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British colonies in the south focused on the production of cash crops like tobacco and sugar which resulted in large populations of enslaved Africans in these colonies as well as social stratification between wealthy white plantation owners and poor white and black laborers.
See the fact file below for more information on the Southern Colonies or alternatively, you can download our 30-page Southern Colonies worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- In the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, the British government instituted the Southern Colonies in North America. At the time, it was constituted by the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, the Province of Carolina, and the Province of Georgia.
- The colonies were primarily founded to contend in the race for colonies during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. They eventually boomed into flourishing colonies that acquired large profits from growing cash crops such as tobacco, indigo dye, and rice.
- The English Colony of Virginia in North America existed briefly during the 16th century and then continuously from 1607 until the American Revolution.
- The territory was originally long inhabited by American Indian tribes including Algonquian Chesepian, Chickahominy, Doeg, Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Pohick, Powhatan, Rappahannock, Siouan Monacan, Saponi, Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee, Meherrin, Nottoway, and Tuscarora.
- As King James took on the throne following Queen Elizabeth I’s passing in 1603, he granted proprietary agreements to competitors Plymouth Company and London Company to organize expeditions to establish settlements within the area of their rights.
- The London Company sent its campaign in December of 1606 and arrived at Chesapeake Bay, an event which has come to be known as the “First Landing”.
- The first English colony in the New World was founded in 1607 at Jamestown, an island strategic for defense against foreign ships. However, the area’s low, marshy terrain was found uninhabitable – it lacked potable water, was unsuitable for hunting, and had inadequate space for farming – which the colonists were not prepared for.
- The survival of Jamestown relied on regular rations from England and trade with American Indians. Conflicts with native settlers and hunger almost destroyed Jamestown.
- In addition, epidemics such as smallpox and measles, to which the population had no natural immunity, caused many deaths. Surviving members of most tribes assimilated into the general population of the newly founded colony.
- Economy in the Virginia Colony
- In 1608, explorer John Smith arrived in Virginia and introduced an ultimatum to the settlers of Jamestown, stating that those who did not work would not receive food or pay.
- Smith’s endeavor to improve the territory’s conditions succeeded as colonists began to learn how to grow crops and conduct business with neighboring Indians with whom Smith had settled prior conflicts.
- Problems continued to fret the Colony’s economy as gold was never found in the area, and efforts to establish profitable industries had all failed until John Rolfe introduced two foreign breeds of tobacco which had been successfully cultivated and exported by 1612, making it a cash crop that founded Virginia’s economic viability.
- The growth of the tobacco industry had also increased the number of slaves, along with a number of European indentured servants who helped in its expansion.
- The first representative assembly in America convened in a Jamestown church in 1619, which became known as the House of Burgesses.
- Concurrently, Virginia was declared a “crown colony”, transferring the charter from the Virginia Company to the Crown of England, therefore making Jamestown a colony run by the English monarchy.
- While the House of Burgesses was still allowed to run the government, the King nevertheless appointed a royal governor to settle conflicts and enforce certain British policies in Jamestown.
- The House of Burgesses enacted individual land ownership and divided the colony into four large districts.
- King James revoked the Virginia Company’s charter in 1624, making Virginia a royal colony. It continued to grow despite some setbacks, and later on became the wealthiest and most populated British colony in North America.
- Elite farmers dominated the territory and would later play a major role in the fight for independence and the development of democratic-republican ideals of the United States.
- The Colony of Virginia declared its independence from Great Britain in 1775, and became known as the Commonwealth of Virginia. Later on it became a state on June 25, 1788.
- The former territory of the Colony was eventually divided into several other states after the United States was formed, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, former Western Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
- Slavery, which was very rampant in the Colony, was finally abolished in 1865, at the end of the American Civil War.
- The Province of Maryland existed from 1632 until 1776, when it joined the other 12 North American colonies in dissent against Great Britain and became the state of Maryland.
- The Province’s foundational charter instituted a state governed by Englishman Cecilius Calvert, known as Lord Baltimore, who directly owned the land as a proprietary colony.
