South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVI
POLITICS AND CULTURE ABOUT 1800

SOUTH CAROLINA enjoyed the honor in 1791 of entertaining President Washington on his southern tour. The president entered the State from North Carolina on April 27 and, passing through Georgetown, reached Charleston on May 2, and remained there until the 9th. After visiting Savannah he returned to South Carolina by way of Augusta and on the twenty-first reached Columbia, whence he passed through Camden and Lancaster into North Carolina.

Enthusiasm for Françe.-- Genêt, appointed minister to the United States on the eve of the long war between France and Britain, landed in Charleston in April, 1793, and roused a storm of pro-French enthusiasm. The population was divided into Francophile and Francophobe; but the conservatives retained control of the legislature and, on December 2, 1793, ordered an investigation of the reported raising of forces under foreign authority. South Carolina enthusiasm was punctured by this and by the discovery that Genêt and the Girondists were '"friends of the blacks."

The zeal for France, fanned by the insolent captures by British vessels and the rich rewards of trade as neutral carriers between Europe and America and the French West Indies, survived the fall of Genêt and the brutalities of the Terror. There were two Jacobin Clubs in Charleston. In the celebration in honor of the French National Assembly, January 11 and 12, 1793, the Governor, judges, and other distinguished citizens participated. French privateersmen paraded the streets of Charleston waving long swords with an air of dominance, and recruiting headquarters were opened, but these the governor closed in April, 1793. So insolent did the French become that a privateer that had captured a British vessel in American waters threatened when arrested, it is said, to batter down Charleston, but changed her determination when cannon were trained upon her for many critical hours.

Upon this revelry of republican enthusiasm and quick riches fell the shadow of Jay's treaty threatening the lucrative commerce with France and offending the South by denying it the British West Indian trade and forbidding its exporting cotton--clauses which, however, the Senate

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