88. William Johnson
(43) was born in 1741 in New York
City. He died on Mar 21 1818 in Charleston, South Carolina. William Johnson
came to Charleston as a young man and prospered greatly. He operated an iron
foundry at East Bay, first in partnership with Tunis Tebout, and then on his
own. He is often referred to as a blacksmith, but his operations were much larger
than that word would imply. In his will, written in 1808, he listed among his
properties White House Plantation on the Cooper River in St. James Goose Creek
Parish, seven houses and six lots in Charleston, three tracts of land on the
Edisto River, and more land located near the Catawba Nation. At his death he
owned stock in several banks and canal companies and ninety-eight slaves. His
estate was valued at more than $80,000.
William Johnson was one of the leaders of the secret meetings under the "Liberty Tree," and Governor John Rutledge declared that he was the man who first started the ball of the revolution rolling in Charleston. Edward McCrady, a descendant, in his four-volume history of South Carolina wrote that "He was an upright, influential and intelligent mechanic; a man of considerable inherited means, who had not long since come into this province from New York."
He joined Capt. Thomas Heyward's company and participated in the defense of Charleston. He refused a commission. Taken as a prisoner of war he was sent by the British to St. Augustine, as were many other leading citizens of Charleston. Exchanged, he was exiled and went to Philadelphia.
He was a member of every legislature, except that of 1782, when he was in exile, from the first after independence until 1792. He was a member of the state convention to consider the Constitution and voted for its ratification. He also served in the convention to establish a new state constitution in 1790.
He served in numerous local offices, including Commissioner of Fortifications, Firematser, and Commissioner of Streets. He was a vestryman at St. Philips and owned a pew in that church. He was a founder of the Fellowship Society in 1765 and a member of the South carolina Society. He was married to Sarah Nightingale on May 15 1769 in Goose Creek, South Carolina.
(8) was born on Aug 28 1751 in Charleston, South Carolina. She died
on Oct 5 1825. In her will dated Oct 31 1823, she stated that she owned a pew
at St. Philip's Church, where her husband and, almost certainly, herself are
She left considerable property including three houses and lots in Charleston, a plantation, bank stock, and more than thirty named household slaves. Children were:
i. Thomas Nightingale Johnson was born on Feb 18 1770. He died about Aug 20 1802.
ii. Justice William Johnson(19) was born on Dec 27 1771 in Charleston, South Carolina. He died on Aug 4 1834 in Brooklyn, New York. Justice William Johnson attended Princeton, graduating in 1790 with the highest honors. He read law with Charles C. Pinckney and was admitted to the bar in 1793. In 1794, at the age of twenty-three, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives where he served three terms, being elected Speaker of the House in his last term. He was associated with the Democratic-Republicans, the party founded by Thomas Jefferson. That same year he married Srah Bennett, the sister of Governor Thomas Bennett.
In 1799 the legislature appointed him to the state's Constitutional Court, where he served for four years. On March 22nd, 1804, Jefferson nominated him to the United States Supreme Court and the Senate confirmed his nomination two days later.
On the bench, Johnson tended to favor federalism, although not nearly so much as Chief Justice Marshall and Justice Joseph Story. But he was fearless in his opinions and did not hesitate to disagree with his usual allies. In 1808, in Ex Parte Gilchrist, he granted a writ of mandamus to compel the collector of the port of Charleston to issue clearances to vessels engaged in the coasting trade, regardless of orders from the executive enforcing the Embargo Act. Federalists saw this as a rebuke of Thomas Jefferson and gave the case wide publicity, but Johnson and Jefferson would remain friends. On Jefferson's death in 1826 he wrote a "eulogy of Thomas Jefferson." he was a member of the American Philosophical Society and wrote frequently for its meetings.
In 1824, riding circuit, he upheld federal control of commerce, including that in slaves, in the broadest sense, and opposed the doctrine of the right of secession. This decision caused Johnson great loss of popularity in South Carolina. Chief Justice Marshall, probably not without some glee, noted that "Our brother Johnson . . . has hung himself on a democratic snag in a hedge composed entirely of thorny States Rights in South Carolina."
Probably because of his unpopularity in South Carolina, Justice Johnson moved to Pennsylvania in 1833. He died the following year after coming to New York to have his jaw operated on, shortly after what must have been a gruesomely painful business for anesthetics were still a decade away.
During his thirty-three years on the Court, Johnson wrote more opinions than any justice except Marshall and Story, many of them in dissent and he is regarded as the first great dissenter. He was also the author of a two-volume life of General Nathaniel Greene.
Johnson is the subject of a biography by Donald G. Morgan, "Justice William Johnson, the First Dissenter: The Career and Constitutional Philosophy of a Jeffersonian Judge." An article on him appears in the Dictionary of American Biography.
iii. John Johnson was born on Jul 24 1774. He died on Nov 21 1831 in Charleston, South Carolina.
44 iv. Joseph Johnson.
v. Jane Johnson was born on Dec 18 1778. She died on May 15 1845.
vi. Benjamin Browne Johnson was born on Jun 26 1783. He died on May 20 1848 in Chester, South Carolina.
vii. Sarah Johnson was born on Jan 31 1786. She died on Sep 11 1820 in Charleston, South Carolina. She DO Malaria.
viii. Peter Johnson was born on Mar 13 1788. He died about Apr 1788.
ix. Isaac Amory Johnson was born on Apr 4 1789. He died on Oct 1 1832.
x. Mary Amory Johnson was born on Feb 17 1792. She died on May 20 1793.
xi. James Slidell Johnson was born on May 20 1796. He died on Jul 7 1865 in Lynchburg, South Carolina.
xii. Catherine Johnson died young.
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