Population.—Economically and socially South Carolina was associated with the West Indies rather than with the mainland colonies. At the close of the seventeenth century the white population was about 5,500. Most of the inhabitants came from Barbados, but other Caribbean Islands, England, Ireland, the New England colonies, and France furnished colonists. The settled area extended from the Santee to the mouth of the Edisto, included several of the islands, and reached back from the coast about fifty miles. The social and economic center was Charleston. In the back country there were only two small towns, most of the people being located on plantations along the rivers and on the islands. The Barbadian planters had settled mainly on the Cooper River, Goose Creek, and Ashley River, and on James, John's and Edisto Islands. Four or five hundred Huguenots, most of whom had left their country because of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had located on the Santee, where they had received land grants aggregating over 50,000 acres, nearly half of this being the property of two individuals, the other Huguenot estates varying from 100 to 3,000 acres.
The plantations.—At the end of the century rice culture, which was destined to furnish the most important staple, was in its infancy, and a little silk and cotton were produced. The chief business of the planters was the raising of cattle and hogs, corn, and pease. The Barbadians brought in the economic system of the West Indies, which was based upon slavery, and the harsh slave code of Barbados was adopted in the colony. Accurate statistics regarding the number of slaves are inaccessible, but an apparently authentic letter of 1708 states that in that year there were 4,100 negro slaves and 1,400 Indian slaves in the colony, numbers probably in excess of those in 1700, as it was the development of the rice industry which made slaves highly profitable.
Commerce.—Charleston was the great market town. There the trader stocked for the Indian trade, which, at the close of the century was the chief source of wealth of South Carolina. Goods from Charleston are said to have penetrated a thousand miles into the interior. To the West Indies were shipped beef, pork, butter, tallow, and hides, rice and pease, lumber, staves, pitch, and tar; returning vessels brought rum, sugar, molasses, and other West Indian products. To England were shipped furs, rice, silk, and naval stores, in return for manufactured goods.
Religion and education.—The Episcopalian was the established church of the colony, and probably forty-five per cent. of the population belonged to that denomination. An equal per cent. was divided between Congregationalists and Presbyterians, and there were a few Baptists and Quakers. No public school system had been established, but many of the wealthier families employed tutors. A public library was started at Charleston in 1698, but no institution of higher learning had been established.
Society.—Already in South Carolina an aristocratic society was forming which was distinctly different from that of any other mainland colony. When the Barbadians came they brought with them the social viewpoint of the West Indian planter. As soon as the discovery was made that the swampy river bottoms were adapted to rice and indigo, slavery received a great impetus and the Barbadian social system was almost duplicated. In no other colony was such a large part of the population concentrated in a single city. In Charleston lived the merchants, and there the planter built his town house and remained with his family a portion of the year. The gathering of the wealthy classes developed a social atmosphere of gaiety which was in marked contrast to the soberness of Boston or the conservatism of Philadelphia.
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