Economic Condition of South Carolina in 1860

Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Messages
824
#1
Can anyone paint for me a true picture of South Carolina's economic condition in 1860?

I am thinking in terms of its GDP, its expenses, what it owed factors, what it was capable of producing, etc. I have a hunch that it was functionally broke and getting broker; however, that is strictly a hunch. I have no hard numbers. E.g., SC constituted roughly 20,500,000 acres of land. Question: How much income were those acres able to generate? How much income had it generated in the past? Were there any five-year projections on what it needed to produce in 1861 forward? Etc.

Thanks for any insight you might provide.

James Lutzweiler
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

lelliott19

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
4,631
#2
@wausaubob is, I believe, our chief economist. If anyone knows, I'm betting he will. Or be able to tell you how to find the info you seek. I've tagged him in the opening of this reply so next time he accesses the site, he should receive an alert and come take a look.
Wishing you a very happy new year.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
33,670
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#3
@wausaubob is, I believe, our chief economist. If anyone knows, I'm betting he will. Or be able to tell you how to find the info you seek. I've tagged him in the opening of this reply so next time he accesses the site, he should receive an alert and come take a look.
Wishing you a very happy new year.
I'll take a shot.

Agriculture - South Carolina Encyclopedia

Cotton was especially important to the backcountry. Although the region’s farmers planted a little tobacco and wheat for sale, subsistence farming had been the norm, and backcountry folk mostly grew or bartered to meet their needs. Cotton changed that. The climate and soils of the backcountry were well suited to upland cotton, and the low start up costs of cotton culture appealed to small farmers. Growers often invested their cotton profits in land and slaves to produce still more cotton. Thus, landless farmers could become yeoman, and yeomen could aspire to planter status. The region became more market oriented as well. Seduced by the lure of cash on the barrelhead, backcountry farmers often forsook food crops for the staple. Thus, within a generation, cotton worked an economic revolution in the South Carolina backcountry. By the 1830s the state’s economy was heavily dependent on cotton, and the fortunes of the state rose and fell with the price of the white fiber.​
Staple agriculture (the production of cash crops on plantations by slave labor) profoundly influenced South Carolina’s worldview and intellectual life as well. Agrarian orthodoxy held that rural life fostered character, respect for the natural world, the dignity of work, devotion to community, family, and God—a way of life in every way superior to the urban North with its anonymous, industrial drudgery. Faced with attacks on slavery in the 1840s and 1850s, the state’s best minds countered abolitionist rhetoric with strident defenses of the peculiar institution. According to the brilliant James Henry Hammond, slavery was a positive good that provided society with a needed “mudsill” of common laborers on which higher civilization rested. William Gilmore Simms, the South’s leading man of letters, urged fellow southerners to resist the creeping industrial and intellectual hegemony of the North. And Francis W. Pickens declared that “No pursuit is so well calculated to produce stern integrity and devoted patriotism, as agriculture.” Their devotion came at a cost. Writing in the 1930s, the historian David Duncan Wallace lamented the antebellum state’s “continued glorification of agriculture as morally superior to other industries [that] discouraged the development of other possibilities.”​
Despite numerous small farms, large-scale rice and cotton plantations dominated South Carolina agriculture in the antebellum decades. For example, the state’s mean farm size in 1860 was a substantial 569 acres. By 1860 South Carolina farmers—slave and free, great and small—were producing more than 176 million pounds of cotton and 117 million pounds of rice annually. Sadly, the prosperity of the 1850s only reinforced the notion that protecting slave based staple agriculture was worth disunion and war.​
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Messages
18,162
Location
Laurinburg NC
#4
Can anyone paint for me a true picture of South Carolina's economic condition in 1860?

I am thinking in terms of its GDP, its expenses, what it owed factors, what it was capable of producing, etc. I have a hunch that it was functionally broke and getting broker; however, that is strictly a hunch. I have no hard numbers. E.g., SC constituted roughly 20,500,000 acres of land. Question: How much income were those acres able to generate? How much income had it generated in the past? Were there any five-year projections on what it needed to produce in 1861 forward? Etc.

Thanks for any insight you might provide.

James Lutzweiler
South Carolina was third in per capita wealth in 1860 behind Connecticut and Louisiana and just ahead of Rhode Island and Mississippi.

E.Merton Coulter, The South During Reconstruction, 1865-1877, p.192.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
33,670
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#5
South Carolina was third in per capita wealth in 1860 behind Connecticut and Louisiana and just ahead of Rhode Island and Mississippi.

E.Merton Coulter, The South During Reconstruction, 1865-1877, p.192.
I assume that is White per capita.
Of 703,708 total population 402,406 were slaves.
South Carolina: A History
The average free per capita wealth in 1860 was an incredible $2,017
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Messages
18,162
Location
Laurinburg NC
#10
I assume that is White per capita.
Of 703,708 total population 402,406 were slaves.
South Carolina: A History
The average free per capita wealth in 1860 was an incredible $2,017
I assume that is White per capita.
Of 703,708 total population 402,406 were slaves.
South Carolina: A History
The average free per capita wealth in 1860 was an incredible $2,017
I would so assume so for South Carolina and all the other states. There were some wealthy minority individuals, but I would be surprised if there were enough, or included, in any state to affect its per capita rating.

That sound like my per capita Navy wealth in 1956. :frown:
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7,442
Location
Denver, CO
#17
The slave owning farms of South Carolina were in good shape as long as there was no rush to sell slaves by slave owners in the border states. A sell off would have depressed the price of slaves and tightened credit conditions.
 

byron ed

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Messages
1,607
Location
Midwest
#19
...I was led to believe that South Carolina by 1860 was among those southern states being financially and civically suffocated and violated by Yankee greed, to the point that was the primary cause leading to the Northern War of aggression. Weren't mothers and children destitute, weren't there unemployed men roiling about in gutters, wasn't food scarce, weren't Southern belles compromised, weren't rights to property (well ok, slaves) rudely ignored? I was led to believe the South had no choice but to secede and form a slave-centric Confederacy, merely to survive!

But it seems here that South Carolina was pretty much ok in 1860, that Northern oppression hadn't destroyed prosperity or even a way of life after all. I'm so confused now, because that would seem to leave only slavery as the primary cause of secession and the war, and I've been told that's only a self-righteous Yankee fable.

It must be one of those things that "only Southerners would understand," (er, that is, white Southerners, well ok heritage Confederate white Southerners, well ok perhaps unreconstructed heritage Confederate white Southerners, well ok I suppose unreconstructed heritage Confederate white Southerners with an attitude. Well alright then, just some "good 'ole boys").
 
Last edited:

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
33,670
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#20



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top