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Execution of Colonel Hayne

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

August 26.—Colonel Isaac Hayne was, by a mandate of Balfour’s, ignominiously hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, on the fourth instant. After the execution, his young son was permitted to carry his father’s body and inter it at his plantation at Ponper, which was done on Sunday evening last, (19th.) Colonel Hayne was a most amiable character, highly respected, and had a most extensive influence. Nothing could strike deeper at the root of independence than this measure, if suffered to pass without retaliation; General Greene therefore has stopped all further exchanges, avowed his intention of retaliation, and issued a proclamation, setting forth his reasons, let them lead to what consequences they may. Our countrymen breathe nothing but revenge on this cruel occasion; it will now unite them stronger than ever, in prosecuting the war .with the greatest vigor and spite. Could the diabolical Balfour fall into our hands to suffer the same ignominious death, it would be but a small recompense for the loss of our worthy countryman; but he keeps close in his strongholds in Charleston.1


1 New Jersey Gazette, September 26 and October 10.

After the reduction of Charleston, Colonel Hayne had, with some restrictions, subscribed to a declaration of allegiance to the King of Great Britain; but afterward, from an “open breach of contract” on the part of the British, and their inability to afford him the promised protection for his allegiance, he was led to consider himself released from his engagements, and, on solicitation, took the command of a regiment of militia in Carolina. Falling into the hands of the British while in arms, he was thrown into a loathsome provost; and though he was at first promised a trial, and had counsel prepared to justify his conduct by the laws of nations, and the usages of war, yet this privilege was finally refused, and he was ordered for execution. The royal Lieutenant-governor Bull and a great number of the inhabitants of Charleston, both loyalists and Americans, interceded for his life. The ladies of that town generally signed a petition in his behalf. .His children, accompanied by some near relations, begged on their bended knees for the life of their .father. These intercessions,drew tears from many a hard eye;” but the British commanders were inflexible. Colonel Hayne submitted to his destiny with decent firmness, composure, and dignity. “Thus fell,” says Doctor Ramsey, “in the bloom of life, a brave officer, a worthy citizen, a just and upright man, furnishing an example of heroism in death, that extorted a confession from his enemies, that though he did not die in a good cause, he must at least have acted from a persuasion of its being so.”—Holmes’ Annals, ii. 337.