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Adams, James Hopkins (15 March 1812–13 July 1861), planter and politician, was born in Richland District, South Carolina, the son of Henry Walker Adams and Mary Goodwyn, planters. At an early age, both of his parents died and James was placed in the care of his maternal grandfather, an early settler of South Carolina from Virginia. Prosperous, his grandfather, a plantation owner, was able to raise Adams in an atmosphere of wealth and education. Shortly after his graduation from Yale in 1831, Adams married Jane Margaret Scott, with whom he had eleven children....

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Aiken, William (28 January 1806–06 September 1887), planter and congressman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of William Aiken, Sr., an Irish immigrant, and Henrietta Wyatt. At the time of his death, the elder Aiken was president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company and a wealthy merchant. Aiken attended the South Carolina College, from which he graduated in 1825. He then traveled to Europe. Upon returning to Charleston, he married Harriet Lowndes in 1831. They had one child....

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Allston, Robert Francis Withers (21 April 1801–07 April 1864), planter and statesman, was born on “Hagley Plantation” in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Allston, a planter, and Charlotte Anne Allston. Allston entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in December 1817 and graduated tenth in his class on 1 July 1821. Appointed lieutenant in the Third Artillery and assigned to the Coast Survey, he participated in the surveying of the harbors at Plymouth and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and of the entrance to Mobile Bay. He resigned his commission on 1 February 1822 in response to his widowed mother’s plea for help on their plantations and returned to South Carolina, where he remained a rice planter for the rest of his life. As a planter, however, he continued his interest in civil engineering and in 1823 was elected to the first of two terms as surveyor general of South Carolina. In 1832 he married Adele Petigru, sister of Unionist ...

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Alston, Joseph (1779–10 September 1816), planter and statesman, was born in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Colonel William Alston, a rice planter, and Mary Ashe. He attended the College of Charleston from 1793 to 1794, then entered Princeton in 1795, his junior year, but he withdrew without graduating. He read law in the office of ...

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Alston, William (1757–26 June 1839), planter and legislator, was born in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Joseph Allston and Charlotte Rothmaler, planters. He became the first of the Allston family to spell his surname with a single l...

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James Barbour. Engraving of a portrait by Charles Févret de Saint-Mémin, 1801. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105897).

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Barbour, James (10 June 1775–07 June 1842), planter and politician, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Barbour, a wealthy planter, and Mary Pendleton Thomas. Because his family suffered financial reverses during the Revolution, Barbour did not receive a college education. After preparatory study in rhetoric and the classics at a local academy, he apprenticed himself to a Richmond lawyer. In 1793, when he was only eighteen years old, he was admitted to the Virginia bar and began practicing law in Orange and neighboring counties. Two years later he married Lucy Johnson, daughter of a prominent local planter. They established a country seat at “Barboursville,” near Montpelier, where they raised five children....

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Bouligny, Dominique (23 August 1773–05 March 1833), soldier, planter, and U.S. senator, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Francisco Bouligny, the lieutenant governor of Louisiana, a colonel in the Fixed Louisiana Regiment, and the acting governor of Louisiana, and Marie Louise le Sénéchal d’Auberville. He spent his childhood in the comfort that his father’s influence and wealth provided. Surrounded by a large extended family and a full complement of house servants, Bouligny developed a strong attachment to his family, an even stronger admiration for the military that commanded his father’s devotion, and pride in being a citizen of Spain. Louisiana offered few opportunities for the sons of army officers outside of military service. Sons of officers entered the army at an early age, and as a senior officer in the Fixed Louisiana Regiment, Bouligny’s father arranged an appointment for his twelve-year-old son as a cadet in the regimental school in March 1786. His father’s influence assured Bouligny’s rapid promotion to the first officer rank of sublieutenant at the age of fourteen....

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Bowie, Robert ( March 1750–08 January 1818), planter and politician, was born near Nottingham, Prince Georges County, Maryland, the son of William Bowie, a and Margaret Sprigg. He was educated by the Reverend John Eversfield near Nottingham and then by the Reverend Thomas Craddock, the first rector of St. Thomas Parish in Garrison Forest, Baltimore County, Maryland. On the eve of the American Revolution, about 1773, tradition has Bowie eloping with Priscilla Mackall, a daughter of the richest man in Calvert County, James John Mackall. Bowie’s father gave them a farm near “Mattaponi,” the family plantation where Bowie had been born. They had five children who survived to adulthood....

