Merchant, legislator. Brewton was born on January 29, 1731, in Charleston to Robert Brewton, a prosperous goldsmith, and his second wife, Mary Griffith. His grandfather Miles Brewton had immigrated to South Carolina from Barbados in 1684 and became a goldsmith and militia officer. Since his family’s trade was allied to banking, young Miles was well placed for a career in finance and trade. Twice during the 1750s, he traveled to England to finish his education and establish commercial ties. Between 1756 and his death, Brewton conducted business in several partnerships and was part-owner in eight commercial vessels. His partnerships dealt largely with the exportation of domestic produce, but he also made substantial profits in the importation of slaves. On May 19, 1759, Brewton further expanded his fortune and influence by marrying Mary Izard, daughter of Joseph Izard and Ann Bull. The couple had three children. Through his marriage, numerous land grants, and purchases, Brewton accumulated a large quantity of real estate. However, he made his fortune principally as a merchant rather than as a planter, becoming one of the wealthiest men in South Carolina.
In 1769 Brewton constructed a grand house on King Street and decorated it in the latest English taste. Still standing in the early twenty-first century, the structure is considered one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in America. During a visit to Charleston in 1773, the Bostonian Josiah Quincy, Jr., dined at Brewton’s town house with several prominent local figures. He described Brewton as “a gentleman of very large fortune” and marveled at his host’s conspicuous wealth. He pronounced the mansion “the grandest hall I ever beheld” and its furnishings “vastly pretty.” In public life, Brewton was active in the Charleston Library Society and was an officer of the South Carolina Society. In his will he left a legacy of £500 sterling to support the South Carolina Society’s free primary school and £1,000 sterling to establish a college in South Carolina. He served as a commissioner of several public bodies in Charleston, including the Work House and Markets and the projects to build the Exchange and magazines. In 1773 he was elected vice president of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce. Brewton served in the Commons House of Assembly from 1765 until his death, representing the parishes of St. Philip’s, St. John’s Colleton, and St. Michael’s in succession. In 1773 Lieutenant Governor William Bull recommended him for a seat on the Royal Council, but Brewton’s support of antigovernment measures led him to decline the seat. In July 1774 Brewton stood as a conservative South Carolina candidate for the First Continental Congress, but he lost to the more radical Christopher Gadsden. Brewton represented the parishes of St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s in the First Provincial Congress in 1775 and there was elected to the Council of Safety. Lord William Campbell, the last royal governor of South Carolina, was married to Mary Brewton’s first cousin, and on his arrival in Charleston in 1775 he briefly resided at Brewton’s King Street mansion. Also in 1775 Brewton was reelected to the Provincial Congress for its second term, but he would not be able to serve in that body. In late August 1775, on a voyage from Charleston to Philadelphia, Brewton and his family were lost at sea. See plate 10.
Edgar, Walter, and N. Louise Bailey, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Vol. 2, The Commons House of Assembly, 1692–1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977.
Quincy, Josiah, Jr. “Journal of Josiah Quincy, Junior, 1773.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 49 (June 1916): 424–81.
Salley, A. S., Jr. “Col. Miles Brewton and Some of His Descendants.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 2 (April 1901): 128–52.