James Ladson

James Henry Ladson (1753 – 1812) was an American politician, wealthy plantation owner from Charles Town and officer of the American Revolution. He served as the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 1792 to 1794, and was a member of the South Carolina state Senate from 1800 to 1804.

James Henry Ladson
James Ladson (1753-1812).jpg
15th Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 5, 1792 – December 17, 1794
GovernorWilliam Moultrie
Preceded byIsaac Holmes
Succeeded byLewis Morris
State Senator of South Carolina
In office
Personal details
Died1812 (aged 58–59)
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Judith Smith
ChildrenJames H. Ladson
Sarah Reeve Ladson
RelativesLadson family

The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen is descended both from his son James H. Ladson and from his daughter Elizabeth Ladson, and by adoption additionally from his daughter Sarah Reeve Ladson; von der Leyen lived under the name Rose Ladson in London in the late 1970s.

Early lifeEdit

James Ladson was born in 1753 in Charleston to a prominent South Carolinian family of English origin. He was the son of William Ladson and Anne Gibbes. His great-grandfather John Ladson emigrated from Northamptonshire in England to Barbados and then to Carolina as one of the first English settlers in 1679, where he built a large plantation and served in the Commons House of Assembly from 1685.[1] His mother was the daughter of the prominent colonial official Colonel John Gibbes (1696–1764) and the granddaughter of the colonial governor Robert Gibbes. The Gibbes Museum of Art is named for his mother's family. James Ladson was also a 2nd great-grandson of Henry Woodward, the first British colonist in Carolina.[2]

Following the early death of his parents he was raised by his uncle John Gibbes (1733–1780), who owned the Grove Plantation that included today's Hampton Park and its surrounding neighbourhoods. He attended the best schools in South Carolina. In 1773 he traveled to England to pursue his education, returning to South Carolina the following year. He owned a plantation in St Andrew Parish and a plantation named Fawn Hill on the Santeee River, and a house and other properties in Charleston.[2][3]

He served as an officer during the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1780, first alongside his childhood friend Thomas Pinckney and eventually as a captain in the 1st regiment of the Continental Line. He served as aide de camp to General Benjamin Lincoln during the 1780 siege of Charleston. He later was promoted to major.[2] Thomas Pinckney related his memories of James Ladson's early life and particularly his service in the revolutionary war in an 1824 letter to Ladson's son James H. Ladson.[4]

Political careerEdit

Following the American Revolutionary Wars he became involved in politics in South Carolina. He served as a member of the South Carolina General Assembly from 1785 to 1790. He voted to ratify the federal Constitution in 1788 as a delegate for St. Andrew at the state convention. He served as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 1792 to 1794.[2]

He was again elected to the South Carolina General Assembly in 1798, and served as a senator in the state Senate from 1800 to 1804.[5][2]

He also served in various local offices, e.g. as commissioner to rebuild the bridge over Ashley in 1792.[2]

At the time the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1788 he was reported to own 1,717 acres valued at $10,384 and 142 slaves.[6] According to the inventory of his estate he owned 104 slaves at the time of his death.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

His wife Judith Smith

On 1 October 1778, he married Judith Smith (1762–1820), who belonged to one of South Carolina's wealthiest banker-merchant families; her father Benjamin Smith (1717–1770) was one of South Carolina's most prominent merchant bankers, a plantation owner, a slave trader, the long-time Speaker of the Royal Assembly and a great-grandson of South Carolina governor and landgrave Thomas Smith.[2] His wife was a granddaughter of the largest slave trader in British North America Joseph Wragg, a first cousin of governor of North Carolina Benjamin Smith, and a first cousin of Elizabeth Wragg Manigault, who was married to the wealthiest man in the British North American colonies Peter Manigault.[7]

His daughter Sarah Reeve Ladson painted by Thomas Sully; in the portrait "she visually made reference to the taste of the slave women around whom she had been raised" with the turban and bright colours[8]

The James Ladson House in Charleston was built for him around 1792; Ladson Street was named in his honour in 1895.[9]

His daughter Sarah Reeve Ladson was married to the art collector Robert Gilmor, Jr.; regarded as one of the most fashionable American women of her time, she was the subject of several portraits and sculptures, including a famous portrait by Thomas Sully.[10] Art historian Maurie McInnis notes that "she visually made reference to the taste of the slave women around whom she had been raised" with the turban and bright colours.[8]

James Ladson was the father of James H. Ladson (1795–1868), a major plantation owner who by 1850 owned over 200 slaves who produced 600,000 pounds of rice each year on his La Grange and Fawn Hill plantations,[11][12] who was also the Danish Consul in South Carolina. James H. Ladson's son, Major William Henry Ladson, married the daughter of Isabel Ann Baron, the biological daughter of the physician Alexander Baron and James Ladson's daughter Elizabeth Ladson; Isabel Ann Baron had been raised and informally adopted by her aunt Sarah Reeve Ladson and her husband. Among their descendants are Ursula von der Leyen, who for a year lived under the name Rose Ladson in London to escape terrorists.[13][14]

His son James H. Ladson wrote on his views on slavery in 1845.[15]

Ladson, South Carolina, is named in honour of his family.



  1. ^ Mary Preston Foster, Charleston: A Historic Walking Tour, p. 31
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Biographical directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985, vol. 2, p. 881, University of South Carolina Press, 1986, ISBN 9780872494800
  3. ^ Bryan Riggs, Historic Homes of Charleston, 1993
  4. ^ Traditions and reminiscences, chiefly of the American revolution in the South: including biographical sketches, incidents, and anecdotes, few of which have been published, particularly of residents in the upper country, pp. 87–90
  5. ^ Journal of the Senate of the State of South Carolina, p. 1462, Charles P. Pelham, State Printer, 1935
  6. ^ We the People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution
  7. ^ Alan D. Watson, General Benjamin Smith: A Biography of the North Carolina Governor, p. 5, McFarland, 2014, ISBN 9780786485284
  8. ^ a b Maurie D. McInnis, The Politics of Taste in Antebellum Charleston, p. 14, UNC Press Books, 2015, ISBN 9781469625997
  9. ^ James Ladson House
  10. ^ Sarah Reeve Ladson Gilmor. National Portrait Gallery
  11. ^ The history of Georgetown County, South Carolina, p. 297 and p. 525, University of South Carolina Press, 1970
  12. ^ Suzanne Cameron Linder and Marta Leslie Thacker, Historical Atlas of the Rice Plantations of Georgetown County and the Santee River (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 2001)
  13. ^ Mendick, Robert; Huggler, Justin (3 July 2019). "Ursula von der Leyen, nominee for EU top job, lived in London under alias to escape Baader-Meinhof gang" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  14. ^ Deutsches Geschlechterbuch, Vol. 187, p. 43
  15. ^ Proceedings of the Meeting in Charleston, S. C., May 13-15, 1845, on the Religious Instruction of the Negroes: Together with the Report of the Committee, and the Address to the Public. Pub. by Order of the Meeting, pp. 52–55, B. Jenkins, 1845
Political offices
Preceded by
Isaac Holmes
Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Lewis Morris