Fort Moultrie

Just as we have always been told that America was founded by Pilgrims in search of religious freedom, we have also been told that Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence was based on British philosopher John Locke’s theories of “natural rights” and “social contract”. Jefferson was influenced by Enlightenment ideas and ideals but the indictments against the king listed in the Declaration of Independence were based on actual events— American Whig ideology did not emphasize “natural law” as rights were always tied to constitutional rights grounded in legislation.[1] More than a decade would pass between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights but the proponents of the latter had not forgotten the conflicts between the people and the government and reacted accordingly. Here in South Carolina those conflicts had begun in 1720 when the Proprietary government was replaced and we became a royal colony and because they were particularly acrimonious and occurred at regular intervals, this state is a good example of America’s first secession movement.

South Carolina was founded in 1670 from a land grant made by King Charles II to eight men who had played a role in restoring him to the throne after Cromwell’s government failed. The names of these eight Lords Proprietors are seen all over the Lowcountry in counties, towns and rivers[2], but the Proprietors were poor administrators, failing to fulfill their initial colonization promises, and using their authority to repeal or abrogate laws made by the Commons House of Assembly. Worst of all perhaps was their confiscation of land that settlers had cleared, planted, and protected for themselves so by 1719, South Carolina had its own little revolution against their tyrants and appealed to the Crown. The conversion to a royal colony was to be mutually beneficial—colonists would have the protection of Great Britain’s military might and in return, she would benefit from South Carolina’s natural resources.

Protection was of paramount importance in the early history of South Carolina. We were surrounded by enemies—Spanish to the south, French to the west, Indians on all sides who were often supplied with guns and ammunition by the French, pirates to the east, and Negroes from within. Indians were a constant problem—war with the Yamassee tribe took place just as the colonists were revolting against the Proprietors. One local historian said, “Soon after we rid ourselves of the Yamassees, we did the same by the Lords Proprietors, who by then had become only less objectionable than the Indians.”[3] But Colonel William Rhett of the South Carolina Militia prophetically noted, “If this revolt is not cropt in the bud, they (the colonists) will set up for themselves against His Majesty.”[4] Significantly, during the lag between when the Proprietors were “dismissed” and the first royal governor’s arrival, the colonial Assembly appointed a governor and began legislating for themselves with laws pertaining to usury and money bills to help defray the costs of the Yamassee War as well as for continued defense of the colony.

So by 1720, Carolina had been split into North and South and the king had taken over administration of colonial affairs. In contrast to the three arms of government in Great Britain (King, House of Lords, House of Commons), we had a royal governor, his Council, and the Commons House of Assembly (hereafter known as the Assembly). But there is an important difference—while the House of Lords is the upper house of the legislature, the colonial councilmen were the governor’s advisors. Whether or not they were a legislative body as in England, was a bone of contention for the entire history of South Carolina as a royal colony and American Whigs wondered if the two systems could even be equated although that is precisely the premise upon which they would base their future arguments. Furthermore, they had to grapple with the fact that the King had been the mediator between them and the Lords Proprietors but now who would mediate between the colonists and the King? The British Constitution restrained Parliamentary power by enforcing the rule of law—to the colonists, this meant freedom from arbitrary (i.e., unchecked) power. The rule of law was the support for restraint on governmental power, not freedom from governmental restraints as we now think, and that restraint was the difference between liberty and slavery. American liberty—the right to be free of arbitrary power—could not be secured under Parliamentary supremacy but British liberty could not be secured without it since it provided a check on royal authority.[5] These conflicting principles would prove challenging to the men who were to become Patriots when revolution broke out.

