The South and the Slavery Controversy
I. “Cotton’s Is King!”
Before the 1793 invention of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin,slavery was a dying business, since
the South was burdened withdepressed prices, unmarketable goods, and over-cropped
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 ofEurope, so they were in
part responsible for the slave trade as well.
The South produced more than half the world’s supply ofcotton, and held an advantage
over countries like England, anindustrial giant, which needed cotton to make cloth, etc…
The South believed that since England was so dependent on themthat, if civil war was to
ever break out, England would support theSouth that it so heavily depended on.
II. The Planter “Aristocracy”
In 1850, only 1733 families owned more than 100 slaves each, andthey were the
wealthy aristocracy of the South, with big houses andhuge plantations.
The Southern aristocrats widened the gap between the rich and thepoor and hampered
public-funded education by sending their children toprivate schools.
Also, a favorite author among them was Sir Walter Scott, author ofIvanhoe,
who helped them idealize a feudal society with them as thekings 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 mostlyfemale
slaves who cooked, sewed, cared for the children, and washedthings.
Mistresses could be kind or cruel, but all of them did at one pointor another
abuse their slaves to some degree; there was no“perfect mistress.”
III. Slaves of the Slave System
Cotton production spoiled the earth, and even though profits werequick and high, the
land was ruined, and cotton producers were alwaysin need of new land.
The economic structure of the South became increasinglymonopolistic because as land
ran out, smaller farmers sold their landto the large estate owners.
Also, the temptation to over-speculate in land and in slaves caused many planters to
plunge deep into debt.