Here are some excerpts from David Brion Davis’ Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World which reiterate the narrative we have argued here all summer that the Deep South is a cultural branch of the British West Indies.
You won’t find this story taught in a single public school in the United States. Few college graduates are even aware of this. The South is the deviant region in America because it is a cultural extension of the race-based plantation societies of the British Caribbean:
“Given the way history is taught, few educated Americans realize that when the English were beginning to grow tobacco in Jamestown and Pilgrims were imposing order at Plymouth by cutting down a Maypole, other Englishmen were beginning to settle in St. Christopher (St. Kitts) (1624), Barbados (1627), Nevis (1628), and Montserrat and Antigua (1630s). They were closely followed by the French, who actually joined the English on St. Christopher in a surprise night attack on native Indians. The French proved more willing than the English to combat and push back the fierce Carib Indians on Guadeloupe and Martinique, though they took somewhat longer to turn to sugar. By 1655 England was ruled by Oliver Cromwell, who sent a large army to join pirates in seizing Jamaica from the Spaniards. A few years later the French occupied the western third of Santo Domingo, now named Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) Cromwell’s expedition had tried but failed to capture any part of Santo Domingo.”
The story of the Deep South begins in St. Kitts, Barbados, the Leeward Islands, and continues with the conquest of Jamaica in 1655, and the development of these British colonies into slave societies between the 1640s and 1690s:
“Barbados led the way in this economic and dietary revolution, and the first momentous change occurred in only three yesrs, from 1640 to 1643. There is a profound historical irony, or some might say evidence of God’s design, in the fact that the birth of Britain’s slave plantation economy in the West Indies coincided in time with Britain’s domestic civil war of the 1640s, in which radical religious groups challenged all forms of oppression and privilege, including private property, and established the the theological foundation for the much later antislavery movements.”
He’s referring to the Yankee Puritans and the Quakers here and “God’s design” that we ended up chained to these people in the Union:
“The population of Barbardos still included some 20,000 whites, more than any British-American colony except Virginia and Massachusetts. But the small planter elite, in the words of historian Richard S. Dunn, “held the best land, sold the most sugar, and monopolized the best offices. In only one generation the planters had turned their small island into an amazingly effective sugar-production machine and had built a social structure to rival the tradition-encrusted hierarchy of old England.”
Barbados became the cultural hearth of the British West Indies:
“Nevis, St. Christopher, Antigua, and other Leeward Islands to the north followed a similar pattern to that of Barbados, as did Jamaica, somewhat belatedly, a thousand miles to the west. Through the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries an increasing number of plantation owners became “absentees,” living and spending in Britain, where a few Barbados planters were knighted or received baronetcies… Still, one should add that despite significant white emigration from Barbados to North America, where Barbadians played a decisive role in founding South Carolina in 1679-80, that island had fewer absentee planters than any of the other British West Indian colonies.”
In a cultural event that was just as significant as the arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in Massachusetts, the islanders arrived on the Carolina in South Carolina and in subsequent waves:
“In the third distinct region, the Carolina and Georgia lowcountry, plantations modeled on the Caribbean prospered by producing rice and, for a briefer period, indigo, for the dying of textiles. By the late eighteenth century many planters turned to high grade “Sea Island” cotton along the coast. Then the perfection of the cotton gin gave a tremendous stimulus to the cultivation of short-staple cotton, which revolutionized the British and American textile industries and eventually spread westward from inland Georgia and South Carolina to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas.”
The cotton gin allowed the culture of the South Carolina and Georgia lowcountry to explode westward creating slave societies in the Cotton Kingdom around the Gulf Coast.
“To turn, then, to the history of the colonies north of the Chesapeake should first observe that no British founders of North American colonies, except for South Carolina, intended to create slave societies …
The far more conservative culture of the Deep South centered in South Carolina, which by 1690 had been partly settled by whites and black slaves from Barbados and in that year instituted a slave code adapted from Barbados.”
1690 was late in the game.
The South Carolina colonists transplanted the culture (the Barbados slave code) and economic system of the West Indies (race-based plantation slavery) to the North American mainland.
Note: Virginia would increasingly adopt the Barbados model of African slavery in the Chesapeake during the 1670s and 1680s and it would spread to Georgia in the 1750s and 1760s.