South Carolina was a royal colony for the fifty-five years between 1720 and 1775 and while the thought that Great Britain would now be responsible for the colony’s defense might have brought some peace of mind, the fact is that the South Carolina Militia bore that burden largely themselves for most of that period. They were protecting their lives and their property while Great Britain’s primary concern was protecting her trade in rice, indigo, naval stores, and animal skins. When you blow away the chaff, war is usually about money. The economy and the right to control it was at the heart of the revolutionary movement as well as the attempts to prevent it. But South Carolina’s early history is not about political or even economic control and the conflict arising therefrom, but about fighting Indians, pirates, and the Spanish. Early royal governors were not overwhelmingly concerned with exerting their control over colonial leaders when all had to work together to fight off common enemies. When the settlers first landed, they were enticed by the “friendly” Kiowahs but friendship had no role in the relationship, at least not on the part of the Indians. The Kiowah were looking for armed allies in their conflict with the cannibalistic Westos. But war with most of the local Indian tribes dominated the colony’s early history—Yamassee, Tuscarora, Choctaws (who had allied with the French), Cherokee, Catawba, Chickasaw, and Creek. The construction of forts on the frontier was imperative to keep the Indians at bay but disputes cropped up immediately among Europeans—over the land with the Spanish who controlled most of the area that is now Georgia[6], over who would man the forts, and over who would pay for them. Trade with the Indians in animal skins was an important part of the economy but traders were notoriously shady characters and Indian agents wanted to be paid for their services. Indians were always demanding presents and especially favored liquor and guns, an instant recipe for disaster. Beads and blankets might sound safe enough but during the French & Indian War, the British gave Indians blankets from the smallpox hospital. Someone was always getting hurt when Europeans and Indians mixed—sometimes the cause was obvious, a bullet or a tomahawk for example, but Indians who visited European settlements returned to villages which soon succumbed to epidemics. Broken treaties, divided loyalties, murdered hostages, stolen trade goods, burned villages, frontier settlers massacred—these dominate the story of South Carolina as a royal colony.

And then there were the pirates. It was to Great Britain’s advantage to keep the trade routes free of pirates but South Carolina was the wealthiest British colony in the 18th century and where there is loot, there are pirates. They paid a price for frequenting our coast though. In 1718, Edward Teach (a.k.a. “Blackbeard”) saw his entire crew succumb to malaria so he held the city of Charles Town hostage in exchange for medicine. Stede Bonnet, the “Gentleman Pirate” was in league with Blackbeard and caused the colony much misery but it was not a British sailor that finally apprehended him, it was Colonel William Rhett. He captured Bonnet who was imprisoned in the dungeon at the Exchange Building, hanged at White Point Gardens and buried at the low water mark in the harbor, an inauspicious end for a man who had been a wealthy Barbadian planter before his pirate adventures. One might have thought that a rash of major hurricanes in the early 18th century would have kept the pirates at bay—1700, 1713, 1728. There was a yellow fever epidemic in 1728 and a major fire in 1740 that destroyed more than 300 structures and a great deal of stores. There were armed hostilities between England and Spain over trade issues but also because Carolina slaves sought refuge in St. Augustine. Then, in 1739 a group of slaves marched south towards Florida from the Stono River, killing their white masters and families and stealing arms and ammunition along the way but it was the stolen rum that lead to their inebriation and capture and eventual execution. More than twenty whites and forty Negroes were killed in what would become known as The Stono Rebellion.

Amidst these crises, the colonists, good British subjects that they were, wondered where their royal protectors were. Some Englishmen who came to Carolina’s sunny shores came to fill high offices that should have gone to planters’ sons who had been educated in the finest schools in the Mother Country. Especially coveted was the appointment of the colony’s Chief Justice. The governor tried to appoint Charles Pinckney to the post but the Crown sent another man, completely ignoring the governor and Pinckney. The Assembly had been accustomed to appointing colonial commissioners who were responsible for building and maintaining roads and ferries, founding schools and churches, organizing the watch, caring for the poor, and building fortifications.[7] Naturally they thought these positions should go to men who lived in America. Other Englishmen came here as land speculators in search of personal financial gain. The Assembly reacted with legislation requiring occupancy and cultivation for buyers of large tracts but the appointment of “foreigners” to high offices did not stop.

The Lowcountry was divided into parishes which served as both ecclesiastical and civil seats of administration, giving rise to early election law disputes that would continue to crop up in ensuing years. There was also an English law regarding treason that required trials for traitors to be held in London. Naturally, the Assembly objected to this. After all, they had their own treason laws which specifically stated that traitors should be judged in their own country and by their peers.

