Broughton, Thomas

?–November 22, 1737

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.

Legislator, lieutenant governor. Broughton was among the most controversial figures in the early political history of South Carolina. Little is known about his early life. He was the son of Andrew Broughton and was probably born in England. Around 1683 he married Anne Johnson, the daughter of Nathaniel Johnson, who would serve as governor of South Carolina from 1703 to 1709. The marriage produced at least seven children. By the mid-1690s Broughton had settled in South Carolina, emigrating from the West Indies.

Broughton quickly became involved in the Indian trade and used his connection to Johnson to advance his position. In 1702 Broughton made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a monopoly on the Indian trade from the Commons House of Assembly. Considered by many to be an unscrupulous trader, Broughton was prosecuted in 1708 by the Indian agent Thomas Nairne on charges that Broughton had enslaved friendly Cherokees and misappropriated deerskins that belonged to the province. Governor Johnson came to the aid of his son-in-law, and Broughton was acquitted, while Nairne was arrested for treason based on the dubious testimony of two witnesses. Broughton invested his trade profits in planting ventures. He acquired at least four plantations, including Mulberry on the Cooper River, where he built a massive, Jacobean-style brick mansion dubbed “Mulberry Castle.”

Broughton’s political career began in 1696, when he was first elected to the Commons House of Assembly. He represented Craven and Berkeley Counties until 1703 and then again from 1716 to 1717, when he served as Speaker. He also served as a deputy to the proprietor John Lord Carteret and was appointed to the Grand Council in 1705. Other influential offices held by Broughton included surveyor general (1707), commissioner of the Indian trade (1719), and collector of the Port of Charleston (1721). In 1725 St. Thomas and St. Denis Parish returned Broughton to the Commons House, where he again served as Speaker until 1727.

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. His brief administration was marked by a renewal of factional tensions in South Carolina, a situation exacerbated by Broughton’s inept and arrogant actions in office. He repeatedly angered the Commons by interfering with appropriation bills, which the Commons deemed to be its sole prerogative. His maladministration of Johnson’s township system brought the township fund to the brink of insolvency. Broughton also antagonized the younger colony of Georgia by backing South Carolina merchants in their attempt to establish control over the Creek Indian trade, claiming that no colony had the right to interfere with the licensed traders of another (even though the South Carolina traders were operating in Georgia territory). Georgia retaliated by strictly enforcing its own Indian trade laws and by seizing several South Carolina vessels in the Savannah River. The quarrel between the two colonies would not subside until after Broughton’s death on November 22, 1737.

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.

Sirmans, M. Eugene. Colonial South Carolina: A Political History, 1663–1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Broughton, Thomas
  • Coverage ?–November 22, 1737
  • Author
  • Keywords Legislator, lieutenant governor, Indian trade, Thomas Nairne, Jacobian-style brick mansion dubbed “Mulberry Castle.”, Governor Robert Johnson,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 30, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 24, 2016
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