Proprietary Government, Ramsay's History pp 14-19 - Steven J. Coker
Subject: Proprietary Government, Ramsay's History pp 14-19
From: Steven J. Coker
Date: July 23, 1998

"To the Youth of Carolina, whose ancestors, collected from various nations of
the old world, have coalesced into one in the new, and who, after two
revolutions, in less than one century, having acquired liberty and
independence, made a prudent use of these inestimable blessings, by
establishing, on the basis of reason and the rights of man, a solid,
efficient, and well balanced government, whose object is public good, whose
end is public happiness, by which industry has been encouraged, agriculture
extended, literature cherished, religion protected, and justice cheaply and
conveniently administered to a rapidly increasing population.  In hopes that
the descendants of such sires will learn, from their example to love their
country and cherish its interests, the following history is affectionately
dedicated by the Author."

by David Ramsay, M.D. 
Preface dated "Charleston, December 31st, 1808"
Published in 1858, by W.J. Duffie, Newberry, S.C.  
Reprinted in 1959, by The Reprint Company, Spartanburg, S.C.   
Volume I, CHAPTER II, pp 14-19

Proprietary Government, from its Commencement in 1670, till its Abolition in

In the course of the 130 years in which South Carolina increased from a
handful of adventurers to 345,591 inhabitants, the government was changed,
first from proprietary to regal; and, secondly, from regal to representative.
The first continued forty-nine years, the second fifty-seven; and the third,
after a lapse of thirty-two years, is now in the bloom and vigor of youth,
promising a long duration.

Near the end of the fifteenth century, the King of England, according to
currently received opinions, obtained a property in the soil of North America,
From the circumstance that Cabot, one of his subjects, was the first Christian
who sailed along the coast. Property thus easily acquired, was with equal
facility given away. Charles the Second, soon after his restoration to the
throne of his ancestors, granted to Edward, Earl of Clarendon, George, Duke of
Albemarle, William, Lord Craven, John, Lord Berkeley, Anthony, Lord Ashley,
Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkeley, and Sir John Colleton, all the
lands lying between the 31st and 36th degree of north latitude. In two years
more he enlarged the grant from the 29th degree of north latitude to 36 30',
and from these points on the sea coast westwardly in parallel lines to the
Pacific ocean. Of this immense region the King constituted them absolute lords
and proprietors, with the reservation of the dominion of the country to
himself and successors. These extensive limits underwent many changes from the
resumption of royal charters; treaties - particularly those of 1763 and 1783;
royal instructions to governors; boundary lines run and settlements made by
authorized commissioners; State cession to Congress; conquests from and
treaties with Indians.

The present situation and limits of South Carolina are as follows. It is
situated in North America; between 32 and 35 8' and 6 10' west longitude,
From Washington, the seat of government of the United States of America. North
Carolina stretches along its northern and northeastern frontier; Tennessee
along its northwestern, and Georgia along its southern frontier; and the
Atlantic ocean bounds its eastern limits.

South Carolina is bounded northwardly by a line commencing at a cedar stake
marked with nine notches on the shore of the Atlantic ocean, near the mouth of
Little river, then pursuing by many traverses a coast west-north-west, until
it arrives at the fork of Catauba river; thence due west until it arrives at a
point of intersection in the Apalachean mountains. From thence, due south
until it strikes Chatuga, the most northern branch or stream of Tugoloo river.
Thence along the said river Tugoloo to its confluence with the river Keowee;
thence along the river Savannah, until it intersects the Atlantic ocean by its
most northern mouth; thence northeastwardly, along the Atlantic ocean,
including the islands, until it intersects the northern boundary near the
entrance of Little river. These boundaries include an area somewhat
triangular, of about 24,080 square miles; whereof 9,570 lie above the falls of
the rivers, and 14,510 are between the falls and the Atlantic ocean.

King Charles the Second also gave to the lords proprietors of Carolina
authority to enact, with the assent of the freemen of the colony, any laws
they should judge necessary; to erect courts of judicature, and to appoint
judges, magistrates and officers; to erect forts, castles, cities and towns;
to make war, and in case of necessity, to exercise martial law; to build
harbors, make ports, and enjoy customs and subsidies, imposed with the consent
of the freemen, on goods loaded and unloaded. The King also granted to the
proprietors, authority to allow indulgences and dispensations in religious
affairs, and that no person to whom such liberty should be granted was to be
molested for any difference of speculative opinions with respect to religion,
provided he did not disturb the peace of the community.

