CHAPTER III. - SOUTHERN COLONIES.
3. SOUTH CAROLINA.
The Revolution in South Carolina was initiated by a minority. Its sponsors were the mechanics and artisans, the lesser tradesmen and the ambitious voting lawyers of the coast. The more influential merchants opposed a movement that threatened to overthrow the prosperity they enjoyed, in spite of the Navigation Acts. South Carolina was well governed and had no grievance against the Crown. The interior, with its large population of Germans, Welsh, Irish, and Scotch‑Irish, also held aloof. Commercial restrictions did not interest them and they drank little tea. They held their land grants from the Crown and did not care to jeopardize them at the bidding of Charleston agitators. Moreover, the poorer interior had few dealings or little sympathy with the coast. The representation of the former had been inadequate in the General Assembly, their earnest petitions for law courts for their protection had not been granted, and they had grown accustomed to managing their own affairs with little regard for the low country.' Their sympathy with the revolutionary movement was for some time of the slightest. It was fortunate for the radicals that the royal Governor was too timid to take advantage of his opportunities and that no British army was sent to the Province in the early part of the struggle or they must speedily have fallen. As it was their pathway was precarious and their success a matter of wonder.
The first Provincial Congress called by a number of Charleston gentlemen to consider the Boston Port Bill met July 6, 1774. It appointed a General Committee of ninety-nine persons to represent them until the next meeting, to carry out their resolutions and to correspond with other colonies. The Congress had been controlled by the inhabitants of the city and was in no way representative of the Colony. The Committee, therefore, to remedy this obvious sectionalism, provided on its own responsibility for representation from the upper districts,' in the following meetings. This representation was for a time, however, more nominal than real. The writs were sent to influential Whig gentlemen who saw that men of proper political complexion were returned, sometimes prominent leaders of the coast being elected by the interior. Moderates and radicals struggled for control of the conventions, and votes were bitterly debated. Delegates were sent to the Continental Congress and a provisional government framed for the Province.
The news of the battle of Lexington, announcing that armed resistance was a fact, caused the General Committee to summon the Provincial Congress to meet at Charleston on June 1, 1775, to consult upon the steps proper to be taken. The Congress adopted vigorous measures. An association was formed by which each man pledged himself to defend the liberty and safety of the Province with his life and fortune, whenever called upon. Those who refused to sign and accept this pledge were to be answerable before the General Committee.' Fifteen hundred infantry and four hundred and fifty horse rangers were voted, while to defray the expenses of the military establishment a million pounds of paper were to be issued to rest on no greater security than the enthusiasm and confidence of the people. On June 14 a Council of Safety of thirteen members was appointed in which was vested supreme power over the militia and all military affairs. It was to grant commissions, suspend officers, order court‑martials and do everything necessary to regulate and maintain the army. It was granted authority to draw on the treasury for all purposes of public service, to stamp and issue the paper money and liquidate and pay all public accounts against the Colony. It was in general to act as the executive of the new government. The Congress arranged for the election of its successor and adjourned on August 6.
The position of the Council was difficult. The Provincial Congress had adopted a policy of armed resistance: it remained for the Council to make the vote more than an expression of opinion. The army was to be enlisted and embodied, the people satisfied as to the expediency of the undertaking and the different sections of the Province brought into co‑operation. This under more favorable circumstances would have been no easy matter, but in the divided state of public opinion was peculiarly hazardous. It was uncertain whether the orders of the new government would be respected or scorned. Many no doubt shared the opinion of a certain Charles Webb, that these men were a set of "Mechanical, Ignorant Rascals, and that they consisted of Butchers, Tailors and Cobblers."' Moreover, the Council itself was far from a unit. The royal Governor newly arrived, was a guest of one of the members. Conservatives and radicals were represented in such nearly equal numbers that it was unable to put forward a settled policy, but presented a vacillating attitude, calculated to bring the new government into disrepute. The more moderate looked with dislike on any measure that threatened to bring open war. They considered themselves a forlorn hope and did business with the cheerful feeling that a halter was tightening around their necks! Resistance being decided upon it was no time to dwell on consequences, and those who drew back from the struggle impeded and weakened the whole Council.
But this was not the only difficulty. The Indians were an important factor and their friendship must be gained and kept, if possible, in spite of the efforts of Governor Campbell and his agents to attach them to the British. Moreover, the fortifications of the Colony were in the hands of the enemy, and ammunition and other war stores were lacking to the insurgents.
