Governor. Of all South Carolina’s royal governors, only one, Thomas Boone, could be counted as a “native son.” Although born in England in 1730 or 1731 and educated at Eton and Cambridge, Boone had strong hereditary ties to South Carolina. His father, Charles, a London merchant and member of Parliament, was the nephew of Joseph Boone, a leading politician of proprietary South Carolina. His mother, Elizabeth Garth, was a descendant of one of South Carolina’s founding families, the Colletons. Boone first traveled to South Carolina in 1752 to claim Boone’s Barony, a plantation in St. Bartholomew’s Parish that he inherited from his great-uncle Joseph. He returned to England two years later but in 1758 departed again for South Carolina with the idea of settling. He married a South Carolinian, Sarah Ann (Tattnall) Peronneau. The couple had no children.
Through the influence of relatives in Parliament, Boone in late 1759 was appointed governor of New Jersey, where he proved popular and his administration was characterized as “publickly kind and benevolent.” Because of his harmonious tenure in New Jersey, as well as his Carolina connections, Boone appeared to be a likely candidate for the Board of Trade’s most difficult assignment: the governorship of South Carolina. The colony’s Commons House of Assembly frequently clashed with its governors and was rapidly acquiring power at the expense of royal prerogative.
Boone arrived in Charleston in December 1761 to a population satisfied with the appointment of one of their own as governor. However, Boone quickly dashed any hope of a peaceful administration. His instructions from the Board of Trade directed him to obtain a revision of the Election Act of 1721 and thereby check the power of the Commons House of Assembly. When Boone raised the question, the Commons received it coldly. He therefore made the impolitic decision to force the issue and punish the Commons for refusing to grant the sought-after revision. In September 1762 Boone charged that the assemblyman Christopher Gadsden had been elected illegally, and Boone refused to administer the oath of office. When the Commons seated Gadsden anyway, Boone dissolved the assembly. When a new assembly convened in November 1762, it resolved not to conduct any business until the governor apologized and acknowledged the right of the Commons to judge the qualifications of its members. Boone stubbornly refused, and the ensuing gridlock brought government to a virtual standstill. Boone tried to gain allies by doling out warrants for land south of the Altamaha River in Georgia (which South Carolina claimed under its proprietary charter), but the damage was done. England was at war with France and needed the full cooperation of her colonies. Boone gave up his struggle and left South Carolina in May 1764. Two months later the Board of Trade admonished him for acting with “more Zeal than Prudence.”
Boone spent the remainder of his life in England. In December 1769 he received an appointment as a commissioner of customs, an office he held until 1805. He died at his home in Kent on September 25, 1812.
Greene, Jack P. “The Gadsden Election Controversy and the Revolutionary Movement in South Carolina.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 46 (December 1959): 469–92.
Namier, L. B. “Charles Garth and His Connexions.” English Historical Review 54 (July 1939): 443–70.
Sirmans, M. Eugene. Colonial South Carolina: A Political History, 1663–1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966.