Province of Carolina

Province of Carolina was a province of England (1663–1707) and Great Britain (1707–1712) that existed in North America and the Caribbean from 1663 until partitioned into North and South on January 24, 1712. It is part of present-day Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and The Bahamas.

Province of Carolina
Province of Great Britain
British Red Ensign

An orthographic projection of the world, highlighting Carolina (green).
  Coordinates34°48′17″N 79°40′31″W
  TypeConstitutional monarchy
  MottoDomitus Cultoribus Orbis (Latin)
"Tamed by the cultivators of the world"
Charles II
James II
William III and Mary II
William III
Philip Ludwell (first)
Robert Gibbes (last)
 Upper house
Grand Council
 Lower house
Parliament of Carolina
Historical eraStuart era
 Charter of Carolina
March 24, 1663
 Partition of Carolina
January 24, 1712
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Colony of Virginia
Province of North Carolina
Province of South Carolina
Today part ofUnited States
The Bahamas


"Carolina" is taken from the Latin word for "Charles" (Carolus), honoring King Charles I.[1] and was first named in the 1663 Royal Charter granting to Edward, Earl of Clarendon; George, Duke of Albemarle; William, Lord Craven; John, Lord Berkeley; Anthony, Lord Ashley; Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkeley, and Sir John Colleton the right to settle lands in the present-day U.S. states of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.[2]


On October 30, 1629, King Charles I of England granted a patent to Sir Robert Heath for the lands south of 36 degrees and north of 31 degrees, "under the name, in honor of that king, of Carolana."[3][4] Carolus is Latin for 'Charles'. Heath wanted the land for French Huguenots, but when Charles restricted use of the land to members of the Church of England, Heath assigned his grant to George, Lord Berkeley.[5] King Charles I was executed in 1649 and Heath fled to France where he died. Following the 1660 restoration of the monarchy, Robert Heath's heirs attempted to reassert their claim to the land, but Charles II ruled the claim invalid.

Although the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island was the first English attempt at settlement in the Carolina territory, the first permanent English settlement was not established until 1653, when emigrants from the Virginia Colony, with others from New England and Bermuda, settled at the mouths of the Chowan and Roanoke Rivers, on the shores of Albemarle Sound, in the northeastern corner of present-day North Carolina. The Albemarle Settlements, preceding the royal charter by ten years, came to be known in Virginia as "Rogues' Harbor".[6] By 1664, the region was organized as Albemarle County.

Within three generations of Columbus, the Spanish from their Florida base had started to emigrate up the coast of modern North Carolina. A hostile Virginia tribe drove them back to Georgia. A Scottish contingent had meanwhile settled in South Carolina only to be extirpated by the Spanish, who inhabited Parris Island as late as 1655. The Spanish were again beaten back to Georgia.[7]


The Province of Carolina before and after the split into north and south

On March 24, 1663, Charles II issued a new charter to a group of eight English noblemen, granting them the land of Carolina, as a reward for their faithful support of his efforts to regain the throne of England. The eight were called Lords Proprietors or simply Proprietors. The 1663 charter granted the Lords Proprietor title to all of the land from the southern border of the Virginia Colony at 36 degrees north to 31 degrees north (along the coast of present-day Georgia).[8] The King intended for the newly created province to serve as an English bulwark to contest lands claimed by Spanish Florida and prevent their northward expansion.[9][10]

The Lords Proprietors named in the charter were Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon; George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle; William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven; John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton; Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury; Sir George Carteret; Sir William Berkeley (brother of John); and Sir John Colleton. Of the eight, the one who demonstrated the most active interest in Carolina was Lord Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury, with the assistance of his secretary, the philosopher John Locke, drafted the Grand Model for the Province of Carolina (which included the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina), a plan for government of the colony heavily influenced by the ideas of the English political scientist, James Harrington. Some of the other Lords Proprietors also had interests in other colonies: for instance, John Berkeley and George Carteret held stakes in the Province of New Jersey, and William Berkeley had an interest in Virginia. The Lords Proprietors, operating under their royal charter, were able to exercise their authority with nearly the independence of the king himself. The actual government consisted of a governor, a powerful council, on which half of the councillors were appointed by the Lords Proprietors themselves, and a relatively weak, popularly elected assembly.

In 1663, Captain William Hilton had noted the presence of a wooden cross erected by the Spaniards that still stood before the town meeting house of the Indians living at what later became Port Royal.[11] In 1665, Sir John Yeamans established a second short-lived English settlement on the Cape Fear River, near present-day Wilmington, North Carolina, which he named Clarendon.

In 1665, the charter was revised slightly (see Royal Colonial Boundary of 1665), with the northerly boundary extended to 36 degrees 30 minutes north to include the lands of settlers along the Albemarle Sound who had left the Virginia Colony. Likewise, the southern boundary was moved south to 29 degrees north, just south of present-day Daytona Beach, Florida, which had the effect of including the existing Spanish settlement at St. Augustine. The charter also granted all the land, between these northerly and southerly bounds, from the Atlantic, westward to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.[12]

Map of Carolina (1676)

The Lords Proprietors founded a sturdier new settlement when they sent 150 colonists to the province in early 1670, landing them at a location south of the other settlements, near present-day Charleston, South Carolina. In 1669, William Sayle of Bermuda had taken over the command of the party of settlers gathered in Bermuda after Sir John Yeamans resigned while undergoing repairs of his vessel in Bermuda. Most of the party was made up of emigrants from England who had arrived in Bermuda en route to the establishment of the settlement in the Carolinas. Sayle arrived in Carolina aboard a Bermuda sloop with a number of Bermudian families to found the town of Charleston. In 1670, William Sayle, then in his eighties, became the first Colonial Governor of the colony of Carolina.[13][14] Many of the other colonists were planters from Barbados. The "Charles Town" settlement, as it was known then, developed more rapidly than the Albemarle and Cape Fear settlements due to the advantages of a natural harbor and expanding trade with the West Indies. Charles Town was made the principal seat of government for the entire province; Lord Shaftesbury specified its street plan. The nearby Ashley and Cooper rivers are named for him.

