Life in the Southern Colonies
Life was very different in the rural southern colonies of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The weather in the south provided a long growing season, which allowed crops like rice, cotton, and tobacco to flourish. The south also exported indigo (a blue dye made from native plants). To produce enough rice or cotton or tobacco to make a profit took a great deal of land and labor.
In the south, huge plantations developed, owned and governed by one family. Each plantation was nearly self-sufficient. They produced or made just about everything they needed on the plantation. Planters could easily transport their crops because there were many waterways that allowed ocean going vessels to tie up at a dock. The south did not have a need for big cities, only for port towns (a place with a deep water dock). Charleston, South Carolina was the major port.
For labor, the plantation owners first used indentured servants, people who had exchanged passage to the New World for a great deal of work when they arrived. Once the indentured servants worked off their debt, they were paid for their labor. In time, they could save up enough money to buy their own land, perhaps not a plantation, but land enough to support their families. By the end of the 1600s, the labor pool of indentured servants began to dry up. Plantation owners were in need of another cheap source of labor. They began to use slaves as the labor force of the south.
The economic and social structure of the rural southern colonies rested on great plantations and smaller farms. The plantation owners built huge mansions and tried to follow the culture, or what they believed to be the culture, of the aristocrats back in England. The smaller farm owners were independent of the great plantations and were very outspoken about the rights of free men. Many smaller farm owners found their way into politics. The third social structure was composed of the people who lived and worked in the port towns.