Governor Sir Nathaniel Johnson (1644-1712) was born near Kibblesworth, Durham, England. In 1686, he was named a "Cacique," a rank in the order of nobility used by the Carolina's Lord Proprietors, and he settled in South Carolina in 1689. Johnson became a leading politician, large slave holder, and a successful cultivator of silk in the 1690s on his plantation, Silk Hope. Johnson was appointed governor in 1702. His tenure in office was dominated by a controversy between the colony's Anglicans and Dissenters. This conflict resulted from the governor's desire to exclude religious non-conformists from political office. At Johnson's urging, in 1704 the South Carolina Assembly, which had managed to exclude Dissenters from voting, passed legislation establishing the Anglican Church in the colony. After the Dissenters sent an agent to London with news of the Assembly's restrictive laws, the Crown in 1706 directed the Proprietors to disallow the legislation. The passage of a modified act of establishment kept the issue smoldering throughout Johnson's time as governor. Johnson and the South Carolina legislature confronted each other on several other points, particularly regarding authority to regulate the Native American trade in South Carolina. Johnson retired as governor in 1709 and continued to reside in South Carolina until his death in 1712.
Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art Association.