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Breckinridge, John (02 December 1760–14 December 1806), lawyer, planter, and statesman, was born on a farm near Staunton, Virginia, the son of Robert Breckinridge, a farmer and member of the local gentry, and Lettice Preston. While John was still a boy the family moved to the frontier part of Augusta County that became Botetourt County. Determined to acquire an education, John entered William and Mary College in late 1780 or early 1781. His attendance was irregular, but when he left the school in 1784 he had studied for some two years, much of it under the guidance of ...

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Bryan, Hugh (1699–31 December 1753), planter, assemblyman, and evangelical Christian, was born near Beaufort in South Carolina, the son of Joseph Bryan, an Indian trader and farmer, and Janet Cochran. Bryan’s father was an early settler on South Carolina’s southern frontier, and it was there that Hugh Bryan spent most of his life. As a boy he was taken prisoner by Indians during the Yamasee War (1715) and was carried to St. Augustine, where he was eventually released. According to tradition, Bryan “met with a Bible among the ...

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Byrd, William (1652–04 December 1704), Virginia colonial officer and planter, was born in London, England, the son of John Bird, a goldsmith, and Grace Stegge. Because his father was a member of a powerful labor guild, Byrd (who later changed the spelling of his name, probably because it sounded more “elegant”) grew up aspiring to a comfortable but lower-middle-class position in caste-bound London. However, when he was eighteen he received a letter from his uncle, Thomas Stegge, a plantation owner in Virginia, asking Byrd to join him and become his heir. Accepting the opportunity to secure position and wealth as a landed gentleman in the new world, Byrd sailed to Virginia in the autumn of 1670 and joined his kinsman on his plantation of 1,800 acres near the fall line of the James River. A year later Stegge died, and Byrd inherited his entire estate. In that same year Byrd accompanied a party that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and explored the western wilderness. Quickly, the young man proved himself an able husbandman, caring for his tobacco plantations and improving the Indian trade that his uncle had begun. Soon he was recognized throughout the colony as a rising man of property and influence. In fact, he was typical of that group of Virginia leaders that arrived in the colony in the last half of the seventeenth century and established powerful families that would dominate Virginia in the next century. Needing a wife with experience in managing slaves and handling the domestic duties of a plantation, he married Mary Horsmanden, a well-connected widow, in 1673. They had five children before her death in 1699....

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Byrd, William (28 March 1674–26 August 1744), author, planter, and Virginia councilor, was born on his father’s plantation in Charles City County near Richmond, Virginia, the son of William Byrd, a planter and trader, and Mary Horsmanden Filmer. Byrd was sent at age seven to England to live with his maternal uncle, Daniel Horsmanden, and to attend Felsted Grammar School in Essex under the tutelage of its headmaster, Christopher Glasscock. Byrd became well grounded in the classics, and throughout his life he read Hebrew, Greek, or Latin almost daily. In 1690 Byrd’s father sent him to the Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to learn business methods with merchants Jacob Senserff and Johannes Texelius. Not liking this situation, Byrd persuaded his father to apprentice him to the mercantile firm of Perry and Lane in London. In 1692 Byrd entered the Middle Temple to study law and in April 1695 became a licensed attorney in England....

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Cabell, William (13 March 1730–23 March 1798), revolutionary political figure, antifederalist, and tobacco planter, was born in the James River valley, north of Richmond, Virginia, the son of William Cabell and Elizabeth Burks. His father was a surgeon of the Royal Navy, who was born in Wiltshire, England, migrated to Virginia in the early 1720s, and married into a wealthy planter family in 1726. As his family grew, Cabell’s father took up extensive lands in the upper James River valley. As a leading planter on a frontier, he served as vestryman, deputy sheriff, justice of the peace, and militia officer, as well as practicing medicine....

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Carr, Elias (25 February 1839–22 July 1900), North Carolina governor, Farmers' Alliance leader, and planter, North Carolina governor, Farmers’ Alliance leader, and planter, was born at “Bracebridge,” the family plantation near Old Sparta, Edgecombe County, North Carolina, the son of Jonas Johnston Carr and Elizabeth Jane Hilliard, planters. Within four years both parents died, and with his sister Mary and brother William, Carr moved to Warren County to live with his mother’s sister, Temperance, and her husband, John Buxton Williams. Carr’s first education was at a school established by Williams. Later Carr attended the Bingham School in Orange County, spent two years at the University of North Carolina, and took courses at the University of Virginia, but he did not get a college degree. In 1857 he returned to Bracebridge, and in 1859 he married Eleanor Kearny; they had six children. In September 1861, after the Civil War had started, Carr enlisted as a private in Company G, Forty-first Regiment, North Carolina Troops, known as the Scotland Neck Mounted Riflemen. In June 1862 he left the army to supply the Confederacy with farm products....

