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Economic Systems


  cotton gin
Cotton Gin
[audio]Slave Labor Became Important to the South

  • 75% of Southerners owned no slaves at all.
  • 3% of Southerners owned 20 slaves or more.
  • Subsistence farming meant it would be hard to feed an extra slave laborer, and because of very cold winters, there would not be much agricultural work for slave laborers : not profitable which was why New England farmers didn't use much slave labor.
  • Not much work during cold winter months which was not profitable and why Middle Colony farmers didn't use much slave labor.
  • Long growing season allowed for large plantations, which needed many field workers. This is why Southern Colony farmers used slave labor.
  • Primogeniture (pry-mah-jen-ih-chur) : when a man died, this old British legal system stated that all his land went to his oldest son.
  • Since the land was not divided up, a large labor force was continually needed, as the amount of crop land stayed the same from generation to generation
  • To solve the problem caused by primogeniture for younger sons, fathers bought uncultivated land in the back country and gave it to them.
  • Effect of giving uncultivated lands to their younger sons was the increased demand for slave labor.


The Cotton Gin

  • Southern cotton growers couldn't fill the world demand for cotton because it took too long to clean.
  • It would take a worker 50 days to clean 50 pounds of cotton by hand.
  • Cotton gin : a machine that cleaned cotton 50 times faster than doing it by hand!
  • After the invention of the cotton gin, it only took a worker 1 day to clean 50 pounds of cotton.
  • The first unintended effect of the cotton gin was more land taken away from Native Americans.
  • The second unintended effect was the increased demand for slave labor.


[audio] A Slave's Life

  • When slaves were sold from one region or state to another within the same country, it was called domestic slave trading.
  • Owners didn't want to beat their slaves to death because buying them was expensive, so they were considered to be too valuable to do this.
  • A slave is whipped before going into the field and made to pick as fast as he can . The cotton he picked is weighed that night. This is the minimum amount of cotton he would now be expected to pick each day. This is how plantation owners found out how much cotton a new slave could pick in a day.
  • Plantation owners wanted to find the slave's capability in cotton picking so that they would know when a slave was being lazy and needed punishing.
  • Slaves were expected to work in the fields from the first light of day until it was too dark to see, with the exception of 10-15 minutes to eat lunch.
  • A slave could not leave the field until an order was given by the driver to halt. A slave is punished by whipping if they didn't pick their expected amount of cotton.
  • When a slave picked more cotton than their expected amount, this new weight would become their new expected daily amount.
  • After the weighing and the whippings, the slaves must attend to their chores.
  • Once a slave returned to their cabin, they started a fire, ground the corn, and prepared supper, and lunch for the next day.
  • Some of a slave's fears during cotton-picking time : oversleeping, being caught lagging during the day, and approaching the gin house with his basket-load of cotton at night.