Title page for ETD etd-07012004-091858

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Smith, Lee Davis
URN etd-07012004-091858
Title A Settlement of Great Consequence: The Development of the Natchez District, 1763-1860
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Tiwanna M. Simpson Committee Chair
Rodger M. Payne Committee Member
William J. Cooper, Jr. Committee Member
  • American Revolution
  • religion
  • economy
  • West Florida
  • migration
Date of Defense 2004-06-22
Availability unrestricted
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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