The Southern Colonies in North America were established by England during the 16th and 17th centuries and consisted of modern-day Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland and Georgia. Their historical names were the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, the Province of Carolina, and the Province of Georgia. The colonies were originally instated to compete in the race for colonies in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. They soon developed into prosperous colonies that made large profits off of cash crops such as tobacco, indigo dye, and rice. Over time, the region quickly became well known for its high slave population and highly unequal social class distribution.
Early Beginnings: Roanoke and VirginiaEdit
England first took interest in America in the mid 16th century. When Elizabeth I came into power in 1558, she was determined to make England, a minor power, into a major European force. She and her chief privateer Francis Drake began pirating Spanish merchant ships laden with Americanismn gold. She was also interested in discovering the Northwest Passage so England could develop trade relations with Asia. An attempted colonization of Newfoundland failed. When these plans were fruitless, she gave Walter Raleigh a charter to found the Roanoke Colony in 1584. He was only slightly successfully, but the colony soon disappeared mysteriously.
The southern colonies took a turn for the better when James I came to power. James was a more cautious king and was much more peaceable that Elizabeth. After Spain conceded their claims on Virginia, James gave the joint-stock company the Virginia Company a charter to settle the area. The company sent 105 colonists to the mouth of the James River to start what would soon be known as Jamestown. The colony's first winter left only 38 survivors. The colony was short of strong leadership, which left Captain John Smith to run the colony with his strict military training. He set the standard for keeping the colony afloat, with work gangs to ensure the right amount of food was produced and strict rules about hygiene and sanitation to keep disease low. The next winter, only about a dozen men were lost out of 200. However, when he had to return to England, discipline slacked and four fifths of the population died of insufficient food the next winter. To make up for the losses, the Virginia Company offered 50 acres of land for each person who entered the colony. The population boomed as planters flocked to the colony. As settlers began to take advantage of this offer, the shareholders' trust slumped and the economy of the colony did also. James revoked his charter and Virginia became the first American Royal Colony.
The Introduction of TobaccoEdit
In 1618, John Rolfe introduced tobacco as a cash crop to save the starving Virginia economy. Quickly, the crop became a massive hit in the British well-to-do, and the tobacco industry boomed. The price of tobacco rose to dizzying levels extremely quickly and boosted the Virginia economy into a prosperous environment. Quickly the crop became an instant hit for every planter in the region. With this "tobacco rage" about 110,000 Englishmen migrated to the colonies, most indentured servants looking to eventually own a farm. A few slaves began to arrive in Virginia, but the population stayed low until the 18th century. The tobacco boom ended in 1629 when prices plummeted by 97 percent. The price of tobacco stayed low and never reached more than 10 percent of its former price  The plant still stayed profitable as long as it sold above 2.0 pence per pound and was cultivated on fertile soil. However, as years of intense tobacco cultivation occurred, the soil was quickly depleted. These poor conditions sparked a major rebellion known as Bacon's Rebellion after the man who started it.
At the time, Cecilius Calvert received a charter from the crown to found the colony of Maryland in 1632. Calvert came from a wealthy Catholic family, and he was the first single man to receive a grant from the crown, rather than a joint-stock company. He received a grant for a large track of land north of the Potomac river and east of the Chesapeake Bay. Calvert planned on creating a haven for English Catholics, most of which were well-to-do nobles such as himself, but were unable to worship in public. He planned on making an agrarian manorial society where each noble would have a large manor and tenants would work on fields, chores, and other deeds. However, with extremely cheap land prices, many Protestants moved to Maryland and bought land for themselves anyway. Quickly the population became a Protestant majority, and in 1642 religious tension began to erupt. Calvert was forced to take control and pass the Act for Religious Tolerance in 1649, making Maryland the second colony to have freedom of worship, after Rhodes Island. However, the act did little to help religious peace. In 1654, Protestants barred Catholics from voting, ousted a pro-tolerance Governor, and repealed the toleration act. Maryland stayed Protestant until Calvert re-took control of the colony in 1658.
The next major development in the history of the Southern Colonies was The Carolinas. During the 1650s, English settlers set up a few unauthorized outposts on the swamp coast between Virginia and Spanish Florida. When Charles II was restored to the throne, he rewarded a few supporters with an official grant for the colony in 1663. It was named Carolina in honor of him (Charles is Carolus in Latin). The colony grew very slowly until in 1669 Anthony Ashley Cooper began to offer 50 acres for every family member, indentured servant, or slave brought to the colony. Carolina soon began to boom. He and his secretary John Locke, later to be acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers of the age  devised an intricate government plan to govern the many people arriving in the colony. The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina ensured the colony's stability by allotting political status by a settler's wealth upon arrival- making a semi-manorial system with a Council of Nobles and a plan to have small landholders defer to these nobles. With all the land they needed, none of the settlers found it necessary to take orders from the Council. By 1680, the colony had a large export industry of tobacco, lumber, and pitch, which gave the people in the region the name tarheel.