12 October 2011

William Henry Brisbane, Oct. 12, 1803 - April 5, 1878

The man described by Dr. Rowland as "the most hated man in the Beaufort District" (History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, vol. 1, p. 417) is the subject of an article in the South Carolina Historical Magazine. (SCHM is running about a year behind the publication date on the cover.)

William Henry Brisbane was born in Upper St. Peter's Parish into a slaveholding family; trained as a minister and a physician; became a slaveholder himself; published an apologist newspaper; and struggled with his conscience from 1833 until 1840 when he became an abolitionist. During the Civil War, he was appointed a Direct Tax Commissioner by his friend Salmon P. Chase. It was Brisbane's responsibility to assess parcels of land for payment of taxes. Should the taxes go unpaid by the absent landowners, the properties would be placed for public auction at which anyone present could bid. A vast amount of property was confiscated and sold for back taxes. Not exactly an activity that would endear one to one's former neighbors, relatives and childhood associates.

Drop by the BDC Research Room to read "'We are verily guilty concerning Our Brother': The Abolitionist Transformation of Planter William Henry Brisbane," by J. Brent Morris, South Carolina Historical Magazine, July-October 2010, pp. 118-150.

We also have a Beaufort County Historical Society Paper on him. It is BCHS Paper #62: “William Henry Brisbane: South Carolina Slaveholder and Abolitionist,” by Blake McNulty. (This document is available only inside the BDC.)

Our customary hours of operation are Mondays through Fridays, 10 am - 5 pm, but we're closed today for BCL's semi-annual Staff Development Day.

The image was copied from Wallace Alcorn's website on the William Henry Brisbane Project.

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