The preamble of this grant states, "That the grantees being excited with a
laudable and pious zeal for the propagation of the gospel, begged a certain
country in the parts of America, not yet cultivated and planted, or only
inhabited by some barbarous people who had no knowledge of God." Invested with
these ample powers, the proprietors formed a joint stock for the
transportation of settlers to their projected colony. To induce adventurers,
they declared, "That all persons settling on Charles river, to the southward
of Cape Fear, shall have power to fortify its banks, taking the oath of
allegiance to the King, and submitting to the government of the proprietors:
that the emigrants may present to them thirteen persons, in order that they
may appoint a Governor and council of six, for three years: that an assembly,
composed of the Governor, the council, and delegates of the freemen, should be
called as soon as the circumstances of the colony would allow, with power to
make laws, which should be neither contrary to the laws of England, nor of any
validity after the publication of the dissent of the proprietors: that every
person should enjoy the most perfect freedom in religion: that during five
years every freeman should be allowed one hundred acres of land and fifty for
every servant, paying only one half-penny an acre: that the same freedom from
customs which had been conferred by the royal charter should be allowed to
every one." Such were the original conditions on which Carolina was planted.
And thus it was established upon the broad foundation of a regular system of
freedom, both civil and religious.

The proprietors, anxious to improve their property, with the aid of the
celebrated John Locke, framed a constitution and laws for the government of
their colony. These were in substance as follows: "The eldest of the eight
proprietors was always to be Palatine, and at his decease was to be succeeded
by the eldest of the seven survivors. This Palatine was to sit as President of
the Palatine's Court, of which he and three more of the proprietors made a
quorum, and had the management and execution of the powers, of their charter.
This Court was to stand in room of the King, and give their assent or dissent
to all laws made by the Legislature of the colony. The Palatine was to have
power to nominate and appoint the Governor, who, after obtaining the royal
approbation, became his representative in Carolina. Each of the seven
proprietors was to have the privilege of appointing a deputy to sit as his
representative in Parliament, and to act agreeably to his instructions.
Besides a Governor, two other branches, somewhat similar to the old Saxon
constitution, were to be established; an upper and lower House of Assembly:
which three branches were to be called a Parliament, and to constitute the
Legislature of the country. The parliament was to be chosen every two years.
No act of the Legislature was to have any force unless ratified in open
Parliament, during the same session, and even then to continue no longer in
force than the next biennial Parliament, unless in the meantime it be ratified
by the hands and seals of the Palatine and three proprietors. The upper house
was to consist of the seven deputies, seven of the oldest landgraves and
cassiques, and seven chosen by the Assembly. As in the other provinces, the
lower house was to be composed of the representatives from the different
counties and towns. Several officers were also to be appointed, such as an
admiral, a secretary, a chief justice, a surveyor, a treasurer, a marshal, and
register; and besides these, each county was to have a sheriff and four
justices of the peace. Three classes of the nobility were to be established,
called barons, cassiques, and landgraves; the first to possess twelve, the
second twenty-four, and the third forty-eight thousand acres of land, and
their possessions were to be unalienable. Military officers were also to be
nominated; and all inhabitants, from sixteen to sixty years of age, as in the
times of feudal government, when regularly summoned, were to appear under
arms, and in time of war to take the field.

With respect to religion, three terms of communion were fixed. First, to
believe that there is a God. Secondly, that he is to be worshipped. And
thirdly, that it is lawful, and the duty of every man when called upon by
those in authority, to bear witness to the truth. Without acknowledging which,
no man was permitted to be a freeman, or to have any estate or habitation in
Carolina. But persecution for observing different modes and ways of worship,
was expressly forbidden; and every man was to be left full liberty of
conscience, and might worship God in that manner which he thought most
conformable to the Divine will and revealed word.

Notwithstanding these preparations, several years elapsed before the
proprietors of Carolina made any serious efforts towards its settlement. In
1667 they fitted out a ship, gave the command of it to Captain William Sayle,
and sent him out to bring them some account of the country. He sailed along
the coast of Carolina, where he observed several large navigable rivers
emptying themselves into the ocean; and a flat country covered with woods. He
attempted to go ashore in his boat, but observing some savages on the banks of
the rivers, he desisted. Having explored the coast and the mouths of the
rivers, he returned to England.

