Friday, June 4, 2010

King Rice in the Royal Southern Colonies

     King Rice in the Royal Southern Colonies helped to make them an economic power in the British Empire. This is one reason why the Colony of South Carolina was so important for trade in the Empire and made it a target of Clinton and Parker in the Summer of 1776. Below are excerpts from a paper that was written about the economic effect of rice in the Southern Colonies of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina by Mindy last fall. We hope that this will explain the economic impact that the port of Charelston had for the Colonist and Empire.

     One of the key questions is when did rice start to become a possibility for people to make a profit off of its cultivation in the Royal Colonies of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. This first export of rice as a trade good out of South Carolina can be attributed to John Stweart when he shipped in 1690 “one and one fourth Barrel of rice to Jamaica” Black rice page 84. “This export of rice continued to grow to over 330 tons in 1699.” Thus the stage was set for the rice cultivation to continue to grow as long as suitable field and labor could be acquired to grow it. How was the Low Country able to go from such small production to such massive production in such a short time? This can be attributed to several key geographic factors of the Low Country that are similar to that of Western Africa. One is the ready abundance of water in the Low Country through swamps, marshes, streams, and rivers that can be used to help form rice fields as was also found in certain parts of Western Africa. When rice is planted it is planted in fields full of fresh water. This water has to be none moving water so that the seeds can take hold in the wet soil. This is accomplished by building canals, dikes, and other water control devices to help control the flow of water in to and out of the fields. Once the rice takes hold then the tides can be used to control the flow of water in and out of the fields. Rice was such a valuable crop in South Carolina that “the East Branch of the Copper River measured more than 55 miles long and had on it over 12 miles of dikes built for the cultivation of rice” 93 black rice. In Africa minimal labor was needed because they were growing for themselves, while in the Low Country they were growing for and developing large rice plantations for large amounts of exports to Europe and the Caribbean trade.

     This brings us to the labor force that was needed to make rice cultivation a profitable and manageable with the delicacy of knowing how to plant the rice, how to maintain it, and how to harvest it. This information was not a very well know subject matter to the Europeans who settled the Low Country of South Carolina along the coast. Instead they turned their hope and their futures to the very people who’s hope and future they has stolen when they forced them into bondage as slaves. Slave owners knew that rice could become a very profitable crop out of the Low Country but they need the labor with an already ingrained knowledge of how to clear field to prepare for rice cultivation and how to manage the field with a steady water supply so as to not dislodge the delicate plants.

      In Georgetown , South Carolina “Ronert Mills obsereved that in Georgetwon Everything is fed on rice;horse and cattle eat the straw and bran; hogs, fowl, &c. are sustained by the refuse; and man subsists on the marrow of the grain” Sc rice plantation page 7.

     With this information you can tell how much time and money was spent by the locals and the goverement to build up rice production in the Low Country and why Charleston  was an important economic center for the British Empire.

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