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Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Lithograph on paper, 1832, by Albert Newsam. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Carroll of Carrollton, Charles (19 September 1737–14 November 1832), planter, businessman, investor, and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the last of the signers to die, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, a planter, and his common-law wife, Elizabeth Brooke. An only child, Carroll was sent at the age of ten to the Jesuit college of St. Omers, in French Flanders, where Maryland’s Catholic gentry sent their sons because the colony’s laws, which denied “papists” the right to vote, hold office, practice law, and worship publicly, also forbade them to maintain religious schools. Young Carroll studied abroad for sixteen years, ending with a thesis in philosophy at the college of Louis le Grand in Paris in 1757. After reading civil law in Bourges and Paris, he moved to London in September 1759 to pursue the common law at the Inns of Court. However, his antipathy for the discipline, which he regarded as “founded upon and still subsisting by villainy,” became so intense that he ultimately defied his father’s intention that he formally enter the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. Finding the paternal insistence on his acquiring the social graces more to his liking, he became adept at dancing, drawing, and fencing and mastered Italian, bookkeeping, and surveying, practical skills the elder Carroll deemed essential for success as a landowner and man of business....

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Carroll, Daniel (22 July 1730–07 May 1796), planter and merchant, was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the son of Daniel Carroll I, a large plantation owner and merchant, and Eleanor Darnall. Carroll lived at a time when Maryland law denied Catholics the right to vote, hold office, worship, erect churches, or provide a formal education for their children. Aristocratic families sent their sons to the Jesuit-owned Bohenia Manor Academy in Cecil County, Maryland, for elementary schooling and then to St. Omer’s College in French Flanders for a solid scholastic education. Daniel Carroll, his brother ...

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Carter, Robert (1663–04 August 1732), merchant-planter and public official, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the son of John Carter, a wealthy merchant-planter and attorney, and Sarah Ludlow. John Carter died in 1669 leaving Robert 1,000 acres and one-third of his personal estate. He also provided that an indentured servant be “bought for him … to teach him his books either in English or Latine according to his capacity.” Later, probably around 1672, he was sent to London by his elder brother John where he spent six years receiving a grammar school education. In London Robert lived with Arthur Bailey, a prosperous merchant, from whom he must have learned about the intricacies of the tobacco trade. Little else is known about his early years, but in 1688 he married Judith Armistead, with whom he had five children. In 1701 he married Elizabeth Landon Willis; this union produced an additional ten children. Five sons and five daughters lived to maturity, and all the sons received an English education. The death of his brother John in 1690, followed shortly by the death of his daughter and half brother, resulted in Carter inheriting the bulk of a large estate that included more than 9,000 acres of land and 115 slaves. Carter, already a man of substance, quickly added to his wealth through planting and mercantile activity, including a significant involvement in the slave trade. He also began to acquire large amounts of land, a process that was aided by the two terms he served as agent (1702–1712, 1719–1732) for the Fairfax family, the proprietors of the Northern Neck. The Northern Neck was that vast area of land between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers, stretching to the headwaters of the latter. At Carter’s death it was reported that he left 300,000 acres of land, 1,000 slaves, and £10,000 in cash, and it appears that this estimate was not far off the mark....

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Couper, James Hamilton (04 March 1794–03 June 1866), planter, was born in Georgia, perhaps in Liberty County, the son of John Couper, a and Rebecca Maxwell. John Couper had come from Scotland to Georgia in 1775 and in 1805 purchased, with lifelong friend and fellow émigré James Hamilton, 2,000 acres along the southern bank of the Altamaha River, about sixteen miles from Brunswick. They developed this land into Hopeton Plantation, which soon was expanded to 4,500 acres, with 659 slaves (many of whom came directly from Africa) to prepare the fields first for sea island or long-staple cotton, then sugar, and finally rice as the principal crops. In 1818 James Hamilton Couper (Hamilton’s namesake), following graduation from Yale and after studying Dutch methods of water control in Holland, became manager of the Hopeton estate....