His report to the proprietors was favorable. He praised their possessions, and
encouraged them to engage with vigor in the execution of their project. Thus
encouraged, they began to make preparations for sending a colony to commence a
settlement. Two ships were procured; on board of which a number of adventurers
embarked with provisions, arms, and utensils requisite for building and
cultivation. William Sayle, who had visited the country, was appointed the
first Governor of it; and received a commission, bearing date July 26th, 1669.
The expenses of this first embarkation amounted to twelve thousand pounds
sterling. The settlers must have been few in number, and no ways adequate to
the undertaking.* The country now called Carolina, on which they settled, was
then an immense hunting ground filled with wild animals; overgrown with
forests - partly covered with swamps, and roamed over, rather than inhabited,
by a great number of savage tribes, subsisting on the chase and often at war
with each other.

Governor Sayle first landed at or near Beaufort, early in 1670, but soon moved
northwardly and took possession of some high ground on the western banks of
Ashley river, near its mouth; and there laid the foundations of old
Charlestown. This was also abandoned; and in 1680 Oyster Point, at the
confluence of Ashley and Cooper rivers, was fixed upon as the seat of
government, and head-quarters of the settlement. Soon after his arrival
governor Sayle died, and was succeeded by Joseph West; and he by Sir John
Yeamans, who left the colony, and was succeeded by Joseph West on a second
appointment. These changes took place in the short space of four years. The
people, who had hitherto lived under a species of military government, began
about this time to form a Legislature for establishing civil regulations. In
the year 1674 the freemen of Carolina, meeting by summons at old Charlestown,
elected Representatives for the government of the colony. There was now the
Governor, and Upper and Lower House of Assembly; and these three branches took
the name of Parliament. Of the laws passed by them nothing is known. The first
law which has been found on record in the office of the Secretary of the
Province, is dated May 26th, 1682; eight years subsequent to the first meeting
of the first Parliament in Carolina. Many were the difficulties with which
these settlers, had to contend. They were obliged to stand in a constant
posture of defence. While one party was employed in raising their little
habitations, another was always kept under arms to watch the Indians. While
they gathered oysters with one hand for subsistence, they were obliged to
carry guns in the other for self-defence. The only fresh provisions they could
procure were fish from the river, or what game they could kill with their
guns. They raised their scanty crops not only with the sweat of their brows,
but at the risk of their lives. Except a few negroes, whom Sir John Yeamans
and his followers brought with them from Barbadoes, there were no laborers but
Europeans. Till the trees were felled, and the grounds cleared, domestic
animals could afford to the planters no assistance. White men, exposed to the
beat of the climate and the terrors of surrounding savages, had alone to
encounter the hardships of clearing and cultivating the ground. Provisions,
when raised, were exposed to the plundering parties of Indians. One day often
robbed the planter of the dear-bought fruits of a whole year's toil. European
grains, with which were made the first experiments of planting, proved
suitable neither to soil nor climate. Spots of barren and sandy land, which
were first and most easily cleared, poorly rewarded the toil of the
cultivator. It was difficult for the proprietors to furnish a regular supply
of provisions. All the horrors of a famine were anticipated. The people
feeling much, and fearing more, threatened to compel the Governor to abandon
the settlement.** One sloop was dispatched to Virginia, and another to
Barbadoes to bring provisions. Before their return a supply arrived from
England, together with some new settlers, which reanimated the expiring hopes
of the colonists.

* We have the authority of John Archdale, Governor of South Carolina in 1695,
that the number of hostile Indians was considerably lessened about the time
this settlement took place. In the second page of his description of South
Carolina, printed in 1707, In London, he observed. "That in the first
settlement of Carolina, the hand of God was eminently seen in thinning the
Indians to make room for the English. As for example; in Carolina in which
were seated two potent nations, called the Westoes and Savannahs, which
contained many thousands, who broke out into an unusual civil war; and thereby
reduced themselves into a small number: and the Westoes, the more cruel of the
two, were at the last forced quite out of that province; and the Savannahs
continued good friends and useful neighbors to the English. But again it at
other times pleased Almighty God to send unusual sicknesses amongst them, as
the small pox, &c., to lessen their numbers; so that the English, in
comparison to the Spaniards, have but little Indian blood to answer for."

** A similar measure had been carried into effect by some French settlers, who
had located themselves on the coast of Carolina, about 120 years before. Their
settlement was abandoned in less than two years after its commencement, and
was never renewed. 

[To be continued....]

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