The Executive Councils of Early South Carolina



William Sayle

1670 to 1671

Joseph West

1671 to 1672

John Yeamans

1672 to 1674

Joseph West

1674 to 1682

Joseph Morton

1682 to 1684

Richard Kyrle


Robert Quarry

1684 to 1685

Joseph West


Joseph Morton

1685 to 1686

James Colleton

1686 to 1690

Seth Sothel

1690 to 1691

Philip Ludwell

1691 to 1693

Thomas Smith

1693 to 1694

Joseph Blake


John Archdale

1694 to 1696

Joseph Blake

1696 to 1700

James Moore, Sr.

1700 to 1702

Nathaniel Johnson

1702 to 1709

Edward Tynte

1709 to 1710

Robert Gibbes

1710 to 1711

Charles Craven

1711 to 1716

Robert Daniell

1716 to 1717

Robert Johnson

1717 to 1719

James Moore, Jr.*

1719 to 1721

Francis Nicholson*

1721 to 1724

Arthur Middleton*

1724 to 1729
* In 1719, after a popular uprising, the Crown took over the administration of South Carolina, and the governor was first elected by "the people." Many historians refer to these last three governors as part of the Royal Governors - but, since the Lord Proprietors' charter had not been officially revoked until 1729, I choose to list these last three here. Most historians do not.

Click Here for the Executive Councils during the Royal Period in South Carolina.

In the "Concessions and Agreements" of 1665, which were not put into effect until sometime between October of 1667 and perhaps as late as 1672, the governor was authorized to appoint his Executive Council. But, the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669/1670 gave the appointment of Executive Council members back to the Lords Proprietors. With this latter document, the governor and Executive Council were directed to establish criminal courts, commission all civil officers except for the Secretary and Surveyor General, commission all military officers below Lt. General and all officers to lead military units established by the Assembly. They were to ensure that all courts performed per established laws and to provide for the defense of the colony by erecting garrisons in forts and towns, as created by the Assembly.

The Governor and Executive Council were authorized to grant reprieves in criminal cases, but were required to get approval from the Lords Proprietors on these. They were to issue writs for elections, issue land warrants, muster and train soldiers, to pursue all enemies, and to suppress all rebellions and mutinies - on the sea and on land. And... they were to take care of all other necessary items not contrary to the laws of the colony, and especially not contrary to the established laws of England. These leaders were also responsible for Indian relations.

The Executive Council was also known as the "Grand Council," the "Council of State," and the "upper House of the Assembly." This august group was granted powers to act as the Palatine's Court, the Court of Chancery (equity), and the Court of Claims. The "Grand Council" existed for about two decades. At first, a "quorum" was the Governor plus three (3) Councillors; by 1709 a "quorum" was the Governor plus four (4) Councillors; and by 1723 a "quorum" was the Governor plus a "majority" of all Councillors.

The Fundamental Constitutions required the "Grand Council" to convene at least monthly, and for the various courts that they also comprised to meet at least quarterly. In the 1690s, the Lords Proprietors began issuing instructions to governors and deputy governors to call the "Grand Council" together when they saw fit.

The Fundamental Constitutions allowed each of the Lords Proprietors to "depute a person to act during his absence from Carolina," and his deputy was "to have the same power, to all intents and purposes, as he himself who deputed him," with the exception of confirming Acts of the Assembly and appointing Landgraves and Caciques. Since only a rare few of the Lords Proprietors actually ever came to Carolina, there were quite a few "deputies" in both colonies. This system of Proprietary Deputation prevailed in South Carolina from about 1670 to 1719, almost the entire span of the Proprietary rule.

As one might expect, the reality of this approach was very different than the simplicity originally envisioned. The wording of each "deputation" was never fixed and varied widely as time went on. As Lords Proprietors died and their share of Carolina was either inherited by their heir(s) or was sold off to another person or persons. If a share became owned by a minor, then that minor's guardian or trustee was authorized to name a "deputy" to serve on the Executive Council in each colony.

From 1669 to 1682, the Fundamental Constitutions decreed that each deputy could serve no more than four years, but there was no direction provided to fill a vacancy or to remove a deputy who refused to serve. In 1691, the Lords Proprietors decided that the Palatine and any other three (3) of the Lords Proprietors could remove a deputy, but the Governor and three (3) deputies could not do this.

In 1718, there were so many defects in the "deputational system" that the Lords Proprietors changed it:

- Governor, with consent of a majority of the Council, could suspend or remove a Councillor for dereliction of duty or committing a crime, set forth in writing only.
- Governor alone could fill a vacancy created by death, absence from the colony, or dismissal/suspension by the Executive Council; consent of the other Executive Council members was not required.
- Blank deputations were abolished.

The Executive Council members (deputies, etc.) were not paid for their services until 1718, yet they did receive a small stipend for travel and lodging. However, all Executive Council members were exempt from military service and from work related to erecting roads and bridges. Executive Council members soon held multiple other offices such as Secretary, Surveyor General, Chief Justice, and Customs Collector - all paying a salary plus travel expenses.

The Crown purchased Carolina from seven (7) of the eight (8) Lords Proprietors in 1728/1729.

During the Royal Period (1729 to 1775), the Executive Council continued to serve as the "upper House" in the General Assembly, to participate in the Court of Chancery (equity), to issue writs for elections and to convene each Assembly, and many of the same duties as before. The primary differences were in the process for selecting new members of the Executive Council and a few powers of the Governor and the Executive Council were modified or abolished. Vacancies were filled by the Board of Trade. If the number fell below seven (7), the governor was authorized to appoint just enough new members to reach that number.

Each governor was faced with certain issues that demanded his attention, and most also required the attention of his Executive Council. During some administrations, the governor and Executive Council got along quite well, and the colony ran fairly smoothly. However, this was not the case for the greatest portion of the time. In most cases, the governor and his Executive Council were at odds with each other, and in many instances there were even "open hostilities" between them.

The links identified above provide the known members of each Executive Council and summarize the issues they faced in performing their civic duties during the Proprietary Period in what became South Carolina. Not all names are currently known, and not all issues can be completely described. But, there should be enough for you to get a good feel for how the "leaders" of South Carolina met their obligations.

Some of the information in this section comes from "Journal of the Grand Council of South Carolina - August 25, 1671 to June 24, 1680" by A.S. Salley, Jr., Published in 1907 by The State Company. Only summaries are provided in this website.


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