Master of Arts (MA)
This study examines events, conditions, and circumstances that influenced the development of the Natchez District of West Florida from its acquisition by Great Britain in 1763 until the eve of the Civil War. The strong relationships between West Florida and the “original thirteen” colonies created a dynamic area of Revolutionary and antebellum era growth in West Florida, and particularly in the Natchez District. Eighteenth century westward migration of seaboard colonists exerted pressure on native Americans. At the same time, colonists felt pressure from the presence of British troops remaining in America following the French and Indian War. Colonial officials recognized the need to disperse the population in order to ease tensions while still keeping colonists close enough to prevent them from feeling truly independent of England. West Florida provided a safety valve to mitigate these pressures. The exceptional quality of the land and climate in the Natchez District promoted settlement and resulted in a successful agricultural economy based on a slave labor system. When the main agricultural focus shifted to cotton after 1790, the plantation system built on previous tobacco culture was already in place. Beginning about 1795, cotton production drove the economy of the Natchez District and created a class of planter elite at least as affluent and progressive as those in more established colonies farther north. Until approximately 1830 Protestantism vied with the civil religion of land, slaves, and cotton for primacy in the Natchez District. After that, evangelicals and the planter elite moved closer to agreement on issues of slavery and wealth. Evangelicals, the planter elite, and slaves approached religion in their own ways, both secular and traditional, and adhered to systems of worship that corresponded to their own particular needs. By the eve of the Civil War the combination of these factors created a dynamic agricultural area with a cosmopolitan feel, yet firmly entrenched in the Bible Belt.
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Smith, Lee Davis, "A settlement of great consequence: the development of the Natchez District, 1763-1860" (2004). LSU Master's Theses. 2133.
Tiwanna M. Simpson