"The Carolinas" is a term used in the United States to refer collectively to the U.S. states of North Carolina and South Carolina.
If the Carolinas were a single U.S. state, it would be the fifth most populous state, behind California, Texas, New York, and Florida. The Carolinas were known as the Province of Carolina during America's early colonial period, from 1663–1710.Prior to that, the land was considered part of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, from 1609–63. The province, named Carolina to honor King Charles I of England, was divided into South Carolina and North Carolina in 1729.
French, Spanish, and English Colonization
At an unknown coastal site in the region that is now the Carolinas, what may have been the first European settlement in North America was founded (1526; not permanent) by an expedition under the Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón. The Frenchman Jean Ribaut established (1562) a short-lived Huguenot settlement on Parris Island in Port Royal Sound, but French colonizing ambitions were thoroughly thwarted by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Spanish missions soon extended N from Florida almost to the site of present-day Charleston, and they remained until the arrival of the English.
Charles I asserted England's claim as early as 1629 by granting the territory from lat. 36°N to lat. 31°N (later named Carolina for Charles I) to Sir Robert Heath, but since no settlements were made Heath's charter was forfeited. In 1663, Charles II awarded the area to eight of his prominent supporters, the most active of whom was Anthony Ashley Cooper (Lord Ashley, later 1st earl of Shaftesbury).
The northern and southern sections of Carolina developed separately. The first permanent colony was established in 1670 at Albemarle Point under William Sayle. To govern it, John Locke and others wrote (at Lord Ashley's behest) the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina (1669), which granted some popular rights but also retained feudal privileges and limitations. It was never ratified. The actual government consisted of a powerful council, half of which was appointed by the proprietors in England; a governor, also appointed by the proprietors; and a relatively weak assembly, elected by all freemen. In 1680 the colony moved across the river to Oyster Point, which was better suited for defense. There the colonists established their capital, called Charles Town (later Charleston), which was to become the chief center of culture and of wealth in the South.
Life under Proprietary Rule
The 1680s saw the beginnings of prosperity. Wealthy colonists set up plantations worked by indentured servants and African and Native American slaves, while freemen (many of them former indentured servants) cultivated the 50 acres (20 hectares) of land granted them by the proprietors. On plantations and small farms alike, corn, livestock, and some cotton were raised at first, and tobacco was cultivated in plenitude. Rice, introduced c.1680, flourished in the marshy tidewater area and soon became the plantation staple. Forests yielded rich timber and naval stores. The fur trade (especially in deerskins) with the Creek and other tribes prospered. But conflict with the Spanish and French increased, and the encroachment of the two countries dramatized the proprietors' lack of concern and their inability to defend the distant colony. Popular antagonism to proprietary rule was spurred by the parceling of much of the land into a few large grants, by the quitrent system, and most importantly by the issue of religion.
Several religious groups had freely practiced their faith in the colony until the early 18th cent.; these included Anglicans, dissenters from Britain (see nonconformists), and French Huguenots. In 1704 the Anglicans, without opposition from the proprietors, managed to deprive the other groups of their religious liberty, and it was not until the English government took action (1706) that religious toleration was restored.
South Carolina as a Royal Colony
The colony was divided into North and South Carolina in 1712. In 1715–16 the settlers were attacked by the Yamasee, who had become resentful of exploitation by the Carolina traders. The uprising was finally quelled after much loss of life and property. These attacks further revealed the lack of protection afforded by the proprietors, and in 1719 the colonists rebelled and received royal protection. The crown sent Francis Nicholson as provincial royal governor in 1720, and South Carolina formally became a royal colony in 1729, when the proprietors finally accepted terms.
Conditions for the colonists were now in many respects improved. Pirates such as Blackbeard who had infested the coast had been hanged or dispersed. In addition the founding (1733) of Georgia to the south provided a buffer against the Spanish. Loss of territory and some of the colony's fur trade to Georgia was more than compensated for when indigo, supported by British bounty, became (1740s) the colony's second staple. To counterbalance the vast number of African slaves transported to the colony for use as plantation labor, European immigration was encouraged. Germans and Swiss, arriving in the 1730s and 40s, and Scotch-Irish and other migrants from Virginia and Pennsylvania, arriving in the 60s, settled the colony's lower middle country and uplands.
Regional antipathies were generated by economic and social differences; the small, self-sufficient farmer of the up-country, demanding courts, roads, and defense against outlaws and the Cherokee, elicited little sympathy from the powerful plantation lords of lower Carolina. In the late 1760s discontent culminated in the formation of the Regulator movement. Finally the legislature gave in to some up-country demands, including the establishment of courts in the region.
