John Lewis Gervais Suggests A Capital For South Carolina

John Lewis Gervais Suggests A Capital For South Carolina

John Lewis Gervais was a Continental Congressman from South Carolina.

Due to his German birth, Gervais was a leader in many foreign policy conversations. Additionally, John made many important contributions to the growth of South Carolina.

John Lewis Gervais

John Lewis Gervais immigrated from German to South Carolina at the age of 23.

By his mid-30’s Gervais had established a successful merchant firm.  This is when the American Revolution began.

Gervais was elected to the South Carolina Provincial Congress during the early days of the war. Additionally, he spent six years serving on the Committee of Safety, which was in charge of protecting the colony.

Continental Congress

After independence, Gervais was chosen to represent his State in the Continental Congress.

John primarily served on committees which controlled foreign affairs.  He was responsible for sending instructions to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams in Europe.

Much of John’s work revolved around negotiating terms of trade with France and Holland, notably receiving loans which pushed the United States through the war.

Gervais also supported the idea that, instead of just letting the British leave forts empty after the Revolutionary War, George Washington should negotiate with the enemy’s leaders to hand over the posts in an orderly fashion.


After his stint in the Continental Congress, Gervais returned to South Carolina where he became a member of the State Senate.

As a Senator, John is most notable for suggesting a new Capital for the State.  His choice of a central location was agreed upon.

Additionally, Gervais recommended a name: Columbia.  

The vote was close but in the end the Senate agreed and John Lewis Gervais is responsible for the name and location of South Carolina’s State Capital.

If you would like to learn more about Founding Fathers who played a large role in the development of early South Carolina, check out my articles on William Moultrie and Christopher Gadsden.

The recommended reading for today is slightly different than usual. ‘Proslavery and Sectional Though’ covers a slightly larger period than I would generally put here but I think it gives a great overview of the types of ideas which were common while Gervais was making decisions in South Carolina. Pick up a copy at the library or through our affiliate link below.

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