Southern History Series: The Stono Rebellion

As we have explained at length, South Carolina was the cultural hearth of the Deep South and it was itself a colony of Barbados. The Barbadian settlers set out to build a Slave Society in South Carolina from the outset in which prosperity was the meaning of “liberty.” Initially, they enslaved the local Indians, but by 1710 blacks had replaced Indians as the workforce on the emerging plantations.

The following excerpt comes from Withrop D. Jordan’s excellent book White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812:

“By contrast, in the Carolinas Negro slavery was deliberately planted and cultivated. In the 1660’s a group of enterprising gentlemen in Barbados, well acquainted with perpetual slavery, proposed removal with some Negroes to the new mainland colony; their agreement with the proprietors in England clearly distinguished between white servants and Negro slaves. Barbadian influence remained strong in South Carolina throughout the seventeenth century. The establishment of slavery in the Carolinas was the more easily accomplished because after 1660 traditional controls over master-servant relations were breaking down rapidly in England itself. Since the state in England was abdicating some of its traditional responsibilities for overseeing the relationship between landlords and tenants at home, it felt little solicitude for the relations between planters and Negroes in far-off plantations. Besides, a good supply of sugar was enough to bury any questions about its production. It was a telling measure of how far this process had advanced in the English-speaking world that the famous Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina (1669) should have granted each freemen of the colony “absolute power and authority over his negro slaves, of what opinion or religion soever.” English civil authorities offered little or no resistance to the growth of this new idea of uncontrolled personal dominion in the colonies; they knew perfectly well what was going on and were inclined to welcome it, for, as the Council for Foreign Plantations exclaimed happily in 1664, “Blacks [are] the most useful appurtenances of a Plantation and perpetual servants.” For their part, the planters demanded that their legislative assemblies regulate Negro slavery, but what they wanted and got was unfettering of their personal power over their slaves and the force of the state to back it up. In the 1690s the South Carolina Assembly borrowed from the already mature slave code of Barbados in an effort to maintain control over the growing masses of slaves. Negroes were given virtually none of the protections accorded white servants, protections which were in fact designed to encourage immigration of white men to counterbalance the influx of Negroes. A requirement that “all slaves shall have convenient clothes, once every year,” the only right accorded slaves by an act of 1690, was dropped in 1696. Perhaps it would have comforted slaves had they known that anyone killing a slave “cruelly or willfully” (death or dismemberment during punishment specifically excepted) was liable to a fine of five hundred pounds. By the end of the seventeenth century the development of rice plantations and the Barbadian example had combined to yield in South Carolina the most rigorous deprivation of freedom to exist in institutionalized form anywhere in the English continental colonies.”

South Carolina wasn’t founded to be anything like New England.

It was a colony of Barbados and a cultural extension of the British West Indies. No one came to South Carolina to create a “Holy Experiment” like in Pennsylvania or a “City on a Hill” like in New England. Instead, the goal was merely to become wealthy through cash crop agriculture. The cultural model of plantation slavery, racialism and white supremacy had also already been pioneered in Barbados. South Carolinians were also Anglicans whereas the Puritans were Congregationalists.

As Winthrop points out, the White men in South Carolina were given absolute power and authority over his negro slaves, of what opinion or religion soever” from the outset. South Carolina was also notable for establishing “the most rigorous deprivation of freedom to exist in institutionalized form anywhere in the English continental colonies.” In other words, the founders of South Carolina created an authoritarian society much like the one they left behind in the British West Indies.

Here’s an excerpt from Jack Bass and W. Scott Poole’s book The Palmetto State: The Making of Modern South Carolina:

“South Carolina developed as the only English colony in North America where slavery had been entrenched from the very beginning. Although the earlier colonists of Virginia had first experimented with slavery early in the seventeenth century, it was the hard- and high-living English planters on the Caribbean island of Barbados who perfected the oppressive system of chattel slavery in the 1630s. Their system became the model for the Carolina settlement, and sons of Barbadian planter families – seeking new lands and new staple crops – became a significant part of the original Charles Town settlement.

Locke had written his document of governance for his patron, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury, who emerged as the leader of the colonization effort as one of eight entrepreneurial English aristocrats. Known as the Lord Proprietors, all had loyally supported Charles II in his days of war and exile. As a reward after the Restoration, Charles gave them a grant of land that would be named “Carolina” after “Carolus,” the Latin version of his name …

Most of the Lords Proprietors already had strong Caribbean connections. Ashley Cooper, in addition to a Caribbean plantation, also held a financial interest in the Royal Africa Company, the major English financial concern involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Moreover some of South Carolina’s most prominent families, including the Draytons and the Middletons, can trace their lineage directly to Barbadian settlers. The first Africans in the colony had been slaves in Barbados. Some historians refer to South Carolina as “the colony of a colony” because of the strong Barbadian influence. Barbadian architectural influence is also found in Charleston, especially the single houses – a single room wide with their downstairs and upstairs piazzas, or porches, to catch the breezes.”

