addition to their mercantile business the
partners owned flour and grist mills, tobacco inspection warehouses, indigo mills, and a
brewery and distillery.136 Georgetown residents meanwhile complained that they lacked a
sufficient market to manage the great quantities of “butchers meat, poultry, butter, etc.
that come for sale from the country.”137 Camden citizens asked that their town be
incorporated both for “the encouragement of trade and the preservation of peace, order,
and good government.”138
Orangeburgh pinned its economic hopes on the establishment of a tobacco
inspection warehouse, which it hoped would “open to us a new and extensive commerce,
and an immediate mart for our commerce.” A warehouse would attract new merchants,
new stores, and “land purchasers” (the word “speculators” had been crossed out), raising
real estate values and stimulating “the exertions of husbandry.” Tobacco would no longer
have to be rolled to Charleston over “miry roads and heavy swamps,” but instead might
be sold directly to merchants who could afford the costs of water transport to the coast.
'“Petition no. 123, March 1, 1785, Ibid., 175-176; Biographical Directory of the
South Carolina House. 2:374-377.
137Petition of Inhabitants of Georgetown, January 1, 1787, Petitions, SCDAH.
‘“Petition of Inhabitants of Camden, January 25, 1791, Records of the General
Assembly, Petitions, SCDAH.

278
The legislature agreed and granted Orangeburgh a warehouse.139 The fledgling capital
city of Columbia also petitioned for and received an inspection warehouse for tobacco,
flour, and pork, citing the great advantage to the city’s merchants and to upcountry
farmers in general.140 The additional tobacco facilities in the upcountry evidently paid
off. By the late 1790s Charleston merchants complained that existing warehouses in the
city would hold only “half the present crop,” and without more warehouses farmers
would be forced to pay high rates to store the crop privately.'41
Other South Carolinians sought economic inclusiveness by petitioning the
legislature to encourage home manufactures. The economic hopes of these small
producers clashed with the tastes of Charleston planters accustomed to wearing the best
European fashions and the city merchants accustomed to importing them. Two petitions,
one urban and one rural, from opposite comers of the state, are suggestive. The first,
from sixty-six seamstresses in Charleston, asked the legislature to raise import duties on
“ready made clothes” that could be manufactured in Charleston and would “give
employment to your petitioners.”142 The second petition, from York County on the North
l39Petition of Inhabitants of Orangeburgh District, January 14, 1791, Petitions,
SCDAH; Committee Report, January 15, 1791, Committee Reports, 1776-1866, SCDAH;
Journals of the House of Representatives. 1791. 36-38.
'““Petition of Inhabitants of Columbia, December 1, 1796, Committee Report on
the Petition of the Inhabitants of Columbia, December 14, 1796, Petitions, Committee
Reports, SCDAH.
'“"Petition of Sundry Merchants, November 29, 1798, Petition of Tobacco Planters
in the Interior Country, November 29, 1798, Petitions, SCDAH.
'“"Petition of Sundry Seamstresses of the City of Charleston, February 25, 1788,
Petitions, SCDAH; Journals of the House of Representatives. 1789-1790. 69. The

279
Carolina border, also requested that import duties be raised on anything that could be
manufactured “with any degree of perfection within our state, more especially these that
are for the support of luxury as will give encouragement to our home manufacturing and
agriculture.” This same petition requested constitutional revision, internal improvements,
and asked that the Court of Chancery be modified so that “the poor as well as the rich
[may] receive advantages from it.”143 This from a group of people who lived on the
frontier between North and South Carolina and who, according to the prevailing historical
interpretation, “exhibited neither an interest in nor an understanding of the acquisitive,
entrepreneurial instincts of northern farmers,” and who remained “isolated, self-
sufficient, and politically, economically, and socially backward.”144 Clearly both urban
artisans and backcountry farmers hoped to reap the economic benefits of independence.
The legislature gave technological innovations a much warmer welcome and
greater support. The South Carolina legislature consistently supported technological
improvements throughout the postwar decades, repeatedly demonstrating a commitment
legislative committee which considered this petition in general agreed with the
petitioners, but argued that “it has seldom been the policy of well-regulated states to give
a monopoly of the home market to domestic industry in articles of general use, except
where the object has been to establish the manufactory of some particular article, and
where there has been a prospect of making it in time as cheap, or cheaper, than it could be
imported from abroad.” They went on to say that the Federal Government would soon
have jurisdiction over this matter anyway, so it would be better to present these petitions
to the state’s representatives and let them take up the matter in Congress. Ibid., 88-89.
l43Petition of February 1, 1787. Journals of the House of Representatives. 1787-
1788. 32-33.
144 Egerton, “Markets Without a Market Revolution,” 218; Genovese, Political
Economy of Slavery. 25.

280
to economic growth and development. In early 1785 the House wrote to Virginian James
Rumsey, who had “invented a machine for working boats against the stream,” to inform
him “that this House will give the most ample encouragements to this invention and
reward suitable to its importance.”145 Four years later Rumsey petitioned for exclusive
rights in South Carolina to his various machines, “one for propelling boats on the water
by the power of steam, another for raising water to be applied to the working of mills, and
two new invented boilers for generating steam.”146 South Carolinians proved equally
inventive. Isaac Briggs and William Longstreet requested and received a patent for their
own steam “machine.”147 Robert Thomas Homby devised a “horizontal wind machine”
that he claimed had a variety of uses, including “beating of rice, manufacturing indigo,
grinding wheat and bolting the flour, sawing lumber, supplying lands with water, and
draining lands when overflowed.”148 Peter Belin’s two machines could also be used for
beating rice and irrigating or draining fields.149 Captain John Hart sought a patent for his
14sJoumals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 31.
l46Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1789-1790. 25. The Committee that
considered Rumsey’s request reported that he should be given a patent for fourteen years.
The bill was read once, on March 2, 1789, but the journal records no further consideration
ofthebiil. Ibid., 177,213.
147Joumals of the House of Representatives, 1787-1788. 462. They received a
patent for fourteen years, p. 463.
l48Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1783-1784. 497. The Committee
report on Hornby’s petition is not extant.
149Joumals of the House of Representatives, 1785-1786. 427. Belin received a
fourteen-year patent. See pp. 485,487-488, 498, 511, 580, 596. Samuel Knight of St.
James Goose Creek Parish also requested and received a patent for a machine that beat
rice. See Journals of the House of Representatives. 1787-1788. 371. 377 394 3Q8 471

281
cotton gin, “knowing it to be your desire to encourage every attempt in an individual to
facilitate the cultivation or manufactory of any commodity which may be of general
utility.”150 John Macnair and Hugh Templeton “with great labour and considerable
expence” built a device for “carding and spinning cotton” and requested “patronage and
assistance.” The lawmakers granted them a mortgage of £500 pounds for three years.151
All of these petitions—whether for internal improvements, towns, markets,
manufactures, or inventions-reveal a great deal about the legacy of the American
Revolution in South Carolina. Freed from the restraints of the British mercantile system,
South Carolinians, like other Americans, sought to capitalize on independence through
transportation improvements, the incorporation of new towns and markets, the
establishment of tobacco inspection warehouses, increased support for domestic
manufacturing, and technological innovations. South Carolinians demonstrated clearly
both their economic optimism and their desire for more widespread market access. They
eagerly embraced and encouraged greater market participation, while Charleston
merchants and planters recognized that internal improvements could bring economic
unity that would heal sectional wounds caused by political differences.
The most ambitious efforts to forge greater economic links between Charleston
and the upcountry were the various canal projects begun in the mid 1780s. Between 1786
and 1800 the South Carolina legislature incorporated four inland navigation companies—
456, 463-464, 500,512.
150Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1787-1788. 542.
151 Journals of the House of Representatives. 1792-1794. 55, 138.

282
the Santee-Cooper, the Edisto-Ashley, the Catawba-Wateree, and the Broad-Pacolet-with
the express purpose of improving transportation between Charleston and the interior.152
Private investment financed these schemes and they had wide support from planters,
small farmers, merchants, lawyers and artisans, who all invested in the various
companies. Only the Santee-Cooper Canal opened before 1800. Discussion and planning
continued on for decades in some cases, and the economic dreams canals spawned died a
slow death. Nevertheless, these projects are important as indicators of economic
optimism and Carolinians’ willingness to invest capital in improvements designed to
promote economic growth by providing more expansive access to markets. Canals were
ambitious commercial ventures that placed great emphasis on efficiency and economy
while lowering transportation costs and opening up new markets for agricultural and
manufactured goods.153 They represent very singularly the sort of economic activity that
historians have traditionally argued that Southerners shunned.
Charlestonians talked of cutting a canal between the Santee and Cooper rivers in
the early 1770s, but it took the Revolution to stimulate widespread interest in the
project.154 Upcountry farmers supported canals in order to enhance the value of their
lands and to gain greater market access while cutting transport cost to Charleston. Many
152Carl L. Epting, “Inland Navigation in South Carolina and Traffic on the
Columbia Canal,” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1936, 20;
Ford, Origins of Southern Radicalism. 16; Klein, Unification of a Slave State. 244-246.
153See Peter Way, Common Labour: Workers and the Digging of North American
Canals. 1780-1860 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 19; Shaw, Canals For A
Nation, ix, 3,18.
154South Carolina Gazette. January 18, 1770, February 15, 1773.

283
lowcountry planters owned upcountry land and hoped a canal would increase real estate
value. Charleston merchants hoped to staunch the flow of trade across the Savannah
River to Augusta while opening up new markets for manufactured goods. And of course
Charleston’s elite had political motives for supporting canals.155 Ralph Izard argued that
the evils of an inland capital and increased democracy could be overcome by improved
inland navigation: “When men of property and education are distributed through all parts
of the state, an exact apportionment in the representation will be much less important than
it is at present.”156 Izard envisioned more than political benefits, however. He hoped to
have the canal pass close by his plantation as it left the Santee, and he began laying plans
for the establishment of “Izardtown.”157 Canal promoters evidently began planning in the
fall of 1784; the legislature appointed commissioners to survey the area in early 1785 and
the company petitioned for incorporation in February 1786.158 Many members of the
company, of course, sat in the General Assembly, which recognized that the canal would
155Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist. 133; Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
77; Williams, Founding Family. 206.
156Ralph Izard to General Pinckney, January 18, 1795, Ralph Izard Papers, South
Caroliniana Library.
157Henry Savage Jr., River of the Carolinas: The Santee (Chapel Hill NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 244.
158David Ramsay reported that the Santee-Cooper Canal was a subject of much
conversation in the spring of 1784. See Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, April 8, 1784,
Ramsay Writings, 77. The state had first authorized surveys in 1782. A.S. Salley Jr., ed.,
Journal of the House of Representatives of South Carolina. January 8. 1782 - February
26. 1782 (Columbia SC: The State Company, 1916), 77. See also South Carolina
Gazette and General Advertiser. December 3, 1784; South Carolina Gazette and Public
Advertiser. November 12, 1785; Journals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786.
140, 378-379.

284
be “of utmost utility to the state.” The legislature incorporated the company in March
1786. Company officers included a mixture of lowcountry and backcountry planters, as
well as Charleston merchants and lawyers.159
The legislature incorporated two other canal companies soon afterward.
Promoters of the Edisto-Ashley River canal hoped to improve transportation between
Charleston and the northwest part of the state.160 Like the Santee-Cooper Canal
Company, membership included a large mixture of lowcountry and backcountry leaders.
Members of the company included Patrick Calhoun, Andrew Pickens, Leroy Hammond,
Nicholas Eveleigh, James Lincoln, James Mayson, and John Hunter, all prominent
planters from the Savannah River valley. Other members included Lewis Lesteijette,
who operated a toll bridge over the Edisto River, Dr. John Budd, a Charleston supporter
of the backcountry, and Charleston merchants William Turpin, Thomas Wadsworth, and
159Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1785-1786. 140, 504, 510, 519, 525-
526; Cooper and McCord, Statutes at Large of South Carolina. 7:541-543, which includes
the act of incorporation as well as the forty-one members of the company. Prominent
lowcountry planters included Ralph Izard, John Rutledge, and Henry Laurens Jr. Among
the backcountry members were Thomas Sumter, John Chesnut, Wade Hampton, and
Minor Winn. Aaron Loocock and Nathaniel Russell were two prominent Charleston
merchants.
160The legislature appointed commissioners to survey the area on March 10, 1785.
The company petitioned for incorporation on February 26, 1787, and the legislature
granted the incorporation on March 27, 1787. Journals of the House of Renresentatives.
1785-1786. 213, 1787-1788. 143; Cooper and McCord, Statutes at Large of South
Carolina. 7:545-547; Ford, Origins of Southern Radicalism. 16.

285
Adam Gilchrist. Charleston attorneys John Bee Holmes, Henry William DeSaussure,
Thomas Bee, and Jacob Read also invested in the project.161
The Catawba-Wateree Canal Company hoped to cut a canal from the Catawba
River in Camden to the North Carolina line. The legislature incorporated the company
one year after the Edisto-Ashley River Company, on March 27, 1788.162 Organizers
included prominent Camden-area merchants and planters, as well as a number of
lowcountry investors, including Ralph Izard and his son-in-law William Loughton Smith,
attorney Henry William DeSaussure, and merchants Joseph Atkinson and Daniel
Bourdeaux.163 The Catawba Canal project represented an ambitious joint effort of
Charlestonians and backcountrymen to strengthen economic ties between Charleston and
the North Carolina interior. “The advantages hence arising are incalculable,” John
Drayton wrote, “as the riches and produce of a great part of the upper country of North
Carolina may and probably will be thus easily transported to Charleston. The
encouragement to agriculture and the increase of property will be great.”164 To encourage
16iEdisto and Ashley River Canal Company Papers in the Robert F.W. Allston
Papers, South Carolina Historical Society.
l62Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1787-1788. 143; Cooper and
McCord, Statutes at Large of South Carolina. 7:549-551.
163Wiiliam Loughton Smith Papers, South Carolina Historical Society.
164John Drayton, A View of South Carolina As Respects Her Natural and Civil
Concerns (Charleston SC: W.P. Young, 1802), 155-158.

286
investment, company officers asked the South Carolina legislature to exempt North
Carolina goods from any restrictive duties.165
Despite such grandiose plans the only canal project to actually reach fruition
before 1800 was the Santee-Cooper canal. Work began in 1792 and the canal opened in
1800 after many false starts, financial headaches, and much backbreaking labor. In 1786
Governor William Moultrie asked George Washington, busily promoting the Potomac
Canal in Virginia, to recommend a reputable engineer. Washington replied that “it gives
me great pleasure to find a spirit for inland navigation prevailing so generally” and
suggested that several companies might unite to bring in a professional from Europe who
“might plan and execute canals in several places.”166 The company finally settled upon
Christian Senf, a Swede who had fought with the Hessions in the war, to oversee what
turned into a mammoth undertaking.167 Senf rented male and female slaves from local
planters for £15 to £16 per year in 1793 and expected them to move over fifty
wheelbarrows of earth a day.168 There were 195 slaves laboring on the canal in July
1793.165 By all accounts the work proceeded at a torpid pace, as the necessary capital
‘“Petition of the Proprietors of the Catawba and Wateree Navigation, November
19,1795, Records of the General Assembly, Petitions, SCDAH.
I66lda D. Levine, “A Letter From William Moultrie at Charleston to George
Washington at Mount Vernon, April 7, 1786,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 83
(April 1982): 116-120; Washington to William Moultrie, May 25, 1786, Writings of
Washington. 28:439-441.
167Way, Common Labour. 24.
I6!lbid., 125-126, 137.
169David Ramsay to Thomas Pinckney, July 4, 1793, Ramsay Writings, 136.

