Chronicles of America 

Early Settlements of the Carolinas

In 1669 the Lords Proprietaries sent out from England three ships, the Carolina, the Port Royal, and the Albemarle, with about a hundred colonists aboard. Taking the old sea road, they came at last to Barbados, and here the Albemarle, seized by a storm, was wrecked. The two other ships, with a Barbados sloop, sailed on anal were approaching the Bahamas when another hurricane destroyed the Port Royal. The Carolina, however, pushed on with the sloop, reached Bermuda, and rested there; then, together with a small ship purchased in these islands, she turned west by south and came in March of 1670 to the good harbor of Port Royal, South Carolina.

Southward from the harbor where the ships rode, stretched old Florida, held by the Spaniards. There was the Spanish town, St. Augustine. Thence Spanish ships might put forth and descend upon the English newcomers. The colonists after debate concluded to set some further space between them and lands of Spain. The ships put again to sea, beat northward a few leagues, and at last entered a harbor into which emptied two rivers, presently to be called the Ashley and the Cooper. Up the Ashley they went a little way, anchored, and the colonists going ashore began to build upon the west bank of the river a town which for the King they named Charles Town. Ten years later this place was abandoned in favor of the more convenient point of land between the two rivers. Here then was built the second and more enduring Charles Town--Charleston, as we call it now, in South Carolina.

Colonists came fast to this Carolina lying south. Barbados sent many; England, Scotland, and Ireland contributed a share; there came Huguenots from France, and a certain number of Germans. In ten years after the first settling the population numbered twelve hundred, and this presently doubled and went on to increase. The early times were taken up with the wrestle with the forest, with the Indians, with Spanish alarms, with incompetent governors, with the Lords Proprietaries' Fundamental Constitutions, and with the restrictions which English Navigation Laws imposed upon English colonies. What grains and vegetables and tobacco they could grow, what cattle and swine they could breed and export, preoccupied the minds of these pioneer farmers. There were struggling for growth a rough agriculture and a hampered trade with Barbados, Virginia, and New England -- trade likewise with the buccaneers who swarmed in the West Indian waters.

Five hundred good reasons allowed, and had long allowed, free bootery to flourish in American seas. Gross governmental faults, Navigation Acts, and a hundred petty and great oppressions, general poverty, adventurousness, lawlessness, and sympathy of mishandled folk with lawlessness, all combined to keep Brother of the Coast, Buccaneer, and Filibuster alive, and their ships upon all seas. Many were no worse than smugglers; others were robbers with violence; and a few had a dash of the fiend. All nations had sons in the business. England to the south in America had just the ragged coast line, with its off-lying islands and islets, liked by all this gentry, whether smuggler or pirate outright. Through much of the seventeenth century the settlers on these shores never violently disapproved of the pirate. He was often a "good fellow." He brought in needed articles without dues, and had Spanish gold in his pouch. He was shrugged over and traded with.

He came ashore to Charles Town, and they traded with him there. At one time Charles Town got the name of "Rogue's Harbor." But that was not forever, nor indeed, as years are counted, for long. Better and better emigrants arrived, to add to the good already there. The better type prevailed, and gave its tone to the place. There set in, on the Ashley and Cooper rivers, a fair urban life that yet persists.

South Carolina was trying tobacco and wheat. But in the last years of the seventeenth century a ship touching at Charleston left there a bag of Madagascar rice. Planted, it gave increase that was planted again. Suddenly it was found that this was the crop for low-lying Carolina. Rice became her staple, as was tobacco of Virginia.

For the rice-fields South Carolina soon wanted African slaves, and they were consequently brought in numbers, in English ships. There began, in this part of the world, even more than in Virginia, the system of large plantations and the accompanying aristocratic structure of society. But in Virginia the planter families lived broadcast over the land, each upon its own plantation. In South Carolina, to escape heat and sickness, the planters of rice and indigo gave over to employees the care of their great holdings and lived themselves in pleasant Charleston. These plantations, with their great gangs of slaves under overseers, differed at many points from the more kindly, semi-patriarchal life of the Virginian plantation. To South Carolina came also the indentured white laborer, but the black was imported in increasing numbers.

From the first in the Carolinas there had been promised fair freedom for the unorthodox. The charters provided, says an early Governor, "an overplus power to grant liberty of conscience, although at home was a hot persecuting time." Huguenots, Independents, Quakers, dissenters of many kinds, found on the whole refuge and harbor. In every colony soon began the struggle by the dominant color and caste toward political liberty. King, Company, Lords Proprietaries, might strive to rule from over the seas. But the new land fast bred a practical rough freedom. The English settlers came out from a land where political change was in the air. The stream was set toward the crumbling of feudalism, the rise of democracy. In the New World, circumstances favoring, the stream became a tidal river. Governors, councils, assemblies, might use a misleading phraseology of a quaint servility toward the constituted powers in England. Tory parties might at times seem to color the land their own hue. But there always ran, though often roughly and with turbulence, a set of the stream against autocracy.

In Carolina, South and North, by the Ashley and Cooper rivers, and in that region called Albemarle, just back of Virginia, there arose and went on, through the remainder of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth, struggles with the Lords Proprietaries and the Governors that these named, and behind this a more covert struggle with the Crown. The details differed, but the issues involved were much the same in North and South Carolina. The struggle lasted for the threescore and odd years of the proprietary government and renewed itself upon occasion after 1729 when the Carolinas became royal colonies. Later, it was swept, a strong affluent, into the great general stream of colonial revolt, culminating in the Revolution.

Into North Carolina, beside the border population entering through Virginia and containing much of a backwoods and derelict nature, came many Huguenots, the best of folk, and industrious Swiss, and Germans from the Rhine. Then the Scotch began to come in numbers, and families of Scotch descent from the north of Ireland. The tone of society consequently changed from that of the early days. The ruffian and the shiftless sank to the bottom. There grew up in North Carolina a people, agricultural but without great plantations, hardworking and freedom-loving.

South Carolina, on the other hand, had great plantations, a town society, suave and polished, a learned clergy, an aristocratic cast to life. For long, both North and South clung to the sea-line and to the lower stretches of rivers where the ships could come in. Only by degrees did English colonial life push back into the forests away from the sea, to the hills, and finally across the mountains.

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