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Industrial and Transportation Revolution: Causes & Effects

Mini-Essay 3

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Mini-Essay #3


Discuss the significance of cotton and the cotton gin in the South and its effect on slavery.

Eli Whitney (Dec. 8, 1765 - Jan. 8, 1825) invented the cotton gin in 1793. It was a machine that separated cottonseed from the cotton fiber. The cotton gin could produce 50 pounds daily, making southern cotton a moneymaking crop. The cotton gin was mostly used to remove seeds from short-staple cotton. Cotton gins used to be cranked by hand but then they started to be horse drawn and water powered. This made the process of “cotton ginning” quicker and cheaper. Cotton and cotton gin were two of the things that helped revolutionize America. Cotton and the cotton gin mostly affected the South and slaves.

Cotton and the cotton gin affected the South and slavery in many ways. Cotton mostly affected slavery because this invention lightened the workload. The slaves didn’t need to work nearly as hard. When slaves didn’t have this machine to use, they would have to work very, very hard. Logically, with this machine the amount of slaves needed would decrease. On the contrary, more slaves were needed not to turn the cotton gin, but more were needed to actually plant the cotton in the ground. To compare the difference, a slave without the invention picked about one pound of cotton. With the invention he could pick around fifty pounds of it. That’s fifty times the production in the same amount of time; the slaves also didn’t need to work as hard to get this fifty times the production. With this invention, cotton soon became the best selling textile especially in the South. The South was especially productive in producing cotton. Since cotton needed nothing more than air to grow, it started growing in Texas. Since cotton was becoming the most profitable product out, Texas also got in on the action and started making money.

The cotton gin affected slavery the most because the huge numbers of new immigrants that came to the United States. The slave labor had become cheap enough that many farmers found it essential to pay. Suddenly, as the gin made dramatically improved ways to produce cotton, the need for labor was made more imperative to the livelihood of those who grew the crop. As more immigrants poured into American, the more slaves were sought out by landowners.

The cotton also affected American in a negative way too. The economy of the South was changed with this new type of agriculture. The food-farmers were left in the dust in the move to create large cotton farms. Since many farmers went from food growers to cotton growers, the amount of food went down a lot. Another somewhat negative impact upon the economy was a sudden dependence upon cotton production. The South lived and died with the production of cotton. When the cotton industry faltered, so, too, did the south. The south was very dependent on cotton. In contrast, when cotton did well, many farmers would rush to make a gain and overproduce the crop. This sometimes resulted in price drops.