Due to their remoteness from each other, the northern and southern sections of the colony operated more or less independently until 1691, when Philip Ludwell was appointed governor of the entire province. From that time until 1708, the northern and southern settlements remained under one government. The north continued to have its own assembly and council; the governor resided in Charles Towne and appointed a deputy-governor for the north. During this period, the two-halves of the province began increasingly to be known as North Carolina and South Carolina.


In 1669, the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina divided the colony of Carolina into two provinces, Albemarle province in the north and Clarendon province in the south.[15] Due to dissent over the governance of the colony, and the distance between settlements in the northern half and settlements in the southern half, in 1691 a deputy governor was appointed to administer the northern half of Carolina (Albemarle province).[16] In 1712, the two provinces became separate colonies, the colony of North Carolina (formerly Albemarle province) and the colony of South Carolina (formerly Clarendon province).[17]

Carolina was the first of three colonies in North America settled by the English to have a comprehensive plan. Known as the Grand Model, or Grand Modell, it was composed of a constitution and detailed guidelines for settlement and development. The constitution, titled Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, was drafted by the philosopher John Locke under the direction of Anthony Ashley Cooper (later made Earl of Shaftesbury).[18]

From 1708 to 1710, due to disquiet over attempts to establish the Anglican church in the province, the people were unable to agree on a slate of elected officials; consequently, there was no recognized and legal government for more than two years, a period which culminated in Cary's Rebellion when the Lords Proprietors finally commissioned a new governor. This circumstance, coupled with the Tuscarora War and the Yamasee War, and the inability of the Lords Proprietors to act decisively, led to separate governments for North and South Carolina.

Some take this period as the establishment of separate colonies, but that did not officially occur until 1729 when seven of the Lords Proprietors sold their interests in Carolina to the Crown, and both North Carolina and South Carolina became royal colonies. The eighth share was Sir George Carteret's, which had passed to his great-grandson John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville. He retained ownership of a sixty-mile-wide strip of land in North Carolina adjoining the Virginia boundary, which became known as the Granville District. This district was to become the scene of many disputes, from 1729 until the American Revolutionary War, at which time it was seized by the North Carolina revolutionary government. Governments under proprietary rule and under crown rule were similarly organized. The primary difference was who was to appoint the governing officials: the Lords Proprietors or the Sovereign.

Although the division between the northern and southern governments became complete in 1712, both colonies remained in the hands of the same group of proprietors. A rebellion against the proprietors broke out in Charlestown, South Carolina (now spelled Charleston) in 1719 which led to the appointment of a royal governor for South Carolina in 1719. In 1729, North Carolina would become a royal colony.[19]


Historical population
Source: 1660–1710;[20]


  1. "North Carolina State Library—North Carolina History". Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  2. Poore, Ben. Perley, ed. (1877). The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the United States, Volume II. Washington: Government Printing Office. pp. 1382–1390. OCLC 958743486 via Internet Archive.
  3. Cummings, William (1998). The Southeast in Early Maps, Third Edition. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 14. ISBN 0807823716.
  4. N. C. Board of Agriculture (1902). A sketch of North Carolina. Charleston: Lucas-Richardson Co. p. 4. OL 6918901M.
  5. "NHC Public Library – New Hanover County – North Carolina" (PDF). New Hanover County.
  6. "Part IV, Chapter 42". Archived from the original on March 11, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  7. Crane, Vernon (1928). The Southern Frontier 1670–1732. University of North Carolina.
  8. "Charter of Carolina – March 24, 1663". December 18, 1998. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  9. Peter Charles Hoffer (December 14, 2006). The Brave New World: A History of Early America. JHU Press. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-8018-8483-2.
  10. Patricia Riles Wickman (March 2, 1999). The Tree that Bends: Discourse, Power, and the Survival of Maskoki People. University of Alabama Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-8173-0966-4.
  11. Verner Crane (1928). The Southern Frontier 1670–1732. University of Alabama Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-8173-5082-6.
  12. "Charter of Carolina – March 24, 1663". Avalon Law. Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. 2008. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009. Retrieved February 10, 2016. Know ye, that we of our further grace, certain knowledge, and meer motion, have thought fit to erect the same tract of ground, county, and island, into a province, and out of the fulness of our royal power and prerogative, we do, for us, our heirs and successors, erect, incorporate and ordain the same into a province, and call it the Province of Carolina,...
  13. The Exodus, by Michael Jarvis, in The Bermudian magazine, June 2001.
  14. In the Eye of All Trade, by Michael Jarvis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press (2010). ISBN 9780807872840.
  15. Richard Middleton, Colonial America: A History (Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley Blackwell, 1992), p. 125.
  16. Charles McLean Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, Volume III (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), p. 258.
  17. Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settlement of North America (New York: Penguin Books, 2001), 226.
  18. Wilson, Thomas D. The Ashley Cooper Plan: The Founding of Carolina and the Origins of Southern Political Culture. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2016. Chapter 1.
  19. North Carolina Became a Royal Colony Archived January 25, 2023, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
  20. Purvis, Thomas L. (1999). Balkin, Richard (ed.). Colonial America to 1763. New York: Facts on File. pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-0816025275.
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