Restricted Economic Historians: the South was a prosperous agricultural region

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The problem with slaves as a source of wealth was that that form of wealth was not recognized in New York, London, Paris or Frankfurt.
The second problem was that it was mobile, it wasn't real estate or a factory. Slaves were more like automobiles, and could be difficult to locate when the time came to repossess.
After March 2-3, 1859 it became obvious that making good on slaves as security meant auctioning human beings.
Slaves were not a merchant vessel, a revenue producing RR right of way, an iron factory, or recognized paper security. They had no value except if the economic system of the 7 cotton producing states was viable, economically and politically. Anything that created doubt about that viability decreased the value of slaves.
There is a revenue stream that was the economic life blood of states like Virginia where staple crop plantations were no longer economically viable. Either overtly or not, the true cash crop was human beings. It was the “extras” born on those plantations that filled the voracious need for replacements & growth in the Deep South. It was an accepted management dictum that slaves only had a seven year useful working life. The pestilential rice producing areas probably did not achieve even that. The steady flow of extras from the surplus births in the border states is what made the slave/cotton connection possible.

Evidence of that was the large number of Chinese that were brought in to replace the children born in border states after the Civil War.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
There was definitely wealth in southern states, especially during the 1850's cotton boom. But to write that the south was wealthy as a region leaves out the slaves, and the conditions of the enslaved in LA, MS, se AR, and e Texas. It also leaves out many of the poor whites who had less valuable land and could not make money on cotton.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Some people who could stockpile uncompensated labor in the deep south were wealthy. If the labor was unpaid, the land owner reaped a large rent for the produce of the land. It made southern cotton real estate very valuable.
But in the northern areas, it was railroads that made the land more valuable. The railroads ran almost regardless of the weather. They could connect any two points. They made it possible to take all kinds of produce into the major cities, and they could move grain efficiently enough and fast enough that huge acreages were becoming valuable.
The difference was that in the south, all the best land had been opened up to agriculture. By 1860, additional land was going to require railroads, drainage and fertilizer. But railroad development in the north was just starting. Railroads removed the lid on the size of cities, and also meant that semi-perishable commodities like grain or salted pork, could be shipped not only to the east coast cities, but across the ocean to the UK.
If the railroad economy could grow and spread everywhere, and slavery was confined to a 15 state section where states would give it up one by one, the eventual minority status of the slave labor section of the US was obvious.
 
Last edited:

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Some people who could stockpile uncompensated labor the deep south were wealthy. If the labor was unpaid, the land owner reaped a large rent for the produce of the land. It made southern cotton real estate very valuable.
But in the northern areas, it was railroads that made the land more valuable. The railroads ran almost regardless of the weather. They could connect any two points. They made it possible to take all kinds of produce into the major cities, and they could move grain efficiently enough and fast enough that huge acreages were becoming valuable.
The difference was that in the south, all the best land had been opened up to agriculture. By 1860, additional land was going to require railroads, drainage and fertilizer. But railroad development in the north was just starting. Railroads removed the lid on the size of cities, and also meant that semi-perishable commodities like grain or salted pork, could be shipped not only to the east coast cities, but across the ocean to the UK.
If the railroad economy could grown and spread everywhere, and slavery was confined to a 15 state section where states would give it up one by one, the eventual minority status of the slave labor section of the US was obvious.
The large numbers of Chinese laborers that were brought in to clear land in the Mississippi Delta plays into that narrative.
 
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