But the most important of these early crises and disputes concerned money bills. The Assembly had been legislating taxes for revenue, especially for the defense of the colony, even before the first royal governor arrived in South Carolina and after all, it was in the tradition of the British House of Commons to introduce, alter, and amend any and all money bills. Keep in mind the checks and balances of the three branches of government—in England the House of Lords is a legislative body but in America, is the Council legislative or advisory? This dispute would foment until the King sent his royal governors an “additional instruction” regarding money bills in an attempt to keep financial matters within the control of the Crown. Still, South Carolina’s ruling elite would seem to have numerous reasons for remaining on good terms with the imperial authorities, after all, their livelihood depended upon trade with the Mother Country, and yet they came into conflict with them on almost every issue but especially regarding control of finances and the selection of representatives.

Recognizing the importance of colonial trade, the King had established the Lords Commissioners of Trade & Plantations in 1696. This Board of Trade was to put an end to widespread smuggling due to laxity in enforcement of the old Navigation Acts which forbade trade in foreign vessels, amongst other tight restrictions. For example, Americans grew their own cotton, flax, and wool but were forbidden the use or even possession of a loom. We could not use our waterfalls, erect machinery of any kind, or work with iron. And of course, trade with other countries was forbidden but even trade with other colonies was illegal.[8] Still, South Carolina had a positive balance of trade—we exported far more than we imported and that margin of economic advantage helped to pull us toward independence. We were particularly resentful of the restriction on trading with other countries—the English do not eat much rice. Our market was in Portugal and Spain and we did not want or need a middle man.

Soon the board used its power and influence to govern the colonies on issues far beyond trade. For example, despite the efforts of the Assembly to provide for a system of justice in the backcountry as those areas were settled, courts were not approved by the Board of Trade since its clerk in Charles Town would be deprived of his fees, an action that was certainly not in the best interests of the colony and had nothing to do with trade.[9] The powers and influence of each arm of government were constantly in flux—the Assembly pushed to increase its legislative role in all aspects of colonial administration, the Council fought to assert its legislative role as an upper house, and the governor excluded himself from the Council to strengthen his position as the colony’s executive.[10]

Many historians date the troubles between the colonies and the Mother Country to 1748 when the Earl of Halifax became president of the Board of Trade and resurrected the all-but-defunct agency[11]. But in South Carolina we have seen the on-going disputes over money bills, especially for defense, and the appointment of commissioners taking place since the overthrow of the Proprietors, nearly thirty years earlier. The dispute over the appointment of the colonial agent in London went on for years and the approval of the colony’s annual budget (which included the governor’s salary) was always a source of friction. But in the early 1750’s, for the first time, the Council sided with the Assembly against the governor on what would be known as the St. Phillip’s Bill. As the population increased, the need for another parish in Charles Town became pressing but that was not going to be as easy as one might expect. There was of course the issue of the funds to build a new church but parishes were also responsible for civil administration and church wardens also served as election officials. Moreover, church buildings could and were used as courthouses. The governor vetoed the bill since it would draw directly on the Public Treasury and the Assembly would be solely responsible for funding. He also vetoed a bill to incorporate the Charles Town Library Society which remains to this day, a subscription library—one of only a handful in the country, and whose collection of over 7,000 books was burned by Loyalists in 1778. Other measures vetoed included a bill to renew laws on Indian trade, the issuance of paper money, repair of coastal fortifications damaged by hurricanes, and even a bill to encourage the manufacture of potash. He believed they all somehow infringed on his royal prerogative which, up to this time, had never before been used to the detriment of the colony.[12]

Trouble with the Indians once again reared its ugly head in the 1750’s, specifically with the Cherokees. And not just in South Carolina. The French in America were allying with Indians against their age-old enemy the British so the South Carolina Assembly appropriated money for presents for the Indians here to go to Virginia to help fight the French and their allies. The Indians took the presents, stole food and horses from settlers along the way, and when trapped, claimed to be Shawnee and “fell to plundering, killing, & scalping”.[13] No one, not the French, the British, or the Americans had yet learned that an Indian’s only ally is his own tribe. Although the governor managed to end the war with the Cherokee in South Carolina, the terms of the treaty were harsh and only resulted in more trouble. The Cherokee War also produced a violent conflict between Imperial and Colonial officers. Colonel James Grant, commander of the British forces in South Carolina and Colonel Thomas Middleton, commander of the South Carolina Militia, fought a duel over rank. Grant was given overall command although Middleton outranked him. Both men survived the confrontation but Grant said that he “spared Middleton’s life” just before he fled the colony.[14]

