South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
THE CHURCHES IN SOUTH CAROLINA, 1706-1778

Generd Mords. --Nothing of the past is more difficult to judge than its morals. Yet, with due caution, some just comparison is possible. The eighteenth century inherited the cynicism and filth of the Restoration. Healthier conditions in the colonies prevented such a degree of coarseness as developed in England; and there was never an approach to the looseness of morals among women. More of Commonwealth Puritanism extended to colonial America than of Restoration license. Yet there was even in the best eighteenth-century colonial society a rough and vulgar strain.

Defalcations were comparatively rare; but public men of high standing used their opportunities for enrichment in ways that men of the same standing in the community would not now, as was amply illustrated in the land frauds of the 1730's, and in some aspects, especially during the Proprietary period, of the Indian trade. Governor Sir Nathaniel Johnson's trick for excluding the Dissenters in 1704 and his outright lie about the Presbyterians in the election of 1707 savor today of men of far lower standing. Arthur Middleton's selling offices and under false pretenses bidding up prices in the 1720's was condemned, as was Jacob Motte's securing the treasurership in 1743 by promising a part of the emoluments if his opponent would withdraw. Governor Glen rejected with scorn the proposal (apparently from interested merchants in Charles Town) to make a large graft on buying arms. On another occasion, numbers of the leading members of the Commons, he writes, offered him a large sum in repayment of certain expenses he had personally incurred in the public service if he would consent to the passage of a paper money bill. Though he rejected both propositions with scorn, he did not expose his tempters. In short, the eighteenth-century public standards savored somewhat of the coarseness which in contemporary England ran into widespread corruption. The finer type of public honor of a later day developed in the generation immediately before the Revolution; and at the climax of Southern civilization, before the War of Secession, it developed still higher.

The Reverend Levi Durand, rector of Christ Church, reports in 1744 that "this country is more infested with free thinkers than it is with

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