A Letter from South Carolina; giving an Account of the Soil, Air, Product, Trade, Government, Laws, Religion, People, Military Strength, &c. of that Province.[NAIRNE, Thomas]
Together with the Manner and necessary Charges of Settling a Plantation there and the Annual Profit it will produce.
Written by a Swiss Gentleman, to his Friend at Bern.
London: Printed for R.Smith. 1718.
Second edition. 8vo in 4s. 180x110mm. pp.56. Very good in modern marbled paper covered card. Internally excellent. The head of the title page is inscribed "Gabriel King, 1718. No. 1" and the foot has the inscription (upside down) "More formidable than a Switzers" (a line from Hudibras). On the verso, Gabriel King has inscribed his name and, very faintly, some lines of verse. A scarce and important document for the study of English colonialism and the early history of Carolina.
Although no author is named, it is accepted that this pamphlet is by Thomas Nairne (a Scot, not a Switzer) who arrived in the colony of Carolina in 1695 and quickly established himself as a trader and land owner (he was granted land by the Lords Proprietors). He is best known as Carolina’s first official “Indian agent”, responsible for overseeing and regulating trade between the colonial government and the Native Americans. Three years after his appointment to this position, Nairne wrote A Letter from South Carolina. It is a concise and clearly written guide beginning with the history and politics of the provinces but with the major part of the pamphlet focussing on the economic advantages enjoyed by Carolina - its climate, fertility, geography, legal system and its trading and financial opportunities. It is thought that the letter was addressed to Jean Pierre Purry, a Swiss citizen interested in settling in America. The letter is, therefore, a form of prospectus containing much detailed information on how to set up an estate and make it financially viable. Inevitably, much of that viability depends on the availability of slaves, a mere matter of fact in these pages.
Nairne was unpopular with both unlicensed European traders and with Native Americans. During a series of uprisings by Indigenous tribes, particularly the Yamassees, Nairne was captured. He died in 1715 following a gruesome torture during which wood splinters were burnt into his skin. Nairne’s claim that, in Carolina, “most of us enjoy that State of Life which many people reckon the happiest, a moderate Subsistance, without the Vexation of Dependance”, had become, by the time of this second edition, published three years after his death, a somewhat hollow one.