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Today In Charleston History: May 6

1766-Stamp Act. American Revolution – Foundations.

News reached Charlestown that Parliament had repealed the Stamp Act. The city celebrated by ringing church bells and burning bonfires. Lt. Gov. Bull hosted “a very elegant entertainment” at Dillon’s Tavern for the Council and Assembly.

The Assembly voted £1000 sterling for a marble statue of William Pitt in gratitude of his exertions for the repeal of the Stamp Act. They also voted to appropriate funds for portraits of Gadsden, John Rutledge and Thomas Lynch to be displayed in the Assembly room in recognition of their service during the Stamp Act Congress.

Liberty Tree marker on Alexander Street

Liberty Tree marker on Alexander Street

They also learned that Parliament passed the Declaratory Act which stated that Parliament’s authority was the same in America as in Britain – their laws were as binding on the American colonies as in England. That night, Christopher Gadsden gave a speech under the great oak tree in Mr. Mazyck’s cow pasture. He:

harangued them at considerable length on the folly of relaxing their opposition and vigilance, or of indulging in the fallacious hope that Great Britain would relinquish their designs and pretensions.

Gadsden cautioned not to rejoice in the repeal of the Stamp Act, because the Declaratory Act was a threat to the liberty of all Americans. From that night onward, the oak was called the Liberty Tree. At the end of the meeting the men gathered hands around the tree and swore resistance to future tyranny. 

1780-The Seige of Charlestown

Knowing of the extreme conditions within the city, Sir Clinton was frustrated by the American resistance. He wrote, “I begin to think these people will be Blockheads enough to wait the assault.”


May 6, 1791

Washington toured the town on horseback for most of the day, riding up and down most of the principal streets. Sometime during the day Washington stopped to observe the work on rebuilding of the State House and talk with the supervising architect, James Hoban.

Charleston  courthouse- Old  _large

Charleston County Courthouse, formerly the State House.

Washington had recently been given the duty by Congress to build “the President’s House” (later called the White House) in D.C. Hoban was given the job by Washington to design and supervise the construction of the White House. 

The evening meal was at Sen. Pierce Butler’s home and then a party at Gov. Pinckney’s home.

the alstons

Joseph Alston and Theodsia Burr Alston

Vice-president Aaron Burr arrived in Charleston for the birth of his grandson. His daughter, Theodosia, was married to Joseph Alston. His carriage was floated across the Cooper River from Mt. Pleasant to Charleston. The Charleston Times wrote,

“The Vice-President of the United States is expected in town, this evening. The Federalist Artillery Company have orders to salute him on his landing.”


On a Saturday afternoon, David Ramsay strolled down Broad Street, on his way home. He passed William Linnen who was standing behind the columns of St. Michael’s Church. Linnen stepped out and “took a large horseman’s pistol … and shot the doctor in the back.”

According to one source:

Having been carried home, and being surrounded by a crowd of anxious citizens, after first calling their attention to what he was about to utter, he said ‘I know not if these wounds be mortal; I am not afraid to die; but should that be my fate, I call on all here present to bear witness, that I consider the unfortunate perpetrator of this deed a lunatic, and free from guilt.’

Dr. David Ramsay

Dr. David Ramsay

One month previously, Dr. David Ramsay had been appointed by the court to examine William Linnen, a tailor known for serial litigation and nuisance suits against lawyers, judges and juries.  After Linnen had attempted to murder his attorney Ramsay examined Linnen and reported to the court that he was “deranged and that it would be dangerous to let him go at large.” After apparently regaining his sanity, Linnen was released. Though he had threatened Ramsay, the doctor did not take the threat seriously.

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