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South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
DEPRESSION AND PAPER MONEY, 1725-1730

ARTHUR MIDDLETON, the eldest member, as president of the Council assumed the administration on May 7, 1725, a few days before Governor Nicholson's departure at the beginning of a period of difficulty and confusion. The fortunate outcome of Middleton's management of the critical Spanish and Indian problem as related above was not paralleled in his handling of domestic affairs.

Sale of Offices, Defaults, etc. --Middleton rendered his position, trying enough amid prolonged economic depression and popular passion, worse by his lack of sympathy with popular distress, his hauteur, and his practicing in a more than usually offensive form the bad custom of selling offices. Benjamin Whitaker, at this time Attorney General and later Speaker of the Commons and Chief Justice, was one of the ablest and most rigorous opponents of public abuses. On January 28, 1726, he wrote to Governor Nicholson in England that President Middleton had sent word to Mr. Killpatrick that he might have Clerk of the Crown and Court Coulliette's place for £300 currency. To his plea of no money, Middleton replied that he would take his bond endorsed by a friend who had married a rich widow. An attempt was then made to sell the office to another, whom Middleton caused to petition him to remove Coulliette for incompetence; but the simple gentleman offered no money, and the President bestowed the office on Childermas Croft for £200 cash.

The place of vendue master went to a favorite without the other applicants' having a chance to bid. The attempt to run the price of the provost marshalship up £100 by deceit failed, and it went at half price for £200. Such corruption, Whitaker continued, is condemned in a native South Carolinian who formerly denounced the Proprietors for such practices. He did take £200 for the office, Middleton wrote Nicholson, but he did it openly, and discharged Coulliette only on the judge's complaint. This place and the other two "have been looked upon as perquisites of the government, and something has always been given for them, and how it now comes to be a crime in me, I can't tell. Indeed your Excellency did not, but that was your own goodness, and you spent many thousand pounds in the country more than you got," but, he added, he could not afford it.

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