Thomas Smith

Governor of Carolina Province 1693 to 1694

Originally, the Lords Proprietors had selected Thomas Smith, one of the wealthiest men in the province, to replace Governor James Colleton. William Craven, 1st Baron Craven, Palatine appointed Thomas Smith as governor on October 6, 1690.

However, the recently deposed ex-governor of the Albemarle region, Seth Sothel, a relatively new Lords Proprietor himself with his purchase of Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon's interest in the Proprietorship after Hyde died in 1674, arrived in Charles Town just in time to usurp Smith's rule and proclaim himself as the new Governor of the southern region.

Sothel managed to hold onto power much longer than most expected, but the Lords Proprietors finally had enough and they ousted Sothel and replaced him with Philip Ludwell in late 1691, who arrived in early 1692.

Landgrave Thomas Smith is recorded to have arrived in Charles Town in 1684 - having dutifully registered at the Secretary's office. He was born in 1648 and died in November of 1694, not long after he resigned as Governor.
The Lords Proprietors had already abandoned James Colleton and had appointed Thomas Smith governor in October of 1690. He was one of the richest men in the province, and was soon after made Landgrave. But Sothel brought with him a certificate of the Lords Proprietors that, by virtue of the clause in the Fundamental Constitutions which provided that the eldest Lord Proprietor who happened to be resident in Carolina should be governor, he must be obeyed as such. If the Fundamental Constitutions, so dear to the Lords Proprietors, were to be obeyed, Sothel's claim must be recognized. This made the appointment of Thomas Smith moot.

But, unbeknownst to the men of Charles Town, Seth Sothel came as a refugee from the Albemarle settlement, whence he had been banished for alleged rapacity and gross misgovernment. James Colleton and his adherents at once arrayed themselves against him. The opponents of Colleton, led by Andrew Percivall, by George Muschamp, the King's Collector of Customs, and by others, supported Sothel in the hope thereby of escaping from the tyranny of Colleton. Seth Sothel assumed the governorship, removed the Deputies who opposed him, and called the Commons House of Assembly to convene.

A violent conflict now ensued between the Sothel and Colleton factions. Sothel was publicly charged with treason, and the colonists were called upon to refuse obedience to his authority. But the Commons House of Assembly supported Sothel. He removed some of the Deputies and procured from the Assembly acts banishing Colleton and disqualifying Bull, Grimball, and Charles Colleton, who had recommended the proclamation of martial law, from holding office.

By an unprecedented assumption of authority the ex-governor (Colleton) was required by an Act of the Commons House of Assembly to present himself for trial before the King's bench at Westminster. But, notwithstanding the arbitrary character of some of those measures, a considerable number of laws were passed by Sothel's Assembly which were of decided utility for the province.

They related to the militia and defense of the province in general, to the building of roads, to taxation and the regulation of trade, to the fees of the governor, while among them was one for the naturalization of French and Swiss Protestants among the colonists. However questionable had been his career in Albemarle, Sothel's conduct at Charles Town, so far as we know it, redounds to his credit. Almost.

But the Lords Proprietors, notwithstanding the provision of the Fundamental Constitutions, refused to recognize Sothel, though at first they did not go further than to order him to come home and answer charges. This command he did not obey. All the Acts passed by his Assembly relating to officials, courts, and elections were later disallowed by the Lords Proprietors. This not only left the French and Swiss aliens as before, but defeated the efforts of Colleton's supporters to punish him and his associates. After Sothel had been in office about thirteen months, 1690-1692, he was ordered to give place to Philip Ludwell, who was formerly Secretary of Virginia and an adherent of Governor William Berkeley. From him an adjustment and quieting of strife within the province was expected.

The accession of Ludwell to office marks the beginning of a change in the course of Carolina history. Both public and private instructions in elaborate form were given to him, and for more than a decade thereafter these orders were referred to as standing rules of government. In the instructions themselves the Lords Proprietors stated that they intended them to make void in the southern part of the province all former orders and temporary laws, and to be the only rule of government, save in the granting of land, till they should otherwise direct.

Though the Lords Proprietors were not yet ready to abandon the Fundamental Constitutions, the drift was now clearly away from them and toward a government under the Royal charter, which should retain only the features that were generally found useful in a proprietary province. The policy hitherto followed by the Lords Proprietors had made it impossible for government in South Carolina to reach even tolerably stable conditions. Recent experience had shown that the province at any time might fall a prey to despotism or anarchy, though its position on a disturbed frontier made stability and internal peace doubly necessary.

Governors had followed each other in rapid succession, but without bringing internal peace. Though the expulsion of James Colleton was immediately due to the untimely and unexpected appearance of Seth Sothel, it was an event so unusual as to call for serious attention. By heading a faction in the province Sothel had been able to defy the other Lords Proprietors for more than a year. After such events no one need have been surprised if the rule of the Lords Proprietors had been thrown off at any time. It was already more nominal than real.

During the discussion over indemnity the Commons House of Assembly, in response to an instruction, presented a statement of grievances which touched all the main points at issue between them and the Lords Proprietors. The most important complaints were directed against the claim of the Lords Proprietors to legislate for the province by fixing the jurisdiction of courts, putting in force through the Palatine Court in Carolina such English statutes as they saw fit to select, attempting to govern in general by martial law and prescribing the number of representatives in the Commons House of Assembly.

The Commons House of Assembly complained of the existence of two Palatine Courts, one in England and the other in Carolina, for one often negated Acts which the other had approved. Other complaints were directed against the recent change in the form of land grants, and against several matters of detail. Though these complaints brought no specific or immediate acts of redress, yet the Lords Proprietors, both publicly and privately, began to admit that it would be necessary to govern according to the charter.

But at the same time they yielded only so far as it was necessary so to do. They retained the agrarian laws intact. Also in a special instruction to Governor Philip Ludwell, accompanying the disallowance of Sothel's acts, they forbade the publication as laws or Acts making changes in courts, juries, officials, and elections until they had confirmed them in England.

Governor Philip Ludwell made concessions to the popular demand respecting the form of deed which should be used in land grants. He also approved of an habeas corpus Act, an Act relating to juries, as well as the one lowering the qualifications for the suffrage. Because of their dissatisfaction with these Acts, and particularly with the one last named, the Lords Proprietors removed Philip Ludwell, after he had been in office about a year.

But his successor, Thomas Smith, though one of the most prominent men among the proprietary party in the province, because of the revival of the controversy over the payment of quit-rents, soon threw up the office in despair. He wrote to the Lords Proprietors in October of 1694 that "it was impossible to settle the country except a proprietor himself was sent over with full power to heal grievances." Governor Thomas Smith is said to have been the originator of the South Carolina jury system, which in its main features have been retained to this day.

He held the office from May of 1693 to November 16, 1694, the date he died in office.

Click Here for information on the Executive Council under Governor Thomas Smith.
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