Abram Scott was involved in two of the three closest elections for governor in the state’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 and was serving as tax collector of Wilkinson County when the War of 1812 began; he served as a lieutenant in the 1st Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers. Scott later represented Wilkinson County in the State Senate prior to winning election as governor.
During Scott’s first year in office, the nation was embroiled in a great sectional controversy over the tariff. In 1832 South Carolina, under the leadership of John C. Calhoun, had nullified a tariff passed by the US Congress in 1828 and had threatened to secede. Scott and the Mississippi legislature did not support South Carolina, publicly denouncing the theory that a state could nullify a federal law.
Scott held the governor’s office 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 also abolished the office of lieutenant governor.
The first legislature under the new 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 session the legislature also appropriated ninety-five thousand dollars for a new state capitol and ten thousand dollars for a “suitable house for the governor.”
In the May 1833 special election, Runnels defeated Scott. But because of questions about the legality of the special election, Runnels refused to be inaugurated, and Scott remained in office. In June, a cholera epidemic forced a general evacuation of Jackson. Scott, however, refused to leave the capital, contracted the disease, and died on 12 June 1833. Because there was no lieutenant governor, Scott was succeeded by Charles Lynch, the president of the State Senate.
Scott County is named in honor of Mississippi’s seventh governor.
- Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912)
- Dunbar Rowland, Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, vol. 2 (1907)