Ridpath's History of the United States
South Carolina


Chapter III
South Carolina


In January of 1670 the proprietors of Carolina sent out a colony under command of Joseph West and William Sayle. There was at this time not a single European settlement between the mouth of Cape Fear River and the St. John's, in Florida. Here was a beautiful coast of nearly four hundred miles ready to receive the beginnings of civilization. The new emigrants steered far to the south, and reached the mainland in the country of the Savannah. The vessels first entered the harbor of Port Royal. It was now a hundred and eight years since John Ribault, on an island in this same harbor, had set up a stone engraved with the lilies of France; now the Englishman had come.

But the colonists were dissatisfied with the appearance of the country, and did not go ashore. Sailing northward along the coast for forty miles, they next entered the mouth of Ashley River, andlanded where the first high land appeared upon the southern bank. Here were laid the foundations of Old Charleston, so named in honor of King Charles II. Of this, the oldest town in South Carolina, no trace remains except the line of a ditch which was digged around the fort.

Sayle had been commissioned as governor and West as commercial agent of the colony. The settlers had been furnished with a copy of the Fundamental Constitutions. But instead of accepting the Grand Model they proceeded to organize a government more democratic. Five councilors were elected by the people, and give others appointed by the proprietors. Over this council of ten the governor presided. Twenty delegates, composing a house of representatives, were chosen by the colonists. Within two years the system of popular government was firmly established in the province. Except the prevalence of diseases peculiar to the southern climate, no calamity darkened the prospects of the rising State.

In the beginning of 1671, Governor Sayle died and was succeeded by Sir John Yeamans, who had been governor of the northern province. The English laborers, unused as yet to the climate, could hardly endure the excessive heats of the sultry fields. To the Caribbee negroes, already accustomed to the burning sun of the tropics, the Carolina summer seemed temperate and pleasant. Thus the labor of the black man was substituted for the labor of the white man, and in less than two years from the founding of the colony the system of slavery was firmly established. In this respect the history of South Carolina is peculiar. Slavery had been introduced into all the American colonies, but everywhere else the introduction had been effected by those who were engaged in the slave-trade. In South Carolina alone was the system adopted as a political and social experiment and with a view to the regular establishment of a laboring class in the State. The importation of negroes went on so rapidly that in a short time they outnumbered the whites as two to one.

Immigration from England did not lag. During the year 1571 a system of cheap rents and liberal bounties was adopted by the proprietors, and the country was rapidly filled with people. A tract of a hundred and fifty acres was granted to everyone who would either immigrate or import a negro. Fertile lands were abundant. Wars and pestilence had almost annihilated the native tribes; while counties were almost without an occupant. The disasters of one race had prepared the way for the coming of another. Only a few years before this time New Netherland had been conquered by the English. The Dutch were greatly dissatisfied with the government which the duke of York had established over them, and began to leave the country. The proprietors of Carolina sent several ships to New York, loaded them with the industrious but discontented people, and brought them without expense to Charleston. The unoccupied lands west of Ashley River were divided among the Dutch, who formed there a thriving settlement called Jamestown. The fame of the new country reached Holland, and other emigrants left fatherland to join their kinsmen in Carolina. Charles II., who rarely aided a colony, collected a company of Protestant refugees from the South of Europe, and sent them to Carolina to introduce the silkworm and to begin the cultivation of the grape.

In 1680 the present capital of South Carolina was founded. The site of Old Charleston had been hastily and injudiciously selected. The delightful peninsula called Oyster Point, between Ashley and Cooper Rivers, was now chosen as the spot on which to build a city. The erection of thirty dwellings during the first summer gave proof of enterprise; the name of Charleston was a second time bestowed, and the village immediately became the capital of the colony. The unhealthy climate for a while retarded the progress of the new town, but the people were full of life and enterprise; storehouses and wharves were built, and merchant-ships soon began to throng the commodious harbor.

South Carolina was favored with rapid immigration, and the immigrants were worthy to become the founders of a great State. The best nations of Europe contributed to people the country between Cape Fear and the Savannah. England continued to send her colonies. In 1683 Joseph Blake, a brother of the great English admiral, devoted his fortune and the last years of his life to bringing a large company of dissenters from Somersetshire to Charleston. In the same year an Irish colony under Ferguson arrived at Ashley River, and met a hearty welcome. A company of Scotch Presbyterians, ten families in all, led by the excellent Lord Cardross, settled at Port Royal in 1684.

