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History of Colonial South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina was founded around the year 1670 and was one of the major seaports on the East Coast of the United States in the early days of our country.

It was founded by French and Spanish explorers in the 16th century during the "Age of Exploration" when they were looking for fame, land, and resources. They found many tribes of Native Americans living there, the largest of which were the Cherokees and the Catawbas.

In 1670, a permanent English settlement was established near present day Charleston.

Settlers from the British Isles, France, and other parts of Europe built plantations throughout the coastal lowcountry, growing profitable crops of rice and indigo. African slaves were brought into the colony in large numbers to provide labor for the plantations, and by 1720 they formed the majority of the population.

Enjoying a fine natural harbor and a mild temperate climate, it quickly became one of the premier entry points for persons immigrating into Colonial America.

King Charles

On March 24, 1663, King Charles II granted to the Lords Proprietors a slice of North America running from the Atlantic to the Pacific, lying between 36 degrees north latitude on the north and 31 degrees on the south. This huge section of continent was granted absolutely to the following men, to be financed by them, and for them to profit by, and to rule, with the help or interference of such a local government as they might permit. Above them was only the King. In the order named in Charles' charter they were: the Earl of Clarendon, the Duke of Albemarle, Lord Craven, Lord Berkeley, Lord Ashley, Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkeley and Sir John Colleton. The most important of these was Lord Ashley (Anthony Ashley Cooper), who specified the street plan for the new city and whose secretary, the philosopher John Locke, wrote the Fundamental Constitution of Carolina. King Charles II gave them the land because he owed them money, the proprietors were to make money of their lands' resources and selling the land to colonists.

Two years later, the charter was amended to raise the north line 30 minutes and the south line by two degrees. In other words, the huge slice of North America that was Carolina included: the present states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, a small part of Missouri, most of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, the southern half of California, the southern tip of Nevada, the north part of Florida, and a slice of northern Mexico.

History of Charleston

The history of Charleston goes back to the 17th century. Charleston was founded in 1670 as a port city on the western bank of the Ashley River. The town was originally called Charles Towne in honor of Charles II, King of England. Three countries, France, Spain, and England fought to claim ownership in its early stages, but in the end it was the British that dominated the town.

Charles Towne boomed as the commercial and shipping center for the region's rice, indigo and cotton plantations. Between 1690 and 1720, the population of Charles Towne tripled. Three incentives -- free land, the titles and estates of a landed aristocracy, and religious freedom -- drew new immigrants mainly from Europe.

Charleston, the cultural capital of the South, has always been one of the busiest ports of the southeastern United States. From the early 1770s, Charleston's annual export trade exceeded the tonnage that passed through New York's port, though Charleston had half the population of New York. As the town boomed, Charleston also became America's major port in the slave trade - the major labor source for profitable rice production. By the early 1700s, Charles Towne's population had an African majority.

Charleston thrived as the social and cultural center of planter families. Some of the prominent families included Heywards, Draytons, and Hugers. The residences of plantation owners reflected extreme wealth - their houses were embellished with silk curtains, Dutch linens, French china, English silver, and lavish ornamental gardens. The planters commissioned famous portrait artists and European craftsmen, and gave extravagant dinners. Sons of the planters traveled to England for their education. As the planter owners and merchants prospered, they began seeking a social and cultural lifestyle to match their financial success. The town attracted some of the most important performers in colonial America. During the 1770s there were more than 23 singing and dancing masters teaching in the city, which also had a reputation for turning out the colonies' best Shakespearean productions.

Behind this extremely wealthy veneer lay African-American slaves' arduous labor. While planters were on the retreat during the mosquito season to escape malaria, Africans were to work under the intense heat of the sun and intolerable humidity. The treatment of slaves varied from plantation to plantation. Slaves associated with housework received preferential treatment to those who were field hands. Planters encouraged slaves to practice Christianity, as it was an effective means of keeping order.Passages from the bible were interpreted in a way that would instill fear and compliance into the slaves. Clergymen told slaves to be obedient and faithful to their masters, as it was 'God's will'. Slavery continued to exist until the Civil War.

Years before the American Revolution, residents of the Lowcountry became defiant against British rule, especially with its methods of colonial government and taxation. The reaction of people in Charles Towne to a tax act in 1765 was violent. Political disagreement between colonists and the royal governor sparked dissent. Many citizens got deeply involved on both sides of the issue. In July of 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed. However in 1778, the British subdued Charles Towne and the city remained a British colony until 1782. In 1783 it was incorporated as a city and its name was shortened to Charleston.

Charleston saw an incredible construction boom in the early 19th century. However, soon the city went into a time of hardship. By the 1850s, as the core cotton industry turned less profitable, the Lowcountry lost its economic power and position of national prestige.

In December 1860, the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession was passed. The next year, Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter in Charlston Harbor, and the American Civil War began. The city endured relentless bombardment, fires, and economic depression. The Civil War also brought the collapse of slavery, which ended the plantation system, sending much of the state's economy into depression. Charlestonians received especially severe punishment because they were known as the secessionists. Some say Charleston never fully recuperated from the Civil War until it witnessed the subsequent economic booms during and following the two world wars.

In the 1920s, Charleston's quaint architectural backdrop attracted a new generation of artists, writers, poets, and musicians. The city became a mecca for experimental and traditional artists of all kinds in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1970s, Charleston's Chamber of Commerce launched a national advertising campaign, "Charleston, American's Best Kept Secret." As a result, Charleston has successfully become one of the most beautiful, historic, and desirable places to visit in the United States.

Throughout the year, Charleston enjoys a warm, semitropical to subtropical climate.

The annual rainfall for the region is about 51 inches, or 129 centimeters. Winters are generally mild. In January, the average temperature is 55 Fahrenheit, or 13 Celsius. Spring comes early, and farmers usually break ground in February. In summer, the average temperature is about 82 Fahrenheit, or 28 Celsius. However, in the summer, sometimes the temperature can reach as high as 100 Fahrenheit, or 38 Celsius. Many consider the best season to visit Charleston is spring, when days are warm and various flowers blossom.

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