The southern American states were agriculturalists (Timmons, 2018). They engaged in large scale plantation of cash crops such as cotton, sugar cane and Tobacco to drive the engine of their economic growth. The southern States had fertile lands with an ideal climate to support agricultural activities (Timmons, 2018). The building of the agricultural economy in the South required massive investments in labor to work in the vast plantations (Timmons, 2018). Therefore, to meet the growing need for cash crops in European markets where they were exported from the Southern States, the wealthy landowners turned to slaves to provide the required workforce in the plantations. The slaves picked and helped in the cleaning of cotton before being processed for exportation (Timmons, 2018). There is significant evidence that if the southern state were a self-governing Confederacy, it would have been the fourth wealthiest in the world before the civil war. The contribution of the slaves to the agricultural economy was enormous to the Southern States (Timmons, 2018). For instance, through the free labor obtained from slaves, the Southern states were producing more than 75% of the world cotton while also creating more millionaires along Mississippi (Timmons, 2018).
However, as more slaves were imported from West Africa, there was an increase in the slave fruitfulness that led to the invention of a different industry called slave auction (Timmons, 2018). The auction was open marketplaces where a human being would be inspected as animals before they were bought or sold to the top buyer (Timmons, 2018). The slave auction in the South was as lucrative as the cotton plantations. For instance, in the 19th a well-built man would go for as expensive as $1500 (Timmons, 2018). The slaves were so entrenched to the lives of the wealthy Southerners to the extent that even the belief that man was created equal would change the mindset of the people (Timmons, 2018). There was the establishment of a new class of people who would continuously solicit slaves and sell them in the auction markets. It is, therefore, essential to realize that the slaves represented the most vital asset of the southern people.
The slaves were cheap to acquire from the auction markets, and they could work in the hot environmental conditions for long hours without pay (Timmons, 2018). The slaves were also immune to tropical diseases such as malaria which increased their worth to the southern states. The slaves could work in their master’s homesteads (Timmons, 2018). There was a belief that with the development of the cotton gin, the demand for slaves would reduce, however, the reality is that the machine improved the processing capacity that also needed more slaves to facilitate the process (Timmons, 2018). The discovery of the cotton gin also corresponded with the innovation of other advances such as the cargo ships that increased the export. It meant that there was a need for more land to cultivate more cash crops to improve the southern economy (Timmons, 2018). The slaves provided labor in the plantations, worked in the homesteads as house helps and guards hence representing a critical aspect of the Southern economy.
Timmons, G. (2018). How Slavery Became the Economic Engine of the South. Retrieved on April 16, 2019, from https://www.history.com/news/slavery-profitable-southern-economy