Born in St. Paul’s Parish, South Carolina, PAUL HAMILTON had to leave school at a relatively young age for financial reasons. He fought in the South Carolina Militia during the Revolutionary War. In addition to being an indigo and rice planter, he served as tax collector of St. Paul’s Parish from 1785 to 1786 and as Justice of the Peace in 1786. He went on to serve in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1787 to 1789 and was a member of the South Carolina Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1789. He was a member of the South Carolina Senate for several non-consecutive terms and served as the state’s Comptroller of Finance for five years before being elected governor by the South Carolina legislature. During Hamilton’s single term as governor, the U.S. Congress proposed to place a tax on imported slaves but withdrew its proposal after the South Carolina legislature threatened to repeal its own law (enacted during the administration of Hamilton’s gubernatorial predecessor-James B. Richardson) restricting the importation of male slaves over the age of fifteen. After leaving office, Hamilton served as Secretary of the Navy under President James Madison from 1809 until 1812.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 5. New York: James T. White & Company.