Slavery and the Economy
Over the course of history, historians have viewed slavery as an immoral and unjustifiable institution. At the beginning of the antebellum period, around 700,000 slaves were unjustly imported and sold into slavery. New land discovered in America was seen as profitless and pointless without an inexpensive source of labor. By the end of this historical time period, that number increased to over 4,000,000 slaves brought into the United States. The institution of slavery helped boost the economy of the United States because it provided a cheap, but enormous labor force to work on newly acquired, bountiful land. Over the course of the 19th century, the cultivation of cotton became increasingly important to the economy of the United States. Most slaves during the antebellum period worked cultivating cotton, while the rest worked growing tobacco, sugar, coffee, rice and hemp. There was an abundant source of land in the United States during this time period, which was mostly owned by wealthy plantation owners who bought slaves to work for them. Stuart Bruchey writes about how land in the United States was so plentiful during this historical time period. “Through purchase, war, and the peaceful settle of boundary disputes, the nation’s landed area more than tripled, rising in square miles from 864,746 to 2,969,640 between 1790 and 1860.” While there was an increase in the nation’s land, there was also an increase in population. Bruchey states that gains in population, “…came in the main from natural increase rather than from immigration.”1 He also goes on to say that “the excess of births over deaths was the main source of population growth,”1 despite a falling white birth rate. As the birth rate of whites was diminishing, the population of non-whites (typically African American slaves) was increasing. Society in America during the antebellum period favored plantation owners in the South. Julia Floyd Smith asserts the notion that owning more...
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