An excerpt from the Watch Act of 1696.
Friday, July 12, 2019 Nic Butler, Ph.D.

In a short span of time during an international war, the South Carolina legislature enacted a succession of laws related to the policing of urban Charleston. It was a confusing period of law enforcement experimentation during a crucial era in the town’s history, in which the colony first achieved a black majority, and produced the earliest evidence of enslaved drummers in Charleston.

Over the past decade or so, I’ve been slowly working my way through a mountain of archival documents, mostly at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in Columbia, in search of data related to the policies and practices of we might broadly call law enforcement and criminal justice in early history of Charleston. This is an extremely important part of the city’s history, but one that has been largely unexplored by historians. Due to the oppressive influence of the the practice of slavery, Charleston’s early leaders created what was effectively a “police state” to control the enslaved population. In my investigation into this topic, I’m trying to find the deep answers to question like these: Who was doing the policing, and who was being watched and detained? How did the legal framework of slavery in South Carolina shape the policies and practices of the town’s early police force? How did these policies and practices shape the lives, behaviors, and culture of Charleston’s diverse population?

Looking back at Charleston’s 350 years of existence, the first decade of the eighteenth century—the era of Queen Anne’s War—stands out in my mind as the most confusing, unstable, inconsistent, ineffective, and experimental period in the long history of law enforcement in this city. This decade is also remarkable in two other historically-important respects. During this relatively-brief era of police experimentation, around 1707-8, the enslaved population of South Carolina first reached a majority status. This fact engendered feelings of insecurity and paranoia among white authorities, who were compelled to devise more robust and effective methods of enforcing an increasingly draconian system of laws designed to suppress, intimidate, and control the growing black population.

The documents related to police activity in urban Charleston during first decade of the eighteenth century also contain the early known evidence of what would eventually become a regular feature of Charleston’s cultural life: the presence of enslaved men of African descent beating drums on the streets of Charleston in support of government activities. To fully appreciate the context that engendered these two important phenomena, we need to take a closer look at the disjointed history of law enforcement in urban Charleston during the era of Queen Anne’s War.

The structure and practices of Charleston’s early police force, like those of other colonial towns in North America, were an extension of English precedents that had evolved over many centuries. Urban law enforcement consisted of a volunteer night watch, composed of adult men serving in rotation, that patrolled the town from dusk to dawn under the supervision of an constable. During a period of intense fear of a French invasion, and under the strong influence of Governor John Archdale, the South Carolina legislature enacted measures in the spring of 1696 to create a salaried military watch to protect urban Charleston. That unprecedented and expensive paid watch was dismissed nine months later, however, at which time the town’s law enforcement reverted to a traditional constables’ watch.

The long conflict between England and France that commenced in 1689, known as King William’s War, finally ended in the autumn of 1697. By the summer of 1701, however, increasing tensions between England and France led many to believe that a new war was inevitable. That autumn, Governor James Moore directed the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly “to consider of ways to make the watch in Charles Town more usefull.”[1] As I mentioned in a previous episode about this topic, the subsequent watch act ratified by the legislature in August of 1701 contained nothing radical or innovative, but it did order the construction of a brick “Watch House,” which served as Charleston’s first police station.

When the provincial legislature convened in Charleston in early April of 1702, Governor James Moore reminded the assembly that an official declaration of war against France and Spain might arrive at any time. Among the military preparations Moore proposed to the Commons House, he implored them to devise a better system of keeping the watch in town, for “a good watch in Charles Town is convenient in time of peace and as necessary in time of warr as our batteries of great gunns which wthout a good watch will be of no use to us.”[2]

The wheels of government often move slowly, and so the Commons House did not respond to Governor Moore’s advice for nearly five months. On August 25th, the Speaker of the House sent a message to the Governor and his council of advisors asking them “to communicate to this House what method you think may be taken to settle the Watch in Charles Towne with more security and less charge to the inhabitants of Charles Towne.”