The Cooper River and Ashley River in South Carolina which empty into Charleston Harbor are both named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, who was one of the Lords Proprietors of South Carolina. As the founder of the Whig Party, Cooper was the patron of John Locke and was himself one of the most important figures in English politics in his day.

Today, we can trace the origins of American liberalism back to Anthony Ashley Cooper and John Locke and the Whig Party in the aftermath of the Restoration in England, but in their time Locke wrote a draft of the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina which established racialism, white supremacy and plantation slavery in the colony. Both Cooper and Locke were investors in the Royal Africa Company which dominated the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century and Cooper was also the owner of a slave plantation in Barbados. Interestingly enough, Carolina was named after King Charles II who was strongly supported by Cooper, but Locke’s propaganda was later used to justify the overthrow of his brother King James II in the Glorious Revolution which brought about the end of the Stuart dynasty.

Over the course of the next several decades, rice plantations were developed in the South Carolina Lowcountry which were dominated by black slaves who had replaced Indians in the workforce. In 1739, the worst slave rebellion in colonial America broke out in South Carolina.

Bass and Poole continue:

“In September 1739 resistance reached its apex with the Stono Rebellion. A group of about twenty African slaves seized weapons near the western branch of the Stono River south of Charleston and began a march they hoped would take them to the safety of Florida. As their numbers grew, the Africans made no attempt to hide themselves. Martial tunes played on captured fife and drums joined with shouts of “Liberty!”

Leaving a swath of destruction and violence in their wake, the Africans burned and plundered plantations, taverns, and shops. Whites were killed with little regard for age or gender, but at least two were spared because of their reputation for kindness to slaves.

In a dramatic moment the carriage of Lieutenant Governor William Bull crossed paths with the insurrectionists. Bull ordered his driver to get him back to Charleston posthaste, where he called out all available white militia. The white militia and the rebels fought a pitched battle near Jacksonborough, between Charleston and Beaufort. The better-armed and better-trained militia defeated and captured many of the slaves. Roughly forty whites and sixty blacks died in the melee. Others escaped in groups into the woods, where they continued to harass outlying white settlements for many months.

White response to the rebellion proved swift and brutal. Travelers on the Old Post Road between Charleston and Beaufort (U.S. Highway 17 essentially follows this route today) would have seen the heads of the rebels placed on pikes up and down the route.

Many scholars view the Stono Rebellion as a significant turning point in South Carolina’s history. The “Negro Act” of 1740 significantly narrowed the lives of African slaves while encouraging white planters to follow a policy that combined paternalism and repression. This method of control characterized white supremacy in South Carolina into the mid-twentieth century.”

In the Stono Rebellion, black slaves rose up and killed their White masters in the name of “Liberty,” and the Whites responded to their appeal to natural rights by killing them and mounting the heads of the rebels on pikes on the Old Post Road between Charleston and Beaufort.

How did the American Revolution come about in South Carolina? Why would a Slave Society declare its independence from the British Empire in the name of liberty and natural rights? What motivated South Carolina to ratify the United States Constitution and join the Union? This is one of the most fascinating topics in Southern history and it is one we will be exploring in depth shortly.

About Hunter Wallace 9331 Articles
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8 Comments

  1. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels…

  2. It’s kinda horrible reading about this stuff … it wasn’t only in the South, slave rebels were burned alive in New York in the 1700s, as I recall … part of the background to the no ‘cruel or unusual punishments’ clause of the USA Constitution

    The conclusion of many people reading this – many euro-heritage whites included – would be that white culture has historical, fatal flaws, given it is barely emerging from the enslavement nexus, with economic etc imperialism being just more enslavement in a new format

    Something rarely highlighted due to the long pro-Western or pre-Hebraic history writing, is that the ancient cultures of India and Persia were essentially anti-slave, with slavery being unknown in many Asian areas even thousands of years ago … Slavery is Western & Semitic, whereas a good part of Asia was in ancient times a higher & gentler culture

    In other words, re the great Persian-Greek battles of ancient times … one can think the wrong side triumphed, the slave-owning Greeks versus the anti-slave Persians

    The Cyrus Cylinder document of 2500 years ago, essentially declared freedom of religion and the goal of ending slavery throughout the Persian empire

    In ancient India slavery was largely not there … and in the early forms of the caste system, it seems it was much milder, there was mobility between castes, there weren’t ‘untouchables’ and so on … what we know today as the caste system is something hardened under the 1000 years of slave-mentality, Abrahamic, Muslim-Christian occupation of India, e.g., the British enshrining and worsening some more organic social divisions

    If India’s great ancient civilisation could have existed without slavery – and even abolishing the death penalty across much of Asia, millennia ago! – plus developed the great yogic meditation etc traditions barely known to crude Westerners –

    Maybe the West needs to be humble … Not to say that European heritage people need to submit to cultural destruction … but maybe need to recognise that the slavery-conquest model was an evil one, even tho a ‘successful’ one … European talents just made enslavements more ‘productive’ than when it was practiced by Arabs or Africans

    • Brabantian,

      According to Wikipedia slavery was very common and widely practiced in ancient India and Persia. The Mongols and the Chinese enslaved millions of people. The practice of slavery waxed and waned in Chinese history lingering on until the 20th century. The Chinese seemed to especially love fair skinned Korean women as slaves.

