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Laboratory for Liberty

Laboratory for Liberty: The South Carolina Legislative Committee System 1719--1776

Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Laboratory for Liberty
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive study highlights the importance of legislative and extralegal committees in the political and institutional development of early American history, showing how the colonial experience modified a basic British institution, using it in the cause of legislative supremacy and, eventually, independence. The book illuminates the role played by committees in the growth of colonial self-government, tracing the committee system to its origins in the parliamentary committees of medieval England, then following the permutations of the committee system through the decades in which self-government emerged in South Carolina. Solid, penetrating, the book offers new depths of insight into an important process that had vital importance to the growth of representative government in America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6290-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    This study of the South Carolina legislative committee system is an attempt to illuminate the role of committees in the growth of colonial self government. Partly because of frontier developments, the legislative committee became an institution which helped to solve many governmental problems of a New-World community. In a sense, the committees provided workshops for ideas that were to bring about legislative supremacy and, finally, independence.

    Origins of the committee system can be traced, in part, to the parliamentary committees of medieval England. In 1670 Englishmen brought the committee system to South Carolina. Thereafter provincial legislative committees played a vital...

  4. CHAPTER I The Background of the Legislative Committee System
    (pp. 1-20)

    The widespread use of committees in virtually every phase of society is such an accepted part of modern American life that the importance of the committee’s role in shaping our institutions is often overlooked. A number of factors explain the general use of committees in America today. In government, the committee system is one of the best known alternatives to authoritarian rule. And in a nation where self-government has become a way of life, the committee approach reflects some of our national beliefs. Moreover, committees are an excellent training ground for inexperienced legislators.¹

    Our tradition of committee activity can be...

  5. CHAPTER II The Development of Legulative Committees in the Commons House of Assembly
    (pp. 21-37)

    In the frontier province of South Carolina, the Commons House of Assembly was the only governmental body responsible to the electorate. The gradual acquisition of greater power by the assembly was therefore one of the most important political trends in eighteenth-century South Carolina.¹ By 1763, the assembly was so well entrenched in power that it could virtually stop governmental operation when it wished to do so.

    The Commons House legislators generated the ideas, administered the finances, and guarded the public’s interest through the legislative committee system. As the colony grew and legislative responsibilities increased, committees were assigned new roles. When...

  6. CHAPTER III The Legislative Committee System in the Early Royal Period 1719–1725
    (pp. 38-52)

    In the early years of the royal period, members of the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly established a number of committee precedents. By May 1725, the end of the administration of the first royal governor, Sir Francis Nicholson, the legislative committee system had become well entrenched, due in part to Nicholson’s support. As a result, it was difficult after 1725 to curb the power of a number of legislative committees.¹

    This was an important period in the development of the legislative committee system. Although the colony was not officially at war, the legislature was still concerned with the threat...

  7. CHAPTER IV The Legislative Committee System in a Period of Western Expansion, 1727–1737
    (pp. 53-67)

    The departure of Governor Sir Francis Nicholson in 1725 marked the start of a new chapter in South Carolina history. There were several problems—Indians, Western land, and the economy—which plagued both the legislature and the three governors who followed Nicholson. Legislative attempts to deal with these problems were complicated by friction between the upper and lower houses of the General Assembly.¹

    The Commons House often relied on legislative crises to further its drive toward greater self-government, but the acting governor in the years 1725 to 1730, Arthur Middleton, staunchly opposed the growth of legislative power. The result of...

  8. CHAPTER V The Legislative Committee System in Peace and Frontier Conflict, 1737–1748
    (pp. 68-80)

    From 1737 to 1748, South Carolina was embroiled in intercolonial war. Fortunately for the colony’s welfare in this troubled period, South Carolinians were led by two governors of genuine ability, William Bull I (1737–1744) and James Glen (1744–1756).¹ In these years, the work of the legislative committees stimulated growth toward increased self-government despite intercolonial strife.

    South Carolina was actively involved in the conflict with Spain during the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739–1744).² When this struggle expanded into the third of the major intercolonial wars, King George’s War (1744–1748), Carolinians found themselves part of an imperial struggle...

  9. CHAPTER VI Committees and Legislative Supremacy in a Second Era of Frontier Conflict, 1749–1764
    (pp. 81-99)

    The government of South Carolina went through a process of gradual transformation in the period from 1749 to 1764. This was an era of intercolonial frontier war and peace and a host of internal political problems in South Carolina government.¹ A concurrent development was a gradual improvement in economic conditions which resulted in heightened prosperity for the planters and merchants, who increasingly cooperated in political affairs.² This period also was marked by the emergence of a new frontier area in the Appalachian valleys in western South Carolina. Indeed, as we have seen, by the middle of the eighteenth century an...

  10. CHAPTER VII Legislative Committees and the Road to Revolution, 1764–1774
    (pp. 100-117)

    The last years of colonial South Carolina, 1765 to 1774, were filled with events which involved committee activity. These events were the result of a number of crises, the first of which was the Stamp Act of 1765. As a consequence of this and other difficulties, such as the John Wilkes case and the intercolonial commercial boycotts of British products after 1769, the colony’s government was in almost constant turmoil. Most of the controversy of this decade involved either legislative committees or extralegal committees. The problems which a number of committees attempted to solve were often quite different from those...

  11. CHAPTER VIII Revolutionary Committee Activity, 1774–1776
    (pp. 118-130)

    Revolutionary developments in South Carolina from 1774 to 1776 were closely related to the growth in power of extralegal political organizations. These bodies became powerful largely as a result of the troubled character of the decade. In South Carolina a major cause for political unrest was the John Wilkes impasse, mentioned previously, which had nearly stopped constitutional government within the colony since 1769.¹ With the exception of hastily arranged demonstrations, most of this political activity was organized by nonlegislative leadership committees in Charles Town.

    Leaders of these extralegal protest groups were usually members of the Commons House of Assembly who...

  12. APPENDIX I Committee Assignments and Memberships in the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly under the Revolutionary Government, 1720–1721
    (pp. 131-135)
    James Moore Jr.
  13. APPENDIX II Committee Assignments and Memberships tn the South Carolina Commons Home of Assembly during Selected Segments of the Royal Perio, 1721–1776
    (pp. 136-174)
  14. APPENDIX III Geographic Distribution of, Assignments to, and Membership of Selected Important Legislative Committees of the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly, 1736–1739
    (pp. 175-181)
    Thomas Broughton and William Bull I
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 182-194)
  16. Index
    (pp. 195-201)