In studying the origins of Southern culture and identity we have traced the majority of English colonists in Carolina back to Barbados and the Caribbean. Professor Jack Greene of John Hopkins University wrote in a 1987 article entitled ‘Colonial South Carolina and the Caribbean Connection’ (which has recently been republished in South Carolina and Barbados Connections: Selections from the South Carolina Historical Magazine) that ‘South Carolina had begun in the late seventeenth century as an offshoot of the prolific Barbadian cultural hearth.’ We have seen how the plantation culture came to Barbados and the Lesser Antilles from northern Brazil. We’ve traced it back beyond Brazil to the Iberian sugar colonies in the Gulf of Guinea, the Canary Islands and Madeira.
One thing which has become apparent from the narrative we have put together in studying this subject is that an extensive and productive trans-national civilisation grew from the plantation societies built by the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English colonial powers in a geographic area extending from Brazil (where its symbolism endures to this day) to Delaware, and east and west across the northern Gulf of Mexico from Carolina to eastern Texas. In understanding the trans-national nature of this ‘Golden Circle‘ (a name applied to it by Southerners in the early and mid-nineteenth century) it is important to note that people of all social classes were able to transition with relative ease from one plantation society in the region to another. There were some differences in culture and geography as well as the intensity with which the Barbadian model was applied, but there were also many similarities and a common social order. Trade within the region was robust, as was the migration of people. This civilisation, in a short time, spread across a vast geographic area, produced far more wealth than was being produced in European cities at that time, and ultimately provided the economic foundations upon which were built the Industrial Revolution.
Greene writes about the vitality and trans-national nature of this civilisation on page 51 of South Carolina and Barbados Connections:
As soon as [South Carolina] backcountry planters could secure the capital to buy slaves, they did so, and the successful introduction of cotton culture into the area in the 1780s and 1790s greatly accelerated the process. In a very real sense, the spread of cotton and slavery across the Lower South over the next half century testified to the continuing viability and adaptability of the Barbadian social model.
That model had not, in any case, ever been confined by national boundaries. Already by the late seventeenth century, it was being successfully adapted by the French in the small islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. During the following century, it would be established again by the French, in the island colony of St. Domingue [present day Haiti]. In the nineteenth century, it was extended to the Spanish islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico. In the 1790s, the continuing affinity of lowcountry South Carolina with the West Indies was pointedly underlined by the ease with which the many refugees from the St. Domingue revolt, the only genuine social revolution to take place during the so-called era of democratic revolutions, were first welcomed by and then settled happily into lowcountry society.