Government and Law

Brooks, Preston Smith

Brooks is best known for his assault on U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts in May 1856. Following the eruption of violence on the Kansas frontier, Sumner delivered a speech unusually harsh by the Senate’s standards. He assailed South Carolina’s role in American history (especially during the Revolutionary War) and even attacked by name Senator Andrew P. Butler (who was a distant cousin of Brooks). With the aged Butler unable to defend himself or his state, the task fell to his nearest relative, Congressman Brooks, whose familiarity with South Carolina’s traditions of family honor was surpassed only by his fluency with the code duello. After considering his alternatives and waiting for Senator Sumner to apologize publicly, Brooks decided to punish Sumner. On May 22 he entered the Senate chamber after the Senate had adjourned and found Sumner at his desk. Brooks delivered several blows to Sumner’s head with a gutta-percha cane, and the senator fell senseless to the floor.

Broughton, Thomas

Following the death of Governor Edward Tynte in June 1710, Broughton was a leading candidate for the governorship. He lost, however, after Robert Gibbes bribed a councilor and secured the post for himself. Broughton and armed supporters marched on Charleston in protest but withdrew shortly thereafter. Capitalizing again on family connections, Broughton became lieutenant governor of South Carolina in 1731, after being recommended by Governor Robert Johnson, his brother-in-law. Following Johnson’s death in May 1735, Broughton assumed the role of acting governor.

Brown, Edgar Allan

In September 1954 U.S. Senator Burnet Rhett Maybank died. His death occurred after the Democratic Party’s primary but before the general election. The South Carolina Democratic Party’s executive committee held a special meeting and decided to select Edgar Brown as the party’s candidate rather than hold a special election. In response, Strom Thurmond announced a write-in candidacy for the U.S. Senate, claiming that his campaign was a fight for principle— government by the people instead of government by a small group of committee members. Thurmond’s write-in campaign was successful, and he became the first candidate ever elected to Congress by a write-in vote.

Bull, William, II

During the 1770s Bull’s political views grew increasingly out of step as South Carolina and other colonies moved toward radical opposition to the crown. Lord William Campbell, the last royal governor, arrived at Charleston on June 18, 1775, and took office, but his term lasted only three months. On September 15 he was forced to flee the city for refuge on a British warship in Charleston harbor. The revolution was under way, and Bull’s position was an impossible one. He resigned from the Royal Council and retired to his Ashley Hall plantation. In 1777 he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the revolutionary government and was banished from the state.

Black and white print on paper of a side profile of gentleman with colonial style whig hair
Burke, Aedanus

Burke was elected as an anti-Federalist to the First Congress of the United States, commencing service in New York on March 4, 1789. He served on thirty-three committees and was instrumental in crafting bills that led to the judiciary act and the creation of the Library of Congress, the postal system, and the patent system. His congressional service was marked by an incident with Alexander Hamilton, whom Burke felt had slighted southern soldiers when Hamilton eulogized General Nathanael Greene.

Busbee, Cyril B.

Under federal desegregation guidelines, the state had to create a unitary school system instead of the racially separate systems that had been in place prior to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Federal guidelines quashed tactics such as freedom-of-choice plans that many districts utilized to circumvent or slow desegregation. Busing to achieve a racial balance was emphasized in the new regulations. Busbee’s calm, moderate leadership as superintendent proved a great asset during these times.

Andrew Butler posing for a picture. He is in front of a black backdrop and faces to the left slightly, has white long hair that is tight, but dark eyebrows that emphasize his facial features. He is holding a piece of paper folded up while sitting for the picture.
Butler, Andrew Pickens

Butler is perhaps best remembered for his role in the attack on Charles Sumner—even though he was not present for one minute of it. On May 19 and 20, Sumner launched into a speech entitled “The Crime against Kansas.” His villain was Butler, who was absent. Butler was “the Don Quixote of slavery,” and his mistress in this morality play, “though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight . . . the harlot, Slavery.” Sumner then compounded the insult by mocking Butler’s habit of spitting when he spoke. On May 22, in an incident that some historians view as a critical turning point toward civil war, Butler’s cousin Preston S. Brooks avenged his kinsman by caning Sumner on the floor of the Senate.

Butler, Matthew Calbraith

As a senator, Butler supported civil service reform, a strong navy, and the elevation of the agriculture department to cabinet-level status. He also secured nearly $5 million in federal funds for South Carolina harbor and river improvements and public buildings. In 1890 Butler instigated a national debate with his introduction of a bill to provide federal aid to blacks who would emigrate to Africa. Responding to South Carolina’s agrarian movement, Butler shifted his position from that of a conservative Democrat to one favoring such Populist measures as the free coinage of silver and a federal income tax.

Butler, Pierce

Although Butler served in the General Assembly from 1776 to 1789, his most significant political accomplishments came at the national level. In 1787 the legislature elected Butler to both the Confederation Congress and the constitutional convention scheduled to meet later that spring in Philadelphia. In the constitutional debates, Butler generally supported proposals for a strong central government, a single executive, and wealth rather than population as the basis of representation. He also championed South Carolina interests, especially slavery, and vigorously opposed the three-fifths compromise, arguing that slaves represented property wealth and should be counted fully for purposes of representation.

Byrnes, James Francis

Over his lifetime Byrnes held many public positions, coming closer than any other South Carolinian in the twentieth century to obtaining the national political influence wielded by John C. Calhoun in the nineteenth century. Byrnes left a series of political legacies in South Carolina, the nation, and the world. His advocacy of highway and New Deal legislation provided numerous material benefits to South Carolinians. His services to President Roosevelt had a major impact on the national economy during World War II. His role as secretary of state was instrumental in defining postwar foreign policy. In the 1950s and 1960s Byrnes’s support of Republican presidential candidates was a key factor in the party’s revitalization in the South.

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