JOHN MATHEWS was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He was commissioned an ensign and became a Lieutenant in the South Carolina Provincial Regiment in the Cherokee expedition of the early 1760s. He then studied law at Middle Temple in London. After returning to South Carolina, he was elected to the commons House of Assembly in 1772. He was also a member of the First and Second Provincial Congresses of South Carolina in 1775 and 1776; associate judge of the state circuit court in 1776; a member of the state House of Representatives from 1776 to 1780 (speaker in 1777 and 1778); and a Continental Congress delegate from 1778 to 1781, during which time he endorsed the Articles of Confederation on behalf of South Carolina. He served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War. After returning to South Carolina, he was elected governor, serving a single term. He went on to win election as judge of the Court of Chancery in 1784, as a member of the state House of Representatives in November, 1784, and as judge of the Court of Equity in 1791, a position that he held until 1797.