Joseph Alston, Governor

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Joseph Alston

Birthdate: (37)
Birthplace: Murrells Inlet, Georgetown County, South Carolina, United States
Death: September 19, 1816 (37)
Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, United States
Place of Burial: Murrells Inlet, Georgetown County, South Carolina, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Col William Allston and Mary Allston
Husband of Theodosia Alston
Father of Aaron Burr Alston
Brother of Maria Allston; Col John Ashe Allston; William Algernon Allston and Charlotte Wilson
Half brother of Mary Mott Poinsett; Rebecca Brewton Haynes; Charles Allston; Thomas Pinckney Allston; Jacob Motte Allston and 2 others

Managed by: Brittany Christine Jenkins
Last Updated:

About Joseph Alston, Governor

Joseph was the Governor of South Carolina


Joseph Alston (1779 – September 19, 1816) was the 44th Governor of South Carolina from 1812 to 1814.

Early life and career

Born in All Saint's Parish near Georgetown, Alston attended the College of New Jersey, but left in 1796 without graduating. He then went to study law at the office of Edward Rutledge and was admitted to the bar. Alston decided against practicing law and instead engaged in planting becoming one of the wealthiest planters in South Carolina. In 1801, he married the daughter of Aaron Burr, Theodosia Burr Alston, partly to ingratiate himself with Republican voters in an effort to cover up his aristocratic facade. Their honeymoon was spent in Niagara Falls, the first recorded couple to do so. Their son Aaron Burr Alston, born 1802, died in 1812.

Political career

Rise to governor

Alston won election to the South Carolina House of Representatives for a term from 1802 to 1803 and again from 1805 to 1812. In 1806, the House of Representatives chose Alston to be the speaker and he pushed the legislature to adopt a more equitable basis of representation. The General Assembly elected Alston to be the Governor of South Carolina in 1812 for a two-year term after the removal of Thomas Sumter and Andrew Pickens as candidates. Although Alston became governor, his private life suffered tragedy by the loss of his only child and the disappearance of a ship headed towards New York City that his wife had boarded. His misery continued as his tenure got off to a rocky start and his popularity plummeted.

War of 1812

With the War of 1812 raging, Alston called the state militia to service in 1813 to protect military magazines from the British. Some soldiers of the militia refused to serve and Alston issued a statement that the refusal of service would result in death. However, a court issued a writ of habeas corpus and the men charged with court-martial were let free. Subsequently, Alston dismissed the entire militia from service, but the residents were in shock that their state was then completely defenseless from British attack. Alston was forced to recall the militia to service after the British landed on St. Helena Island and the legislature correspondingly responded by increasing the powers of the governor for the use of the militia in wartime.

Later life

After Alston left the governorship in 1814, he died on September 19, 1816 in Charleston.

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Joseph Alston, Governor's Timeline

January 1, 1779
Murrells Inlet, Georgetown County, South Carolina, United States
May 29, 1802
Age 23
New York, NY, USA
- 1814
Age 33
South Carolina
- 1814
Age 33
South Carolina
September 19, 1816
Age 37
Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, United States
Murrells Inlet, Georgetown County, South Carolina, United States