Early South Carolina congress member Robert Goodloe Harper (1765-1825), son of Jesse Harper and Diana Goodloe, was born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, and grew up in North Carolina. At age 15, Harper joined a volunteer cavalry corps and fought in the Revolutionary War. After the war, Harper continued his education and graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1785. He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1786 and was practicing in Charleston by 1789. He served in the State House of Representatives from 1790-1795, and was elected by South Carolina to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th United States House of Representatives as a Federalist (February 1795 to March 1801). Harper was an influential congress member and acted as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (5th and 6th congresses). While in the House, he was also interested in western land policies and was considered one of the most knowledgeable House members on foreign affairs. In the late 1790s, however, he became intensely xenophobic and vocally anti-French. His 1797 Observations on the Dispute Between the United States and France warned against the influence of French radicalism in America. The volume was popular enough to have multiple printings and was distributed in Europe and Great Britain. His xenophobia later manifested itself in his participation with the American Colonization Society, in which he had a leadership role in 1816.
After his tenure in the House, Harper moved to Baltimore, where he continued his law practice. He fought in the War of 1812 and attained the rank of major general. He served in the Maryland State Senate and was elected to the United States Senate for the term beginning March 4, 1815, and served until December 1816, when he resigned. Harper remained active after his political career, traveling through Europe and hosting European dignitaries in Baltimore. He died there in 1825.