Dangerous Obsession

Dangerous Obsession

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Influence of Slavery on Political and Economic Development in the United States From 1619-1865

The institution of slavery has played an important role in history of the United States until the abolishment of slavery in 1865. Slaves were common in both Southern and Northern states from the arrival of first African slaves in 1619 throughout the colonial era as well as much of the 19th century. With an aim to win the Southern states, the United States Constitution of 1788 recognized the institution of slavery by allowing each state to regulate slavery within its borders.

Despite the fact that slaves were found in both Southern and Northern states, slaves never exceeded more than 5% of total population in the North. In the South, on the other hand, slaves have reached 10% of total population by 1680 and the number of slaves continued to rise even after the Northern states started to abolish slavery at the beginning of the 19th century. Why slavery in the North was never as widespread as in the South is not fully understood but the increased demand for cotton in Europe and invention of the cotton gin at the end of the 18th century undoubtedly greatly influenced the demand for slaves in Southern states. The cotton gin enabled production of larger quantities of cotton which in turn required a larger labor force - slaves. By 1860, slaves have exceeded 30% of total population in the South.

The South's economic growth in the 18th and 19th century was on the level of other wealthy countries but the slave states remained rural and could not compare with industrialized North which also had a higher rate of population growth due to European immigrants. The birth rate in the South was comparable to that in the North but the South had fewer cities and industry which is why the vast majority of European immigrants settled in the North rather than in South. This has resulted in gradual loss of Southern influence in the federal government and subsequently the tool to implement its interests.

The frustration of the South over losing control in federal institutions, and emergence of abolitionist movement and fear from the "Slave Power Conspiracy" in the North has caused serious political tensions among the free states and slave states that resulted in the collapse of the old Second Party System and the American Civil War. However, slavery issue was not only the root cause of the American Civil War but also played a major role in the outcome of the bloodiest war on the American soil. It was the institution of slavery that prevented the South to industrialize as quickly as the North which has turned out to be one of the main reasons for the South's defeat, especially when it become clear that "King Corn" is more important to European powers than "King Cotton".

Isaac Vusterly is constantly updating his world history online [http://www.worldhistoryonline.org/] website where you can read more about American history [http://www.worldhistoryonline.org/american-history/] and other interesting historical topics.

By Isaac Vusterly

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