Just before they defeated the Spanish
Armada, the English began exploring the New World. In 1585 an expedition
organized by Walter Raleigh established the first
English settlement in the
Early in the history of the colony, it became clear that the claims of gold
deposits were vastly exaggerated. Referred to as the
"Starving Time" of the
Due to continued political and economic instability, however, the charter of the Colony of Virginia was revoked in 1624. The
primary cause of this revocation was the revelation that hundreds of settlers
were dead or missing following an attack in 1622 by Native American tribes led
by Opechancanough. A royal charter was established for
A key figure in the Virginia Colony and Southern political and cultural
development generally was William
Berkeley, who served, with some interruptions, as governor of
Despite the early failures, English colonists continued to arrive along the
southern Atlantic coast.
See main article Slavery in the colonial United States
From the introduction of tobacco in 1613, its cultivation began to form the basis of the early Southern economy. Cotton did not become a mainstay until much later, after technological developments, especially the Whitney Cotton gin of 1794, greatly increased the profitability of cotton cultivation. Until that point, most cotton was farmed in large plantations in the Province of Carolina, and tobacco, which could be grown profitably in farms of smaller scale, was the dominant cash crop export of the South and the Middle Atlantic States.
Early slave ship, carrying hundreds of slaves in crowded, unhealthy conditions
The earliest form of slavery in the colonies emerged from the first introduction of slaves in 1619 aboard a Dutch slave ship until, approximately the 1660s, when slaves became a better economic labor force than indentured servants. During this period, often life expectancy was low and indentured servants came from overpopulated European areas. With the lower price of servants compared to slaves, and the high mortality of the servants, planters often found it much more economical to use servants.
Because of this, slavery in the early colonial period differed greatly in
the American colonies from that in the Caribbean.
Much of the slave trade was conducted as part of the "Triangular
Trade", a three-way exchange of slaves, rum, and sugar. Southern
planters purchased slaves using rum, made in New England from cane sugar,
which was in turn grown in the
At approximately the point when tobacco labor needs began to increase, the
mortality of the colonies decreased. By the late 17th century and early 18th
century, slaves became economically viable sources of labor for the growing
tobacco culture. Also, further South than the Mid-Atlantic, Southern settlers
grew wealthy by raising and selling rice, indigo, and cotton.
The plantations of South Carolina often were modeled on
By the end of the 17th century, the number of colonists was growing. The
large population centers were still in the northeastern and middle colonies,
leaving the southern colonies of Maryland, Virginia, North
and South Carolina a rural frontier land. The
economies of these colonies were tied to agriculture. During this time the
were formed by wealthy colonists who saw great opportunity in the new country. Tobacco and cotton were the
main cash crops of the areas and were readily accepted by English buyers. Rice and indigo
were also grown in the area and exported to
On the other side of the agricultural coin were the small yeoman farmers. They did not have the capability or wealth to operate large plantations. Instead, they worked small tracts of land and developed a political activism in response to the growing oligarchy of the plantation owners. Many politicians from this era were yeoman farmers speaking out to protect their rights as free men.
Charleston became a booming trade town
for the southern colonies. The abundance of pine trees in the area
provided raw materials for shipyards to develop and the harbor provided a safe
port for English ships bringing in imported goods. The colonists exported
tobacco, cotton and textiles and imported tea, sugar and slaves. The fact that
these colonies maintained an independent trade relation with
After the late 17th century, the economies of the North and the South began to diverge, especially in coastal areas. The Southern emphasis on export production contrasted with the Northern emphasis on food production.
By the mid-18th century, the colonies of