Owing to the pressure of business the Council began its meetings as early as June 16, and at once commissioned the officers which Congress had appointed for the troops.' It was proposed at first to issue the commissions in regular form tinder seal, but to the majority of the Council this savored too much of independence and certificates of appointment were substituted.' Orders were given for a part of the troops to be enlisted and a contract made to supply them with provisions! A supply of powder was imperative. The Secret Committee had already taken the first step to this end and showed the way. This Committee had been appointed the preceding January and had been directed to "procure and distribute such articles as the present insecure state of the interior parts of this Colony renders necessary, for the better defense and security of the good people of those parts, and other necessary purposes." Behind this vague wording was hidden a purpose well understood by the members, the seizure, namely, of the public military stores, an object that the Committee undertook and accomplished successfully without loss of time." The same Committee now entered into another venture, without the knowledge or authority of the Council of Safety, to procure a larger supply. Two captains with forty men were dispatched to Georgia to lie in wait for an English ship laden with powder, known to, be bound for that Province. The two captains cooperated with the leaders in Georgia, equipped a schooner, captured the English vessel and took seven thousand pounds of powder." This adventure being at length disclosed to the Council of Safety, it was much pleased, and a portion of the powder was forwarded toaid the insurgents at the north."
The Council then adopted a similar policy, though not without opposition from the more timid members. A sloop was fitted out and Captain Lempreire pat in command. He was ordered to sail to the island of New Providence and seize all the powder that he might find there." Before he could accomplish his quest, he received orders from the Council to give his attention first to the capture of a vessel from London, freighted with powder, which would put in at Saint Augustine." Lempreire complied, the ship was found, and being ignorant of the commencement of hostilities, easily overpowered. Seventeen thousand pounds of gun‑powder were taken from her." Some ammunition was obtained without violence. The Council contracted with a manufacturer for five hundred pounds, and encouragement was offered to importers of war stores."
The Council wished to know and to control whatever military supplies the Colony afforded. The Secret Committee therefore was ordered to buy up al1 the ball and shot in Charleston, and was further directed to examine and make return of the number and condition of all public arms and put those that were injured in repair." The officers provided for the further equipment of the militia, at public expense."
The presence of the British men-of-war in Charleston harbor caused great apprehension among the inhabitants, and their slightest movement spread the report that an attack was imminent. It was necessary, therefore, to provide defenses for the town. Fort Johnson, commanding the entrance to the harbor, had been evacuated by the loyalists and occupied by order of the Council of Safety, September 15, 1775, but further than this the Council as a whole was unwilling to go. The conservatives insisted on postponement and delay, and all that could be accomplished was a vote that Dorchester be fortified as an asylum in case Charleston should be attacked and taken.' Little was done even in pursuance of this resolution except to provide a powder magazine.
The General Committee" tried to rouse the Council and pressed on it the obvious necessity of the defense of the Colony's chief city. The only result was the mounting of a few cannon. The Committee persevered and the Council at length agreed to give the city some protection, in order, as one of its members publicly declared, to make possible some terms of capitulation when the ships saw fit to turn their guns on the place . The work went no further than the repairing of a platform or two. In September the Committee again came forward with a plan to erect batteries at salient points and thus force the King's ships from the harbor. The Council finally agreed, Henry Laurens giving the casting vote, but directly after, the meeting one of its number was busy circulating a petition that the project be abandoned, as it would needlessly molest the British and bring destruction on the town. The signatures seem to have been obtained by unfair means, and many signers came and asked that their names be struck off, but it was gladly accepted by the Council as a sufficient excuse for letting the whole matter drop.'
The Council realized that it did not represent the wishes of a united people, that the frontier looked on sullenly at the changes on the coast and had lifted no hand to aid in them. It was necessary to gain, if possible, the leaders in these districts to the Whig side, before they were secured by the Governor, and to explain to the rank and file the motives of the policy of resistance.
Attempts were made from time to time to bring prominent and influential residents of the interior to declare themselves for the American party, and two Germans were sent by the Council to win over their countrymen." These efforts proved fruitless and at length William H. Drayton, a member of the Council of Safety, and the Rev. William Tennant were sent to explain the merits of the American position to the back districts, and impress them with the necessity of union. As protection against the possible ill‑will of the inhabitants they were authorized to call on the militia for support.' It was found impossible to accomplish their mission by argument, entreaty or threat. The people would hear nothing of a movement in which all might be lost and little could be gained, and looked with suspicion on the emissaries of the rebellion." Instead of acquiescence the delegates were met with armed resistance and it was not until the insurgents had seen the muskets of the Whig militia which Drayton at once called into service that they consented to come to terms and the necessity of bloodshed was avoided.
The Council, unwilling as usual to trust to vigorous measures, had written Drayton to discharge his militia as soon as possible. It hesitated to give him sufficient powers to make an effective stand against the Tories, and to make a treaty. He only obtained these powers by a vote of four to three, and it was probable if the treaty had not been speedily completed that they would have been rescinded." The Tories in the treaty signed September 16, 1775, promised not to aid the British in any way, but were not forced to sign the Association and so kept a position of neutrality.
