James Hamilton, an American statesman, born in Charleston, S. C, May 8,1780, drowned at sea near the coast of Texas, Nov. 15, 1857. He was educated for the bar, but entered the army and served as a major in the Canadian campaign of 1812, and afterward resumed the practice of the law. For several successive years he was mayor of Charleston, and he was active in the detection of a formidable conspiracy in 1822 among the negro population, led by Denmark Vesey, a free mulatto from Hayti. In the same year he was elected to the state legislature, and was also chosen a representative in congress, where he became prominent by his opposition to the protective system. While in congress he acted as second to John Randolph in his duel with Henry Clay. He was also second to Gov. McDuffie in his duel with Col. Cummings. Jackson, on his election as president in 1828, offered him the post of secretary of war, and afterward that of minister to Mexico, with authority to negotiate the annexation of Texas, both of which he declined. In 1830-'82 he was governor of South Carolina, and recommended to the legislature the passage of the nullification act, which he supported in numerous essays and speeches. His successor, Gov. Hayne, appointed him to the command of the state militia.
Some time afterward he became interested in the affairs of the republic of Texas, and in 1841 was her minister to England and France, where he procured the recognition of her independence; and in 1845 he was active in aiding her admission to the Union. On the death of Calhoun in 1850, he was appointed his successor in the United States senate, but for domestic reasons he declined the office. He had expended his fortune in the service of Texas, and was on his way thither to seek indemnification when he perished in a collision of steamboats. With his usual courtesy and generosity he yielded his own chance of safety to a lady among the passengers, to whom he was a stranger. At the time of his death he was United States senator elect from Texas.