By the late 1750’s, Great Britain had sent several thousand troops to Charles Town for defense against the Indians and the French and it was the quartering and sustenance of these troops that was at the root of the next major dispute. Money once again is the problem. Although officers were housed in private homes, with or without the pleasure of their hosts, barracks had to be constructed and supplied for enlisted men and subaltern (junior) officers. Now the dispute involves the British military which the Assembly believed should be paid and supported by the Crown. After all, we were supporting our own militia and if protection of the colony was to protect trade, rather than colonists, then the Crown should bear the expense for a venture that benefitted the entire British Empire. The colonial leaders in this particular dispute would get training that they would pass down to their sons to carry on the fight for the next several decades. Those leaders included men like Thomas Middleton, Christopher Gadsden, William Henry Drayton, Robert Pringle, Charles Pinckney, and Henry Laurens. Their descendants would still be carrying those lessons on into the 1860’s.

We have seen the conflict between various factions within the colony, but now despite their differences, all must once again join forces to fight a common enemy. The Seven Years War between England and France began in America in 1754 and was known here as the French & Indian War. Both the French and the Spanish had established settlements in the 16th century in what is now South Carolina and the French settled in Acadia, the area encompassing the Canadian Maritime Provinces east of Quebec, three years before the British landed in Jamestown, Virginia. The French were then further staking their claim to the territory to the west of the British settlements and had the help of their Indian allies who seemed to prefer them to the British. South Carolinians also feared that the French might attempt to incite a slave uprising as they swept west and south along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The history of the French & Indian War can fill volumes but the majority of the fighting took place in the north as the combatants fought to construct, man, and hold forts along waterways, particularly the Hudson River. The impact of the war and not the actual fighting, is the significant part of the story in terms of conflict between the Mother Country and her colonies. First, the quartering of British troops here, already discussed, and second, the eventual cost of the war and who would bear those expenses. The fact that colonial militiamen fought alongside British soldiers who were extremely critical of them during the war, only served to intensify friction.

Just before the war ended, South Carolina faced another major political dispute and as had happened so many times in past decades, a seemingly minor disagreement grew into a major constitutional crisis. The problem was not new and dealt with election laws but now in 1762, it involved a man that royal officials were especially wary of. Many might remember Christopher Gadsden as the designer of the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. He was a merchant and a planter, a colonel in the militia, a frequent figure at Charles Town’s Liberty Tree, the leader of the Sons of Liberty who were not members of the upper classes and he was accurately labeled a “radical, dogmatic, irascible agitator” so when he was elected to the Assembly, the royal governor quickly took issue with the colony’s election laws.[15] Remember that church wardens also served as election officials in their parishes, a system that had been running smoothly for decades but now the governor called the whole system into question. And technically, he was right—the wardens had been sworn to their duties upon taking their offices but were not then also sworn in as election officials. In response to Gadsden’s election, the governor refused to swear him in and promptly dissolved the Assembly. New elections were held but almost all of the same men were reelected, including all the active leaders in the Assembly, and including Gadsden. The Assembly claimed that they alone had the right to determine how their own representatives should be elected and even if all election laws were repealed, the people still had the right to be represented by men of their own choosing.[16] The governor finally backed down, swore in the “new” representatives, and sailed to England with “a lady who was not his wife”, supposedly to plead his case.[17] Once again, royal representatives worked against the good of both the colony and the Crown.