The Upper House of Assembly (the precursor of the South Carolina Senate) responded later that day with a robust proposal. “To render the Watch in Charles Towne more useful and effectual t’is necessary that the town be made a regular precinct and constantly supplied with stocks, whipping posts and especially a House of Correction [i.e., a “work house”], which will much lessen the number of rogues[,] vagabonds and other idle persons, which in a great measure makes a Watch in peaceable times necessary.” Although it seems unlikely that urban Charleston had been without such implements of public punishment for thirty-odd years, this 1702 proposal represents the earliest surviving reference to stocks and whipping posts in the town. In order to patrol the streets more effectively, the Upper House also proposed to transform the present volunteer watch into a salaried force: “That in time of profound peace, six or twelve men according to circumstance of time be hired at a certain price to watch in Charles Towne. And that during this present warr, twenty good men be hired pr. month at a certain price to watch in Charles Towne.”

After a brief debate, the Commons House embraced this proposal, and resolved to raise the necessary funds to pay the hired watchmen by assessing all the households on the peninsula, “as farr as Mr. Christopher Smith’s and Mr. Thomas Perrinau’s [sic] inclusive,” in what is now North Charleston.[3] The House then appointed a committee to begin drafting a bill for the revised watch, but the matter was soon derailed by more pressing international issues.

The official declaration of a new war, later called Queen Anne’s War, offered South Carolinians the opportunity to strike a preemptive blow against their Spanish neighbors in Florida. In the autumn of 1702, Governor Moore convinced the legislature to fund an immediate military raid on St. Augustine in an attempt to crush Spain’s only mainland colony in North America. The assembled Carolina forces, consisting of white men, enslaved Africans, and Indian allies, sailed out of Charleston harbor in late October and laid siege to the Florida capital. After skirmishing with Spanish soldiers at the Castillo de San Marcos and sacking the town, the Carolinians burned their own boats and retreated overland in haste. This audacious military raid, which expended a great deal of the colony’s treasury and military stores, failed to dislodge the Spaniards and left the people of South Carolina feeling more vulnerable than ever. Spanish military retaliation on Charleston was now inevitable.

Discussions of the failed raid dominated the legislative business of early 1703, but the Commons House renewed its commitment to the creation of a salaried night watch for Charleston and ordered Nicholas Trott to draft a bill for that purpose.[4] On May 8th, 1703, the legislature ratified a new act “for keeping and Maintaining a Watch and good Orders in Charles Town” that established a salaried military watch. The preamble complained once again that “the constables who hitherto have had the care and charge of the watch in Charles Town, have been very remiss and negligent therein, which at all times ought to be duely and strictly observed and performed, and more especially in this time of warr and eminent danger.” Henceforth, the watch of Charles Town would consist of a captain and a lieutenant, both commissioned and appointed by the governor, and twenty-four enlisted men. The men were to be “under military discipline” and be “turned out and cashiered” at the pleasure of the governor. Beginning within thirty days of the ratification of this act, the captain and his lieutenant were ordered to take turns keeping watch in the town every night with a rotating force of sixteen men, “well and compleatly armed and fixed with ammunition” in accordance with the militia law. These men were to receive an annual salary in South Carolina currency, “better to encourage” them “to be diligent and faithfull in their severall duties and stations.” The captain received £30, the lieutenant £25, and each enlisted watchman £20, all paid in quarterly installments.

The cover these salaries, the act of May 1703 levied the rather hefty assessment of twenty shillings (one pound) on every man in town “capable of bearing arms,” as well as women who were heads of households (such as widows). The sum of the aforementioned salaries amounted to £535, which was augmented by a further £15 for “fire and candles and other contingent charges relating to the watch.” We can infer, therefore, that the figure of £550 indicates that the combined total number of men aged sixteen to sixty and single female heads of households in Charleston in May 1703 numbered approximately 550 individuals, each of whom was required to pay one pound. This figure might represent approximately one quarter of the white population within urban Charleston and on “the Neck,” or northern parts of the peninsula between the rivers Ashley and Cooper.

