Economics of Slavery and Expansion

By Antoine “King Toine” Wright. Monday, August 29th, 2022.

The economics of slavery was greatly dependent on the expansion into the mainland United States. Multiple factors affected the actual expansion such as the developing states had been either free, slave, or undecided by the 1800’s and much of the expansion into west of the country. Another impact on expansion was the discourse over slavery became apparent and led to many deals and agreements, such as the Missouri Compromise. The 1820 compromise explained that Missouri would join the Union as a slave state and Maine would be a free state, though slavery would not be permitted in the northern Louisiana Territory. Before this agreement, the Ohio River was what separated the free states from the slave ones. The expansion returned when the compromise was disturbed by the Mexican-American War of 1846. Additionally, the production of cotton had a vital impact on both territorial expansion and the economic foundations of slavery. Innovations such as railroads was another factor. Furthermore, religion and ideologies fueled a lot of migration.

By the 1850’s, over 50% of the slaves in the southern United States worked in the cotton fields, where the crop was the “King of the South”, where many factors influenced the way that slavery became the new way of the economy. First, many of the slave-holding movements were directed by agricultural and industrial opportunities. In the late 1700’s, only six states in the South worked with cotton but by 1850 the numbers increased by 13. Second, much of the demand was driven by British buyers while internal slave trading and businesses were profitable. Third, plantations in the lower south rejected urbanization, often refusing to educate and build infrastructure for their slaves.

However, within urban settings, slaves were often artisans, domestics, or semi-skilled workers. Fourth, the work with cotton and other crops was demanding and unrewarding. The slaves didn’t receive any essentials or nutritional diets at all. The system was very oppressive with sexual exploitation and the conditions led to rebellious acts which resulted in capital punishment and other horrendous actions.

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