During the early to mid 1700s South Carolina receieved lots of horrifying news of racial violence and slave uprisings in the Caribbean. Carolinians were already concerned about the alarming number of Blacks in their colony and the precarious situation for White families in the rice growing areas, in particular. It is evident from newspaper reports and other writings from the time that they developed a sense of racial solidarity with Whites of French, Spanish and other European backgrounds as they struggled in racial conflict in the Americas and Africa.
Racial consciousness continued to strengthen throughout this period as more laws were passed to regulate the activity of Blacks in Charleston and specifically limit their economic competition with poor Whites – which would have hurt efforts to recruit more Europeans into the colony. Licenses were created for various Negro economic pursuits, such as fishing. The money raised went directly to the defense of the town. Dr. Peter Wood in his book Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (1974) writes:
The owners of slaves sent out as carters and porters paid a weekly sum for the privilege, and every Negro fisherman was charged £5 per annum for a license. Each received a numbered badge for identification, and the fees were used in support of the town watch. At the same time pressure mounted against the participation of slaves in a variety of skilled crafts. The Negro Act of 1735 imposed a fine of £50 upon any master who allowed slaves to maintain any “houses of entertainment or trade,” whether in their own names or under his protection, and two years later a protest was issued against the “too common Practice” of barbers, many of whom were Negroes, shaving customers on Sundays. During the reappraisals which followed in the wake of the Stono Uprising, a “Committee appointed to consider the most effectual Measures to bring into this Province white Persons to increase our Strength and Security” reported to the Assembly “that a great Number of Negroes are brought up to and daily employed in mechanic Trades both in Town and Country.” The committee recommended a statute “prohibiting the bringing up [of] Negroes and other Slaves to mechanic Trades in which white Persons usually are employed,” but a formal prohibition was not enacted until 1755 and appears never to have been totally enforced. As suggested in the previous chapter, pressures exerted against Negroes in the trades were paralleled by efforts to curb Negro involvement in the commerce of the province.
Dr. Wood also writes that efforts were increasingly made to separate by race various jobs that had previously been done by Whites and Blacks. Trash collection, for example, was set aside for Negro slaves. This meant that working class Whites didn’t have to directly compete with Black slaves for jobs. As we have seen from previous posts in this series, the colony had already started to strongly discourage freed Blacks from settling in Carolina. Another practical benefit of these measures was that they limited the circumstances in which miscegenation might arise.
We can see from actions taken by the colonial regime that the era in question was one in which White racial consciousness continued to organically strengthen. Also evident was the patriarchal spirit of the plantation culture and an emphasis on providing a demographic future and maintaining indefinite White political control of the colony.