- Lord Baltimore possessed such absolute authority over the territory that the colonists were mandated to profess allegiance to him rather than to the King of England.
- Furthermore, the charter established an aristocracy of lords of the manor who acquired land from Baltimore and held greater legal and social privileges than common settlers.
- Religious Sanctuary
- Lord Baltimore considered the Province of Maryland as a sanctuary for English Roman Catholics, who were then considered a persecuted minority, to prove that Catholics and Protestants could live together harmoniously.
- As an aristocratic landowner and proprietor, he had also hoped to turn his New World territory into a financial venture, persuading Catholic aristocrats and Protestant settlers in Maryland with generous land grants and a policy of religious toleration.
- The Province passed the Maryland Toleration Act in 1649, known as the Act Concerning Religion which ordered religious tolerance for Christians. Enacted by the assembly of the Maryland colony, it was the first law mandating religious tolerance in the British North American colonies.
- Although the Province of Maryland was a pioneer of religious forbearance in the English colonies, religious disputes still existed among Anglicans, Puritans, Catholics, and Quakers in the early years.
- In 1869, the Protestant Revolution sparked when the Puritans, who were then a significant majority, resisted against the proprietary government due to the overt preferment of Catholics to official positions of authority.
- As a result, the Puritans founded a new government that prohibited Catholicism and denied Catholics of all official positions.
- It was not until the American Revolution that full religious toleration was restored in Maryland.
- Economy in Colonial Maryland
- Most British colonizer-settlers in 17th century Maryland lived through unpleasant conditions on small family-owned farms, growing a variety of fruits, vegetables, livestock, and tobacco, the cash crop which soon dominated the province’s economy.
- Tobacco was sometimes used as currency, obliging the colonial lawmaking body to pass a law mandating tobacco farmers to raise a certain amount of corn as well, in order to ensure food production and avoid shortage and starvation among colonists.
- The desire to increase profits from growing tobacco soon led to the need for cheap labor which then resulted in a rapid expansion of indentured servitude and later, forcible immigration and enslavement of Africans. In 1664, the Maryland assembly put into law a “black code” which declared every African to be a slave for life by virtue of their color.
- The Province of Carolina was originally chartered in 1629. In 1663, Charles II of England granted the Province to 8 of his men for their faithfulness and support of his efforts to reclaim the throne. These Lords Proprietors assumed power over the Carolina territories from 1663 to 1729.
- The authority in the Carolinas resided in the Lords Proprietors, operating under their royal charter with nearly the autonomy of the King.
- Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper drafted a plan for government, Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, with the help of his secretary and philosopher John Locke.
- The Province of Carolina’s actual government consisted of a governor, a powerful council with members appointed by the Lords Proprietors, and a relatively weak, popularly elected assembly.
- The first English settlement in the Carolina territories was established in 1653, when emigrants from the Virginia Colony settled on the coast of Albemarle Sound in the northeastern corner of present-day North Carolina.
- In 1665, Sir John Yeamans, an English colonial administrator, established a second permanent settlement on the Cape Fear River, near present-day Wilmington, North Carolina, which he named Clarendon.
- Another territory, near present-day Charleston, South Carolina, was settled under the Lords Proprietors in 1670. Having the advantages of a natural harbor, the Charles Town settlement established trade with the West Indies, and progressed more rapidly than the Albemarle and Cape Fear settlements.
- Economy in the Carolinas
- As the Charlestown settlement expanded, it started to yield livestock for transport to the West Indies. Settlers in the southern part of the Province of Carolina generated rice and indigo, while those in the northern part produced turpentine and tar, and later on tobacco, as settlers from the Virginia colony moved to the province to expand their resources.
- Identical to other southern colonies, slavery had increased rapidly in the Carolinas in response to the growing agricultural industry. By 1715, the population in the southern part of Carolina comprised mainly of black settlers brought about by influx of slaves in the colony.