287
ebbed and flowed. Company officers seriously underestimated the money (and time)
needed to complete the project and scrambled to keep the project afloat. They appealed
to the state legislature for funding in 1789, to Northern businessmen in the early 1790s,
and received “considerable sums” from the Bank of South Carolina.170 One year after
digging began only four hundred yards had been completed.171 Still, company directors
remained optimistic, expecting completion by 1796.172 “Our Santee Canal goes on well,”
David Ramsay reported in July 1794, though “the payments of ten pounds on each share
fall very hard.”173 Two years later Governor Amoldus Vanderhorst informed the state
legislature of “the great progress made towards the completion” of the work, which
promised “vast advantages to the agriculture and commerce of the western parts of the
"“Petition of Several Companies Incorporated for the Purpose of Opening the
Inland Navigation of this State, February 14, 1789, Petitions, SCDAH; Ralph Izard and
William Loughton Smith met with New York businessmen in late 1791 and Izard was
confident that “they will join in to the amount of two fifths of the whole necessary for
carrying the business into complete execution.” Izard to Edward Rutledge, November 9,
1791, Ralph Izard Papers, South Caroliniana Library; Rochefoucault-Liancourt, Travels
Through the United States of North America. 1:574: Rogers. Charleston In the Age of
the Pinckneys. 116-117.
171Ramsay to Thomas Pinckney, July 4, 1793, Ramsay Writings, 136.
172John Faucheraud Grimke to “My Dear Friend,” March 17, 1794, John
Faucheraud Grimke Papers, South Caroliniana Library; David Ramsay to John Kean, July
10, 1794, David Ramsay Papers, South Caroliniana Library. See also David Ramsay to
John Faucheraud Grimke, October 9, 1785, Grimke Family Papers, South Carolina
Historical Society;
173Ramsay to John Kean, July 10, 1794, Ramsay Papers, South Caroliniana
Library.

288
state.”174 Three years later Ramsay ruefully told a friend that he expected the canal to be
in operation “in two months.” Originally projected to take three years and cost £55,000,
construction on the canal had at that point been going on for over seven years and had
cost over £400,000 sterling. Ramsay optimistically hoped nevertheless that the
completed canal “will I trust amply repay us ail.”175
The Santee-Cooper River canal finally opened in 1800 at a cost of $750,000.176
Despite its troubles, the finished canal was an impressive eighteenth-century engineering
achievement. The canal left the Cooper River thirty miles above Charleston and ran due
north for twenty-two miles to connect with the Santee River three miles west of Pineville.
The waterway measured four feet deep, thirty-five feet wide at the top, twenty feet at the
bottom, and had twelve locks and eight aqueducts.177 Though a tremendous physical
undertaking, the canal could claim only moderate financial success. Company officers
told Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin in 1808 that the canal had cut transport costs from
the interior in half, but the narrow ten-foot-wide locks forced larger boats to bypass the
canal enroute to the sea. After eight years in operation, the canal had never collected
more than $13,000 in any one year and operating costs alone amounted to $7,000
174Govemor Amoldus Vanderhorst Message, November 29, 1796, Governor’s
Messages, SCDAH.
175Ramsay to Jedediah Morse, July 20, 1799, Ramsay Writings, 149-150.
176Epting, “Inland Navigation,” 20.
177Drayton, View of South Carolina. 156; Shaw, Canals For A Nation. 16. For an
account of the route the canal followed and the plantations it passed through, see Savage,
River of the Carolinas. 247-248.

289
annually.178 The canal proved to be a costly burden to investors but did little to dampen
enthusiasm for the potential economic bonanza that other canals might bring to
Charleston. The same report that painted such a gloomy financial portrait of the Santee-
Cooper canal fairly glowed about the promise of the still-uncompleted Catawba-Wateree
canal. The Catawba River flowed from the North Carolina mountains through “the heart
of South Carolina,” and its source lay near the Kanawha and Tennessee Rivers. A
completed Catawba Canal would thus open to Charleston “the trade of Tennessee,
Kentucky, and a great part of the settlements on the Ohio.”179 Here indeed was economic
optimism on a grand scale. Virginians of course had the same dream, but it would be
New York’s Erie Canal that eventually captured the Ohio Valley trade. Nevertheless,
even into the early nineteenth century Charlestonians envisioned their city as the southern
entrepot for a vast national hinterland. In 1818 the state legislature created a Board of
Internal Improvements and spent nearly $2,000,000 over the next two years on
transportation improvements designed to link the upcountry with the fall line.180
Governor Thomas Bennett in 1822 adopted the same rhetoric used a generation earlier to
describe the economic benefits of internal improvements. More canals and roads, he said,
would enable Carolinians “to enter into successful competition with their western
brethren in the staple commodity of this state, give life and facility to industry, develop
l78United States Congress, American State Papers: Documents. Legislative and
Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. (Washington DC: Gales and
Seaton, 1832-1861), Class 10, Miscellaneous, 2 vols., 1:730, 790.
179Ibid., 1:791.
l80Ford. Origins of Southern Radicalism. 16, 18.

290
the resources, add to the political importance, and establish the prosperity of the state.”181
Canals thus represented the economic desires of many Americans in the post-war
decades, and Southerners shared in the passion of “canal mania.” Despite the
disappointments of the Santee-Cooper canal, many Carolinians invested in all of the
incorporated canal companies and these commercial ventures served to forge statewide
economic links. Carolinians with divergent political goals found that they shared many of
the same economic aspirations.
The creation of banks in the postwar decades facilitated investments in internal
improvements, agricultural innovations, and new mercantile ventures. Banks played an
important role in promoting American economic growth and Charlestonians, like other
Americans, enthusiastically supported the establishment of these financial institutions in
their city.182 Banks in Charleston give further proof of planter-merchant commitment to
institutions designed to promote economic growth. Eugene D. Genovese argues that
Southern banks, though capitalist institutions, existed primarily as tools of the planters
181 Southern Chronicle. December 4, 1822, quoted in Smith, Economic
Readjustment. 12.
182There were no banks in America before the establishment of the Bank of North
America in 1781. There were only five banks in operation when the Bank of the United
States began operating in December 1791. Americans established twenty-nine banks
between 1790 and 1800. For the importance and growth of banks see Edwin J. Perkins,
American Public Finance and Financial Services. 1700-1815 (Columbus OH: Ohio State
University Press, 1994), 235-281; Gilje, “Rise of Capitalism in the Early Republic,” 163-
165; Kulikoff, Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism. 108; Wood, Radicalism of the
American Revolution. 316-318; Benjamin J. Klebaner, “State-Chartered American
Commercial Banks, 1781-1801.” Business History Review 53 (Winter 1979): 529-538;
Bray Hammond, Banks and Politics in America From the Revolution to the Civil War
(Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957), 40-226.

291
and thus differed significantly from Northern financial institutions. Southern banks, he
writes, “were primarily designed to lend the planters money for outlays that were
economically feasible and socially acceptable in a slave society: the movement of crops,
the purchase of land and slaves, and little else.”183 But Charleston banks in the 1790s,
dominated not by planters but by leading members of Charleston’s mercantile
community, played a much more expansive role in South Carolina’s economy than this
limited description implies.184 Contemporaries argued that banks would provide a
circulating medium of exchange in South Carolina while increasing levels of capital for
investment in canals, mercantile activity, and of course land. Moreover, Charleston’s
banks did more than simply receive money. As Bray Hammond has noted, for every
dollar invested by stockholders, these banks loaned two, three, four or five dollars.'8S
United States Senator Ralph Izard of South Carolina supported a Charleston branch of the
Bank of the United States because it would “facilitate our inland navigation business, and
establish the credit and importance of our state, and promote the happiness of our citizens
in all parts of it.”186 Charleston entrepreneurs attempted to start a bank in 1783, just after
183 Genovese argues that “the banking system of the South serves as an excellent
illustration of an ostensibly capitalist institution that worked to augment the power of the
planters and retard the development of the bourgeoisie.” Genovese, Political Economy of
Slavery. 19-21.
184Several of the leading merchants were of course also planters, but as will be
shown they did not limit their activity to purchasing land and slaves and moving crops.
1 “Hammond, Banks and Politics in America. 146.
‘“Ralph Izard to Edward Rutledge, November 9, 1791, Ralph Izard Papers, South
Caroliniana Library.

292
the close of the war, but could not raise the necessary $100,000 in capital at time when
planters and merchants spent existing capital on rebuilding their estates and fortunes.187
In 1788 the state House of Representatives appointed a committee to consider a proposal
for establishing a state bank, but nothing resulted from the committee’s favorable
report.188 The Charleston Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in bringing a branch
of the Bank of the United States to Charleston in 1792 and establishing the Bank of South
Carolina in the same year.
These banks lived up to the hopes and promises of their investors. Bank notes
acted as a circulating medium of exchange in South Carolina while increasing levels of
capital for transportation schemes, business opportunities, and land. David Ramsay
asserted that after the scarcity of money in the economic crises of the 1780s, the
establishment of banks in South Carolina in the 1790s, particularly by facilitating a
circulating medium, amounted to a “revolution in the fiscal concerns of South
Carolina.”189 One visitor noted in 1796 that “trade and commerce have been greatly
enlarged by means of the money advanced to the merchants, and agriculture raised by
sums of money advanced to distressed planters, whose settlements would otherwise have
been sold.” The bank also loaned the Santee Canal company “considerable sums,” and
187See South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. January 27, 1784; David
Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, April 8, 1784, “Ramsay Writings,” 77: “We have 30,000
dollars subscribed for a bank and hope to begin in June;” J. Mauldin Lesesne, The Bank
of the State of South Carolina: A General and Political History (Columbia SC: University
of South Carolina Press, 1970), 5.
188Joumals of the House of Representatives. 1787-1788. 478, 480-482.
189Ramsay, History of South Carolina. 1670-1808. 2:189.

293
“thus promoted this work, which is generally deemed highly important for the agriculture
and trade of South Carolina.”190 The banks thus reflected the merchant-planter
community’s interest in and commitment to financial institutions which would foster
economic growth and development.
The controversial Bank of the United States opened in Philadelphia on December
12,1791, and branches opened the following spring in Boston, New York, Baltimore, and
Charleston.191 The Charleston branch, known as the Office of Discount and Deposit,
opened April 10, 1792, with Chamber of Commerce member Daniel DeSaussure as
president and his business partner Josiah Smith Jr. as cashier.192 Almost simultaneously,
Charlestonians established the Bank of South Carolina on March 8, 1792, with a capital
stock of $200,000.193 Thomas Jones, a merchant-planter entrepreneur, became president
of the Bank of South Carolina in 1793.194 He was a member of the Chamber of
Commerce and also a director in the Santee Canal Company from its establishment in
1786 until his death forty years later. Eight of the bank’s fourteen directors were
'"Rochefoucault-Liancourt, Travels Through the United States of North America.
1:574.
191For the Bank of the United States, see Hammond, Banks and Politics in
America. 114-143.
192Lesesne, Bank of the State of South Carolina. 6.
193Citv Gazette and Daily Advertiser. March 9, 1792; Lesesne, Bank of the State
of South Carolina. 7.
194Jones owned five plantations in St. Paul Parish and 169 slaves in both
Charleston and St. Paul Parish. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House.
3:387.

294
members of Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce: Jones, John Bemey, William
Sommersall, John Edwards, John Lloyd, Edward Penman, Joshua Hargreaves, and James
Miller.195 The Bank’s directors applied to the state legislature for incorporation in 1796,
arguing that the bank had increased circulation, stimulated industry by making capital
“active and productive,” and made commercial credit widely available. It had, in short,
served the local economy and stimulated economic growth.196 Charleston lawyer Henry
W. DeSaussure introduced the bill, but the House defeated it on the third reading, partly
because backcountry legislators thought the bank restricted loans to lowcountry members.
Nevertheless, the bank continued to thrive, reporting a dividend on its stock early in 1797,
and directors made plans to build a new building in Charleston. The legislature finally
chartered the bank in 1801.197
South Carolinians organized the State Bank of South Carolina in 1801, the Union
Bank of South Carolina, with a capital of $1,000,000, and the Planters and Mechanics
Bank, also with a capital of $ 1,000,000, both in 1810. The name of the latter bank
suggests that Charleston’s earlier banks had not been ancillary to agricultural interests, as
Genovese suggests. In fact, in 1812 the state chartered its own bank, the Bank of the
State of South Carolina, primarily to aid planters and farmers. All of these banks
remained sound financial institutions. There were no bank failures in South Carolina
195Citv Gazette and Daily Advertiser. April 26, April 27, 1792. In addition to the
Chamber members, John Splatt Cripps, Sims White, Robert Dewar, William Jones, and
George Forest also served as directors.
I96lbid., October 27, 1796.
197Lesesne, Bank of the State of South Carolina. 7-9.

295
until the end of the Civil War in 1865.198 Though the federal government liquidated the
Charleston branch of the Bank of the United States in 1810, Charleston by 1812 had four
private banks, with combined capital of over $3,000,000. By comparison, in 1812 New
York had eight banks with capital totaling over $13,000,000, Boston four banks with
$6,800,000, Philadelphia four banks with $6,393,000, and Baltimore eight banks
capitalized at $6,750,000.'" Thus Charleston’s merchant-planter community was not
averse to banks and monied financial institutions. Upcountry farmers often opposed
Charleston bank charters, as they had in 1797, not because they were culturally opposed
to financial institutions, but because they feared lowcountry monopolization of loans,
resources, and capital. The South Carolina backcountry overwhelmingly favored the
incorporation of the Bank of the State of South Carolina because it was designed to
facilitate agricultural rather than commercial loans.200 The Bank of South Carolina in the
1790s was not designed solely, as Genovese suggests, to “lend the planters money for
outlays that were economically feasible and socially acceptable in a slave society.”
l98Hammond. Banks and Politics in America. 168, 171.
'"See Herman Krooss, “Financial Institutions,” in David T. Gilchrist, ed., The
Growth of Seaport Cities. 1790-1825 (Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia,
1967), 110-111. See also Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services. 273-
274. In addition to four banks in South Carolina, there were seven banks in Alexandria,
Virginia by 1820. See A. Glenn Crothers, “The ‘Projecting Spirit’: Social, Economic,
and Cultural Change in Post-Revolutionary Northern Virginia, 1780-1805,” Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Florida, 1997, 310-372.
200See Lesesne, Bank of the State of South Carolina. 12-20. Bray Hammond notes
that state banks flourished under the Jeffersonian Republican state legislatures, mostly in
reaction to the supposed monopolies of Federalist-controlled banks that would not lend
money to Republicans. Hammond. Banks and Politics in America. 146.

