Robert Y. Hayne

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Robert Young Hayne (November 10, 1791 – September 24, 1839) was an American lawyer, planter and politician. He served in the United States Senate from 1823 to 1832, as Governor of South Carolina 1832–1834, and as Mayor of Charleston 1836–1837.[1] As Senator and Governor, he was a leading figure in the Nullification Crisis and, along with John C. Calhoun and James Hamilton Jr., a vocal proponent of the doctrines of states' rights, compact theory, and nullification; his 1830 debate in the Senate with Daniel Webster is considered a defining episode in the constitutional crisis which precipitated the American Civil War.

Robert Y. Hayne
Robert Y Hayne.jpg
32nd Intendant of Charleston, South Carolina
In office
September 5, 1836 – September 4, 1837
Preceded byEdward W. North
Succeeded byHenry Laurens Pinckney
as Mayor
54th Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 13, 1832 – December 11, 1834
LieutenantCharles Cotesworth Pinckney
Preceded byJames Hamilton Jr.
Succeeded byGeorge McDuffie
United States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
March 4, 1823 – December 13, 1832
Preceded byWilliam Smith
Succeeded byJohn C. Calhoun
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs
In office
Preceded byJames Lloyd
Succeeded byGeorge M. Dallas
5th Attorney General of South Carolina
In office
December 18, 1818 – December 7, 1822
GovernorJohn Geddes
Thomas Bennett Jr.
Preceded byJohn Smythe Richardson Sr.
Succeeded byJames L. Petigru
16th Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
November 23, 1818 – December 18, 1818
GovernorAndrew Pickens
John Geddes
Preceded byThomas Bennett Jr.
Succeeded byPatrick Noble
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from St. Philip's and St. Michael's Parish
In office
November 28, 1814 – December 18, 1818
Personal details
Robert Young Hayne

(1791-11-10)November 10, 1791
St. Pauls Parish, South Carolina
DiedSeptember 24, 1839(1839-09-24) (aged 47)
Asheville, North Carolina
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Frances Henrietta Pinckney
Rebecca Mott Alston
ProfessionAttorney, Soldier
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
South Carolina militia
Quartermaster General
Unit3rd South Carolina Regiment
Battles/warsWar of 1812

Early and family lifeEdit

Robert Y. Hayne was born in 1791 to Elizabeth Peronneau and her husband William Hayne, who owned plantations farmed by enslaved labor in St. Paul Parish, Colleton District, South Carolina. Robert Hayne had a younger brother, Paul Hamilton Hayne (1803-1830). Hayne received a private education suitable for his class, then studied law in the office of Langdon Cheves in Charleston.

On November 3, 1813, he married Frances Henrietta Pinckney (1790–1818), daughter of prominent lawyer and former governor Charles Pinckney. They had a daughter, Frances Henrietta Pinckney Sharpe (1818–1875). In 1820, after his first wife's death from childbirth complications, Hayne married Rebecca Brewton Allston. Her father, William Alston, gave her a lot on lower King Street where Hayne built a house (today's 4 Ladson Street).[2] Hayne would later give his daughter Frances a plantation in Tamassee, South Carolina, when she married the local Pendleton, South Carolina court clerk, Elam Sharpe, shortly before Hayne's unexpected death in 1839.[citation needed]

Lawyer, officer, planter, railroad presidentEdit

Hayne was admitted to the bar in 1812, and practiced law in Charleston. During the War of 1812 against Great Britain, he was Lieutenant in Charleston Cadet Infantry and rose to Captain in the Third South Carolina Regiment. Hayne later served as the Quartermaster General of the state militia. By 1836, he had risen in the state militia ranks to major general.[3]

In the 1820 census, Hayne owned 118 slaves in Georgetown, South Carolina (half of them engaged in agriculture), another 50 slaves in Colleton County, South Carolina, and 19 more in Charleston, South Carolina.[4][5][6] In the 1830 census, he owned 17 slaves in Charleston.[7] Hayne was mentioned in American Slavery As It Is, an abolitionist book published in 1839. He is given as an example of slavers who disregard marriages of enslaved African Americans. The book reprinted a signed advertisement Hayne placed in a newspaper which sought help with capturing an escaped man. Hayne's advertisement suggested that the fugitive may be heading to a neighboring county where the enslaved man's wife and children live.[8]

