South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE PROVINCIAL CONSTITUTION, 1719-1776

A GENERAL view of the government under the King shows the Commons House of Assembly as the motive force of the provincial Constitution. Although the relative power of the royal and popular elements varied with the strength or weakness of important leaders, and most of all with the constantly growing assertion of authority by the Commons, the institutions and agencies of government continued with little change of external form. The change of the inner realities constitutes a large part of the history of the province.

A question of fundamental importance concerns the nature and origin of the authority of the provincial government from 1719 to 1776. Neither under the Proprietors nor under the direct government of the King did the colonists admit that they were subjects of unlimited power. On the contrary, they claimed the rights of Englishmen as a birthright and regarded the Charter merely as confirming them. For instance, the Commons, March 28, 1735, resolved, nemine contradicente, "that His Majesty's subjects in this province are entitled to all the liberties and privileges of Englishmen ( vide Charter to the Lords Proprietors; vide Statute 31 Ed. I, Chap. 1 and 4); [and] that the Commons House of Assembly in South Carolina, by the laws of England and South Carolina, and ancient usage and custom have all the rights and privileges pertaining to money bills that are enjoyed by the British House of Commons." On December 2 or 3, 1762, they asserted that their rights were "originally derived as British subjects" and "confirmed to them by charter:" But the Charter or any other document was regarded as the witness, and not the creator, of their liberties. There was a tendency to regard the King as governing under the limitations of a living principle that their liberties were inherent.

In the Act of 1721 acknowledging the legal title of George I to the throne, the Commons inserted the clause, "saving to your Majesty's liege subjects in South Carolina the rights and privileges by law to them granted and of right accustomed." Although this assumption of sharing along with their fellow Englishmen their inherent liberties, unconferred by anybody, was dropped at the request of the Council, they insisted on passing a resolution that nothing in the bill "does, can, or ought to

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