296
Charleston’s financial institutions did not function primarily “to augment the power of the
planters and retard the development of the bourgeoisie.”201 By creating capital, providing
a widely-circulating medium of exchange, loans to internal improvement companies,
short-term loans to Charleston merchants, and financing agricultural improvements,
Charleston banks furthered the development of a democratic political economy.
The presence of and enthusiasm for banks in Charleston further dispels the notion
that late-eighteenth-century Southerners were anti-capitalist, anti-modem, or anxious
about economic development. The directors and investors in Southern banks, as well as
their customers, manifested a clear commitment to liberal economic growth, ultimately
ensuring widespread access to capital while expanding economic opportunity throughout
the state. Charlestonians and South Carolinians of all ranks demonstrated repeatedly an
economic optimism and commitment to liberal economic development of their city, state,
and region, whether seeking new trading partners, experimenting with new crops or
employing new techniques for growing old ones, opening new markets, establishing the
Charleston Chamber of Commerce and the South Carolina Agricultural Society, building
roads and bridges, establishing ferries, incorporating towns and markets, protecting
inventions, investing in canal companies, or establishing banks. The democratic impulses
of the American Revolution may have dimmed Charleston’s political prospects, but in the
mid-1790s the city’s economic future looked bright indeed. Banks made investment
201Genovese, Political F.conomv of Slavery. 21. For a recent interpretation of
banks in the antebellum period that contradicts Genovese, see Larry Schweikart, Banking
in the American South from the Age of Jackson to Reconstruction (Baton Rouge LA:
Louisiana State University Press, 1987).

297
capital widely available, internal improvements promised to open up the interior, short-
staple cotton production expanded inland rapidly, and technological innovations made
agriculture more efficient and profitable. The economic opportunities of the democratic
marketplace could go far in healing the wounds of political conflict. But continued
economic prosperity had become even more entwined in the post-war years with the
survival and expansion of slavery, and in the early 1790s disturbing clouds blew in from
the North, Europe, and the West Indies, heralding like a thunderclap the distant approach
of more dangerous storms to come.

CHAPTER SIX
SELF-PRESERVATION IS THE FIRST LAW OF NATURE”:
CHARLESTON AND SLAVERY, 1783-1800
“A child has a number of negro children to attend him, and comply with all his humours,
so that the little white man learns, even before he can walk, to tyrannize over the blacks.”
Rochefoucault-Liancourt, 1799
“They are an indolent people, improvident, averse to labor; when emancipated, they
would either starve or plunder.”
William Loughton Smith, 1790
“Emancipation ... will never be submitted to by the Southern states without a civil war.”
Thomas Tudor Tucker, 1790
“We may be assured that we are engaged in a cause which will finally prosper.”
Samuel Hopkins, abolitionist, 1793
Despite the sweeping changes brought by economic liberalism and democratic
politics, the American Revolution fastened the chains of slavery more tightly upon
Charleston and South Carolina slaves. This irony has led subsequent generations of
Americans to condemn the moral hypocrisy of their Revolutionary forbearers who sought
political and economic freedom from Great Britain while simultaneously denying liberty
to thousands of black men and women. British Tory Samuel Johnson asked derisively,
“How is it we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”1 and
'Quoted in Peter Kolchin, American Slavery. 1619-1877 (New York: Hill and Wang,
1993), 76-77.
298

299
historians since have grappled with the problem of the “American paradox.”2
Contemporaries certainly recognized their vulnerability to these charges. Americans from
different colonies and regions confronted the inconsistencies in different ways.
Ultimately, no singular reaction prevailed because America contained many different
varieties of slavery and varying levels of commitment to the institution.3 But how did
2The literature on slavery in the Revolutionary era is vast, and almost all of it deals in
some way with the “paradox,” but see especially Edmund S. Morgan, “Slavery and
Freedom: The American Paradox,” Journal of American History 59 (1972): 5-29;
Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro. 1550-
1812 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1968), 269-374; Morgan, American Slavery, American
Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975), 295-387;
Donald Robinson, Slavery in the Structure of American Politics. 1765-1820 (New York:
W.W. Norton, 1971); William W. Freehling, “The Founding Fathers and Slavery,”
American Historical Review 77 (1972): 81-93; Duncan J. MacLeod, Slavery, Race and
the American Revolution (London: Cambridge University Press, 1974); David Brion
Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution. 1770-1823 (Ithaca NY: Cornell
University Press, 1975), esp. 255-284; John Chester Miller, The Wolf By the Ears:
Thomas Jefferson and Slavery (New York: The Free Press, 1977); Paul Finkelman,
“Slavery and the Constitutional Convention: Making a Covenant With Death,” in Richard
Beeman et al., eds., Bevond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American
National Identity (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 188-225;
Sylvia R. Frey, “Liberty, Equality, and Slavery: The Paradox of the American
Revolution,” in Jack P. Greene, ed., The American Revolution: Its Character and Limits
(New York: New York University Press, 1987), 230-252; Paul Finkelman, Slavery and
the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe,
1996). For the “paradox” theme as explored in South Carolina historiography, see Jack
P. Greene, ‘“Slavery or Independence’: Some Reflections on the Relationship Among
Liberty, Black Bondage, and Equality in Revolutionary South Carolina,” South Carolina
Historical Magazine 80 (July 1979): 193-214; Russell R. Menard, “Slavery, Economic
Growth, and Revolutionary Ideology in the South Carolina Lowcountry,” in Ronald
Hoffman et al., eds., The Economy of Early America: The Revolutionary Period. 1763-
1790 (Charlottesville VA: University Press of Virginia, 1988), 244-274; Robert A.
Olwell, “‘Domestick Enemies’: Slavery and Political Independence in South Carolina,
May 1775-March 1776.” Journal of Southern History 55 (February 1989): 21-48.
3Ira Berlin, “Time, Space, and the Evolution of Afro-American Society on British
Mainland North America,” American Historical Review 85 (February 1980): 44-78.

300
slavery become more secure, at least in the South, as the result of a progressive, modem
revolution, one of the capstones of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason? Part of the
answer, of course, lies in the fact that most eighteenth-century Americans did not define
slavery as “anti-progressive” or “anti-modem.”4 Certainly most South Carolinians did
not, although even there some saw the contradiction and acted upon it. Most, however,
did not. In fact, the reaction there was quite the opposite: While the American
Revolution forced many Americans to question and ultimately condemn slavery, most
Charlestonians became convinced that their political and economic prosperity rested more
than ever upon slavery’s survival and expansion in the region. This chapter seeks to
understand how slavery evolved from a widespread American institution to an
increasingly Southern one, and how and why Charlestonians and other Carolinians,
despite the spread of democratic politics and economic liberalism in the last decades of
the eighteenth century, became even more committed to an institution that would
increasingly become defined as outmoded and uncivilized by the majority of the
“modem” trans-Atlantic world.
Historians of slavery in the Revolutionary South agree that while the institution
became more firmly entrenched, the Revolution also brought increased autonomy to the
4The best recent discussion of how Southerners, particularly South Carolinians,
reconciled the contradictions between slavery and progress is Joyce E. Chaplin, An
Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South. 1730-1815
(Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993). See also David Hackett
Fischer, “Virginia Freedom Ways: The Anglican Idea of Hegemonic Liberty,” in Albion’s
Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press. 19891.
410-418. For a discussion of how slavery came to be defined as anti-progressive and
anti-modem, see David Brion Davis, Slavery and Human Progress (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1984), 154-315.

301
region’s slaves.5 Indeed, the upheavals of war in the lowcountry and the occupation of
Charleston further unwound the already tenuous bonds of white authority. In Charleston,
where over 16,000 people occupied the space of a few square miles and residential
segregation was unknown, white and black intermingled constantly. Urban life, with its
increased economic and social opportunities, allowed Charleston's large slave population
a greater degree of autonomy than almost anywhere else in America. Even before the
chaos of the Revolutionary War, the increased economic and social opportunities of the
urban milieu and the structure of slavery in the city allowed Charleston’s slaves a great
degree of independence. As Claudia Dale Goldin has observed, “far from being a rigid
economic system, slavery was extremely flexible—most apparently so in the cities.”6 The
5The seminal works on slavery in eighteenth-century Charleston and South Carolina
are Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina From 1670
Through the Stono Rebellion (New York: W.W. Norton, 1974); Ira Berlin, “The
Revolution in Black Life,” in Alfred F. Young, ed., The American Revolution:
Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (DeKalb IL: Northern Illinois
University Press, 1976), 349-3B2; Philip D. Morgan, “Work and Culture: The Task
System and the World of Lowcountry Blacks, 1700 to 1880,” William and Mary
Quarterly 39 (October 1982): 563-599; Morgan, “Black Society in the Lowcountry, 1760-
1810,” in Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, eds., Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the
American Revolution (Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 83-142; Morgan,
“Black Life in Eighteenth-Century Charleston,” Perspectives in American History New
Series 1 (1984): 187-232; Frev. Water From the Rock: Black Resistance in a
Revolutionary Age (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), esp. 108-142;
Wood, ‘“Liberty Is Sweet’: African-American Freedom Struggles in the Years Before
White Independence,” in Alfred F. Young, ed., Beyond the American Revolution:
Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (DeKalb IL: Northern Illinois
University Press, 1993), 149-184.
‘Claudia Dale Goldin, Urban Slavery in the American South. 1820-1860: A
Quantitative History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 127. For a similar
discussion of the differences between urban and rural slavery in the antebellum period,
see Richard C. Wade, Slavery in the Cities: The South. 1820-1860 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1964).

302
structure of slavery in pre-Revolutionary Charleston was thus fluid and slaves had a great
deal of freedom. Black Charlestonians constantly carried out individual acts of rebellion
and whites tolerated them largely because they had no choice if society was going to
function in any coherent, normative way. One visitor complained in 1772 that most
blacks in Charleston refused to take off their hats to whites in the city’s streets.7 Another
noted clear differences between country and city slaves. “A Stranger” complained that
while country slaves wore clothes “suitable to their condition,” and appeared “contented,
sober, modest, humble, civil, and obliging,” Charleston’s blacks behaved “in all respects
the very reverse—abandonly rude, unmannerly, insolent, and shameless.”8 Charleston
natives clearly perceived differences as well. When Christopher Gadsden enlarged his
wharf on the Cooper River, he preferred “strong able-bodied COUNTRY NEGROES”
who could be “recommended as quiet and orderly fellows.”9
Similarly, a traveling Frenchman noted striking distinctions between Charleston
slaves and those in the French colonies. Black Charlestonians did not "cringe or appear
afraid of every white man as they do in our colonies; the Anglo-American Negro slaves
have an air of self-respect about them that doesn't appear to be arrogance." He concluded
that this behavior resulted from kind treatment by white masters and the "training which
7South Carolina Gazette. September 17, 1772.
8Ibid., August 27, 1772.
9Ibid, March 23, 1769.

303
the slaves receive while they are becoming civilized."10 More likely is the fact that, while
the relationship between black and white rested ultimately on force, on a day-to-day basis
it relied more upon a process of contentious negotiation, a give and take, in which neither
side had its way. Like their counterparts in the countryside, Charleston blacks could not
be watched and controlled every minute of the day. Slaves who had a great deal of
autonomy in their daily lives likely reflected that independence in their demeanor. This
contest defined and shaped black and white identity in Charleston, and it was the outward
manifestation of this struggle that the Frenchmen so astutely observed.
The war had an enormous impact on the institution of slavery in South Carolina.
Philip D. Morgan estimates that perhaps twenty-five thousand Carolina slaves either ran
away or joined the British during the years of war and occupation." This loss represented
one-quarter of the pre-war slave population. Hence, the large number of slaves imported
between 1783 and 1787 accounted for most of the enormous post-war debt that planters
accumulated in the mid-1780s. As post-war South Carolinians sought new avenues of
trade and invested in banks and internal improvements, they also bought slaves at a
frenzied pace. Charleston merchants imported over 5,000 slaves in 1784 alone, the most
since 1765.12 Lower South planters snapped up slaves as quickly as they became
“Elmer Douglas Johnson, trans., "A Frenchman Visits Charleston in 1777," South
Carolina Historical Magazine 52 (April 1951): 92. There is no small irony in the fact
that, as Philip D. Morgan has noted, the slaves this Frenchman described in Charleston
never openly rebelled as did the slaves in the French colony of Santo Domingo in 1791.
"Morgan, “Black Society in the Lowcountry,” 113.
"Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War: The Revolution in South Carolina
(Orono ME: University of Maine at Orono Press, 1981), 148; Bureau of the Census,

304
available, and Savannah merchant Joseph Clay noted that “the planter will sacrifice
everything to attain negroes.” “The negro business is a great object with us,” he told a
friend in London, “it is to the trade of this country as the soul is to the body.”13 In
addition, the shift to tidal rice cultivation and the expansion of cotton production further
increased the need for additional labor. Thus, the new economic opportunities unleashed
by the Revolution marched in lockstep with a renewed and strengthened commitment to
the institution of slavery.
Agricultural innovation and expansion after 1790, particularly in cotton, led to an
explosive growth of slavery in the backcountry. The number of slaves there increased by
76 percent between 1790 and 1800 and by 67 percent between 1800 and 1810.
Upcountry ownership of all South Carolina slaves increased from 27 percent in 1790 to
35 percent in 1800, rising to 44 percent by 1810. The proportion of slaves in the overall
backcountry population rose from one-fifth in 1790 to nearly one-third by 1810. While
the upcountry’s white population grew 58 percent from 1790 to 1810, its black population
increased 194 percent. Charleston’s slave population grew 42 percent between 1770 and
1790 (from 5,831 to 8,270), though the proportion of slaves in the overall population
actually declined from 54 to 51 percent. The black population of the lowcountry grew by
43 percent between 1790 and 1810, but the black proportion of the overall lowcountry
comp., Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970. 2 vols.
(Washington DC: Bureau of the Census, 1975), 2:1173.
13Joseph Clay to James Jackson, February 16, 1784, “Letters of Joseph Clay, Merchant
of Savannah, 1776-1793.” Collections of the Georgia Historical Society 8 Í1913V 194-
195.

305
population remained steady, rising only from 73 to 75 percent. The state’s overall slave
population grew by 83 percent between 1790 and 1810, while the white population
increased by only 53 percent. In fact, after decades of enormous growth, the white
population in the backcountry grew only 5 percent between 1800 and 1810, compared to
50 percent the previous decade. Altogether, the proportion of slaves in South Carolina’s
total population increased from 42 to 47 percent between 1790 and 1810.14 These figures
demonstrate that during the last decades of the eighteenth century and the first decade of
the nineteenth, white South Carolinians linked the expansion and growth of slavery to
their continued economic and political prosperity.
Despite the optimism over the unprecedented economic opportunities, whites in
post-war Charleston became increasingly anxious about the future of slavery for a number
of reasons. Peter Kolchin has written that “the Revolution posed the biggest challenge
the slave regime would face until the outbreak of the Civil War.”15 The Revolution
decreased white authority while increasing black autonomy. It pushed slaveowners to an
l4These figures are taken from United States Bureau of the Census, Heads of Families
At the First Federal Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, South Carolina
(Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1908), 8-9; Return of the Whole Number
of Persons Within the Several Districts of the United States According to “An Act
Providing For the Second Census or Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States.’
Passed February the twenty-eighth. 1800 (Washington DC, 1802) (hereafter cited as
Second Federal Census); Aggregate Amount of Each Description of Persons Within the
United States of America, and the Territories Thereof. Agreeably to Actual Enumeration
Made According to Law, in the Year 1810 (Washington DC, 1811) (hereafter cited as
Third Federal Census). The lowcountry consists of Beaufort, Charleston, and
Georgetown districts for 1790, plus Colleton district for 1800, plus Marion,
Williamsburgh, and Horry for 1810. The remainder in each census made up the
backcountry.
l!K.olchin, American Slavery. 70.