- It was in the early 1700s that the legal basis for slavery was passed in the Carolinas which reduced Africans to property status that can be bought and sold as other commodities. These laws were based on the slave codes of Barbados of the late 1600s, where slavery was well-established.
- Separation of the Colony
- The Charlestown settlement, later known as Charleston, was the principal seat of government for the entire province. However, because of their distance from each other, the northern and southern regions of the colony operated more or less independently until 1691, when a revolt over the governance of the province led to the appointment of a deputy governor to rule over the northern half.
- This crisis, coupled with aggressions with American Indian tribes and the inability of the Lords Proprietors to act decisively, led to the creation of separate governments for the two regions, which became known as North and South Carolina. The division became complete in 1712, but both governments remained in the hands of the same group of proprietors.
- In 1719, another uprising against the proprietors broke out which led to the appointment of a royal governor for South Carolina in 1720.
- After nearly a decade, in which the British government sought to locate and buy out the proprietors, both North and South Carolina became royal colonies in 1729 when seven of the Lords Proprietors sold their interests in Carolina to the Crown.
- The Province of Georgia or Georgia Colony was the last of the 13 original colonies established by Great Britain in North America.
- George II, for whom the territory was named, granted the colony’s corporate charter to British Parliament member General James Oglethorpe in 1732. A prior grant to three Montgomery brothers was forfeited when they failed to establish a permanent colony, mainly as a result of disease in the area they chose to settle and develop.
- In 1733, Oglethorpe established the Georgia Colony as a response to a couple of problems. At the time, conflict between Spain and Great Britain was high, and the British feared that Spanish-ruled Florida was threatening the British Carolinas.
- Oglethorpe thought that the Colony would act as a “buffer state” or a “garrison province” that would defend the southern part of the British colonies from Spanish Florida.
- He further imagined a province settled by “sturdy farmers” that could defend the border and, because of this, the colony’s charter prohibited slavery.
- In addition, General Oglethorpe sought to establish a colony in the contested border region of Georgia and inhabit it with debtors who would otherwise have been imprisoned according to standard British practice.
In 1755, Georgia officially ceased to be a trustee colony and became a crown colony.
- Debtors in Georgia
- General Oglethorpe and a group of charitable investors asked for King George’s permission to create a utopian experiment for English citizens imprisoned for debt.
- With this proposal, England’s prison population could be decreased, and thousands of individuals could be given a new chance at life. Here, the settlers would have to conform to Oglethorpe’s plan provided for a utopia: “an agrarian model of sustenance while sustaining egalitarian values holding all men as equal.
- Three laws were established to govern the colony: the first dealt with land distribution; the second provided that no slavery was permitted; and third, the prohibition of alcohol possession and consumption.
- To encourage industry, Oglethorpe granted each male immigrant 50 acres of land to farm and a year’s worth of supplies. Silkworms were also imported from Europe with the hope of developing a silk industry in Georgia’s native mulberry trees.
- Unfortunately, Oglethorpe’s plan was a miserable failure as the colony’s settlers complained that some were given fertile land while others were forced to work with uncooperative soil. And since they could not buy or sell land, they felt trapped.
- The mulberry tree plan also failed because the trees in Georgia were the wrong type for cultivating silk. The alcohol ban was evidently disregarded, and cries to permit slavery followed as the citizens of Georgia envied the prosperity of their neighboring colonies.
- Eventually, many settlers fled for the Carolinas which made King George revoke the charter in 1752. In 1755, Georgia officially ceased to be a trustee colony and became a crown colony.
Southern Colonies Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Southern Colonies across 30 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Southern Colonies worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the British colonies in the south which focused on the production of cash crops like tobacco and sugar which resulted in large populations of enslaved Africans in these colonies as well as social stratification between wealthy white plantation owners and poor white and black laborers.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Colonial Census
- A Day in the Life
- Colonial Mapping
- Southern Pop Quiz
- The 13 Colonies
- Same But Different
- Lord Proprietors
- Stop, Think, Sketch
- Colonial Time Machine
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Link will appear as Southern Colonies Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 5, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.