King Cotton

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"Cotton is King"

The South's predominant economic principle before the War of Northern Aggression was "Cotton is King." The South, as it was known around the turn of the 19th century, was solely dependent upon its cotton production. Low prices, unmarketable goods, and over-used land were driving the necessity for slavery and the need for cotton production out. Were it not for a Yankee's ingenuity, the South as we study it now may have been vastly different. As the South lacked the ability to process raw cotton, they were faced with a nearly insurmountable obstacle. They produced too little cotton to be able to cover the costs of shipping it to a processing plant, most likely in the North or England, their primary consumers. Yielding little return on the high-maintenance King (Queen?) of the South, her cotton production spiraled into decline in the years leading up to the 1800's. However, ironically, a Yankee named Eli Whitney helped the South's dependency on slavery to bloom like many never though possible with his invention of the cotton gin in 1793. His machine automated the seed separation process, enabling a single machine to produce up to fifty pounds of cleaned cotton daily, making cotton into the king that it was up until the end of the War of Northern Aggression. By 1859, the price of cotton had reached an average of fifty-four dollars a bale. The South exported $250,000,000 of cotton alone- a truly remarkable sum, for any time. As Senator L.T. Wigfall, of Texas said, in December 1860, "Two hundred and fifty million exports will bring into our own borders - not through Boston and New York and Philadelphia, but through our own ports - $250,000,000 of imports; and forty per cent upon that puts into our treasury $100,000,000. Twenty per cent gives us $50,000,000." He went on to discuss the multitude of probabilities once rice, tobacco, and other prominent cash crops were figured in. The South was in a very admirable position. Plantation...
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