South Carolina History - Natural Resources Led to Economic Prosperity in South Carolina

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South Carolinians uniquely used their natural, human and political resources to gain economic prosperity, due to trading with the people of Barbados and the practice of mercantilism.

South Carolina had a large population of deer, for example, that were hunted for their skins and meat.  South Carolina also had a large number of pines which could be harvested for timber.  The colony's best natural resource, however, was its fertile land and mild climate combined with a long growing season.

The port at Charleston—and waterways that were easy to navigate from the coast into the interior—made it easy to ship goods to various markets.  The geographic conditions in the Lowcountry made it a perfect place to plant rice. 

In the beginning, the traders got along well with the Native Americans due to a thriving trade market which benefitted both sides.  The traders exchanged beads, trinkets, guns and alcohol for furs and deerskins from the Native Americans.  When settlers started forcing Native Americans into slavery, however, the trade exchange ended. 

Since many early settlers in Carolina came from Barbados with their slaves, a thriving trade network was easy to establish due to previous ties to that country. South Carolina sold:  cattle, Native Americans as slaves, and pine trees for their pitch and tar (naval stores), which was used to make ships watertight.  South Carolina produced more naval stores for the British Empire than any other colony, which brought in around $6.4 million in 1710. (That sum roughly equates to $220,380,519 in 2015.)

Slaves, from Barbados and Africa, brought their knowledge of growing rice and cattle herding. Dr. Henry Woodward is credited with bringing rice to South Carolina.  The geographic conditions, of the lowcountry, were perfect for growing rice.  As a result, rice soon became the major cash crop of South Carolina.  It became known as "Carolina Gold." 

In 1720, about six million pounds of rice were being exported; ten years later it was around seventeen million pounds and then—during later years—it was thirty million pounds being exported.  The swamps of Carolina were considered the "Gold Mines" of South Carolina due to rice.  Production went as high as sixty-six million pounds before the Revolutionary War.  Rice was a staple crop and led to increasing prosperity for South Carolina. 

The other crop which became highly successful in Carolina was indigo.  Eliza Lucas Pinckney was born in Antigua and moved with her family to Charleston.  She planted indigo because she wanted her family plantation to be successful.  The British government offered a subsidy to anyone who could grow it.  She experimented with the different strands of the plant and created a very successful indigo plant. Due to her success, and sharing the information with others, the export rate for indigo in 1745-1746  went from only only 5,000 pounds to over 130,000 pounds of exported indigo two years later.

Political factors also contributed to the success of South Carolina.  England, through the economic system of mercantilism, controlled trade so that England could export more goods than it imported. By controlling the trade, England was able to make large sums of money and become more wealthy and powerful.   South Carolina was both a source of raw materials and also a market for British manufactured goods.  This allowed England to become less dependent on foreign trade with countries such as China and improved the balance of trade in favor of England. 

By English law, rice and Indigo were to be sold only to England and this gave South Carolina a huge market for their goods produced.  However, the British government did not enforce this law, thereby opening the marketplace for rice. South Carolina benefited greatly from having a secure market in England and a wider market in the world which increased the economic profit in South Carolina. 

Original Release: Jun 27, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Dec 15, 2016

1) Unknown, Mercantilism, New World Encyclopedia, Apr/03/2009, Jun/09/2015, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mercantilism
2) Unknown, South Carolina Lowcountry, CoastalGuide, Jun/09/2015, Jun/09/2015, http://www.lowcountry-sc.com/
3) Unknown, Barbados and the Carolinas Legacy Foundation, Barbados and the Carolinas Legacy Foundation, Jun/09/2015, Jun/09/2015, http://www.barbadoscarolinas.org/about/foundation
4) Unknown, A SHORT HISTORY OF FOREST INDUSTRY IN SOUTH CAROLINA , South Carolina Foresty Service, Dec/31/1969, Jun/09/2015, http://www.state.sc.us/forest/scindust.htm
5) Edgar, Walter, South Carolina A History, none, Jun/09/1998, Jun/09/2015, none
6) Unknown, he History of U.S. Rice Production - Part 1, LSUAgCenter.com, Jun/09/2015, Jun/09/2015, http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/our_offices/research_stations/Rice/Features/Publications/The+History+of+US+Rice+Production++Part+1.htm
7) Unknown, Rice History, Carolina Plantation Rice, Jun/09/2015, Jun/09/2015, http://www.carolinaplantationrice.com/history
8) Bois, Danuta, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, http://distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/pinckney.html, Jun/09/1998, Jun/09/2015, http://distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/pinckney.html
9) Unknown, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, Encyclopedia.com, Jun/09/2015, Jun/09/2015, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Eliza_Lucas_Pinckney.aspx
10) unknown, South Carolina Dept of Education, http://ed.sc.gov/agency/ccr/Standards-Learning/documents/Grade8SupportDocument.pdf, Jun/09/2015, Jun/09/2015, http://ed.sc.gov/agency/ccr/Standards-Learning/documents/Grade8SupportDocument.pdf

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