In office, Richardson supported a statewide agricultural and geologic survey in order to improve agriculture and halt the migration of planters and farmers from the state.
Congressman, governor. Born in Sumter District on April 14, 1801, Richardson was the son of John Peter Richardson and Floride Bonneau Peyre. He attended Willington Academy and South Carolina College, but he withdrew from the latter in 1819 during his senior year. On October 16, 1827, Richardson married his first cousin Juliana Augusta Manning. They had at least five children. A successful planter, Richardson owned a large plantation in Sumter District and at least 194 slaves by 1860.
In 1825 Richardson was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served until 1833. A Unionist, Richardson opposed the nullification movement in South Carolina, doubting that federal laws could be nullified by the individual states. In November 1832 Sumter District sent Richardson to the state nullification convention in Columbia, where he voted against the ordinance that declared the federal tariffs of 1828 and 1832 null and void in South Carolina.
In 1834 Richardson was elected to the South Carolina Senate and served a two-year term. As a senator, Richardson debated the Test Oath Bill with Governor James Hamilton, the recognized leader of the nullification movement. Richardson opposed the bill, which required all civil and military officers to pledge their ultimate allegiance to South Carolina over the nation. Richardson resigned from the state Senate upon his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Chosen to complete the term of his late brother-in-law, Richard I. Manning, Richardson took his seat in Congress on December 19, 1836, and served until 1839.
Shortly after his return to South Carolina, Richardson’s name was put forward as a candidate for governor in January 1840. His nomination represented an attempt to reconcile Unionists and nullifiers in the state, with his election allowing nullifiers to woo Unionists by giving one of their own the prestigious, but largely ceremonial, office of governor. When the General Assembly convened, Richardson was easily elected governor on December 9, 1840. In office, Richardson supported a statewide agricultural and geologic survey in order to improve agriculture and halt the migration of planters and farmers from the state. The impact of this out-migration was made clear in the 1840 federal reapportionment, in which South Carolina lost two congressional districts. Richardson was also an advocate of military education and played a key role in establishing the Citadel in Charleston and Arsenal Academy in Columbia.
After Richardson left office in December 1842, his Unionist sympathies gradually eroded as he observed the growing abolitionist movement in the North. He served as a deputy to the Nashville Convention in 1850. He served as president of the state Southern Rights Association the following year and as a delegate to the Southern Rights state convention in 1852. Clarendon District sent Richardson to the Secession Convention of 1860, where he joined his fellow delegates in their unanimous support for the Ordinance of Secession. Richardson died on January 24, 1864, and was buried in the family cemetery in Clarendon 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.