Arthur Middleton

Acting Governor of South Carolina Province 1724 to 1729

1681 - 1737

In late 1724, Governor Sir Francis Nicholson left Charles Town for London, where he arrived in April of 1725. He left the reins of the South Carolina government in care of President of the Executive Council and Acting Governor Arthur Middleton. Middleton remained as the leader of South Carolina until the arrival of the next Royal Governor, Robert Johnson, in 1729.

Early in the 18th century, thousands of Africans were being imported each year to the colony of South Carolina, where they were forced to work in clearing land and cultivating the rapidly expanding rice plantations -- plantations such as one owned by Arthur Middleton.

In 1678, Arthur's father (Edward) and his uncle (also named Arthur) had moved from the Caribbean Island of Barbados to Carolina. With them they brought experience in plantation economics, including knowledge of how to exploit slavery to make great profits. They settled on a 1,780-acre tract of land fourteen miles north of Charles Town. Within the next several years, Edward had purchased his brother's Arthur's share of the land grant, plus another 3,130 acres. Edward and his wife, Sara, settled on the plantation, calling their home The Oaks.

Edward died in 1685, leaving to Sara and their young son, Arthur, a plantation that was not yet profitable. In the following decade, Africans would show English colonists how to cultivate rice in fresh water swamps, and by 1699, Arthur Middleton's plantation had begun to make money. By 1720, his estate consisted of over 5,000 acres and he owned over 100 slaves. By this time Arthur Middleton was a well-established member of the South Carolina gentry.

Arthur's father and uncle had played a role in South Carolina politics. Edward Middleton was made a Deputy of one of the Lords Proprietors in 1678 and served on the Executive Council of Governor Joseph West. He was appointed as an Assistant Justice of the province in January of 1683. The younger Arthur followed in their footsteps and was active in the consolidation of the profitable slave-holding regime in South Carolina.

Arthur Middleton was elected to the 8th Commons House of Assembly (under the rule of the Lords Proprietors) in 1706 and represented Berkeley County. He was elected again to the 11th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1708 to 1709; the 15th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1716 to 1717; the 16th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1717 to 1720 (this time representing St. James, Goose Creek Parish); and the 17th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1720 to 1721, this being the last Assembly convened under the rule of the Lords Proprietors.

He also served as commissioner of Indian affairs, commissioner of banks, free schools, public library, and other internal affairs.

In 1710, he traveled to London to discuss Carolina's political problems. On his return in 1711, he was appointed Deputy of John Carteret, 2nd Baron Carteret (and later 2nd Earl of Granville) and served on the Executive Council of South Carolina under Acting Governor Robert Gibbes -- a high honor for a South Carolina native. He also served on the Executive Council under Governor Charles Craven, Deputy Governor Robert Daniell, and Governor Sir Francis Nicholson. On June 13, 1711, the Lords Proprietors commissioned Arthur Middleton as Naval Officer in Charles Town.

In 1728, Acting Governor Arthur Middleton made the following statement:

"The Spanish are receiving and harboring all our runaway negroes, they have found out a new way of sending our own slaves against us, to rob and plunder us -- they are continually fitting out parties of Indians from St. Augustine to murder our white people, to rob our plantations, and carry off our slaves so that we are not only at a vast expense of guarding our southern frontiers, but the inhabitants are continually alarmed and have no leizure to look after their crops."

This subject was undoubtedly significant in Middleton's eyes. And it would continue to be.

Acting Governor Arthur Middleton's administration was distracted by civil commotions and contentions between the Executive Council and the Commons House of Assembly over currency, but he upheld the Royal authority and restrained disaffection with tact and firmness. He held the boundaries of the province against the Spanish, broke the power of the Indians by a bold attack, and checked the encroachments of the French. He encouraged trade and agriculture, established chapels and schools, and being equally careful to promote loyalty to King George I. South Carolina enjoyed great prosperity during his tenure, nothwithstanding the fact that he was not all that popular personally.