306
even greater defense of slavery while at the same time increasing their anxiety over the
survival of the institution. Revolutionary ideology, rising abolitionism, and subsequent
events in France and Santo Domingo combined to raise white levels of anxiety to a fever
pitch. If Charleston became more economically prosperous in the 1790s through
agricultural expansion, internal improvements, and the growth of banking, it also turned
more defensive, increasingly anxious over the supposed threats to the stability and future
of slavery posed by external ideas and people. Before the Revolution, black autonomy in
Charleston—slaves hiring their own time, working, worshiping, drinking, socializing, and
congregating in large numbers-seemed more annoying to whites than threatening. By
the mid-1790s, after the uprising in Santo Domingo, the emancipation of all French
slaves, and the haunting memories of their own Revolution, Charlestonians increasingly
viewed their slaves as potential incendiaries whom they could neither trust nor live
without. Caught on the horns of this enormous dilemma, Charleston slowly began
closing itself off ideologically from the rest of the world, even as it optimistically
embraced the commercial opportunities of the American Revolution. But the tension
inherent in this dichotomy-encouraging world-wide trade while simultaneously fearing
that external beliefs and people endangered the very fabric of Southern society-could not
be contained forever. The cosmopolitan and liberal commitment to strong commercial
ties with the North and the outside world would increasingly find itself fighting for
survival in an atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and fear. One nervous planter warned
in 1793, “recollect the fate of Santo Domingo-I need not speak plainer. Remember that

307
self-preservation is the first law of nature.”16 Charleston would eventually begin to seal
itself off from the “contamination” of dangerous and threatening ideologies. The seeds of
what the South would become in the nineteenth century took deep root in Charleston in
the last years of the eighteenth, and in the South no less than the North “the cities
predicted the future.”17
************
Though most South Carolinians displayed a renewed and strengthened
commitment to slavery and the slave trade in the aftermath of war, Revolutionary
ideology had Indeed changed some attitudes towards the institution. Abolitionist
sentiment never took firm hold in the South’s largest city, but still the manumission rate
in Charleston in the 1780s nearly doubled that of the previous decade.18 One historian
places the total number of slaves freed in South Carolina between 1783 and 1800 at 742.19
Charleston’s free black population numbered 586 in 1790 (7.1 percent of the city’s black
16Citv Gazette & Daily Advertiser. September 17, 1793.
17Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the
American Revolution. Abr. ed. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), ix.
18There were 118 manumissions in Charleston in the 1780s as compared to 61 in the
1770s, 29 in the 1760s, and 14 in the 1750s. Morgan, “Black Society in the Chesapeake,”
116. Individual manumissions can be found scattered throughout the Miscellaneous
Records, Main Series, 1731-1985, 123 vols., Recorded Instruments, Records of the
Secretary of State, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia
(hereafter cited as SCDAH).
19Larry Darnell Watson, “The Quest For Order: Enforcing Slave Codes in
Revolutionary South Carolina, 1760-1800,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of South
Carolina, 1980, 164. Watson estimates the total number of manumissions between 1760
and 1800 to be 1,081-183 before the war, 150 during the war, and 742 after the war.

308
population), 951 in 1800 (7.7 percent), and 1,472 in 1810 (11.2 percent). For the state as
a whole the numbers were much lower. In 1810, South Carolina’s free blacks comprised
only 2.3 percent of the total black population.20 By comparison, over 20 percent of
Maryland blacks had gained freedom by 1810, while free blacks constituted 7 percent of
Virginia’s population in the same year. The free black population in the Chesapeake
grew enormously in the post-war years. Indeed, free blacks formed a majority of
Baltimore’s black population by 1810.21
White Charlestonians’ worried that the city’s free black population might exercise
a dangerous influence among the city’s slaves far in excess of their small numbers.
Charleston authorities thus attempted to restrict the activities of the free black community
as best they could. A 1783 law, renewed three years later, required all free blacks in
Charleston to distinguish themselves by wearing badges, to purchase a license to practice
certain trades, and forced them to pay an annual poll tax of four shillings, nine pence.22
20Heads of Families at the First Census. South Carolina. 8-9; Second and Third Federal
Censuses.
21The numbers for free blacks in the Chesapeake are found in Richard S. Dunn, “Black
Society in the Chesapeake, 1776-1810,” in Berlin and Hoffman, Slavery and Freedom in
the Age of the American Revolution. 62, 75. For the growth of the free black population
in the upper South, see T. Stephen Whitman, The Price of Freedom: Slavery and
Manumission in Baltimore and Early National Maryland (Lexington KY: University
Press of Kentucky, 1997), Christopher Phillips, Freedom’s Port: The African American
Community of Baltimore. 1790-1860 (Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997), and
Ira Berlin, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1974).
22Watson, “Quest for Order,” 185-186; Lark Emerson Adams, ed., Journals of the
House of Representatives. 1785-1786. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1979), 462. The tax was increased in 1792 to
two dollars after the Santo Domingo insurrection.

The corporation thus hoped to restrict free black movement in the city, particularly in
their association with slaves, while also preventing open competition with Charleston’s
white artisans. City fathers designed the tax in part to encourage free blacks to leave
town altogether. These stringent measures met with only modest success. Charlestonians
complained throughout this period of “the licentiousness of the negroes of this town.”23
Too many blacks-both free and slave-patronized the city’s abundant dram shops,
congregated unlawfully, sold merchandise illegally and gambled on city streets and
wharves.24 City mechanics protested periodically about “jobbing Negro tradesmen” who
undersold white craftsmen. Charleston coopers formed the Society of Master Coopers in
1793 primarily to present a united economic front against black competition.25
Despite these ubiquitous problems and the presence of the largest black
population of any city on mainland North America, some Charlestonians nevertheless
stepped forward in the post-war years to publicly oppose slavery and the slave trade. This
opposition manifested itself primarily in the local press, though the authors cautiously hid
“Governor’s Message, August 6, 1783, in Theodora J. Thompson, ed., Journals of the
House of Representatives. 1783-1784. The State Records of South Carolina (Columbia
SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1977), 332.
24See Presentment of the Charleston Grand Jury, February 16, 1790, September 21,
1792, January sessions, 1793, 1798, Grand Jury Presentments, 1783-1859, Records of the
General Assembly, SCDAH.
“Petition of Bricklayers and Carpenters of Charleston, February 21, 1783; Petition of
the Society of Master Coopers of Charleston, December 10, 1793, Petitions, 1782-1883,
Records of the General Assembly, SCDAH.

310
behind pseudonyms.26 In fact, the Charleston newspapers remained remarkably open to
anti-slavery rhetoric until 1791, when the slave revolt in Santo Domingo (Haiti) poisoned
the intellectual atmosphere and closed off local avenues of debate. In 1783 “Another
Patriot” expressed outrage over the sight of the American flag flying “in every yard where
the unfortunate Africans are penned for sale.” War veterans, he argued, “must bum with
indignation at such an affront offered to it.”27 Two years later another writer condemned
the slave trade as “shocking to humanity, cruel, wicked, and diabolical.”28 “Stemic,” in
another piece, attacked slavery itself as “still a bitter draught, and though thousands in all
ages have been made to drink of it,” it remained contemptible.29 Other writers chose to
oppose slavery through poetry.30 There is no clear proof of how the majority of
Charlestonians reacted to these essays. Most probably found such sentiment offensive
and perhaps dangerous if consumed by city slaves, but most no doubt dismissed such
polemics as the sporadic, singular ravings of an insignificant minority. The reaction
would have been much different had such ideas been promulgated by a group of locally
“This was a common practice in eighteenth-century newspapers, of course, and was
not confined to essays on slavery.
27South Carolina Gazette and General Advertiser. October 18, 1783.
“South Carolina Gazette and Public Advertiser. April 13, 1785.
29South Carolina State Gazette. September 4, 1786, quoted in Watson, “Quest For
Order,” 153-154.
3°South Carolina State Gazette. September 7, 1786, January 6, 1791, quoted in Ibid.,
153-154.

311
organized abolitionists. No such society existed, of course, though some famous
Charlestonians agreed privately with these anonymous essayists.
Henry Laurens proved to be an early and perhaps the most famous convert to
abolitionism. Prominent in the Revolutionary movement, Laurens denounced slavery as
early as 1776 and declared his intentions to free his slaves. In a now-famous letter to his
son, Laurens said he would not ask God to protect his liberty while he continued to
enslave "thousands who are as well entitled to freedom." Laurens acknowledged that
“great powers oppose me” and that his challenge to time-honored customs and prejudices
would "appear to many as a promoter not only of strange but of dangerous doctrines."31
Laurens’ son John at least agreed with him. “We have sunk the Africans and their
descendants below the standard of humanity,” he replied to his father, “and almost
rendered them incapable of that blessing which equal Heaven bestowed upon us all.”32
John Laurens later gained permission to lead his father’s slaves into battle in an attempt
to put his idealistic beliefs into practice, but the South Carolina legislature had other
ideas.33 It repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected his proposal to raise a regiment of
31Henry Laurens to John Laurens, August 14, 1776, in Philip M. Hamer et al., eds.,
The Papers of Henry Laurens. 14 vols. to date (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1968-), 11:224-225. See also Gregory D. Massey, “The Limits of
Antislavery Thought in the Revolutionary Lower South: John Laurens and Henry
Laurens,” Journal of Southern History 63 (August 1997): 495-530.
32John Laurens to Henry Laurens, October 26, 1776, Ibid., 11:276-277.
33For John Laurens’ attempts to arm slaves, see chapter three, pp. 153-156, and Henry
Laurens to John Laurens, January 28, 1778, John Laurens to Henry Laurens, February 2,
1778, Ibid., 12:367-369, 390-393; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, January 22, 1778,
February 6, 1778, September 21, 1779, John Laurens to Henry Laurens, February 17,
1779, March 10,1779, in “Letters from Henry Laurens to His Son John, 1777-1780,”

312
freed slaves. “I was out-voted,” John Laurens complained to his friend Alexander
Hamilton, “having only reason on my side, and being opposed by a triple-headed monster
of avarice, prejudice, and pusillanimity in our assemblies.”34 After the war his father
could claim that "some of my negroes to whom I have offered freedom have declined the
bounty, they will live with me, to some of them I already allow wages, to all of them
every proper indulgence."35 He remained sufficiently optimistic in 1785 to believe that
"slavery in the United States, so far as Virginia southward is either totally abolished or
dwindling. I think I see the rising gradations to unlimited freedom and view the prospect
with pleasure." He predicted a "direful struggle" if Southerners did not abolish slavery
"by wise and progressive measures."36 Laurens opposed the continuation of the slave-
trade, but does not appear to have spoken out publicly against the institution itself. On at
least one occasion Laurens passed along an abolitionist pamphlet he had received from a
friend to fellow Carolinians John Faucheraud Grimke and Ralph Izard, two staunch
South Carolina Historical Magazine 6 (April, October 1905): 47-48, 50-51, 137-139, 149-
150; Aedanus Burke to Arthur Middleton, January 25, 1782, in Joseph W. Barnwell, ed.,
“Correspondence of Hon. Arthur Middleton,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 26
(October 1925): 192, 194.
34John Laurens to Alexander Hamilton, July 1782, in Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers
of Alexander Hamilton. 26 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961-1979),
3:121.
35Henry Laurens to Alexander Hamilton, April 19, 1785, William Gilmore Simms
Collection of Henry Laurens Papers, Kendall Whaling Museum, Sharon, Massachusetts,
microfilm, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia [hereafter
cited as Kendall Collection].
“Henry Laurens to the Rev. Dr. [Richard] Price, February 1, 1785, Laurens to
Alexander Hamilton, April 19, 1785, Laurens to James Bourdieu, May 6, 1785, Kendall
Collection.

313
supporters of slavery. Grimke apparently felt highly insulted.37 Though Laurens
despaired that “he has the whole country against him,”38 he still owned many slaves at his
death. His ideas ultimately proved to be more radical than his actions.39
David Ramsay was another prominent Charlestonian who opposed slavery. A
Pennsylvania native and physician, Ramsay relocated to Charleston in 1773 and brought a
strong dose of abolitionism with him.40 As he became involved in local and national
politics, however, Ramsay found his views unpopular in his adopted home and thought it
increasingly politically expedient to keep his views to himself. A public declaration
against slavery, he said, would bring only “calumny and public odium” without doing the
37Richard Price to Thomas Jefferson, July 2, 1785, in Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The
Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 26 vols. to date (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press,
1950-), 8:258-259.
38Richard Price to Thomas Jefferson, October 24, 1785, Ibid., 8:668.
39Will of Henry Laurens, WPA Transcripts 24 (1786-1793): 1152-1158, South Carolina
(WPA) Will Transcripts, Wills of Charleston County, microfilm, SCDAH, Columbia,
originals in Charleston County Courthouse. For two recent accounts of Laurens’
relationship with his slaves, see Robert A. Olwell, ‘“A Reckoning of Accounts’:
Patriarchy, Market Relations, and Control on Henry Laurens’s Lowcountry Plantations,
1762-1785,” in Larry E. Hudson Jr., ed., Working Toward Freedom: Slave Society and
Domestic Economy in the American South (Rochester: University of Rochester Press,
1994), 33-52; Philip D. Morgan, “Three Planters and Their Slaves: Perspectives on
Slavery in Virginia, South Carolina, and Jamaica, 1750-1790,” in Winthrop D. Jordan
and Sheila L. Skemp, eds., Race and Family in the Colonial South (Jackson MS:
University Press of Mississippi, 1987), 54-68.
40See Arthur H. Shaffer, To Be An American: David Ramsay and the Making of the
American Consciousness (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991), 165-
187.

314
least good.41 Though he would later deny it, Ramsay told his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush
privately that he longed for total abolition of both slavery and the slave trade.42
Nevertheless, Charlestonians evidently knew of Ramsay’s views. When he ran for
Congress in the first Federal elections in 1788, Ramsay opposed William Loughton
Smith, a well-placed Charleston lawyer and Goose Creek planter. In Goose Creek Smith
was allied with Ralph Izard, an extremely powerful and wealthy planter who was not only
Smith’s neighbor but his father-in-law as well.43 When Ramsay unwisely questioned
Smith’s eligibility to meet the Constitution’s residency requirement, Smith and Izard
lashed out at Ramsay's most vulnerable weakness.44 “It is very well known that he is
principled against slavery,” Smith charged, and he blasted Ramsay for not promising to
vehemently defend the institution against Federal encroachments in Congress. Northern
men must be taught “that without slavery, this district must be abandoned and rendered a
mere wilderness; that the slaves of this country are well treated, and live more happy than
the white peasantry in Europe.” Smith and Izard dismissed Ramsay as a Northern man
41David Ramsay to Benjamin Rush, August 22,1783, in Robert L. Brunhouse, ed.,
“David Ramsay, 1749-1815: Selections From His Writings,” Transactions of the
American Philosophical Society 55, Part 4 (1965): 76.
42Ramsay to Rush, January 31, 1785, Ibid., 87.
43George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of
Charleston 11758-1812) (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1962), 112-
134.
44Smith had been traveling and studying in England from 1770 to 1783, and Ramsay
charged that he therefore had not been in the country long enough to qualify for election
as a United States citizen under the terms of the Constitution. See Charleston Morning
Post & Daily Advertiser. November 22. 1788; Shaffer. To Be An American. 181-184.

