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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Early Rebellion in South Carolina

By Francis Yonge

[Surveyor-General of South Carolina in 1719. A Narrative of the Proceedings, etc. 1726.]

ON Monday the 21st of December, 1719, Mr. Johnson came to town from his plantation, being informed they designed to proclaim their governor in the king’s name, and wrote circular letters to his council to meet him, but they did not come; he had talked to Colonel Paris, the commanding officer of the militia of the town, and engaged him in his interest, as he thought; and, as he had ordered the town companies to be reviewed the 21st of December, on account of the advice he had received from the Havanah, as before related—and finding they pitched on that day to proclaim their governor, that they might have the better opportunity to draw them, when together, in arms, to forward their purposes (for they could not well be in arms, but by some authority)—he, on the Saturday before, ordered that they should not muster, but wait for farther orders; and had given particular orders to Colonel Paris, that he should not suffer a drum to beat in the town; and had assurances from him, his orders should be obeyed. Notwithstanding which, when he came early on the Monday morning, he found the militia drawn up in the market-place, with colors flying at the forts, and on board all the ships in the harbor, and great solemnity preparing for their proclaiming their governor. It would be tedious to the reader, to enumerate all that he did at this juncture to oppose their proceedings; some he menaced, and handled more roughly, and some spoke fair to, to persuade them from what they were doing; and, going to the commanding officer, he asked him, how he durst appear in arms, contrary to his orders? and commanded him in the king’s name to disperse his men. But he answered, he was obeying the orders of the convention. And the governor approaching him, he commanded his men to present their muskets at him, and bade him stand off, at his peril. Mr. Johnson was in hopes some gentlemen and others might have joined him; but the defection was so general, that hardly a man but was in arms; and only one of his council and Mr. John Lloyd walked with him; and it appeared the latter of these was sent under pretence of being his friend, by the other party, to prevent any hot action he might have been provoked to do, for that was his business all the day; and two days afterwards he was sworn into their new council.

Col. Rhett, who had always pretended to be very popular, and to have great power with the people, and to be extremely in the interest of the Lords’ proprietors, did not appear in the Lords’ behalf to assist Mr. Johnson. And indeed this whole affair was owing to his and Mr. Trott’s councils, who did, as usual in such cases, leave their masters in the lurch; as will appear by their future transactions. In short, they proceeded to proclaim their governor, which they did in spite of all the opposition Mr. Johnson could give them; which could not be much, he being, as I have said, left entirely alone; although he did, in their march, stop the militia that attended them, and had almost persuaded them to alter their opinion; which if he could have effected, he might have been able to have given a great deal of trouble to the opposite party: but Sir Hovendine Walker was with them, and put them in mind to keep up the spirits of the people; which occasioned their turning back and haranguing their men, who thereupon marched on as they formerly intended.

Surely, after this, no one will say but Mr. Johnson did all that was possible to prevent the defection of the people. And these minute circumstances we have been the more particular in, because their Lordships have been made believe, that he was himself in the design, and connived at their transactions, which he might have prevented if he would. A thing very improbable, that he should join with the people to divest himself of his government, and, when he had done so, refuse to govern them in their own way as they desired: which, it is plain, he might have done, but that he thought it was inconsistent with his honor, and the trust reposed in him by the Lords Proprietors; and that his so doing might have been resented by his majesty as a presumptuous act he had no authority for.

The people, having thus overcome all the little opposition could be made, proceeded to choose a council of twelve, after the manner of the king’s governments. Of these, Sir Hovendine Walker was chosen president; so they had now their governor, council, and convention (as they called themselves); but they soon after voted themselves an assembly, and, as such, made laws, appointed officers, especially a new chief justice in the place of Mr. Trott, a secretary, a provost-marshal, and voted, that no one should be capable of bearing an office in the province that owned the authority of the Lords Proprietors, except such as related to their own particular revenue, which were Mr. Rhett and Mr. Yonge, their receiver and surveyor-general. They also passed a new duty law, and several laws for raising money to defray the expense of the government, to pay agents whom they sent to represent their affairs to his majesty, and for other uses.