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South Carolina
Digital History ID 89

Author:   James Moore


South Carolina's proprietors envisioned establishing a feudal society in their land grant. They kept huge landed estates for themselves, and, with the assistance of the English philosopher John Locke, drew up a plan, known as the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which would have given them the power of feudal lords. The scheme called for a three-tiered hereditary nobility--consisting of "proprietors," "landgraves," and "caciques"--who would own forty percent of the colony's land and serve as a Council of Lords and recommend all laws to a parliament elected by small landowners. But like other feudal visions, this one failed. South Carolina's settlers rejected virtually all of this plan and immigrants refused to move to the region until it was replaced by a more democratic system of government.

Emigrants from Barbados played a decisive role in South Carolina's early settlement in 1679 and 1680, and brought black slaves with them. Within a decade, they had found a staple crop--rice--which they could raise with slave labor. The grain itself had probably come from West Africa and African slaves were already familiar with rice cultivation. The result was to transform South Carolina into the mainland society that bore the closest resemblance to the Caribbean. As early as 1708, slaves actually outnumbered whites and by 1730 there were twice as many slaves as whites in the colony. About a third of South Carolina's slaves during the early eighteenth century were Indians.

The rapid growth in the slave population raised the specter of slave revolt. In 1739, the Stono Rebellion, the largest slave uprising in colonial America, took place about twenty miles from Charleston. Led by a slave named Jemmy, the rebels burned seven plantations and killed approximately 20 whites as they headed for refuge in Spanish Florida. Within a day, however, the Stono rebels were captured and killed by the white militia.

South Carolina was also the scene of some of the most bitter Indian-white warfare. In 1711, after incidents in which whites had encroached on their land and kidnapped Indians as slaves, the Tuscaroras destroyed New Bern. Over the next two years, the colonial militia, assisted by the Yamassees, killed or enslaved a fifth of the Tuscaroras. Many survivors subsequently migrated to New York, where they became the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy. Then, in 1715, the Yamassees, finding themselves increasingly in debt to white traders and merchants, allied themselves with the Creeks and attempted to destroy the colony. With help from the Cherokees, the colonial militia successfully repelled the offensive, largely ending Indian resistance to white expansion in the Carolinas.

Writing just twenty years after the establishment of the first permanent English settlement in South Carolina, James Moore recounts a journey he had taken eight years earlier, during which he had uncovered several kinds of ores and minerals. Indians he encountered informed him that the Spanish had been operating mines in the area; and that the indigenous people had killed the Spaniards in order to avoid being enslaved by them. Moore expresses concern about making a discovery of silver public, for it might "incite & encourage the French in America." He asks Edward Randolph, the royal surveyor, to bring this information to the attention of the royal government.


James Moore to Edward Randolph

As well out of curiosity to see what sort of Country we might have in land as to find out and make a new & farther discovery of Indian Trade, I made a Journey in the year 1690 over the Apalathean Mountains [Appalachian] in which Journey I took up seven sorts of ores or mineral stones, all differing either in weight, color, smell or some other qualities.

By my friend col[one]l Maurice Mathews I sent these to be try'd [tested] to England, he had them try'd and sent me a word two of the seven sorts were very good and one Indifferent. By the Help of my Journal I can go to every Individual place I took up any of the seven sorts of ores. In the same Journey I was informed that the Spaniards had been actually at work upon mines within Twenty miles of me I enquired of the Natives of the truth of that matter and the reason why they desisted. They told me it was true and described to me their great Bellows & furnaces, and that they killed the Spaniards...when...the Spaniards grew Numerous [fearing that] they [the Spanish] should make slaves of them to worke in those mines as they had Millions of other Indians as they said they had been informed....

Reflecting S[i]r on the weakness of this our Colony & considering that the report of a silver mind among us would incite & encourage the French in America, if not in Europe, to Invade us. I thought it convenient during the War between the Crowns of England & France not to make any discovery of them. Now S[i]r By the Peace the Emperor hath made with the Turks and the recovery of the King of Spain (if those reports are true) the Peace between England and France seems to be well confirmed and Lasting. I think this poor little colony of ours may not only be out of Danger of an Invasion, but be peopled and enriched by the working of these mines....

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: James Moore to Edward Randolph

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