It can be said that slavery played a critical role in the overall economic development for the Unites States from1763 to the late 1840s. Using slaves, the south would produce and supply the world with cotton. This in return spurred the development of manufactured goods, businesses, textile factors, shippers, and cotton brokers. Cotton laid the foundation for the American economic growth. Yet the institution of slavery would have a detrimental effect on the antebellum South’s economic development as time went on. After the 1850’s slavery in the south started to impact advancements is mechanization, industrialization and stifled progress in the south. Slavery had become an obstacle to commercial and economic growth for the south.
Hilton Helper and Wright both used statistical information to argue that slavery was detrimental to the south because coerced labor was less efficient, devoured capital and blocked technological advancement (1). Historians looked at three main types of evidence; census data, probate records and textual sources. Helper and Wright both looked at patents granted. Helper look at only the year of 1856, while Wright looked at the data per year from 1837 to 1914. Although the data was interrupted and presented in different ways,
Wrights approach and larger sample supported Helper’s position. Farmers who grew cotton overwhelmingly in the south with slave labor before 1860 were much less likely to invest in new technologies than northern farmers (3). Then the economist historians considered agricultural products, crops per acre and farm values. Helper’s primary source for the data was the 1850 U.S census to determine out-put between the North’s free labor and the South’s slave labor. In every category the North...
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...arge supply of labor. Helper felt that the ”whites of the south, needed to be liberated from the second degree of slavery, imposed on then by a labor system that cut off their access to opportunity, retarded their economic progress, and kept them mired in poverty and backwardness” (1). The method of using statistical analysis allows economic historians to eliminate some of the biases found in sources about slavery. Statistical analysis can also help recover experiences of the slaves based on their inability to leave many written sources. History has shown us that the sudden end to the slave economy had a profound economic impact on the south. This is documented in the statistical analysis but also the evident collapse of the cotton economy after the Civil War. The institution of slavery did have a detrimental effect on the antebellum South’s economic development.
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