Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina, located at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, was one of the most populous cities in America throughout the eighteenth century. English exploration and settlement began with a three-ship expedition financed by the colony’s lords proprietors, eight political allies of Charles II. The original colonists, ninety-three in all, represented a cross section of Atlantic society. A few were wealthy planters from Barbados, some were simply free English men, at least one was an African slave, and about two-thirds were indentured servants. In 1670, the Carolina, the other ships having been lost, sailed into Charleston Harbor. The first English settlement was on Albemarle Point (named for one of the lords proprietors). Within a decade, however, the English had moved across the Ashley River to the present site and renamed the settlement Charles Town, in honor of the king. Charles Town’s early settlement was profoundly influenced by Barbados. The Caribbean sugar island had become overcrowded in the middle of the seventeenth century, and great planters, small farmers, merchants, artisans, servants, and slaves moved to Charles Town and its environs. The Barbadians brought their institutions with them: these ranged from slave codes to the Anglican Church and a rowdy, ostentatious lifestyle. The proprietors, most of whom remained in England, exerted relatively little influence over the colony. Anthony Ashley Cooper, the first earl of Shaftesbury, ordered the colonists to settle in towns; by and large they refused, spreading over the countryside in search of fertile land. The lords proprietors also insisted on the adoption of the Fundamental Constitutions, an enlightened plan of government and religious toleration; the colonists never did adopt them entirely, though religious toleration was more prevalent in Carolina than, for instance, in Massachusetts. By the 1680s, there were Anglicans, Dissenters, Presbyterians, and Quakers worshiping in Charles Town. The lords proprietors did insist upon the orderly layout of Charles Town. They wanted to avoid the narrow, congested streets of Europe, and the colonists largely complied with this request. In 1680, observers estimated that Charles Town had a population of about 1,000, and the proprietors encouraged new immigration. In its early years, Charles Town was the North American center of the trade in Native American slaves; it was also a significant center of piracy. Charles Town’s fortunes would shift dramatically with the introduction of rice. Although Charles Town was an economically diverse early modern city, rice was the engine that would drive South Carolina’s economy throughout the colonial period. Rice, Africans, and Native Americans The origins of rice culture in Carolina are not exactly clear, though it seems likely that West Africans skilled in rice production played a significant role. Rice agriculture required crop-specific skills and massive amounts of labor, and for both of these, English planters began to import large numbers of West African slaves, preferring people from the region between the Senegal and Gambia rivers. Both Native American and African slaves labored in town and in the surrounding plantations. By 1708, Africans outnumbered English people in the colony, causing one observer to remark that South Carolina was more like a Negro country. The governor and council reported in 1708 a population of 4,080 white people, 4,100 black slaves, and 1,400 Native American slaves. By 1720, the situation appeared in even deeper relief: there were 9,000 whites and 12,000 Africans. In 1740, in the aftermath of the Stono Rebellion, slaves outnumbered free whites 39,155 to about 20,000. Charleston, South Carolina, is viewed in an etching dating to 1673, just three years after its founding. Originally called Albemarle Point, the settlement was moved across the Ashley River a few years later and renamed Charles Town, in honor of King Charles II. (Brown Brothers, Sterling, Pennsylvania) At the same time that rice was transforming Charles Town into a major slave trading post and a bustling port city, Native American traders were seeking to establish commercial ties with tribal communities from the nearby Yamasee to groups as far west as the Mississippi River. Although Native Americans mistrusted unscrupulous English trading practices, they came increasingly to depend on Carolina traders for firearms, cloth, and rum. The trade was not, generally speaking, conducted on fair terms, and one by one, tribes fell into debt. They also became increasingly suspicious of English encroachment on their lands. On Good Friday 1715, a combined force of Yamasees and Creeks, together with some smaller tribes, killed all of the traders in their villages, attacked the frontier plantations, and drove the English back to within several miles of Charles Town. Early Native American successes were reversed when the Cherokee joined the war on the English side. By 1720, the English planters at Charles Town were firmly in control of much of present-day South Carolina. In 1739, Charles Town society was shaken to its very foundation by one of North America’s largest slave revolts. In the decades leading up to the Stono Rebellion, Africans had begun to resist slavery in a number of ways, including poisoning, sabotage, arson, and work slowdowns. The white minority grew increasingly anxious about growing unrest among slaves and began to regulate slavery ever more tightly. Slaves were forbidden to carry firearms; they were forced to give up any clothing deemed impractical or flashy. Their diet was restricted. Slaves responded to the increasing regulation by running away in larger numbers. The white minority had entered into a downward spiral of fear and repression. A group of twenty primarily Angolan slaves gathered near Charles Town under the leadership of a slave named Jemmy. The band broke into a storehouse, where the slaves armed themselves. They marched through the countryside outside Charles Town, gathering support from slaves and killing about twenty white people in the process. Even though the rebellion was put down in a quick and harsh manner, it left deep scars on the psyche of Carolina’s white minority. A new, even more brutal slave code was enacted, and slave patrols were stepped up. The planters at Charles Town also launched a punitive raid on the Spanish at St. Augustine, following the logic that many slaves who escaped from Carolina gained their freedom there. By 1740, the city of Charles Town had subjugated African slaves and Native Americans, and profited wildly from the trade in slaves and rice. Charleston Hotel Near King Street Historic Boutqie Hotel, Charleston Mapq8Charleston, SC Official Site for Charleston Vacations … Mapq8About Charleston Mapq8

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