Philip Ludwell

Ludwell, Philip

1638–1723

Despite his limited success in reining in the Indian trade, Ludwell failed to build a base of support within the colony with either the proprietary or antiproprietary faction.

Governor. Ludwell was born in 1638 in England, the son of Thomas Ludwell and Jane Cottington. By 1663 he had traveled to Virginia, where his cousin William Berkeley was governor. Ludwell utilized this connection and those by marriage with the Bernard, Burwell, and Culpeper families to become a judge (1676), colonial secretary (1676–1677), a member of the Grand Council (1675–1687, 1691–1695), and Speaker of the House of Burgesses (1695–1700). He sided with Berkeley against Nathaniel Bacon, served with distinction during the rebellion, and led the popular, or Assembly, party after Berkeley’s death. In 1689 he journeyed to England to defend the prerogatives of the House of Burgesses against the crown.

While there, he accepted the governorship of North Carolina from the Lords Proprietors, but he spent less than six out of forty-eight months (1690–1694) in residence, appearing only when summoned. He reorganized the North Carolina council; appointed Thomas Jarvis, a popular and able councilman, as his deputy; and instituted long-sought and popular quitrent reform.

In November 1691 the proprietors appointed Ludwell governor of all Carolina and sent him to Charleston to reestablish order. His predecessor, Seth Sothel, had overthrown Governor James Colleton with the support of the Goose Creek Men, the colony’s antiproprietary faction. Sothel challenged Ludwell’s attempts to displace him, while the Goose Creek faction defended the right of the Commons House of Assembly to legislate without permission of the council. They were willing to compromise, but they demanded land and quitrent reform, guarantees for the colony’s French immigrants, protection from arbitrary justice and fees, and pardons for themselves as prerequisites.

Ludwell’s supporters, the proprietary party, were equally contentious. They openly quarreled with the governor, refused to pay his salary, complained to London that he was taking bribes, and charged that he was falling under the control of the Goose Creek Men. The pirate trade continued to flourish during Ludwell’s tenure, but the governor did attempt to curb the illegal Indian slave trade by ordering all traders to remain in Charleston and organizing a conference with Indian leaders to address their grievances.

Despite his limited success in reining in the Indian trade, Ludwell failed to build a base of support within the colony with either the proprietary or antiproprietary faction. With faltering support in both Charleston and London, Ludwell’s attempted reforms were denigrated in Carolina and vetoed by the proprietors. In mid-May 1693, little more than a year after his arrival, he departed the city, leaving Thomas Smith as his deputy. Ludwell resumed his seat on the Virginia Council, prior to being named as Speaker of the House. In 1707 he transferred control of his extensive landholdings to his son, Philip, and moved to England, where he died in 1723.

McCrady, Edward. The History of South Carolina under the Proprietary Government, 1670–1719. New York: Macmillan, 1897.

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 Ludwell, Philip
  • Coverage 1638–1723
  • Author
  • Keywords Governor, accepted the governorship of North Carolina from the Lords Proprietors, Ludwell’s supporters, the proprietary party, limited success in reining in the Indian trade,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 7, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 9, 2022
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