The Jacksonborough Assembly’s most important work was its decision to confiscate Loyalist estates.
(January–February 1782). After a two-year hiatus caused by war, the General Assembly met at Jacksonborough, a small town on the Edisto River about thirty miles from British-occupied Charleston.
The Jacksonborough Assembly’s most important work was its decision to confiscate Loyalist estates. This volatile issue became more heated when John Laurens, chair of the committee that determined which individuals would face confiscation, proposed that slaves from confiscated estates be enlisted in the Continental army. His proposal won few adherents, though an opponent noted that legislators fought a “hard Battle on the Subject of arming the Blacks.” The final confiscation act reserved some slaves as bounties for whites who enlisted in the state’s Continental line and employed other slaves in public service.
Although several prominent legislators, including Aedanus Burke and Christopher Gadsden, opposed punitive legislation, they were a distinct minority. One observer estimated that 700 persons were considered for confiscation, but the legislation passed on February 26 was less sweeping. The confiscation act divided 237 persons into six categories, which included nonresident British citizens, individuals who congratulated the British after their victories, men who joined the Loyalist militia or held British commissions, and “inveterate enemies” of the state. These individuals forfeited their property and were banished from the state. A separate amercement act compelled 47 individuals who accepted British protection to pay a fine worth twelve percent of their estates.
The confiscation legislation proved controversial, and some contemporaries asserted that the assembly was motivated by revenge and greed. After the British departed South Carolina, tempers cooled and subsequent sessions of the General Assembly heard petitions of Loyalists who desired relief. By 1787 almost two-thirds of the individuals facing confiscation and banishment had received reduced penalties and permission to reside in the state. In the short term, the Jacksonborough Assembly satisfied popular clamors for retribution against Loyalists and perhaps prevented vigilante justice.
Lambert, Robert Stansbury. South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.
Salley, Alexander S., ed. Journal of the House of Representatives of South Carolina. January 8, 1782–February 26, 1782. Columbia: State Company, 1916.
Weir, Robert M. ”The Last of American Freeman”: Studies in the Political Culture of the Colonial and Revolutionary South. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986.