As early as 1598, Henry IV., king of the French, had published a celebrated proclamation, called the Edict of Nantes, by the terms of which the Huguenots were protected in their rights of religious worship. Now, after eighty-seven years of toleration, Louis XIV., blinded with bigotry and passion, revoked the kindly edict, and exposed the Protestants of his kingdom to the long-suppressed rage of their enemies. In order to enforce the decree of revocation the French army was quartered in the towns of the Huguenots, the ports were closed against emigration, and the borders were watched to prevent escape. In spite of every precaution, five hundred thousand of the best people of France, preferring banishment to religious thraldom, escaped from their country and fled, self-exiled, into foreign lands. The Huguenots were scattered on the Western continent from Maine to Florida. But of all the American colonies, South Carolina received the greatest number of French refugees within her borders. they were met by the proprietors with a pledge of protection and a promise of citizenship; but neither promise nor pledge was immediately fulfilled, for the colony had not yet determined what should be its laws for naturalization. Both the general assembly and the proprietors claimed the right of fixing the conditions. Until that question could be deicded the Huguenots were kept in suspense, and were sometimes unkindly treated by the jealous English settlers. Not until 1697 were all discriminations against the French immigrants removed.

In 1686 came James Colleton as colonial governor. He began his administration with an attempt to establish the Grand Model. The assembly resisted his authority, and the people were embittered against him. The rents came due; payment was refused, and the colony was in a state of rebellion. In order to divert attention from himself, Colleton published a proclamation setting forth the danger of a pretended invasion by the Indians and Spaniards. The militia was called out and the province declared under martial law. It was all in vain. The people were only axasperated by the arbitrary proceedings of the governor. Tidings came that James II. had been driven from the throne of England.

The people of North Carolina had just performed a similar service for Seth Sothel. Not satisfied with his previous success, he at once repaired to Charleston and assumed the government of the southern colony. To Sothel's other merits were added the qualifications of a first-rate demagogue; he induced the people to acquiesce in his usurpation and to sustain his authority. But his avaricious disposition could not long be held in check. The proprietors disclaimed his acts and after a turbulent rule of two years, he and his government were overthrown. One bright page redeems the record of his administration. In May of 1691 the first general act of enfranchisement was passed in favor of the Huguenots.

At last the proprietors came to see that the establishment of such a monstrous frame of government over an American colony was impossible. In April of 1693 the proprietors assembled and voted the boasted model out of existence. It was enacted at the same meeting that since the people of Carolina preferred a simple charter government, their request be granted. The magnificent paper empire of Shaftesbury was swept into oblivion.

John Archdale, a distinguished and talented Quaker, arriving in 1695, began an administration so just and wise the dissension ceased and the colony entered upon a new career of prosperity. The quit-rents on lands were remitted for four years. The people were given the option of paying their taxes in money or in produce. The Indians were coniliated with kindness and protected against kidnappers. Some native Catholics were ransomed from slavery and sent to their homes in Florida, and the Spanish governor reciprocated the deed with a friendly message. When the old jealousy against the Huguenots asserted itself in the general assembly, the benevolent influence of Archdale procured the passage of a law by which all Christians, except the Catholics, were fully enfranchised; the ungenerous exception was made against the governor's will. It was a real misfortune to the colony when, in 1698, the good governor was recalled to England.

Queen Anne's War had broken out. The Spaniards were in alliance with the French against the English. By the antagonism of England and Spain, South Carolina and Florida were brought into conflict. Yet a declaration of war wa strongly opposed in the assembly at Charleston, and was only passed by a small majority. It was voted to raise and equip a force of twelve hundred men, and to invade Florida by land and water.

Upon the arrival of the English in front of St. Augustine, the Spaniards withdrew into the castle and bade defiance to the besiegers. The arrival of two Spanish men-of-war caused the English to make a hasty retreat. The only results of the unfortunate expedition were debt and paper money. In order to meet the heavy expenses of the war, the assembly was obliged to issue bills of credit to the amount of six thousand pounds sterling.

