Early in 1776 he was chosen to replace the resigning Christopher Gadsden in the Second Continental Congress. That summer Thomas Heyward, Jr., was one of four South Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
Planter, legislator, jurist, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Heyward (designated “Jr.” to distinguish him from others of that name in his family), the eldest son of Daniel Heyward and Maria Miles, was born on July 28, 1746, at his father’s Old House plantation in St. Helena’s Parish. After receiving a classical education, he was sent to London to study law at the Middle Temple in 1765. Returning to South Carolina in 1771, Heyward was admitted to the Charleston Bar on January 22, 1771, and was practicing law in Charleston when elected to represent St. Helena’s Parish in the Commons House of Assembly.
Heyward took an active role in opposition to British rule and served on the Committee of Ninety-Nine in 1774, which called for the formation of the First Provincial Congress the following year. He was additionally one of the thirteen members appointed to the Council of Safety and was reelected to the Second Provincial Congress in late 1775, which resolved itself into the First General Assembly in 1776. The Second Provincial Congress reappointed Heyward to the Council of Safety. Early in 1776 he was chosen to replace the resigning Christopher Gadsden in the Second Continental Congress. That summer Thomas Heyward, Jr., was one of four South Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
Sitting in Congress for two years, Heyward returned to South Carolina in 1778 and was appointed a circuit judge in 1779, a position he held for ten years. In that capacity he upheld the confiscation and amercement of Loyalist property after the Revolutionary War. Heyward’s political responsibilities did not prevent his military duty. As a captain in the Charleston Artillery Company, he was wounded in the successful defense at Port Royal Island in February 1779. Captured at the head of his battery at the fall of Charleston, Heyward was paroled, but was later recalled and imprisoned at St. Augustine, Florida. Exchanged and sent to Philadelphia, he returned to South Carolina and was elected to the Fourth General Assembly in 1782. Heyward was also a supporter of the federal Constitution and a member of the state convention which ratified it in 1788, and he was a member of the subsequent state constitutional convention.
In 1790 Heyward retired from active public life in order to devote himself to his family and agricultural pursuits at his White Hall Plantation in St. Luke’s Parish. He had been a founder and the first president of the Agricultural Society of South Carolina and continued to work with the society until his death. He married twice. On April 20, 1773, he married Elizabeth Mathewes, who died in 1782. On May 4, 1786, Heyward married Elizabeth Savage. Together the marriages produced eight children. Thomas Heyward, Jr., died on April 22, 1809, and was buried in the family cemetery on Old House Plantation in St. Luke’s Parish.
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.
Hemphill, William E., ed. Extracts from the Journals of the Provincial Congresses of South Carolina, 1775–1776. Columbia: South Carolina Archives Department, 1960.
Salley, Alexander S. Delegates to the Continental Congress from South Carolina, 1774–1789, with Sketches of the Four Who Signed the Declaration of Independence. Columbia, S.C.: State Company, 1927.