The Production of Rice in the Lower South

The economy of the Lower South—North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia—was based upon plantation agriculture in the eighteenth century. The Carolinas were settled in the 1660s but did not find a profitable export until the 1690s when rice was established as the staple crop. Unlike tobacco, however, rice required a substantial investment to begin cultivation, so it was never destined to be the work of middling or small farmers, but remained the exclusive purview of major planters closely connected to British commercial interests. It became the third most valuable British American export, after tobacco and grain. In the 1740s, the Lower South added indigo as a staple crop, which was subsidized by a parliamentary bounty of six pence per pound, allowing for its rapid expansion. Georgia, established in 1732, picked up both rice and indigo cultivation in the 1750s. On the eve of the Revolution, two-thirds of the region's rice exports went to Britain, with the rest split between the West Indies and southern Europe (without having to go through British ports first). As with the Chesapeake, and unlike New England and the Middle Colonies, the commercial success of the commodities of the Lower South kept the Carolinas and Georgia closely connected to British commercial interests and imbedded firmly in the imperial economy.

Browse Content By Theme