Arthur Middleton was married in 1707 to Sarah, daughter of Jonathan Amory, Speaker of the House of Commons. He married a second time, on August 3, 1723, to Sarah Wilkinson, widow of ex-Governor Joseph Morton.

Early in the 1730s, England allowed colonists to sell rice directly to Portugal and Spain. Rice production and profits soared. The boom, which lasted eight years, propelled plantation owners to acquire more land and more slaves. During this time Arthur Middleton more than doubled his land holdings, adding another 8,469 acres.

Arthur Middleton died in Charles Town on September 7, 1737 at the age of 56. He owned 107 slaves. Only three of Arthur's eight children survived.

His grandson, also named Arthur and also a major slave holder, would be a signer the Declaration of Independence, play an active role in the American Revolution, and become a delegate to the Continental Congress.

Arthur Middleton, a Goose Creek man, was, in 1719, President of the People of South Carolina, a body which invited the King of England to take over their government. Leaders of the Revolution also came from this community. Henry Middleton, son of Arthur, was a President of the SC Provincial Congress and the Continental Congress. His son, Arthur, signed the Declaration of Independence.
During the administration of Sir Francis Nicholson, the successor of James Moore, Jr., and that of Arthur Middleton, little of political importance occurred in relation to the colony, except the legal disputes in England concerning the rights of the Lords Proprietors. These were finally settled in 1729, by the Royal purchase of both colonies from the Lords Proprietors, and during that year North and South Carolina became separate Royal-owned and controlled provinces.
The land included in the grant, in 1678, to Arthur Middleton of 1,780 acres on Goose Creek (Sec'y State's off. Grant Bk. 1696-1703, p. 92) is called "Yeshoe", and in the grant to James Moore of 2,400 acres on Foster's Creek in 1683, the lands are described as known by the Indian names of Boo-chaw-ee and Wapensaw. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. 38 (Prop. Grants, p. 209.) The Indian name of Foster's Creek was Appee-bee. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. 17, Miscellaneous, p. 109.)

John Smith, of Boo-shoo, died prior to December of 1682, as in that month, his widow, Mary, married Arthur Middleton, and on the death of the latter, about 1684, married Ralph Izard. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. "Grants, etc., 1704-1708", p. 250)

The statement as to the communion celebrated on the 2nd February of 1696, being the first ever celebrated in Carolina is entirely erroneous. There had existed in Charles Town for many years before that date the Church of England, known as St. Philip's, on the site where St. Michael's Church now stands; also a Meeting House, or a Congregational Church, upon Meeting Street, supposed upon the present site of the Circular Church, as well as a Huguenot, or French Protestant Church, on or near the site of the present French Protestant Church, on a lot originally granted to one Michael Lovinge, a carpenter, and which having been sold by Lovinge to Arthur Middleton was by the latter's widow with her husband, Ralph Izard (whom she married after Middleton's death), sold to James Nicholls on the 5th May, 1687, "for the use of the commonalty of the French Church in Charleston". (Sec'y State's off. "Grants, etc, 1704-1708", p. 250.)

This comes from "The Town of Dorchester, in South Carolina - A Sketch of its History," by Henry A.M. Smith.
This article first appeared in the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol VI - No 2, April 1905, p. 62 - 95

The Sword of State was secured and used by the Lords Proprietors' Executive Council until that body passed out of existence with the overthrow of the government of the Lords Proprietors in South Carolina in December of 1719.

Thereafter it was used by His Majesty's Executive Council for South Carolina, at least until June 23, 1722, when Arthur Middleton, President of the Executive Council, and Acting Governor, informed the Commons House of Assembly that it was "no way proper to be used by any of His Majesty's Governor" and suggested that the House give it to the "Corporation of Charles City (Charles Town) and Port, to be carried before the Mayor."

The Sword of State (SC)

This sword rests in the customary rack on the Senate rostrum in front of the President's chair during the daily sessions and is carried by the Sergeant-at-Arms on all State occasions.

Click Here for information on the Executive Council under Acting Governor Arthur Middleton.

<< Last Governor - Francis Nicholson  

Next Governor - Robert Johnson >>


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved