Chancellor Job Johnstone

Annals of Newberry, Part Two by John A. Chapman, page 379-82

Chancellor Job Johnstone was born June 6, 1793, and was the son of John Johnstone¹, who came to Newberry in 1806, already a married man and the father of several children. It is thus seen that Job Johnstone was not a native of Newberry, being about thirteen years of age when his father moved here. He was born in Fairfield, near Winn’s Bridge. Judge O’Neall in his Annals says that John Johnstone was peer when be started in life, but that by persevering industry and energy he became quite wealthy, and was able to educate his children liberally and to provide for them handsomely.

Job Johnstone, after graduating in the South Carolina College in December, 1810 (being the youngest graduate who, up to that time, had received a diploma), in 1811 entered the law office of John Hooker, at York, where he remained one year. The next year he was in the office of Mr. Clark, of Winnsboro. Without completing his, studies in the law, he quit and went home, where he spent about two years, devoting his time to general reading. In 1814 lie concluded to take up the study of medicine, and began under the direction of Dr. Davis, an eminent physician in Columbia. He took a course of lectures in Now York, and in 1817, having graduated, lie returned to Newberry and  practiced for but a short time, and in the fall of 1817 he renewed the study of law in the office of Judge O’Neall at Newberry, and was admitted to practice in the winter of 1818, and entered into partnership with Judge O’Neall. Why he discontinued the practice of medicine, I am not able to say. I have heard several whimsical reasons given to account for it, but I am not disposed to credit any, as he was a man of too good sense and judgment to be moved by a mere whim. Doubt. less he deeply felt the insufficiency of medicine to remove disease, and consequently his own helplessness in the presence of sickness and suffering. The successful practitioner, or the one who would be successful, must have no doubt whatever of his own skill and knowledge and of the virtue and efficiency of his medicine.

He was a successful lawyer, and never entered the arena of politics. In 1820 be was elected Clerk of the Senate of South Carolina, which position he held until he was elected Chan­cellor, on the 3d of November, 1830. In 1830 he was made an Equity Judge, and in 1859, when the Separate Court of Appeals was established, he was elected Associate Justice of this Court, which position he held until death.

In 1860 he was very doubtful of the expediency of Secession, as he had always been opposed to every movement, Co-operation², for instance, the tendency of which was towards the dissolution or loosening the bonds of the Union between the States. Nullification he did not regard in that light, as that was simply open resistance to a law which the State deemed unconstitutional; and the trouble in that case might be, or might have been, amicably settled by compromise, or by an appeal to the courts. But Secession was a declaration of Independence, a complete severance of all ties of duty or obligation to the Union; and the trouble, in that case, could only be settled by an appeal to arms, coercing the seceding State or States, so making a forced Union instead of a free one; or by letting them go, and so permitting the Union to dissolve and return, by disintegration, into its elementary and chaotic condition.

Both courses, to the wise philosopher and statesman, were full of grave and appalling dangers. With his clear and far-seeing mind, he shrank from the prospect. He thought that the Government at Washington would not permit any State to leave the Union in peace. Indeed, he felt that it could not. He was not one of those sanguine souls willing to drink all the blood that might be shed during the war that would follow Secession. But after the State seceded, after the die was east and the Southern Confederacy formed, he was as true to the cause of the South as any citizen in the State. It was as a judge of law, and in his profound knowledge of that science, that he was pre-eminent. He never formed an opinion or came to any conclusion hastily; but patiently investigated every question and weighed every difficulty that might present itself. He wanted the truth in every cause, and having the sense of justice woven into every fibre of his being, his supreme desire was that every decision rendered by him should be clear, decisive and right. He was a just Judge, and being just in all his private dealings with his fellow men, he wanted justice from all. But he was not hard. I have had money transactions with him; I have worked for him; and I always found him gentle and true and kind. He was a gentleman, modest and unassuming in his manners, making all, even the unlettered, feel at ease in his company. He was twice married, having cons and daughters by both unions. Paul I remember as one of the gentlest of men. And notwithstanding his long-continued ill health (he died early), he was overflowing with a genial and kindly humor. Silas was for a number of years Commisioner in Equity. He is now Master. George is a lawyer and a successful practitioner, has recently represented his county in the Legislature, and is now a Member of Congress, having been elected in 1890. J. Malcolm wan elected to the Legislaiure in 1888. He and Allen are both farmers, and good ones.

Chancellor Johnstone died April 8th, 1862, long before the conclusion of the great civil war. He saw dark days ahead, and was not sanguine, as he never had been, of the success of the South.

1) John Johnstone and four of his brothers (whose ancestors were Scottish) emigrated from Derry, Ireland, two of them previous to, and the others just after, the Revolutionary war. They spelled their names always with the t, but most of them dropped the final e. One of them wrote his name Johnstown. Chancellor Johnstone formerly wrote his name without the final e, and nearly all his equity decrees are so signed, but in later life he replaced the final e and spelled his name as it was originally written by his Scottish ancestors —.E. H. A. 

2) This is probably a mistake. My information from the members of his family is that he was thoroughly Slates Rights. He believed that the States wore sovereign and that the Union of the States was a Union of Sovereignties, with only the powers and authorities, and no more, that were delegated by these Sovereiguties to the Federal Government, and that his allegiance was due to the State.

He was a Co-operationist in 1852 and ‘with Judge A. P. Butler, at a meeting of citizens at Silver Street at that time, carried the people against separate State action.

He was a Nullifier in 1832, and being a member of the Convention, framed the Ordinance of Nullification,

He was in favor of the Confederacy, and, just a day or two before his death, had issued an address to the people calling for private contribu­tions for the purpose of getting up a Confederate Navy—the scheme for which he had advised with Secretary Mallory.

He was a Commissioner to the first General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church which met in Augusta, Ga., in 1861.

These are evidences of his full and entire sympathy with the South and of his true and loyal devotion to the South and her cause.—E. H. A..


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