Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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LOWNDES, Rawlins, statesman, born in the British West Indies in 1722 ; died in Charleston, South Carolina, 24 August, 1800. His parents having removed to Charleston when he was very young, he was educated there, studied law, and took a high rank in his profession. In 1766 he was appointed by the crown associate judge. Within the succeeding three months he delivered the opinion of the majority of the court, which was contrary to that of the chief justice, in favor of the legality of public proceedings without the employment of stamped paper, waiving all consideration of the stamp-act as a constitutional measure, and only arguing from the common law with reference to the necessities of the case. In 1768 he moved a resolution, which was passed in the South Carolina assembly, for the erection in Charleston of a statue of William Pitt, in acknowledgment of that statesman's services to the colonies and the British constitution. In 1775 he was elected a member of the council of safety and of the committee that was appointed under it. In 1776 he was one of a committee of eleven instructed to draft a constitution for the province, and subsequently a member of the legislative council created by the constitution. In 1778 he was chosen president of the province, and gave his official assent to the new constitution. Savannah was soon captured by the British forces, Georgia succumbed, and South Carolina was threatened. Mr. Lowndes made a vigorous resistance, but, having fewer than 10,000 men in the field, he was unable to oppose overwhelming forces by sea and land. Charleston shared the fate of Savannah, and Lowndes was captured. He was subsequently a member of the South Carolina assembly when the United States constitution was submitted to the states for adoption. He strenuously opposed it, objecting to the restrictions it placed on the slave-trade, which he declared to be the great source of the strength and prosperity of the south; to the clause giving power to congress to regulate commerce; and to the centralization of power in the Federal government, protesting that it would reduce the states to the condition of mere corporations and give a dangerous superiority to the north. The earnestness of his antagonism may be inferred from the closing sentence of one of his speeches: "I wish for no other epitaph than this: ' Here lies one who opposed the Federal constitution, holding it to be fatal to the liberties of his country.' "--His son, Thomas, merchant, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1765; died there, 8 July, 1843, received an academical education, engaged in commercial pursuits, and became one of the chief merchants of his native city. He was chosen a member of the 7th and 8th congresses, and served from 7 December, 1801, till 3 March, 1805.--Another son, William Jones, statesman, born in Charleston, South Carolina, 7 February, 1782; died at sea, 22 November, 1822, was taken to England when he was seven years of age, and sent for three years to an English grammar-school. On his return to Charleston he was graduated at Charleston college, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1804, but he soon abandoned his profession to attend to his plantation. While still a young man he travelled in Europe for mental improvement. It is related that while in London he happened to be left alone at his hotel, which was frequented by none but men of rank and distinction, with William Roscoe, author of the "Life of Leo X.," who was much his senior. The two fell into conversation, and the elder gentleman, leaving the room after a time, met the Duke of Argyll in the street. "I have been spending a most agreeable hour," he said to the duke, "with a young American gentleman, who is the tallest, wisest, and best bred young man I have ever met." "It must have been Mr. Lowndes, of South Carolina," replied the duke. " He is such a man. I know him, and I know no other like him. Return and make his acquaintance." In 1806 Mr. Lowndes was elected to the lower house of the general assembly of South Carolina, retaining his seat until 1810, when he was chosen a member of congress as a Democrat, and re-elected five times successively, serving from 4 November, 1811, till 8 May, 1822, when failing health compelled his resignation. He was an earnest supporter of the war of 1812-'15, and spoke frequently on matters pertaining to the army, the navy, the finances, the national bank. the Missouri compromise, the Spanish treaty, and the tariff. His friends regarded him as a suitable candidate for the presidency, and he was nominated by the legislature of South Carolina. His health having been benefited by a visit to England in 1819, he decided to return to that country, and had embarked with his family from Philadelphia, but did not live to complete the voyage. As a debater he occupied the front rank, in spite of a weakness of voice caused by diseased lungs, while his memory was remarkably retentive. It is said that Henry Clay expressed the opinion that Mr. Lowndes was " the wisest man he had ever known in congress." The only portrait of Mr. Lowndes was by Morse, and is in the Corcoran gallery, Washington. See illustration above.
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