Carolina Colony

The Year: 1663

Image: Map of the Carolina Colony

In 1630, Sir Robert Heath, the Attorney General of King Charles I, obtained from his king a charter for a domain south of Virginia, six degrees of latitude in width, and extending westward to the Pacific Ocean. This included the region between Albemarle Sound and the St. John’s River in Florida. That patent was declared void in 1663, because neither the proprietor nor his assigns had fulfilled their agreements.

Sufferers from the oppression of the Church of England in Virginia looked to the wilderness for freedom, as the Huguenots and the Pilgrims had done. In 1653, a few Presbyterians from Jamestown settled on the Chowan River. Others followed, and the settlement flourished.

The King’s Men
In 1661, some adventurous New Englanders appeared in a small vessel in the Cape Fear River, in search of a home in a more genial climate. They purchased land from the Native Americans, and established a colony of farmers and herdsmen there, when news came that the whole region had been given by King Charles II to some of his courtiers.

The king’s favorites were the Earl of Clarendon, the Duke of Albemarle, Lord Craven, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Sir John Colleton, Lord John Berkley and his younger brother (Sir William Berkley, who was then governor of Virginia), and Sir George Carteret, proprietor of New Jersey. Many locations in North and South Carolina bear the names of these men.

These men begged of the king for land in America under the pretense of “a pious zeal for the propagation of the gospel” among the heathen, meaning the Native Americans. Their real object was to rob the heathen of their lands, and to accumulate riches and honor for themselves.

In March, 1663, King Charles II gave these men a charter for the same territory that had been given to Sir Robert Heath. The eight proprietors were made absolute sovereigns of the region. The title of Carolina, in honor of the king, was given to this vast domain.

Northern Carolina
The non-conformists from Virginia, who had settled on the Chowan River ten years before this charter was granted, had established plantations on the northern bank of the river. In the autumn of 1663, the new proprietors authorized Governor Berkeley of Virginia to extend his jurisdiction over them.

He organized a separate government under the title of the Albemarle County Colony. He appointed a governor – William Drummond, a Presbyterian emigrant from Scotland to Virginia – and gave to the colonists every freedom they reasonably desired. And they were left to grow into an independent state with very little hindrance.

In 1665, some English emigrants came from Barbados purchased from the Indians a tract of land thirty-two miles square on the Cape Fear River and founded a settlement, which was soon organized into a political community under the title of the Clarendon County Colony. These settlements were the beginning of the colony of North Carolina.

The poverty of the soil prevented rapid growth, but the determination of the inhabitants made them prosperous. Finding themselves in the middle of a vast pine forest, the colonists manufactured boards, shingles, and staves, and gathered turpentine, all of which they sold in the West Indies.

The greedy proprietors wanted more territory, and in June, 1665, they obtained from the king another charter that granted to them the territory from the southern boundary of Virginia to the peninsula of Florida, and westward to the Pacific Ocean, the whole under the name of Carolina.

Plans were made for the appointment of legislators and magistrates, for levying troops and erecting fortifications, building cities, establishing manors, and creating titles. It was the duty of Clarendon, as Prime Minister, to affix the great seal of the kingdom to this charter that conveyed extraordinary privileges upon him and his seven associates.

Southern Carolina
In 1670, the proprietors sent three ships with emigrants to settle the more southern portions of Carolina. The ships entered Port Royal harbor, and the emigrants landed at Beaufort Island. They abandoned Beaufort soon afterward, and sailed northward into a beautiful harbor.

On the banks of a stream a few miles inland, they landed, built houses, and cultivated the soil. There they planted the first seeds of the colony of South Carolina at a spot known as Old Town, which was organized under the title of the Carteret County Colony.

Sir John Yeamans arrived from Barbados in late in 1671, and became governor of the colony. He brought with him fifty families and many Negro slaves. This was the introduction of slave-labor into southern Carolina. A representative government was established there in 1672.

Southern Carolina was known as a place where freedom was enjoyed, and emigrants flocked to it from England, Holland, and New York. They spread over the peninsula between the Ashley and the Cooper Rivers. At the junction of three streams at Oyster Point, in sight of the sea, they laid the foundations of a capital city for the province, and named it Charles Town (Charleston) in honor of the king.

Carolina Constitution
For purposes of settlement, the proprietors drew up a constitution that provided for dividing their vast domain into counties, each to contain four hundred and eighty thousand acres. These counties were to be divided into five equal parts – two-fifths to remain the property of the proprietors and other noblemen, and the remaining three-fifths to belong to the farmers and lords of manor.

It gave to every freeman in Carolina absolute power over his Negro slaves and the tenants of his land, who were denied any participation in politics or government, and all their children were to endure the same social degradation “to all generations.”

When that elaborate constitution, which provided for titles and classes and aristocratic distinctions, was submitted to the people of the Carolinas, they rejected it as absurd. They had made laws for their own government, were satisfied with them, and resolved to have nothing to do with the scheme of the proprietors. Under their own laws, they built flourishing colonies, inseparable in interests and aims, until they became the separate colonies of North and South Carolina more than sixty years later.

Because the Proprietors ruled from their homes in England, they were often out of touch with the lives of the colonists. While they tried to encourage settlement, for many years Carolina was a rather unsavory place. Epidemics, hurricanes, droughts, crop failures, political turmoil, religious dissension, and conflicts with Native Americans added to the challenge of settling a new land. The Native peoples were unfriendly, because tradition had taught them that the white man was a cruel robber.

North and South
Because of the northern half of the colony differed significantly from the southern half, and because transportation and communication between the two regions were difficult, in 1691 a separate deputy governor was named to administer the northern half of the colony.

Many of the settlers of the North Carolina colony were poor tobacco farmers who made their living off this single cash crop. In South Carolina, the farmer’s plantations were much larger and the settlers grew rice, which was a very profitable crop. They also grew indigo, which was a plant used to make a valuable blue dye for clothing and threads.

The division of the colony into North and South was complete by 1712, although the same proprietors continued to control both colonies. A rebellion against the proprietors in South Carolina in 1719 led to the appointment of a royal governor in that colony in 1720, but the proprietors continued to appoint the governor of North Carolina.

In 1729, the proprietors sold their interests in Carolina to the British government, and both Carolinas became royal colonies until the American Revolution. During this period, conditions stabilized in the region, and many more settlers arrived.

Colonial North Carolina
Colonial South Carolina
Carolina’s Colonial History
Province of North Carolina
Province of South Carolina

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