The Cotton Gin In the mid-19th century a war begun that would change America forever. This was the Civil War, a war in which the American nation split into two nations who were divided over the practice of slavery. This war can is undeniably seen as the bloodiest event in American history, therefore the machine that caused it is then the most threatening to American society. This machine is not a weapon, but a simple agricultural advancement called the cotton gin.
At the turn of the 19th century America was growing both in geographical size and in the economic sector. In the South this economic expansion was created by a new “cash crop” called cotton. The southern United States had the perfect environment to grow cotton, and plenty of land …show more content…
A machine had to be invented first that would make the cotton profitable by easily separating the seeds from the fibers. This machine, the cotton gin, was patented in 1794 by Eli Whitney a man who lived on a cotton farm in Savannah Georgia (history.com staff). Before the invention was made popular throughout the South not many people grew cotton as in some states like Mississippi cotton was not widely grown until the 1830’s (Dattel). However, after the machine revolutionized the refining process of the cotton crop the supply of cotton rose to meet the growing demand, which only increased after the supply met it, and with the rising demand of cotton rose the demand for inexpensive labor. This demand for labor was increasingly supplied by slaves. The increase in slavery can be shown by the census as in 1790 the census measured that there were 654,121 slaves in the south, while in the 1860 census there were 3,950,511 (Bourne). This substantial increase in slavery was a result of farmers or plantation owners needed an increasing amount of cheap labor to grow more cotton. The cotton gin therefore kept slavery profitable and alive well into the 1860’s whereas if the …show more content…
This is exactly what happened in the South as “American cotton production soared from 156,000 bales in 1800 to more than 4,000,000 bales in 1860” which flooded the markets (Dattel). As a result, farmers who wanted to make money would have to increase their labor force, which resulted in the slave industry becoming gradually more profitable (Dattel). Another major issue with a cash crop is that if everyone is growing one crop there is no diversity and the entire farming economy can easily be brought down by some sort of bug such as a boll weevil or a natural disaster such as the dust
The cotton gin reduced the need for slaves to pick the seeds out of the cotton by hand. However, it did not decrease the need for slaves to grow and pick the cotton. The gin made growing cotton extremely profitable in the South.
The invention of the cotton gin created a market for cotton that the planters could hardly supply without cheap labor. Almost every available acre was brought under cotton culture as the small farmers were driven into the West. The demand for slaves to work the fields was enormous. This led to the development of the plantation system of the Far South and Southwest, where masters were near constantly extending their holdings of lands and slaves. Efforts to form new slave states were common, most prominent of these efforts was that to annex Texas.
The use of the cotton gin had a major impact on slavery by expanding the use and population of slaves. “This machine revolutionized the process of separating cotton from its seed, making it dramatically faster and less expensive to turn picked cotton into usable cotton for textiles” the author said. Harvesting the cotton fields was intense work and the more cotton that was being produced lead to more fields causing more slaves to be needed to work those fields. All the large cotton plantations that the south maintained, by 1850 the slave population increased tremendously. “Southern wealth had become reliant on this one crop and thus was completely dependent on slave-labor.”
Since servitude was legitimate in the South, they kept an eye on the estates with slaves. Bondage expanded 500 percent amid this period, and estate proprietors felt they couldn't work without slaves. By 1860, the United States created around 66% of the cotton utilized as a part of the world. The economy of the South depended solely on the cotton edit. Meanwhile, Congress pondered laws with respect to which states simply entering the Union were slave states and which were free.
This meant the slave system some time would have to end, but at the time, slavery was booming. These slaveholding planters were raging capitalist, they knew how to get rich through slavery. The cotton boom in the South seemed limitless around 1820, it is comparable now to oil today. Cotton production doubled every decade for four decades and was America’s largest export. The South was the world’s largest exporter of cotton, supplying much of the textile industry.
Inventions like Eli Whitneys' Cotton Gin also greatly contributed to cotton's success in the South, along with their accesibility to cheap labor through the
With Ely Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, cotton farming drove several changes. Cotton farmers could grow more cotton, considering processing cotton became more efficient with the cotton gin (Schultz, 2013). This change drove increases in land use, the establishment of additional farms, and a sharp increase in the use of enslaved people. These additional farms increased the wealth of southern farmers but caused several environmental problems considering the additional land clearing required to open fields and the soil damage caused by overuse. Social life for enslaved people dropped to inhumane levels, given that enslavers believed social interaction among enslaved people could lead to rebellion and insurrection due to several slave
No matter your stance at the time, one thing became clear: socially, politically and economically, slavery was the fabric of American success and gave birth to the Old South as we know it today. At the center of the entire institution of slavery, and central to its defense, was the economic domination it provided a young country in international markets. In the early 19th century, cotton was a popular commodity and overtook sugar as the main crop produced by slave labor. The production of cotton became the nation’s top priority; America supplied ¾ of the cotton supply to the entire world.
By the early 1800’s, the vastly growing cotton industry soared as cotton became the nation’s most important and valuable export. The development of the cotton gin only further propelled the cotton industry into economic success. The cotton gin took care of the hard tedious work that slaves used to have to undertake and increased the pace and the quantities in which cotton bales were produced. Working among the cotton fields, slaves adopted the gang system. The gang system was most commonly used in the cotton industry; to speed up production but also formally used among tobacco and sugar production.
Before its invention it took hours to get the seeds out of just a few pounds of cotton. However, in 1794 Eli Whitney created the hand cranked gin which could clean the seeds out of 50 pounds of cotton each day. This newfound technology allowed plantation owners to sell more cotton faster. Because of this huge plantations began popping up all throughout the South and each plantation needed more slaves to harvest the cotton. In the period after the gin’s invention until Congress abolished the importing of slaves it is estimated that Southern states brought in around 100,000 slaves from Africa.
Lastly, with the expansion of the country to the west and into what we now know as Texas drove the need for more slaves to work the land. With the decrease of demand for tobacco and rice, plantations turned to the new crop cotton. In 1800 less than half a million bales of cotton
With this new invention, a person could yield eight times as much cotton in one day versus the traditional method. It also made the Southern people more dependent on slavery than ever before. As more cotton could be produced in one day the need for slaves grew higher. No longer could the South due
That is why the invention of the “cotton gin” was very important for the South, as it helped them get out seeds faster than a slave could. Ten years after the invention of the “cotton gin”, cotton became the South’s most important
The increase in profits led to the demand for more slaves to help plant and harvest the cotton. The slaves were no longer needed in the removal of seeds from cotton but were needed in increase numbers for planting and harvesting. There was a direct correlation between the increase in cotton production and the increase in slave populations