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Across Gov. Richard I. Manning’s desk

Part Three

Posted: March 6, 2017 1:56 p.m.
Updated: March 7, 2017 1:00 a.m.

About three dozen of the items crossing Manning’s desk dealt with the operation of his plantations, his agent in Charleston and his banker.  Manning was having to handle the availability of cotton seed, price of horses for sale, lumber for a house, shipping 350 bushels of corn, cleaning and scalding bacon, receiving a report that “the mill and [mill]dam has been completed since you left” and a “bill of repairs for Sulky for his Excellency Governor Manning.” 

On April 4, 1825, he received a letter about overseer problems on one of his plantations and notes about individual slaves such as this, “Gage, poor old fellow.”  A friend offered Manning this piece of advice on April 19, 1825.

“While Writing you, will you allow me in the capacity of your Friend, to suggest to you the propriety, nay the necessity of giving attention to your individual interest.”  The friend continues, “I am making great efforts to rebuild the destruction which was made by an overseer last year … you had better give Mr. Dyson some authority over your business.” There was no evidence found that Manning took his friend’s advice.

Manning’s agent in Charleston was James H. Merritt. He handled such matters as the sale of cotton locally and abroad, and importing four barrels of porter ale. On several occasions,  he reported to Manning the depressed conditions of cotton prices in Charleston and England.  Cotton sold for 9 ¾ cents a pound on January 16, 1826.

A few items dealt with banking matters.  Although Manning was from Sumter District, he used a bank in Camden to handle his finances. In the 1820s,  Sumter lagged behind Camden as a banking center.   

James W. Cantey wrote Manning on April 7, 1825, about the mother bank “drawing down the amount of cash on hand in the Camden Branch.”  Ten days later, he reported that Mr. Shannon had returned from Charleston with funds “from the Mother Bank.”  He informed Manning in early February 1826 that he had insufficient funds to pay off a note that was coming due.

Manning’s term of office as governor fell within the period when South Carolina began the building of roads and bridges, cleaning obstacles in rivers for better boat transportation, and digging canals.  He was a part of and supporter of internal improvements in his state.

He wrote a letter on Feb. 7, 1826, to James Hamilton of Washington asking the federal government to transfer ownership of Mount Dearborn, an abandoned federal armory and arsenal near present day Great Falls, to the state of South Carolina.  He reported to Hamilton he had visited the site and it was in a complete state of disrepair.  He wrote the letter as a member of a committee on internal improvements.  

The publication of Robert Mills Atlas of the state of South Carolina in 1825 also was a vital part of these “Internal Improvements.”  Manning retained in his papers a receipt showing he paid Robert Mills in 1826 $18.50 “for his Atlas of the State of So. Carolina, bound, colored mounted on tape.”  A copy of that atlas today sells for many thousands of dollars.  Mills' Atlas, which contained a map of the state and each of its districts, is touted as being the first accurate maps to be published of them.

On April 15, 1825 David Shivar reported to Governor Manning from Cheraw, “We are now progressing through the State of S. Carolina with a view to examine a section of a contemplated National Road from Washington City to New Orleans.”

For some reason a letter to Abram Blanding, the person in charge of internal improvements in South Carolina for a time, wound up in the Manning papers.  In this letter of Oct. 31, 1825, B. F. Whitner of Hamburg, S. C., wrote Blanding seeking to learn if South Carolina planned any improvements for steamboat travel on the Savannah River in the Augusta area. 

On March 20, 1826, Manning wrote Governor G. M. Troup of Milledgeville, Ga. as to whether Georgia had plans to improve the Savannah River above Augusta, Georgia, for river transportation and if any funds had been allocated for that purpose.

In 1825, a significant event occurred in S. C. involving Kershaw District, Camden and much of South Carolina, the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette.  As Governor, Manning had the role of supervising a state fund that had been established to finance most of the costs of Lafayette’s visit.  A couple dozen items about this matter “crossed Manning’s desk.”

For Example, the state militia furnished troops to meet Lafayette at the North Carolina line above Cheraw, S. C. and to accompany him through Cheraw to Camden and on to Columbia.  In Camden, he laid the cornerstone to the Baron De Kalb Monument and was entertained lavishly.  Lafayette visited a number of other towns.  Money for receptions, carriage rides, meals, gifts to Lafayette such as a map case made by a silversmith, etc. were paid out of the state fund.

By law, certain state officials such as militia generals and circuit judges were required to get permission from the governor before traveling out-of-state while still in office.  Several of these requests crossed the governor’s desk.  Manning granted S.C. Militia General Thomas Carr of Georgetown permission to leave “and that you may return freshened by the benefits of a foreign travel and by the alternate influence of a northern climate.”

A few years ago, a married governor of South Carolina left his family behind, left South Carolina, left the United State and went to Argentina to meet a “female friend,” all without informing anyone about the matter.  A few years after his term of office as governor expired, he was elected to congress.  It is remarkable how changes in laws, morals and customs occur over time.

While serving as governor, Manning received many invitations to go out to dinner or to attend an event out of town.  On September 24, 1825, a group from Newberry invited Manning “to partake of a public dinner to be given to the Honorable John C. Calhoun, Vice President of the United States.”  It is not known if Manning attended.

In this and the past two columns, three windows have been opened for brief looks at a few events and individuals of the 1820s.  Hopefully, you now have a better appreciation of Governor Richard I. Manning’s administration and those times in our history.

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