WHITEMARSH BENJAMIN SEABROOK was born on Edisto Island, South Carolina. In 1812 he graduated with distinction from the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), after which he studied law. A plantation owner, he was president of the South Carolina Agricultural Society for many years and authored History of the Cotton Plant. He was also a South Carolina College trustee from 1829 to 1837, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1814 to 1829, a member of the South Carolina Senate from 1826 to 1834, Commissioner of Free Schools, and Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 1834 to 1836. A critical issue during Seabrook’s gubernatorial administration-as was true for his predecessor, David Johnson-was whether slavery could be expanded into territory acquired from Mexico in 1848 by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The federal government opposed such expansion, and in 1850 the South Carolina legislature enacted legislation authorizing an election of delegates to a convention of southern states to consider means of addressing what they viewed as northern aggression. A crisis was averted by Congress’s passage of the Compromise of 1850 [a series of measures that admitted California as a free state, abolished slave trade in the District of Columbia, and permitted the organization of New Mexico and Utah without any specific prohibition of slavery, allowing each to decide for itself upon admission to statehood], but strong secessionist sentiment remained in South Carolina. After leaving office, Seabrook was a member of the Southern Rights Convention in 1852.
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. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.