The debate over the economic advantages of slavery in the South has raged ever since the first slaves began working in the cotton fields of the Southern States. Initially, the wealth of the New World was in the form of raw materials and agricultural goods such as cotton, sugar, and tobacco. Slavery, without a doubt, had its profitable aspects prior to the Civil War. However, this postulation began to change as abolitionists claimed the land of the Southern Plantations was overworked and the potential income of slaves was lower than that of white people who had a vested interest in the productivity and success of the South.
The concept of slavery had been brought over to America by the ideals of British Mercantilism which called for strict regulation of the state and its people for the good of the national economy. In the early 1700’s, Frenchman Colbert stated that, "no commerce in the world produces as many advantages as that of the slave trade"(Williams, 144). The inhumane practice of slavery began in the American colonies in 1619. Although Africans first came to the New World around 1501, the early colonists did not think to use them as slave labor. Instead, they imported poor, white indentured servants from Europe to clear forests and cultivate fields. It was the English colonists that incited the idea of using Black slaves. They could be caught easily because of their color and they could be bought and kept until they died. "Negroes, from a pagan land and without exposure to the ethical ideals of Christianity, could be handled with more rigid methods of discipline and could be morally and spiritually degraded for the sake of stability on the plantation,” wrote historians John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss Jr. in "From Slavery to Freedom" (22). Where America failed in Mercantilism was in not providing enough slaves to generate a sufficient profit margin and by becoming a divided nation over the issue of slavery.
Southern slaves were viewed in economic terms of labor to capital. While the ownership of slaves was a source of pride in plantation owners, this interdependence of slave on master and master to slave created a vicious cycle of rashness that caused slave owners to often become irrational. In the south, slaveholdings varied according to size, location, and crops produced. Slavery in cities differed substantially from th...

... middle of paper ... to the problem of slavery. Olmsted asserted that the “majority of those who sell the cotton crop” were “poorer than the majority of our day-labourers at the North” (171). His chief complaint with slavery was that the quantity produced by slaves, be it cotton or tobacco or any marketable good, was drastically inferior. Olmsted asserted that it took two times as many slaves as Northern labourers to accomplish a task (172). “Low-quality labor, poor use of resources, and indifferent management all combined, said Olmsted, to make southern agriculture far less efficient than northern agriculture” (172). Olmsted asserted that psychologically, slaves preformed poorly under conditions of fear of punishment and free men, without this fear, would certainly be more productive in defending their reputation and standing with pride with their employer.
The low productivity of slaves could be explained by the conditions in which they were forced to live and work in. Inadequate care, incentives and training left the slaves without proper preparation for their role on the plantation (Genovese, 46). A cyclical effect of malnutrition and disease was apparent on many plantations. Since malnutrition
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