Chief among the business of the council was the command and administration of the provincial military force and issuing paper currency to finance military expenses.

Prompted by rumors of British-sponsored slave and Indian attacks and news of the hostilities between British and patriot forces at Lexington and Concord, the Provincial Congress of South Carolina met for an emergency session in early June 1775. Congressional delegates hastened to cope with the rapidly deteriorating situation and began to prepare to defend the state. The congress also called for the election of a new assembly to meet later in the year. For the interim, however, it created a powerful thirteen-member committee to act as the supreme executive power in the province and to be called the Council of Safety. All thirteen members were elected to the council by ballot on the evening of June 14, 1775, including Henry Laurens, who was designated to serve as the council’s president. Peter Timothy, the secretary for the Provincial Congress, would serve as secretary.

Regarding public affairs so urgent, the council held its first meeting only two days after its creation. Chief among the business of the council was the command and administration of the provincial military force and issuing paper currency to finance military expenses. Once the threat of a slave revolt in the lowcountry had subsided, the council turned its attention to the backcountry. In addition to the Indian problem, a strong Loyalist presence began to emerge there. In an attempt to convert the disaffected, the council sent one of its most fervent members, William Henry Drayton, and two like-minded clergymen, William Tennent and Oliver Hart, on a mission into the interior of the state. But the results were disappointing. By mid-November fighting had broken out between patriots and Tories, and the council directed military operations through year’s end.

When the Provincial Congress met again in November, it elected a new Council of Safety on November 16, 1775. Three new members replaced three members who had resigned, while the rest retained their seats, including Henry Laurens as president. The new council first met on November 30, 1775, and constituted the executive power of the province until the adoption of a permanent government in March 1776.

Chesnutt, David R., et al., eds. Papers of Henry Laurens. Vol. 10, Dec. 12, 1774–Jan. 4, 1776. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1985.

———. Papers of Henry Laurens. Vol. 11, Jan. 5, 1776–Nov. 1, 1777. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

Journal of the Council of Safety, for the Province of South Carolina, 1775.” In Collections of the South Carolina Historical Society. Vol. 2. Charleston: South Carolina Historical Society, 1858.

Journal of the Second Council of Safety, Appointed by the Provisional Congress, November, 1775.” In Collections of the South Carolina Historical Society. Vol. 3. Charleston: South Carolina Historical Society, 1859.

Krawczynski, Keith. William Henry Drayton: South Carolina Revolutionary Patriot. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Council of Safety
  • Author Samuel K. Fore
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/council-of-safety/
  • Access Date September 16, 2019
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date April 15, 2016
  • Date of Last Update August 11, 2016