      Slavery is not limited to western/semitics. The untouchable class was formed in 400A.D. according to a quick yahoo search on Untouchables. It was as struggle between Brahmans and Buddhists. It had nothing to do with Christianity or Islam. There are currently 200 million untouchables in India according to a Wikipedia resource.

      I also disagree with you on the death penalty. I strongly support the death penalty.

      Slavery was practiced by the nomads of Asia though generally not internally since evidently an economic surplus and development is generally needed for slavery. So the nomads just sold their captured slaves to more advanced peoples.

      The right side between Greeks and Persians won those wars. The Persians were attacking the Greeks. They also enslaved Greeks who resisted and threatened to enslave others.

      The Cyrus Cylinder did not abolish slavery. The research said such a false claim has been circulation on the internet but is so full of translation and historical errors that no scholar takes seriously. The false translation of the Cylinder also claimed minimum wage, asylum rights, and self determination. All obvious modern ploys. It also falsely refers to the Zoroastrian divinity instead of the Babylonian divinity.

    • Brabantian,

      I might add that Indians in the New World also practiced slavery long before they knew what a white man was. Of course black Africans did as well. I will say that the Arabs and Europeans made it worse before it was abolished due to European type peoples.

      Bernard Lewis in his 1994 Oxford University Press book on slavery found that slavery has been practiced in all the ancient civilizations of the world. That traditionally not only Christianity, Judaism, and Islam endorsed it but many other religions as well.

      As an aside he even easily destroys the often misquoted part in scripture where it is mentioned that there is ” no Jew, No Greek, no slave, no female/male etc. to quite clearly mean that human differences such as ethnic, gender etc. are important and exist but that sanctifying grace and salvation are available to all.

      I do agree that the middle eastern religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have defended the institution very strongly. This includes the New Testament as well.

    • Brabantian,

      I did not see anything to convince me of a kinder, gentler ancient India. In punishments and tortures of ancient India the following practices occurred:

      Written in the 4°century BC by Kautilya, minister of the king Candragupta Maurya, the “Arthashastra” is a treatise on the art of ruling and one of the main indian book ever written. It recommends : cutting off the right hand for pickpocketing or theft; cutting off the nose for theft; cutting off one hand for false dice player; cutting off the nose and ears for abetting in theft and adultery; chopping off one hand and leg for kicking preceptors and using royal coaches; blinding by poisonous ointments for sudras pretending to be brahmins or for slandering the king; chopping off one hand or foot for freeing culprits, forgery or sale of human flesh; cutting off the tongue for slandering preceptors, parents and the king and for defiling a brahmin’s kitchen. There were also different forms of death : death with torture for murder in a quarrel; death by impaling for theft of royal animals; death by burning hands and skin for treason; death by drowning for breaching dams or reservoirs, for poisoning or for women who administered poison; death by tearing off the limbs of criminals, for women who administered poison or set fire to houses; death by burning for incendiarism. There were also offences for which the culprit was killed without any torture being applied. Moreover, reduction to slavery was inflicted on men and women in cases of adultery,…

      Christina conclusion: I could go on and on with information and facts but I am tiring of this.

    • Brabantian, the Africans were the source of the slaves — of whom they kept 80% for themselves. The ones sold to the Europeans were the roughly 1/5th excess that the murderous tribal despotisms of Africa didn’t want.

      In short, you’re a typical leftist clown, moron, buffoon, and traitor, who makes the image of a Sacred Brown Angel to bow down to, when in fact the browns were and are a thousand times more steeped in any loathsomeness than any Europeans who ever lived.

      Fuck off to Africa and trouble us no more with your detestable, ignorant, stupid whining, you sawed-off, White-hating midget.

    • Brabantian,

      I could not resist one last (I hope) piece of information. I looked up what I could find on the death penalty in ancient India. It was the rule not the exception. One common way of Indian execution was by elephants crushing criminals. It was a practice that lasted well in to the 19th century. It was abolished by the European powers.

  3. “South Carolina wasn’t founded to be anything like New England.

    It was a colony of Barbados and a cultural extension of the British West Indies. No one came to South Carolina to create a “Holy Experiment” like in Pennsylvania or a “City on a Hill” like in New England. ”

    Exactly what they taught us in elementary school.

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