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History of Early American Landscape Design

William Bull II

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Bull probably developed his keen interest in plants and gardens in Europe. Educated at Westminster school in England, he continued his studies in the early 1730s at Leiden with the Dutch botanist and physician Herman Boerhave (1668-1738), becoming in 1735 the first native-born American to graduate with a medical degree from the university. [1] Thereafter, Bull corresponded with the English botanist and plant and seed merchant Peter Collinson, and amassed a substantial personal library of books on botany and natural history. He introduced the works of Carolus Linnaeus to the Scottish physician Dr. Alexander Garden in 1752, lending him Classes plantarum and Fundamenta Botanica, as well as John Clayton’s Flora Virginica. Bull also helped familiarize Garden with the native plants of South Carolina. [2] For many years Bull served as president of the Charles Town Library Society, a group notable for its enthusiasm for natural history as well as its extravagant purchases of rare and luxurious botanical folios. [3] In 1773 Bull proposed the formation of a special Library committee "for collecting materials for promoting a Natural History of this Province," which resulted in the establishment of the Charleston Museum, one of the earliest public museums in America. [4]

William Bull II served as lieutenant-governor of South Carolina from 1759 to 1775 (and as acting governor on five separate occasions during that period). An ardent Loyalist, he fled to England in 1777 and was still there two years later when rampaging British troops "plundered and greatly damaged" his plantation at Ashley Hall, destroying a fish dam, tossing his private papers into the garden, and smashing china and glass. The greatest loss may have been Bull's library, which he reported "was scattered and mostly carried away."[5] Bull returned to America in February 1781, but when British troops evacuated Charleston a year later, he returned with them to England, whereupon the Continental Army general Nathaneal Greene (1742-1786) commandeered Ashley Hall as his headquarters. [6] Bull died in London in 1791. The following year his wife, Hannah Beale Bull, erected an obelisk honoring his memory on the grounds of Ashley Hall. The monument bears a portrait of the governor in relief and a commemorative plaque with a lengthy inscription reading in part: "This obelisk was erected, sacred to his virtues and her grief, with duty and affection by his disconsolate widow." [7]

  1. James Raven, London Booksellers and American Customers: Transatlantic Literary Community and the Charleston Library Society, 1748-1811 (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2002), 172, view on Zotero.
  2. Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, Dr. Alexander Garden of Charles Town (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1969), 35, view on Zotero; Raven, 2002, 73, 223, view on Zotero.
  3. Raven, 2002, 73, 169-70,view on Zotero.
  4. Albert E. Sanders and William Dewey Anderson, Jr., Natural History Investigations in South Carolina: From Colonial Times to the Present (Columbia, S. C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1999), 18-19, view on Zotero.
  5. Bull, 1952: 63, view on Zotero; Stephen Conway, A Short History of the American Revolutionary War (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2013), 126, view on Zotero.
  6. Geraldine M. Meroney, "William Bull’s First Exile from South Carolina, 1777-1781," The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 80 (April 1979): 91-104, view on Zotero; Henry Lumpkin, From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1981), 56, view on Zotero; C. Harrison Dwight, "Count Rumford: His Majesty’s Colonel in Carolina," The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 57 (January 1956): 27, view on Zotero.
  7. Bull, 1952: 66, view on Zotero.

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History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "William Bull II," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=William_Bull_II&oldid=9252 (accessed October 7, 2022).

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