Once given what he demanded, off he went, only to be tracked down and killed by a force sent out by Virginia’s governor, Alexander Spotswood. South Carolina’s governor, Robert Johnson, sent his own man, Colonel William Rhett, to hunt pirates. He didn’t find Blackbeard but did catch a former subordinate, Stede Bonnet, whose ship and crew had been present at the blockade of Charleston.
Charleston Harbor was a major port for the importation of British goods. Many American items flowed out, but this was mostly natural resources such as deer skins, livestock, lumber, and cash crops. Colonists were forbidden from trading with anyone but Britain or other colonies, so much smuggling of Spanish and French items into the colony occurred. The Crown also forbade its American colonies from producing most finished goods, instead forcing colonists to buy British-made ones. With clothes being one of the commodities not produced en masse in the colonies, it meant that in the eighteenth century sewing was valuable skill. Here we have a sewing case made between 1790 and 1820 (Exhibit J).
When they first established the colony of Carolina, the Lords Proprietors wanted colonists to grow tropical crops, but colder than expected winters ended that idea. So other crops were needed. In the 1740s, Elizabeth Lucas Pickney developed a strain of indigo that British textile firms used for the color blue. This was only profitable so long as it was subsided by the British government, which stopped that after the Revolution.
Although we Charlestonians are proud of our city and heritage, it would be remiss of this museum to not cover the more unsavory parts of our past, especially since so many whites benefited from the work of enslaved Blacks. In the first year of Carolina Colony, slaves were imported from the West Indies. By 1708 the colony’s enslaved population outnumbered whites. Charleston itself became a major gateway of slave importation. Between 1700 and 1775, forty percent of those brought to America arrived via our city.
While the majority of slaves were put to work on plantations, Charleston itself relied on its own enslaved population for domestic labor. Slaves took the roles of paid servants such as butlers and nurses. Urban slaves often had freedom of movement in the city and some lived outside the city limits. According the one of the museum’s information signs, “free and enslaved black men dominated building trades as brick masons, carpenters, painters, and plasterers while others worked as tailors, butchers … mechanics, and ship carpenters. Women were generally employed as seamstresses, washerwomen, cooks, hucksters [probably peddlers in this context], and servants.” Free and enslaved Blacks were the city’s primary fishermen. Slaves were also adept at making bricks, most of which were produced in the colony rather than imported. Note that the ones here on display (Exhibit K) have the finger marks of their enslaved makers.