William Henry Drayton : The Revolutionary Leader Essay

1175 Words Jun 24th, 2015 5 Pages
William Henry Drayton (Sept. 1742-3 Sept. 1779) South Carolina revolutionary leader. On February 8, 1776, William Henry Drayton, president of the South Carolina provincial congress, became the first Carolinian to openly call for a break with the mother country, when he told his fellow congressmen that Britain’s “hand of tyranny” directed against America had forced them to quickly decide between either “independence or slavery.” This revolutionary rhetoric is ironic considering that Drayton began the American rebellion as a member of His Majesty’s government in South Carolina. Indeed, Drayton is one of the most enigmatic figures of the American Revolution for his sudden conversion from an outspoken Crown supporter to an ardent patriot in 1774. His conversion is largely explained by his interpretation of British imperial policy in the years preceding independence, an interpretation largely shaped by his reading of English common law, the writings of British Enlightenment philosophers, and eighteenth-century English opposition theorists. Drayton’s careful reading of Edward Coke’s Institutes and William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England made him the leading constitutional theorist in Revolutionary South Carolina. He also relied heavily on Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke and David Hume that emphasized such liberal political concepts as natural rights, social contract, self-determination, checks and balances, separation of powers, freedom of expression…

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