South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE PIRATES, 1718

Economic Conditions in About 1719. --The growing commerce of South Carolina was a tempting prize for pirates. Governor Johnson estimated in 1719 from muster rolls, etc., 1600 white men sixteen to sixty years of age and a total white population of 6,400. This is more reliable than the estimate by the Assembly of 2,000 fighting men and a white population of 9,000. Agents Joseph Boone and John Barnwell, on August 23, 1920, give the whites as 9,000 and the blacks as 12,000. The most reliable figure we have is from the tax returns of January, 1722, where the assessors swear to 9,570 slaves between seven and sixty years of age and 1,163,817 acres. This accords fairly with the estimate of 12,000 slaves of all ages.

About sixty ships came annually from England and returned loaded with deerskins, rice, pitch, tar, etc. The English bounty on naval stores greatly benefited South Carolina. In the year 1718 the collector's books showed exports to England of 6,773 barrels of rice of 350 pounds each, 18,414 barrels of pitch, 27,660 barrels of tar, 43 chests of deerskins, and considerable lumber; and to other colonies 2,333 barrels of rice, 4,187 barrels of pitch, 5,677 barrels of tar, besides deerskins, beef, pork, butter, naval stores, lumber, leather, raw hides, corn, and peas. The northern colonies paid in flour, beer, cider, and fish, and the southern in slaves, rum, sugar, molasses, cotton, etc. This trade engaged eighty ships besides the sixty that plied from England. Growing industry absorbed a thousand new Negroes annually. The trade with Great Britain alone amounted to about £160,000 sterling annually. There were only about twenty small vessels owned in South Carolina, some built here and some bought in New England.

Pirates Before 1716. --South Carolina lay between two of the chief pirate haunts--the West Indies and the North Carolina inlets. The naval wars of the period filled the sea with freebooters. The character of the privateers authorized to prey upon enemy commerce is indicated by the common use then of the words privateer and pirate as synonymous. In the New World, where mutual fears and hates continued little abated during the intervals of official peace, the change was easy from the privateer receiving his pay by plundering the enemy in war to the

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