More successful was the invasion of Governor Moore into the Indian and Spanish country southwest of the Savannah. In December, 1705, with fifty volunteers, he attacked the fortified town of Ayavalla, near St. Mark's. The church was set on fire, and in the assault that followed two hundred prisoners were taken and enslaved. Five other towns were carried in succession and the English flag waved in triumph to the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, the Church of England had been established by law in South Carolina. In the first year of Johnston's administration the High Church party succeeded in getting a majority of one in the colonial assembly, and immediately passed an act disfranchising all the dissenters in the province. An appeal was carred to the proprietors, only to be rejected with contempt. The dissenting party next laid their cause before Parliament, and that body promptly voted that the act of disfranchisement was contrary to the laws of England, and that the proprietors had forfeited their charter. The queen's ministers were authorized to declare the intolerant law null and void. In November of the same year the colonial legislature revoked its own act so far as the disfranchising clause was concerned; but Episcopalianism continued to be the established faith of the province.

The year 1706 was a stirring epoch in the history of South Carolina. A French and Spanish fleet was sent from Havana to capture Chareston and subdue the country. The brave people of the capital flew to arms. Governor Johnston and Colonel William Rhett inspired the volunteers with courage; and when the hostile squadron anchored in the harbor, the city was ready for a stubborn defense. Several times a landing was attempted, but the invaders were everywhere repulsed. At last a French vessel succeeded in getting to shore with eight hundred troops, but they were attacked with fury and driven off with a loss of three hundred in killed and prisoners. The siege was at once abandoned; unaided by the proprietors, South Carolina had made a glorious defense.

In the spring of 1715 war broke out with the Yamassees. As usual with their race, the Indians began hostilities with treachery. The wily savages rose upon the frontier settlements and committed an atrocious massacre. Nearly one hundred unsuspecting farmers were killed in one day. The people of Port Royal were alarmed just in time to escape in a ship to Charleston. The desperate savages rushed on to within a short distance of the capital. It seemed that the city would be taken and the whole colony driven to destruction. But the brave Charles Craven, governor of the province, rallied the militia and began a vigorous pursuit of the savages. A decisive battle was fought and the Indians were completely routed. The Yamassees collected their shattered tribe and retired into Florida, where they were received by the Spaniards as friends and confederates.

At the close of the war with the Yamassees the assembly petitioned the proprietors to bear a portion of the expense. But the avaricious noblemen refused, and would take no measures for the future protection of the colony. The people were greatly burdened with rents and taxes. The lands were monopolized; every act of the assembly which seemed for the public good was vetoed by the proprietors. In the new election every delegate was chosen by the popular party. Te 21st of December, 1719, was training-day in Charleston. On that day James Moore, the new chief magistrate elected by the people, was to be inaugurated. Governor Johnston forbade the military display and tried to prevent the inauguration; but the militia collected in the public square, drums were beaten, flags were flung out on the forts and shipping, and before nightfall the proprietary government of Carolina was overthrown. Governor Moore was duly inaugurated in the name of King George I. A colonial agent was at once sent to England; the cause of the colonists was heard, and the forfeited charter of the proprietors abrogated by act of Parliament.

Francis Nicholson was now commissioned as governor. He had already held the office of chief magistrate in New York, in Virginia, in Maryland, and in Nova Scotia. He began a successful administration in South Carolina by concluding treaties of peace and commerce with the Cherokees and the Creeks. But another and final change in colonial affairs was now at hand. In 1729 seven of the eight proprietors of the Carolinas sold their entire claims in the provinces to the king. Lord Carteret, the eighth proprietor, would surrender nothing but his right of jurisdiction, reserving his share in the soil. The sum paid by King George for the two colonies was twenty-two thousand five hundred pounds sterling. Royal governors were appointed, and the affairs of the province were settled on a permanent basis, not to be disturbed for more than forty years.

The people who colonized South Carolina were brave and chivalrous. On the banks of the Santee, the Edisto, and the Combahee were gathered some of the best elements of the Europan nations. The Huguenot, the Scotch Presbyterian, the English dissenter, the loyalist and High Churchman, the Irish adventurer, and the Dutch mechanic, composed the powerful material out of which soon grew the beauty and renown of the Palmetto State. Equally with the rugged Puritans of the North, the South Carolinians were lovers of liberty. Without the severe morality and formal manners of the Pilgrims, the people who were once governed by the peaceful Archdale and once led to war by the gallant Craven became the leaders in courtly politeness and high-toned honor between man and man. In the coming struggle for freedom South Carolina will bear a noble and distinguished part.


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