The captain and lieutenant selected by the governor were vested with the same powers as a constable, and ordered “to see that all disturbances and disorders in the night, be prevented or suppressed.” To this end, the watchmen were empowered to enter into any public house in Charleston and secure any “disorderly persons” or sailors found there “after the watch is sett” at sundown. They were ordered “to examine all persons, (whom they shall see walking abroad in the night after the tatoo [tattoo],) of their business abroad at such season, and whither they are going, unless they be known to be orderly and peaceable persons; and in case they give not reasonable satisfaction therein, or are persons of ill behaviour, or justly suspected to have any unlawfull intention or designe, then to secure all such disorderly and suspicious persons untill the morning, and then to carry them before one of the next justices of the peace.”

In addition to these nocturnal duties, one of the officers and eight of the watchmen were to take turns “every Sunday, and other publick days, to attend the Governour, morning and evening, and to church in Charles Towne; and on other solemn and extraordinary occasions, all the whole watch shall be in arms, and attend as the Governour shall order and direct.” This escorting duty, first articulated here in 1703, was occasionally repeated in later watch acts, and might have been considered a customary practice during the entire colonial era.

The watch act of May 1703 was designed to be in force for a period of three years, unless peace was concluded between the crown of England and the crowns of France and Spain before that time. In such case, the governor was empowered “to lessen the number of the said watchmen, as he shall see convenient, untill the next session of Assembly next following.”[5] In reality, however, the threat of war and disorder only grew closer. In September 1703, four months after creating the salaried night watch, the South Carolina legislature began contemplating methods of expanding the watch and paying for the “watch men’s redd coats.”[6]

In early December 1703, newly-appointed Governor Nathaniel Johnson convened the legislature in Charleston for an emergency session. A ship had recently arrived bringing credible intelligence of Spanish preparations in Cuba and Florida for a large-scale invasion of South Carolina. After a flurry of intense debates about defensive preparations, the South Carolina legislature adopted a series of measures that initiated a major expansion of the defensive fortifications surrounding Charleston—a system of walls, moats, and drawbridges that would dominate the urban landscape for decades to come.

At the same time, an unidentified member of the Commons House of Assembly made a motion to strengthen the existing salaried force of watchmen in urban Charleston. The House then considered “whether more men shall be added, out of the inhabitants of the towne, to the Military Watch of Charlestowne.” After a brief debate, they resolved to double the size of the existing night watch by drafting unpaid volunteers from the populace.[7] Twenty of South Carolina’s most prestigious men volunteered to take turns leading this auxiliary force, which was composed of able-bodied male civilians who served in rotation under the same rule and discipline as the paid military watchmen. At any moment of emergency in the future, “when the front wall and the intrenchments designed to be cast up in Charlestowne are finished, or when the Right Honorable the Governor or Commander-in-chiefe shall think it necessary,” the number of volunteers would be doubled. That is to say, two volunteer commanders with thirty-two men augmenting the salaried watchmen in rotation, each man watching every tenth night instead of every twentieth night.[8]

This hybrid police force continued for nearly a year, during which time the threat of a Spanish invasion gradually receded. The intelligence received in late 1703 proved false, and the large expense of Charleston’s night watch was deemed unnecessary. In mid-October of 1704, the Commons House resolved to discharge the paid force, and to ask the governor for his opinion on the matter. Two weeks later, on November 4th, the South Carolina legislature ratified an act “for the better securing of Charles Town” that discharged all but four of the salaried watchmen, who were retained as a paid military watch to be posted at a lookout tower on Sullivan’s Island.[9]

At the same that the government disbanded the paid watch in November 1704, it passed a law directing the several militia captains of urban Charleston to take turns commanding the town’s existing volunteer watch. In short, the town’s police force reverted to what was essentially a traditional constable’s watch, although it was supervised by local militia captains rather than civilian constables. Although this law does not specify the number of men required to perform the watch each night, we can infer that the force was intended to be the same number—one officer and sixteen men—that was specified in the hybrid watch act of December 1703.[10]

Three months later, in mid-February 1705, Governor Johnson informed the Commons House that he was dissatisfied with the latest incarnation of the night watch. “The Watch in Charles Towne [sic] is so kept that [it] is of no use now as long as it is to be kept by volunteers, nor have I any reasons to expect it will be any better unless you by law provide for its amendment; or order the watch to be kept by other sorts of men. I am dayly troubled (with reasons enough) with complaints of the remissness and neglect of the Watch, and the complaint of it. I hope you will take care as well for your own safety as my ease, to make me capable to mend the watch.” In response, the House informed the governor and his council that they believed the existing watch law provided “sufficient penaltyes” to punish the “commander and soldiers for their neglect of their duty,” and advised Governor Johnson to simply ensure that the law was “duly put in execution[,] and then there would be no reasons of complaint to your Honrs. that the watch is not duly observed.”[11]

