Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Algernon Sidney Johnston, 1801-1852

Algernon Sidney Johnston, an older brother of Joseph Eggleston Johnston, was born on October 4, 1801, at Longwood, Prince Edward County, Virginia, and died on or about September 23, 1852, in Columbia, South Carolina, where he lived most of his adult life. From what I can glean from stray letters and notes, he was a bit of a dandy, and he spent most of his working time as a pro-South, pro-South Carolina editor and publisher. His "circle" included other members of the Johnston family and the related Preston family. He left Abingdon, Virginia, where he'd lived as of 1811 with most of his immediate family (particularly at Panecillo -- spellings vary) sometime in the 1820s, and became involved with the local intelligentsia. His book Memoirs of a Nullifier, Written by Himself -- "a native of the South" -- (Columbia, S.C., Telescope Office) was first published in 1832. It has sometimes been erroneously attributed to Thomas Cooper (1759-1839), his friend and president of South Carolina College (i.e. The University of South Carolina) from 1821 to 1833. Both were "hotheads" when it came to Nullification, States' Rights and secession. While in South Carolina, Johnston also aimed to help make improvements around Columbia, and a park he envisioned was christened in his name after his death (the site has since been revitalized and renamed Finlay Park).

Algernon Sidney Johnston was known well enough in "elite circles" that news of his death was shared in the New York Daily Times. His brother Edward William Johnston (1799-1867) had connections with the Daily Times and wrote several articles for the newspaper under the pen name "Il Secretario."

DEATH OF [A.] S. JOHNSTON, ESQ. . . . [from] the Palmetto State Banner, of the 24th inst [September 24, 1852] . . . Our esteemed friend and fellow-citizen, A. S. Johnston, is no more! He died yesterday morning, after a brief but violent attack of illness. This is another added to the catalogue of prominent and useful citizens, whose death our community has been called to deplore within the last few months.

Mr. JOHNSTON had long been a resident of Columbia. A native of Virginia, he came to the State at an early age, and lived in our community to the period of his death. He first became well and favorably known as associate editor and proprietor of the Columbia Telescope, a paper which enjoyed great popularity, and exerted a powerful influence in our State throughout the period of its existence [1828-1839]. He has been subsequently known as the publisher of the Carolina Planter [1840], of which our distinguished fellow-citizen, Dr. R. W. GIBBES, was the editor, and also, for a number of years, as Printer to the [South Carolina] Senate. He was, at the time of his death, and had been for several years, one of the wardens of our town, a post of public service for which he seemed eminently fitted.

No man, perhaps, ever discharged the various important trusts, both public and private, confided to him, with greater fidelity and zeal, than our lamented friend. He left no immediate family to mourn his loss, but his death will be long lamented by a large circle of connections and friends, who well know the sterling qualities of his character, and how to appreciate them.

(New York Daily Times, September 29, 1852, page 3. The Daily Times began publication in 1851 and became the New York Times in 1857).  

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1 comment:

  1. He was surmisingly named after Algernon Sidney/Sydney (ca. January, 15, 1623-December 7, 1683), English republican theorist, from whom Hampden-Sydney College in Prince Edward County, Virginia, derives half of its name, as well. Not a coincidence -- Algernon's grandfather Peter Johnston, Sr., deeded the original tract of land to the fledgling college at the outset of the American Revolution.