Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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TURNBULL, Robert James, political writer, born in New Smyrna, Florida, in January, 1775; died in Charleston, South Carolina, 15 June, 1833. He was the son of a British physician, who obtained grants from the government in 1772 to establish a Greek colony in Florida. About 15,000 Greeks, Moravians, and other inhabitants of the Mediterranean islands were induced to emigrate, and they founded New Smyrna, so named in honor of Mrs. Turnbull, who was of Greek descent and a native of Smyrna. The project was unsuccessful, and Dr. Turnbull forfeited his grants by adhering to the cause of the colonies during the Revolutionary war, when he settled in Charleston, South Carolina. The son was educated in England, and then studied law in Charleston and Philadelphia. After his admission to the bar he practised in Charleston until 1810, when he retired to a large plantation in the country. While in Europe he wrote a "Visit to the "Philadelphia Penitentiary" (London, 1797), which was translated into French (Paris, 1800), and attracted attention both at home and abroad. He became a leader in the nullification movement, and wrote a series of articles on that subject in 1827 for the "Charleston Mercury," which were afterward issued as "The Crisis," and became the text-book of the nullification party. Mr. Turnbull was "reputed the ablest writer in favor of the principle of nullification." He argued that "each state has the unquestionable right to judge of the infractions of the constitution, and to interpose its sovereign power to arrest their progress and to protect its citizens," which principle he incorporated in his treatise on "The Tribunal of Dernier Ressort" (1830). In 1831 he was a member of the Free-trade convention that assembled at Columbia, South Carolina, and wrote the report of that body, and he was active in the similar convention in Charleston in February, 1832. He delivered an oration before an assemblage of the nullification party that showed its influence in the subsequent election, and in November of the same year he was a delegate to the convention of the people of South Carolina that passed the nullifying ordinance, and prepared the address of that convention to the people. After the proclamation of President Jackson was received in South Carolina he was the first to enlist when volunteers were called for, in addition to the organized militia, to resist the National government. A monument was erected to his memory in Charleston by his political admirers and associates.
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