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The Affect Of Slavery On Whites In The South

1010 words - 4 pages

From the late 1700s, right up until the end of the Civil War, slavery was the most important and influential issue in the United States. For both slave owners and non slave owners alike in both the north and the south, slavery remained a vital piece of the economy with the production of cotton, and virtually dictated the aristocratic structure of southern society. The culture of the south, of the rich and the poor, was deeply affected by the 'curious institution' of slavery, and it changed the face of the south with the plantation economy and tough competition for menial jobs that made it difficult for poor laborers to find work. Slavery proved throughout the 1800s to be a very polarizing issue, with very little middle ground between its staunch southern defenders, and the determined members of the abolitionist movement. Though the nation had mixed feelings about it during the 19th century, slavery formed the economic base for America and both determined the social structure of the south and became and extremely powerful and conflicted issue in politics.Slavery was instrumental in the economies of both the north and the south, and was a economic factor for both slave owners and those who did not own any slaves. The invention of Eli Whitney's cotton gin in 1793 reinvigorated the institution of slavery by making large plantations with hundreds of slaves profitable and cotton soon became the dominant crop of the south. Cotton's importance to the American economy increased quickly, and by 1840 around 50% of all American exports consisted of cotton, much of it to England, which got about 75% of its fiber from America. So great was cotton's power, both as an incredible economic force for the entire nation, but also as a possible economic weapon against England, should war break out that it was referred to as "King Cotton." Slavery drove this plantation economy, but also made it increasingly unstable and monopolistic. With slave prices of around $1,200 for prime field hands, many small farmers were forced to sell their farms to more prosperous farmers, making the plantation economy extremely monopolistic, and with the one crop economy, the well being of the south was dependent on price fluctuation. Slavery made the virtually feudal practices of the plantation economy possible, and was the force behind the vital production of cotton.Slavery, and the economic climate that it directly created, altered the social structure of the south and made it much more aristocratic than the north. The price for prime field hands was around $1,200, meaning that many small farmers could afford few, If any slaves and resulting in the consolidation of small farms to larger plantations, as poor farmers were forced to sell their land. This trend was so extreme that by 1850 only 1,733 families owned more than 100 slaves, creating a planter aristocracy that essentially controlled the south and produced statesmen such as John C. Calhoun. This system of a 'cottonocracy' meant...

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