South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIV
THE SETTLEMENT OF THE BACK COUNTRY, AND THE CIRCUIT COURT ACT OF 1769

Governor Boone Offends the Commons. --Thomas Boone, formerly Governor of New Jersey and a nephew of Joseph Boone of a prominent family in South Carolina from 1694 to 1725, arrived on December 22, 1761, as Governor of South Carolina. He soon showed a determination to warp long established practices to his own ideas that plunged him into conflicts with the Commons, blighting his administration and precipitating one of the angriest of the chronic quarrels between the two houses. In accord with the immemorial custom of the Commons' participating in Indian relations, on being prorogued on May 29, 1762, they appointed a committee to sit with the Governor and Council in distributing Indian presents. Governor Boone informed the Commons that he would regard this committee merely as private gentlemen not to be consulted on executive business.

Boone's criticism of the election law was ignored until in September, 1762, he made a sharp issue. The Commons, in examining the returns for a by-election for St. Paul's, observed that the church wardens had not, as the law required, taken an oath before opening the polls. They overlooked this, as there was no doubt as to the intention of the voters, declared Christopher Gadsden elected, and sent him to the Governor to take the state oaths.

The Governor refused to administer the oaths and summoned the Commons into his presence. He was astonished, he said, that they were seeking to dispense with the law to which they owed their existence as an Assembly. "To manifest in as public a manner as I can my disavowal of so undeniable an infraction of the election act, I hereby dissolve this present General Assembly."

Boone's newly elected Assembly consisted of almost exactly the same old members. The ardent Gadsden and the conservative Wragg, in a committee headed by John Rutledge, united in a long report exposing Boone's political folly, not to say illegality. The existence of the Assembly, they said, did not rest upon the election act, but upon the known and ancient Constitution of Great Britain. The Commons alone were the judges of the election of their members. The Governor could not con

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