But now the Crown is about to cross the Rubicon in its dealings with the contumacious colonists and for the first time, the British Parliament will join the fray. Up to this point, Parliament’s only role was in connection with the Navigation Acts, dating back more than 100 years, for regulation of trade between Great Britain and her colonies in America and the West Indies. But now, Britain’s debt from the Seven Year’s War with France exceeded 130 million pounds sterling. Just the interest alone would necessitate higher taxes than the English people had ever borne and there was still all that new territory to protect.[18] Within a year of the treaty that ended the war, Parliament set about discussing legislation to impose direct taxes on the colonies in an effort to increase revenue. Several trade-related measures were enacted and they quickly followed those up with the Stamp Act to take effect in 1765 by which time stamp distributors could be appointed and stamps that would be required for everything from legal documents to newspapers, could be printed. American colonists quickly took exception to this measure and both sides had good arguments in this dispute. The Crown claimed that it made perfect sense for the colonists to be taxed for the war debt—it was fought primarily for their benefit but the colonists retorted that they had contributed to the war effort in terms of money, materiel, and men and they had already taxed themselves for war debt. They had housed British soldiers, fought and died alongside British soldiers, and continued to fight Indians on the frontier at the cost of their own money and lives. Furthermore, the war had been fought in Europe as well and trade benefitted every Englishman. South Carolinians were especially burdened—it was taxing enough to live here—the heat, the mosquitos and the diseases they carried, Indians, slaves, pirates, and hurricanes, but the new taxes applied not only to land but to slaves as well, a significant part of property holdings here. The controversy erupted into bitter language and personal attacks in which accusations of “persons of indifferent character with a defect in the intellect” were involved. This type of language was not unprecedented—a 1733 act of the Assembly specified “evil-disposed, ill-minded, insolent offenders”.[19] But the outcry from all the colonies was so great that Parliament was forced to back down and repeal the Stamp Act though other legislation intended to assert their right to tax was also enacted. America’s champion in Parliament was William Pitt who said that only subjects who enjoyed actual representation, not merely virtual representation, could be taxed. When the South Carolina Assembly heard of the repeal, it voted 1,000 pounds Sterling for a statue of Pitt that was raised at the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets in 1770.[20]

Intertwined in all this are complaints and agitation from South Carolina’s backcountry settlers due to the lack of courts there but the problem ran much deeper than just the inconvenience of having to travel two hundred miles to the nearest courthouse or not being tried by one’s peers. Crime was running rampant in the absence of any official law enforcement. Eventually a Provost Marshall was appointed by the Board of Trade but he was another court favorite—an “unqualified, worthless sycophant” who engaged his own “volunteers” for twenty pounds a month and a bottle of rum per day and who were encouraged to seize horses and provisions from settlers.[21] The situation gave rise to the Regulator movement whereby residents took matters into their own hands. Eventually the Assembly initiated changes in the colony’s judicial system to address the problem but there was a religious component to the whole situation that is often overlooked. Outside officials were Anglicans and backcountry settlers were largely Scots-Irish Presbyterians so they were bound to be dissatisfied with outsiders be they from England or Charles Town.

Surprised by the colonists’ reaction to the Stamp Act but nevertheless undaunted in their quest to make the colonists pay, Parliament then passed the Townshend Duties on all manner of goods, including tea. These duties were intended to raise revenue that in part, would be used to pay local officials that had previously been paid by colonial Assemblies and thus alter the governance of the colonies. Once again the colonists rebelled but Parliament could not then repeal the Townshend Duties without giving up its supremacy so it kept the tax on tea and the conflict continued to brew for several years. In the meantime, the feud between the governor and the Assembly continued. The colony went through eight royal governors in the fifty-five years of royal rule with Lt. Gov. William Bull having to fill in five times between those governors. Born in South Carolina, he had served in the Assembly and on the Council. As historian Edward McCrady said, “Poor Governor Bull, he had a hard time of it between his friends and relations, his country and his King.” As acting governor for many years, he was the man who had to confront the issues of the period—trivial and major, short-term and long-standing. As we have seen, one of those long-standing conflicts between the Assembly and the governor and his Council was the enactment and approval of money bills. The Assembly jealously guarded the right to draft those bills without approval or amendment by the Council, and the governor was supposed to keep the best interests of the colony in mind as he decided whether or not to sign them. Now he received an “additional instruction” from the Crown by which he was forbidden to assent to any money bill not related to the actual expenses of the colony. The Assembly reiterated their assertion that they alone had the right to “control and dispose of the people’s money” as they saw fit.[22] Audaciously they tried to use that money in support of John Wilkes, another English champion for the liberties of Americans. Their attempted contribution to the Wilkes Fund incensed the governor who resorted to his favorite ploy—he prorogued the Assembly which necessitated new elections, or he demanded they meet in a distant location, Beaufort, for example. The Assembly charged the governor with abuse of royal power and violations of election laws and found devices to counter his actions—they would meet several hours early or meet only to adjourn themselves. Even trivial matters became major battles. When the Assembly passed an order to the Public Treasurer for funds for a committee on silk manufacture, the Treasurer refused to comply because the governor and Council had not assented so they jailed him.   The governor dissolved the Assembly, new elections were held and the same men put back into office. Then the Council had the publisher of the South Carolina Gazette arrested and jailed for printing the Assembly’s protests.[23]

