During the colonial era Southerners did not have to pay a huge tariff to support Northern internal improvements. Southerners were not subject to US social experiments in democracy, equality and universalism. At that time, Southerners were part of a vast monarchical empire that encouraged their economic development and allowed them to trade freely with the British Caribbean as well as Great Britain itself. All of this worked to the South’s advantage. Taking the plantation system which the Barbadians had developed, Southerners created a fabulously wealthy and cultured society.
John Hopkins University history professor Jack P Greene explained in his 1987 essay ‘Colonial South Carolina and the Caribbean Connection’ (recently republished in South Carolina and Barbados Connections: Selections from the South Carolina Historical Magazine) that by the middle of the eighteenth century South Carolina was the second wealthiest society in British North America, behind only Jamaica (which had also been modeled on the Barbadian example):
Per capita wealth in the Charleston District of South Carolina in 1774 was an astonishing £2,337.7, more than four times that of people living in the tobacco areas of the Chesapeake and nearly six times greater than that of people living in the towns of New York and Philadelphia.
This wealth enabled South Carolina’s richest planters and merchants to live a luxurious life comparable to that of similar groups in seventeenth-century Barbados and eighteenth-century Jamaica. Beginning in the 1740s, members of this group built… several expensive public buildings and many sumptuous private houses. …Charleston, a city of 11,000 by the 1770s, was a lively cultural center with a library company, concerts, theatre, horse races, and a variety of benevolent organizations, fraternal groups, and social clubs.