Chapter 17: “The South and the Slavery
~ 1793 – 1860 ~
“Cotton’s Is King!”
Before the 1793 invention of
, slavery was a dying business, since
the South was burdened with depressed prices, unmarketable goods, and over-cropped lands.
After the gin was invented, growing cotton became wildly profitable and
easier, and more slaves were needed.
The North also transported the cotton to England and the rest of Europe, so they were in part
responsible for the slave trade as well.
The South produced more than half the world’s supply of cotton, and held and advantage over
countries like England, an industrial giant, which needed cotton to make cloth, etc…
The South believed that since England was so dependent on them that, if civil war was to ever
break out, England would support the South that it so heavily depended on.
The Planter “Aristocracy”
In 1850, only 1733 families owned more tan 100 slaves each, and they were the wealthy
aristocracy of the South, with big houses and huge plantations.
The Southern aristocrats widened the gap between the rich and the poor and hampered public-
funded education by sending their children to private schools.
Also, a favorite author among them was
Sir Walter Scott
, author of
, who helped them idealize a feudal society with them as the kings and
queens and the slaves as their subjects.
The plantation system shaped the lives of southern women.
Mistresses of the house commanded a sizable household of mostly female
slaves who cooked, sewed, cared for the children, and washed things.
Mistresses could be kind or cruel, but all of them did at one point or another
abuse their slaves to some degree; there was no “perfect mistress.”
Slaves of the Slave System
Cotton production spoiled the earth, and even though profits were quick and high, land was
ruined, and cotton producers were always in need of new land.
The economic structure of the South became increasingly monopolistic because as land ran
out, smaller farmers sold their land to the large estate owners.
Also, the temptation to overspeculate in land and in slaves caused many planters to plunge
deep into debt.
Slaves were valuable, but they were also a gamble, since they might run away
or be killed by disease.
The dominance of King Cotton likewise led to a one-crop economy whose price level was at
the mercy of world conditions.
Southerners resented the Northerners growing fat (getting rich) at their expense while they
were dependent on the North for clothing, other food, and manufactured goods.
The South repelled immigrants from Europe, who went to the North, making it richer.