“The perfect scheme of it in his head…” Shaftesbury's Carolina design in the context of England's Atlantic political economy
At the dawn of England’s Restoration, mercantilist minded men were filled with fresh ambitions to enrich the nation and themselves by way of new colonizing ventures. Settlement schemes were proposed for lands in far flung places ranging from Tangier, Bombay, and the Gambia to Saint Lucia, Saint Eustatius, New Jersey, and the Carolinas. The Carolina charter of 1663 represented England’s first serious attempt to make advances into the American southeast. Its success was critical in the geopolitical battle between European nations to gain hegemony over the North American mainland. Historians have long agreed the region’s eight Lords Proprietors planned from the very outset to develop a staples-producing plantation export economy, thereby establishing the most valuable of mercantile colonies. Yet, these metropolitan masters were far from a homogenous group. Each had his own motives and aspirations for entering into this charter agreement, Lord Shaftesbury being the most inspired. This thesis explores his compulsions in the design and development of a new export market for this region, in the context of England’s pre- and post-Restoration Atlantic economy. It suggests that far from a singular desire to establish a trade in agricultural-staples, Shaftesbury was fully cognizant and planned to take full advantage of any and all opportunities the region afforded – most notably a trade with Native Americans for deerskins and furs. That he did so destabilizes the notion Carolina’s ‘Indian trade’ was born out of settler agency or a subversion of the proprietary dream. It thereby reorients current understandings of the development of Carolina’s early economy and contributes to an appreciation of Shaftesbury’s lasting legacy in the region that, by the time of America’s Revolution, became the wealthiest colony in all British North America.
0337: American history