“I gave my parole once…”
On the morning of August 27, 1780 there was a knock on the door of the Charleston, South Carolina residence of Christopher Gadsden, lieutenant governor of South Carolina. He had stayed when the city capitulated to British forces in May. Gadsden had represented the civil government and handed the city over to the British commander, Sir Henry Clinton. He was released on parole.
Now, approximately three months later, Clinton was back in New York, and the new British commander Lord Charles Cornwallis had reneged on the parole agreement. Along with another 20 civil officers, Gadsden was led through the town to the docks to a waiting ship, set to sail for St. Augustine in British East Florida.
Upon arrival in the oldest city in European North America, Gadsden was given the opportunity by Governor Tonyn to avoid incarceration in Florida. This is when the 56-year old patriot probably uttered the phrase below.
“I gave my parole once, and it has been shamefully violated by the British Government: I shall not give another to people on whom no faith can be reposed.”
With that decision, Gadsden landed himself in Castillo de San Marcos the large coquina stone fortress that stood guard over St. Augustine. Not only was the South Carolinian kept in a cell, he was kept in solitary confinement for the next 42 weeks!
Upon his release in September 1781, Gadsden and the rest of the civil prisoners were sent by merchant vessel to Philadelphia. Gadsden wasted no time in hurrying southward to South Carolina and a return to the state House of Representatives. He served in various political roles, although he had to decline the governorship because of the affects of his imprisonment. He died in 1805. A grandson, James Gadsden would give his name to the Gadsden Purchase.
Today one can visit Castillo de San Marcos, a national park unit within the National Park Service. When touring the Castillo you can view the cell where Gadsden spent his solitary confinement and read the accompanying exhibits.