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

By George C. Rogers | Go to book overview

XII WILLIAM SMITH, CONGRESSMAN, 1793-1797

S MITH'S FIRST FOUR YEARS in Congress had been devoted to domestic problems; the next four were to be devoted to foreign problems. However, returning to Charleston late in March 1793, he was not yet aware that a profound shift in the nature of national political problems was about to take place. He merely wished to test his own public actions against local public opinion and then canvass the newly elected Congressional representatives in the hope that some of them might be won to the support of the administration. With reference to local public opinion, he found, as he wrote Hamilton, "a very general satisfaction pervading the city on the triumph we had recently obtained over the Sons of Faction in Philadelphia. I received congratulations from all quarters & particularly from the respectable part of the mercantile interest, who considered your cause as their own."1 Having found his own actions so much approved in Charleston, Smith turned his attention to the members from the backcountry.

Smith and Izard had long been concerned by the fact that the backcountry did not send Federalist representatives to Congress. In the Second Congress, Georgetown had been represented by Huger, Charleston by Smith, and Beaufort by Robert Barnwell, all good Federalists, but Camden and Ninety Six had sent Sumter and Tucker, who refused to support the administration. The situation, as Smith and Izard saw it, could only be corrected by the rise of a group of wealthy gentlemen in the backcountry who would see that it was to their interest to use their influence in behalf of government. The inland navigation scheme had been pushed by Smith and Izard to make it possible for backcountry farmers to produce for export. Surely under such conditions a few would rise above the others to dominate their local areas. The excise service fitted into their plans by providing federal officials in the backcountry who could be used as rallying points.2 In the February 1793 elections, only Charleston returned an incumbent, which meant that five gentlemen from the backcountry were to go to Phila

____________________
1
William Smith to Alexander Hamilton, April 24, 1793, Hamilton Papers, LC.
2
Alexander Hamilton to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, August 3, 1791 Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Papers, SCL.

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