The Cause Of The Civil War: Eli Whitneys Cotton Gin Essay

The Cause Of The Civil War: Eli Whitneys Cotton Gin Essay

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During the period between 1790 and 1850, the United States was rapidly changing. It was now a separate country with its own economy, laws, and government. The country was learning to live on its own, apart from England. There began to appear a rift between North and South. The North believing in the Puritan Merchant role model, and the South in the role model of the English Country Squire. The North traded with everyone, while the South traded primarily with England. The major crop in the South was tobacco, and because of the decline in the price of tobacco the slave trade was dying, just as those in the North hoped it would. Then came a man, and an invention, which changed the course of history. In 1792, Eli Whitney visited the plantation of Catherine Greene, the wife of Revolutionary War general, Nathaniel Greene, near Savannah Georgia. He watched cotton being cleaned; a very long and time consuming process to do by hand. Watching the cotton being cleaned an idea came to Whitney. He decided he would build a machine that would clean cotton faster than it could be done by hand. Thus, he created the cotton gin.
     This invention changed the way the South functioned, and the ripple effect it created changed the course of history forever. The ripple effect caused by Eli Whitney’s cotton gin can be seen as the driving force behind many of the conflicts between North and South, and eventually culminating in the Civil War. Before Eli Whitney’s invention, slavery was dying in the South. The price of tobacco had plummeted, and planters were freeing slaves because of the high cost of feeding, housing and clothing them. When Eli Whitney introduced his invention the cotton market exploded. Cotton began to be grown in enormous quantities because it was good for making clothes, and with the invention of the cotton gin easier to produce. This explosion in the growth of the cotton market rejuvenated the slave trade. This time, though, the slave trade was not between the U.S. and Africa, but instead between the Old South, and the New South. The Old South began to “breed” slaves to sell to the cotton farmers in the New South. These farmers needed large numbers of slaves because once the cotton was ripe, it needed to be picked quickly. The price of slaves skyrocketed, and this new crop ensured the practice of slavery would continue. This continuati...

... middle of paper ... slavery breathing new life into the South, and in the country economy as a whole. With this rejuvenation came problems between North and South over moral differences. These differences created a rift that widened until sectionalism overtook nationalism. This rift was temporarily closed several times but ultimately the differences between North and South were so ingrained in their respective culture that it took a war to change. The wide and far-reaching effects of this event can be viewed as a pond, the country, when a pebble is thrown into it the ripples become larger and larger until they come in contact with something that can stop them. As the proverb says, “A butterfly that flaps its wings in China can cause a hurricane in Kansas.”

Eli Whitney Museum. Organization Page. 3 December 2000
Green, Constance. Eli Whitney and the Birth of American Technology. Harper-Collins
College Division, 1995.
Hays, Wilma Pitchford. Eli Whitney and the Machine Age. Franklin Watts, 1959.
Wilson, Mitchell. American Science and Invention: A Pictoral History. Simon and Shuster, New York, 1954.

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