Hayne actively promoted South Carolina's industrial development, including the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, which in 1835 expanded westward toward the Appalachian Mountains pursuant to Hayne's plan to link Charleston's port to Memphis, Tennessee and the Mississippi River. Hayne was president of the Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston Railroad, until his death, and was succeeded as its president by James Gadsden. The LCCR bought the SCCRC's stock in 1839 and the two railroads merged in 1844, but never completed the track as expected, only finishing about 60 miles to Columbia, South Carolina in addition to connections to Camden, South Carolina in 1848 and Atlanta, Georgia in 1853.

Political careerEdit

A Democrat, Hayne elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and served from 1814 to 1818, including as Speaker of the House in 1818. Hayne was Attorney General of South Carolina from 1818 to 1822. During his tenure, the trial of Denmark Vesey occurred in Charleston after a purported slave rebellion was thwarted. Governor Thomas Bennett, unsupportive of the city-appointed court handling the trial, asked Hayne for his legal opinion on the matter. Hayne advised Bennett that the "Magna Charta and Habeas Corpus and indeed all the provisions of our Constitution in favour of Liberty, are intended for freemen only" and that the Governor of South Carolina did not have the ability to examine "judicial errors."[9]

In 1822 South Carolina's legislature elected Hayne to the United States Senate. He was reelected in 1828 and served from March 4, 1823, to December 13, 1832. From 1825 to 1832 he was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs. Martin Van Buren, a contemporary of Hayne's in the Senate, commented on how Hayne's demeanor there evolved from one of self-confident outspokenness at first to one of outward modesty more in line with the senatorial culture of respect for seniority:

He entered at once into the debates and without the slightest embarrassment spoke fluently, intelligibly, sometimes forcibly but often without the slightest effect. Whilst he was himself treated with proper respect, motions, arguments and opinions which he deemed very conclusive, were sometimes disposed of in a summary and unceremonious way not [at] all consistent with the weight to which he deemed them entitled. * * * * No one informed him of the cause, but he did not fail to discover it himself, or to take promptly the steps to remedy the evil. From originating propositions himself he became obviously desirous to follow the lead of others — instead of the usual confident and ex-cathedra way of advancing his opinions they were now expressed with diffidence in moderate terms with well conceived expressions of deference to those of the elder and more experienced members of the Senate. The change was observed and appreciated.[10]

In 1832, under James Hamilton Jr. as governor, Hayne served as Chairman of South Carolina's nullification convention. Hamilton and Hayne argued that states could "nullify" federal laws with which they did not agree. Eighty percent of its 162 delegates voted to nullify federal tariffs of 1828 and 1832, and for the Ordinance of Nullification. A temporary compromise was reached between the federal government and South Carolina in 1833.

Hayne resigned from the Senate to accept election by the legislature as Governor of South Carolina in 1832, serving one term into 1834. He was succeeded in the senate by John C. Calhoun, who resigned his post as Vice President of the United States to take the seat. From 1836 to 1837 he served as Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina.

Death and legacyEdit

Hayne died in Asheville, North Carolina on September 24, 1839. He is buried at St. Michael's Church cemetery in Charleston.[11] His transcontinental railroad dreams never materialized. His son-in-law, Capt. Elam Sharpe Jr., fought with the First South Carolina Cavalry, Hampton's Brigade during the Civil War and survived. However, he and his family sold their plantations and invested the proceeds in Confederate bonds. After the war, the family's finances were in dire condition, so Sharpe moved his family to Tennessee, then Dallas, Texas, where he became a Presbyterian minister.[12] Hayne's descendants sold the Ladson Street house in 1863, but it still exists today, albeit moved and renovated in 1890.[13] Hayne's nephew, Paul Hamilton Hayne, was a poet and South Carolina's poet laureate who moved to Georgia after the Civil War. In 1878 he published a biography of Hayne.

The World War II Liberty ship SS Robert Y. Hayne was named in his honor.