Despite the governor’s complaints, the unpaid corps of militia captains and volunteer watchmen established by the Watch Act of 1704 endured for more than two and a half years, making it one of the most stable—and perhaps successful—law-enforcement experiments of that era. It is noteworthy, therefore, that from this period emerges the earliest surviving documentation of what would become a significant cultural phenomenon. On April 9th, 1706, the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly ordered the provincial treasurer, George Logan, to pay to militia Colonel James Risbee “ffor the Watch in Charles Town the sume of three pounds ffor a drumb and ten pounds pr. annum ffor a drum’er.”[12]

This brief note is an oblique reference to a wide-spread European practice known in English as the tattoo and reveille. Around sunset, an agent affiliated with the watch beat a drum to announce the beginning of the night watch and a nightly curfew. Around sunrise, the drum was beat again to announce the lifting of the curfew and the end of the night watch. As I mentioned in Episode 66 (about the Medieval Roots of the Charleston Night Watch), the earliest statutory reference to a drum beating the tattoo and reveille in this town dates from the spring of 1696, although the practice likely commenced during the earliest days of the colony in 1670.

In comparison to similar law enforcement practices in contemporary Europe and even in other colonial towns in North America, the replication of these drum signals in early Charleston is hardly remarkable. The extra-ordinary importance of this 1706 reference lies in the implication of the drummer’s identity. In April of 1706, Colonel James Risbee (d. 1712) was receiving money for the use of a drum and a drummer which he had provided to the night watch over a period of at least a year, and for which he expected compensation.[13] The aged colonel certainly wasn’t beating the drum himself, and the drummer in question could not have been a white indentured servant. At that time, the government of South Carolina expected all white men, aged sixteen to sixty, to serve voluntarily in the militia and the watch regardless of their socio-economic status.[14] The drummer, therefore, must have been an enslaved man who legally belonged to Colonel Risbee, who had also paid for the drum he beat in the service of the Charleston night watch.

A few years earlier, in August of 1702, Governor James Moore observed that several local militia companies lacked the drummers necessary to coordinate their respective military activities. “In evry beat [unit] there are men enough qualified for it,” he noted, “yett few or none will doe it.”[15] The solution to this white musical reluctance, it appears, was to enlist the talents of enslaved men of African descent who could be trusted to learn and perform the military signals then in use by the English colonists on a European-style snare drum. This government-authorized intersection of African talent and European musical practice, which was first noted in the night watch of 1706, soon became a regular feature of militia and police activity in urban Charleston and eventually blossomed into what we know as jazz in the city of Charleston.

In the aftermath of an unsuccessful joint operation between French and Spanish forces to invade Charleston in the autumn of 1706 (see Episode 1), the South Carolina legislature again felt compelled to replace Charleston’s volunteer night watch with a salaried paramilitary force. In July 1707, during a “time of war and eminent danger,” the government ratified an act that appointed two watch commanders, Thomas Walker and Matthew Porter, each of whom was required to appoint a deputy, and provided an annual salary for these four men. The commanders were to lead Charleston’s night watch in rotation, each man once “every fourth night,” and to “find & procure” twelve men, armed in accordance with the militia act, who would serve as watchmen “every night.” The text of this law does not mention drawing citizens to take turns watching in rotation, nor does it specify a salary for the enlisted watchmen. By noting the arithmetic of the funding scheme managed by a team of assessors and commissioners, however, it seems clear that the twelve watchmen also received a small salary. From an annual appropriation of £350, each of the two commanders was to receive £40 annually, out of which he was to pay his deputy as well. An additional charge of £30 was allocated for “drums, fire, candles & other contingent charges relating to the watch.” The remaining £140 must have been divided among the twelve watchmen (and perhaps some unspecified commission for the assessors).[16]

