As a recognized war hero and longtime leader in the antiproprietary party, Moore was chosen as provisional governor until England could assume control of the colony.
Governor. South Carolina’s first native-born governor, Moore was the eldest son of former governor James Moore, Sr., and Margaret Berringer. Even though the elder Moore left extensive debts, the intermarriage of his children with other rising Carolina families positioned them to play influential roles in the colony’s future. After receiving a portion of his inheritance in 1704, James Jr. established himself as a prosperous planter and represented Berkeley and Craven Counties in the Commons House of Assembly from 1706 to 1708. He married Elizabeth Beresford (date of marriage unknown), and the couple eventually had six children.
Like his father before him, Moore possessed skill in Indian affairs. In 1707 the assembly commissioned him a captain of militia and dispatched him to pursue a band of Savannah River Indians who had robbed Virginia traders. In March 1713 Colonel Moore and John Barnwell led a mixed expedition of whites and Indians into North Carolina against the Tuscarora Indians, who had attacked the province without warning. In a decisive battle, Moore’s force crippled the Tuscaroras’ ability to make war and enabled North Carolina to survive their onslaught. Two years later the Yamassee Indians and their allies caught South Carolina off guard, and Moore, now a lieutenant general of the colonial militia, contributed significantly to eventual victory in the Yamassee War (1715–1718). While Governor James Craven led forces against the Yamassees, Moore and his younger brother, Maurice, negotiated with the Cherokees. The two men convinced the Indian nation to enter the war on the side of the colonists and arranged to settle outstanding trade disputes. While refusing to accept a post as one of five Indian trade commissioners in 1716, Moore allowed himself to be named sole commissioner eight years later.
In December 1719 the proprietary government of South Carolina was overthrown in the bloodless revolution of 1719. As a recognized war hero and longtime leader in the antiproprietary party, Moore was chosen as provisional governor until England could assume control of the colony. Moore and the assembly quickly set about reconstituting South Carolina’s government. They created a “privy council,” selected new judges and government officials, and reformed legislative procedures. In May 1721 Moore confronted an attempt by former governor Robert Johnson and others to retake the colony on behalf of the proprietors. The effort was quickly thwarted, and Moore shortly thereafter delivered the government safely into the hands of the first royal governor, Francis Nicholson. Moore returned to the Commons House, where he served as Speaker from 1721 until his death on March 3, 1724.
Crane, Verner. The Southern Frontier, 1670–1732. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1928.
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.
Webber, Mabel L. “The First Governor Moore and His Children.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 37 (January l936): 1–23.