By 1770, these issues were still steaming and most colonies were practicing non-importation as a means of flexing their political and economic muscle. South Carolina also participated in non-importation even though it included slaves, but the item of greatest importance to most colonists was tea. When a shipment of tea arrived in Boston Harbor, everyone knows what happened there but when tea arrived in Charles Town Harbor, it was seized and stored in the vaults of the Exchange Building, later to be sold off for the purchase of arms and ammunition in the fight for independence. In response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament closed the town’s port so South Carolina sent provisions to tide them over.[24] A committee then voted to send five delegates to a General Congress (First Continental Congress) and to provide for their expenses but once again, the governor prorogued them.

The culmination of all these incidences is of course, the indictments against the Crown in the Declaration of Independence. During this time the colonies changed from merely a source of raw materials to a source of power—political, strategic, and economic—and no colony more so than South Carolina. Despite fires, hurricanes, epidemics, wars, and insurrection, it was the richest and most prosperous of all the American colonies before the Revolution. And although the first military engagements of the war took place at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, more battles of the war were fought in South Carolina than any other colony.

The First Continental Congress produced a statement of grievances but not much else. The culture of the Northern colonies differed from that of the Southern colonies as much as British subjects in England differed from British subjects in America and it was difficult for men who had probably never met one another before the First Continental Congress in the fall of 1774, to agree on anything more than their common complaints. They did agree that Englishmen did not share in the American communities’ local knowledge, common interests, and shared burdens, and therefore, the virtual representation that Parliament claimed that Americans enjoyed, was simply not good enough.[25] The armed conflicts at Lexington and Concord had caused colonists to look upon British soldiers with fear and apprehension rather than a source of protection and spurred other colonial militias to seize public military stores and yet many delegates still felt that this was a political struggle that would take place in England. Most of them “abhorred the very idea of separation”.[26] But by the summer of 1776, the Second Continental Congress was ready to entertain the idea of independence. Their declaration was not simply a statement of the “self-evident truth of the equality of men” or “inalienable rights”, or “happiness”. Thomas Jefferson did not define “rights” or “equality”—under God, under the law, of condition, of ability, of wealth? It did specify a “long train of abuses and usurpations” and in South Carolina that train had run the entire course of royal governance from the time that the Crown supplanted the Proprietors. The enumerated abuses by the Crown included:

  • Refusal to assent to laws.
  • Called legislatures at unusual, uncomfortable, and distant locations.
  • Dissolved assemblies for opposing tyranny.
  • Kept standing armies without consent of the legislature.
  • Rendered the military independent and superior to civil power.
  • Combined with others to subject the colonies to laws against their constitutions.
  • Quartered large bodies of troops among us and protected them from persecution, even for murder.
  • Cut off trade with other countries.
  • Imposed taxes without consent.
  • Deprived us of trial by jury.
  • Suspended legislatures.
  • Abdicated the government here and waged war on us.
  • Incited domestic insurrections and encouraged the Indians to warfare.
  • Ignored our petitions.
  • Transported large armies of mercenaries to perpetrate death, desolation and tyranny with cruelty and perfidy unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.


