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

By George C. Rogers | Go to book overview

VI
THE RETURN OF THE BRITISH MERCHANTS

W ILLIAM SMITH came back to Charles Town with the British merchants; he prospered during the turmoil of the 1780's with the local lawyers; and he entered politics with the support of the Goose Creek planters. On first glance it is strange that a young man who had been away for thirteen years should be elected to the state legislature after being home less than one year. Yet, if one examines the importance of the three groups -- British merchants, Charles Town lawyers, and Goose Creek planters -- and understands William Smith's close connections with each, the strangeness dissolves and a natural sequence of events comes to light.

After the British evacuated Charles Town on December 14, 1782, merchants swarmed in to mend the fabric of commerce in this area that had long stagnated under the interruptions and devastations of war. Pierce Butler described the scene in the spring of 1783: "The effect of peace is very sensibly felt here already -- Not one day passes without two or three and often more, topsail vessels arriving -- Produce in consequence very high -- All imports low -- Our harbour has a respectable appearance; and we have certain information of many vessels being on the point of sailing from England and Jamaica for this place -- The injury this country experienced from the enemy has given a new spring to industry -- All ranks of men think of little else than repairing their losses -- Our wharfs present a scene of bustle and activity that I have not seen for many years."1

The native-born Carolina merchants were among the first to return. A number of the important merchants had been seized by the British after the fall of Charles Town and shipped off to St. Augustine. After a year of confinement they were permitted to proceed to Philadelphia where they joined their banished families and marked time at makeshift jobs until the news of the evacuation of Charles Town permitted their return. Among those going back in 1783 were Edward Darrell, Josiah Smith, junior, and Daniel DeSaussure.2

____________________
1
Pierce Butler to Thomas Fitzsimons, May 18, 1783, Gratz Collection, PHS.
2
"Josiah Smith's Diary, 1780-1781" SCHGM, XXXIII ( 1932), 2-4, 100; XXXIV ( 1933), 31-32, 39, 68-69. DeSaussure had worked six months as a teller in the Bank of North America in Philadelphia before being appointed a commissioner to settle the continental accounts of the state of Maryland. John Wilson to Joseph Pemberton, July 25, 1782, Pemberton Papers, PHS.

-97-

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