William Henry Drayton, an American statesman, born at Drayton hall, on Ashley river, S. 0., in September, 1742, died in Philadelphia in September, 1779. He was educated in England at Westminster school, and at Balliol college, Oxford. Returning to America in 1764, he became an active writer on political affairs, on the side of the government. In 1771, after revisiting England, he was appointed privy councillor for the province of South Carolina; but as the revolutionary crisis approached he espoused the popular cause. In 1774 he was appointed judge of the province, and when the continental congress was about to sit he published a pamphlet under the signature of "A Freeman," which substantially marked out the line of conduct pursued by that body. Suspended from his offices under the crown, he was made a member of the popular committee of safety, and was prominent in advising the seizure of the provincial arsenals and British mails. In 1775 he was president of the provincial congress, and in 1776 was elected chief justice of South Carolina. He soon after delivered a charge to the grand jury on the question of independence, which was published throughout the colonies and had great influence.
He had produced several other political charges and pamphlets, when in 1778 he was elected a delegate to the continental congress, of which he was a prominent member till his death. He left a minute narrative of the preliminary and current events of the revolution, which was prepared for the press and published by his son, Gov. John Drayton (2 vols. 8vo, Charleston, 1821).