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Edward, Earl of Clarendon, and George Monck, Duke of Albemarle

The colony of Carolina, a swampy, heavily wooded backcountry populated by Indians and a few runaway servants from Virginia, was originally run by English men who looked like this. As you might imagine, things didn’t go smoothly.

In 1607, twenty years after the Roanoke colonists disappeared, England succeeded in establishing a permanent colony at Jamestown, Virginia. Other colonies followed, and in 1663, King Charles II granted the land that is now North and South Carolina to a group of his friends and political supporters. The Lords Proprietors, as these men were called, had high hopes for their colony, which Charles had named Carolina after himself. But they were unprepared for the difficulties of managing a distant colony, and the settlers already living there had no great desire to be managed. Carolina’s first decades were marked by overly complicated plans for government, corrupt officials, and open rebellion. But some principles established then — such as representative government and freedom of religion — would help the colony grow later on.

In this chapter we’ll consider the motives of the men who established Carolina and the views of the white settlers who lived there. Both the Lords Proprietors and ordinary Englishmen worked to build a colony in Carolina, and we’ll evaluate why it was so difficult for them to make it work.