South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
RESISTING THE STAMP ACT AND IMPORT TAXES, 1765-1771

THE SOUTH CAROLINA COMMONS, during practically the whole royal period, as during the Proprietary period, had steadily encroached upon the executive and in lesser degree upon the judiciary. In refusing to permit the Council to amend money bills they had since 1725 disobeyed the express instructions of the King. The Stamp Act presented a more serious question. What would be their reaction to an act of Parliament which they considered transgressed their rights?

Peter Timothy, steady supporter of the American side, filled his Gazette with anti-stamp material from the North, and mercilessly exhibited Wells as the steady prerogative supporter for sneering in his Generd Gazette at Massachusetts at "what they call their grievances." In July the Commons, on the invitation of the Massachusetts House of Representatives to send delegates to a Congress in New York on October 7, 1765, elected for that purpose Thomas Lynch, Christopher Gadsden, and John Rutledge, and ordered the Treasurer to advance their expenses.

News of resistance to the northward enabled the more aggressive leaders to add to the popular determination to petition for relief a program of protest by violence. The stamped paper arrived on October 18, 1765, in preparation for the law's taking effect on November 1. Bull first placed the stamps in the warship Speedwell, but, fearing that she might be attacked at her wharf, he transferred them to Fort Johnson and increased the garrison, for the people swore to destroy the stamps that night. The fort was not attacked, but for nine days the city was filled with threats, house-searchings, manifestoes, mobs, and vast funeral processions ending in the burial of "American Liberty." The homes and furniture of the stamp officers were considerably damaged. The great merchant Henry Laurens expressed his detestation of such "burglary and robbery" as strongly as he did his condemnation of the Stamp Act, the repeal of which, he said, should be sought through constitutional means. Refusal to use stamps would ruin every man of property, he thought, and mobs would destroy orderly government. He was accordingly suspected of concealing the stamps. The night of October 23 a masked and armed mob at midnight beat upon his door, which he

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