period of revolution

Colonial period of South Carolina

The history of the colonial period of South Carolina has roots in French, Spanish, and English efforts to colonize America.


16th century, the French and english had abandoned the area of present-day South Carolina north of the Edisto River, after several reconnaissance missions and attempts. In 1629 Charles I granted his attorney general a charter to everything between latitudes 36 and 31. Later, Charles II gave the land to eight nobles, the Lords Proprietor. There was a single government of the Carolinas based in Charleston until 1712, when a separate government (under the Lords Proprietors) was set up for North Carolina. In 1719, the Crown purchased the South Carolina colony from the absentee Lords Proprietor and appointed Royal Governors. By 1729, seven of the eight Lords Proprietors had sold their interests back to the Crown and then the separate royal colonies of North Carolina and South Carolina were established.

Throughout the Colonial Period, the Carolinas participated in numerous wars with the Spanish and the Native Americans, particularly the Yamasee, Apalachee, and Cherokee. During the Yamasee War of 1715-1717 South Carolina faced near-annihilation due to Indian attacks. The Carolina upcountry was settled largely by Scots-Irish immigrants from Pennsylvania and Virginia, while the white population of the Low Country was dominated by wealthy plantation owners of English and French descent. Toward the end of the Colonial Period, the upcountry people were underrepresented and mistreated. In reaction, they took a loyalist position when the Low Country complained of new taxes that would later help spark the American Revolution.

The first passage

The Barbadian colonists greatly influenced Carolina culture well into the 21st century. They brought a social system rooted in European feudalism and slave-based sugar plantation industry. They brought African slaves, whose skills, knowledge and technology from growing rice in West Africa were instrumental in establishing the crop as one of South Carolina's first cash crops. In 1663 colonists sent William Hilton to explore the Carolina coast for a good place for settlement, but nothing came of the voyage except for the discovery and naming of (Hilton Head Island, South Carolina). In North Carolina a short-lived colony was established near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. A ship was sent southward to explore the Port Royal, South Carolina area, where the French had established the short-lived Charlesfort post and the Spanish had built Santa Elena, the capital of Spanish Florida from 1566 to 1587, until it was abandoned. Captain Robert Sanford made a visit with the friendly Edisto Indians. When the ship departed to return to Cape Fear, Dr. Henry Woodward stayed behind to study the interior and native Indians.

In August 1669, the first three ships, called Carolina, Port Royal, and Albemarle sailed from England to Barbados. The third of the aforementioned ships sank off the coast of Barbados. Colonists grabbed the supplies, replaced the Albemarle with Three Brothers, and set sail again. The ships were separated in a thunderstorm shortly afterward, and Port Royal was drifting lost for six weeks. It ran out of drinking water in the process before wrecking in the Bahamas. Forty-four people made it to shore, but many of them died before the captain was able to build a new ship to get them to the closest settlement. With the new ship, they reached New Providence (Nassau) and bought a new boat that would take them to Bermuda, where they were reunited with the Carolina.

In Bermuda, an 80-year-old Puritan Bermudian colonist, Colonel William Sayle, was named governor of Carolina. On March 15, 1670, under Sayle, they finally reached Port Royal. According to the account of one passenger, the Indians were friendly, made signs toward where they should land, and spoke broken Spanish. Spain still considered Carolina to be its land; the main Spanish base, St. Augustine, wasn't far away. The Spanish missionary provinces of Guale and Mocama occupied the coast south of the Savannah River and Port Royal. Though the Edisto Indians were not happy to have the English settle permanently, the chief of the Kiawah Indians, who lived farther north along the coast, arrived to invite the English to settle among his people and protect them from the Westo tribe, slave-raiding allies of Virginia.

The sailors agreed and sailed for the region now called West Ashley. When they landed in early April at Albemarle Point on the shores of the Ashley River, they founded Charles Town, in honor of their king. On May 23, Three Brothers arrived in Charles Town Bay without 11 or 12 passengers who had gone for water and supplies at St. Catherines Island, and had run into Indians allied with the Spanish. St. Catherines Island was the capital of Spanish Florida's Guale province. Of the hundreds of people who had sailed from England or Barbados, only 148 people, including three African slaves, lived to arrive at Charles Town Landing.

The end of proprietary rule

Proprietary rule was unpopular in South Carolina almost from the start, mainly because propertied immigrants to the colony hoped to lionize political power themselves. They generally preferred the short, flexible royal charter to the detailed, idealistic Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina as a basis for government. Moreover, many Anglicans resented the Proprietors' guarantee of freedom of religion to Dissenters. In November 1719, Carolina elected James Moore as governor and sent a representative to ask the king to make Carolina a royal province with a royal governor and to grant the colony aid and security directly from the English government. Because the Crown was interested in Carolina's exports and did not think the Lords Proprietors were adequately protecting the colony, it agreed. Robert Johnson, the last proprietary governor, became the first royal governor.