Political viewsEdit

Hayne was an ardent free-trader and an uncompromising advocate of states' rights. He consistently argued that slavery was a domestic institution and should be dealt with only by the individual states. He opposed the federal government's plan to send delegates to the Panama Congress, which was organized by Simón Bolívar to develop a united North and South American policy towards Spain, including the end of slavery in Spain's former colonies. (After achieving independence, Mexico ended slavery in 1836.) Objecting to any federal effort to curtail slavery, Hayne said, "The moment the federal government shall make the unhallowed attempt to interfere with the domestic concerns of the states; those states will consider themselves driven from the Union." His remarks are considered an early description of the idea of Secession, which culminated with the American Civil War.

He opposed the protectionist federal tariff bills of 1824, 1828, and 1832. In 1828, in response to the changing economic landscape in Massachusetts (there was a shift from farming towards mass production in factories), Daniel Webster backed a high-tariff bill to enhance the profitability of manufacturing interests in his home state. This angered Southern leaders who would have to pay higher prices for manufactured goods, and brought Webster into dispute with Hayne.

Their disagreement over the powers of the federal government later evolved into a series of back-and-forth Senate speeches that became known as the Webster-Hayne debate. The debate arose over the "Foot resolution," introduced on December 29, 1829[14] by Senator Samuel A. Foot of Connecticut. Foot's proposal called for a federal government study into restricting the sale of public lands to those lands already surveyed and available for sale, which would prevent states from conducting further land sales. Whether the federal government had the authority to take this action called into question the relationship between the powers of the federal government and the governments of the individual states.

Hayne contended that the United States Constitution was only a compact between the national government and the states, and that any state could nullify any federal law which it considered to be in contradiction.

Webster argued for the supremacy of the federal government and the Constitution, and against nullification and secession. He concluded his Second Reply to Hayne with the memorable phrase, "Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable."


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of American Biography, p. 465.
  2. ^ "Robert Young Hayne."
  3. ^ "Hayne, Robert y. Charleston's Intendants and Mayors Halsey Map Preservation Society of Charleston".
  4. ^ 1820 U.S. Federal Census for Black River, Georgetown, South Carolina, p. 2 of 3 on
  5. ^ 1820 U.S. Federal Census for St. Bartholomew's parish, Colleton, South Carolina.
  6. ^ 1820 U.S. Federal Census in Charleston, South Carolina, p. 45 of 86.
  7. ^ 1820 U.S. Federal Census for Ward 2, Charleston, South Carolina, p. 9 of 38.
  8. ^ Weld, Theodore Dwight; Sweetser, Seth; American Anti-Slavery Society (1839). American slavery as it is: : testimony of a thousand witnesses. Boston Public Library. New York: : Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, office, no. 143 Nassau Street.
  9. ^ Denmark Vesey and His Co-Conspirators Author(s): Michael P. Johnson Source: The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 915-976 Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture Stable URL: Accessed: 15-04-2020 00:45 UTC
  10. ^ Van Buren, Martin, The Autobiography of Martin Van Buren, p.217.
  11. ^ "Robert Young Hayne (1791-1839) - Find a Grave".
  12. ^ "CPT Elam Sharpe Jr. (1821-1888) - Find a Grave".
  13. ^ "Robert Young Hayne."
  14. ^ New International Encyclopedia

Further readingEdit

  • Hayne, Paul H. Lives of Robert Y. Hayne and Hugh Swinton Legaré (Charleston, 1878)
  • Jervey, Theodore D. Robert V. Hayne and his Times (New York, 1909).
  • McDuffie, Eulogy upon the Life and Character of the Late Robert Y. Hayne (Charleston, 1840)
  • Sheidley, Harlow W. "The Webster-Hayne Debate: Recasting New England's Sectionalism," New England Quarterly, 1994 67(1): 5–29. ISSN 0028-4866 Fulltext in Jstor
  • Swift, Lindsay. (editor) The Great Debate Between Robert Y. Hayne, of South Carolina, and Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts (Boston, 1898), in the "Riverside Literature Series"
  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hayne, Robert Young". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 114.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
John Smythe Richardson
Attorney General of South Carolina
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: John Gaillard, William Harper, William Smith, Stephen Decatur Miller
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by