History of the Southern Colonies





Let us turn to a consideration of the colonial history of the Carolinas from the formation of the "Fundamental Constitutions" by Locke and Cooper (afterward Lord Shaftesbury) for the government of the colonists of those regions, until the period of the old war for independence.

The scheme for a splendid government was completed in 1669. The "constitutions" were signed in March, 1670, and were highly lauded in England as forming the wisest scheme for human government ever devised. Monk, duke of Albemarle, was created Palatine or viceroy for the new empire, who was to display the state parade of his office, with landgraves, barons, lords of manor, caciques, and courts of admiralty and heraldry, among the scattered settlers in the pine forest living in log-cabins with the Indians. The idea seems too ludicrous to have been seriously entertained. Yet it was entertained; and, so far as the proprietors were concerned, this splendid government was established. But the simple settlers had something to say; and when the governor of the Northern or Albemarle county colony attempted to introduce the new government, they said, "No," with peculiar emphasis, as the question was forced upon them, "Will you accept it?" They had a form of government of their own far better adapted to their social circumstances than the one sent from England, and they resolved to adhere to it.

The attempts to enforce obedience to the new form of government; the oppressive taxation imposed upon the people, and especially the commercial restrictions authorized by the English navigation laws, produced wide-spread discontent. This was fostered by refugees from Virginia, who had been implicated in "Bacon's Rebellion," and who sought personal safety among the people below the Roanoke. These refugees scattered broadcast over a generous soil the germinal ideas of popular freedom; and successful oppression was made difficult, if not impossible.

The whole State of North Carolina did not, at that time, contain quite four thousand inhabitants. They carried on a feeble trade in tobacco, maize and fat cattle, with the merchants of New England, whose little vessels brought in exchange those articles of foreign production which the settlers could not otherwise procure. English cupidity envied them their privileges, and the navigation laws of 1672 were put in force. An agent of the government appeared, who demanded a penny for every pound of tobacco sent to New England. The colonists resisted the levy. The tax-gatherer was rude, and had frequent personal collisions with the people. On one occasion he attempted to drive away a steer in satisfaction of a demand for the tax on the tobacco of a planter, which had just been shipped for Boston, when the sturdy wife of the yeoman beat him off with a mop-stick, and saved the animal from the tax-gatherer.

Finally, the exasperated people, led by John Culpepper, a refugee from the Southern or Carteret county colony, seized the governor and the public funds; imprisoned him and six of his councillors; called a new representative Assembly, and appointed a chief magistrate and judges. That was in December, 1677. For two years the colonists conducted the affairs of their government without any foreign control. Meanwhile Culpepper, whom the royalists denounced as an "ill man," one who merited "hanging for endeavoring to set the people to plunder the rich," conscious of his integrity, went boldly to England to plead the cause of the colonists. There he was arrested, just as he was re-embarking for America, on a charge of treason, for which he was tried and acquitted. Returning to North Carolina, he was appointed surveyor-general of the province; and in 1680 he was employed in laying out the city of Charleston in South Carolina.

The Northern colony now enjoyed repose for awhile, until the arrival of Seth Sothel as governor. He had purchased the share of Clarendon in the soil of the provinces, and was sent to administer government there. On his voyage he was captured by Algerine pirates, but escaped, and reached North Carolina in 1683. Avaricious, extortionate, cruel, without the abilities of a statesman and mean-spirited--"the dark shades of his character not relieved by a single virtue"--he sought the government with the hope of winning a fortune thereby. His advent disturbed the public tranquillity. He plundered the people, cheated the proprietors, and on all occasions seems to have prostituted his delegated power to purposes of private gain. After enduring his misrule for about six weeks, the people rose in rebellion, seized the governor, and were about to send him to England to answer their accusations before the proprietors, when he asked to be tried by the colonial Assembly. That body were evidently more merciful than his associates in England would have been, for they found him guilty and sentenced him to only one year's banishment and perpetual disqualification for the office of governor. Sothel then withdrew to the Southern colony, where we shall meet him presently.

Sothel's successor, Philip Ludwell, was an energetic and honest man. By the exercise of wisdom and justice, he soon restored order and good feeling in the colony. He was succeeded by other honorable men, among them the good John Archdale, a member of the Society of Friends, who came in 1695 as governor of the two colonies. His administration was a blessing. The people of North Carolina, over whom he ruled, were almost as free in their opinions and actions, as the air they breathed. There were few restraints of any kind, legal or moral, yet the people were generally enemies to violence, and gentle-tempered. They were widely scattered, with not a city or town, and scarcely a hamlet in their sylvan domain. There were no roads but bridle-paths from house to house, and these were indicated by notches cut in trees. There was no settled minister of the gospel among them until 1703. The first church erected in North Carolina appeared in 1705. No building for a court-house was constructed until 1722; and it was not until 1754--about a hundred years after the first permanent settlement was made in the region of the Chowan--that a printing-press was set up in the province.

