Transformation of the Southern Economy 1850 to 1880
Based on the movie “Gone with the Wind”
Many economic differences between the North and South are contributing factors to the Civil War, but what are the effects of the Civil War on the economy in the South? The Civil War transformed the southern economy in many ways. Before 1861, the South provided a great majority of the federal income through exports to England. By 1880, the south was broken by the war. Many proud plantations were devastated and billions of economic value in slaves had been wiped away by emancipation measures. The Southern economy was built on the labor of African American slaves. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, the cotton industry became the lucrative field for the south. Slave labor cut costs as it produced cotton for sale to other regions and exports to England. In exchange, southerner’s would purchase manufactured goods from the north. The southern cotton industry served as an engine of growth for the entire nation’s economy in the antebellum years. Another economic issue that divided the nation was tariffs. The south had intentions of keeping tariffs low, since they had an import- oriented economy, but the north wanted high tariffs. While it could produce sufficient food to support itself, thanks to an agriculturally based economy, but it lacked means of transporting it to soldiers and civilians in areas further away from the plantations in which it was grown on. Slave labor was a necessity to southerners because they believed that a white man should not do the back breaking labor required to produce cotton, tobacco, rice and indigo. Also slaves were cheap labor and with approximately 3 million slaves they were of convenient numbers to cut the time in which it would take to tend to the fields. The south was resourceful: they had seven out of the eight military colleges in the country; they established armories and foundries in several states; they built...
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