He studied law in the office of Edward Rutledge and was admitted to the bar, but shortly thereafter he abandoned the legal profession for a career in politics. In 1802 he entered the lower house of the State Legislature and served as its Speaker from 1805 to 1809. Three years later he ran for Governor and, after a bitterly contested campaign, was elected to that office. His administration was marked for its support of measures to prosecute the War of 1812 then in progress. His politcal career, naturally, was influenced by that of his celebrated father-in-law.