Thomas Smith Grimké

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Thomas Smith Grimké (September 22, 1786 – October 12, 1834) was an American attorney, author, orator and social activist.


Parents and education

Thomas Grimké was the second of fourteen children borne to jurist John Faucheraud Grimké, and Mary ("Polly"), daughter of Thomas and Sarah (Moore) Smith, of Charleston, South Carolina. He graduated from Charleston College, and entered the study of law under John Julius Pringle, then attorney general of South Carolina, in 1804. He suspended his legal studies to enter Yale University in the fall of 1805. After completing courses at Yale, Grimké expressed a desire to prepare for the ministry, but yielded to the wishes of his jurist father and was admitted to the bar in May 1809. Grimké practiced law in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1830, Grimké received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Yale.

John Faucheraud Grimké American judge

John Faucheraud Grimké was an American jurist who served as Associate justice and Senior Associate Justice of South Carolina's Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions from 1783 until his death. He also served in the South Carolina state legislature from 1782 until 1790. He was intendant (mayor) of Charleston, South Carolina for two terms, from 1786 to 1788.

On 17 March 1827, Grimké advocated, in an address before the Bar Association of South Carolina, the codification of the laws of that state. He was a member of the state senate in 1826-1830, and in 1828 made a speech in support of the federal government on the tariff question. [1]

Grimké had a distinguished career in the Carolina courts. He is perhaps best known for the case of M'Cready v. Hunt, focusing on states rights, which was brought before the South Carolina Court of Appeals in 1834. The case involved a "test oath" passed by the South Carolina legislature in November 1832. The oath required that members of the state militia pledge "faithful and true allegiance" to the State of South Carolina. The law was vague on the underlying and contentious issue of sovereignty, and did not specifically state whether allegiance to the state was superior to allegiance to the federal government. However, dispute over the oath immediately erupted. The "Nullifier" faction asserted that allegiance to states had precedence over allegiance to the federal government, while "Unionists" asserted that the federal government had primacy over all states.

Eventually, a legal case on the validity of the test oath reached the state Court of Appeals in Columbia. Attorney Robert Barnwell Rhett, of Beaufort, argued for the test oath with the support of state Governor Robert Y. Hayne. He was opposed by a trio of young Unionist attorneys, James L. Petigru of Charleston, business attorney Abram Blanding of Columbia, and Thomas S. Grimké. The June 2nd, 1834 decision from the three judges fell 2 to 1 for the Unionists. "Nullifiers" immediately called for the impeachment of the two jurists. "Nullifier" legislators responded to the decision by calling for a constitutional amendment to legalize the test oath and assert the primacy of allegiance to South Carolina. [2]

Robert Y. Hayne American politician

Robert Young Hayne 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. He was vocal proponent of the states' rights doctrine, in collaboration with John C. Calhoun and James Hamilton, Jr.

James L. Petigru American politician

James Louis Petigru was an American lawyer, politician, and jurist in South Carolina. He is best known for his service as the Attorney General of South Carolina, his juridical work that played a key role in the recodification of the state's law code. He was also known for opposing nullification and, in 1860, state secession.

Social activism

Grimké was an active advocate and donor to the temperance movement and a prominent member of the American Peace Society. He was also an advocate and lecturer upon the reformation of education in America, particularly urging the use of the Bible as a text-book in schools. Though a fine classical scholar, he opposed both classics and mathematics as elements of an education. [1] He was an early advocate of reformed spelling, as a means of simplifying education, and used his original spelling method in his own publications after 1833. Grimké was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1833. [3]

Temperance movement 19th- and 20th-century global social movement

The temperance movement is a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Participants in the movement typically criticize alcohol intoxication or promote complete abstinence from alcohol (teetotalism), and its leaders emphasize alcohol's negative effects on people's health, personalities and family lives. Typically the movement promotes alcohol education and it also demands the passage of new laws against the sale of alcohol, either regulations on the availability of alcohol, or the complete prohibition of it. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the temperance movement became prominent in many countries, particularly in English-speaking and Scandinavian ones, and it eventually led to Prohibition in the United States which lasted from 1920 to 1933.

American Peace Society advocacy organization

The American Peace Society is a pacifist group founded upon the initiative of William Ladd, in New York City, May 8, 1828. It was formed by the merging of many state and local societies, from New York, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, of which the oldest, the New York Peace Society, dated from 1815. Ladd was an advocate of a "Congress and High Court of Nations." The society organized peace conferences and regularly published a periodical entitled Advocate of Peace. The Society was only opposed to wars between nation states; it did not oppose the American Civil War, regarding the Union's war as a "police action" against the "criminals" of the Confederacy. Its most famous leader was Benjamin Franklin Trueblood (1847–1916), a Quaker who in his book The Federation of the World (1899) called for the establishment of an international state to bring about lasting peace in the world. In 1834 the headquarters of the society were removed to Hartford, in 1834 to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1911 to Washington, D.C. The group is now based in Washington. Its official journal is World Affairs.

American Antiquarian Society United States historic place

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS), located in Worcester, Massachusetts, is both a learned society and national research library of pre-twentieth century American history and culture. Founded in 1812, it is the oldest historical society in the United States with a national focus. Its main building, known as Antiquarian Hall, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark in recognition of this legacy. The mission of the AAS is to collect, preserve and make available for study all printed records of what is now known as the United States of America. This includes materials from the first European settlement through the year 1876.

He advocated absolute non-violence, holding that even self-defensive warfare was wicked. When asked what he would do if he were mayor of Charleston, and a piratical vessel should attack the city, he is said to have replied that he would marshal the Sunday-school children in procession, and lead them to meet the invader, [1] which caused his ideas to be met with much ridicule.


The Grimké family were German by descent, and his paternal grandmother's family was French Huguenot. On January 25, 1810, he married Sarah Daniel Drayton of Charleston, who died on July 23, 1867. The couple had six sons. His siblings included the noted orators and abolitionists Sarah Moore Grimké and Angelina Grimké Weld. His brother and law partner Henry W. Grimké was the father of journalist and diplomat Archibald Grimké and Francis J. Grimké, a Presbyterian minister. Frederick Grimké (1791–1863), another brother, was for some time presiding judge of the Ohio Court of Common Pleas, and from 1836 to 1842 was a judge of the state supreme court, resigning to devote his time to philosophical studies. [1]


Grimké died of cholera on October 12, 1834 while on a lecture tour and a visit with family members in Ohio. He was buried in Columbus, Ohio. A sermon preached in Charleston on the occasion of his death was subsequently printed in the Episcopal publication "Gospel Messenger" (volume 11, December, 1834).

The contemporary doctor Daniel Drake remembered him in these terms:

It may be trule said of Mr.G. that he was a Christian scholar, a Christian orator, a Christian philosopger, and a Christian gentleman. He had resolved the whole duty of man, in every situation and relation of life, into the simple and sublime principple of obedience to God, and was himself a luminious example of conformity, in practice, to his own theory of moral obligation. The preservation of the Union was one of his cherished themes... [4]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Wikisource-logo.svg  Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Grimké, John Faucheraud"  . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography . New York: D. Appleton.
  2. Ford, pp. 148-149.
  3. American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  4. Drake, Daniel (1834). Discourse on the History, Character, and Prospects of the West: Delivered to the Union Literary Society of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, at Their Ninth Anniversary, September 23, 1834. Truman and Smith. p. 53-54: "Thomas S. Grimké."

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