Previously, Hunter Wallace has written about the founding of the British Caribbean and its off-shoot on the North American mainland in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. Matthew Mulcahy’s Hubs of Empire: The Southeastern Lowcountry and British Caribbean provided details on the worldview of the British settlers of this region and how they differed starkly from the religious dissenters who established New England as a theological society to be a “shining city on a hill” to the world.
In Peter H. Wood’s Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina From 1670 Through the Stono Rebellion we find out more about the settlers of Barbados, the first true British plantation society in the New World, and what drove them to leave their densely populated and prosperous island and spread their system throughout the Greater Caribbean.
Wood explains that small White farmers were slowly squeezed off the land, pushed out by larger plantations. The island’s government actually attempted to halt this process, setting legal limits on the expansion of plantations. But the economic forces of the highly refined plantation system, combined with “An onslaught of crop failures, epidemics, fires, and hurricanes during the 1660s and 1670s damaged the colony’s precarious economic and social well-being.” Woods writes:
These natural devastations, when combined with land scarcity, foreign competition, and the disruptions caused by the warfare of European seapowers, affected all elements of the population. Some substantial planters found cause to join and even lead new ventures. Younger sons of established families, for whom no land remained, often took their inheritance in slaves and servants, and boarded ship. Small landholders who had been squeezed from their holdings departed, as did bond-servants who could obtain no property when their terms expired. Political exiles, of whom Barbados had received a large share, joined the exodus after the English Restoration; debtors and criminals were occasionally allowed, even encouraged, to depart. And almost invariably, enslaved Africans were a part of each outgoing contingent.
The author explains that “most had specific destinations in mind.” He writes:
The chosen locations varied with time: Surinam and Jamaica in the 1650s, Antigua and Montserrat in the 1660s, Tobago and the northern mainland in the 1670s. By 1680 Gov. Atkins could write to the Lords of Trade: “People no longer come to Barbados, many having departed to Carolina, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands in hope of settling the land which they cannot obtain here.” 16 Although the fraction of this wider migration that embarked for Carolina was never large, those who traveled to that coast from Barbados—both blacks and whites—were to make up a significant segment of the first permanent colony in that region after 1670. And even during the preceding decade, the activities of a group of Barbadian Adventurers helped lay out the terms under which the Carolina coast would eventually be colonized.
Wood then explains how Barbadian planter John Colleton went to London and “joined with other loyal gentry to seek a royal charter for the American region directly south of Virginia.” He notes that “The Proprietors’ motives were frankly commercial.” They sought to take advantage of migration patterns away from Barbados which were already under way. They came up with a series of incentives meant to lure seasoned White settlers from Barbados to Carolina. Some of these incentives were aimed at wealthy planters while others were targeted at poorer White Barbadians. But the scheme’s essence was the creation on the North American mainland of a British plantation colony based upon the highly successful model of Barbados.