The Southern or Carteret County colony was, meanwhile, steadily advancing in population and wealth. The settlers there, perceiving the fatal objections to the "Fundamental Constitutions" as a plan of government for their colony, did not attempt conforming thereto, but established a more simple government adapted to their condition. It was crude. Under it the first legislative assembly of South Carolina convened in the spring of 1672, at the place on the Ashley River where the colony was first seated. In that body, jarring political, social and theological interest and opinions produced passionate debates and violent discord. There was a Proprietary party and a People's party; a High Church party and a Dissenter's party, each bigoted and resolute. At times debates were so angrily carried on, that members almost came to blows; and it was a relief to the people when the Assembly adjourned, for it seemed to be a nest out of which might come the rapacious vulture of civil war, that would be perilous in the extreme, at that time, when surrounding Indians were evidently hostile. The danger from these foes finally healed the dissensions among the settlers. Moved by the instinct of self-preservation, they joined in a successful warfare upon the Indians, who had begun to plunder the plantations of grain and cattle, and to menace the lives of the colonists. The Indians were subdued in 1680, and those who were made captive were sent to the West Indies and sold for slaves. Then Old Town, as their first place of settlement was called, was abandoned, and on Oyster Point, as we have observed, was founded the city of Charleston, the future capital of the colony. It was settled chiefly by the English, for the Dutch and others spread over the country along the Edisto and Santee rivers. Immigrants from different parts of Europe rapidly swelled the population of Charleston and its vicinity, and aspirations for political independence were manifested there at that early day.

A second popular Assembly met at Charleston in 1682. It was more harmonious than the first. Wise laws were framed, and a more tolerant religious spirit prevailed. Immigrants flowed in with a full and continuous stream. Families came from Ireland, Scotland and Holland; and when the edict of Nantes, which secured toleration to Protestants in France, was revoked, a large number of Huguenots fled from their country, and many sought an asylum in the Carolinas. The traditional hatred of the English for the French was shown at this time. For full ten years these French refugees were denied the privileges of citizenship in the land of their adoption.

Meanwhile a little colony of ten Scotch families who had fled from persecution in their native land, and led by the Presbyterian Lord Cardross, landed at Port Royal on the coast of South Carolina, and proceeded to plant a settlement there in 1682. The existence of that little colony was brief. The Spaniards claimed Port Royal as a dependency of St. Augustine; and in 1686, during the absence of Cardross in Britain, they attacked and dispersed his colony and laid waste their property. Some of them returned to Scotland, and others joined the colony between the Edisto and Santee rivers.

The Huguenots, who infused warm blood into the veins of the Southern colony, and carried the sunshine of their buoyant natures into other American provinces, deserve more than a passing notice here. We have already considered then forlorn condition in the time of Coligni, a hundred years earlier. The decree of Henry the Fourth, issued from Nantes in 1598, giving them free toleration within his dominions, secured them from severe persecution. They had prospered, and had become, as a body, the best citizens of France.

When the profligate Louis the Fourteenth approached old age, he became the slave of a fascinating woman, widow of the comic poet Scarron, who is better known in history as Madame de Maintenon. She was then fifty years of age, but was still beautiful, graceful and witty, and wise and discreet in all her ways. The king, then forty-eight, fascinated by the charms of her mind and person, married her secretly. From that time she fashioned his future life. She had been a Calvinist, but was now a devoted daughter of the Church of Rome. When remorse for past sins clouded the mind of the king, she shed the light of religious consolation into its darkened recesses. He would pass whole days with her alone in a library of the palace, listening to her charming conversation or her reading from books of devotion. As amends for past misconduct, she persuaded him to take measures for the conversion of the Huguenots and to win them back to the Church of Rome.

This work was begun in earnest, by every species of bribery, and every means of coercion excepting actual personal violence. These Huguenots were driven from all public employments, and were reinstated only upon the condition of entering the church as communicants. They were persecuted by being subjected to all kinds of disabilities, social and political, and finding relief only in a profession of the Romish faith. These measures operated powerfully, and, in a degree, successfully. It was perceived that the surest road to popular favor was by converting Huguenots, and Louvois, the Minister of War, determined to outdo Madame de Maintenon in this work, by the use of soldiers, whom he quartered on the Huguenots with orders to torment them in every possible way short of personal violence. These Protestants were forbidden to leave France, and so, like hunted deer driven to close quarters, they were dreadfully worried by the hounds. At length, following the advice of Madame de Maintenon, the king revoked the tolerant edict of Henry, and the Huguenots were exposed to the unbridled passions of the soldiery and the intolerance of religious bigots. So, Louis hoped he had gained the favor of Heaven and secured the salvation of his own soul.

