South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
GOVERNOR NICHOLSON'S STRONG HAND, 1721-1725

GENERAL SIR FRANCIS NICHOLSON, selected as the first royal Governor of South Carolina, had the widest experience of all living colonial executives. He had made a poor show in New York, but redeemed himself by a wise administration in Virginia. Transferred in 1694 to Maryland, he began to display his qualities of bigotry and violence. He was returned to Virginia in 1698, where he quarreled with Commissary Blair, threatened to cut the throats of the groom, the magistrate, and the parson concerned in the marriage of a lady whom he desired for his own, and recommended that the colonies should be placed under a viceroy with a standing army supported by taxes on the people. He displayed the same faults in Acadia. He assumed the government of South Carolina on May 30, 1721, and seemed determined to redeem a bad reputation; but before his four years were out he had shown his worse as well as his better qualities. In one respect he was the man needed by South Carolina. He had the soldier's strength and promptness of decision. Despite his faults, he deserves credit for bringing a situation bordering on anarchy immediately into order.

Nicholson's character was a bundle of contradictions. A contributor to the building of churches in many colonies, who constantly referred to "our Holy Mother the Church of England," he quarreled violently with her official heads in both Maryland and Virginia. A liberal contributor to education and ecclesiastical libraries, and the author of two pamphlets, he bitterly opposed the introduction of printing into South Carolina. He gave prayer books to the members of the Assembly at the beginning of his administration and Bibles at its end. The most fanatical of Anglicans, only Sir Nathaniel Johnson is comparable to him for his railings at the Dissenters, and no colonial governor approached him in rudeness to the legislature; but before adjournment he invited them all to breakfast or dine with him whenever in town. When, despite his storming, he had to yield, it would probably be with the warning that "the blood lies at your doors" if it results in harm.

Reviving Religious Intolerance.-- By ancient law and custom in South Carolina, members of Assembly took the oath on the Holy Evangelists or by holding up the hand "according to their profession." By no means

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