Seven days after ratifying this act, on July 19th, the legislature ratified an amending act that reduced the number of salaried nightly watchmen from twelve to six. It would appear, therefore, that the watch commanders experienced some difficulty in procuring trustworthy men willing to guard the town every night for approximately £10 per year, when the government had offered £20 a few years earlier for the same job.[17]

A few months after the creation of this new salaried force in the summer of 1707, the journal of the Commons House of Assembly once again recorded a payment for a drummer. Dispelling any confusion over the race or status of the drummer beating Charleston’s nightly tattoo and morning reveille, on November 26th, the House ordered a payment of £3 to “Mr. James Ingerson for his Negro druming [sic] 3 months,” or one quarter of a year.[18]

As England’s international conflict known as Queen Anne’s War against France and Spain dragged into the year 1708, the fear of a foreign attack on the capital of South Carolina once again spurred a serious modification of Charleston’s night watch. On April 24th of that year, the provincial legislature ratified a law that expanded the existing salaried paramilitary watch to include three commissioned “commanders” (Richard Wigg, Matthew Porter, and Robert Ellis), each earning £40 currency per year, and thirty-six watchmen who received an annual salary of £20. Although the description of their duties and the method of raising the funds for these unprecedented charges was nearly identical to that of the 1707 watch act, the text of the new act explained that the enlarged force was responsible for patrolling urban Charleston as well as the fort then under construction on James Island.

The 1708 act directs each of the three commanders to take charge of the watch “in his turne,” and “to keep up half the number of thirty six watchmen every night at Charlestown and Windmill Point.” I’m not sure how to interpret that phrase, and its meaning is not clarified elsewhere in the text. Either eighteen watchmen went to James Island every night while eighteen remained in Charleston, or eighteen men reported for duty each night in rotation, and were then divided between the two locations.

In the end, however, it really doesn’t matter how the force was divided, because the law authorizing this large and expensive police force was intended to be in force for just six months, “and no longer.”[19] Perhaps the government knew that the present state of emergency was only temporary. Perhaps they simply felt it was important to guard the construction site at Windmill Point, in case the enemy decided to launch an amphibious attack there. In either case, the entire watch force was apparently discharged six months later, on October 24th, 1708, on the expiration of the law that funded it.

For a period of six and a half months between late October 1708 and early May 1709, the streets of urban Charleston were apparently devoid of any form of regular police protection. A handful of citizens might have volunteered to patrol the streets at night, in keeping with ancient English practice, but there was no government supervision or acknowledgment of such efforts. Although the town survived this relatively brief period of potential anarchy, it’s worth noting that it occurred at a significant milestone in the early history of South Carolina.

In mid-September 1708, a few weeks before the expiration of Charleston’s night watch, Governor Nathanial Johnson drafted a report about the population of South Carolina for officials back in England. His brief report, which has been cited and discussed by a host of modern historians, provides the earliest concrete evidence that enslaved people (both Indians and Africans) outnumbered free whites in this colony, and that enslaved people of African descent formed the majority of the population in the settled areas of South Carolina.[20] Whether or not enslaved people formed a majority within the limits of urban Charleston at that moment is unclear, however, since we have no contemporary details about the town’s population. Most enslaved people in South Carolina at that time were engaged in plantation agriculture, so I think it’s likely that white citizens still constituted a majority in urban Charleston in 1708. Regardless of the exact demographic proportions, it seems clear that government officials within the capital of the colony felt sufficiently secure to allow a temporary lapse in nocturnal policing.

More than six months after the expiration of the salaried paramilitary watch, the South Carolina legislature re-established an unpaid constable’s watch in early May 1709. The preamble to this law noted “there has been for a long time past, no regular watch kept in Charles Town, which, if not duly taken care of and in time prevented, now in this time of war and eminent danger, may be of fatal consequence, and the ruin of this flourishing and thriving town.”[21] Using language nearly identical to the watch acts passed here in 1698 and 1701 (see Episode 70), the legislature returned to the model of a traditional English night watch, led by unpaid constables who served in rotation each night with ten unpaid men drawn from the town’s population in rotation. Although these watchmen were to be armed and trained in accordance with the local militia act, as usual, the night watch of 1709 represented a clear departure from the larger and more expensive experimental watches employed in recent years.