Meanwhile, the colony of Carolina was slowly splitting in two. In the first fifty years of the colony's existence, most settlement was focused on the region around Charleston. The northern part of the colony had no deep water port. North Carolina's earliest settlement region, the Albemarle Settlements, was colonized by Virginians and closely tied to Virginia. In 1712, the northern half of Carolina was granted its own governor and named "North Carolina." North Carolina remained under proprietary rule until 1729.

Because South Carolina was more populous and more commercially important, most Europeans thought primarily of it, and not of North Carolina, when they referred to "Carolina." By the time of the American Revolution, this colony was known as "South Carolina."

Frontier settlement

Governor Robert Johnson encouraged settlement in the western frontier to make Charles Town's shipping more profitable, and to create a buffer zone against attacks. The Carolinians arranged a fund to lure European Protestants. Each family would receive free land based on the number of people that it brought over, including slaves. Every 100 families settling together would be declared a parish and given two representatives in the state assembly. Within ten years, eight townships formed, all along navigable streams. Charlestonians considered the towns created by the Germans, Scots, Irish, and Welsh, such as Orangeburg and Saxe-Gotha (later called Cayce), to be their first line of defense in case of an Indian attack and military reserves against the threat of a slave uprising.

By the 1750s the Piedmont region attracted numerous frontier families from the north, using the Great Wagon Road. Differences in religion, philosophy and background between the mostly Scots-Irish Calvinist subsistence farmers in the Upcountry and the wealthy English slaveholding Anglican planters of the Low Country bred distrust and hostility between the two regions. The low Country planters traditonally had wealth, education and political power. By the time of the Revolution, however, the Back Country contained nearly half the white population of South Carolina, about 20,000 to 30,000 settlers. Nearly all of them were Dissenting Protestants. After the Revolution the state disestablished the Anglican Church.

Land acquisition

Though Governor Francis Nicholson had tried to pacify the Cherokee with gifts, they had grown discontented with the arrangements. Sir Alexander Cuming negotiated with them to open some land for settlement in 1730. Because Governor James Glenn stepped in to bring peace between the Creek and Cherokee, the Cherokee rewarded him by granting South Carolina a few thousand acres of land on which the Carolinians built Fort Prince George as a British outpost and trading center near the Keowee River. Two years later Old Hop, an important Cherokee chief, treatied with Glenn at Saluda Old Town, midway between Charles Town and the Indians' town of Keowee. Old Hop gave the Carolinians the 96th District, a region that included parts of ten currently separate counties.

By January 19, 1760, the Cherokee, angered at broken British promises, increasing tension with settlers, and the gradual theft of their land, began attacking white settlers in the Upcountry. This uprising was called the Cherokee War. South Carolina's Governor Lyttelton raised an army of 1,100 men and marched on the Lower Towns (Seneca Town was the closest), which quickly agreed to peace. As part of the peace terms, 29 Cherokee chiefs were imprisoned as hostages in Fort Prince George. Lyttelton returned to Charles Town, but the Cherokee were still angry and continued raiding the frontier. In February of 1760, the Cherokee attacked Fort Prince George itself, trying to rescue the hostages. In the battle the fort's commander was killed. His replacement quickly ordered the execution of the hostages, then fought off the assault.

Governor Lyttelton, unable to put down the rebellion, appealed to Jeffrey Amherst, who sent Archibald Montgomery with an army of 1,200 of British regulars and Scottish Highlanders. Montgomery's army burned a few of the Cherokee's abandoned Lower Towns, then tried to cross into the region of the Cherokee Middle Towns. He was ambushed and defeated at "Etchoe Pass" and forced to return to Charles Town. In 1761 a third attempt was made to defeat the Cherokee. General Grant led an army of 2,600 men, including Catawba scouts. The Cherokee again fought at Etchoe Pass, but they failed to stop Grant's army, which proceeded to burn the Cherokee Middle Towns and fields of crops.

In September of 1761, a number of Cherokee chiefs led by Attakullakulla petitioned for peace. The terms of the peace treaty included the cession of most of the eastern lands of the Cherokee, including the whole region of the Lower Towns. The Cherokee who had lived there could not stay. Most migrated to the Middle Towns or beyond.

With the Cherokee defeated and their eastern land ceded, new settlers flooded into the Upcountry through the Waxhaws in what is now called Lancaster County. Lawlessness soon ensued and robbery, arson, and looting became common. Upcountry residents formed a group of "Regulators," vigilantes who decided to take the law into their own hands. Having acquired 50% of the state's white population, the Upcountry sent representative Patrick Calhoun and other representatives before the Charles Town state legislature to appeal for representation, courts, roads, and supplies for churches and schools. Before long, Calhoun and Moses Kirkland were in the legislature as Upcountry representatives.

By 1775, the colony contained an estimated 60,000 European-Americans and 80,000 mostly enslaved African-Americans. No other colony enjoyed the wealth concentrated in the Low Country. The constant battles with Indians, French, and Spanish were enhancing the average colonist's feelings of military competence and independence.

Lord William Campbell was the last English Governor of the Province of South Carolina.

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