George McDuffie

25th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1834 to 1836

Date Born: August 10, 1790

Date Died: March 11, 1851

Place Born: Columbia County, GA

Place Buried: Singleton Family Cemetery, Sumter District, SC

Residence: Abbeville District, SC

Occupation: Lawyer, Planter

Rev. Moses Waddel's School at Willington (Abbeville District at the time): 1807-1811

South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina): Graduated 1813

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1818-1819

US House of Representatives: 1821-1834

South Carolina Governor: 1834-1836

US Senate: 1842-1846

McDuffie fought in two duels while a member of Congress

George McDuffie was born on August 10, 1790, the son of John and Jane McDuffie, in Columbia County, GA. Born of modest means, McDuffie's extraordinary intellect was noticed while clerking at a store in Augusta, Georgia owned by James Calhoun. The Calhoun family sponsored his education at Rev. Moses Waddel's famous Willington Academy (1807), where he established an outstanding reputation. Graduating from South Carolina College in 1813 with honors and as a member of the Clariosophic Society, he was admitted to the bar in May of 1814, and went into partnership with Eldred Simkins at Edgefield.

In 1818, George McDuffie was elected to represent the Edgefield District in the House of Representatives of the:
- 23rd General Assembly that met from 1818-1819.

In 1821, he was selected to replace his law partner, Eldred Simkins, who declined to run for re-election in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he won the election to represent the South Carolina 5th Congressional District in the 17th U.S. Congress, and he served until 1834, when he retired due to poor health.

In 1821 he published a pamphlet in which strict states' rights were strongly denounced; yet in 1832 he became one of the greater nullificationists. The change seems to have been gradual, and to have been determined in part by the influence of John Caldwell Calhoun. When, after 1824, the old Democratic-Republican party split into factions, he followed Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren in opposing the Panama Congress and the policy of making Federal appropriations for internal improvements. He did not hesitate, however, to differ from Jackson on the two chief issues of his administration: the Bank and Nullification.

On May 27, 1829, George McDuffie married Mary Rebecca, daughter of Richard Singleton of the Sumter District, and they had one daughter. His wife died in 1830 and he never remarried. Soon after her death, he purchased Cherry Hill Plantation, on the banks of the Savannah River, in the Abbeville District.

In 1832 he was a prominent member of the South Carolina Nullification Convention, and drafted its address to the people of the United States.

Returning to South Carolina in 1834, the legislature then elected him as the next governor of South Carolina for a term of two years, during which time he helped to reorganize the South Carolina College.

He returned to national politics in January of 1843, when the SC legislature chose him to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate when William Campbell Preston resigned. McDuffie kept his seat until November 18, 1846, when poor health again forced him to retire.

The leading Democratic measures of those years all received his hearty support. McDuffie, like John Caldwell Calhoun, became an eloquent champion of state sovereignty; but while Calhoun emphasized state action as the only means of redressing a grievance, McDuffie paid more attention to the grievance itself. Influenced in large measure by Thomas Cooper, he made it his special work to convince the people of the South that the downfall of protection was essential to their material progress. In opposing the 1828 Tariff of Abominations he used the illustration that forty bales of every one hundred went to pay tariffs and therefore Northern interests. His argument that it is the producer who really pays the duty of imports has been called the economic basis of nullification.

In 1822, mirroring the political confrontation between Calhoun of South Carolina and William H. Crawford of Georgia, McDuffie fought a series of duels with Colonel William Cumming. He suffered serious wounds that ultimately led to his death and were said by O'Neall to "change the whole character of his disposition... all who knew him afterwards are obliged to admit his great irritability". O'Neall went on to say that "McDuffie was in youth, manhood and old age, a remarkable man for his taciturnity and reserve. He literally seemed to commune with himself; yet there were occasions, when he met with old friends and companions, in which he seemed to enjoy life with as much zest as any man."

Perley Poore stated that McDuffie was a "spare, grim-looking man, who was an admirer of Milton, and who was never known to jest or smile." In a description by Sparks, "His temperament was nervous and ardent, and his feelings strong. His manner when speaking was nervous and impassioned, and at times fiercely vehement, and again persuasive and tenderly pathetic, and in every mood he was deeply eloquent." Sparks recounts McDuffie's triumph on first coming to the House, driving the madcap John Randolph from the floor with "vituperation witheringly pungent".

George McDuffie died at his father-in-law's plantation on March 11, 1851, and was buried in the Singleton family cemetery at Wedgefield, Sumter County. McDuffie County, Georgia is named after him.

George McDuffie, (father-in-law of Wade Hampton III [1818-1902]), a Representative and a Senator from South Carolina; born in Columbia County, GA, August 10, 1790; attended an old-field school and a private academy; graduated from South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) at Columbia in 1813; studied law; admitted to the bar in 1814 and commenced practice in Pendleton, Anderson District, SC; member, State House of Representatives 1818-1819; elected to the Seventeenth and to the six succeeding U.S. Congresses and served from March 4, 1821, until his resignation in 1834; chairman, Committee on Ways and Means (Nineteenth through Twenty-second Congresses); one of the managers appointed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against James H. Peck; Governor of South Carolina 1834-1836; President of the board of trustees of South Carolina College; elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of William C. Preston; re-elected, and served from December 23, 1842, until August 17, 1846, when he resigned; chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations (Twenty-ninth Congress); died at Sumter District, SC, March 11, 1851.

<< Last Governor - Robert Young Hayne

Next Governor - Pierce Mason Butler >>

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved