6.1 Deep South: Colonial Crossroads, New Nation (1670-1803)



(12 colonies)


(13 colonies)


(13 states)


(16 states)

South Carolina






















































Percent of U.S. population









Key events that shaped law and society:

  • The Deep South states did not share a common culture in the early 19th century:  their origins were very different.  The first Europeans to settle South Carolina and Georgia were English, but Spain controlled Florida until 1819 and during the 17th and 18th centuries, control of the region that later became Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana see-sawed between Spain and France. 
  • The first permanent white settlement in the Deep South was the Spanish colony at St. Augustine, Florida (1565).  The first English settlement followed a century later at Charleston, South Carolina (1670), and English settlers established rice and indigo plantations throughout the colony’s tidewater area.  Those crops, which grew year round and, thus, were well suited to a plantation culture based on slave labor.  Settlement of South Carolina’s western hill region began in the early 1700s as English, Scots-Irish and German settlers migrated from Pennsylvania and the hill regions of the upper Southern colonies.
  • Like the New England colonies (and, much later, Utah), Georgia arose out of an ideal:  in 1731, James Oglethorpe received permission from George II to create a haven for poor white English debtors who otherwise would be imprisoned.  Oglethorpe hoped to exclude slavery from the colony, but slavery was as economically advantageous in Georgia as in South Carolina, and by 1770 the institution was firmly entrenched the colony. 
  • Georgia remained a backwater for some time:  it did not take a very active part in the Revolution, and it did not develop as extensive a planter culture and economy as other Southern colonies.  Georgia’s development was also slowed by its proximity to Florida.  Throughout the colonial period, Spanish troops based in Florida periodically attacked South Carolina and Georgia, and those colonies returned the favor.
  • During the 17th century, France and Spain traded back and forth control of the Deep South west of Florida.  French explorers settled the Mobile Bay area in 1702, and established New Orleans in 1718 after concluding that it was a prime site for a port to capture the Mississippi River trade.  French settlements along the Gulf coast gave France control of a huge interior region extending from Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois down to Mississippi and Alabama – the entire region being loosely known as the Louisiana country.   
  • But French control was tenuous.  The French presence in the interior consisted of a handful of thinly-garrisoned forts protected a small number of settlers consisting mainly of traders with local tribes.  The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek nations effectively controlled the interior of what became Alabama and Mississippi, and French officials found it difficult to induce large-scale migration to the territory.   In 1763, after France was defeated by Great Britain in the Seven Years War, France ceded control of the territory to Spain.  Spain ceded control of Florida to Great Britain at the same time, but gained it back at the end of the American Revolution. 
  • Florida proved as unattractive to Spanish settlers as the Louisiana territory did to French settlers, so after 1783 the Spanish encouraged American settlement.  Americans quickly became the largest part of Florida’s small population.  In 1800, Spain, realizing that it did not have enough power to manage the Louisiana country effectively, returned it to France and in 1803 Napoleon, who viewed the region as an expensive distraction from his goal of conquering Europe, sold the territory to the United States.   American control soon brought dramatic economic, cultural and legal changes to the region.

File:Pavillon LouisXIV.svg
Flag of New France

Flag of New Spain

US flag 15 stars.svg
U.S. Flag, 1803 - all flags courtesy Wikipedia
  • New states:
  • South Carolina (1788)
  • Georgia (1788)