William Lowndes (congressman)

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William Jones Lowndes
William Lowndes (South Carolina Congressman).jpg
Frontispiece of 1901's Life and Times of William Lowndes of South Carolina, 1782-1822
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1813 – May 8, 1822
Preceded byWilliam Butler
Succeeded byJames Hamilton, Jr.
Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means
In office
Preceded byJohn W. Eppes
Succeeded bySamuel Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1811 – March 3, 1813
Preceded byJohn Taylor
Succeeded byJohn J. Chappell
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from St. Philip's and St. Michael's Parish
In office
November 26, 1804 – December 19, 1807
Personal details
BornFebruary 11, 1782
Jacksonborough, Colleton County, South Carolina
DiedOctober 27, 1822(1822-10-27) (aged 40)
Atlantic Ocean
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Pinckney
Professionplanter, lawyer

William Jones Lowndes (February 11, 1782 – October 27, 1822) was an American lawyer, planter, and statesman from South Carolina. He represented the state in the U.S. Congress from 1811 to May 8, 1822, when he resigned.

He was the son of Rawlins Lowndes, an American Revolutionary War leader from South Carolina, and was married to Elizabeth Pinckney, daughter of Federalist leader Thomas Pinckney.

Early life[edit]

Lowndes was born at the "Horseshoe" plantation near Jacksonboro, South Carolina on February 11, 1782. He received a classical education in South Carolina and England before studying law. He was admitted to the bar in 1804 and commenced practice in Charleston. In addition, Lowndes owned and operated several rice plantations on South Carolina's Atlantic coast.


William J. Lowndes first served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1804 to 1808.

Elected to the Twelfth United States Congress as a Representative from the Charleston area, Lowndes was a central member of the 'War Hawk' faction along with Speaker of the House Henry Clay, future President of the Second Bank of the United States Langdon Cheves, Tennessee representative Felix Grundy, and future Vice President and South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun. The War Hawks agitated throughout the Congressional session for the declaration of the War of 1812, which was achieved on June 19. Lowndes became close friends with Calhoun during this time, with whom he also shared a boardinghouse; Lowndes's granddaughter relates that, twenty years after Lowndes's death, Calhoun told his widow "that there had never been a shadow between them."[1]

After the war, Lowndes served as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, in which capacity he authored and shepherded through Congress the Tariff of 1816 in consultation with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Dallas. Due to his reputation for financial expertise, Lowndes was also a chief lieutenant of Calhoun in the passage of the Second Bank of the United States during the Fourteenth Congress.[2] Extremely well-respected by his colleagues and the press,[3] Lowndes was offered several Cabinet positions by both James Madison and his successor James Monroe, including Secretary of Treasury and Secretary of War.[4] When Lowndes refused the latter, it was offered to Calhoun, who accepted the position and held it until his inauguration as Vice President in 1825. Staying in the House, Lowndes was a major player in the negotiations surrounding what would become the Missouri Compromise; Southern support for the Compromise was at least partially due to Lowndes's advocacy.[5]

In 1821, Lowndes was nominated for President of the United States for the 1824 election by the South Carolina legislature over the more ambitious Calhoun, dealing a serious blow to Calhoun's own incipient candidacy. Perennially ill after an accident in his youth,[6] Lowndes' health took a serious downturn in just a year later, necessitating his resignation from Congress. At the urging of his wife, the Lowndes family embarked for a recuperative visit to England, but William died en route on October 27, 1822 at the age of 40. He was buried at sea.

Legacy and honors[edit]

Following his resignation in 1822, Lowndes was replaced in the House by James Hamilton, Jr., who, as Governor of the state during the Nullification Crisis, was one of the leaders of the Nullification movement along with John C. Calhoun. The juxtaposition of these two figures highlights Lowndes's position, due in large part to his premature death, as one of the last Southern nationalists and as a marker of, in the words of Lowndes's most recent biographer, "the transition of Southern politics."[7]

In March–April 1824, electors from South Carolina honored William Lowndes posthumously with a single vote at the Democratic-Republican Party Caucus, as the party's candidate for the Office of U.S. Vice President for the upcoming election.

William Lowndes is credited with developing the Lowndes Apportionment Method, a method of apportionment for Congressional seats that would give more power to smaller states. It was not adopted by Congress.[8]

Lowndesville, South Carolina; and Lowndes counties in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi are all named in his honor.[9]


  1. ^ Ravenel 87; Vipperman 77-80
  2. ^ Annals of Congress, 14th Cong., 1st sess., 1233, 1674-95
  3. ^ Washington Daily National Intelligencer, Apr. 30, 1816; Vipperman 143-4
  4. ^ Ravenel, Harriet (1901). The Life and Times of William Lowndes of South Carolina. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 156–7.
  5. ^ Freehling, William. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 108.
  6. ^ Vipperman 7-8
  7. ^ Vipperman, William Lowndes and the Transition of Southern Politics.
  8. ^ Michael J. Caulfield (Gannon University), "Apportioning Representatives in the United States Congress - Lowndes' Method of Apportionment," Convergence (November 2010), DOI:10.4169/loci003163
  9. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 191.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Taylor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
John J. Chappell
Preceded by
William Butler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
James Hamilton, Jr.