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John Drayton

John Drayton (June 22, 1766 – November 27, 1822) was a Democratic-Republican Governor of South Carolina on two non-consecutive occasions from 1800 to 1802 and 1808 to 1810.


Early life and career

Drayton was born on Magnolia Plantation in St. Andrews Parish near Charleston. He was educated at the College of New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War and afterwards studied law at Inner Temple in London. Drayton received an LL.D from South Carolina College in 1807, an institution he helped establish.

Political career


Early rise

In 1792, Drayton was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and was a member until 1798 when the General Assembly elected him as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. Upon the death of Edward Rutledge on January 23, 1800, Drayton became Governor of South Carolina for the remainder of the term. The General Assembly chose him to serve out a full two-year term in 1800 because of his strong Republicanism.

South Carolina College

The most important act during Drayton's first full term was the establishment of South Carolina College. Drayton had pushed for a state funded college immediately when he became governor upon the death of Edward Rutledge, but it was not until after his election that the General Assembly pushed to create and provide funds for a college. The location of Columbia near the State House was favored by Drayton because it was a central location that would provide an opportunity at higher education for all South Carolinians. In addition, it was hoped that the future leaders of South Carolina would be educated together in order to quell any divisions between the Lowcountry and the Backcountry. Indeed, the General Assembly followed the direction of Governor Drayton and appropriated fifty thousand dollars to construct the college in Columbia and another six thousand for the salaries of the faculty.

Second time as governor

Upon leaving the governorship in 1802, Drayton returned to Charleston where he won election to the South Carolina Senate in 1805 and after three years, the General Assembly chose Drayton for a second two-year term as governor in 1808. Drayton and the General Assembly continued the Republican reforms and expanded the suffrage to all white men, regardless of status or wealth.

Later life and career

Drayton was appointed a United States District Judge by President James Madison after leaving the governorship for a final time and served on the bench until his death. An avid writer, Drayton authored several works with regards to South Carolina: Carolinian Florist, A View of South Carolina, as Respects Her Natural and Civil Concerns and Memoirs of the American Revolution from its Commencement to the Year 1776. On November 27, 1822, Drayton died and was buried in Charleston.


  • Wallace, David Duncan (1951). South Carolina: A Short History. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 358, 473.  
  • Wolfe, John Harold (1940). Jeffersonian Democracy in South Carolina. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 171–173.  

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Anderson
Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
1798 – 1800
Succeeded by
Richard Winn
Preceded by
Edward Rutledge
Governor of South Carolina
1800 – 1802
Succeeded by
James Burchill Richardson
Preceded by
Charles Pinckney
Governor of South Carolina
1808 – 1810
Succeeded by
Henry Middleton


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