The South Carolina legislature ratified another watch act for Charleston in November 1711, but its text doesn’t survive in any form, and its contents are unknown.[22] In December 1713, shortly after the conclusion of Queen Anne’s War, however, our provincial legislature created a new urban police force that represented the culmination of a decade of police experimentation. The hybrid town watch of 1713 combined elements drawn from the ancient tradition of the volunteer constable’s watch with lessons learned from trials with a salaried paramilitary force. Employing three salaried watch captains, nineteen paid watchmen, and one “drum beater,” these men divided into three groups that took turns patrolling the streets of Charleston on successive nights. This police system was continued, with a few alterations, until the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775, and represents the most stable starting point in the long evolution of the city’s modern police department.[23] We’ll continue following that story in future programs.

Police history might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe it’s an extremely important part of Charleston’s history that has been almost completely neglected by historians. Whether you’re just walking the streets of Charleston and trying to imagine the sights and sounds of urban life during bygone generations, or trying to imagine the challenges your ancestors once faced on the streets of the Palmetto City, I hope you found a few facts or phrases in today’s program that help you to appreciate the deep, complex, and colorful history of this curious place we call home.


[1] A. S. Salley, Jr., ed., Journal of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina For the Session Beginning August 13, 1701 and Ending August 28, 1701 (Columbia: The State Company for the Historical Commission of South Carolina, 1926), 3–4 (14 August), 32 (28 August). In this and subsequent references to primary sources, I have retained the spelling used in the original documents.

[2] A. S. Salley, Jr., ed., Journals of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina for 1702 (Columbia: The State Company for the Historical Commission of South Carolina, 1932), 47 (2 April 1702).

[3] Salley, Journals of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina for 1702, 72, 74–76 (25 August 1702).

[4] A. S. Salley, ed., Journals of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina for 1703 (Columbia: The State Company for the Historical Commission of South Carolina, 1934), 21–22 (23 January 1703).

[5] Act No. 207, “An Act for keeping and Maintaining a Watch and good Orders in Charles Town,” ratified on 8 May 1703, in David J. McCord, ed., The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, volume 7 (Columbia, S.C.: A. S. Johnston, 1840), 22–27). Note that the sum of £550 was also ordered to be assessed in Act No. 191, “An Act for raising Money for the Publick use and Defence of this Province,” ratified on 28 August 1701 (see Thomas Cooper, ed. The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, volume 2 (Columbia, S.C.: A. S. Johnston, 1837), 182–85), for the use of watches, “look-outs,” and other military expenses related to general coastal defense of “that part of this province that lyes south and west of Cape Fear.”

[6] Salley, ed., Journals of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina for 1703, 117. Note that in 1703 there were “watchmen” in urban Charleston and a few others stationed at several coastal outposts or “lookouts” established by the South Carolina government.

[7] South Carolina Department of Archives and History (hereafter SCDAH), Journal of the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly, 1702–6 (Green’s transcription), 201 (11 December 1703).

[8] Act No. 221, “An Act for the better regulating the Watch in Charles Town,” ratified on 23 December 1703, in McCord, Statutes at Large, 7: 33–35. The twenty volunteers named in the text of Act No. 221 are “the Hon. Nich. Trott, Esq., chief justice, and one of the Lords Proprietors Deputies, Henry Noble, Esq., one of the Lords Proprietors Deputies, Col. James Risebey [Risbee], col. John Logan, Leut. [sic] Col. Wm. Rhett, Major Alexander Parris, Major Wm. Smith, Capt. Will. Weekeley [sic], Mr. Edwd. Loughton, Mr. Simon Valentine, Mr. Benjamin Lamboll, Mr. Paul Lamouche, Mr. John Buckley, Mr. James Serurier [sic] Smith, Mr. James Ingerson, Mr. Lewis Pasquereau, Mr. Isaack [sic] Mazicq [Mazyck], Mr. Tho. Pinckney, Mr. Wm. Gibbon, and Mr. Lewis Lansac [Landsack].”