The Coming of Revolution
South Carolina's long friendship with the mother country was reflected in trade benefits the colony realized under the Navigation Acts and in protection provided to it by the strong British navy. However, public sentiment in the colony was transformed by the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, and by British political claims. South Carolinians—Christopher Gadsden, Henry Laurens, and Arthur Middleton—were leaders in the movement for independence, and in Mar., 1776, an independent government of South Carolina was set up with John Rutledge as president.
In the American Revolution the British failed to take Charleston in June, 1776 (see Fort Moultrie), but Sir Henry Clinton successfully besieged the town in 1780. In the ensuing Carolina campaign the British were ultimately forced to retreat, although they held Charleston until Dec., 1782. In 1786 the site of Columbia was chosen for the new capital; its central location mollified the up-country population. South Carolina ratified the federal Constitution in May, 1788, and replaced the royal charter with a state charter in 1790. Complete religious liberty was established and primogeniture was abolished, but property qualifications for voting and office holding was retained, ensuring planter control of the legislature.
The constitutional amendment known as the "compromise of 1808" somewhat alleviated the sectional antagonism by reapportioning representation. By this time, however, Eli Whitney's cotton gin had enabled cotton plantations to spread far into the up-country; thus the planters continued to dominate state policies. In the late 1820s cotton from the fertile western states glutted the market, and prosperity declined in South Carolina.
Civil War and Reconstruction
After Lincoln's election South Carolina was the first state to secede (Dec. 20, 1860) from the Union. Gov. Francis W. Pickens immediately demanded all federal property within the state, including Fort Sumter, which was held by Union men under Major Robert Anderson. The firing on Sumter by Confederate batteries on Apr. 12, 1861, precipitated the Civil War.
In November 1861, a Union naval force under Samuel F. Du Pont took the forts of Port Royal Sound, but Charleston's forts withstood severe bombardments in 1863, and the state was saved from heavy military action until early in 1865. Then Gen. William T. Sherman, commanding the army that had marched through Georgia, crossed the Savannah River and advanced north through the state. Because South Carolina was viewed as the birthplace of secession, it was difficult to restrain many of the Union soldiers, and the deliberate devastation, culminating in the burning of Columbia, was appalling.
The Reconstruction period that followed the war was no less disastrous. South Carolina was selected for President Andrew Johnson's moderate program, but the program had only a brief trial before the radical Republicans took over. For a decade the state was ruled by carpetbaggers and scalawags, with the support of African-American votes. The constitution of 1868, which established universal male suffrage and ended property qualifications for office holding, gained the state readmittance (June, 1868) to the Union.
During the period from 1868 to 1874 accomplishments such as the building of schools and railroads were offset by waste and corruption in the state government and by high taxation. Many of these abuses were corrected by the honest administration of Gov. Daniel H. Chamberlain (1874–76), the state's last Republican governor until the late 20th cent. The Democratic party regained vitality in the late 1870s and South Carolina's politics were strongly Democratic after this period; not until the late 1960s did Republicans regain strength in both state and national elections.
South Carolina's war hero, Wade Hampton, was selected as the Democratic party's candidate for governor in 1876. The election was marked by irregular practices on both sides, and, although Hampton gained a majority, Chamberlain refused to accept defeat. Thus there existed two state governments until 1877, when President Rutherford B. Hayes removed all federal troops from the South, and Chamberlain, bereft of the support that had made Republican rule possible, withdrew. Hampton attempted moderation on race issues, but, despite his efforts, by 1882 the vast majority of blacks had lost the vote and white political supremacy was assured.
Voting Rights, Desegregation, and Economic Growth
World War II and the postwar period brought great changes. A state court decision in 1947 opened the Democratic primaries to African-American voters. Under the governorship (1951–55) of the nationally prominent James F. Byrnes, the poll tax was abolished as a voting requirement, steps were taken to curb Ku Klux Klan activities, and the educational system was greatly expanded. Integration of the schools after the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision met considerable opposition, but in 1963 South Carolinians accepted token integration of Clemson College without incident, and desegregation began in the Charleston schools. By 1970 all of the state's public school districts were technically in compliance with federal desegregation requirements. That year four African Americans were elected to the previously all-white state legislature.
In the 1970s and 80s, South Carolina experienced economic growth similar to other Sun Belt states. Low tax rates and a large nonunion workforce have attracted many firms from other states as well as foreign countries. In the 1990s job losses from the closing of naval facilities at North Charleston were largely offset by private undertakings, and the Greenville-Spartanburg area in the northwest was rapidly becoming home to new industries.