South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LXV
PAST AND PRESENT, 1670-1948

South Carolina's Place in the Empire and the Nation. --Only because the strength of Spain was overtaxed with other enterprises did South Carolina become English. Spain's brief settlement in 1526 far exceeded the trivial touch by France in 1562, and Spain's occupation at Port Royal from 1566 to 1586 might easily have become permanent. South Carolina, whose English settlers seized a strategic location on the American coast and extended their trade to the Mississippi, by holding the southern frontier against the Spanish and the French, exercised an influence on British and later American destiny that is only now coming to be understood. The prompt action often necessary for maintaining this position was made possible largely through the dominance of the province by harles Town. Nowhere was there a more perfect example of the harmony between a town and the surrounding planters. The agriculture of the latter and the trade of the former were the basis of the wealth and power on which were founded a notable culture and political leadership.

The broad divisions of our history have been the British province, the aristocratic republic, and the modern democracy. The provincial period is the most vitally creative, for then were planted the seeds of all our later problems. If we could remake those irretrievable beginnings we could remake our destiny. The middle period is the most characteristic and brilliant, for during this time South Carolina occupied a position of national leadership far beyond her resources of population or wealth and carried to the highest development the noblest qualities of her earlier history. Calhoun, with his eyes blind, as were his contemporaries' generally, to important facts, expressed the ideal in the statement that we could never achieve any greatness except in citizenship. What South Carolina thought on public questions in that period became a matter of highest national moment and was noted throughout the world. South Carolina was the leader of the South, partly because of her brilliant statesmen, but largely also because she had gone furthest in exploiting the benefits and incurring the perils of slavery. She considered that to hold down the Negro was her salvation and thought that slavery alone would avail for that end. That South Carolina's power was so great before 1860 was because the unstable and undeveloped character of

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