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

By George C. Rogers | Go to book overview

V
THE EDUCATION OF WILLIAM SMITH, 1770-1783

A FTER THE NON-IMPORTATION AGREEMENT was broken in South Carolina in December 1770, trade boomed. By May 1771 the shops of Charles Town were once more stocked with goods.1 The price of rice doubled between the spring of 1771 and the summer of 1772. With their profits the planters bought vast numbers of slaves, 6,471 being imported between November 1, 1772, and July 26, 1773. The consequent great demand for Negro provisions brought boom times to the backcountry as well.2 In the lull between the repeal of the Townshend duties and the Boston Tea Party, South Carolina experienced her greatest prosperity. On April 11 1772, Thomas Smith of Broad Street wrote: "The desires of the planters increase faster than their riches. Coaches, chariots, and English horses pour in fast upon us since the Resolutions were broken through. Houses and lands and everything for luxury sell high."3

THE SMITHS, particularly the younger generation, were living amid great luxury. When Josiah Quincy, junior, arrived in Charles Town in February 1773, fortified with letters of introduction from the Boston Smiths to the Charles Town Smiths, he recorded in detail the extent of the new prosperity:

Dined with Mr. Thomas Smith; several gentlemen and ladies; decent and plenteous table of meats: the upper cloth removed, a compleat table of puddings, pies, tarts, custards, sweetmeats, oranges, macarones, etc., etc., -- profuse. Excellent wines -- no politicks.

Dined with Mr. Roger Smith, son to Mr. Thomas Smith: good deal of company, elegant table, and the best provisions I have seen in this town. One cloth removed, a handsome desert of most kinds of nicknacks. Good wines and much festivity. Two ladies being called on for toasts, the one gave, 'Delicate pleasures to susceptable minds.' The other, 'When passions rise may reason be the guide.'

____________________
1
South-Carolina Gazette, May 30, 1771.
2
Ibid., March 7, 1771, May 25, 1772. Elizabeth Donnan, "The Trade into South Carolina Before the Revolution," AHR, XXXIII ( 1927- 1928), 809. George Rogers Taylor, "Wholesale Commodity Prices at Charleston, S. C.," Journal of Economic and Business History, IV ( 1932), 366, 372.
3
Thomas Smith to Isaac Smith, junior, April 11, 1772, Smith-Carter Papers, MHS.

-56-

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