Thomas Bennett, Jr.

18th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1820 to 1822

Date Born: August 14, 1781

Date Died: January 30, 1865

Place Born: Charleston, SC

Place Buried: Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, SC

Residence: Charleston, SC

Occupation: Architect, Banker


South Carolina House of Representatives: 1804-1805, 1808-1813, 1814-1817

South Carolina Senate: 1819-1820, 1837-1839

Bennettsville, SC was named for Governor Thomas Bennett, Jr.


Thomas Bennett, Jr. was born on August 14, 1781, the son of Thomas Bennett and Anna Hayes Warnock.

Born in Charleston to an upper-class family, Bennett was educated at the College of Charleston. In a partnership with his father, Bennett ran a lumber and rice milling operation near the city. He also worked as an architect and as a banker, managing the Planters and Merchant Bank of South Carolina and the Bank of the State of South Carolina.

On February 19, 1801, he married Mary Lightbourn Stone, daughter of Benjamin Stone and Love (Rivers) Stone. They had seven children. He married a second time on March 5, 1840 to Jane Burgess, widow of John Gordon, and they had no children.

Bennett was elected to a number of local positions for the City of Charleston, including Intendant (mayor). The prosperous city was a center of trade, including that for slaves. He held many public offices in his early years.

Beginning in 1804, Thomas Bennett, Jr. was elected to represent St. Philip's & St. Michael's Parish in the House of Representatives of the:
- 16th General Assembly that met from 1804-1805
- 18th General Assembly that met from 1808-1809
- 19th General Assembly that met from 1810-1812
- 20th General Assembly that met from 1812-1813

Thoms Bennett, Jr. was then elected as a Director of the Bank of South Carolina on December 19, 1812, and was forced to give up this seat in the House.

In 1814, he was again elected to represent St. Philip's & St. Michaels' Parish in the House of Representatives of the:
- 21st General Assembly that met from 1814-1815 - elected Speaker of the House
- 22nd General Assembly that met from 1816-1817 - elected Speaker of the House

Following a special election, Thomas Bennett, Jr. qualified on December 10, 1819 to represent St. Philip's & St. Michaels Parish in the SC Senate of the:
- 23rd General Assembly that met from 1818-1819
- 24th General Assembly that met from 1820-1821

On December 7, 1820, the General Assembly elected him as the Governor of South Carolina for a two-year term. As governor, Bennett denounced the interstate slave trade; in 1818 the legislature repealed a law prohibiting it. (In 1808 the US prohibition of the African slave trade had been implemented, but more than a million African-American slaves would be forcibly relocated to the Deep South in the domestic trade.)

In mid-June 1822, Charleston white residents were alarmed by reports that a conspiracy for a slave rebellion led by free black Denmark Vesey had been discovered; the city organized a militia and rapidly arrested suspected conspirators. A Court of Magistrates and Freeholders operated in secret to hear testimony and judge who was guilty. Four household slaves of Bennett were charged as conspirators; three were found guilty and among five slaves hanged with Vesey on July 2.

Bennett was concerned about the way the court was conducting its work and consulted with the state attorney general, who advised him rights of habeas corpus were available only to freemen. In August after the proceedings had ended, Bennett published an article suggesting the insurrection had been exaggerated, but lost the public argument to Intendant James Hamilton, who stressed how whites had been saved by quick city action. Bennett also submitted a report to the legislature critical of the secret proceedings of the court.

After leaving the governorship in 1822, Bennett returned to Charleston. In about 1825, he constructed a house and lived there; today it is known as the Gov. Thomas Bennett House and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1837, Thomas Bennett, Jr. was elected in a special election to represent St. Philip's & St. Michael's Parish in the SC Senate of the:
- 32nd General Assembly that met from 1837-1838 - replaced Joel Roberts Poinsett
- 33rd General Assembly that met from 1838-1839

He died on January 30, 1865 and was buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.


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