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date: 17 May 2021

Rutledge, Johnlocked

(1739–18 July 1800)
  • Robert M. Weir


Rutledge, John (1739–18 July 1800), lawyer and statesman, was born in or near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of John Rutledge, a physician, and Sarah Hext, a wealthy heiress who was only fifteen years old at Rutledge’s birth. His early education was in Charleston, where he read law with one of the leading members of the Charleston bar, James Parsons, before being enrolled in the Middle Temple in London on 11 October 1754. Admitted to the English bar on 9 February 1760, he soon returned to South Carolina. The voters of Christ Church parish promptly elected him to the Commons House of Assembly in 1761, and he continued to represent that area in the local legislature for the remainder of the colonial period. During his first term the house was embroiled in the “Gadsden election controversy” with the royal governor over its right to judge the qualifications of its own members. Rutledge became chairman of the committee on privileges and elections, which vigorously upheld the powers of the representatives of the people. Meanwhile, his private practice as an attorney was flourishing, and he soon became one of the two or three best-paid lawyers in the province. He also operated several plantations and acquired at least 30,000 acres in various grants. These activities may help to explain why his committee work in the Commons House usually put him in the second, rather than the first, rank of leaders. Nevertheless, his colleagues chose him for important assignments. In 1765 the Commons House sent him and two others to the Stamp Act Congress in New York, where Rutledge served as chairman of the committee that drew up a memorial to the House of Lords protesting taxation of Americans by Parliament. In 1763 he married Elizabeth Grimké; they had ten children....

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