The sufferings of the Huguenots were now horrible. The most cruel torments were used to "convert" them. It is said that full ten thousand of them perished at the stake and other places of torture, for conscience sake. In the face of vigorous measures for preventing emigration, full five hundred thousand of these useful citizens, numbering multitudes of skilled mechanics, fled from their country, and so impoverished the kingdom. They created Huguenot villages in Germany. They swelled the army of William wherewith to win the throne of England. They filled a whole suburb of London, and introduced the art of silk-weaving into England. Some went to the Cape of Good Hope, and many of them sought peaceful homes among the American colonists. They were welcomed everywhere, and became blessings to every community among whom they settled. Many families were seated in New York and other colonies; but the warmer climate of the Carolinas was more congenial to these children of sunny France. They gave some of the best blood to the American colonies; and their descendants have borne a conspicuous part in building up our free Republic.

The South Carolinians resisted all attempts to make them submit to the authority of the "Fundamental Constitutions." Annoyed by persistent efforts to compel them to accept that form of government, they felt disposed to cast off all allegiance to the proprietors and the mother country. At that crisis, John Colleton, one of the owners, was appointed governor of the province, with full powers to bring the people into submission. That was in 1686. His administration of four years was a very turbulent one. Finally, his continual collisions with the people drove them into open rebellion. They seized the public records; imprisoned the secretary of the province; called a new Assembly, and defined the power of the governor. The latter, pleading the danger of an impending invasion of Indians or Spaniards, made it a pretext for calling out the militia, with whom he hoped to suppress the insurrection. He declared the province to be under martial-law, and proposed to rule by its vigorous code.

The militia were a part of the people, and no troops appeared at the call of the governor. His act greatly exasperated the colonists. He was impeached, and banished from the province by the Assembly, in 1690. The Revolution in England at the same time was initiated in miniature in South Carolina.

During the turbulence at near the close of Colleton's administration, Seth Sothel arrived from North Carolina, pursuant to his sentence of banishment. He espoused the cause of the people against the proprietors, and the former, in the moment of their anger, unwisely chose him to be their governor. Their poor judgment was rebuked, and the people were punished for this rash act by the conduct of the new governor. While he followed the popular will in opposing the claims of the proprietors to political domination, he plundered the people, trampled upon their dearest rights, and ruled them with insolence and undisguised tyranny. His misrule was endured for about two years, when the people heartily seconded the measures of his fellow-proprietors for his removal. When they heard of his usurpations, they sent him letters of recall, with an order from the king to appear in England to answer charges of disloyalty and other grave offences. Sothel was compelled to retire from the office in 1692, when he withdrew to North Carolina, where he died two years afterward. It was during the administration of Sothel that the Huguenots in South Carolina were as fully enfranchised, or granted the liberty of citizens, as if they had been born on the soil. This act of enfranchisement was repealed in 1697.

Colonel Philip Ludwell, of Virginia, and then governor of North Carolina, as we have seen--a man wholly unconnected with the interests of the province--was appointed the successor of Sothel. When the people found that a part of his mission was to restore the authority of the proprietors and impose upon them the absurd "Fundamental Constitutions," they were restive under the rule of even so good a man as he. He was authorized to inquire into grievances, but had no power to redress them; and after a brief and unhappy administration, he gladly retired from the chair of state.

The proprietors were now satisfied that they could never impose upon the people of the Carolinas the form of government framed by Locke and Cooper, and after a trial of about twenty years, the scheme was abandoned. They sent good John Archdale, as we have seen, to govern both provinces under more simple forms of government prepared by the people themselves. His administration was short, but highly beneficial. He healed dissensions; established equitable laws, and with the spirit of a true Christian he set a true Christian example of toleration and humanity. He made no distinction on account of religious creeds in the choice of his council. He cultivated friendly intercourse with the surrounding Indians, and ransomed Indian captives who were exposed for sale as slaves. Chiefs of tribes formerly hostile were sometimes seen at his table; and two Indian maidens were paid servants in his family. With the Spaniards at St. Augustine he cultivated friendly relations, for the liberal spirit of the Quaker could respect the faith of the Roman Catholic. With keen foresight he introduced and promoted the growth of rice on the seacoasts of the Carolinas, some seed having been given to him by the captain of a vessel from Madagascar. It was distributed among the planters; and so the cultivation of this valuable cereal was begun in our country. The name and deeds of John Archdale were kept green in the memory of the Carolinians for generations.

From the close of Archdale's administration, the history of the two Carolinas should be considered separate and distinct, although they were not politically disunited until 1729.







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