315
bom and bred with principles directly opposed to Charleston’s. When Ramsay denied
that he had ever supported emancipation, Smith sneered that “it is idle for him to
contradict what is so universally known, and 1 am sure I would never trust a man to do my
business whose inclination it was to injure me.”45
Ramsay covered his tracks as best he could, falsely maintaining “that I never
approved of the emancipation of the Negroes of this country.” To do so, he claimed,
would be ruinous for both black and white. Charleston voters, however, evidently
believed Smith, choosing the native lawyer over the transplanted abolitionist by a better
than two-to-one margin.46 Ramsay told a friend that he lost the election because he was a
Northern man, and “such is the temper of our people here that it is unpopular to be
unfriendly to the further importation of slaves.” Though the loss was a bitter one, he
learned his lesson well. Ramsay never again opposed slavery publicly and only rarely in
private.47
Despite Ramsays’s assertion, many Carolinians opposed the slave trade during the
1780s, though their objections revolved around economic rather than moral issues.
4SMerril Jensen and Robert A. Becker, eds., The Documentary History of the First
Federal Elections. 1788-1790.4 vols. (Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Press,
1976-1992), 1:180-181. Smith's attack was published in the State Gazette of South
Carolina. November 24, 1788, and he also published another attack as A Dose for the
Doctor (Charleston. 1788).
‘"’State Gazette of South Carolina. December 1, 1788. In Charleston, Smith received
349 votes (53 percent), Alexander Gillon 169 (25 percent), Ramsay 146 (22 percent). In
the surrounding lowcountry parishes that made up Charleston District, he fared even
worse, receiving only 45 of 513 (9 percent) votes cast.
47Shaffer, To Be An American. 187.

316
Planter debt rose enormously in the post-war years due to record numbers of slave
importations, and in many minds lowcountry economic recovery became linked with
abolishing the slave trade. Carolinians thus distinguished between opposition to the slave
trade and condemnation of slavery itself. Lowcountry planters also shrewdly recognized
that cutting off the supply of foreign slaves would make domestic ones more valuable.
Backcountry farmers opposed the move, fearing that fewer slaves would mean rising
costs while limiting economic opportunity to the wealthy coastal elite. Upcountry
planters demanded that the trade remain open so that they too might capitalize equally
upon increased post-war opportunities for agricultural production and expansion. A
combination of forces—backcountry opposition, the expansion of short- and long-staple
cotton production, and the shift to tidal rice cultivation in the lowcountry—blocked the
first efforts to end foreign importation. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney argued that “this
country was not capable of being cultivated by white men ... was it not well understood
that no planter could cultivate his land without slaves?”48 A bill to prohibit the trade lost
by four votes in 1785.49 The vote disappointed but did not discourage slave trade
opponents like Ramsay. Their continued efforts paid off two years later when the
legislature voted-by a margin of three-to end the slave trade for two years.80 Charleston
48Charleston Evening Gazette. October 1, 1785, quoted in S.R. Matchett, ‘“Unanimity,
Order and Regularity’: The Political Culture of South Carolina in the Era of the
Revolution,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Sydney, 1980, 34.
49Shaffer, To Be an American. 171.
“Michael E. Stevens, ed., Journals of the House of Representatives. 1787-1788. The
State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1981), 232-233; Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist. 161; Patrick Stone Brady, “The Slave

317
favored the ban by a vote of 13-2, while the remainder of the lowcountry approved 26-19.
The backcountry opposed the bill 33-18.51 The measure did not represent a lessened
commitment to slavery in South Carolina. Thomas Jefferson misread the vote, heartily
congratulating his friend Edward Rutledge for abolishing the trade. “The abomination
must have an end,” he wrote, “and there is a superior bench reserved in heaven for those
who hasten it.”52 As Jefferson and others would learn, economics rather than altered
opinions had halted the trade, and an increasingly paranoid fear of slave revolts would
keep it closed for the next sixteen years.
Though South Carolinians might abolish the slave trade for a number of years,
they were not prepared to have others tell them what to do with regard to their slaves.
Many Charlestonians observed with mounting anxiety a growing dislike for slavery in
much of the rest of the country in the years after the war. As early as 1782, during the
debate in the South Carolina legislature over arming slaves, Aedanus Burke warned that
"the Northern people regard the condition in which we hold our slaves in a light different
from us. I am much deceived indeed, if they do not secretly wish for a general
emancipation." One prominent Philadelphian told him that "our country would be a fine
Trade and Sectionalism in South Carolina, 1787-1808.” Journal of Southern History 38
(November 1972): 608.
slJoumals of the House of Renresentatives. 1787-1788. 232-233.
52Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, July 14, 1787, Papers of Thomas Jefferson.
11:589.

318
one if our whites and blacks inter-married—the breed would be a hardy excellent race."53
Indeed, most Northern states abolished slavery altogether in the years after the war.
Every northern state, without exception, either ended slavery outright or began the
process, beginning in 1777, when Vermont’s new constitution prohibited slavery in that
state, and continued until New Jersey passed the last gradual emancipation law in 1804.54
On the national level, Congress banned slavery from the Northwest Territory (the future
states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin) in 1787, while a similar effort
authored by Thomas Jefferson to ban slavery in the southwest territory (Kentucky,
Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi) failed by only one vote.55 South Carolinians
watched uneasily as slavery came increasingly under siege even in their own region.
Virginia banned the further importation of slaves in 1778 and after the war removed many
53Aedanus Burke to Arthur Middleton, January 25, 1782, in Barnwell, ed.,
"Correspondence of Arthur Middleton," 194.
54For emancipation in the North, see especially Graham Russell Hodges, Slavery and
Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County. New Jersey.
1665-1865 (Madison WI: Madison House, 1997); George A. Levesque, Black Boston:
African American Life and Culture in Urban America. 1750-1860 (New York: Garland
Publishing, 1994); Shane White, Somewhat More Independent: The End of Slavery in
New York City, 1770-1810 (Athens GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991); Gary B.
Nash and Jean R. Sunderland, Freedom Bv Degrees: Emancipation and Its Aftermath in
Pennsylvania (New York, 1990); Gary B. Nash, Forging Freedom: The Formation of
Philadelphia’s Black Community. 1720-1840 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press,
1988); Arthur Zilversmit, The First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Leon F. Litwack, North of Slavery: The
Negro in the Free States. 1790-1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961).
55Kolchin, American Slavery. 77-78.

319
of the restrictions on the manumission of slaves.56 Maryland entertained the idea of
abolishing slavery altogether but like Virginia simply eased manumission laws while
halting the slave trade in 1783. Delaware followed suit. Consequently, the free black
population swelled in the Chesapeake in the years after the war.57
Anxiety turned to outright anger, however, at the thought of the national
government tampering with slavery where it already existed. South Carolinians might
abolish the slave trade themselves, but they were certain that no one else had the right to
do it for them. In the debate over the ratification of the United States Constitution,
Rawlins Lowndes objected to the Federal government having the power to abolish the
slave trade permanently in 1808 and denounced any and all Northern interference with
regard to slavery. South Carolina without slaves, he said, “would degenerate into one of
the most contemptible [states] in the Union.” Lowndes echoed Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney’s objections of two years earlier, arguing that while one acre of swampland
remained in South Carolina whites should have unlimited access to slaves. Northern
objections to the slave trade troubled Lowndes most of all, “Negroes were our wealth,
our only natural resource,” he maintained, “yet behold how our kind friends in the north
were determined soon to tie up our hands, and drain us of what we had!”58 Charles
56Private manumissions had been illegal in Virginia from 1723 to 1782. Kolchin,
American Slavery. 77.
57Brady, “Slave Trade and Sectionalism,” 602n; John Richard Alden, The South In the
Revolution. 1763-1789 (Baton Rouge LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1957), 335,
344-348.
58Debates Which Arose in the House of Representatives of South Carolina. On the
Constitution Framed for the United States. Bv a Convention of Delegates Assembled at

320
Cotesworth Pinckney, a participant in the original debate over the slave trade in the
Philadelphia convention, responded that Lower South delegates had done all they could to
protect slavery. Virginia’s opposition to the slave trade combined with the “religious and
political prejudices of the Eastern and Middle States” had forced the Lower South’s hand.
Though South Carolina without slaves would become a “desert waste,” it was too weak to
survive outside the Union. Concessions therefore had to be made.59
No Southerners, however, thought the federal government had a right to tamper
with slavery itself. South Carolinians might make concessions over the slave trade in
order to ensure the survival of the Union, but they drew a line in the sand over any further
interference. Federal legislation concerning slavery in the territories was one thing;
attempting to end slavery in the existing states was something else entirely. In February
1790, as the new government struggled to establish its authority, three Quaker petitions
asking Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade ignited a firestorm of controversy
and raised South Carolina tempers to a fever pitch. Thomas Fitzsimons of Pennsylvania
introduced a petition from Quaker groups in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware,
Maryland, and Virginia, while John Lawrence introduced a similar petition from New
York Quakers. The next day the Congress received a petition, signed by Benjamin
Franklin, from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, which
Philadelphia (Charleston: City Gazette, 1788), 16; Carl J. Vipperman, The Rise of
Rawlins Lowndes. 1721-1800 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1978),
247.
59Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney; Founding Father (Chapel Hill
NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1967), 87-96; Vipperman, Rise of Rawlins
Lowndes. 249-250.

321
threatened “to use all justifiable endeavors to loosen the bands of slavery, and promote a
general enjoyment of the blessings of freedom.”60 The South Carolina delegation
exploded in outraged protest. Charleston congressman William Loughton Smith and his
colleague Aedanus Burke blasted the Quakers (several of whom were sitting in the
gallery) for practically inciting a bloody insurrection and asked that the petitions be
thrown out altogether since the request was so clearly unconstitutional. Their Virginia
colleague James Madison urged the Carolinians to sit down and remain quiet; if ignored,
he said, the petitions would disappear. The louder South Carolina protested, the more
important they became.61 But Burke could not control his temper. He had long harbored
suspicions about Northern attitudes toward slavery, and he urged that Southerners “not be
threatened and their property endangered to please people who would be unaffected by
the consequences.” Any Congressional effort to interfere with slavery, he warned,
“would sound an alarm and blow the trumpet of sedition in the Southern states.”62
Despite strong Southern protests, Congress referred the petitions to a committee, and the
debate began in earnest.
“John C. Meleney, The Public Life of Aedanus Burke: Revolutionary Republican in
Post-Revolutionary South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1989), 187. For the Quakers and their opposition to slavery, see Jean R. Sunderland,
Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985);
David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1966), 291-332; Davis, Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution.
213-254; Kolchin, American Slavery. 67-68.
61Meleney, Public Life of Aedanus Burke. 187.
“United States Congress, The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United
States. 1789-1824. 42 vols. (Washington DC, 1834-1856), 2:1186, 1199 (hereafter
referred to as Annals of Congress!.

322
South Carolina’s attack on the Quaker petitions in the Congressional debates of
1790 rehearsed practically every defense of slavery that Southerners would make in the
nineteenth century. Aedanus Burke, William Loughton Smith, and Thomas Tudor
Tucker, though representing diverse and contentious regions within South Carolina,63
united to defend slavery, not as a necessary evil which needed apology but as a humane
and uplifting institution.64 If emancipated, Smith charged, slaves would either be reduced
to starvation or crime.65 But the three congressmen directed their most heated invective
against Federal interference with slavery and the Quakers themselves. Smith denounced
the petitions as an “attack upon the palladium of the property of our country,” and he
warned his colleagues that “there is no point on which we are more jealous and
suspicious than on a business with which [we] think the government has nothing to do.”66
South Carolinians, he said, considered the subject closed after adjournment of the
Constitutional Convention of 1787. The Union resembled a marriage, each side
compromising and accepting the other’s faults: “The Northern States adopted us with our
slaves, and we adopted them with their Quakers.”67 Furthermore, the marriage was a
political rather than a moral union, “and I don’t think my constituents want to learn
63Burke represented Beaufort and Orangeburgh District, Smith represented Charleston
District, and Tucker sat for Ninety-Six. Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist. 167.
64See especially Burke’s comments on March 17,1790. Annals of Congress. 2:1452-
1453.
65Ibid., 2:1453-1464.
“Ibid., 2:1201-1202.
67Melenev. Aedanus Burke. 190.

323
morals from the [Quakers].”68 Aedanus Burke likewise unleashed a torrent of abuse on
the Quakers, among other things denying they were “friends of freedom” and charging
them with various acts of treason during the Revolutionary War. At that point Burke was
called to order “and a warm altercation ensued.”69 Meanwhile Thomas Tudor Tucker
asked incredulously if the Quakers really expected Carolinians to free their slaves. If so
they had miscalculated badly. “This would never be submitted to by the Southern states,”
he prophesied ominously, “without a civil war.”70
South Carolina won the point after two days of endless arguing succeeded in
wearing Congress down and “trimming the Quakers in the gallery pretty soundly.”
Smith assured his friend and fellow Charleston lawyer Edward Rutledge that further
debate was unlikely, because the South Carolinians had made it clear that they would
violently oppose even the slightest interference with “our Negro property.”71 At least one
leading Quaker thought that a mano a mano encounter with Smith might do more good.
A Mr. Mifflin, “a great fellow near seven foot high,” cornered Smith at his Philadelphia
lodgings and harangued him for two hours in his own parlor. After fruitless efforts trying
“ to convert each other in vain,” Smith suggested the Quaker try his luck with his father-
68Annals of Congress. 2:1202.
69Ibid., 2:1452-1453.
70Ibid., 2:1198.
71William Loughton Smith to Edward Rutledge, February 13, February 28, 1790, in
George C. Rogers Jr., ed., “The Letters of William Loughton Smith to Edward Rutledge,
June 6, 1789 to April 28, 1794,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 69 (April 1968):
104, 108-109.

324
in-law, South Carolina Senator Ralph Izard, who owned over 550 slaves in 1790.72
Mifflin eagerly agreed and went to see Izard. When Smith arrived an hour later he found
the wealthy rice planter and the Quaker “in close debate attacking each other with texts of
scripture.” When fellow South Carolina Senator Pierce Butler joined the fray, the
outnumbered Quaker sought to reinforce his numbers by inviting all three Carolinians to
dinner with his “Society,” but they declined.73 The Quaker influence in Philadelphia
played no small role in South Carolina’s zealous endorsement of a more Southern
national capital. Senator William McClay of the Keystone state sniffed that both Izard
and Butler “have a most settled antipathy to Pennsylvania owing to the doctrines
patronized in that state on the subject of slavery. Pride makes fools of them, or rather
completes what nature began.”74 Aedanus Burke swore that “placing the government in
a settlement of Quakers” was the equivalent of South Carolina pitching its tent under a
tree with a hornet’s nest.75 William Loughton Smith agreed. “The Quakers wish us at the
Devil,” he told a friend, “I need not tell you where I wish them.”76 Though Southerners
72Izard owned 435 slaves in St. George’s Parish, 14 in St. Andrew’s Parish, 105 at his
home plantation, “The Elms,” in St. James Goose Creek, and 10 in Charleston, for a total
of 564. Heads of Families at the First Census. South Carolina. 33-34,37,44.
73See Smith’s account of this meeting in William Loughton Smith to Edward
Rutledge, February 28, 1790, “Letters of William Loughton Smith to Edward Rutledge,”
108-109.
74Quoted in Malcolm Bell Jr., Major Butler’s Legacy: Five Generations of a
Slaveholding Family (Athens GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 85.
75Meleney, Aedanus Burke. 200.
76William Smith to “My Dear Sir,” November 24, 1790, Miscellaneous Manuscripts
Collection, Series I, South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.

