first american republic This website is designed to be an introduction to, supplement to, and companion to the book 'THE FIRST AMERICAN REPUBLIC: 1774-1789
(The First Fourteen American Presidents Before Washington)'

Chapter 2: President HENRY MIDDLETON of South Carolina 

The Pivotal Moment

second american president Things happen for a reason. On October 22, 1774, as the First Continental Congress was nearing its conclusion, delegates from all twelve colonies in attendance unanimously elected Henry Middleton of South Carolina to serve as their new president. And yet, for over two centuries, historians have never asked the most obvious question concerning that remarkable development. Why did the delegates turn once again to the South to select their new leader?

The immediate steps which led to Henry's election had actually taken place four weeks earlier. It was then that Joseph Galloway, Speaker of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, introduced his "Plan of Union." John Adams and the more radical faction were horrified. They clearly understood that if Galloway's Plan was adopted it would sidetrack the momentum for true self-government in the American colonies and would likely strengthen London's control through the illusion of representation. While it was still too early for anyone in Congress to even mention the word "independence," adoption of the Galloway Plan would have terminated that critical debate before it had even begun. Adams and his allies were also alarmed by the fact that the influential South Carolina delegation seemed to be evenly divided on the issue. That colony's fifth and deciding vote was Henry Middleton.

Even though he left few fingerprints, John Adams knew how to orchestrate events. He realized that the surest way to prevent the adoption of the Galloway Plan was to win over South Carolina. The key to that goal was Henry Middleton, the colony's most distinguished planter-politician. The agreement was most likely finalized on Friday evening, October 21, 1774, at "a meeting at the City Tavern the night before the measure was to be discussed again." The following morning, Henry Middleton of South Carolina was elected as the Second President of the Continental Congress. When the delegates then resumed their debate on Galloway's proposal, support for the Plan had evaporated. A dangerous detour on the road to independence had been averted.