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In this exhaustive biography, Keith Krawczynski details the political and social career of William Henry Drayton (1742-1779), an ambitious, wealthy lowcountry planter and zealous patriot leader who was at the center of Revolutionary activity in South Carolina from 1774 until his death five years later. Considered the most effective Whig polemicist in the lower South, Drayton served on all his state's important Revolutionary governing bodies, commanded a frigate of war, was elected chief justice in 1776, coauthored South Carolina's 1778 constitution, and represented the state in the Constitutional Congress from 1778 until his demise. Although Drayton was a leading radical and the central figure of the American Revolution in South Carolina, historians have largely igred his contributions. With William Henry Drayton, Krawczynski removes this fascinating man from the shadows of history. Drayton was an improbable rebel. After receiving his formal education in England, the South Carolina-born Drayton returned to his birthplace as a planter and continued to espouse Royalist ideals. During a later visit to Britain, he was hailed as a champion of British sovereignty. Yet, disgruntled with the king's increasing infringement on American liberties, Drayton embraced the rebel cause with the zealotry of a recent convert and eventually did more to resist British rule than any other resident of the Palmetto State. By rescuing this real South Carolina patriot from the ash heap of history, William Henry Drayton proves essential to a complete understanding of the American Revolution in that state.
Keith Krawczynski is assistant professor of history at Auburn University at Montgomery.