325
triumphed over the issue of Congress’ authority to interfere with slavery in the states,
Carolinians emerged from the debate more anxious than ever over the growing necessity
to defend slavery in the face of external aggression. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney spoke
for many when he told congressman Thomas Sumter that though he had hitherto
supported the new Federal government, “I have no idea of them intermeddling with our
negroes. That is altogether a matter of domestic regulation. The great art of government
is not to govern too much.”77
The slave revolt on the French West Indian island of Santo Domingo in 1791
permanently altered Charleston’s intellectual climate.78 It became for many South
Carolinians the equivalent of a “firebell in the night.”79 Though Northern abolitionists
might be cause for alarm, they paled in significance when compared to the threat posed
by the bloody French insurrection. Fiowever open and cosmopolitan Charleston may
have been in the colonial era and even through the immediate post-war years, the
character of the city changed perceptibly in the 1790s after Santo Domingo. Charleston
whites, already anxious over the continuing attacks upon slavery in their own country,
became convinced by Santo Domingo that a similar volcano stirred beneath them and that
only extraordinary measures could prevent an analogous explosion. After 1791 white
77Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to “Dear General,” March 31, 1790, Charles
Cotesworth Pinckney Papers, South Caroliniana Library.
78The first insurrection in Santo Domingo occurred on August 22, 1791. The State
Gazette of South Carolina and the City Gazette and Daily Advertiser both reported the
event on September 15, 1791.
79This was the phrase Jefferson used to describe the Missouri controversy of 1820.

326
Charlestonians began constructing an intellectual blockade against any influence—
whether external or internal— that might ignite the fuse of insurrection.80 Santo Domingo
became the lens through which whites viewed every facet of slavery and black life in
Charleston. In white minds all free blacks-especially those from the West Indies-were
potential incendiaries who should be driven from the state. Lawmakers banned all West
Indian slaves for fear that they especially might be carriers of the dreaded virus of
insurrection. Nervous officials outlawed all large gatherings of city slaves.81 Blacks
gathering to worship or socialize, even in small numbers, became non grata}2
Newspapers stopped printing anti-slavery letters, while any and all abolitionist literature
became particularly anathematized. One writer even proposed that the local press stop
publishing any news of Santo Domingo less clever slaves “explain to the more ignorant
of their class the full force of this dangerous doctrine-what then must be the effect of
“The phrase “intellectual blockade” is borrowed from Alfred N. Hunt, Haiti’s
Influence on Antebellum America: Slumbering Volcano in the Caribbean (Baton Rouge
LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), 114.
81Michael E. Stevens, ed., Journals of the House of Representatives. 1791. The State
Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1985),
203.
“Presentment of the Charleston Grand Jury, February 16, 1790, Grand Jury
Presentments, Charleston District; Report of the Committee on the Courts of Justice,
1791, Committee Reports; Presentment of the Grand Jury for the District of Charleston,
September 21, 1792, Grand Jury Presentments; Presentment of the Grand Jury,
Charleston District, 1798, Grand Jury Presentments, 1783-1859, all in Records of the
General Assembly, SCDAH.

327
this?”83 Public opinion and fear banished all forms of dissent and debate, and slowly but
surely during the 1790s Charleston became encircled by the walls of paranoia.
South Carolinians, like most Americans, initially welcomed and supported the
first news of the French Revolution in 1789. America’s great ally of the Revolution
seemed to be throwing off the shackles of royal despotism and tyranny in favor of
republicanism, and South Carolinians gave the movement their blessing. Even after the
French slaves in Santo Domingo rose in revolt in August 1791, many in South Carolina
did not originally link the event to the ideology of the French Revolution.84 Democratic-
Republican societies flourished in South Carolina until late 1793,85 and prominent
Charlestonians like Charles Cotesworth Pinckney continued to publicly endorse the
83"Rusticus” quoted in Watson, “Quest for Order,” 150.
84See George D. Terry, “A Study of the Impact of the French Revolution and the
Insurrections in Saint-Domingue Upon South Carolina,” M.A. thesis, University of South
Carolina, 1975,2-3; Terry, “South Carolina’s First Negro Seamen Acts, 1793-1803,”
Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1980, 79.
“There were at least five societies in South Carolina in the 1790s: The Republican
Society of South Carolina, 1793, the Democratic Society of Pinckney District, 1793, the
Madisonian Society of Greenville, 1794, the Franklin or Republican Society of
Pendleton, 1794, and the Republican Society of St. Bartholomew’s Parish, 1795. See
Republican Society of South Carolina Papers, Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection,
Series II, South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston; Republican Society of South
Carolina (Charleston, 1793); Philip S. Foner, ed., The Democratic-Republican Societies.
1790-1800: A Documentary Sourcebook of Constitutions. Declarations. Addresses.
Resolutions, and Toasts (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1976), 379-409; Michael L.
Kennedy, “A French Jacobin Club in Charleston, South Carolina, 1792-1795,” South
Carolina Historical Magazine 91 (January 1990): 4-21; Eugene P. Link, “The Republican
Society of Charleston,” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. 1943,
23-34; Link, “The Democratic Societies of the Carolinas,” North Carolina Historical
Review 18 (July 1941): 259-277.

328
Revolution.86 Enthusiasm, however, turned to outright horror when the French abolished
slavery throughout their empire in 1793. White Santo Domingan refugees poured into
Charleston that same year after Cape Francois fell in mid-1793 and white Charlestonians
began to witness firsthand the realities of servile insurrection.87 Some members of
Charleston’s Federalist elite, like Ralph Izard and William Loughton Smith, had been
suspicious from the start. Izard and Smith had fought Northern abolitionists in Congress,
and words like liberté and egalité frightened them. “South Carolina would be one of the
first victims to the principles contained in the Rights of Man,” Izard warned, because he
realized that such notions could be applied “without distinction, to persons of all
colors.”88
Santo Domingo, the largest colony in the West Indies in 1789, contained a
population more than 92 percent black, including 452,000 slaves.89 The Santo Domingo
legislature pleaded with South Carolina Governor Charles Pinckney for military
assistance in 1791. Pinckney, though restrained by the Constitution from interfering in
foreign policy, clearly thought the matter of great concern to South Carolina. He passed
“Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to Thomas Pinckney, January 7, 1793, in Pinckney
Family Papers, Library of Congress, cited in Frances Leigh Williams Papers, South
Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.
87See Thomas O. Ott, The Haitian Revolution. 1789-1804 (Knoxville TN: University
of Tennessee Press, 1973), 47-75.
“Ralph Izard to Thomas Pinckney, August 12, 1793, quoted in Lisle A. Rose,
Prologue to Democracy: The Federalists in the South. 1789-1800 (Lexington KY:
University Press of Kentucky, 1968), 109-110.
“Donald R. Hickey, “America’s Response to the Slave Revolt in Haiti, 1791-1806,”
Journal of the Early Republic 2 (Winter 1982): 362.

329
the request on to President Washington and warned that an insurrection on the island
could prove fatal for the Southern states. In the meantime, Pinckney cautioned that South
Carolina’s best defense was a good offense: the state should institute "strict and
unceasing" slave patrols and militia drill.50 Charlestonians at first welcomed and
sympathized with the “very genteel but unfortunate” white refugees who poured into the
port from Santo Domingo beginning in 1792.51 Charlestonians supplied temporary
housing and contributed over $12,000 in relief funds to the refugees, and the French
consul in Charleston estimated that over 600 Santo Domingans lived in the city by 1796.52
Many of these fugitives brought their slaves with them, however, and after the French
abolished slavery in 1793 the mood in Charleston began to sour. Hospitality was one
thing; inviting and welcoming one’s own destruction was something else again. “From
the moment we admitted the St. Domingo negroes into our country,” one native warned,
“security from that source became daily precarious.”53
90Charles Pinckney to Colonel Vanderhorst, May 28, 1792, Charles Pinckney Papers,
South Caroliniana Library. See also Pinckney’s message to the legislature in Journals of
the House of Representatives. 1791. 319.
91 Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to Thomas Pinckney, August 25, 1792, Gratz
Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, cited in Frances Leigh Williams Papers,
South Carolina Historical Society. See also William Read to Jacob Read, August 25,
1793: “The frequent arrivals of the miserable fugitives from St. Domingo excites charity
and sympathetic pity from all orders.” Quoted in Terry, “First Negro Seaman Acts,” 80.
92Hunt, Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America. 43, 107. See also Resolution
Directing that the Vendue Taxes of the City of Charleston for 1794 be Appropriated for
the Relief of Refugees from Santo Domingo, December 21, 1794, Resolutions, Records
of the General Assembly, SCDAH.
53Terry, “First Negro Seaman Acts,” 80.

330
By late 1793 South Carolina became inundated with rumors of impending slave
revolts. Virginia authorities warned in October of a conspiracy between slaves in that
state and South Carolina. An unknown instigator from the West Indies would begin the
uprising by arming slaves in Charleston and then firing the town. Panic gave way to
hysteria when two shiploads of black and white Santo Domingans arrived in Charleston
just days before the supposed revolt, and terrified whites called a mass meeting to
demand that the governor turn the ships away and ban any further admittance of Haitian
free blacks or slaves.94 The governor acquiesced, ordering all free blacks who had arrived
within the previous year out of South Carolina within ten days.95 Rumors nevertheless
reached Philadelphia that the revolt had succeeded and Senator Pierce Butler implored the
state legislature to ban all West Indian blacks-and for good measure those from the
North and Virginia as well-before something worse happened. Virginia’s blacks, he
said, were “strongly tinctured,” while those in Philadelphia “are more luxurious and more
insolent than any person who has not witnessed it can credit.”96 Just two months later
Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson somewhat skeptically advised Governor William
Moultrie of a rumor in Philadelphia that two Santo Domingans were en route to
Charleston to “excite an insurrection among the negroes.” This shadowy movement was
94Terry, “First Negro Seaman Acts,” 80-81; Richard Brent Clow, “Edward Rutledge of
South Carolina, 1749-1800: Unproclaimed Statesman,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Georgia, 1976, 263.
95Teny, “First Negro Seamen Acts,” 80-81.
96Pierce Butler to Thomas Young, October 28, 1793, Butler to John Bee Holmes,
November 5, 1793, Pierce Butler Papers, South Caroliniana Library.

331
supposedly part of general plot, directed from Paris, to carry on the work begun in Santo
Domingo in 1791. Jefferson dismissed the report but dashed off a communique to
Moultrie, not wanting to bear responsibility “were anything to happen.”97 Charlestonians
called another mass meeting in the spring of 1794 after the French emancipated their
slaves and demanded that all ships entering the harbor be screened for any blacks having
connections with either France or Santo Domingo.98 Ralph Izard feared that war with
Great Britain would bring Frenchmen to Charleston who carried the germ of revolution
with them. They might “fraternize with our Democratical clubs and introduce the same
horrid tragedies among our Negroes which have been fatally exhibited in the French
islands.”99
To make matters worse, Northern abolition societies chose the Santo Domingo
insurrection as the occasion for a clarion call for a general emancipation of all American
slaves. On the first day of January 1794, just one week after Jefferson warned Moultrie
of a possible plot, an abolition convention in Philadelphia encouraged the formation of
societies in every state to work toward abolishing both the slave trade and domestic
slavery. They argued that Santo Domingo was the natural result of a system inconsistent
97Thomas Jefferson to the Governor of South Carolina, December 23, 1793, in H.A.
Washington, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. 9 vols. (New York: C. Riker, 1853-
1857), 4:97-98.
98Terry, “First Negro Seaman Acts,” 82; Terry, “Impact of the French Revolution,” 78-
81.
"Ralph Izard to Mathias Hutchinson, November 20, 1794, Ralph Izard Papers, South
Caroliniana Library.

332
with liberty and republicanism and “repugnant to the principles of Christianity.”100
Abolitionist Samuel Hopkins charged that “those who have encouraged, prosecuted or
supported this traffic in their fellow-man have been the emissaries of Satan.”101 Hopkins,
a Congregationalist minister from Newport, Rhode Island, had presented an abolitionist
pamphlet to the Continental Congress in 1776, and his work had been reprinted in 1785
under the auspices of the Society for the Manumission of Slaves.102 In a May 1793
address before the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade he denounced
slaveowners as cruel, inhuman, unfeeling brutes, “a nuisance and burden to the earth.”
Hopkins blasted the hypocritical behavior of people calling themselves Christians while
“doing the works of the Devil.” If Americans had spent half the energy preaching to
Africans that they had spent on enslaving them, Africa would be “full of gospel light.”
He vowed that he and his followers would ardently pursue “every active measure to
abolish the slave trade and put an end to slavery” and that ultimately they would
succeed.103 One can imagine the effect such a harangue had in Charleston. Such attacks
fed the growing sense of paranoia and hysteria that white South Carolinians increasingly
felt in the aftermath of Santo Domingo. While abolitionist literature certainly did not
100Address of A Convention of Delegates From the Abolition Society, to the Citizens
of the United States (New York: Durell, 1794), 4-5, 7.
101Samuel Hopkins, A Discourse Upon the Slave-Trade, and the Slavery of the
Africans (Providence. 1793), 11.
102Hopkins, A Dialogue Concerning the Slavery of the Africans (Norwich CT: Judah
P. Spooner, 1776). See also Davis, Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution. 217n.
103Hopkins, Discourse Upon the Slave-Trade. 10-11, 19, 22; Hopkins, Dialogue
Concerning the Slavery of the Africans. 14.

333
circulate widely in the Southern metropolis, sympathizers like David Ramsay
occasionally received such pamphlets from Benjamin Rush, while other Charlestonians
certainly knew of their existence, particularly those living outside South Carolina. South
Carolina’s congressional delegation in Philadelphia had already experienced abolitionism
first hand, and tirades like Hopkins’ set them further on edge. “Our Eastern [Northern]
and French friends will do no good to our blacks,” Senator Pierce Butler fumed, “I wish
they would mind their own affairs.”104 He later voiced his concern “that the folly of some
idle people in America will sooner or later give us some trouble with our negroes.”105
Butler’s words would re-echo in South Carolina for generations to come. Ralph Izard
grew increasingly uneasy over “the enthusiasm of a considerable part of this country, as
well as in Europe, on this subject,” and prophesied that the rising tide of abolitionism
would produce a “convulsion which will be severely felt by the southern states.”106
Meanwhile a group of Carolinians in St. Luke’s Parish, southwest of Charleston,
censured Northern abolitionists for promulgating dangerous and seditious doctrines and
denounced them as “repugnant to the solemn compact of government we entered into on
September 17, 1787.” Could the legislature not find a way to pass laws that would
‘“Pierce Butler to Thomas Young, October 28, 1793, Pierce Butler Papers, South
Caroliniana Library.
105Bell Jr., Major Butler’s Legacy. 60. After 1804, Butler spent most of the year in
Philadelphia, but he remained a committed slaveowner, owning 540 slaves in 1809, and
approximately 1,000 at his death in 1822. Walter B. Edgar, et. al, eds., Biographical
Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives 5 vols. (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1974-1992), 3:108-113.
'“Ralph Izard to Edward Rutledge, September 28, 1792, Historical Society of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, photocopy in Ralph Izard Papers, South Caroliniana Library.

