Blake, Joseph

1663–September 7, 1700

Sometime after his arrival in Carolina, Blake was named a proprietary deputy and member of the Grand Council. Blake returned to the Grand Council during Philip Ludwell’s brief term as governor and remained a member until November 1694, when he succeeded Landgrave Thomas Smith as governor.

Governor. Blake was a leader of the Dissenter political faction in South Carolina and a supporter of the Lords Proprietors in their disputes with local political leaders. He was born in England, the son of Benjamin Blake and Elizabeth Wilson. His baptism was recorded at Bridgewater, Somersetshire, on April 26, 1663. Somersetshire was a Dissenter stronghold during the late seventeenth century and the home of the prominent Dissenter families of Morton, Blake, and Axtell. Branches of these families immigrated to Carolina in the 1680s. The date Blake immigrated to Carolina is uncertain, but by 1689 he was active in local politics. Blake’s first wife was Deborah Morton, daughter of Governor Joseph Morton, but the date of their marriage is unknown. The couple had no children. Following Deborah’s death, Blake in December 1698 wed Elizabeth Axtell Turgis, daughter of Landgrave Daniel Axtell. The couple had two children.

Sometime after his arrival in Carolina, Blake was named a proprietary deputy and member of the Grand Council. When Seth Sothell seized control of the governorship in 1690, he banished Governor Sir James Colleton and ousted Blake from the council. Blake returned to the Grand Council during Philip Ludwell’s brief term as governor and remained a member until November 1694, when he succeeded Landgrave Thomas Smith as governor. In that year Blake purchased the proprietary share of Sir John Berkeley and became one of the second generation of Lords Proprietors. Blake’s appointment was ratified by the other proprietors, but within a short time a new governor was on the scene. John Archdale, a Quaker by faith and another proprietor, arrived at Charleston and assumed the post in August 1695. In England the proprietors had appointed Archdale in the hope that one of their number governing on the scene would diminish the political rancor that gripped the province. Archdale’s brief term was deemed a success. He returned to England in October 1696 and appointed Blake deputy governor, which office he held until his death in 1700.

Factional politics returned with considerable vigor during Blake’s administration. Anglican “Goose Creek Men,” named for their place of residence, grew increasingly vocal in their opposition to the proprietors in England and their governor in Charleston. Political fighting over the Indian trade and the role of French Huguenots in Carolina society were among the divisive issues. Blake supported Huguenot naturalization and enacted an important statute in March 1697 that expanded the rights of non-English settlers. However, his term was marked by local disputes and conflict with Edward Randolph, British surveyor of the customs, over Blake’s abuses of British customs laws and admiralty courts. After the British Parliament enacted the Navigation Act of 1696 to strengthen control over colonial trade, the Board of Trade dispatched Randolph to America to investigate the colonial customs system and make recommendations to improve it. He visited Charleston in November 1698 and remained there for five months, where he administered an oath to Governor Blake and other officials to uphold the Navigation Act. But he soon discovered that Blake was a notorious offender against the act. Randolph accused Blake and his brother-in-law, Joseph Morton, admiralty judge, of fraudulently condemning vessels as contraband and then colluding to purchase at auction ships and cargoes at bargain prices. Randolph also reported that Blake and others took bribes to ignore smuggling and traded with pirates and the Spanish in Florida.

The case of the Cole and Bean galley was the most blatant episode. In September 1699 the colonist Edmund Bellinger filed a complaint in admiralty court against the Cole and Bean, a small trading vessel, for violation of the Navigation Act. Judge Joseph Morton heard the case. He condemned the vessel and ordered it sold at auction. The London shipowners appealed the verdict to the English Privy Council, and Morton’s verdict was reversed in 1701. While in Charleston, Randolph observed the proceedings in that case. He reported to the crown Blake’s actions and the proprietors’ negligence in enforcing English laws. Randolph’s reports led to a sweeping review of charter colonies in America aimed to bring them more directly under crown authority.

Blake’s death in office on September 7, 1700, precipitated a power struggle in the council over his successor. Dissenters supported Joseph Morton and the Anglicans opposed him, asserting that Morton was ineligible to be proprietary governor because he held a royal commission as admiralty judge. They then opposed Edmund Bellinger, another Dissenter, because he was vice admiralty judge. The Anglicans’ argument prevailed in the council, and James Moore became deputy governor. The succession of Moore, an Anglican and opponent of the proprietors, was a blow to Dissenter control in Carolina and exacerbated conflict both in the province and between colonial leaders and with the Lords Proprietors.

Blake Family. Files. South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston. Moore, John Alexander. “Royalizing South Carolina: The Revolution of 1719 and the Evolution of Early South Carolina Government.” Ph.D.

diss., University of South Carolina, 1991. Toppan, Robert Noxon, and Alfred Thomas Scrope Goodrick, eds. Edward Randolph, Including His Letters and Official Papers from the New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies in America. 7 vols. 1898. Reprint, New York: Burt Franklin, 1967.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Blake, Joseph
  • Coverage 1663–September 7, 1700
  • Author
  • Keywords Governor, Dissenter political faction, second generation of Lords Proprietors, Cole and Bean galley, Joseph Morton,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date August 5, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 13, 2016
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