Evolution of a Federalist: William Loughton Smith of Charleston (1758-1812)

By George C. Rogers | Go to book overview

PREFACE

DURING a visit to the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia in 1955 the librarian, William H. McCarthy, junior, showed me the William Loughton Smith Papers that the Foundation had recently acquired. Among the papers were Smith's journals of his travels in 1790, 1791, and 1793, which Mr. McCarthy suggested I might like to edit. Although a South Carolinian and a student of American history, I knew very little about William Loughton Smith. After some research into Smith's life, I came upon two curious facts that seemed to warrant explanation, and in attempting to explain these two facts I abandoned the job of editing, at least temporarily, and devoted myself to a full-scale study of the man and his times. Smith was sent abroad at the age of eleven in 1770 and returned in December 1783, having spent the intervening years studying in England and Switzerland. In spite of this long absence, which encompassed the years of the Revolution, Smith was elected in November 1788 to be the first congressman from Charleston District to the national House of Representatives. The second fact of unusual interest was that Smith was re-elected in 1794, despite his being openly opposed by the Rutledges and the Pinckneys, who have been considered the principal leaders of the Federalist party in South Carolina. These two facts, his election in 1788 and his re-election in 1794, suggested that Smith drew his strength from old tories and British merchants. My purpose, therefore, has been to analyze Smith's political support, and my study has revealed a group of arch-Federalists to the right of the Rutledges and the Pinckneys, who were moderate Federalists.

Recalling that, with the one exception of the letters of Henry Laurens, the private papers of South Carolina's eighteenth-century leaders have been dispersed (fire, climate, and war have played havoc with such collections), I decided to make a thorough search of northern libraries and historical societies, hoping that I could assemble a body of documents that would help me tell the story in detail. Since southerners wrote their northern friends and northern collections of this period have been more generally kept intact, the search promised to be a fruitful one. The bibliography of primary sources indicates the extent of my search, which was most successful-a significant body of new material has been unearthed from which to write the history of South Carolina. These private documents have been supplemented by abundant public documents in

-vii-

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