South Carolina: Proprietary Colony

Louis C. Kleber traces the early settlement of the Palmetto State.

When Charles in landed at Dover in May, 1660, the restoration of the monarchy put some new life into the doctrine of the divine right of Kings. Although Charles exercised this prerogative with measurably greater intelligence and reserve than his father, it was to have a far-reaching effect on the American colonies.

Charles was to hand out great regions of land under Royal Grants, including a vast area to the south of Virginia, named in his father’s honour, Carolina. Its division into north and south came later.

Carolina had been given away before. In 1629, Charles I granted the province of ‘Carolana’ to Sir Robert Heath, an English Judge of royalist persuasion, much to the dismay of George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, who had designs on it as a Catholic refuge. Baltimore’s disappointment can be appreciated in view of the grant’s size; it encompassed the 36th to 31st parallels of latitude and stretched westward into the unexplored wilderness. Three years later, Heath assigned it to Henry Howard, then Lord Maltravers and later Earl of Arundel. Although Arundel actually laid and promoted plans for settlement, we do not know if he succeeded in sending colonists.

In any event, a permanent colony was not established and the claim languished. Another early attempt was initiated by Samuel Vassall, London merchant, Huguenot expatriate and a Parliamentarian during the English civil wars. Having heard of Huguenot plans for settling in Carolina, he interested fellow merchants in the trading possibilities.

Then he obtained land rights from Heath on the assurance that profits would be shared while the risks would be taken by Vassall’s merchants. But as with Arundel, his plans also failed to materialize and Carolina remained unsettled.

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