Robert Johnson (governor)

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Robert Johnson
19th Governor of South Carolina
In office
1717 – December 21, 1719
MonarchGeorge I
Preceded byRobert Daniell
Succeeded byJames Moore II
In office
December 15, 1730 – May 3, 1735
MonarchGeorge II
Preceded byArthur Middleton
Succeeded byThomas Broughton
Personal details
OccupationColonial administrator

Robert Johnson (1682–1735) was the British colonial Governor of the Province of South Carolina in 1717–1719, and again from 1729 to 1735. Johnson ordered Colonel William Rhett to engage the notorious pirate Stede Bonnet's sloops in the Battle of Cape Fear River with the Charleston Militia on sea in 1718. His grandson was South Carolina Senator Ralph Izard.


He was the son of Sir Nathaniel Johnson, governor of the Province of South Carolina from 1702 to 1708, and inherited a considerable estate from his father.[1] On April 30, 1717, he was commissioned governor of South Carolina. Like his father, he soon won the confidence of the people, but coming at a time when the powers of the proprietors were already tottering, he was baffled in his efforts to conciliate the colonists, by the proprietors' own greed and folly, and in his endeavors to sustain their authority he lost whatever influence he might have exercised.

Settling the Frontier[edit]

During his time as governor Johnson oversaw an innovative new approach to settling the South Carolina frontier with the hope of providing a buffer between Native Americans in the west and Charles Towne on the east coast.[2] This "Township Scheme" was essentially a government subsidized settlement plan that involved the creation of townships which were treated as mini-colonies, each comprising about 20,000 acres. New settlers would be given 50 acres a piece and once a township had reached 100 settlers it would be given two seats in South Carolina's Commons House of Assembly. Townships created under this program were Purrysburg, New Windsor, Fredericksburg, Queensborough, Kingston, Amelia, Williamsburg, Saxe Gotha, Welsh Tract, and Orangeburg.

Pirate Wars[edit]

Johnson oversaw the suppression of the pirates who were preying upon the commerce of South Carolina and neighboring colonies. Fitting out an expedition, he personally commanded a victorious engagement with them off the bar of Charleston, and carried on the campaign until they were exterminated and their famous leader Stede Bonnet was captured and executed. A month or two later Johnson is also credited with the killing of a second pirate, Richard Worley.[3]

In 1719, when the proprietary government was overthrown, the revolutionary convention, of which Arthur Middleton was president, requested him to continue in office if he would agree to administer it in the name of the king, but Johnson declined to do so, asserting the rights of the proprietors to whom he owed allegiance. James Moore II was thereupon elected governor by the convention, and Johnson was set aside.

Notwithstanding the loyalty thus shown to the proprietors, he was appointed first regular royal governor of the colony on December 9, 1729,[4] and upon his arrival at Charleston, early in 1731, was joyfully received by the people. His administration was marked by the issuance of several acts regarding the granting of land to new settlers, and by a protracted boundary dispute with North Carolina, the two colonies being for the first time constituted entirely separate provinces. He aided James Oglethorpe in the settlement of Georgia by providing food and escort to his colonists. Johnson endeared himself to the people by his high-minded character, which won for him the title of the "good governor". He remained in office till his death, which took place in Charleston on May 3, 1735. In the same year the general assembly erected a monument to his memory in St. Philip's Church, where it remained until the edifice was burned in 1835.


Johnson Square in Savannah, Georgia, is named for him.[5][6]


  1. ^ Webber, Mabel L. (October 1937). "Sir Nathaniel Johnson and his son Robert Johnson". The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine. Vol. XXXVIII, no. IV. South Carolina Historical Society. pp. 109–115. JSTOR 27571509.
  2. ^ Jones, Lewis P. (1971). South Carolina: A Synoptic History for Laymen. Orangeburg: Sandlapper. pp. 52–53.
  3. ^ Johnson, Charles (1726). A General History of the Pyrates. Vol. II. London: T.Woodward.
  4. ^ Edward McCrady, The History of South Carolina Under the Royal Government, 1719-1776 (The Macmillan Company, 1899) p92
  5. ^ Savannah Scene magazine, May–June 2007, pp 10–11, accessed June 16, 2007.
  6. ^ City of Savannah's monuments page This page links directly to numerous short entries, many accompanied by photographs, discussing a variety of monuments, memorials, etc., in the squares and elsewhere. Accessed June 16, 2007.

External links[edit]

This article contains text adapted from the National Cyclopedia of American Biography, a work which is in the public domain.