William J. Grayson

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William John Grayson
William J. Grayson portrat, 1907.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1837
Preceded byRobert W. Barnwell
Succeeded byRobert Rhett
Member of the South Carolina Senate from St. Helena's Parish
In office
November 27, 1826 – December 18, 1830
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from St. Helena's Parish
In office
November 25, 1822 – December 20, 1825
In office
November 22, 1813 – December 31, 1814
Personal details
BornNovember 2, 1788
Beaufort, South Carolina
DiedOctober 4, 1863(1863-10-04) (aged 75)
Newberry, South Carolina
Resting placeCharleston, South Carolina
Political partyNullifer
Alma materSouth Carolina College
Professionpolitician, poet, planter

William John Grayson (November 2, 1788 – October 4, 1863) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina. He was also a poet.[1]


Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, Grayson pursued classical studies, and was graduated from South Carolina College at Columbia in 1809, where he was a member of the Clariosophic Society. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1822. He became a practicing lawyer in Beaufort, South Carolina.

He served as member of the State House of Representatives from 1813 to 1815 and 1822 to 1825 and in the State senate 1826 to 1831. Grayson was elected commissioner in equity for Beaufort District in 1831 and resigned from the senate.

He was elected as a Nullifier to the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Congresses (March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1837). He then served as collector of customs at Charleston from August 9, 1841, to March 19, 1853. After his term as collector of customs, he retired to his plantation. He was a frequent contributor to the Southern Quarterly Review.

The Oxford English Dictionary credits William J. Grayson with having first used the phrase "master race", in his poem "The Hireling and the Slave" (1855) where the phrase denotes the relation between the white masters and black slaves:

For these great ends hath Heaven’s supreme command
Brought the black savage from his native land,
Trains for each purpose his barbarian mind,
By slavery tamed, enlightened, and refined;
Instructs him, from a master-race, to draw
Wise modes of polity and forms of law,
Imbues his soul with faith, his heart with love,
Shapes all his life by dictates from above.

He died in Newberry, South Carolina, on October 4, 1863, and was interred in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina.



  1. ^ 'Introduction', Hermione Lee, Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather, Virago Modern Classics, page xxii
  • United States Congress. "William J. Grayson (id: G000404)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robert W. Barnwell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Robert Rhett