Representing his home province of South Carolina, Lloyd rose to leadership of the Conservatives in the 1820's as they evolved from the earlier Farmer's Party to a coalition including industrial workers and the small population of freedmen. With the major slave rebellions of 1815, 1821, and 1829, and consequent work stoppages and organization of private armies, debate over slavery came to dominate the confederation's politics. John Calhoun, in his famous Defense of the Realm Speech in 1829, argued that the continuation of slavery by whatever means necessary was the only viable course of action. Lloyd countered that slavery harmed slave and owner alike, that the mass of slaves could eventually be trusted with freedom, and that the S.C. government should ally with abolitionists within its borders (such as the Southern Union), in the entire C.N.A., and in Great Britain. The S.C. election of 1833 became a referendum between these two positions, and Calhoun's Liberals won the day.
The financial panic of 1836 led to a collapse of the prices of both cotton and slaves, to the point where first the importation of more slaves from Africa, and then plantation agriculture itself, ceased to be profitable. Calhoun argued that these conditions were temporary, but Lloyd appealed to the self-interest of slaveowners and in 1840 won adoption of his plan for compensated manumission. All slaves were to be freed by the beginning of 1842, with compensation of £32 per head to the owner, but owners could receive £35 per head by freeing them earlier. Freedmen would continue to be bound to their estates during a "gradual education" period, maintaining what Sobel calls "a new form of slavery, more subtle but just as exploitive as the old, which lasted for another two generations".
With the nation convulsed by native insurrection in Indiana, labor unrest in the Northern Confederation, and separatist violence in Quebec, both Liberals and Conservatives sought alliance with like-minded leaders in other confederations. Both parties saw the need for a stronger national government and together negotiated proposals which became the Second Britannic Design, with Lloyd emerging as the principal national leader of the Conservatives. He fought the 1843 national election on a platform of broad social reform, but lost to Liberal candidate Winfield Scott due to economic recovery, fear of further insurrection, and increased tensions with Mexico.
As these tensions eventually mounted toward the outbreak of the Rocky Mountain War, Lloyd as Conservative leader played a complex and ultimately unsuccessful political game, attempting to exploit divisions among the Liberals over foreign and military policy. He opposed the war, but failed to help Scott in his struggle with the pro-war faction led by Henry Gilpin. In the late spring of 1849, after the breakdown of peace negotiations and the launch of the mountain campaign, Lloyd joined Gilpin in calling for a vote of no confidence against Scott. But when Scott finally resigned after failing to form an anti-war coalition government, Gilpin outmaneuvered Lloyd again, forming a Grand Council majority of most Liberals and some pro-war Conservatives and preventing the special election that had been Lloyd's goal in challenging Scott. By the election of 1853, Lloyd had lost the confidence of his party, especially its younger members, and was replaced as candidate for Governor-General by William Johnson.
Despite this, Lloyd's reputation as the emancipator of the C.N.A.'s Negroes remains secure. The city of Lloyd, in the Tennessee River region of north central Georgia, is the largest of many tributes to his legacy.
Sobel's sources for William Lloyd's life include John Pritchard's William Lloyd: The Southern Emancipator (New York, 1956); and Ernest Passman's Lloyd of Carolina: A Political Biography (New York, 1965).
|Governors of the Southern Confederation|
|John Connolly • John Calhoun • Willie Lloyd • Chester Phipps|