Friday, April 8, 2011

How would you explain the large and expanding domestic trade in slaves between 1800 and 1860? What combination of factors produced this result?

As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the production increased significantly after 1800. Especially the textile industry had a boost at that time and more and more cotton supplies were required. While the Northern States were industrialized and produced the textiles, the Southern States were the main cotton suppliers, but still relying on slaves for the cotton production. Cotton changed the course of the American economic and racial future. The cotton crops increased considerably; and by 1840, the South was producing and exporting over 2/3 of the world’s cotton, giving the region strong economic power. The large needs of raw materials determined the Southern plantation owners to look for more manpower in slaves. Since the slave import has been restricted, slaves became even more valuable generating the so-called “mania for buying negroes”, The domestic trade in slaves became the best resource. White planters started looking for new slaves in the upper South states, and between 1800 and 1860, the domestic slave trade emerged as a crucial commercial enterprise operating through two systems: the coastal one and the inland one. The coastal system sent slaves to the sugar plantations in Louisiana, whereas the inland one to the cotton plantations. The coastal system was very apparent and provided the slaves required by the expansion towards the West, yet another reason for the extended manpower requirement. The domestic slave trade was crucial for the prosperity of the southern economy, and it was an important resource to raise money, straightening the economy of the Upper South.

Henretta, James A. and David Brody. America: A Concise History, Volume I: To 1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 349-353

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