[9] SCDAH, Journal of the Commons House, 1702–6 (Green’s transcription), 264 (16 October 1704); Act No. 232, “An Act for the better securing of Charlestown, by stopping the North Barr of Ashley River, in case of invasion; and to disband the Military Watch in Charlestown,” ratified on 4 November 1704, in McCord, Statutes at Large, 7: 38–41.

[10] Act No. 233, “An Act to Settle a Patroll,” ratified on 4 November 1704, in Cooper, Statutes at Large, 2: 254–55.

[11] SCDAH, Journal of the Commons House, 1702–6 (Green’s transcription), 317 (14 February 1704/5).

[12] A. S. Salley, Jr., ed., Journal of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina, March 6, 1705/6April 9, 1706 (Columbia: The State Company for the Historical Commission of South Carolina, 1937), 57.

[13] For a brief biographical sketch of James Risbee, see Walter B. Edgar and N. Louise Bailey, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Volume 2: The Commons House of Assembly 16921775 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977), 561–62.

[14] The militia law then in force in South Carolina, as well as previous and later iterations thereof, required the masters of white male indentured servants to furnish all such servants with arms and to deliver them for militia service without compensation. See section six of Act No. 206, “An Act for the Better Settling and Regulating the Militia, and Appointing Look Outs,” ratified on 8 May 1703, in David J. McCord, ed., The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, volume 9 (Columbia, S.C.: A. S. Johnston, 1841), 618–19

[15] Salley, Journals of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina for 1702, 64–65 (2 August 1702).

[16] The text of Act No. 265, “An Act for the Better Regulating the Watch in Charles Town,” ratified on 12 July 1707, was not included in McCord, Statutes at Large, 7: 47, because the editor of that volume mistakenly deemed it “identical with No. 207.” The complete text of this law, although partially obscured by water damage, is found among the engrossed acts at SCDAH.

[17] See section 11 of Act No. 268, “An Additional Act to a continuing and additional act to an additional act for making and mending Highways, and for the impowering the Governor for the time being, to appoint Commissioners in the rooms of such as are dead or gone off, or may die or go off; and to ascertain the Watch in Charlestown,” ratified on 19 July 1707, in McCord, Statutes at Large, 9: 11.

[18] A. S. Salley, Jr., ed., Journal of the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina, October 22, 1707—February 12, 1707/8 (Columbia: The State Company for the Historical Commission of South Carolina, 1941), 53 (26 November 1707). Peter Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (New York: Norton, 1974), 125, asserts that this payment was for Ingerson’s slave drumming for a militia company, but I believe that conclusion to be erroneous.

[19] Act No. 276, “An Act for the better regulating the Watch in Charles Town, and for settling and maintaining a Watch at the Fort on Windmill Point,” ratified on 24 April 1708, in McCord, Statutes at Large, 7: 49–54. For a discussion of the beginnings of the fort at Windmill Point, see Harry S. Mustard, “On the Building of Fort Johnson,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 64 (July 1964): 129–35.

[20] For a discussion of South Carolina’s population, see Governor Nathaniel Johnson’s report to the Board of Trade, dated 17 September 1708, in H. Roy Merrens, ed., The Colonial South Carolina Scene: Contemporary Views, 1697–1774 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977), 36.

[21] Act No. 282, “An Act for setting a Watch in Charles Town,” ratified on 7 May 1709, in McCord, Statutes at Large, 7: 54–56, was to be in force for two years. It was continued by Act No. 302, “An Act for reviving and continuing several Acts therein mentioned that are expired or near expiring,” ratified on 28 June 1711, in Cooper, Statutes at Large, 2: 361–62.

[22] The title of Act No. 306: “An Act for the keeping and maintaining a Watch and good Orders in Charles Town,” ratified on 10 November 1711, is included in several historical sources, but its text does not survive in any form.

[23] Act No. 341, “An Act for the keeping and maintaining of a Watch and good orders in Charles-Town,” ratified on 18 December 1713, was not included in the published Statutes at Large of South Carolina, but the complete text is found among the engrossed acts and in Nicholas Trott’s manuscript “Laws of the Province of South Carolina” at SCDAH.


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