Have you ever wondered why South Carolina is shaped the way it is? As is the case for most of the United States, boundary disputes sometimes create odd juts of land in current state borders. When rivers are used as dividing lines, they sometimes shift as water levels increase or recede, islands appear and disappear, as erosion occurs, etc. South Carolina has quarreled with its neighbors about property lines for centuries – and the Treaty of Beaufort has been in the thick of the discussions about the southern boundary with Georgia and where exactly the state line falls in the Savannah River.
On June 9, 1732, King George II chartered the Colony of Georgia setting the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina as "the most northern part of a stream or river there, commonly called the Savannah." The precise location of segments of the boundary, however, proved to be a matter of continuing dispute between South Carolina and Georgia. Much of the controversy originally concerned navigation rights on the river. The colonies squabbled – and when the colonies became states they squabbled -- about the precise boundary. Commissioners appointed by each of the States met at Beaufort, S.C., and produced a Convention known as the Treaty of Beaufort signed on April 28, 1787 that was meant to settle the matter. But alas, it did not.
The United States Supreme Court has decided three cases about the SC/GA border dispute which are shared by the Legal Information Institute, an organization dedicated “to ensure that the law remains free and open to everyone:”
- The first case was South Carolina v. Georgia, 93 U.S. 4, 23 L.Ed. 782 (1876).
- The second case was Georgia v. South Carolina, 257 U.S. 516, 42 S.Ct. 173, 66 L.Ed. 347, decided in 1922.
- The third case was Georgia v. South Carolina. 497 U.S. 376 (110 S.Ct. 2903, 111 L.Ed.2d 309), decided in 1990.