Abram Scott was involved in two of the three closest elections for governor in Mississippi’s history. In 1831 he defeated Hiram G. Runnels by 247 votes, and two years later he lost to Runnels by 558 votes.
Scott was born in South Carolina in 1785 and migrated to Wilkinson County, Mississippi, as a young man. He became active in politics at an early age and was tax collector of Wilkinson County when the War of 1812 began. Scott was elected a lieutenant in the First Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers during the War of 1812. Later he was chosen as a representative to the state senate from Wilkinson County.
During Governor Scott’s first year in office, the nation was embroiled in the great sectional controversy over the tariff. In 1832 the state of South Carolina, under the leadership of John C. Calhoun, had nullified a tariff passed by the United States Congress in 1828 and had threatened to secede. South Carolina's action precipitated the first major secession crisis. Governor Scott and the Mississippi Legislature did not support South Carolina in its attempt to nullify the tariff, and both publicly denounced the theory that a state could nullify a federal law. Since no other southern state supported South Carolina, it abandoned its threat to secede, and the crisis was resolved a year later.
Governor Scott held the office of governor during the transition from the old aristocratic Constitution of 1817 to the more democratic Constitution of 1832, which created several new state agencies and public offices. Under the new constitution, the governor would continue to serve a two-year term, but could not serve more than four years in any six-year period. The new constitution abolished the office of lieutenant governor.
The first legislature under the 1832 Constitution convened in January 1833 and authorized a special general election in May to elect the public officials created by that constitution. The legislature authorized the officials chosen in that election to take office immediately, even though the constitution provided that the terms of all public officials would begin in November following their election. During that same session the legislature also appropriated $95,000 for a new state capitol and $10,000 for a “suitable house for the governor.”
In the special May 1833 election, Governor Scott was defeated by Hiram Runnels. However, because of questions about the legality of that special election, Runnels refused to be inaugurated and Governor Scott remained in office. A month after the special election, a cholera epidemic forced a general evacuation of Jackson. Governor Scott, who refused to leave the capital, contracted the disease and died June 12, 1833. Because there was no lieutenant governor under the 1832 constitution, Governor Scott was succeeded by the president of the state senate, Charles Lynch.
Scott County is named in honor of Mississippi's seventh governor.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 53.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form II. 625-628.