Fundraising Trip to South Carolina

William Smith Finances

Provost William Smith

In the period before the revolution, what was then still the Academy was struggling financially. The trustees decided that steps needed to be taken to ensure its continued existence. During the meeting of the trustees on October 22nd, 1771, the trustees came to the decision to send a fundraising trip to South Carolina.

“The Members are unanimously of Opinion, that Dr. Smith be desired to take a Journey to the Southern Colonies as far as SouthCarolina, to sollicit contributions for the use of the College.”

The Dr. Smith in reference is William Smith, the first provost of the University, who owned two enslaved people during his time at the University. It is believed that these enslaved people likely lived on campus with him. In December of 1771, Provost Smith left for South Carolina to raise funds for the school.

While he was in South Carolina, Provost Smith solicited donations from 98 people for varying amounts, totaling £7,195 in South Carolina dollars, which equated to £1,027 sterling. The Trustees minutes list the name of every donor next to the dollar amount of their donation. The list comprises many names of people who were in the South Carolina elite. That is to say, itis for all intents and purposes a list of many of the wealthiest slaveholding individuals and families in Charleston at the time. In order to better understand who exactly was making these donations, I will highlight just a few of the individuals and describe their connections to slavery.

Henry Middleton

Henry Middleton

The Honorable Henry Middleton Esq., was an incredibly prominent politician in SouthCarolina. He was a member of the continental congress before the colonies declared independence. The Middleton family was one of the largest slaveholding families in the South Carolina colony. In fact, at the time of his death in 1784, Henry Middleton is recorded to have owned 199 enslaved persons on his family’s plantation. During the 1771 fundraising trip, Henry Middleton made a donation of £350 in South Carolina currency or £50 sterling.

Miles Brewton was another prominent South Carolinian who donated during the fundraising trip. He was the colony's largest slave trader in 1771 and was one of the wealthiest men in the province. He profited hugely from his involvement in the slave trade. He made a donation of £175 in SouthCarolina currency, £25 sterling.

Gabriel Manigault

Gabriel Manigault

The single largest donor on the South Carolina trip was a man named Gabriel Manigault. Manigault was a merchant and banker and was reputed to be the single wealthiest man in South Carolina, and perhaps the entirety of British North America in 1770, one year before the fundraising trip. There exists some documentation that suggests he was morally opposed to slavery. That being said, though, he was, in fact, a slave trader. He is documented as having traded slaves eleven separate times, three of which are large enough that they were likely entire ships of enslaved Africans; somewhere between 40 and 50 enslaved people in each boat. At the time of his death, he owned 300 enslaved persons on his estate. An inventory of his estate itemized the many enslaved persons in his possession, listing their names and monetary values. Manigault donated £700 in South Carolinian currency, equaling £100 sterling. His son, Peter Manigault, donated an additional £147 SC currency, £21 sterling.

~ Caitlin Doolittle