James Louis Petigru

Black and white photograph of James Petigru

James Louis Petigru. Wikimedia Commons.

(1789-1863) Petigru was born near Abbeville, to William Pettigrew and Louise Gibert. He graduated from South Carolina College, changed the spelling of his name, and served as Beaufort’s solicitor. He married Jane Amelia Postell, with whom he had four children.  Petigru moved to Charleston and was appointed South Carolina attorney general and then elected to the state House of Representatives.  Petigru had an unchanging commitment to justice and order through law, including defending minority rights from majority incursions.  Although he criticized the Confederate government, Petigru mourned Confederate battlefield losses, especially those in which young South Carolinians fell.  Best known for his quote "South Carolina is too small for a republic, but too large for an insane asylum”  as his native state made the radical decision to secede from the Union.

Admired throughout the country, he has been labeled "the greatest private citizen South Carolina ever produced."  He is buried in Charleston.