Arthur Middleton was born at Middleton Place on June 26, 1742, the first-born child of Henry and Mary Williams Middleton. At the age of twelve he was sent to school in England, accompanying his Uncle William and his family when the latter emigrated there. He attended Harrow, Westminster School, Trinity College at Cambridge before being admitted to Middle Temple to study law.
Twenty-one year old Arthur returned to South Carolina on December 24, 1763, almost three years after his mother’s death. As eldest son, he inherited such of his mother’s property as had not been directly deeded to his father. This inheritance included Middleton Place, which became his residence on his marriage to Mary Izard the following year. The couple sailed for Europe in May 1768, not returning until September 1771. Their first child, Henry, was born in London in 1770 and their family portrait was painted by Benjamin West. Benjamin West was an important American artist who became the court painter of King George III. Arthur’s father Henry and brother Thomas also commissioned portraits of themselves by West. Visit the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston to see a portrait of Thomas by Benjamin West.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Arthur became increasingly active in political life upon his return to South Carolina. Despite many years in England, his political temperament was colored by loyalty first to South Carolina, secondly to America, and to England, not at all. Arthur served as a member of the First and Second Provincial Congresses in South Carolina, was appointed to the Council of Safety and the committee to prepare a new state constitution. He also helped design the state seal.
When his father declined a third term as delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776, Arthur was elected in his stead and was actively involved in all aspects of its activities. A week after his thirty-fourth birthday (June 26, 1776), he voted on the crucial question of independence from Great Britain and, along with his brother-in-law Edward Rutledge and the other South Carolina delegates, later signed the Declaration of Independence. He gave up his seat in Congress at the end of 1777 and returned to Charleston.
When British forces approached Charleston in 1780, Arthur Middleton joined in the defense of the city. After the city fell, he was arrested and taken to the British garrison at St. Augustine, Florida. A year later he regained his freedom during a prisoner exchange in Philadelphia, where he remained in service in Congress until November 1782. He then returned to his family and Middleton Place after a two-year absence.
After the British retreat, Arthur devoted himself to the management of his several properties, including inheritances from his father and Izard lands inherited by his wife. Arthur died at Middleton Place on January 1, 1787 at the age of forty-five.
Arthur Middleton was survived by eight children:
- HENRY (1770-1846): See separate page
- MARIA HENRIETTA (1772-1791): Married, 1788, Joseph Manigault.
- ELIZA CAROLINA (1774-1792): Unmarried
- EMMA PHILADELPHIA (1776-1813): Married, 1795, Henry Izard.
- ANNA LOUISA (1778-1819): Married, 1800, Daniel Blake.
- ISABELLA JOHANNES (1780-1865): Eloped, 1800, with Daniel Elliott Huger
- SEPTIMA SEXTA (1783-1865): The Middletons’ “seventh child, sixth daughter.” Married 1799, Henry Middleton Rutledge. After her mother’s death in 1814, the family moved to Tennessee; very prominent citizens of Nashville and friends of the Andrew Jacksons.
- JOHN IZARD (1785-1849): Married in Paris, 1810, Eliza Falconnet; earned the designation (by Professor Charles Elliot Norton of Harvard) of America’s first classical archeologist.