Although Manigault did not actively practice law, his legal training enabled him to pursue a political career, collect debts owed to London merchants, and manage the South Carolina business and plantation interests of absentee landowners.
Lawyer, legislator, planter. Manigault was born on October 10, 1731, in Charleston, the only child of the wealthy merchant Gabriel Manigault and Anne Ashby. He was educated at a classical school in Charleston and served as a law apprentice under Thomas Corbett. From 1750 to 1754 he studied law in London at the Inner Temple. In 1754 Manigault returned to Charleston and established a law office. On June 8, 1755, he married Elizabeth Wragg, with whom he would have seven children, only four of whom survived infancy.
Although Manigault did not actively practice law, his legal training enabled him to pursue a political career, collect debts owed to London merchants, and manage the South Carolina business and plantation interests of absentee landowners. In 1755 Manigault was elected to the Commons House of Assembly, a position he held until he resigned in 1772. During the Stamp Act protests in 1765, he was elected Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly, and he was reelected as Speaker for seven consecutive years. One of the greatest achievements of the Commons House of Assembly during this time was the establishment of the circuit court system throughout the state in 1769.
In order to qualify to be seated in the Commons House of Assembly, one was required to “own a settled plantation of five hundred acres and ten slaves or other property to the value of one thousand pounds.” To meet these requirements, Manigault’s father deeded him 2,476.5 acres at Port Royal. In 1757 Manigault began acquiring tracts of adjoining land for working plantations. Because of his large land and slave holdings, he became one of the wealthiest men in eighteenth-century British North America. His first plantation collection combined tracts on Goose Creek from the estates of Godin and Wilson and comprised almost 1,300 acres. The Godin property was renamed Steepbrook Plantation and became Manigault’s country home. Both of these plantations were managed as one with an overseer supervising eighty-two slaves in the growing of rice, indigo, corn, peas, and potatoes and raising sheep, oxen, cattle, horses, and poultry. A second group of rice plantations on the Santee River, Mount Ann or Manigault’s Ferry and Gab Mount or Gaymount, consisted of 2,316 acres employing 110 slaves and included a private ferry across the Santee River. The third major working plantation, Mount Harriet, was created at the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. He also owned numerous, smaller tracts of land. According to his 1774 probate inventory, Manigault left an estate valued at £32,737.8 sterling.
In 1772 Manigault resigned from the Commons House of Assembly due to his and his wife’s health problems. After his wife died in February 1773, he returned to England to try to regain his health, which was declining. Manigault died in England on November 12, 1773, and his body was returned to Charleston for burial in the family vault of the Huguenot Church.
Crouse, Maurice A. “The Manigault Family of South Carolina, 1685–1783.” Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1964.
–––, ed. “Letterbook of Peter Manigault.” South Carolina Historical Mag- azine 70 (April 1969): 79–96; (July 1969): 177–95.
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.
Jones, Alice Hanson. Wealth of a Nation to Be: The American Colonies of the Eve of the Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.