Much of the evolution of the South Carolina General Assembly revolves around attempts by conflicting factions to preserve or gain an advantage in representation. For example, increasingly powerful Carolina-based leaders struggled with proprietary and royal authorities during the colonial era to establish the dominance of the Commons House of Assembly as a basis for political independence (1670–1776).
The crisis, which began as a dispute over federal tariff laws, became intertwined with the politics of slavery and sectionalism. Led by John C. Calhoun, a majority of South Carolina slaveholders claimed that a state had the right to nullify or veto federal laws and secede from the Union.
Although a highly respected legislator and banker, Elliott is perhaps best remembered for his activities as a botanist.