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Thomas Bennett, Jr.

Born August 14, 1781 - Died January 30, 1865

Thomas Bennett, Jr. was an American politician.

Bennett was born in Charleston, South Carolina on August 14th, 1781. He was born into an upper class family. He was educated at the College of Charleston, the oldest college or university in South Carolina. From a young age, Bennett, with his father, ran a lumber and rice milling operation near the city. He also worked as an architect and a banker, running the Planters and Merchant Bank of South Carolina and the Bank of the State of South Carolina.

Prior to 1804, Bennett was elected as Intendant (mayor) of Charleston which was a prosperous center of trade. In 1804, Bennett was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. It was his first of three non-consecutive terms in the South Carolina Legislature.

In 1818, he was elected to a second term to the South Carolina Legislature, this time to the South Carolina Senate.

In 1820, he was elected by the General Assembly as the 48th Governor of the State of South Carolina. He was elected to a two year term. Twelve years before he took office, the United States had implemented a prohibition on the African slave trade. Two years before he took office, in 1818, the South Carolina Legislature repealed a law prohibiting interstate slave trade with South Carolina. Bennett as one of his first issues came out strongly against the interstate slave trade which forcibly moved more than a million African-Americans to the Deep South.

In 1822, at the end of Bennett's term, Charleston residents became alarmed when an alleged slave rebellion was uncovered. Accused conspirators were rounded up by a locally formed militia and a special court met in secret to determine their guilt or innocence. Six men were put to death from the trial. Bennett was greatly concerned by the behavior of the court and reached out to the Attorney General who informed him habeas corpus, relief from false imprisonment, was only available to freemen, most of the accused were slaves. After the trials ended, Bennett published an article suggesting the insurrection had been exaggerated, he lost the public debate though to the current intendant of Charleston who argued people were saved by the quick action of the city. Bennett also submitted a report to the legislature critical of the secret proceedings of the court.

After leaving the Governors office he returned to Charleston. In 1837, he returned to the South Carolina Legislature where he became well known as a Unionist opposed to secession.

Bennett passed away on January 30th, 1865.

Bennett was a member of Solomons Lodge No. 1 in Charleston, South Carolina.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.