White Servitude in Colonial South Carolina

By Warren B. Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
The Introduction of White Indentured Servants

THE PROVINCE OF CAROLINA WAS SETTLED more than sixty years after. Virginia and forty years after Barbados. It was natural that the land of rice should fall heir to some of the institutions of the land of tobacco and the land of sugar. Negro slaves had been introduced into Virginia in 1619, but by 1649 their number had increased only to 300. In 1670, the year of the first settlement on the banks of the Ashley, there were in Virginia but 2,000 slaves.1 Virginia had not, therefore, at the time of the first settlements in Carolina, definitely decided in favor of Negro slaves. In the West Indian colonies, while the superiority of Negro labor had already been demonstrated,2 white servants were still used in large numbers, even in the field work of the plantations.3 And the new colony, whose beginnings fell in the period when the use of white servants was perhaps at its height, naturally took very kindly to such labor.

The first fleet to sail for Carolina stopped at the island of Barbados to pick up men and supplies. Thus many of the first settlers of Carolina came from Barbados. In the proposals of the Barbados men to settle in Carolina can be found the statement: "There are many hundreds of noble families and well experienced planters that are ready to move speedily thither, with Negroes and servants."4 The intimate relations between Barbados and the early settlements in South Carolina facilitated the adoption of usages customary in the older colony.

The public records of England indicate quite dearly that many white servants were sent to Barbados. In March 1655 the Council of State directed the Governor of Tynemouth Castle to certify the number of prisoners taken at Dunbar, that they might be sent to Barbados.5 In August 1655 the Council of State ordered the transportation to Barbados of "all prisoners lately committed to the Marshalsea, who were taken in the Brest man-o-war."6 In September 1655 the Council of State commanded "the Commissioners of the

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