334
“frustrate such proceedings?”107 Just as South Carolina’s congressional defense of
slavery foreshadowed the invective of nineteenth century apologists, so too did
Charleston’s response to Northern and European abolitionism in the 1790s.
For a decade after 1792, the combined effects of Santo Domingo and abolitionist
rhetoric convinced Charlestonians that their very survival depended upon barring all free
blacks, foreign slaves, and any insidious abolitionist notions which might raise a
Toussaint L’Overture in their midst. White South Carolinians had long preferred slaves
from Africa rather than the Caribbean, and recent events only served to solidify their
belief that West Indian slaves were “infamous and incorrigible.”108 At first white
authorities simply raised the tax on free blacks, but beginning in 1794 they barred them
altogether.109 The legislature renewed the 1787 ban on the slave trade in 1789 for an
additional three years. Thereafter lawmakers renewed the ban every two years until
l07MichaeI E. Stevens, ed., Journals of the House of Representatives. 1792-1794. The
State Records of South Carolina (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press,
1988), 24-25.
10SThe quote is from Ibid. The tax on slaves from the West Indies was prohibitive as
early as 1784, when it was set at £20 per head on slaves who had been there more than
three months, while the tariff on slaves from Africa was only £3 per head. John Tobler,
The South Carolina and Georgia Almanack For the Year of Our Lord 1784 (Charleston
SC: Nathan Childs & Co., 1784), n.p. Savannah merchant Joseph Clay acknowledged
during the post-war rush to purchase slaves that cargoes from the West Indies would
suffice until slaves from Africa could be procured but “this is not the channel we would
wish to receive them.” Joseph Clay to James Jackson, February 16, 1784, “Letters of
Joseph Clay,” 194-195.
109Brady, “Slave Trade and Sectionalism,” 611.

335
1803.110 Economic concerns had closed the traffic in the 1780s; fear of foreign influence
and insurrection kept it closed throughout the remainder of the century. While whites did
their best to slam the door on lethal foreign influences, the city still held over 8,000
African-Americans in 1790, and the growing paranoia and fear began to shade all aspects
of black-white relations. Slaves had long hired out their own time, with or without white
supervision. Mechanics and skilled craftsmen increasingly petitioned the legislature
against "jobbing Negro Tradesmen," and the city's coopers organized the Society of
Master Coopers of Charleston in 1793 in part to discourage “dangerous and illegal” slave
activity that could "destroy that subordination which the situation of this state requires
from the slave towards his master and all other citizens."111 By the 1790s, slaves hiring
their own time posed not just a threat to white economic stability but to the social order as
well. White grand juries complained about the excessive number of blacks in town; in
reality, the percentage had remained the same, though their numbers undoubtedly now
seemed more threatening.112 Free blacks and slaves often congregated together in spite of
restrictive laws and frightened whites asserted that "some nefarious persons may
communicate to the slaves a bond of union prejudicial to the peace of the people." They
proposed that any assemblage of blacks in large numbers "under any pretext whatever" be
"“Thomas Cooper and David J. McCord, eds., The Statutes at Large of South
Carolina. 10 vols. (Columbia SC: A.S. Johnston, 1838-1841), 7:431-436.
"‘Grand Jury Presentments, Charleston District, September 21, 1795, Grand Jury
Presentments; Petition of the Society of Master Coopers of Charleston, December 10,
1793, Petitions, Records of the General Assembly, SCDAH.
1 "Presentment of the Grand Jury, Charleston District, 1798, Grand Jury Presentments,
SCDAH.

336
outlawed."3 Runaway slaves appeared to be on the rise, and Charlestonians charged that
any "improper assembly and conspiracies of negroes" put them at greater risk than other
parts of the state because Charleston offered "speed, facility, and less timely
discovery.""4 Similarly, Charleston militia officers worried that in any insurrection “the
great depot” and its store of wealth and supplies would be the “first and most tempting
object of attack.”115
In this poisoned atmosphere all the legislation in the world could not prevent
rumors, and in Charleston they thrived like mosquitoes. At just the moment when
American war with France appeared imminent, word flashed through the city in
November 1797 that a group of lowcountry slaves had plotted insurrection with French
and West Indian blacks.116 Senator Jacob Read simultaneously warned the governor of
the “immediate danger of the Southern States being invaded by an army from the French
West Indies composed principally of black troops.”117 Though local whites subverted the
supposed uprising, they remained panic-stricken, demanding stricter enforcement of the
‘"Report of the Committee on the Courts of Justice, 1791, Committee Reports;
Presentment of the Charleston Grand Jury, February 16,1790, Grand Jury Presentments,
SCDAH.
1 "Presentment of the Grand Jury for the District of Charleston, September 21, 1792,
Petition of Inhabitants of Charleston, December 11, 1797, Grand Jury Presentments,
Petitions, SCDAH.
‘"Journals of the House of Representatives, 1792-1794. 112.
"6Rose, Prologue to Democracy. 163.
"’George C. Rogers Jr., “South Carolina Federalists and the Origins of the
Nullification Movement." South Carolina Historical Magazine 71 (January 1970): 19.

337
ban on West Indian blacks and the expulsion of any who had arrived since January 1,
1790.118 They also asked that the General Assembly establish a permanent guard of fifty
infantry and twenty-four mounted cavalry troops in Charleston, while Edward Rutledge
insisted on an increased defense budget to strengthen and improve defenses in Charleston
Harbor.119 When backcountry Republicans refused to approve such expenditures, no
doubt believing that frightened Charlestonians had overreacted, Rutledge fumed that “we
are in fact a much altered people, and are no more like what we were some twenty years
ago than the Italians are like the Romans.”120 The governor meanwhile recommended
that smuggling any West Indian blacks—slave or ffee-into Charleston should be made a
capital offense. Furthermore, South Carolina should take every step necessary to secure
its domestic laborers “as they are the instruments of our cultivation and of the first
importance to our wealth and commercial consequence.”121 But still the rumors and
consequent suppression continued in an endless and bloody cycle. William Read reported
to his brother Senator Jacob Read in late 1799 that “there is some disturbance among the
blacks. Ten are now weekly punished and rigidly confined.” As the tumultuous decade
ll8Petition of Inhabitants of Charleston, December 11, 1797, Petitions, SCDAH.
119Ibid.
120Rose. Prologue to Democracy. 164.
121Govemor Charles Pinckney Message, November 28, 1798, Governor’s Messages,
1783-1830, Records of the General Assembly, SCDAH.

338
drew to a close, William Read could only pray, “from fever and plotting slaves good Lord
deliver us.”122
By 1800 South Carolina whites no longer felt secure in simply barring foreign
slaves and free blacks. They now took steps to seal off their borders from slaves from
other states while constricting the growth of their own free black population. Though
lawmakers originally placed no restrictions upon the domestic slave trade, in 1800, after
repeated insurrection scares, all new settlers had to prove they had owned their slaves for
at least two years. In addition, any absentee plantation owners who did not hire resident
overseers now paid a stiff fine.123 And in 1800, after Gabriel’s Rebellion in Virginia, the
South Carolina legislature made it more difficult for slaveowners to manumit their
slaves.124 Whites now had to appear before a court of freeholders and testify as to their
slaves’ good character and ability to earn a living free from bondage.125
Not content to simply restrict the physical movement and growth of their slave
population, Charlestonians began imposing a rigid intellectual blockade against any ideas
deemed too radical or incendiary. Black religious worship in particular drew close white
scrutiny. The black church had long been an object of suspicion, as it represented the sole
outlet for organized social activity for slaves, and, more ominously, served to forge a
122William Read to Jacob Read, September 20, 1799, Read Family Papers, South
Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.
l23Brady, “Slave Trade and Sectionalism,” 611.
124Cooper and McCord, Statutes at Large. 7:440-443.
l25Watson, “Quest for Order,” 162.

339
more unified and consolidated cultural identity for slaves from diverse backgrounds.126
Whites especially feared the potential danger of blacks gathering together after dark.
Following the outbreak of Gabriel’s Rebellion in Virginia in 1800 the legislature forbid
slaves from worshiping from dusk till dawn.127 The growth of Methodism particularly
concerned white Charlestonians. Methodism had spread throughout the South beginning
in 1785, and black Methodism in South Carolina centered in Charleston, which Methodist
itinerant Francis Asbury had characterized as “the seat of Satan, dissipation and folly.”128
Forty whites and fifty-three blacks founded the Cumberland Street Church in 1787, and
other Methodists completed the predominantly-black Bethel Church in 1799. The real
trouble for Charleston Methodists began in July 1800 when an alarmed Senator Read sent
Governor John Drayton a copy of an anti-slavery address signed by Methodist Itinerants
Thomas Coke, Francis Asbury, and Richard Whatcoat. The address branded slavery as a
sin against mankind, civil liberty, and the Christian religion. They demanded universal
abolition, threatening to “lay the axe to the root of the tree,” which Read interpreted to
mean nothing less than laying “the firebrand to our houses and the dagger to our throats.”
126See Sylvia R. Frey, ‘“The Year of Jubilee is Come’: Black Christianity in the
Plantation South in Post-Revolutionary America,” in Ronald Hoffman and Peter J.
Albert, eds., Religion in a Revolutionary Age (Charlottesville VA: University Press of
Virginia, 1994), 87-124.
l27Cooper and McCord, Statutes at Large. 7:440-443; for the role of religion in
Gabriel’s Rebellion, see Gerald W. Mullin, Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in
Eighteenth Century Virginia fNew York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 140-163.
128Frey, “Year of Jubilee,” 92, 99-100. See also John B. Boles, The Great Revival.
1787-1805: The Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind (Lexington KY: University of
Kentucky Press, 1972).

340
Read warned Drayton that the Methodists would be much more formidable foes than the
Quakers because they were well organized, well led, and “are spreading themselves
everywhere and doing infinite mischief.” Should any of these rabblerousers arrive in
Carolina, Drayton should not hesitate to seize their papers and arrest them. The governor
simultaneously submitted Read’s letter to the legislature with news of Gabriel’s
Rebellion.'29
Charleston intendant Thomas Roper and a number of other men wasted no time in
confronting John Harper, a local Methodist minister, and demanded to search his
premises for any copies of the heretical document; they confiscated and burned several
copies. Not content in merely trampling upon Harper’s civil liberties, a mob later
dragged him from his house and succeeded in carting the offending minister down
Meeting Street before the town guard rescued him. Harper, shaken and badly frightened
by his ordeal, begged Charleston’s forgiveness, pleading that he had never shown the
document to any black person and had no intention of doing so. Nor, he insisted, did he
personally desire what the pamphlet advocated, arguing instead that his duty lay in
promoting black “humility, submission, diligence, and faithfulness.”130 Whites thereafter
left Harper alone. His apology apparently satisfied the majority of the community, but the
event presaged darker times to come. Two years later local authorities arrested and
imprisoned John James Negrin, a Santo Domingo refugee, for printing a Haitian
129Jacob Read to John Drayton, July 18, 1800, quoted in Rogers, “South Carolina
Federalists and the Origins of the Nullification Movement,” 20-21.
130See Terry, “Impact of the French Revolution,” 142-144.

341
declaration of independence. Local whites feared the publication would “excite domestic
insurrection.”131 Negrin remained in prison for eight months without trial while the state
confiscated and sold his printing press.132 Both of these incidents are suggestive of the
transformative effects of the events of the 1790s on Charleston. In the 1780s, editorials
appeared in Charleston newspapers questioning the morality both of slavery and the slave
trade. By 1800 the monolithic communal ethos regarding slavery would not tolerate
private ownership of abolitionist literature. Revolutionary ideology and the events of the
post-war decades had transformed slavery from a widespread American institution to an
increasingly Southern one, and by 1800 white Charlestonians would not hesitate to
trample underfoot the twin pillars of freedom of conscience and freedom of the press
when either threatened to disturb the growing leviathan of slavery. The days of doubting
slaveowners and local anti-slavery editorials had passed. Public dissent over slavery was
no longer an option. Was this the most profound legacy of the American Revolution in
Charleston?
* * % * * * % * * * * *
The pressures unleashed by the American Revolution further threatened the
structure of slavery in Charleston, already fluid, tenuous and unstable in the colonial era.
As in pre-war years, Charleston continued to attract runaway slaves, while the city’s free
black population also grew. Slaves persisted in hiring out their own time, becoming
131Hunt, Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America. 111.
132Terry, “Impact of the French Revolution,” 172. See also James W. Hagy and
Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, “The French Refugee Newspapers of Charleston,” South
Carolina Historical Magazine 97 (April 1996): 139-144.

342
increasingly independent about doing so, while large numbers gathered to worship or
socialize. The cumulative effect of these events, along with increased planter debt, the
mounting challenges to slavery in the Chesapeake, the North, the West Indies, and
Europe, the ideology of the American and French revolutions, the threat posed by
Quakers, Methodists, and especially the Santo Domingo revolt, all combined to make
slaveowners more defensive of the institution of slavery and anxious about its survival.
The American Revolution served to solidify the importance of slavery to white
Charlestonians, both in terms of their own social identities and continued political and
economic success, while simultaneously weakening the ideological underpinnings of the
institution itself. Many Charlestonians found themselves defending and violently
maintaining by force an institution increasingly labeled anti-modem, anti-progressive, and
anti-Christian by much of the rest of the world. If some Americans called for abolition,
others stressed defending a way of life that had brought unparalleled wealth and power.
As a result of this increased tension, Charleston subsequently became less "cosmopolitan"
in the 1790s at just the moment when its economic future appeared brightest. Charleston
and South Carolina became more inward-looking and suspicious of external ideas while
simultaneously seeking new trading partners, new markets, experimenting with new
crops, building roads and bridges, establishing ferries, incorporating new towns, investing
in canal companies, and establishing banks. The outside world beckoned but suddenly
appeared ominously Janus-faced, rich with opportunity but more and more
"contaminated" with strange notions of freedom and equality. By 1800 the walls of

343
paranoia began to go up, first in Charleston, and soon all over the South. The events of
the 1790s cast a very long shadow indeed.

EPILOGUE
“TO FINISH WHAT THEIR FATHERS HAVE BEGUN”:
CHARLESTON IN 1800
In 1794, the backcountry launched one final eighteenth-century assault upon
lowcountry legislative privilege and aristocracy. The first Federal census of 1790
revealed that 80 percent of South Carolina’s white population resided in the backcountry.
Outraged that the lowcountry continued to hold a majority of seats in the General
Assembly, Wade Hampton, Robert Goodloe Harper, Ephraim Ramsay, John Kershaw,
and several other rising backcountrymen formed the Representative Reform Association
in June 1794. Equality, they insisted, “is the natural condition of man.” The Association
sought not “equality of condition” but “equality of rights,” and anything less would be
treated contemptuously “as unjust usurpations, subversive of liberty and fit to be
abolished.”1 The movement’s democratic goals and rhetoric reflected and manifested in
capsule the transforming nature of the American Revolution in the South.
Most galling to backcountry dissidents was the fact that the city of Charleston
continued to monopolize fully one-third of the legislature despite containing less than
one-ninth of the state’s white population. Harper, writing as “Appius,” heaped ridicule
'An Address to the People of the South Carolina. Bv the General Committee of
the Representative Reform Association at Columbia (Charleston SC: W.P. Young, 1794),
I-iii, vi.
344

345
and scorn on lowcountry aristocrats who argued that their wealth justified such an
imbalanced representation. He based his entire argument upon the proposition that
population rather than property should determine apportionment. Harper charged that
when 20 percent of the people controlled the remaining 80 percent, “then the government,
whatever may be its appearance and external form, is a perfect aristocracy.”2 Wealth,
Harper argued, could never justify tyranny. “To say that because one citizen is richer than
another... he ought to possess greater political privileges,” he charged, “amounts to
saying that because a man is poor he ought to be a slave.” Such archaic thinking perhaps
held sway in 1765 but no longer had a place in the political world created by war and
revolution. Such an unequal and unjust system of representation would continue to breed
aristocracy, which “never ceases to make new encroachments till it has totally rooted out
the principles of liberty.” Harper argued that the census provided incontrovertible
evidence that the time had come for the lowcountry to relinquish the disproportionate
share of power it had so long commanded as its due. To refuse to do so, he said, would
be tantamount to subverting the American Revolution itself.3
Charleston’s defenders responded with predictable and time-worn arguments. By
1794 white Charlestonians, already engaged in their minds in a battle for self-preservation
with Northern abolitionists and black Santo Domingans, were in no mood to debate the
merits of the state constitution with backcountry political upstarts. Timothy Ford, a
Charleston lawyer and New Jersey native, argued for a “right of prior occupancy”--the
2Appius, To the Citizens of South Carolina (Charleston, 1794), 5.
3Ibid., 20,31-32.

