The Southern Colonies
The tobacco colonies.—Maryland, Virginia, and the northeastern part of North Carolina continued to be devoted largely to the raising of tobacco. Except on the frontiers the small farms had disappeared, having been, absorbed by great landholdings. Many of the plantations covered thousands of acres, but probably not more than a tenth of the land was under cultivation. The tobacco crop was extremely exhaustive to the soil, and when the land had been cropped until its productivity decreased, wheat or corn were usually planted, or it was turned into pasturage. The tangled thicket soon sprang up and in the wilderness ranged cattle and hogs. The breeding of horses was attended to with care, for horse-racing and fox-hunting were favorite diversions among the planters, but the cattle and hogs were of inferior quality. The great article of commerce was tobacco, but grain, pork, and lumber were also exported. From the Madeiras the planters received wines and from the West Indies rum, sugar, molasses, and slaves. Most of the manufactured articles came directly from England. In spite of the considerable trade, no large towns had sprung up, the plantation continuing to be the economic and social unit of the tobacco colonies.
The industries of North Carolina were more diversified than those of the other southern colonies as is shown by the following statement from Edmund Burke's Account of the European Settlements in America: Exported from all the ports of North Carolina in 1753:
|Pork & Beef|
|Tanned leather about|
|Deer skins, in all ways, about|
Besides a very considerable quantity of wheat, rice, bread, potatoes, bees-wax, tallow, candles, bacon, hogs lard, some cotton, and a vast deal of squared timber of walnut and cedar, and hoops and headings of all sorts. Of late they raise indigo, but in what quantity I cannot determine, for it is all exported from South Carolina. They raise likewise much more tobacco than I have mentioned, but this, as it is produced on the frontiers of Virginia, so it is exported from thence. They export too no inconsiderable quantity of beaver, racoon, otter, fox, minx, and wild cat skins, and in every ship a good deal of live cattle, besides what they vend in Virginia.
The rice country.—The great staple of South Carolina was rice, which was grown upon the marshy lands. A limited amount was also produced in North Carolina and Georgia. The unhealthfulness of the rice fields, coupled with the large profits from the business, were factors which made negro slavery seem desirable. In 1733 the whites in South Carolina numbered about seven thousand, in 1748 about twenty-five thousand, and in 1765 about forty thousand, but this increase was due largely to the great migration to the back country. Between 1753 and 1773 it is estimated that about forty-three thousand slaves were brought into the province.
Indigo.—In 1741 or 1742 Miss Elizabeth Lucas, the daughter of the governor of Antigua, planted some indigo seed on the Lucas plantation near Charleston. From this beginning the indigo business rapidly developed. In 1747 the colony produced 134,118 pounds; in 1754 over 200,000 pounds were exported, and shortly before the Revolution over 1,000,000 pounds were shipped annually.
Commerce.—Charleston was the commercial center. Its white population was about five thousand in 1760 and it contained about an equal number of negroes. In the summer and autumn the population increased, as the planters' families stayed in the metropolis to escape the unhealthfulness of the back country. Hundreds of vessels were engaged in the South Carolina trade, the products being shipped to the northern colonies and to the West Indies, to Holland, Portugal, the Mediterranean, and England. From the profits the planters purchased the necessities and luxuries of English manufacture, the wines of Portugal and Madeira, and the rum, sugar, molasses, and slaves of the West Indies.
Georgia.—In 1760 Georgia contained about six thousand whites and thirty-five hundred negroes. Industry was diversified, as is shown by a report of Governor Wright of 1766 which says: "Our whole time and strength ... is applied in planting rice, corn, peas, and a small quantity of wheat and rye, and in making pitch, tar, and turpentine, and in making shingles and staves, and sawing lumber and scantling, and boards of every kind, and in raising stocks of cattle, mules and hogs...." In addition there was considerable fur trade, for which Augusta was the center.
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