Southern History Series: South Carolina Enters The American Revolution

Having been assured that the Founding Fathers subscribed to the eternal principles of classical liberalism as preserved and handed down to us by True Conservatives, I have lately been studying the American Revolution and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in the South.

The following excerpt comes from John Richard Allen’s book The South In the Revolution, 1763-1789:

“In September, 1775, when the Congress resumed activity after a brief vacation, delegates from Georgia took their seats. Thereafter the Southern colonists were as fully represented as the others. During the ensuing fall and winter Congress was plagued and perplexed with many problems, one of these hinting of the serious troubles between North and South to come. On September 26 Edward Rutledge moved that all Negroes, whether slave or free, be discharged from the Continental Army under Washington. He was “strongly supported by many of the Southern delegates but so powerfully opposed that he lost the Point.” However, one argument which Rutledge and his supporters apparently used, that Negroes could not be expected to fight as well as whites who had more at stake in the war, was an appealing one; and in January, 1776, in accordance with a recommendation from Washington, the Congress reversed itself in principle, resolving to permit enlistment only of Negroes who had earlier served. There can be little doubt that the recruiting of slaves by Lord Dunmore also contributed to this decision, and that Rutledge was bitterly opposed to a policy which might have led to the arming of the numerous Negroes of his own South Carolina Low Country.”

The South Carolina Patriots were not fighting for racial equality.

They were fighting for independence from Britain. They were fighting to establish a republican government in order to govern themselves. They were fighting to secure slavery and white supremacy. They had taken the “country ideology” to its logical conclusion.

“Rumors of British plots for a slave insurrection and for an attack upon the frontier settlements by the Cherokee filled the air, arousing public sentiment. That summer Jerry, a slave, was executed because he had said he would pilot British warships over Charleston bar. John Stuart, his influence over the Cherokee too great not to cause alarm, was accused of conspiring to persuade them to take the warpath, and fled precipitately to East Florida to escape Captains Joyner and Barnwell, sent out by Drayton to apprehend and question him. Two loyalists who too publicly swore in Charleston that they would give aid to Britain, Laughlin Martin and James Dealy, were tarred and feathered there, not by an irresponsible mob but by the order of patriot leaders.

Although the Rutledge brothers and other patriots were reluctant to take extreme measures, there was cause for alarm, and there were reasons for aggressive action. Slave Jerry was not in himself a menace, but the numerous Negroes of the Low Country, if armed and employed by the British, formed one. Stuart was not urging the Cherokee to seize gun and tomahawk, but he was telling them that the British rather than the Americans were their friends. Serious as were the possibilities of Negro insurrection and Indian attacks, there was even greater cause for concern in the attitude of many South Carolina whites. Among the Low Country merchants and planters were hundreds of loyalists and thousands who gave firm allegiance neither to the patriot cause nor to Britain; and neutrals and Tories were numerous in the Upcountry. German settlers in Saxe-Gotha, the Orangeburg district, and between the Broad and Saluda rivers were indifferent or hostile; Highlanders who had ventured across the ocean after the ’45 were likely to be as firmly pro-British as they had recently been Jacobite. Most disturbing of all was the fact that many of the Scotch-Irish, who were a dominant group in several parts of the Upcountry, seemed hostile to the patriots.”

The men who started the American Revolution in South Carolina were the planters and merchants in the Low Country. They had to deal with the threat posed by a British invasion, the loyalists in the Upcountry, the possibility of slave insurrections and the Cherokee being stirred up by the British and going on the warpath on the frontier. It was a hard fought struggle for state sovereignty in which South Carolina was occupied and devastated before all these enemies were overcome.

From the beginning, there was sectional disagreement over the issue of Negroes serving in the Continental Army. The Southern states were opposed to it. The Eastern states supported it. The American Revolution meant one thing in New England and another in the South. The Middle Colonies were largely loyalist or pacifist except in the backcountry.

About Hunter Wallace 9110 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

3 Comments

  1. There a very good book about Culloden where many of the combatants from the 40s face off again as officers and sergeants in the Americas. It’s gets very complex indeed. Surprisingly so. Many of the British regiments were Scottish inflected in the 70s and 80s.

  2. It’s no whimsy that Mel Gibson based his film, “The Patriot,” on Francis Marion and on the war in South Carolina and Virginia. Rather than on New England and the Middle Atlantic, as all the other such films invariably are.

    “During the ensuing fall and winter Congress was plagued and perplexed with many problems, one of these hinting of the serious troubles between North and South to come.”

    The series “Turn” and the Biography George Washington: A Life, already hint at the conflict between North and South, that goes back to at least the French and Indian War.

    Simple fact is, they’re two different countries, and have been, since the beginning.

    Personally, I don’t think a separation of the two countries, in the early days, would have prevented a war between them. But it could have been fought at a time more advantageous for the South. Possibly in the 1790’s or 1800, over Virginia’s claims to the Ohio country/Old Northwest.

    • “Personally, I don’t think a separation of the two countries, in the early days, would have prevented a war between them. But it could have been fought at a time more advantageous for the South. Possibly in the 1790’s or 1800, over Virginia’s claims to the Ohio country/Old Northwest.”

      Even in 1850, a war would have been more advantageous to the Southern states. In this at least, the Fire Eaters were right. The earlier the war, the better for the South.

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