CHAPTER IV. THE SOUTH (1820-1830)
In the decade which forms the subject of this volume, no section underwent more far-reaching changes than did the group of South Atlantic states made up of Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, with which this chapter will deal under the name of the south. Then it was that the south came to appreciate the effect of the westward spread of the cotton-plant upon slavery and politics. The invention of the cotton-gin by Eli Whitney, [Footnote: Am. Hist. Review, III., 99.] in 1793, made possible the profitable cultivation of the short-staple variety of cotton. Before this, the labor of taking the seeds by hand from this variety, the only one suited to production in the uplands, had prevented its use; thereafter, it was only a question of time when the cotton area, no longer limited to the tidewater region, would extend to the interior, carrying slavery with it. This invention came at an opportune time. Already the inventions of Arkwright, Hargreaves, and Cartwright had worked a revolution in the textile industries of England, by means of the spinning-jenny, the power-loom, and the factory system, furnishing machinery for the manufacture of cotton beyond the world's supply.[Footnote: M. B. Hammond, Cotton Industry, chaps, i., ii.; Von Halle, "Baumwollproduktion," in Schmoller, Staats und Social- wissenschaftliche Forschungen, XV.] Under the stimulus of this demand for cotton, year by year the area of slavery extended towards the west. In the twenties, some of the southern counties of Virginia were attempting its cultivation; [Footnote: Va. Const. Conv., Debates (1829-1830), 333, 336; Martin, Gazetteer of Va. and D. C. (1836), 99.] interior counties of North Carolina were combining cotton-raising with their old industries; in South Carolina the area of cotton and slavery had extended up the rivers well beyond the middle of the state; [Footnote: Schaper, "Sectionalism and Representation in S. C.," in Am. Hist. Assoc. Report, 1900, I., 387- 393.] while in Georgia the cotton planters, so long restrained by the Indian line, broke through the barriers and spread over the newly ceded lands. [Footnote: Phillips, "Georgia and State Rights," in Ibid., 1901, II. 140 (map).] The accompanying table shows the progress of this crop: It is evident from the figures that tidewater South Carolina and Georgia produced practically all of the cotton crop in 1791, when the total was but two million pounds. By 1821 the old south produced one hundred and seventeen million pounds, and, five years later, one hundred and eighty millions. But how rapidly in these five years the recently settled southwest was overtaking the older section cotton crop (in million pounds)[Footnote: Based on MacGregor, Commercial Statistics, 462; cf. De Bow's Review, XVII., 428; Von Halle, Baumwollproduktion, 169; Secretary of Treasury, Report, 1855-1856, p. 116. There are discrepancies; the figures are to be taken as illustrative rather than exact; e.g., De Bow gives seventy million pounds for Mississippi in 1826.] [Table omitted] is shown by its total of over one hundred and fifty millions. By 1834 the southwest had distanced the older section. What had occurred was a repeated westward movement: the cotton-plant first spread from the sea-coast to the uplands, and then, by the beginning of our period, advanced to the Gulf plains, until that region achieved supremacy in its production.
How deeply the section was interested in this crop, and how influential it was in the commerce of the United States, appears from the fact that, in 1820, the domestic exports of South Carolina and Georgia amounted to $15,215,000, while the value of the whole domestic exports for all the rest of the United States was $36,468,000. [Footnote: Pitkin, Statistical View (ed. of 1835), p. 57.] This, however, inadequately represents the value of the exports from these two cotton states, because a large fraction of the cotton was carried by the coastwise trade to northern ports and appeared in their shipments. Senator William Smith, of South Carolina, estimated that in 1818 the real exports of South Carolina and Georgia amounted to "more than half as much as that of the other states of the Union, including the vast and fertile valley of the Mississippi." The average annual amount of the exports of cotton, tobacco, and rice from the United States between 1821 and 1830 was about thirty-three million dollars, while all other domestic exports made a sum of but twenty million dollars. [Footnote: Ibid., 518.] Even greater than New England's interest in the carrying-trade was the interest of the south in the exchange of her great staples in the markets of Europe.
Never in history, perhaps, was an economic force more influential upon the life of a people. As the production of cotton increased, the price fell, and the seaboard south, feeling the competition of the virgin soils of the southwest, saw in the protective tariff for the development of northern manufactures the real source of her distress. The price of cotton was in these years a barometer of southern prosperity and of southern discontent. [Footnote: See chap, xix., below; M. B. Hammond, Cotton Industry, part i., App. i.; Donnell, Hist. of Cotton; Watkins, Production and Prices of Cotton.]