The Indians were early a subject of solicitude. It was important to gain them, test British influence bring on the terrors of an Indian war. A talk for the Catawbas was given by the President of the Council to two of their runners who bad come to the coast to find the cause of the present commotion. They were told of the rapacity of the Great King who now demanded four deerskins of his people for goods formerly sold for two, and if this were submitted to, the inevitable rise in price it would occasion in the goods the Indians bought from the colonists.' Drayton in his tour met a delegation of the Cherokees, made them presents and exhorted them to keep friendship with the Americans." He further promised that ammunition should be sent them for their hunting, and on his return the Council forwarded to them a thousand weight of powder. This was captured by Patrick Cunningham and his followers. Cunningham was one of the back country Tories who had been angered at the arrest of his brother by the new government." The story was spread that the Council was rousing the Indians to fall upon the Non-Associators, and was supplying them with powder for the purpose. In spite of the authoritative denial of this absurd story by the next Provincial Congress," it found ready credence, both sides armed and a civil war seemed again near. But the important leaders of the loyalists did not take part in this rising. Its forces were poorly organized and bound in no firm union. They were the first to ask for terms before they had measured strength with their opponents, and hostilities ceased with the agreement that all public difficulties be submitted to the late Governor Campbell and to the Council of Safety." Colonel Richardson, who commanded a separate division of the Whig forces, refused to consider himself bound by this agreement and pressed on through the interior making prisoners of the leaders of the disaffected and sending them to Charleston. Many were influenced to deliver up their arms on the promise of receiving protection. In this way the last sparks of the insurrection were trodden out." Nothing came of the proposed conference between Governor Campbell and the Council.
The Council was obliged to direct the forces of the interior from a distance and experienced all the inconvenience which such separation entailed. It was obliged to issue orders in general terms and leave much to the discretion of the officers. Correspondence was necessary to keep Council and army in touch, and time was wasted and movements delayed while expresses traveled the road to Charleston and back.
The discipline of the army suffered from the weakness of the provincial government, which had to meet the lawlessness that the overthrow of established authority entails. The volunteer regiments in Charleston refused obedience for a time to a proclamation of the Council, subjecting them to martial law. . The rangers commanded by Colonel Thomson demanded from the Council a change in the terms under which they had enlisted, on the ground that the supplying their own food had proved distasteful and they desired the Province to assume the expense. The Council wisely returned a determined refusal, fearing that the petition, if granted, world lead to greater demands. The Charleston militia drew no pay, while the rangers received twenty pounds a month. There was, therefore, no reason for dissatisfaction, and discipline required that the terms on which the enlistment had been made should be kept. Drayton was at length able to content the troops by promising that the labor of seeking food should be lessened as far as possible by encouraging persons to bring in and sell provisions in the camp." On another occasion Colonel Moultrie of the Second South Carolina regiment wrote to question the right of the Council to grant a subordinate officer leave of absence, and the Council was obliged to insist on obedience in this matter and to justify its action by reference to the powers it received from the Provincial Congress.'
Captain Kirkland coming to prefer the side of the Tories resigned his commission and disbanded his company, tellin‑ them the cause in which they had enlisted was bad, and advising them all to return home." Nor did Kirkland's interference in the camp stop here. He had a long private conversation with a Captain Polk, with the result that that commander left the army as well. He was ordered by his superior officer to bring to the camp the powder that had been left in Fort Charlotte. He refused to obey and discharged his troops, claiming that as their commander he would not sacrifice them to "any Council of Safety's parading orders." He was ready to go, he said, if there were any necessity, but it appeared to him that there was none, and he would not undertake it. Soon after he left the camp with his company. How effective any campaign could be made when inferior officers made themselves judges of the advisability of movements is easily seen.'
Nor was this Committee wholly successful in dealing with that very necessary but rather unreliable portion of the governmental machine, the local committee. In October, 1775, the Committee of the township of Saxe Gotha saw fit to detain the powder sent by the Council to the Cherokees on the ground that the members had heard that the frontiersmen would not let it pass. Henry Laurens at once ordered them to release the powder, in a letter full of indignant protest. "The affairs of the colony," he wrote, "must be reduced to a precarious situation, when such information is to supersede the orders of those who are authorized and required to do everything which shall seem to them expedient for the defense of the colony. How do you think public business can be conducted if the orders of men properly authorized and who devote their whole time to public service without fee or reward are to be thus interrupted and impeded? Public business cannot be conducted with benefit if we are to account for our motives and proceedings to every man in the colony.""
