Benjamin Guerard

4th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1783 to 1785

Date Born: 1740

[No Known Picture]

Date Died: December 21, 1788

Place Born: Charles Town, SC

Place Buried: Charleston, SC

Residence: Charles Town, SC    

Occupation: Lawyer

Benjamin Guerard was the first Huguenot to be elected governor of South Carolina in 1783.

In 1765, Benjamin Guerard was elected to represent St. Michael's Parish in the
- 27th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1765-1768.

In 1779, Benjamin Guerard was elected to represent St. Helena's Parish in the the House of Representatives of the:
- 3rd General Assembly that met from 1779-1780

At the Fall of Charlestown on May 12, 1780, Benjamin Guerard was taken prisoner by the British and taken to Philadelphia. While incarcerated, he attempted to raise funds to provide food and clothing for his fellow prisoners by pledging his personal security. Although the British refused this, his conduct during this time contributed to the success of his subsequent public career.

In 1781, Benjamin Guerard was elected to represent St. Helena's Parish in the SC Senate of the:
- 4th General Assembly that met in 1782. In 1782, Guerard also served on the council that negotiated the withdrawal of the British from Charlestown on December 14th.

In 1783, Benjamin Guerard was again elected to represent St. Helena's Parish in the House of Representatives of the:
- 5th General Assembly that met from 1783-1784

In early 1783, the South Carolina General Assembly elected him as the next Governor of South Carolina and he had to give up his seat in the Senate. During his administration, Charlestown was incorporated under its present name - Charleston; the town of Stateburg was founded by Thomas Sumter; and, cotton was first cultivated in South Carolina for export.

Benjamin Guerard married Sarah, daugher of Thomas and Mary (Bull) Middleton, in November of 1766. He married a second time to a Miss Kenyon, granddaughter of Benjamin Godin. He died in January of 1789 [another source asserts he died on December 21, 1788.]

His grandfather, John Guerard, was a French Huguenot of noble extraction, who, in 1685, after the repeal of the Edict of Nantes, went to London then to Charles Town in South Carolina. His son, also named John, married the daughter of Chief Justice Charles Hill. Benjamin Guerard secured a commission to practice law at the South Carolina bar on January 9, 1761.
Continental Army General Nathanael Greene and Governor John Mathews had a good working relationship and seemed genuinely to admire each other. Greene's closeness to the head of South Carolina's government ended in February 1783, however, when Benjamin Guerard was elected to succeed Mathews as governor. Shortly after his election, Guerard clashed with Greene.

On March 8, 1783, Greene wrote a letter to the South Carolina legislature, hoping to persuade that body not to rescind its ratification of the proposed federal impost, a five percent tax on imports that was the cornerstone of Robert Morris's plan to create financial stability for the national government. Greene addressed his letter to Governor Guerard, who passed it on to the legislature with a letter of his own attacking the impost and Greene's arguments on its behalf. It is not known how influential Guerard's rebuttal may have been, but it must have rankled Greene that the governor acted to check his attempt at persuasion. Whatever the cause, Greene's effort turned out to be a dismal failure; in fact, some argue that it actually promoted the rescinding of the impost by inflaming the legislators, who roundly criticized the general for trying to dictate policy and meddling in the state's affairs.

South Carolina Weekly Advertiser, Vol. I, No. 2
Wednesday, February 26, 1783

State of South Carolina.
By His Excellency Benjamin Guerard, Esquire, Governor and Commander in Chief in and over the said State;

A Proclamation.

Whereas Doctor Orr, of Godfrey's Savannah, in the State aforesaid, was on the eleventh inst. on the Saltketcher Road, near the Ferry, most inhumanly murdered.

And Whereas circumstances concur to induce a strong belief, that the same was perpetrated by one James Booth and his small party of ruffians, who for some time past, have been lurking in that part of the Country, and who have committed other murders.

I have therefore thought proper, by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council, to issue this my Proclamation, offering a Reward of Four Hundred and Fifty Mexican Dollars, to whoever will apprehend and bring to Justice, the perpetrators of said murder, to be paid on conviction ; the same shall be extended to an accomplice, besides a full and free Pardon.

Given under my Hand, and the Great Seal of the State, at Charles Town, this Twenty Second Day of February, One thousand seven hundred and eighty three, and in the Seventh Year of the Independence of the United States of America.

Benjamin Guerard

By his Excellency's Command,

John Vander Horst, Secretary

The 350-acre Fairfield Plantation (alson known as Stoney's Place), stretching from Skull Creek to Jarvis Creek and from Cotton Hope to Jenkins Island, was apparently part of the original Bayley’s Barony, sold first to Captain John Gascoigne and once owned by William Eden. In the 1783 survey by Dr. Mosse it was held by Benjamin Guerard, the new governor of South Carolina. Soon thereafter it was purchased by Captain Jack Stoney whose family held it after confiscation.

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