An ardent proponent of states’ rights, Noble advocated public resistance to the expansion of federal power, which he deemed “highly dangerous, and subversive of our excellent frame of Government.”
Governor. A native of Abbeville District, Noble was the son of Alexander Noble and Catherine Calhoun. Throughout his formative years, Noble enjoyed an enviable education, first studying under the tutelage of Dr. Moses Waddel and later graduating from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1806. Returning to South Carolina, Noble studied law in Charleston under the supervision of Langdon Cheves and later in the office of John C. Calhoun at Abbeville Court House. Admitted to the bar in 1809, he briefly practiced in partnership with Calhoun before establishing his own lucrative law office in Abbeville District. On September 5, 1816, Noble married Elizabeth Bonneau Pickens, a union that produced seven children.
In 1814 Abbeville District elected Noble to the S.C. House of Representatives. Reelected to the next four sessions, Noble also served as Speaker of the House from 1818 to 1823. In 1824 Noble declined another term and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. Returning to his law practice, Noble took a hiatus from public life until 1830, when he was chosen lieutenant governor. Abbeville returned Noble to the House in 1832, where he again occupied the Speaker’s chair from 1833 to 1835. In 1836 Noble was elected to the S.C. Senate, where his parliamentary experience led to his immediate selection as president of the senate. Reelected two years later, Noble resigned his seat upon his election as governor of South Carolina on December 8, 1838.
An ardent proponent of states’ rights, Noble advocated public resistance to the expansion of federal power, which he deemed “highly dangerous, and subversive of our excellent frame of Government.” In particular, Noble opposed the national tariff and called on southerners to insist that duties be laid for revenue, not for the protection of northern industry, and only for an amount required by “the economical wants of the Government.” He further warned of the growing abolitionist movement in the northern states and urged the legislature to “invigorate” the state militia and prepare South Carolinians “to defend their firesides . . . against the unholy machinations of those who would drench our fields in blood, and sweep our land with the besom of destruction.”
Noble had the misfortune of occupying the office of governor in the aftermath of the Panic of 1837, which ruined countless cotton planters and left the South Carolina economy in shambles. Like many Carolinians, Noble placed the burden of blame on state banks, all of which suspended specie payment during the crisis. Noble took the suspensions as a sign that “adherent vices” existed in the banking system and he called on legislators to “probe the evil to the bottom” and thereby “bring back these moneyed corporations, to a healthy performance of their functions.” But Noble would not live to complete his term. After a brief illness, he died on April 7, 1840, and was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Barnabas K. Henagan. Noble was buried in his family cemetery at Oak Hill Plantation, Abbeville District.
Bailey, N. Louise, Mary L. Morgan, and Carolyn R. Taylor, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985. 3 vols. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986.