Revolution of 1719

December 1719

When they failed to see any return on their investment after several decades, their overbearing leadership turned to outright neglect. The failure of the proprietors to assist South Carolina during and after the devastating Yamassee War (1715–1718) and against pirates (1718–1719) provided colonists with galling evidence that the men in London had placed personal profit above the public welfare.

A popular, almost bloodless coup led by Arthur Middleton and a host of prominent colonists, the Revolution of 1719 ended proprietary rule in South Carolina. Proprietary governor Robert Johnson was deposed on December 21 and James Moore, Jr., a respected landowner and war hero, was proclaimed provisional governor, setting the stage for South Carolina’s transformation into a British royal colony.

The Lords Proprietors of Carolina intended their colony to be a money-making proposition from the outset. With the bottom line as their top priority, they governed Carolina erratically and ineffectively, and always with economic expediency in mind. Initially the proprietors resisted representative government and incited bitter factionalism in the colony. When they failed to see any return on their investment after several decades, their overbearing leadership turned to outright neglect. The failure of the proprietors to assist South Carolina during and after the devastating Yamassee War (1715–1718) and against pirates (1718–1719) provided colonists with galling evidence that the men in London had placed personal profit above the public welfare. Interference in land-settlement policies and the vetoing of key legislation, seemingly guaranteed by Archdale’s Law (1696), brought the province to confrontation with the proprietors. The Commons House of Assembly, representing the colonists, responded by appointing officials, raising new taxes, and revising the quitrent law in open defiance of proprietary authority. In November 1719 Johnson was informed by members of the legislature that they were “unanimously of Opinion that they would have no Proprietors’ Government.”

Johnson, who had tried to moderate the escalating quarrel, was forced to dissolve the assembly. When a new assembly convened in December 1719, assembly members ignored Johnson’s authority and deemed themselves a “Convention of the People.” As such, they elected Moore governor and petitioned the British crown to be made a royal colony. Even though the first royal governor, Francis Nicholson, was not sent for a year and a half, the provisional government maintained the reins of power, blocked two attempts by Johnson to overthrow them, and maintained a sound economy.

Moore, John Alexander. “Royalizing South Carolina: The Revolution of 1719 and the Evolution of Early South Carolina Government.” Ph.D. diss., University of South Carolina, 1991.

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 Revolution of 1719
  • Coverage December 1719
  • Author
  • Keywords A popular, almost bloodless coup led by Arthur Middleton and a host of prominent colonists, ended proprietary rule in South Carolina, Lords Proprietors of Carolina intended their colony to be a money-making proposition from the outset, Yamassee War (1715–1718), Archdale’s Law,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 18, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update December 2, 2016
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