Commission of Indian Trade

1707

In 1707 the Commons House of Assembly created the Board of Indian Commissioners to regulate the traffic between Indian traders and nations such as the Cherokees, Creeks, and Catawbas.

In 1707 the Commons House of Assembly created the Board of Indian Commissioners to regulate the traffic between Indian traders and nations such as the Cherokees, Creeks, and Catawbas. These nine men were to license private traders, who had to pay £8 currency for a license and give a bond worth £100 currency. The law also called for the creation of an Indian agent, who was to spend at least ten months in the Indian lands. The agent was paid £250 annually in exchange for handling any complaints as well as managing the trade. Commissioners had to address problems such as traders who extended excessive credit to Indians in order to force land cessions, with some traders enslaving Indians who could not pay their trade debts. Other traders liberally sold rum in the Indian lands, usually to the detriment of the tribes. The inability of the board to end these abuses led to the disastrous Yamassee War of 1715–1718.

After the war, the South Carolina government assumed a direct monopoly over the Indian trade, forcing the private traders out. A new law created a public corporation of five commissioners under the direction of the Commons House of Assembly. The act replaced the single Indian agent with government traders, called factors, stationed with the major tribes. Factors were to trade only with tribes friendly to Carolina. They were not to extend credit to such tribes and were to maintain detailed information about tribal affairs of their host nations. Theophilus Hastings was the factor to the Cherokees, while William Watis was stationed among three smaller tribes, the Waccamaws, Wawees, and Peedees. Private traders who continued to trade illegally would be fined and have their goods confiscated.

By 1731 rules required each factor to appear in Charleston to renew his one-year license before the secretary of the Indian commission. As before, the factor was limited to one major tribe and forbidden to trade with others. The historian Verner Crane noted that the South Carolina Indian commission system was probably the best among the North American colonies with respect to planning and efficiency.

Crane, Verner. The Southern Frontier, 1670–1732. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1928.

McDowell, William L., ed. Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade, September 20, 1710–August 29, 1718. Columbia: South Carolina Archives Department, 1955.

Morris, Michael P. The Bringing of Wonder: Trade and the Indians of the Southeast, 1700–1783. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Commission of Indian Trade
  • Coverage 1707
  • Author
  • Keywords Board of Indian Commissioners, Indian agent, Yamassee War of 1715–1718,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 22, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 1, 2017
Go to Top