The name of this blog comes from the General Committee formed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1774 to organize resistance to Acts of Parliament and to enforce nonimportation of British goods. In early 1775 it oversaw the movement of resistance into rebellion, imposed loyalty oaths (“the Association”) on the population, and otherwise directed the efforts of the new Whig-led provincial government to establish control over the Loyalist population.
The Whigs and British both knew that with the attention of both armies focused on the North, royal officials in the southern provinces would need significant Loyalist support to maintain their authority against the increasingly powerful Whigs. The Whigs, therefore, concentrated on preventing the British from being able to communicate with or organize Loyalist support. This would remain the Whig strategy in the South throughout the war.
With few exceptions, which usually resulted in major defeats for the Whigs, they focused their attention on isolating the Loyalists and preventing them from being able to act in support of the British Army. The result was General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, who did not understand the dynamics of the Whig strategy, giving up on the Loyalists and moving into Virginia, where he ultimately met his defeat.
In July 1775, William Henry Drayton, an active leader in the revolutionary movement since 1774, wrote to his cousin William Drayton (who at the time was Chief Justice of East Florida, but later joined the Whigs in South Carolina) and described the components of the province’s new Whig-led “shadow” government.
“We already have an army and a treasury with a million of money, in short a new government is in effect erected. The Congress is the legislature, the Council of Safety the executive power, the General Committee as Westminster Hall, and the district and parochial Committees as county courts. See the effects of oppression!”
– William Henry Drayton to William Drayton, 4 July 1775
Though the General Committee remained in existence, it mostly gave way in 1775 to the new Provincial Congress, and its associated executive body, the Council of Safety.