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The Southern Colonies

The history behind America is fascinating! Did you know America was made up of 13 colonies? We can divide them into three parts:

  1. New England Colonies
  2. Middle Colonies
  3. Southern Colonies

The British founded the Southern Colonies during the 16th and 17th centuries! These were present-day Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

What were the Southern Colonies known for?

The Southern Colonies contained plantations or large farms. They produced a large number of cash crops and trade items. They used slave labor.

What were the benefits of living in the Southern Colonies?

The Southern Colonies were very prosperous. They had lots of cleared land and a warm climate. This allowed crops to grow all year. Families that wanted to get rich moved here. 

History and Origin of the Southern Colonies

The Southern Colonies were set up by the British to make more money. Let’s look at them in detail.


Virginia was the first colony where people settled. Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I named it in 1584. King James I granted a charter to the Plymouth Company and the London Company for Virginia. What’s a charter? It’s a simple royal order that must be carried out. 

It formally became a colony in 1607. Its first settlement was Jamestown. It continued till the American Revolution. Present-day cities of Baltimore and Richmond were busy ports and important trade places here. Virginia’s fertile lands were the perfect place for growing cash crops.

An important event was Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. It began as a fight between poor farmers and servants, and wealthy landowners. It was a rebellion against the corruption of the British Empire, led by Nathaniel Bacon.


King Charles I granted a charter to Cecilius Calvert for Maryland in 1633. Calvert was the first person to receive a charter to settle a colony. Before him, only companies could do so. He became Maryland’s first governor.

This colony stretched on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay. Calvert wanted Maryland to be a safe place for Catholics. It was the first colony created not to make profits. Maryland also housed Protestants, who follow a different religion.

But Protestants didn’t like that Catholics were preferred over them. After a revolution led by Protestants in 1869, a new government was formed. This time, they banned Catholics from working important jobs in the government. Peace was finally restored to Maryland by the American Revolution.


The Carolinas were originally a single large colony, settled in 1663! King Charles II chartered them to his 8 loyal supporters.

North Carolina was the poorer colony. Crops were grown on a smaller scale. Instead, they produced meat and farmed cattle. Turpentine and tar were also produced. Farmers weren’t very rich and also not interested in the slave trade.

South Carolina was one of the wealthiest colonies. Large-scale farming was done using slave labor. This generated a lot of profit. Farmers grew tobacco, cotton, indigo, and small amounts of rice. They also farmed hogs.

Separation of the Colonies

North and South Carolina were very far from each other. So they worked separately most of the time. But after a revolt, different governments were made for North and South Carolina. Finally, in 1729, 7 founders sold their interests to the British. Then North and South Carolina became separate royal colonies. Royal colonies were controlled by the British Crown.


Georgia was the last colony, named after King George II. King George II chartered the colony to Parliament member James Oglethorpe. It was established in 1733.

At the time Carolina was right next to Florida, which was controlled by the Spanish. Maryland’s main function was to protect the rich colony of Carolina. It also prevented slaves from escaping from other Southern Colonies. But, Georgia itself did not allow slavery.

Debtors in Georgia

Oglethorpe wanted Georgia to be a colony where wealth was equally distributed. He settled it with people who were unable to pay their debts in Britain and so were in prison. Each debtor was given 50 acres of farmland. They were also given silkworms.

This experiment failed since some land was fertile while some weren’t. Slavery was not allowed. Georgia’s mulberry trees also couldn’t grow silk well. Many debtors fled to Carolina instead. King George II removed the charter in 1752, making Georgia a royal colony.

Southern Colonies Geography and Climate

The Southern Colonies ranged from coastal plains in the east to hilly regions in the west. They had fertile soil, long rivers like the Potomac, and swamps. Virginia and Maryland were centered around the Chesapeake Bay.

The Southern Colonies were the warmest. They had mild winters. Hot and humid summers led to the spread of diseases. The growing season was also longer than in other regions. Let’s look at a map of the 13 colonies:

Southern Colonies Economy

The Southern Colonies’ economy depended on agriculture and exports. This included tobacco, cotton, corn, vegetables, grain, fruit, lumber, furs, and livestock. They had the largest slave population which worked on plantations. Plantations grew cotton, tobacco, indigo, and other cash crops. They also cultivated silk.

Southern Colonies Government

The Southern Colonies elected their own government. They had a governor, the governor’s council, and a court. They also had an elected assembly.

Virginia’s elected assembly was called the House of Burgesses. It was the first such assembly. Several colonies were later converted into royal colonies. These colonies were ruled by the British monarchy.

Southern Colonies Culture and Society

The Southern Colonies didn’t have a singular religion. The major sections were Baptist and Anglican. Catholics and Protestants were also present in Maryland. These colonies enjoyed more religious freedom than the others. English was the official language. Spanish, French, and German were also spoken.

Families were busy farming during the day. In the evening, they would learn religious lessons. They went fishing, kite-flying, and swimming. Children played tag, marbles, hopscotch, and leapfrog. They had games like wooden tops and chess.

Slavery in the Southern Colonies

Southern Colonies depended on slaves brought in from Africa to provide free labor. Enslaved men performed heavy labor. Enslaved women worked as servants or on farms.

These colonies also practiced indentured labor. This referred to servants who worked on the plantations to pay off debts. They were not paid for this work. The difference was that slaves had no rights and a much worse life.

This was the wrong system. But it continued for over 200 years. This led to the American Civil War, which finally abolished slavery.