On another occasion the Council fatally wounded the sensibilities of the Committee of Little River. It appears that this Committee desired that a certain Daniel Robbins be advertised as a public enemy. Robbins had refused to appear before the Committee to answer to the charges against him and had been referred by it to the Council of Safety. Much to the Committee's surprise the Council had cleared him. The Committee, therefore, feeling that such disregard of its opinion must render it "despicable" in the eyes of Robbins, who seems to have regarded its dignity all too lightly, determined that as a body it should no longer live to be thus insulted, and with much dignity informed the Council of Safety that it would act no more in that capacity. These incidents, petty as they seem, show the obstacles that constantly impeded the attempt to make the central government effective in the localities. The Provincial Congress called by the General Committee met on November 1, and took the Province from the Council's hands. The journals of its proceedings were inspected and it was itself resolved into a committee to adjust and settle all outstanding accounts against the State.
The Congress, while experiencing moments of vacillation, displayed more courage and activity than the Council. A stand was finally made against the fleet, two passages of the harbor were blocked and the officers at Fort Johnson ordered to oppose with force any British ship attempting to go by their post." November 16, a new Council of Safety was appointed of thirteen men, many of the members being the same men that had previously filled the position. The powers of the General Committee and of the Parish and District Committees were at the same time revived and continued."
The duties of this second Council were definitely defined and limited, since the Congress did not wish the vigorous measures it had taken during the session to be tampered with. It was considered, moreover, imperative to bring a greater degree of order and responsibility into the government." The Council was given power to direct, regulate and maintain the land and sea forces, but was to be always subject to the control of the Provincial Congress. It might appoint all officers except generals, and fill vacancies in the army and navy and in the treasury department. Any officer might be suspended by it, but a court martial for his trial must be ordered within forty days. Officers might be removed by the Council after a just inquiry had been made into the complaints against them. No money was to issue from the treasury except by the Council's orders. A general authority to do everything necessary for securing, strengthening and defending the Colony was given, but restricted by the provision ion that no act or resolution of the Provincial Congress might be dispensed with on that account. The delegates of the Colony to the Continental Congress were added to the Council, while all persons holding military commissions were debarred from a seat therein. Vacancies were to be filled by the General Committee. The Council was to continue until the end of the next session of the Provincial Congress." Drayton says of this appointment: "Men now, with well-founded hopes, looked forward to happy results, as the orbit in which the Council was to move, was extensively and clearly defined; and as they were prohibited from infringing the strong measures, which the Congress had brought into action."" The statement is a suggestive commentary upon the career of the preceding Council. The war was now well under way in the north, and the southern colonies having pledged themselves to share the fate or fortune of the whole, knew there was no drawing back.
The second Council of Safety of South Carolina was inspired with this feeling and acted with decision. The local committees were repeatedly ordered to prevent infringements of the Continental Association, even if it were necessary to sink the ships." Georgia was urged and scolded into similar compliance and troops were sent to help her patriot party against the Tory majority." Fortifications were erected, the British depredations checked and the captain of the British ship informed that unless the fugitive slaves he protected were released no provisions would be allowed him from the shore. Sullivan's island, long a refuge for the negroes, was taken and defended, and its commanding officer ordered to open fire on any British ship that attempted to approach." War stores were imported by the Council from the West Indies and seamen for the navy were sought for as far as New England. The militia were embodied or dismissed as occasion dictated and were concentrated at Charleston, where an attack was feared.
One important duty of the Council was to pay the accounts against the State. It was found that this took so much time. from its administrative work that the Provincial Congress allowed it to set apart two days of the week at which time and no other these bills could be settled."
Those delinquents that refused obedience to the authority of Congress or Council, or those whose influence among the disaffected made them objects of suspicion were dealt with bv the General Committee and by the local and Parish Committees, not by the Council of Safety, as was so often the case elsewhere. Still the Council occasionally arrested at its discretion persons who were deemed injurious to the Colony." The prisoners sent down by Colonel Richardson were humanely treated by the Council. Many were discharged on a confession of error and promise of future good behavior.,," The proceedings of the court martials which the Council ordered were submitted to it for approval and it often interfered to mitigate the severity of the sentences."
The Provincial Congress met February, 1776, and determined to create an organized government. South Carolina was free from the pressure of war, the opposition of the interior was silenced and it was therefore possible for her to take time to quietly frame a new constitution. The Council of Safety, together with the President of the Provincial Congress and two prominent military officers were appointed a committee to consider the expediency of the change." Their report was favorable and a new constitution was framed, and adopted March 26, which vested the government in a General Assembly, Legislative Council, a President, Vice-President, and Privy Council." The Provincial Congress did not step aside to await the results of a new election but declared itself to be the General Assembly until the following October. A Legislative Council was chosen from its number and the two houses voted for the President, Vice-President, and Privy Council." The new system went at once into operation and the Council of Safety passed out of existence.
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