It was the colonists’ fear of arbitrary, unchecked power that pushed them to this position but they still believed they were adhering to English constitutional principles. It was not just a struggle between liberty and tyranny but a matter of restraining power by enforcing the rule of law, a principle that went back to early Anglo-Saxon customs and thus predated even the Magna Carta. As legal historian John Phillip Reid said, “Constitutionalists of the day were not inclined to seek authority for doctrine in universal deductions or moral arguments. They sought constitutional principle in positive, practical experience…” [27] It is the rule of law by which liberty is defended. Colonists rested their argument on the British constitution and its customary, prescriptive rights.   At the same time, Parliament’s supremacy was the only check on the abuse of royal power so there was no constitutional solution—independence was the logical recourse.[28]

Most people tend to think of the Stamp Act as the beginning of the road to independence but in South Carolina, conflict between the colonists and the Crown began long before the Stamp Act. Due to the sheer volume of trade, South Carolina should have produced the most fervent Loyalists but in fact, produced the most fervent Patriots. One example of many is 75 year old Gabriel Manigault who together with his 15 year old grandson took up arms against the British in Charles Town in 1780.[29] His descendants and the grandsons of other Revolutionary War Patriots became the most fervent rebels in the 1860’s when they, like their ancestors before them, pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the cause of independence.



[1] John Phillip Reid, The Constitutional History of the American Revolution (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), 14. The Declaration of Independence was born of a resolution introduced to the Second Continental Congress by Richard Henry Lee which proposed independence for the colonies. Christopher Gadsden first advocated independence for South Carolina in 1766.

[2] The two rivers that form the Charleston peninsula are named for Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper. Interestingly, his personal secretary was none other than John Locke himself.

[3] Samuel Gaillard Stoney, This is Charleston (Charleston: Carolina Art Association, 1944), 19.

[4] Edward McCrady, The History of South Carolina Under the Royal Government: 1719-1776, vol. II, (London: McMillan & Co., 1901) 3.

[5] Reid, p. 21-23.

[6] Especially when South Carolinians built a fort on the Altamaha River in the 1720’s, the mouth of which empties into the Atlantic approximately at the mid-point of Georgia’s coastline.

[7] Jonathan Mercantini, “Colony In Conflict: South Carolina, 1748-1766” (Ph.D. diss, Emory Univeersity, 2000), 130.

[8] McCrady, p. 546.

[9] McCrady, p. 95.

[10] McCrady, p. 181-82.

[11] Mercantini, p. 34.

[12] Mercantini, p. 53-65. When money for defense became imperative, one governor paid for two war ships out of his own pocket rather than allow the Assembly to exert its financial power.

[13] Mercantini, p. 244.

[14] Mercantini, p. 278.

[15] McCrady, p. 373-74.

[16] McCrady, p. 357-58, and Mercantini, p. 295.

[17] McCrady, p. 365.

[18] Mercantini, p. 319.

[19] McCrady, p. 160.

[20] In one of the more ironic events of history, Pitt’s right arm, which was holding the Magna Carta, was taken off by a British shell in 1780. The statue was declared an obstruction to traffic in 1794 and lost its head when it was being moved. Charlestonians remembered that Pitt had opposed independence so they relegated the statue to the basement of a public building until it was re-erected at the Orphan House in 1808 and then moved to Washington Park in 1881. Weather took its toll—Pitt was once again decapitated when a tree branch fell on him so it was moved to the Charleston Museum in 1985 until finally finding a home in the lobby of the new Judicial Center in 2002.

[21] McCrady, p. 637.

[22] McCrady, p. 689.

[23] McCrady, p. 715.

[24] South Carolina sent more than 1,000 barrels of rice to Boston. Ninety years later when the ports of the Confederacy were blockaded, provisions were not even sent to Northerners in Confederate prisons and hospitals.

[25] Reid, p. 46.

[26] McCrady, p. 740.

[27] Reid, p. 33.

[28] Reid, p. 99-100.

[29] McCrady, p. 404.

Becky Calcutt

Mrs. Becky Calcutt is an independent historian from Charleston, South Carolina.

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