Year
1776

South Carolina approves new constitution

The Provincial Congress of South Carolina approves a new constitution and government on this day in 1776. The legislature renames itself the General Assembly of South Carolina and elects John Rutledge as president, Henry Laurens as vice president and William Henry Drayton as chief justice.

South Carolina took this action towards independence from Great Britain four months before the Continental Congress declared independence and five months before South Carolina learned of the declaration. Rutledge possessed quasi-dictatorial powers as president and commander in chief of the new state. In 1778, he resigned the post in protest over proposed changes to the state constitution. Rawlins Lowndes took over the presidency and instituted the changes Rutledge found objectionable. The executive power changed from a presidency to a governorship and veto power was taken away from the executive. The Senate became a popularly elected body, and the Church of England no longer held status as the state church. However, after the changes had been made, Rutledge was elected governor in 1779, a post he held until 1782.

William Henry Drayton drafted the 1778 constitution that was opposed by Rutledge. The ardent Whig died while serving Congress in Philadelphia on September 3, 1779, at age 37. Rutledge lost much of his personal wealth during the British siege of Charleston, but survived to see the new century dawn before his death in 1800.

Henry Laurens only served as vice president of South Carolina until June 1777. He was elected to the Continental Congress in January of that year and became the president of Congress under the Articles of Confederation on November 1, 1777, a position he held until December 9, 1778. Beginning in 1780, Laurens served 15 months of imprisonment in the Tower of London after being taken captive on a Congressional mission to Holland. He spent the last years of his life in retirement on his plantation, where he lived until his death in 1792.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Salk announces polio vaccine

On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announces on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. In 1952–an epidemic year for polio–there were 58,000 new cases ...read more

Israel-Egyptian peace agreement signed

In a ceremony at the White House, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign a historic peace agreement, ending three decades of hostilities between Egypt and Israel and establishing diplomatic and commercial ties.Less than two years earlier, ...read more

Naval warfare gets new weapon

On this day, Italy attacks the British fleet at Suda Bay, Crete, using detachable warheads to sink a British cruiser. This was the first time manned torpedoes had been employed in naval warfare, adding a new weapon to the world’s navies’ arsenals.The manned torpedo, also known as ...read more

First Battle of Gaza

The first of three battles fought in the Allied attempt to defeat Turkish forces in and around the Palestinian city of Gaza takes place on this day in 1917.By January 1917, the Allies had managed to force the Turkish army completely out of the Sinai Peninsula in northeastern ...read more

Hue falls to the communists

The city of Hue, in northernmost South Vietnam, falls to the North Vietnamese. Hue was the most recent major city in South Vietnam to fall to the communists during their new offensive. The offensive had started in December 1974, when the North Vietnamese had launched a major ...read more

Antiwar demonstration in Washington

A group called Women Strike for Peace demonstrate in Washington, D.C., in the first large antiwar demonstration since President Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January. The antiwar movement had initially given Nixon a chance to make good on his campaign promises to end the war in ...read more

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel published

This Side of Paradise is published, immediately launching 23-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald to fame and fortune.Fitzgerald, named for his ancestor Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star Spangled Banner,” was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to a once well-to-do family that had ...read more

American Beauty tops Academy Awards

On this day in 2000, Billy Crystal hosts the 72nd annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.An Oscar crisis had been narrowly averted a week earlier, when Willie Fulgear, a man who made his living recovering and selling discarded objects, found 10 ...read more

Deadly earthquake hits California

An earthquake felt from Mexico to Oregon rocks the Owens Valley in California on this day in 1872, killing 30 people.California, with the large San Andreas Fault running through the entire state, is a prime area for earthquakes. At 2:30 a.m. on March 26, a large quake hit Inyo ...read more

Torture chamber uncovered in Philadelphia

Responding to a 911 call, police raid the Philadelphia home of Gary Heidnik and find an appalling crime scene. In the basement of Heidnik’s dilapidated house is a veritable torture chamber wherethree naked women were found chained toa sewer pipe. A fourth woman, Josefina Rivera, ...read more