346
lowcountiy had been settled first and therefore their wishes should take precedence
(strange ideas from a man who had been in Charleston only since 1785). Backcountry
dwellers had full knowledge of the existing system when they arrived in South Carolina,
he wrote, and they could not reasonably expect lowcountry acquiescence in such
extensive and radical alterations. Besides, Ford noted, these issues had been debated and
put to rest when the existing constitution had been written just four years earlier in 1790.
Despite the numbers in the Federal census, lowcountry whites would not relinquish power
to a region so openly hostile to “our interests, our customs, and our concerns.” Ford then
attempted to buttress his rather thin and unconvincing arguments by appealing to
common economic interests. Post-war Carolinians in both sections, he noted, had busied
themselves clearing new roads, erecting bridges, opening up inland navigation, expanding
agricultural production, and establishing new towns. Why risk such progress and
potential for economic prosperity by opening old wounds?4
In December 1794 the debate shifted from pamphlets to the state House of
Representatives, where backcountry leaders petitioned for constitutional revision to
ensure more equal representation. The House, voting along sectional lines, resolved that
the Constitution of 1790 had been based on sectional compromise and that further
4Americanus [Timothy Ford], The Constitutionalist, or. An Enquiry How Far it is
Expedient and Proper to Alter the Constitution of South Carolina (Charleston SC:
Markland, Mclver, 1794), 25, 54. See also Henry William DeSaussure’s similar reply to
Appius, Letters on the Questions of the Justice and Expediency of Going Into An
Alteration of the Representation in the Legislature of South Carolina. (Charleston SC,
1795).

347
revision was both unwise and unnecessary.5 A similar effort in 1796 also failed.
Nevertheless, the vote had been a close one, and it proved to be the lowcountry’s last
political victory. Backcountry Republicanism emerged triumphant over lowcountry
Federalism beginning with the presidential election of 1796, and by 1800 the Rubicon
had been crossed.6 In 1803 backcountry Republicans successfully redrew the state’s
election districts, weakening Federalism almost to the point of extinction.7 Finally, in
1808, the South Carolina legislature established a system of apportionment based on
population and taxable property. The backcountry obtained majorities in both houses and
had at long last achieved political equality in the South Carolina legislature. Even in
1794 many in the lowcountry could sense that their region had simply been granted a
temporary reprieve, that renewed assaults on the lowcountry ramparts would bring
eventual backcountry success. Senator Ralph Izard confided that “I have no doubt that in
5The vote was 58-53. See Rachel N. Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise
of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry, 1760-1808 (Chapel Hill NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 221-230; John C. Meleney, The Public Life of
Aedanus Burke: Revolutionary Republican in Post-Revolutionary South Carolina
(Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 217-219; Joseph W. Cox,
Champion of Southern Federalism: Robert Goodloe Harper of South Carolina (Port
Washington NY: Kennikat Press, 1972), 32-38; George C. Rogers Jr., Evolution of a
Federalist: William Louehton Smith of Charleston (1758-18121 (Columbia SC:
University of South Carolina Press, 1962), 267-269.
6For South Carolina politics during the presidential elections of 1796 and 1800,
see Lisle A. Rose, Prologue to Democracy: The Federalists in the South. 1789-1900
(Lexington KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1968), 134-138, 267-282; Rogers,
Evolution of a Federalist. 293-294, 350-351.
7Klein, Unification of a Slave State. 261-262; Rogers, Evolution of a Federalist.
354-355; Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father (Chapel
Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1967), 239.

348
a few years a considerable change will take place in the representation.” Izard thought
that political equality in 1794 would have led to the state’s disgrace and ruin, because the
backcountry would raise lowcountry taxes and fill the government with unworthy and
despicable characters. Izard argued that the lowcountry’s only salvation lay in expanding
plans for internal improvements so that the economic interests of both sections could be
bound more securely together. Such a course would disperse wealth and education
throughout the state and eventually legislative equality “will be of much less importance
than it is at present.”8
The debate in 1794 is singular and important because both sides now recognized
openly the existence of competing political interests within the state. Lowcountry
advocates acknowledged that their interests no longer necessarily paralleled “South
Carolina interests.” Charleston lawyer and planter John Julius Pringle admitted as much
when he said that “it is not to be expected, nor is it desirable, that we should be entirely
free from warm divisions of opinions and animated discussions upon points of common
interest and safety.”9 The Revolution had overturned the notion of a classical aristocratic
republic governed by a disinterested Charleston elite. Individuals (and regions) now
openly competed for political and economic advantage. The American Revolution in the
South was far from being a limited, cautious, conservative revolt that simply consolidated
sRalph Izard to General Pinckney, January 18, 1795, Ralph Izard Papers, South
Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
’John Julius Pringle, An Oration. Delivered in St. Philip’s Church. Before the
Inhabitants of Charleston. South Carolina, on the Fourth of July. 1800 (Charleston SC:
W.P. Young, 1800), 30.

349
elite power. Instead it turned into a far-reaching, radical, democratizing movement that
expanded both the notion of political equality and the opportunity to participate in a
liberal market economy. In so doing it rocked the very foundations of unchallenged and
hegemonic elite domination in Charleston and indeed throughout the South.
************
In 1800, much in Charleston remained as it had been in 1765. Though the
architectural landscape of the city had begun to take on the overwhelmingly Federal
influence that it retains to this day, many of the most vexing problems simply defied all
attempts at resolution and indeed multiplied at a staggering rate. The majority of city
streets remained unpaved and unlit. An often overwhelming stench pervaded the
metropolis. Charleston’s streets became fouled by stray animals, dead carcasses, and
clogged drains. Garbage and filth piled high on city wharves. Hastily buried occupants
of overcrowded cemeteries often refused to stay underground. The city’s numerous
slaves still possessed far greater autonomy than frightened and nervous whites would
have liked, while sailors and workers misbehaved, caroused, and patronized the numerous
dram shops and tippling houses. The activities “destructive to the morals of youth”
continued unabated.10 The city’s artisans labored yet in the economic-though not the
political—shadow of elite merchants, lawyers, and planters, who continued to dominate
life in the city.
l0See Grand Jury Presentment, Charleston District, September 16, 1799, Grand
Jury Presentments, 1783-1859, Records of the General Assembly, South Carolina
Department of Archives and History, Columbia.

350
But if the sights and sounds in Charleston remained familiar, much indeed had
changed. The Charlestonians who could remember celebrating the King’s birthday and
welcoming royal governors were “taking leave of this earthly stage,”" giving way to a
new generation, untested by the fires of war and occupation and bred in a conflicting
atmosphere of optimism, hope, anxiety and fear. Their parents had experienced and
participated in extraordinary events and had then enthusiastically embraced the fruits of
their labor. They sought new avenues of trade, new crops, new techniques of cultivation,
established a Chamber of Commerce, a South Carolina Agricultural Society, built roads
and bridges, established new towns and markets, and invested in canals, improvement
schemes, and banks. Above all the Revolution had brought a sense of political equality
that not even the staunchest Charleston conservatives could deny by 1800. David
Ramsay insisted that “among us no one can exercise any authority by virtue of birth. All
start equal in life. No man is bom a legislator.”12 John Julius Pringle, son of a wealthy
and powerful colonial merchant, declared in 1800 that “there are no privileged orders
among us~no distinct ranks—patricians or plebians—nobles or commons—all have equal
rights and privilege.”13 Even committed Federalists like Charleston lawyer Henry
William DeSaussure recognized that “we have no privileged casts or orders of citizens to
monopolize the public employments. Talents combined with virtues are the passports to
"The phrase is David Ramsay’s, quoted in An Oration Delivered in St. Michael’s
Church. Before the Inhabitants of Charleston. South Carolina, on the Fourth of July, 1794
(Charleston SC: W.P. Young, 1794), 18.
l2Ibid„ 7.
"Pringle, An Oration. Delivered in St. Philip’s, 1800. 30.

351
public favor and to public appointments-all enjoy equal rights and protection under the
laws.”14
Nevertheless, by 1800 Charleston no longer commanded the preeminent political
stature it once had in state and regional affairs. Many Charlestonians still could not
understand or make sense of the great upheaval that had so altered their society. By the
turn of the nineteenth century Columbia had been South Carolina’s political capital for a
decade, and Baltimore had surpassed Charleston as the largest Southern city. Charles
Cotesworth Pinckney, for one, found it unfathomable that the Charleston gentility could
no longer dominate South Carolina as it once had. He had welcomed the break with the
Crown but had resisted every concession that Charleston aristocrats had been forced to
make—the disestablishment of religion, greater representation to political outsiders,
removal of the capital, and any and all constitutional reforms that increased backcountry
influence while weakening Charleston’s power. Republican victories in South Carolina
in both the 1796 and 1800 presidential elections reflected growing backcountry political
strength, as did the 1803 alteration of the state’s election districts. Pinckney and the
remaining Charleston veterans of the Revolution languished in political exile, bitterly
brooding and pondering over how a movement for political redress begun in the 1760s
could have gone so far awry.15 In 1797, when America appeared on the verge of armed
conflict with France, lowcountry Federalists feared both invading French armies and
l4Henry William DeSaussure, An Oration Prepared to be Delivered in St. Philip’s
Church Before the Inhabitants of Charleston on the Fourth of July 1798 (Charleston SC:
W.P. Young, 1798), 27.
15Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. 237-239.

352
rebellious Carolina slaves. Edward Rutledge and his lowcountry colleagues, with the
horrors of invasion and occupation still fresh in their minds, demanded that the legislature
increase defense expenditures to make Charleston’s harbor more secure. Backcountry
Republicans refused, arguing that frightened Charlestonians had overreacted and
exaggerated the danger. Rutledge fumed that “we are in fact a much altered people, and
are no more like what we were some twenty years ago than the Italians are like the
Romans.”'6 Much indeed had changed; thirty years earlier backcountry Regulators had
taken the law into their own hands after the lowcountry resisted their demands for courts
of justice. Now the backcountry could reply in kind; lowcountry requests for backcountry
support went unheeded. Charleston, besides feeling besieged and defensive about
slavery, could no longer rule unchallenged in the legislature. This proved to be a bitter
pill to swallow indeed, as Rutledge’s lament testifies. Even once-popular leaders like
Christopher Gadsden struggled to comprehend why “our oldstanders and independent
men of well-tried patriotism, sound understanding, and good property have now in
general very little influence in our public matters.” The world seemed to Gadsden a
“mere bedlam,” infested with “many thousands of mad lunatics.”17 Other Charlestonians
and South Carolinians of lower ranks disagreed, of course. Over the preceding thirty-five
l6Rose, Prologue to Democracy. 164.
'’Christopher Gadsden to John Adams, March 11, 1801, in Richard Walsh, ed.,
The Writings of Christopher Gadsden. 1746-1805 (Columbia SC: University of South
Carolina Press, 1966), 306. Adams replied that “many of our ‘old standbys’ are infected
with Jacobinism.. .. surely no part of our ancient political creed.” John Adams to
Christopher Gadsden, April 16, 1801, in Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John
Adams. 10 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1854), 9:584-585.

353
years they had fought their way successfully out of the dark shadow of elite domination
into the sunlight of political equality, and they remained optimistic about the political and
economic future of the world the Revolution had created. Gadsden, Rutledge, and
Pinckney reflected the fears of elite leaders in other states, grown old and uneasy over
what they considered to be the democratic excesses of the American Revolution. As
Gordon S. Wood has noted, an increasingly democratic society was not what they had
expected or wanted. Their anxiety reflected not the movement’s failure, but the fact that
it had succeeded all too well.18
Charleston remained economically powerful, in part due to a commitment to
transportation and agricultural improvements and the expansive growth of cotton
production in the interior. But as cotton production spread further westward, farmers in
Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi did not send their crop to Charleston. The dreamed-
of internal improvements that would link Charleston with the transmontane hinterlands
and secure its economic future never materialized. During the 1820s the port was in full
decline, and by 1827 the Charleston Chamber of Commerce despaired that the long
period of economic prosperity had ended. The city no longer attracted men of talents and
industry, land values had fallen dramatically, houses lay empty, “and the grass grows
uninterrupted in some of her chief business streets.” Though a gloomy portrait, “it is
nevertheless true.”'9 Over the course of the previous sixty years Charleston had evolved
18Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 365-369.
’’Quoted in Alfred Glaze Smith, Economic Readjustment in an Old Cotton State:
South Carolina. 1820-1860 (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1958), 9-

354
from a bustling, sprawling colonial port to a near-ghost town, and the fervent optimism of
the post-war decades of the 1780s and 1790s increasingly gave way to the paranoia and
suspicion of the nineteenth century. Indeed the origins of that transition took deep root in
the eighteenth century. Like the lowcountry, the remainder of South Carolina-and then
the South—became more committed to slavery after the Revolution, primarily through the
expansion of short-staple cotton cultivation. Gradually Charleston’s reaction to the anti¬
slavery threats in the 1790s became the Southern reaction during the tumultuous years of
the 1830s-1850s. In this sense, the South’s largest colonial city~as Gary B. Nash has
argued for Northern urban centers—predicted the future. The American Revolution
produced a dual legacy in the South: a strongly optimistic faith in political and economic
liberalism, coupled with a growing anxiety that the movement had spawned dangerous
ideas about the universal equality of man that threatened the very fabric of Southern
economic and social life.
As David Ramsay surveyed the crowd gathered in St. Michael’s Church to
celebrate the Fourth of July, 1794, he could not help but lament the passing of so many of
his contemporaries. In praising the deeds of his colleagues from the Revolutionary era,
Ramsay challenged younger Charlestonians “nearly grown up in their places” to “make
unceasing advances in everything that can improve, refine, or embellish society.” The
legacy of the American Revolution now rested upon a new generation, and he urged them
“to finish what their fathers have begun.”20 It would prove to be a heavy burden indeed.
10.
“Ramsay, An Oration Delivered in St. Michael’s Church. 1794. 18, 22.

355
For while the American Revolution expanded political equality and economic
opportunity, it also fastened the chains of slavery even tighter upon Southern slaves and
launched future generations of Charlestonians-indeed all Southemers-upon a dilemma
that they never quite resolved.

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