Paul Hamilton Papers, 1802-1812

South Caroliniana Library

This small collection of letters written by U.S. Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton (1762-1816) documents concerns and developments during the months preceding the War of 1812. Hamilton confides news of diplomacy and anticipation of war in his letters written to his son-in-law, Col. Morton A. Waring (b. ca. 1777) in Charleston, S.C. Hamilton’s letters include family news on family health and travels, and affectionate messages to his daughter, Rebecca, whom he calls “Beck,” and his grandchildren, Hamilton and Rebecca.

Born 16 October 1762 in Willtown, Parish of St. Paul, S.C., Paul Hamilton was the only surviving son of Archibald Hamilton (1736-1766) and Rebecca Branford (1739-1766).

His education was cut short due to the onset of the American Revolution. Hamilton volunteered and served at the siege of Savannah, Ga. (Sept. – Oct. 1779) and the Battle of Camden, S.C. (Aug. 1780). He later served under William Harden (1743-1785) during the capture of Fort Balfour (13 April 1781), a British garrison in Beaufort County, S.C.

Paul Hamilton inherited his father’s lands in the Parish of St. Paul, but his initial planting venture involved the cultivation of indigo on Edisto Island during 1782 and 1783. He moved back to St. Paul by 1788 where he cultivated rice. A tax return from 1788 records that Hamilton owned 1,602 acres and 36 slaves at Willtown in the Parish of St. Paul. From grants made after 1786 he gained title to 828 acres along the Edisto River and 447 acres along the Little Salkehatchie River; however, by 1790 he had sold his property in St. Paul and established himself on a leased plantation in the Parish of St. Bartholomew present day Colleton County, S.C.. The census from that year listed 47 slaves as residing on his property in St. Bartholomew.

Hamilton’s first public service came after the war when he acted as tax inquirer and collector for the Parishes of St. Paul (1785-1786) and St. Bartholomew (1786). In addition to two terms serving as justice of the peace (1786, 1790), Hamilton was commissioner for Colleton District, S.C., to select a central place for the erection of a courthouse and jail (1798), and trustee to apply escheated property for charitable societies in Colleton District (1799). At this time he held the position of trustee of the Willtown Presbyterian Church.

Hamilton’s first legislative office came with his election to the South Carolina House of Representatives, from the Parish of St. Paul, for the 7th General Assembly (1787-1788). In 1788 he voted in favor of ratification of the Federal Constitution as a delegate from St. Paul. He also served on the Committee on Privileges at the state Constitutional Convention in 1790. The Parish of St. Bartholomew elected him state Senator in 1794, a position which he held until 1799 (throughout the 11th, 12th, and 13th General Assemblies). During his terms, Hamilton served as chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. From 5 March 1800 until his election as Governor, 10 December 1804, Hamilton served as Comptroller of Finance for the state. He filled the position of elector during the 1800 Presidential election, casting his vote for the Thomas Jefferson-Aaron Burr ticket. During his two year gubernatorial term he favored military preparedness, reform of the state’s system of apportionment, and adjustments in the penal code. As governor, Hamilton also opposed legalization of the African slave trade in South Carolina. In 1803 South Carolina had resumed the importation of slaves from Africa as cotton became profitable and the demand for labor increased, although the trade would officially end in 1808 by order of the U.S. Congress. Following his term as governor he again served in the South Carolina House as a Representative from St. Bartholomew during the 18th General Assembly (1808-1809).

Hamilton resigned his position in the General Assembly when appointed as the United States’ third Secretary of the Navy by President James Madison on 15 May 1809. He served in this capacity until 31 December 1812, when he returned to South Carolina. While thus employed he sought fiscal economy and increased naval preparedness and sea defenses, but his major achievement in this post was the passage of the Naval Hospitals Act in 1811.

On 10 October 1782 he married Mary Wilkinson (1763-1827), the daughter of Edward Wilkinson and Anne Ninnian. They had 8 children – Eliza, Archibald, Susan, Edward, Mary (b. 1783), Rebecca (1785-1882), Paul, Jr. (b. 1788), and Margaret Wilkinson (b. 1796). In 1805 Rebecca married Morton Waring (b. ca. 1777), the son of Morton (b. ca. 1747) and Edith Waring (b. 1751). Paul Hamilton died 30 June 1816 at Rhodes plantation outside of Beaufort, S.C., and was buried in a private graveyard on Whale Branch plantation in Beaufort District, S.C.

Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776-1985 (N. Louise Bailey, ed.)

U.S. Federal Census Records

Thanks to the South Cariliniana Library’s Brian Cuthrell, Duncan Graham, and Henry Fulmer for preparing this collection and allowing the Digital Activities Department to scan it. The project could also not have been completed without the work of Tony Branch from the Systems Department, Kate Boyd, Lauren Glaettli (2005, MLIS Library Science) and Kevin Gilbertson (2005, MLIS Library Science) from the Digital Activities Department, and Douglas King of Cataloging.

Creating the Digital Collection
This collection of 26 letters was scanned on a flatbed UMAX PowerLook 2100XL scanner, using Silverfast scanning software. Lauren scanned the images as color TIFFs at 24-bit and 300 ppi. From the TIFFs she created high quality JPEGs, which were then uploaded to CONTENTdm and compressed as JPEG2000s at that time. The TIFFs will be maintained as the archival masters on a SAN server, backed-up to DVD and tape.

Kevin created a home page for the collection, and Brian created the metadata in an Excel spread sheet and wrote a brief introduction. The metadata records follow the Western States Best Practices Dublin Core format and were uploaded as a tab delimited file at the same time as the images. Kate reviewed the collection and uploaded the images to the CONTENTdm database. Tony Branch is the systems administrator for the CONTENTdm database and helps to manage the computers and scanners in the Digital Activities Department.

Media Types