South Carolina, part of the original Province of Carolina, was founded in 1663 when King Charles II gave the land to eight noble men known as the Lords Proprietors. At the time, the province included both North Carolina and South Carolina. North and South Carolina became separate royal colonies in 1729.
The Spanish and French vied over the rights to the coast of South Carolina in the 1500’s. In 1562, French soldiers unsuccessfully attempted to start a settlement on Parris Island off the coast of present-day South Carolina. In 1566, the Spanish built the colony of Santa Elena near the site of the original French settlement. Santa Elena was abandoned in 1576 after being attacked by Indians. Although the settlement was rebuilt, the Spanish concentrated their forces in Florida after British pirate Sir Francis Drake destroyed St. Augustine. The British would be the next to colonize the area.
In 1670, the first permanent English settlement in South Carolina was established at Albemarle Point. Many of the original settlers came from the Caribbean island of Barbados, including the new governor, William Sayle. A year before, in 1669, prospective Carolina settlers including John Locke wrote the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which served as an early form of government for the Carolina colony.
In 1680, the colony moved to Charles Town (later Charleston). Charles Town would quickly become the cultural and economic center of the southern colonies. Because of the influence of the Caribbean settlers, the colony’s original economy resembled the plantation colonies of the West Indies. It would become a major center for rice, tobacco and indigo production, and the colony’s plantation owners were among the wealthiest people in all the colonies. By the late 1700’s, African-American slaves represented the majority of the population in South Carolina, as the number of cotton plantations increased.